DEAR AMY: I have been dating my boyfriend for almost six years. Recently we decided to move in together and then he started making comments like, "I don't know if I see myself with anyone later in life" and "I enjoy not having to answer to anyone. I like the fact that I only have to worry about myself."
I feel that the comments are in direct contradiction to how he acts, however. He is great with kids, and he enjoys having his nieces and nephews around.
I don't know what to believe — the words or the actions.
— Flustered Girlfriend
DEAR FLUSTERED: Being great with kids may make a man a good camp counselor, but it's not necessarily a predictor for how he wants to live his life.
It's important to listen to your boyfriend's statements, as well as to be attentive to his behavior.
Evidently you believe that because you've been together for six years and because your boyfriend asked you to move in with him, he also wants a solid and permanent future with you.
If you two were headed toward a permanent relationship, then it seems logical that rather than trying to decode his statements you'd be talking — together — about marriage.
You are about to move into your guy's home. Before you do, you should have some clarity about what you're doing, why you're doing it and what your expectations are.
Tell your boyfriend you've been listening to him and ask him to discuss this honestly.
He could be scared, confused or trying to tell you something important and profound about his life.
DEAR AMY: I know someone who went through many traumatic experiences in her early years but has since then risen above those struggles and built a successful life.
I want to let her know how much I admire her tremendous bravery.
I have been facing some hard times myself, and I wish I could also ask her for some inspirational advice on how to find determination and strength.
She is a very kind person, and she seems to be very strong mentally. However, I don't know her all that well, so I'm afraid it's rude of me to bring up her personal matters.
I'm not sure if she's willing to talk about her own life.
Is there a way I can approach the topic tactfully?
DEAR UNCERTAIN: You shouldn't ask or expect someone to troll through her own difficult personal experiences to provide you with a template for avoiding your own disasters, but it's always OK to ask someone for help.
The tactful way to ask for advice is to start with an admission of need, followed by an open-ended request.
You ask, "Can I ask your advice about some challenges I'm facing? I'm not sure what to do, and I'd be interested in what you think."
You buy the coffee or lunch. Don't pry into your acquaintance's personal history, but tell her you'd value her point of view if she would be willing to offer it.
DEAR AMY: A member of our group of friends has a child who doesn't behave like the others.
This child wipes his nose on blankets, eats with his hands, sneaks food, etc.
I have no problem mildly reminding kids of the rules, but with this behavior I am in over my head.
When the child visits, I feel as if I should be parenting, which isn't a comfortable relationship with another person's child.
This child is 11 years old. He should know how to behave normally.
— Need Direction
DEAR NEED: You should speak to the parents about their child. He could have developmental or other issues they haven't shared with you, and they may have suggestions for how you could guide him when he visits.
If this child doesn't have special challenges, then you should parent and correct him while he is at your home, unless the parents are present, when you should ask them to correct him.