DEAR AMY: Is it possible for me to break up with my live-in boyfriend without seeming like a total jerk? We have been dating for about four years and the relationship has been up and down. We have been going through the motions for months.
He has been supportive of me going to school full time but has also struggled with alcoholism. He has a strained relationship with his parents and does not have any friends. My friends have repeatedly tried reaching out to him but all he is interested in is staying home and watching TV.
Almost six months ago, his car was totaled in an accident and he was not reimbursed for the car. Almost two months ago, he lost his fairly well-paying job.
I have been very supportive by letting him borrow my car to get to interviews and paying the rent with my meager paychecks. He is now about to start a job that doesn’t pay very well. Our lease is up in two months and we were planning on moving to a new place together but I don’t want to!
I would feel terrible leaving him with no car and barely able to support himself but I also feel that his irresponsibility with money is partly to blame for this situation. He doesn’t really have anyone else who could help him, but does that mean I have to? -- Still Care
DEAR STILL: If you are strategizing about breaking up with someone who also happens to be at a low point in his own life, you’re going to have to face it: You will seem like a total jerk. But then you’re going to have to be brave enough to do what you need to do, regardless of how you seem to others.
You can try to be a good friend to him while he is going through this rough patch, but the sooner you let him know that he will be on his own when the lease is up, the better. What you should not do is blame him for this break, even if you feel it is essentially his fault.
DEAR AMY: My 52-year-old son is educated and single. I am a healthy and vigorous 81-year-old dad and widower.
My son visits once a year for a week at Christmas. We used to go hiking with my daughter and her family the day after Christmas as a family tradition, but for the last three years my son has had very little to say or do with any of us. He gets up at around 5 p.m. and eats by himself (he is a vegetarian). Then he watches TV until I don’t know what time, because I go to bed.
I think his behavior is rude toward me, and I don’t look forward to his visit. I wonder if I could say or do anything to make this a happier visit for both of us. We used to be so close. -- Sad Dad
DEAR SAD: Take the question you posed to me and ask it of your son: “Is there anything I can do to make this a happier visit for you? We used to be so close.”
Is he depressed? Has he changed jobs (or lost his job)? Is he addicted to online gambling? Is he struggling with a health issue?
I’m not suggesting that you pepper your son with questions, but that you try to consider all the angles and then ask him, kindly, “What’s going on? Can I help?”
Your son will probably respond by saying, “No Dad, everything is fine.” If so, you should reflect back to him that everything does not seem fine and that you aren’t judging him but are worried about him.
DEAR AMY: Here’s another response to the issue of “Missedcallitis,” when you miss a call from an unknown number. I have young kids underfoot and almost never listen to voice mail. I routinely call back anyone who has called me, regardless of whether I recognize the number. It might be a relative calling from someone else’s phone. -- Hollering Back
DEAR HOLLERING: Many, many readers say they never listen to voice mail!