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DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend presented the idea of having an open relationship to me. She thought that I would be interested because we are currently separated by physical distance. I quickly objected to the idea, and she didn’t mention it again. I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. Could this mean that she is cheating? — Open Relationship
DEAR OPEN RELATIONSHIP: Rather than drumming up an imaginary affair that your girlfriend might be having, talk to her about it. Check in, saying that you have been thinking about her suggestion about a potential open relationship ever since she made it. You realize you didn’t ask her if she wanted to do that. Ask her directly if she wants this and if she is already involved with someone else, casually or otherwise. Do not be accusatory in your exploration. Instead, just talk.
Acknowledge that maintaining a romantic relationship over a long distance is not ideal, but you are committed to making it work if that’s what you both want. Ask her what prompted her to gauge your interest in an open relationship. Be ready to hear whatever she has to say. If your bond is going to stay strong and grow, you are going to have to be willing to talk about everything, including what happens down the line if another love interest may surface for either of you. Determine together how you want to handle that. It will make things easier if and when that day comes.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I (24) have a job, and my younger brother (22) does not. My brother is still in school, and I graduated a few years ago. I recently found out that my aunt and uncle have been regularly sending my brother money so that he will not have to work while in school. When I was in school, I had to work. I didn’t have any help from any relatives. I don’t want to cause problems, but I am curious as to why they didn’t do the same for me. Should I approach them about this? — Unfair
DEAR UNFAIR: Family dynamics can be so tricky. It must have been hard to hear that your aunt and uncle decided to support your brother in this way when they did not do the same for you. There are many potential reasons why, including: 1) They saw how hard you struggled and realized they could have helped; 2) They have more disposable income now and are better able to ease your brother’s burden; 3) They pay closer attention to him (for whatever reason) and wanted to help him (i.e., they are playing favorites); 4) His course load is so heavy that he doesn’t have time to work; 5) He asked for their help whereas you did not. There could be other reasons, too.