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Ask Amy: Civilized behavior has tawdry overtones

Amy Dickinson

DEAR AMY: My wife left me. I still live near her family. Her family has taken my side because she left me, even though she and I have tried our best to avoid the blame game.

Her 19-year-old niece started helping me out when I had my young sons on the weekend. We started having sex. I didn't seduce her. It just happened. I tried to stop, but we didn't.

There's a 14-year age difference between us. My ex-wife figured out what was going on and called me. Instead of being angry, she teased me at first and then said she was happy that I was with her niece.

Maybe my ex and I are a little too civilized. We were never all that passionate about each other, which led to my ex finding someone else.

Her niece and I have been very passionate, but I wonder if it's the dark, taboo side that is the basis of the attraction. Now she wants to move in with me. When she told her mother, her mom took her to Victoria's Secret to celebrate.

I want an objective opinion. Are we nuts? — Worried

DEAR WORRIED: There are children involved in your tawdry tale. Every choice you make should be for their benefit.

There is no such thing as being "too civilized," but you and your ex might be playing a mind game with each other.

This family seems to be pushing the two of you together (the mother taking your young lover to Victoria's Secret to celebrate your relationship is icky).

You have the freedom to have a sexual relationship with anyone; what you mustn't do is involve the kids in what is potentially a very messy situation. When this relationship cools (and it will), you will face the prospect of alienating your kids' extended family.

Whatever you choose, do not cohabit. You should explore your ability to have a relationship without leaping (or being pressured) into a domestic commitment.

DEAR AMY: I am a 17-year-old girl in high school. I am also gay.

I have a good friend that I have known since elementary school. I have a crush on her, and I don't quite know how to tell her how I feel. She gives mixed signals. She doesn't know that I'm gay. If I say the wrong thing, it could seriously affect our friendship. — Puzzled Friend

DEAR PUZZLED: If your friend doesn't know you are gay, the most obvious first step is to tell her. She may be sending out mixed signals, but you may also be misinterpreting her behavior. Telling her you have a crush on her without her knowing you are gay could be extremely confusing.

Once you disclose this to her, you should wait for a couple of weeks to see how she reacts to this news. She may be interested in having a different kind of relationship with you, but you should be prepared that she may not want this.

DEAR AMY: A young woman wrote to you about inviting cousins who are abusive bullies to her housewarming party. .I was in a similar situation with my wife's family.

.I would advise her to invite them. She should relax and let her husband run interference. They need to establish a signal so the husband knows when the cousins cross the line. At that time, the husband should quietly pull the cousins aside.

.In my case, the conversation went something like this: "I know you and (wife) are relatives, but I have watched silently for a few years as you have bullied, belittled and sexually harassed her. It might be OK to treat your cousin that way; but you are not going to treat my wife that way, especially in our home. If you can act like adults, you are welcome to stay. If not, I can show you out right now ... it's your choice. Are we understanding each other?" — .Step Up Husband

DEAR HUSBAND: If the wife cannot handle this confrontation on her own, I agree that her husband should be willing to step up.

(Send questions via e-mail to askamytribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.) 


By Amy Dickinson
Tribune Media Services