DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have very different tastes in television programs. I like romance and drama. He watches shows about UFOs. It makes my skin crawl when he turns on shows about extraterrestrials and then lectures me about his beliefs -- backed up by these programs -- that aliens are living among us. I don't believe it, but I also know that I can't do anything about it, even if it is true.
How can I get him to watch some of my shows? I am tired of being forced to endure the shows he likes. It makes me really angry, and that's no good for our relationship. -- No More Aliens
DEAR NO MORE ALIENS: Schedule together time and alone time. Let your husband know that you realize that you don't share the same interests in TV programming. Rather than feeling that you are being held hostage watching and responding to something that irritates you, recommend that each of you enjoy alone time when you want to watch your separate TV shows. When you come together, consider turning off the TV and talking to each other or engaging in other activities that do not have the television as a distraction.
As far as watching something together, figure out what you both like and agree to watch that during those together moments.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I just graduated from college this year, and I got a credit card for the first time. I was told that I have to build up credit in order to be able to buy property or even get an apartment. I can't get a lease for my own place without proof that I have good credit. Nobody ever told me that before.
I don't want to ask anybody for help. Plus, my parents really can't afford it. They did tell me I can live with them until I get it together. I feel like a failure. I did very well in school, have almost no college debt and recently got a job, but it's still not enough. What should I do? -- No Credit
DEAR NO CREDIT: It is true that you generally need to have established credit in order to be able to do many things, including renting or buying an apartment -- unless you can pay cash upfront for an extended period of time.
Take your parents up on their offer for you to live with them while you build your credit. Be disciplined about using your new credit card. You must use it, though. Each month, make some charges on your card, preferably using less than 30% of the total amount of credit. Always pay your bill on time. You can pay the total balance in full each month, either on time or early, or you can pay a portion of the bill on time. Either way will help build good credit. If you pay it off in full each month, your credit score will rise higher and you will not incur interest charges.
Sign up for a credit monitoring app, like Credit Karma, so that you can immediately access your credit score. A year's worth of good credit plus some dollars in the bank should make you ready to get your own place.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is a bit older than me. Our friend group describes him as elusive. When he is present, he is the life of the party. When he doesn't feel like being bothered, he is grumpy or just absent. He often uses his elderly family members as an excuse for not showing up.
Last year, he told us that his mother died. He wasn't close to her, but still, it was sad. This year, he mentioned that he went to visit another elder who was having a birthday party. Then he said his mother wasn't able to attend. Huh? Is he just playing us? We were all so sad for him about his mother's passing. Now he's saying that she is still alive.
We're feeling manipulated at this point. We want to be good friends to him, but we don't know what to believe. Seems like he has been lying so long he may not even know how to tell the truth anymore. What should we do? -- Caught in a Lie
DEAR CAUGHT IN A LIE: It could be that your friend is suffering memory loss. It could be that his default excuse that he has to deal with family elders when he has committed to doing something with friends is growing old. Since you are close and this is making you uncomfortable, speak up. This may be the time for the heart-to-heart that you have never had. Be forthright with him, and let him know that you would rather he just tell you the truth instead of using his family as an excuse.
Tell him how disconcerting it was that he told you last year that his mother died only for you to discover this year that she is still living. Ask him for the truth, and tell him that it is upsetting you and the rest of your friend group. Pretending that his mother died, if that's what actually happened, is unconscionable.
If his response suggests that he doesn't remember saying that or there is confusion around who's alive or dead, know that he could be suffering from memory loss. If that's possible, encourage him to get himself checked out. If you think he's lying, you will have to decide how to receive future information about his family so that you can protect yourself from a yo-yo of emotions.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I thought that my daughter and I had a great, open relationship where she talked to me about if not everything, most things. We have clear rules about what she can and cannot do, and there are checks and balances to ensure that she is following directions. With that, I have given her a lot more freedom since she is in high school and learning how to become independent.
Well, I just learned that she has been lying to me about how she spends some of her after-school time. It all just came to a head because she was in the middle of a potentially dangerous situation between another teenager and his absentee dad. I had no idea that any of this was going on.
I want my daughter to continue to learn how to figure out life for herself, but there must be consequences for her lying. If I can't trust that she is telling me the truth about where she is and what she is doing, I have to limit her extracurricular activity. I'm not sure how to do that, though, since both my husband and I work. Any ideas? -- Protecting My Child
DEAR PROTECTING MY CHILD: First, let your daughter know the severity of her lying to you and how it put her in a dangerous situation. Make sure she understands that she made bad decisions when she did not communicate clearly with you or follow the agreed-upon guidelines. Next, put an app on her phone and yours that will track her, and require that she keep it on. Popular apps like this are Life360 and FindFriends. I'm sure there are others.
Enroll her in organized, supervised after-school activities. This is why having a sport or a musical instrument or some other engagement multiple times per week after school is popular -- it keeps teens occupied while under adult supervision.
For right now, ground your daughter for lying. Make it clear that lying is unacceptable. If she continues to lie, she will lose the privilege of hanging out with her friends after school and on weekends. To supervise that, you may need to hire a "baby sitter" for a while. She will hate that, but having someone to watch her for the few hours before you get home from work may be required.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I both have full-time jobs. I usually get home before he does, and I start dinner for the both of us. When he gets home before me, he does not make us anything. I feel like this is because he expects the woman to cook. I am not OK with this, and I feel unappreciated. How should I approach him with my concerns? -- Shared Household Chores
DEAR SHARED HOUSEHOLD CHORES: You may have created the expectation that you would always cook without realizing it. Talk to your husband. Tell him how much you would appreciate him making dinner sometimes, especially when you are running late. To the extent that you can plan this out in advance, it may help him to wrap his mind around the concept that this a new expectation for him. When you know you will be late, talk to him that morning and ask him to prepare dinner that day. Inform him of what there is to prepare. Perhaps this will get him thinking and acting with your well-being in mind.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I walked in on my teenage son masturbating while looking at porn online. I'm not a prude, but I have to tell you -- this bothered me. I know kids (and others) do this, but I'm worried that his porn habits will catch up with him. Will it blemish his chances of getting into college if somebody knows he is looking at that? He got his computer from his school. I don't know if it's part of a system that keeps track of downloads or page views. I don't know how any of that works. I am worried that my son may have exposed himself to criticism by doing this. -- Risks of Porn
DEAR RISKS OF PORN: You make a smart point. If your son's computer is a loaner from his school, he should not be using it to look up any questionable material, including pornography. Feel free to tell him that. Do not admonish him for masturbating. That's a common occurrence for teens. You can point out that discretion is essential, and that means that he should stop watching porn on the school computer, scrub it of any residual files that may be on it and never do that again.
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DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend has a business that's part of a multilevel marketing company. She sells clothing and accessories and is always encouraging me and others to make purchases each season. I often buy an item from her because I want to be supportive. But over the years, I've realized that I am building a closet of clothing that I don't wear because it's not really my style. I don't want to buy anything else, but I feel bad if I don't. She expects her friends to support her business even though she does not necessarily buy from me every month. I have stuff that I sell, too. How can I get out of my seasonal purchase without offending her? -- Pause for the Cause
DEAR PAUSE FOR THE CAUSE: It may feel awkward at first, but you do not have to make a seasonal purchase. Buy when you are truly interested. If your friend presses you about making a purchase, tell her the truth: Your closet is brimming with clothes she has sold you that you do not wear. You are taking a hiatus from shopping right now. Hope she understands!
You do not need to mention that she doesn't reciprocate the swapping of dollars between you by spending money on your wares. This is not a tit-for-tat. Just be honest, and even if it hurts her feelings a bit, she will have to understand. Her job as a salesperson is to continue to grow her market so that she doesn't have to rely on a few customers who buy every season. That way, if any of them can't make a purchase, she is still growing her business.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My father has an issue of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. He does not have a filter, and he often comes off as offensive when he speaks. Specifically, he does this with my siblings and me.
All three of us have been having a hard time finding good jobs and getting on our feet. My twin and I have been out of college for a few months. Our brother has been out of school for a little more than a year, and it's rough right now. I am beginning to doubt myself, and it doesn't help how my father talks about us.
When my dad talks with others, he will tell them of our failures in life instead of accomplishments, almost as if he is bashing us. This makes me feel as though he is spreading his true feelings of disappointment with where we are in life with anyone who will listen. How can I get my dad to stop talking bad about us? -- Stop Bad-Mouthing Us
DEAR STOP BAD-MOUTHING US: Consult your siblings to learn if they would like to join you in talking to your father. Either with them or independently, sit down with your father and tell him that you are struggling to find work -- even though you are trying really hard to find a job. Tell him that it hurts your feelings when he talks badly about you and your siblings to other people. Admit that you are not feeling very confident right now and ask if he knows anyone who may be looking to hire. Tell him that you need him to spread good news about you and your siblings as that may attract the right opportunity for you. Point out that if he keeps telling people about your shortcomings, it will not help you to succeed. Ask him to support you by singing your praises -- or at least not spreading bad news about you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A family friend who used to spend lots of time with us basically disappeared a few years ago. Whenever we have invited her to come over, she has made some excuse and hasn't shown up. We finally got to see her this Easter.
I had a moment when just the two of us were in the kitchen talking, and I asked her what happened. At first, she didn't want to tell me, but then she said that my mother had said something hurtful to her, basically accusing her of being a taker when in reality she had been the generous one in the situation that was in question. She said she felt judged and hurt, so she walked away. I asked her if she would be able to forgive my mother, who is elderly and sometimes says the wrong thing. I told her how much we miss her and love her and want her to be part of the family again. Do you think I should tell my mother what happened? Should the rest of the family be told the truth? -- Welcome Back
DEAR WELCOME BACK: It's probably smart to tell key family members what happened so that they are sensitive to your friend if she does decide to come back into the fold. Tell your mother only if you think she will understand and be able to apologize. If she is at the age and state of mind that it may not sink in, let her be. Just do your best to make the family friend feel comfortable.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently started dating a man, and we go through the same trials and tribulations as any normal couple. However, none of my siblings approve of this relationship. He has not met my family yet, but I am anxious for when that day comes. My boyfriend strongly believes that he does not have to win over the approval of my siblings, and that my parents' opinion is what matters the most. His family bond is completely different than the bond I have with my family, so I can see where he is coming from. It is crucial to me that all of the people I love get along. How should I handle this situation? -- Us Vs. Him
DEAR US VS. HIM: You have challenges on both sides. Your siblings haven't met this man and have already judged him. He doesn't care to win them over. They are at odds before even giving each other a chance. Your job is to work on your family and on him to let both camps know what you want and need and to present to them ideas on how you can all get there.
With your family, invite them to trust you and to assume the positive about this man. Ask them to be welcoming of him when they do meet. Tell them enough things about him for them to feel at ease. You should also let them know that he comes from a different kind of family background, and it may take a while for him to engage in the ways that you and your family find natural.
With your boyfriend, introduce him to your parents first, as this is where he feels he has to be on good behavior. Let them get to know each other. Over time, make it clear to him that because of the way you grew up, your siblings are key to your life, too, and it is important to you for him to grow to know them. Introduce him to the rest of your family. Make it clear to him that you cannot have a future with a man who is not willing to embrace your whole family.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend is causing emotional stress to every woman he dates. I know from observing him that he still has feelings for his son's mother, with whom he was in a relationship for five years. He typically denies this and strings along the women he dates.
As a woman, I dislike that he does this, but being that he is a friend, I want to help him. How can I offer tips without overstepping my boundaries? -- Advising a Friend
DEAR ADVISING A FRIEND: People often don't listen to advice about relationships until they are ready and have asked for it directly. For this reason, your advice should come only when your friend agrees to receive it.
Decide when what you observe about your friend's behavior is too much. If his behavior toward women offends you or makes you feel uncomfortable, you can tell him your honest feelings. If you feel you need to distance yourself from him because you can't stand to watch him hurt others' feelings, you can tell him that. You may even need to step away for a while. Your actions of self-protection may provide the wake-up call he needs.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My family has lost the desire to go to church. We recently moved to a new home and have yet to find a church that suits us. The issue is that no one is making an effort to find a good option around us. I've explained my concerns before, but no one listens to me or is willing to help look for a new congregation. I am starting to believe that our lack of attendance is causing some spiritual instability within our home. How can I convince my family to take this more seriously? -- Go to Church
DEAR GO TO CHURCH: Since you are most concerned about establishing a new church home, why don't you take the lead? Start by talking to your former pastor, and ask him or her for recommendations. Your pastor may know churches in your new neighborhood or may have connections to the community that may be of value to you. Go online and look up churches in your denomination that are nearby, then take a drive by to see them. Spend the next month or so attending different church services to see what feels like a good fit. Always invite your family members to join you, but don't push. Once you find the one that you like most -- or even two from which to choose -- invite your family to join you to help make the decision. It may take a while for everyone to re-engage, but this process will get you to a decision.
Know that moving in and of itself can be stressful. Whatever spiritual instability you may be experiencing could be a result of that. Stay strong and keep your eyes open so that you notice what's going on with your family. Schedule weekly check-ins with them to see how the adjustment is unfolding for them.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been hanging out with a person of interest casually for six months. We agreed that we should start off slow and take time to get to know each other better. He often tells me about other partners he has dated, and he sometimes gets too specific for my liking. I try not to get frustrated because we are not in a relationship, but I often find it inappropriate being that we both clearly have feelings for each other. When I bring this to his attention, he argues, saying that he feels comfortable telling me everything about himself, being that I am now his friend. I am unsure how to feel about this. How should I move forward with this friendship? -- More Than Friends
DEAR MORE THAN FRIENDS: The danger of taking things too slowly in relationships is that you can slip into the "friend" label and get stuck there. If you like this man as more than a friend, now is the time to be crystal clear about that. This includes telling him what you want from the relationship. Among your stated desires should be that you don't want to hear about other women because you like him. You would like for the two of you to try being exclusive and taking your relationship seriously.
If you don't state exactly what you want, you don't create the opportunity to get it. If he doesn't agree, you will have to decide if you can accept just being his friend. At least you will know.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106