DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family -- until my brother arrived. he hasn't spoken to me in over two years. He sat down at the table, and when I asked him how he's doing, he looked right through me and started talking to someone else. I felt so awkward and embarrassed, I left the table. I'm sure my family has noticed the change in his behaviour towards me; he's my only sibling and we used to be very close. I feel partly at fault for his behaviour -- I have an alcohol problem that has caused my family a lot of pain for many years. However, I've now been sober for almost a year, attend a treatment program for alcoholism, have reconciled with my parents, am back in university, and have started volunteering. I'm working hard to turn my life around. I'd like to have a relationship with my brother again, but I don't know where to start. In the past I've tried to talk to him over the phone, but he hangs up on me. I don't want my parents to get involved; my father has told him he's being a jerk; my mother refuses to take sides. They are divorced. Please help! This is ripping apart my family even worse than we were already. I'm 33 and my brother is 28. -- Missing My Bro, Fort Rouge
Dear Mssing: Accept his "one step at a time" hesitance as necessary for him just now. He came to the house, knowing you would be there. He didn't speak and yes, he acted like a jerk. Look at this as his being up to bat in a baseball game. Give his rude behaviour no more interest than you would "strike one." By Christmas you will have been sober about a year. He will have better reason to trust your sobriety with each month. Right now he's curious, but still upset over old painful experiences. Think of the number of times you disappointed and hurt him. Give him more chances to check you out and let down his guard. Let him see your sobriety is going to last and he will not be hurt if lets himself show his love for you again -- because that is the problem.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I've been dating my significant partner for over six years. Prior to our relationship he was in love with someone he couldn't have. I recently found an archive of personal journals written about his past love. I respect his personal bubble. But when I found it, it was quite hard to resist reading. I hadn't realized he even kept a journal. What do I do when, after all the years I provided everything for this man -- and I definitely know he loves me -- but he still reflects his feelings on someone he wishes he could've had if he hadn't screwed up in the process. My mind is boggled. -- Puzzled Girlfriend, Winnipeg
Dear Puzzled: What's the latest date he was still writing this about this? If it's years ago, let it go. Imagine how you'd feel if he read a bunch of heartbreak and mush from you about a guy you don't long for anymore. However, if you find the diary-writing is ongoing, you do have a problem. Please write back with the time-line answer and I will give you a fuller answer on how to talk to your partner about the snooping, and what you have discovered that is jarring your relationship.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: This is in regards to the person who wrote, longing to find stimulating conversation. In University Centre (a.k.a. UMSU) at the University of Manitoba there are lounges on the third floor. When I go there for an espresso, I see and hear lots of people. Not a bad place at all to start finding good company. Coffee is a good way to start. Alcohol, in my humble opinion, is the worst way to establish valuable contacts. -- Jesse the Teetotaller, U of M
Dear Jesse: Thanks for your suggestion. It is true that it's harder to find people who are good at a give-and-take intellectual conversation these days. Many people just don't know how to talk to each other for any length of time, face-to-face or by telephone, because most of their conversations are condensed and take place online in one form or another.