Dear Amy:

One of my dearest friends from college is single and turning 40 next week. She is very athletic, attractive and smart and has many high-level degrees. She is desperate to marry and have children, but I think her past has clouded her ability to have trust and healthy relationships. (Her father cheated on her mother for 20 years.) She has slept with at least 30-40 men. The boyfriends she picks never end up being able to make a long-term commitment.

I am her only loyal "girlfriend." Every couple of years, I have tried giving her honest advice, but she doesn't want to hear it. She has alienated her mother and sister.

I am getting more and more concerned and frustrated hearing the same old stuff, and it seems she is getting more and more desperate.

The current boyfriend (according to her) is self-absorbed, 15 years older, has no desire to get married or have children and insults her constantly. She says she is okay with this.

I have already heard too much about this one and have told her to move on and close the door, but she keeps calling and complaining. This cycle has gone on with her for 20 years. My advice is for her to focus on herself and her job/career and join a "women's group." She actually has had a few "good catches" that were really nice and treated her well. She dumped them quickly and found them boring.

This friend is a really good person and does have a good heart, but I get tired of her complaining about the same things, sometimes lying to me and never growing up.

Only Loyal Sorority Sis

Wow. Your friend sounds like a peach.

My first suggestion is that the next time she complains, you might want to break the cycle by telling her that the complaining isn't doing any good because she isn't willing or able to make any changes. Tell her you worry that you're going to be taking her phone calls when you're 80, and that she's going to be complaining about the guys in the assisted-living facility.

Obviously, she needs steady professional help -- the week in/week out kind that outlasts all of her other brief encounters. If you can hook her up with a good therapist, you will have given her a life-altering gift. If she commits to the therapeutic process, she will see that her choices -- her promiscuity, the inability to commit and her own fear of intimacy -- keep this bad boyfriend cycle spinning 'round and 'round.

Dear Amy:

I read your response to "Monetary Worrywart" and am appalled by your response. Who are you to say "shame on you" regarding his $20,000 in credit-card debt? He has admitted a problem (noting the debt bothered him) and was looking for advice, not for you to cast the first stone.

You are obviously out of touch with reality.

Former Reader from Boston

Actually, I'm a person saddled with considerable debt. I know what a burden it is and that it takes years and years to clear it.

If debt is avoidable (as he acknowledged his was), it is something to be ashamed of.

Dear Amy:

Occasionally you hear from parents who worry because their kids don't have grandparents in their lives.

There are plenty of "grandparents" to go around.

We live far from our family, so we've "adopted" an elderly woman from our church. My husband, children and I absolutely adore "Grandma Susie," and she might not be a blood relative, but she is a grandma to my children because she wants to be and not because she has to be.

Laurie Bonahan

Lucky you, and lucky "Grandma Susie." This is a wonderful solution.

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.