Ask Amy: Red flags are flying over online relationship

March 1, 2013

DEAR AMY: I met my boyfriend online three months ago. We have not met yet (in person) because he is deployed in Afghanistan.

Recently, he started getting really angry over small things. For example, he got mad when a male friend commented, “Y’all are cute” about a Facebook picture where I was posing with my sister. He also got mad because I wanted to go to the gym (because he thinks guys will try to flirt with me).

I understand how he might feel about me being around guys, especially when he isn’t exactly free to do what he wants. I also understand the fact that he might be afraid to lose what we have, without being able to control it. I understand all that. That’s why every time he gets angry, I try to reassure him and let him know that he has nothing to worry about, and that I am going to wait for him until he gets back, and we can finally be together.

Despite my efforts, I can’t seem to avoid the unnecessary stress and frustration, especially when he often ends the conversation abruptly. I know what we have is real, and I want to give us a chance. Can you help? -- Upset Girlfriend

DEAR UPSET: I’m sure you are a very sweet person. I’m going to do you the favor of giving you a tough and straight answer, which I hope will jolt you awake. Consider this a triple espresso response.

He is trying to control you. Do not let him. He is trying to manipulate you. Do not tolerate it.

Overall, this is not a safe relationship for you to be in — even from a great distance. Your vulnerability to manipulation is worrisome, but your choice to question it tells me that you know — you absolutely know in your bones — that this is wrong and harmful to you. Please share all of this with a close friend or family member.

If your long-distance friend acts out or communicates in ways that scare (or worry) you, contact his company chaplain.

Military OneSource is a very helpful resource operated by the Department of Defense. Check the Web site: militaryonesource.mil or call (800) 342-9647 to speak with a counselor.

DEAR AMY: My son is a single parent to my 16-year-old granddaughter. The mom is not in the picture. My granddaughter and I are close. I see her a couple of times a week.

My son lies, cheats and steals his way through almost every aspect of his life. She is at the age where she recognizes that his behaviors are not socially (or legally) acceptable. How do I tell her that this is not the way to go through life, without being overly critical of her father? -- Concerned Grandma

DEAR GRANDMA: If your son has been lying, cheating and stealing his way through life, I’m going to assume that he has seen at least some negative consequences of his behavior. At the very least, one certain consequence has been that his own mother doesn’t seem to think much of him. I’m going to assume your son’s behavior also affects his daughter’s life negatively.

Teenagers are often acutely aware of issues of justice and fairness. Always respond honestly if your granddaughter has questions about her father’s behavior.

Do not excuse his choices or the possible reasons for them, and if you are disappointed, say so. Assume your granddaughter loves her father (just as you do) and focus on what she can do to make different choices. Show her how to live with integrity.

This girl has no mother and her father is a marginal character. You are in the position to be a true hero to her. Continue to take an active role in her life, urging her every step of the way to do the right thing.

DEAR AMY: Regarding the letter from “Helpless,” who overheard other diners loudly discussing business matters: As a consultant the rule was, never talk about business at a small-town restaurant. Clients or their family may be sitting nearby. Examples of small towns were anything smaller than Tokyo. -- Retired Consultant

DEAR CONSULTANT: Very wise.

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

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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