DEAR AMY: On vacation recently I was admiring a beautiful waterfall in the Sierra Nevada.
Then I heard a man yell, “Because you’re an adult!”
From behind some trees appeared the man, an adult woman and a child.
I considered saying something to the man about his behavior, but concerned that he would attack me, I did nothing.
What would you have done? -- Allergic to Abuse
DEAR ALLERGIC: Aside from my day job — where I constantly insert myself into other people’s lives — I try not to interfere with people or comment on their behavior unless it is extreme, directed at a child, or has a direct impact on me or my family.
One adult yelling at another in front of a child is not good, there is no question about that. But this is an example of terrible parenting and to my mind doesn’t rise to the level of abuse. But I wasn’t there. You were.
People freak out on vacation. And for all you know, the adult who was yelling was actually answering the question: “Why shouldn’t I let our child jump into the gorge?”
If you witness behavior you think is abusive, you first have to try to assess the level of risk to you and the victim. If you feel you can safely do so, you should say, “Is everything all right?” This puts the party on notice that he or she is being observed.
In this context, if you were afraid that the situation was dangerous or escalating, you should have notified a park ranger.
DEAR AMY: I am a divorced man involved with a divorced woman. We are both around 60 years old. We have been in this relationship for more than four years and have been planning to get married.
However, approximately every three to four months she finds a reason to become upset and angry with me and then refuses to have any contact with me. I’m always the one who makes contact so we can work out the latest episode.
She has become angry over matters such as me holding the door open for another woman who is entering the building, accused me of ignoring her over a TV program, gotten furious about me taking my son on vacation, and accused me of flirting with another woman while in church.
Each time these issues catch me off guard. We will have an enjoyable weekend or evening and then she will launch into a rant. These repeated episodes of anger at me leave me with doubts that this relationship would be lasting.
I have asked her to seek counseling, but she refuses. I am at a crossroads. Stay or leave? -- Confused
DEAR CONFUSED: I’m going to assume that any behavior your gal is commenting on or raving about is basically benign on your part.
Whenever you see a pattern emerge in a relationship and the person can’t (or won’t) change, what you need to do is to change your own behavior. In this context, the way to respond to a snit from your girlfriend is to react 180 degrees differently.
She pouts, you keep your distance. She rants and doesn’t want to have a dialogue, you accept this and leave. If she wants to be in the relationship, she will have to find another way to communicate with you.
My objective view is that this relationship is not going to work out for you. She sounds jealous, possessive, controlling — and unwilling to work on it.
Because you are suggesting counseling for her, you should seek it for yourself.
DEAR AMY: Concerning the letter from “Conflicted,” regarding the family friend who steals from a restaurant by using a water cup for self-serve soda, Conflicted should consider paying for the soda after the fact and announce to her friend that she has paid for it.
This will either embarrass the thief so that she no longer does it or at least stimulate a conversation about stealing and the bad example it sets for the children. -- Vernon
DEAR VERNON: Other readers have also suggested this. It seems passive-aggressive to me, but it might be worth a try.
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