Ask Amy: Small town gal mystified by behavior

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June 17, 2012

Dear Amy: I live in a small town where I run into the same people all the time.

A woman who was not my friend (but in my group of friends) has suddenly gone from being friendly toward me to being hostile and ignoring me. It is causing me distress because I run into her so often and it’s disrupting the harmony of group gatherings — at least for me.

What can I do? I have no idea why she would act this way, and I don’t want to avoid everyone just to avoid her.

-- Small Town Gal

Dear Gal: Living in a small place brings with it many advantages, but proximity presents challenges, too. You always have to be aware that the person you offend — intentionally or otherwise — will turn up, again and again, in your daily life.

But people are mysteries at their core, even when you think you know them. And you have to consider that neighbors are going through things in their own lives which may in fact have nothing at all to do with you.

It is a mistake to take someone else’s behavior personally when you have no evidence or knowledge that you have done anything wrong.

I’m going to give you a response that may help to illuminate this issue. The next time you see this person, you should seek her out to say, “I haven’t talked to you in awhile. How are you doing?” Depending on her response, you can follow up: “I’ve sensed you’ve been a little distant lately and I’ve been wondering if everything is okay?”

If this brings on something you need to apologize for, then you can do so. If not, then you should carry on, knowing that at the very least you have tried to be neighborly.

Dear Amy: I’d like to reiterate your advice to “Indecisive Daughter,” the mom concerned about her daughter’s discomfort with kisses on the lips from grandfather.

I had a visceral reaction as my “perp alert” went off.

The entire front page of my paper today had a story about a young woman’s fight to recover from sexual abuse by a trusted person. It is not strangers that present the greatest danger to children. It is most often family, friends, teachers and other “trusted” individuals who prey on children.

As a 65-year-old survivor of such abuse, I am still dealing with the damage done when I was just a child.

Please urge your readers to listen and believe their children. It is more important to protect a child than worry about hurting someone’s feelings.

-- Voice of Experience

Dear Voice: Some readers felt I didn’t go far enough in advising this mother that the red flags were flying over this scenario.

To restate your admonition -- parents should always listen to and believe their children, no matter what.

I advised this mother that she should not leave this to her child to handle -- ever -- and that she should confront both of her parents about her father’s behavior. She could expect an explanation or denial, but her child’s instincts are paramount and she should always advocate for her child.

Thank you so much for prompting me to restate this emphatically.

Dear Amy: “Concerned Friend” questioned arranged marriages and had a very negative perspective, which should be corrected.

Many people in this day and age choose arranged marriages. Often these are educated, professional people who may choose to go this route for religious and cultural reasons. Arranged marriages have worked for centuries, and many if not most of them do develop into true romantic partnerships.

As a Western woman, I see the value in having your older and wiser parents choose a mate for you based on cultural, educational, socioeconomic and religious similarity. Lack of compatibility in these areas is something we often overlook through the haze of love.

Perhaps I would not be divorced today had I gone that route.

-- Another View

Dear View: You had a choice. Your choice for yourself was flawed, but it was your choice. If a young person consents to have her parents choose her husband for her, then she can hope her parents choose well.

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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