DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother moved back home after living on his own for about five years. He was living with his girlfriend during that time -- something that I didn’t like so much because she didn’t seem like a good influence. He started being late to work and slacking off in his responsibilities. He hardly called our mother, and did only what his ex wanted. Now, she has dumped him, and he has come back to our family home with his tail between his legs, asking my mother to take him in. I am so mad at him. He is a grown man and needs to act like one. My mother does not deserve to have to tend to his broken heart. She is old and needs to focus on herself. What can I do to get my brother to get his act together? -- Bum Brother, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DEAR BUM BROTHER: You can take the temperature, so to speak, of your mother. Check in with her to see how she feels about having her son back home. Mothers tend to be instinctually territorial about their children and will do anything to help them to be happy, healthy and safe. Your brother is hurting now. Chances are, you couldn’t pry your mother away if you wanted to. You can get a sense of whether your mother is overwhelmed, though. You can also talk to your brother and tell him what you know and believe about your mother’s health. Encourage him to be aware of your mother’s state of being and avoid putting too much responsibility on her. Closely monitor things as they go along.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have subscribed to a couple of dating websites for a few months because I am tired of being alone. I work all the time, so I have little time to go out and meet new people. Plus, some friends have had success meeting nice guys this way. I have gotten a few requests to talk more or even meet, but I’m afraid. I know I have to put myself out there, but what if the guy I pick turns out to be unsavory? How do I protect myself? -- Online Dating Novice, San Jose, California
DEAR ONLINE DATING NOVICE: Take your time. Pick one person who seems particularly compatible, and talk to him. Develop a rapport at a distance. You can use a face-to-face feature offered through the site. Wait to give your personal email address until you feel more at ease. When you feel confident and want to meet, recommend a public location. Do not give him your address. Get to know him slowly. If you are interested, you can meet each other’s friends over time. This, by the way, is what you should do if you meet someone the traditional way, too. Take your time. Use that as your mantra. Get to know the man. Do not become intimate with him. Talk to him. Enjoy his company. Over time, you should be able to sense whether he is an honest person.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)