Ask Amy

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 10:05pm

DEAR AMY: About 1 1/2 years ago, a very close female friend approached me and told me that she was leaving her husband (in part) because she had feelings for another man. The other man turned out to be me. I was overwhelmed and on top of the world.

We started seeing each other, and things couldn't have been better. I thought I had finally found my soul mate.

After two or three months, she said that because of pressure from her parents and for the benefit of her young kids, she had decided to give it another chance with her husband. I was really hurt, but understood and gracefully bowed out. Since then I haven't had any other relationships.

Now fast forward to the present. My former flame suddenly became a widow. It was a real shock to everyone, including me, and now I don't know what to do, if anything. Do I let her know that the feelings of the past are still in my heart, or should I just stay away from her and hope that she will come to me again someday?

It's been a couple of months now, and we have spoken via telephone very briefly.

I want to be respectful, but at the same time, I don't want to mess up any opportunity to see if she still has the same feelings that I do. Do you have any suggestions for this brokenhearted guy?

— Heartbroken

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: You don't know what this woman and her family are going through right now, but you can assume that she is shocked and (perhaps also) heartbroken over this sudden loss.

Reach out in friendship. You don't need to remind her of your experience together because she was there — she experienced it too. You respected her actions at the time (good for you) and must respect her choices now. She was assertive enough before, and if she wants to revive a relationship, she will let you know.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I see our niece and nephew (7 and 5) frequently, and each time we are confronted with awful behavior — bickering, whining, hitting, talking back and being disrespectful of adults.

As parents ourselves and as an aunt and uncle to other children, we are aware that kids act up, but these two are particularly unbearable.

It makes gatherings and vacations a drag because their behavior is difficult to ignore, especially when it's directed at us. Our observations have been confirmed by friends, other family members and baby sitters who have met them.

Their parents seem unaware of their kids' poor behavior. My niece is allowed to yell "whatever!" in my face when I ask her to sit down, and her parents ignore it or roll their eyes.

Would it ever be appropriate for us to confront these parents about their kids? We love our family and would like to spend more time with them, but these kids make it tough.

— Aunt in Anguish

DEAR AUNT: Don't frame this as a confrontation but a conversation.

You can start by saying, "We're worried about the kids' behavior. Our own put us through our paces, but we feel your little ones are pretty out of control, at least when we see them. If you ignore this now, it's going to get worse. Do you want to talk about it?"

When the kids are interacting directly with you, you should respond to them directly. You say, gently and calmly, "Honey, you need to find a nicer way to talk to me."

Take baby steps toward establishing your own respectful authority with the kids, regardless of what their folks do.

DEAR AMY: Please tell your readers to get over any expectations they may have about inheritances. In my experience, expectations result in family fights and general ill will and often undercut individuals' motivation to amount to something in life on their own.

Parents have the right to do with their resources as they see fit.

— Not Counting on It in Colorado

DEAR NOT COUNTING: This is exactly what I have been trying to say.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

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