Carolyn:

I am 19 and living at college. About a month ago, my mother confided in me that next fall, after my youngest brother goes to college, she is leaving my father. My father is a good man, but he is not the warm and fuzzy type. He works very hard, and when he comes home from work he is content to drink a beer and watch TV. However, I know he loves my mother and will be devastated by her leaving. I also know that, as far as he is concerned, nothing is wrong.

Believe me, I do not want to get involved and I am angry with my mother for burdening me with this. I've tried to talk to her and she keeps saying it will be easier this way and she has had her mind made up for a while now. I think she is being a coward and isn't giving my dad an opportunity to change. I also know if she does this she will lose everything, including her already-strained relationships with my siblings. What am I supposed to do?

-- Way Too Much Info in Baltimore

I agree, you have way too much information. Your mom should never have put you in the position of having to, essentially, lie to Dad for a year.

But as a neat bookend to your data surplus, you also have way too little.

You say you tried to talk to your mom, but have you listened? The same facts could also support an alternative view of her actions. Have you considered how you would feel if your lifelong companion left the best of himself at work? Didn't even try to talk to you when he got home? Didn't even notice you were unhappy, lonely, trying hard not to scream? Would you be eager for 20, 30, 40 more years of that?

Whether this describes how your mom is feeling, I don't know -- I'd have to ask her to find out. But so would you, and I don't get the sense that you have. I suspect you have been the one talking, challenging her decision to leave.

Yes, he's your father and you love him; Mom still might. But he's also her husband, and that's a private bond. Maybe she did try to strengthen it -- i.e., truly feels she gave your father years of "opportunity to change" -- and he simply didn't see, and that's why he'll be blindsided. Maybe, quietly, she's been taking one for the adolescent team all these years, compensating for his lack of intimacy, and now that you're grown, she's done.

Again, this is all just an alternate theory; I don't know your mom. I'm suggesting only that you know her, and your father, and their marriage, in as objective a way as you can, before you go taking sides.

Carolyn:

Attended an April wedding with 300-plus guests. Bought and had store ship wedding present in March. No thank-you note yet. Is it impolite to ask if they received the gift?

-- Los Angeles

Nope. Depending on what actually happened, it's either a polite way to notify a couple that one of their gifts was lost or mishandled, or a socially sanctioned way to ask if they were raised in a barn.

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