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Originally published Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 6:16 AM

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Keeping a secret means just that

When you are told something in confidence, you are not obliged to share it — even with your mother.


Syndicated columnist

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The mother sounds like the family gossip. MORE

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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

So Cousin No. 1 tells me in confidence that Cousin No. 2 had a miscarriage and asks me not to say anything to anyone, which I do not.

Fast-forward a few months, my mom finds out about Cousin No. 2’s miscarriage and asks me if I knew. I say yes, but that it was told to me in confidence. Mom gets very angry and says I should have told her because she has a right to know about important things that happen in her family.

Cousin No. 1 is now pregnant and has asked me not to say anything. I know that when my mom finds out, her first question will be whether I knew, and the same thing will happen. What can I do about this?

For what it’s worth, I think she sees my not telling her as her being excluded, but my cousins are like sisters to me so I think it’s normal they would share this with me and a smaller group first before telling the family at large.

– Dealing With Mom Guilt

DEAR DEALING WITH MOM GUILT: Your response, if this happens again: “When I am told something in confidence, I will not share it. Not even with you, Mom. I do understand you feel bad when you’re out of the loop. Please know I treat your private information with the same care.”

Save your guilt for when you harm others on purpose. Living by your moral and ethical code, and in the process upsetting someone who wishes you had handled something differently, is not the same thing.

DEAR CAROLYN: My daughter dated a guy in college for two years. Then they broke up. After a year and a half, he joined the Army and they started talking again. After four months, he came home and they spent five days together. Now, not quite four months later, they are engaged and plan to marry when he comes home again in November. They want to get married so she can join him at his next assignment. Obviously, my husband and I are completely against this. We’ve told her our concerns that they haven’t spent enough time TOGETHER. Do you have any knowledge of marriages that begin like this and their chances of success?

– LDR

DEAR LDR: There are examples to support every possible outcome -- happily ever after, imploding instantly, a promising start and a slow unraveling, growing and learning together beautifully after a rough start, on-again-off-again hell -- so don’t even bother to go down that road.

They’ve made up their minds, so trust them and love them and respect them enough as adults to bite your tongue. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, they’ll learn from it. You’ve said your piece.

DEAR CAROLYN: My charming, irresponsible sibling is getting bailed out again (for totally failing to deal with a problem everyone else has seen coming for years) and I’m furious. There’s no solution here. I’m thinking of going with a primal scream. Or ice cream.

– Ferris Bueller’s Sister

DEAR FERRIS BUELLER’S SISTER: Why not both?

Even if you could live your life the way your sibling lives his or hers, you wouldn’t. Never lose sight of that.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living



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