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Sense & Sensitivity

Sense & Sensitivity

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DEAR HARRIETTE: It doesn't look like I'm going to graduate on time. I'm a few credits short, and my graduation is next week. I can take the classes over the summer and be finished by fall, but I will miss the ceremony and will not be able to walk across the stage with my friends. Of course, I'm sad and a little bit embarrassed. I want to avoid the ceremony altogether since I won't be able to participate in it, but I know that it's important for me to show up in support of all my friends who are graduating. I am afraid that when I get there I'm going to be really emotional and bitter. How can I put the bitterness aside and show up for my friends? -- Resentful

DEAR RESENTFUL: You must first deal with your reality. You have known for a while that you weren't going to be able to graduate this year. You need to accept that and decide on your plan for the future. When the path forward is clear, it will make it easier to face your friends.

Putting on your friend hat, if you can muster up the courage, you should go to their graduation and the subsequent festivities. Honor them by showing up where you can. You probably won't have to talk about yourself much. They will be excited about their big day, as will their families. Let them talk about themselves. If you are asked about your plans, be prepared to share them -- you intend to finish your final credits over the summer and ... ? Figure out what you plan to do next so that you can say it out loud.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend keeps loaning people money and not getting it back. I don't understand why he keeps doing it, knowing that the outcome usually isn't the best. He's a very thoughtful person and tries to be as helpful as he can, but I feel like I'm watching him get walked all over. I don't want to tell him what he can and cannot do with his money, but I feel like it's just common sense at this point. What can I say to him to convince him to stop basically giving his money away? -- Say No

DEAR SAY NO: Instead of telling your boyfriend what to do, encourage him to think of other ways to invest his money. Suggest that the two of you start researching ways to build wealth and help others. Since your boyfriend is naturally generous, mention some organizations that help people or other causes that he cares about. He may want to consider donating a certain amount of money each year to a charity that matches his interests.

Also, research financial advisers and suggest he get a consultation with one to talk about his money and the future. Start creating wealth-building strategies now that will pay off later on. By tying up key dollars today, your boyfriend will have less liquid money to bail people out, and he will probably begin to be more confident in his ability to support causes that he deems worthy, particularly those with a potentially robust return on investment.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm feeling anxious about mixing friend groups for my upcoming wedding and all of the events leading up to it. My bridesmaids do not know each other, and I'm not sure how they'll get along. I'm including my fiance's sister in the festivities, and I want her to feel comfortable, but I haven't spent that much time with her. What would be the best way for all of us to break the ice? How do I ensure that there won't be any weird tension or awkwardness leading up to my wedding? -- Bridal Party Anxiety

DEAR BRIDAL PARTY ANXIETY: Mixing friend groups is a real challenge -- one you can overcome with a bit of strategy. Start now by creating opportunities for your bridal party to get to know one another. Use the wonders of video technology to create bridal party get-togethers now. Host a "meet the bridesmaids" digital gathering. Invite everyone and ask them to bring a story with them about how you met, or something funny or sentimental that illustrates your bond. Depending upon how close you are to the person, the stories will vary. It's all good. Let everyone know how important it is for you that they get to know each other. They are important in your life, and you want them to know and love each other.

Pay attention so you get a sense of who gets along well. Then, figure out what bridesmaids' functions need to be fulfilled and team them up to work together on certain roles.

Leading up to the wedding, host a couple more virtual get-togethers where you gather to talk and laugh. Allow these engagements to be more social than focused on you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just told my son that I am pregnant, and he told me that he hates the idea of having a younger sibling. He's 10 years old and a bit of an introvert, so I can understand how he wouldn't love the idea of having to share more of his space. I'm sure that he will warm up to the idea eventually, but for right now, how can I get him to be more open and accepting of the fact that our family is growing? -- Growing Family

DEAR GROWING FAMILY: Continue talking to your son about your family expansion. Let him express his concerns and fears as you ease into the conversation and what it can mean for him as a big brother. Tell him how cool it will be for him to be able to help you take care of this child. He can help teach his sibling to read and explore and participate in your family. Talk about how tiny and vulnerable the baby will be at first and how much you will need him to help protect this new child -- what a role of honor that will be.

Acknowledge that the role of big brother will be different and new for him and also exciting. Invite him to think about it as the best job ever. Encourage him to believe that he can do it well.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Being quarantined at home with my husband all these months has been tough. I hear other couples talk about how great it is to be with their best friend and how much they have enjoyed each other. That is not the case for me. Don't get me wrong. Some days have been good, but plenty of others have not. My husband picks at me constantly. Anything I do or say wrong, he immediately pounces on. I always have my back up a little so that if he throws some kind of verbal attack, I won't be too wounded by what he says. I don't mean to sound like a drama queen, but it's hard to have somebody criticize you all day long. What can I do to handle this better? -- Verbal Attacks

DEAR VERBAL ATTACKS: This long stretch of isolation has been difficult for all of us, especially those in abusive relationships. In order to maintain your personal peace of mind and safety, you need to handle this situation differently.

First, think about where you might be able to go if you truly cannot take it anymore. Do you have a friend or family member you can stay with if needed? If not, you can find a shelter that may provide you temporary safety. Check out www.domesticshelters.org.

Before leaving home, consider responding to your husband differently. When he says hurtful things, tell him how his words make you feel. Ask him to speak to you in a kinder way. Or tell him you can't hear him when he's yelling or complaining. Tell him you have to leave the room and maybe you two can talk when things aren't so heated.

Seek out a therapist. Now you can even get one on the phone, though in most states doctors' offices are open. Going outside to a therapist's visit may be helpful for you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that my job is not going to go back to being in the office until at least mid-2021. I have been living at home with my parents for months now. While I don't want to keep living with them, I think I should give up my expensive apartment and find something much more affordable. One of my friends just moved back to her hometown and got a nice, affordable apartment. I'm thinking of doing that. I know that it might be hard getting a new place sometime next year, but I think I would be smart to save some money. Do you think this is a good idea? -- Moving and Saving

DEAR MOVING AND SAVING: You are part of a growing trend right now of people reassessing their living circumstances and finances in the face of the coronavirus. You should assess a few things: 1. Do you think you will be able to keep your job? 2. Will you have to work in the same town as your job whenever the physical office reopens? 3. What is the going rate for apartments in the vicinity of your job? 4. Can you live in a more affordable community and manage the job commute when you have to go back? 5. How long can you and your parents feel comfortable with you staying at home and saving money?

After analyzing those points, strategize on your next steps. A move that isn't too far from your place of work -- meaning within 1 1/2 hours -- could be a great way to save money and still be viable to continue on the job for the long haul.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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