I'm 24, my sister is 29. Our parents divorced in 1996. We both moved out of state and have since been enjoying our adult lives with one major exception: Our parents don't speak. Their relationship (or lack thereof) continues to cause pain and sadness for us.

Our mother is in a relationship we're both uncomfortable with. Months after the divorce she began dating our old neighbor, whom our father had been friendly with. Last year they became engaged "to help everyone accept the relationship," according to our mother. Our father is totally unaware of their relationship, and although he rarely asks about her, my sister and I feel terrible for helping hide this from him. We then resent our mom for asking us to do this.

Before you can say "holy made-for-TV movie," our mom is upset with both of us for not being more welcoming to her fiance. Your thoughts? My sister and I are so sick of dealing with all this. Thanks for any insight.

-- Portland, Ore.

Wait till you see what you're thanking me for.

One statement of principle, and the hiding-things-from-Dad problem is solved. That your mother has kept her relationship from your dad seems childish, but it's between them; you are under no obligation to keep secrets for either, and I can't figure out why you haven't just said that to your mom. That your parents don't speak, too, is terrible and sad, but again it's between them, and I don't get the sense either of them is forcing the kids to take sides. As far as I can tell, there's a problem here only because you and your sister want there to be one.

Which brings us to your discomfort with the old-neighbor fiance. Before I can say "holy offspring overreaction," please tell me: Have you omitted something crucial, like evidence of an affair? They got together after the divorce. You offer nothing to suggest he's a bad guy. It's been six years.

So, is there more? Or, in the wake of family disruption, do you take comfort in Us vs. Them? Either way, try taking comfort in warmth, and force out a "Mom, we're happy you're happy." On 24- and 29-year-old mouths, a pout has never looked good.


Okay, this is becoming a problem for me, even though my friends say it is an embarrassment of riches of sorts: I split up with my girlfriend a while back. She's wonderful, but it's not going to happen in the long term for a variety of good reasons. We still "know" each other (think biblically) and otherwise hang out. It's great in the short term, but we are both going nowhere otherwise. I simply don't see any interesting women in this area, and she has the same complaint about the guys. It probably sounds sort of petty, but it is bringing me down. I need a little inspiration. So?

-- D.

So. I'm your willpower? Settling for less and whining about it is supposed to bring you down. As is choosing an easy known (or "known") over difficult unknowns -- including, egads, some alone time. You'd need me to tell you this if you didn't already know it, but you clearly do. What you do now is deal.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at