DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been seeing this guy for 10 months now. We get along great, and I have completely fallen in love with him. I think he feels the same way about me, but we have yet to say the words “I love you” to each other.
He does not refer to me as his girlfriend, and I do not refer to him as my boyfriend. My friends and family think this is very abnormal because of how long we’ve been an item. What is your take on my situation? Is this a huge red flag? -- No-Status Relationship, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR NO-STATUS RELATIONSHIP: Because you both are behaving the same way, this is not as odd as your loved ones think. Many young people address their relationships more casually than observers consider ideal. Determine how you feel about this man and what you want from the relationship. Do you love him? If you do, why not tell him?! He may be afraid to express his love for you openly. If you truly love him, it’s OK to be honest -- even if he doesn’t say it back to you. The fact will have been spoken.
Labeling your relationship is less important than how you treat each other. If you feel loved and respected consistently, that’s the key to a healthy relationship. Because people always want to know, you may decide to talk about it with him. “What should we call each other?” could be the question that launches a rich conversation.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I baby-sat for a family last night for the first time. A couple of weeks ago, I met the parents to discuss my hourly salary and the kids' schedule. Everything went well, and I enjoyed baby-sitting. My employers paid me in cash.
This morning, when I checked the amount, I realized they underpaid me for the amount of time I was there. I’m a little confused, because we went over my rate prior to last night. How do I bring up the uncomfortable topic of money to people I just met? -- Underpaid Worker, Southampton, New York
DEAR UNDERPAID WORKER: I’m sure you already know that the biggest mistake you made was to leave without counting your money first. This was a business transaction, and it’s normal that you would check your fee before walking out the door. Since you didn’t do that, the situation is more awkward than necessary.
The best approach now is an innocent -- but direct -- one. Contact the family immediately, and tell them that when you got home and counted the money, you realized that they had not paid you the full amount that you had agreed upon. Say that perhaps they miscounted. Then remind them of the hourly rate that you agreed upon and how many hours you worked. Apologize for not counting the money when they gave it to you. Hopefully they will apologize and give you the balance right away. If not, you will have to decide if you want to work for them again. If you do, be crystal clear about the fee before you begin.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)