Ask Amy: Military man thinks cousin belongs in the brig

February 2, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have a cousin who has been close to me throughout the years. He does not have any brothers and considers me a brother. The problem is that my cousin can be a very selfish person.

I am in the military and when I was away for training I came home and found that most of my clothes were missing! On top of that on my first night out at home I found myself stuck with the bill once again.

I try to find the best in him, but he continues to be a selfish individual. He constantly brags about his girlfriend by sending out risque photos of her. Lately, he only contacts me to see if he can borrow something from my collection of sports jerseys. How can I make him see the light? -- Cousin Clash

DEAR COUSIN: First of all, if your cousin is now contacting you and asking permission to borrow something (rather than taking it without permission), then I’d say you’ve made progress.

Otherwise, he sounds like a jerk.

It is not your job to change him and make him into a better person, only to insist on basic boundaries and lay down some consequences when he violates them. (One consequence would be your reluctance to hang with him if his behavior doesn’t improve.)

Many people have obnoxious family members. The challenge is to accept that you might not choose your family member as a friend, but you might have to tolerate him in limited doses.

When the boundaries are delineated and (mainly) respected, it is easier to tolerate those personality traits that you cannot change.

DEAR AMY: I am engaged after a two-year relationship. There is plenty to love about my fiancee, but I have a problem.

I was married previously for more than 25 years. She was single for a much longer time and had many relationships, some serious but many not. One of her relationships consisted of several brief sexual encounters with one guy.

I found two e-mails she had sent to him. In one (which she wrote months after we were in a committed and exclusive relationship) she expressed how one of their encounters was something “that others can only dream of.” She said they had “a cosmic connection.”

Recently, when she was out of town, she corresponded with him again. She professed how much she missed him, said she would give anything to see him again and said if he couldn’t meet her then, they could always meet up out of town for a “business trip.”

When I asked her about this contact, she said she was joking and bantering. She said that if he had shown up she would have sent him straight into another room.

I want to believe all of this and move on, but I have had a hard time doing so. This is exactly the sort of thing one reads about in your columns, and later someone like me finds out that where there is smoke there is fire. Should I heed the smoke signals and run? -- Trying to Believe

DEAR TRYING: You don’t say how you “found” these e-mails, so I’ll have to assume that she left them out in public view. I’m going to pose some questions designed to cut through the smoke and clarify things for you.

You are with someone who expresses herself as if she’s in a bad romance novel. Do you like this? And, if so, does she express similar sentiments to you? Does she “joke and banter” in this way with you?

Is this sort of sexually charged expression appropriate for someone who is in an exclusive and committed relationship? Would you have this sort of contact with your ex or with another female friend?

Once you’ve answered these questions with utter honesty, the smoke should clear.

DEAR AMY: “Lee” reported that her hairdresser acknowledged holiday gifts from clients with a Post-it note addressed to all of her customers, thanking them.

Of course all clients should be thanked individually, but I suggest this public Post-it actually has another purpose: to let her clients know that gifts are expected. -- In the Know

DEAR KNOW: Whoa. Crafty.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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