Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

How do you know when a relationship is right for the long term? Is it when you stop asking the question? Or when you fall into a stable pattern? I’ve been in a relationship for nearly three years and find myself struggling to determine the criteria by which to judge.

“When It’s Right”

I think it’s when you really like the version of you that the relationship brings out, and when it’s a version that’s easy for you to maintain. And when you’re no less happy to see the person walk in the room than you were at the beginning.

Hi, Carolyn:

A friend’s spouse has anger-management issues and is physically abusive. She will not consider leaving and brushes off my pleas to seek counseling. I’m extremely concerned about their children (as yet, the spouse has not physically abused them). What more can or should I do? I’ve considered alerting her family members. I’m not sure this is the right approach.


Alerting family members — or Child Protective Services — might be the way to go. Before you do either, though, call the hotline for Childhelp, 800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453). Childhelp is a nonprofit group dedicated to preventing child abuse, and the hotline is a way to find out whether any steps you’re considering are the right ones.

Dear Carolyn:

What advice would you give to a couple in a nonexclusive relationship (man is recently separated after many years of marriage) so that they don’t jeopardize how great their new relationship is going but also don’t jump into anything too quickly?


Both need to be disciplined about populating their social calendars during the times they’re apart, whether it’s to date others or just see friends and pursue other interests.

Waiting around for each other — or just submitting to the other’s gravitational pull — is a bad idea when there’s a clear agreement that you’re neither exclusive nor serious. That’s how one of you gets the idea that things are getting serious while the other assumes the original agreement still stands.

Dear Carolyn:

My teen can’t find a “first” job; fast food, etc., are all taken by adults needing survival work. Our many friends and family live in an area much less impacted by the recession. My teen is regularly needled with, “Still no job? I was working at your age!” She is worrying herself into a tizzy. I would like their encouragement, not judgment.


Mama Bear needs to address these “friends and family”: “The recession hit us hard, and Teen is trying. Please stop asking her, because she’s already worried and the questions make it worse.”

The unsolicited part of the advice: There is a somewhat recession-proof class of jobs, one described to us by a teenager we hired as “too small for other people to want.” For example, few landscapers will come to weed just one flower bed for you, but a broke teenager will. Few dog walkers will take your dog for the occasional five-buck spin around the block, but a broke teenager will. Few nannies/housekeepers will take $5 to fold laundry or do a sink full of dishes for the parents of small kids, but . . . you get the idea. A flier to trusted neighbors might do it.

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