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Dear Carolyn: My husband got laid off in 2003. Since then he has floundered through various part-time jobs trying to figure out what to do with his life (he is 28). He finally figured out he would like to teach and got a full-time sub position at a local school.

In the meantime, a fishing trip with his buddies a few states away has been waved in his face. Finally, when he has gotten a foot in the door with full-time employment, he wants to take a week off (and potentially burn bridges) to go fishing. He already went on this same fishing trip a few months ago and can't seem to fathom why I'm against it. Am I wrong to be angry? He has been on what I would consider a vacation for 1 1/2 years.

-- Fishing for Trouble
A: Yow. I think my self-esteem felt that one.

And I actually agree with you. Not about his being on vacation, though I suspect that's something you said out of anger and that even you don't believe . . . right?

I agree that after such angst and low-paid suffering, his priority should be his job. If not for his own sake then for yours, since you've had to live with his angst.

Still, you can't make him think like a grown-up. What you can do is ask him to think -- and you can support him if his choice is thoughtful, even if it's not the choice you'd have made.

What I don't suggest you do is harp on it if, ultimately, he merely chooses to be irresponsible. Spare him the lecture unless it becomes clear that his epiphany about teaching was just a ploy to buy more time to fish. Or is it duck.

Stuck in the middle

Dear Carolyn: A very close friend of mine has recently told me he is cheating on his girlfriend. All too common, however, he is cheating on her with her best friend. He tells me he thinks of the best friend as girlfriend material. I told him he has made a promise to his original girlfriend. The thing is, I am just as good friends with her, and she is suspicious. My guilt is killing me. What do I do?

-- Guilt
A: Tell your guilt to go kill your self-absorbed friend.

Lucky you, you get to betray a friend here no matter what -- either the guy, by breaking his confidence, or the girl, by telling a lie of omission.

Since you can't win, hedge. Tell this ex-boyfriend material that he put you in a vile position and needs to get you back out of it. Now. Because if the girlfriend asks you anything even remotely resembling a question about his fidelity, you're going to tell her the truth.

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