Dear Carolyn: I recently found out my sister-in-law has purchased a vacation home in Florida … without telling my brother. She wants it to be a surprise for his birthday, but I think he should be aware she made a large financial decision without him. I also do not want to mess up my relationship with my sister-in-law. Would it be bad to inform my brother even though she told me this in confidence? – Sister
Yes, it would be pretty terrible. The time to break a confidence is when doing so would prevent a harm greater than the betrayal itself.
The house is bought. Your brother is getting surprised no matter what – all you’d accomplish by meddling is to make yourself the messenger.
Even if you did have justification to get involved, it’s a bad idea to respond as if everyone would feel as you do. Your sister-in-law might have more insight than you do into what your brother wants.
Any good reason to stay out of someone else’s mess is a gift, and you have better reasons not to touch this drama with oven mitts.
Dear Carolyn: I recently started seeing a man in his late 50s who has been married seven times. His last relationship lasted a dozen years. Is there any hope with someone with this history? – Anonymous
Yes, if you hope to be temporary. If you hope for a permanent relationship, then basic risk assessment says no.
But you don’t need me to read tea leaves for you.
Apparently you want this, and want to justify it as a rational choice, so you’re shopping for hopeful rationales.
Since I’m all about customer service, here’s one for you: It’s OK to make choices that would mystify any sentient observer, as long as your expectations are based in his reality.
If the allure for you is the idea of becoming The One special enough to keep his attention, then I suggest more productive ways of challenging yourself. A triathlon, perhaps. Calligraphy. A pie-eating contest.
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