Q: Should I accept a "friend" request on Facebook from an old boyfriend? I'm in love with my husband and committed to him, so I feel sure that this won't pose a threat to our marriage. What do you think?
Jim: I'd suggest the first thing you should do is ask your husband what he thinks. It's important to be open and honest, and keeping secrets only undermines trust. If your marriage is strong and healthy, then it's worth protecting. You need to be careful about exposing your relationship to threats of any kind, no matter how remote they may seem.
Since your former boyfriend initiated the contact, it would probably be a good idea to ask yourself some questions about his motives. If you have any reason to suspect that his intentions are not entirely appropriate or honorable, ignore the request and move on.
If you're still feeling inclined to reconnect with this guy, you may need to consider your motives. Are you feeling compelled to revisit the past because of present discontentment? Have you been thinking about the way things "might have been" had this relationship turned out differently? This may not be the case, but it deserves some thought.
Ultimately, it's a decision that you must make together with your husband. If you choose to go ahead and accept your old flame's invitation to reconnect, I'd urge you to do so via a Facebook account that intentionally reflects the healthy nature of your marriage. Among other things, your page should be filled with images designed to remind visitors of your relationship with your husband. Photos should frequently show the two of you together as much as possible. The whole point is to represent the two of you as a unit. This will discourage your old boyfriend from making any unwarranted assumptions.
Q: My mom and my aunt had a huge argument several years ago and haven't spoken since. I'm married and I want my family to have a relationship with my aunt and cousins, but Mom says she'll disown me if I do. This is tearing me up. What can I do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, vice president, Family Ministries: Unfortunately, I've seen families needlessly splintered because of situations like yours. Like others I've observed, your mom severs relationships when she feels hurt, upset or angry. I can't offer you any guarantees how your mom will respond, but let me suggest the best approach you can take if you want to retain your own identity and build healthy relationships.
As an adult, you need to establish appropriate boundaries with your mom - you are separate from her. This is especially true in a situation like yours where your mom is inclined to test or cross them. Let her know that you love her and value your relationship, but that her ongoing disagreement is between her and her sister - not you - and that you will be pursuing a relationship with your aunt and cousins. She may object, and even accuse you of betraying her, but it's critical you stand your ground.
Once you've initiated things with your extended family, keep the focus of your relationship on you and them - not your mother. There may be the temptation for you to be made the mediator, or for you to assume that role. But it's important for everyone involved that your mom and aunt work out their issues without interference from other family members.
In the meantime, continue to pursue your mom to the extent that she shows respect and receptivity. She may pull back at first, but it's likely the "new system" will eventually take root, and she'll come back around.
Q: How should we parent our at-home adult son when there are also two young teens in the house? We want to treat him differently in terms of rules and expectations, but we're concerned about how this might affect the younger kids.
Jim: You're wise to recognize a distinction between your grown son and his younger siblings. Though you're still his parents, he's now an adult and needs to be respected and treated as one.
This doesn't mean that he shouldn't be subject to rules of any kind while in your home. But from here on, you shouldn't expect anything of him that you wouldn't expect from any other adult boarder renting a room in your house. Rules are essential wherever people share living space. However, they shouldn't exist to control your son's attitudes, actions or behavior. Instead, the rules you implement should be for the purpose of ensuring safety, preserving order and safeguarding the best interests of the entire household.
Under these guidelines, it's reasonable to insist that everyone pick up after themselves and keep shared spaces clear of personal clutter. Appropriate respect for other people's privacy and property must also be maintained. Everyone should agree to uphold family standards of decency and propriety. If it's decided that the older son should contribute to the financial burden of running the household, don't be afraid to hold him to that.
This arrangement shouldn't have a negative impact on your two teenagers. The key is to clarify the distinction between minors and adults. As part of that process, you should explain to your younger kids the reasons for the different sets of rules that will apply while their older brother is living at home. And assure them that the time is rapidly approaching when they, too, will have to carry the entire burden of responsibility for their behavior. As teens, they should already be moving in that direction.
- Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.