DEAR AMY: My fiance and I are shy people and we often just stay to ourselves. When I am around his family and friends, I leave my comfort zone and I appear warm, friendly and social, even though I'm nervous.
When he is around my family he is very quiet, answers questions with a "yes" or "no," and doesn't make eye contact.
Recently my sister graduated from law school, and when she came to visit us from across the country, he didn't even congratulate her. When she came over, he said, "Hi" and went back to playing his video game.
When I bring up this topic, he says he has no idea what I am talking about, and he thinks his behavior is fine. He'll sometimes blame his behavior on having a long day at work.
I know he is shy, but it's also rude because he is not even making any attempt to socialize.
What makes it even worse is that when he is around his friends and family (whom he is very comfortable with) he goes to the opposite extreme and acts loud and obnoxious, like a class clown who has to be the center of attention. He only acts "normal" around me.
Do you think it's possible to get him to be more socially acceptable?
— Embarrassed Fiancee
DEAR EMBARRASSED: I hesitate to attach syndromes to people — especially through an incomplete third-person account, but I'll take an amateur's stab at it and say that your fiance may have something called "Asperger syndrome."
People with Asperger's have trouble reading and responding in expected ways to social cues. For your fiance, his video game may be a shield — something to concentrate on so that he doesn't have to struggle with an interaction.
He can develop better social skills, but first he has to have the desire to change and work hard at it. If he does have Asperger's, a clinical diagnosis and professional help will give you both some answers and assistance.
You both might enjoy reading the fascinating memoir "Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's," by John Elder Robison (Crown, 2007). Robison's unusual behavior was misunderstood until he received a diagnosis as an adult. It changed his life.
DEAR AMY: I've been supporting my parents for more than 1-1/2 years, paying for their office space and other office expenses because their business has not been profitable.
I have written checks for the office expenses only to find out my parents used this money for personal expenses and have been trying to float money around.
Their business is picking up again, and now I am asking for them to begin repaying me. They said they thought it was a gift.
How should I handle this? I have a family to support. They knew they needed to reimburse me.
— Big Heart
DEAR BIG: Your parents are not only irresponsible, but they also sound incompetent. Given their evident challenges, it is hard to imagine that they would be able to run a successful business and stay out of trouble with the IRS.
Unfortunately, before writing checks to them, you don't seem to have extracted even a minimal agreement from them to repay you.
When lending money — especially to family members — it is vital that everyone realize the difference between a loan and a gift.
Keep your canceled checks. You could try to take your parents to court, but first clarify matters by saying, "This was a loan, and I expect you to start making payments to reimburse me. Let's set up a payment plan."
Obviously, you should not give them any more money — unless you are prepared to write it off as a loss.
DEAR AMY: I read your response to "Ready to Snap in Chicago," who was irritated by his co-workers snacking at their desks.
You suggested he tell them their behavior was irritating and to please take their snacks into the break room.
I don't think that's a realistic expectation. People I know spend 12-plus hours at their desks and have to be able to eat something when they need to. Instead, I'd suggest "Snap" buy an iPod and transform his world into a peaceful, productive place from the inside out.
— Tolerance Through Tunes
DEAR TOLERANCE: Ear buds have changed many lives, one cubicle at a time, though some workers are not able to disappear into iTunes and do their jobs well.
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