DEAR AMY: I wonder if I'm a bad person, or if a certain friendship has run its course.
I have a friend I meet for dinner once a week after a meeting I attend. He moved to this rural area after a work accident, and I'm one of his few friends here.
We share an interest, but for me it's a hobby — for him it's a passion. Our dinner conversations revolve around this hobby, and I'm getting bored. I feel there's nothing else to talk about.
If things get personal, I fear I'm being untrue to my husband, so I'm careful not to go "there."
I've read about emotional affairs in your column, and this certainly isn't one of them. If anything, I keep such a strict leash on our friendship that it isn't growing.
I feel like a bad person that I don't want to keep having dinner with this guy, who is obviously lonely. He gets quite pushy when I try to beg off, so it's not easy to get space. What's your advice for either growing this friendship or pruning it? — Bad Person?
DEAR BP?: You may have misunderstood the whole dynamic behind emotional affairs. "Getting personal" in that context is a matter of sharing intimacies that would normally be reserved for a spouse. So no, you should not complain about your marriage or confide in this friend about your husband, but this leaves a great deal of territory for the growth of a friendship. You can talk about current events, issues in your town, taxes, books, movies, etc.
If you genuinely like this person and want to be helpful to him, the most obvious answer is to fold your husband into this friendship. Can your husband join you for one of these dinners? It would also be nice (and neighborly) if you invited your hobby-friend to join you and your husband in a group activity where he could meet some new people.
If you don't want to continue to get together with him, you should tell him it's become too much of a time commitment for you. If he pushes, be firm but friendly and urge him to try to make new connections.
DEAR AMY: I am writing because I am concerned about my mother's self-esteem.
She is applying for jobs after a period of unemployment and frequently makes very disparaging remarks about herself.
I try to boost her self-esteem by telling her about all her positive characteristics — of which she has many — but she says she cannot believe what I am telling her.
She seems very discouraged and is constantly repeating the ways in which she believes she is not good enough. I want to boost her self-worth, so she can see all her positive characteristics, but I am not sure what to do. How can I help her? — Distressed Daughter
DEAR DISTRESSED: You might not be able to single-handedly boost your mother's self-esteem. Self-esteem goes much deeper than confidence-boosting remarks can repair (although this definitely helps).
You should focus on how this affects your mother's job search. Her choice of words — even her body language — will influence how a potential employer sees her.
Practice an interview with your mother. For every unsure or negative statement she makes, help her craft an alternative that is both positive and truthful.
Role-play with her, and get her to play the part of the interviewer. When she asks you a question, demonstrate ways for her to present herself, and then switch parts so she can practice.
DEAR AMY: I was intrigued by the letter from "Conflicted Bride," who felt family pressure to have a larger wedding.
My husband and I had a small ceremony in our minister's study, followed by brunch. We wanted to have a nice honeymoon without any money worries. We had a bang-up honeymoon (literally — two of us went, three came back), which was absolutely perfect.
Fast forward 30 years: We're still married, no debt (house and cars paid off), four kids through college without debt (and two have doctorates!) and a nice retirement.
Do I miss a big wedding? No. I wanted a happy marriage, which is what we have. — S. Stout
DEAR S: My hero!