Dear Amy:

Two of my closest friends are a married couple in their mid-twenties. I have known them for several years.

They have been active and healthy as long as I have known them, playing hockey, softball and other sports in recreational leagues with me.

However, over the last year I have become very concerned about them, as they have each put on about 20 or 30 extra pounds.

I suspect that the weight gains are attributable in large part to a strained relationship with the wife's parents, who live nearby.

In a nutshell, the parents are having marital difficulties and exhibit irrational and childish behavior, and my friends are constantly called upon to play the role of arbiter and/or parent.

I have considered raising my concerns about their weight and overall mental and physical health, but I don't want to hurt their feelings.

What should I do?

Worried in Durham

I appreciate the fact that you are diagnosing the reason behind your friends' weight gain, but in the absence of a conversation with them about the matter, you can't know what is going on.

They might be struggling with fertility issues, thyroid issues, work or marriage stress or issues related to the presence of a couch, a remote control and a nearby Krispy Kreme franchise.

You seem to assume that expressing concern about their well-being will be a source of embarrassment for them. You could only embarrass them by assuming that they hate their weight gain in the same way that you do.

You can raise your concern by saying to them, "You guys seem to be under a lot of stress lately. Do you want to talk about it and is there something I can do to help?" If they choose to disclose some private health or emotional issues to you, then listen compassionately and offer support.

Ask if they would like to play hockey again this year or if they'd perhaps like to join a volleyball league with you. That way you can spend time together, in friendship and fitness.

Dear Amy:

I am a 29-year-old professional woman who has been in a serious relationship with the same wonderful man for a little more than three years. He has met and spent time with my family over the past two years, and everyone gets along fine.

Recently, I received an invitation to a cousin's wedding; I am very happy for this cousin and his fiancee (whom I like very much), but the invitation had only my name on it, not my boyfriend's name or even the generic "guest."

I understand that they are having a small wedding. And I understand that, if my relationship had not been so serious, that they would not invite my guest. But as it is, I feel that it is disrespectful not to invite him at all -- especially because my aunt's boyfriend of less time was invited.

I don't think that this is a personal attack, but I am upset that he has been disregarded and that my feelings as an adult family member have not been taken into consideration.

My first instinct is not to go to the wedding; my reality is that I will go, but I will continue to feel hurt if something is not said.

Hurt and Confused

Some marrying couples only consider couples that are engaged or living together to be partners in terms of wedding invitations. It seems to depend on which etiquette book you read. The fact that your aunt's boyfriend has been invited is most likely because if your aunt is the mother of the groom, then she should be welcome to invite her guest.

This wedding might be so small that mainly family members are included. You are right not to take this personally, though if you choose to say something, do so beforehand and try to keep it polite, such as, "Brad and I are sorry that he will miss your big day, but I'm excited for you and he sends his best."

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

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.