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DEAR HARRIETTE: My dad has been pressuring me to apply as an early-decision candidate to his alma mater. He attended a large public university in the Midwest, but I want to attend a small liberal arts college in the Northeast. I understand he wants to share something special with me, but the school I want and the school he went to just differ so much. How do I tell him I need to apply to college as my own person without hurting his feelings? — Family Struggles
DEAR FAMILY STRUGGLES: You already know that what your father wants for you is happiness and security. He clearly believes that his alma mater is best for you. This is one of the first times, perhaps, that you will have to stand up to him and help him understand who you are and what you value — even when those things are different from who he is and what he values. You are becoming an adult. You will soon have to be fully responsible for yourself. This is a moment when you can help him understand that you love him but you also need to have some agency in this decision.
Point out that early decision means you may have no choice but to go to his alma mater if you get in, without being able to consider other schools. Ask him to understand that you want to apply to other schools as well. Tell him you are not excluding his school, but you want him to understand that your preferred schools are different from his. Implore him to give you his blessing to apply to a broader range of schools that are more in line with your interests.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m worried about how often my girlfriend takes time off from work. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before her boss gets fed up with her constant absence and fires her. We live together, and we’re barely scraping by as is, so I’m not sure how we’ll make it without her income in the household. I don’t want to push her too hard, but if I don’t, who will? How can I gently tell her that she needs to stop slacking when it comes to work? — Stop Skipping Work
DEAR STOP SKIPPING WORK: Your girlfriend’s behavior points to an underlying issue. You need to help her get to the bottom of it. Ask her what’s wrong. Invite her to tell you why she has been taking so much time off. What is going on in her life that is leading her to be so unreliable? Find out if she is feeling unhealthy or what else is happening. Point out that you need her income in order to maintain your household.
Also, pull back and have a big-picture con- versation. Talk to each other about what you want for your lives together. Where do you see yourselves in one year, five years, 10 years? Have a candid conversation about this so that you get to know where both your heads are. What commitment do you intend to make to each other? Are you considering her as your life partner? If so, what do you need to do to shore up your future? If not, are you willing to weather this storm with her, or is her erratic behavior an indication that you need to end your relationship?