DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my friends was dating an ex-girlfriend of mine, which I thought was great. She is a nice woman who deserves a good man, but she is bipolar. I just couldn’t manage her mood swings. I tried, but the roller coaster of her emotions and behavior was too much for me. We broke up amicably.
When my friend started dating her, I didn’t mention her diagnosis, but I did caution him to treat her well. I even made him promise me that he wouldn’t leave her, so I was angry when I learned that they broke up. I’m mad at him for not sticking it out with her. She has been through so much. I feel bad for her. Should I say anything to him? -- Concerned Ex, New Haven, Connecticut
DEAR CONCERNED EX: Reach out to your ex to make sure she is OK. As her friend, you can check in on her. Be careful not to promise anything that you cannot deliver.
As far as speaking to your friend, step back for a moment. Think about yourself. You weren’t able to stay with your ex. You don’t know what happened to cause their breakup -- and it’s none of your business. Further, you cannot make somebody promise to stay in a relationship. Heck, even married people have difficulty staying together. You are peripheral to their relationship. Now is not the time for you to get involved.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My son keeps asking if we are going on vacation this summer. I’m sure it is because most of his private school friends are traveling extensively. We cannot afford to do that. We did put him in camp for two weeks, which he loved, and we also have plans for day trips to nearby beaches. At the end of August, we will make our yearly trip to visit family in North Carolina. But that’s it.
How can I explain to my son that our summer plans work for us, even if they are different from what his friends do? -- Modest Summer, Jersey City, New Jersey
DEAR MODEST SUMMER: It can be difficult to feel comfortable when you are comparing yourself to your peers. This is true for people of all ages. Your job as a parent is to teach your son to value what your family chooses to do, regardless of what his friends do with their summers.
Visiting family is a wonderful ritual that you should talk up so that your son understands how important it is to stay in touch with relatives. You can remind him of the great fun he had at camp. When you take your day trips to the beach and elsewhere, make a big deal out of the experience so that he pays attention. You can also make trips into New York City to visit museums, art shows and outdoor concerts. Many of these activities have nominal costs or are free. Fill your son’s time with exciting adventures that will help him value his own experiences, separate from his friends.
(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.)