Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

College Crush Already Has a Family

DEAR HARRIETTE: There is a guy my age who lives in the same dorm as me. We sometimes study and hang out together on campus. He told me that he really likes me and wants to date me. Although I do like him and have a crush on him, I only ever viewed him as a friend because I know that he has a young child and has another baby on the way back home where he lives. We have the same friends, so the information is out there, but we have never really had a conversation about his family and life back home.

He is a senior, and this is his last semester, so I kind of feel that if I do like him, now is my only chance to act on it, but how do I appropriately bring up his family situation? I don’t want to date a guy that has a girlfriend, but I know that there are cases where the parents aren’t together. Am I getting in way over my head trying to deal with this type of situation in college, or should I just follow my heart? -- Young Crush

DEAR YOUNG CRUSH: You need to be practical. Your crush is a far more serious situation than a potential fling. Be direct with this guy. Tell him the truth -- that you like him too. Add that you are concerned that he may not be available for a relationship. Tell him that you know that he has a child and another on the way. Point out that you are not looking to be just a source of fun before he goes off to his “real” life. Ask him what he wants for his life and what he wants from you.

Yes, this is a grown-up conversation, but it is also what this moment calls for.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have an old friend from high school who just started staying with me because she has nowhere else to go. She has a 7-year-old daughter in school. She never actually finished high school, never went to college and just can't hold a job. Other students said she had a drug problem in high school, but I defended her. Now that I see where she is in life, I wonder if the rumors were true. She has been going out to look for a job each day after taking her daughter to school.

Now she has a job, but I’m concerned about the type of work she does. She said she came in contact with a man who needs occasional help with errands, so she only works sometimes, but when she does work, she brings home quite a chunk of money and always in cash. Some days she comes home wired and excited, buying us groceries and taking us out to eat, but other nights she will throw the money on the table and not even speak to us before going straight to bed. I am concerned about her patterns and behaviors, wondering if the work she is doing is illegal. She’s doing well and taking care of everything she is supposed to, but I just don’t want her to sell herself short in order to stand on her feet. Any advice about what to do in this type of situation? -- Getting Her on Her Feet

DEAR GETTING HER ON HER FEET: You have to think about yourself, too. Having someone live with you who is possibly doing illegal work should give you pause. Talk to her and find out exactly what she’s doing for money. Get her to talk to you about her life. Ask her what her plan is.

Give her a timeline for staying with you. As awkward as it may feel, tell her that she cannot stay long term if she is doing illegal work.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)