Dear Carolyn: Recently, an old college friend lost his wife to cancer. He now says he wants us to be together, but I’m not interested. I’ve tried to deflect his advances to be nice, but he’s very persistent. I know he’s still hurting from his wife’s passing and feels alone raising three young kids, so I want to be kind in my rejection. What do I say? How does one reject or break up with a perfectly good person without being hurtful, with compassion and kindness?

— Old Friend

Old Friend: First, rid yourself completely of the idea that turning down someone’s romantic offer is inherently hurtful or unkind.

We owe people civility and respect; we don’t owe them ourselves.

So think of it that way: He is asking you to give yourself to him, and you don’t want to. What’s wrong with no? Why are you supposed to “be nice” and “deflect his advances” when it’s your life we’re talking about?

What you say, next time this comes up: “I am not interested in a relationship.” Kind remarks about his value to you as a friend can help but aren’t required. Only clarity is.

If he remains persistent after said clear statement, then tell him that’s not acceptable: “I said I was not interested. Respect my ‘no.’ ”

Enforcement beyond that is through your companionship — meaning, you withdraw his access to it if he declines to show due respect.

That a husband and father of young children has to go through this is terribly sad. But his sadness doesn’t give him any claim on anyone else.

In fact — this could fill another answer entirely — his reaching for you so persistently is so likely to be influenced by his grief that even if you were interested in him romantically, I would recommend your remaining at a platonic remove indefinitely. He’s got a lot of pain to sort out and a lot of healing to do. If he succeeds at panic-courting a stepmother to his children, then I foresee all five members of this reconstituted family living to rue that day.

Once you’ve found your words here and given him a straight answer, maybe you’ll find yourself feeling empowered and truthy — in which case, I hope you’ll both be ready for truth-telling about the perils of mixing romance with grief, pressure and need. This can include brainstorming with him — as his friend — ways he can get village help with his kids, a crucial way to ease any urgency he feels to find candidates for the role.

Dear Carolyn: My nephew is getting married soon, but my spouse and I weren’t invited to his wedding. Are we still obligated to send them a gift as many other family members are insisting?

— Obligated?

Obligated?: You have no such obligation, and the people insisting you do aren’t even obligated to give a gift themselves, even though they were invited, because the whole point of a gift is that it’s given freely. Invitations are not dunning notices.

You can always give gifts, too, just because you want to.

It is also wrong for other family members to get into your business — so I hope they gave you their wrong answers about gifts because you requested their opinions, and not because they butted in.

A girl can dream.