Ben Claassen III (For Express)
Express Advice Columnist

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Q. I recently broke up with someone I was with for four years. We were supposed to go to my best friend’s wedding in October and had RSVP’d as a couple. My friend has told me that my ex has now “updated” his RSVP to be bringing a date. She is upset because they do not have the extra space. I am upset because I don’t want to see him with another woman all night. (I will be going solo no matter what. Maid of honor duties and other close friends will keep me occupied.) The problem is she wants me to talk to him and tell him not to bring someone. We are now a little tense about this because I don’t feel it’s my duty to do so and I really don’t want to talk to him and it will seem like I’m just jealous. Tiebreaker vote?

Sorry to your friend, but she can’t just outsource “bouncer at my wedding” to the ex of the person being problematic. Especially when that ex doesn’t want the gig. I’m sure she has much on her plate and is assuming you and Ex are in contact anyway (are you?). But it is a simple logistical issue for her to address, whereas for you to address it, it goes beyond logistics. The time for her to intervene was immediately after the “updating” (by what means did he do this? Stealing the little embossed card and resending it?), but late is better than never. “Sorry, but the caterer already had the final count” sounds good to me.

Mom’s cruelty is getting old

Q. My mother’s cruelty is increasing as she gets older. She was always critical and somewhat cold, but now she has nothing positive to say, ever. I know she’s depressed about recent health problems (she is in her mid-80s and getting frail), but I am having a super hard time striking a balance between letting it bounce off me versus telling her that it is not OK to act that way, which will only escalate further.

You may not be able to change her behavior, but you can remove yourself from the situations where it gets to be too much for you — a line that you alone get to decide. Whether it means ending the phone call, leaving the room or even leaving her home, it is not reasonable to force yourself to endure repeated cruelty. So that’s where the balance is — neither expecting yourself to be emotional Teflon nor escalating it nor giving her the chance to keep testing you. “I don’t feel that that’s kind, Mom.” “Let’s change the subject, please.” “That’s hard for me to listen to. If you keep talking that way, I’m going to need to end this phone call/my visit.”

You should also, of course, try to help her get some support — health problems, decreased mobility and isolation are mentally grueling, even for those folks who started off chipper — but you need to protect yourself whether she takes it or not.

Read more Baggage Check:

My husband keeps putting off our big move. How do I light a fire in him?

I think I’m ready to go off my anxiety meds. Is it OK to try this on my own?

My friend talks and talks but never listens to me. How do I end this relationship?

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at