GoAskGailby Gale Davidson

Editor’s Note:  Is your life on track or completely off the rails? Do you have a simple concern that cropped up last week or an issue that feels like it has dogged you for a lifetime?  Go Ask Gale. Send your concerns in 125 words or less to: readerswrite@carrollmagazine.com.

I’ve been seeing a guy for a few weeks, and things are going well between us, but I suspect he might still be dating other people. Sometimes, when I text him, he takes a couple of hours to respond, or I’ll ask him about his weekend plans, and he’s vague or says he has to work. How can I make sure that we’re exclusive? You can’t make sure you two are exclusive, but you can make sure you ask. Just be careful that your question doesn’t turn into an accusation, since you already “suspect” him. Remember, too, that there isn’t one right way to do this. Some people like to juggle dates until things get serious with one person. Some people like to focus on one prospect at a time. One approach isn’t necessarily better than another, and there is no default, so don’t assume you’re exclusive if you two never discuss it. It’s only been a few weeks, and you don’t know this guy very well.  It’s possible you already feel so certain about him that you’re ready to lock this thing down, but it’s more likely that you just want to be in an exclusive, established relationship. That’s a worthy goal, but trying to rush through the getting-to-know-you stage will almost certainly backfire later on. You don’t want to settle down with just anyone. I know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now — which is exactly why you should not be rushing toward commitment. This is the time to figure out if you two are compatible in the long term, so focus on getting to know him. Maybe start with something like, “Are you the type of person who wants a long term relationship?”

One of my co-workers has a reputation for being lazy in team projects, but taking all the credit later. Most recently, he not only didn’t do his part, leaving the rest of us to pick up his slack – he also lied and said he had done something, then left the rest of us to look foolish during a presentation when the information we were supposed to deliver was missing. He has been with the company for eight years, and the supervisors all seem to love him. How do I make it clear to our bosses that this guy isn’t doing his job? I have some bad news for you: The bosses already know, and they’re keeping him anyway. I’m sure they have their reasons, but since we’re not privy to them, speculating won’t make you any happier. We have to assume that this guy offers something to the company that your supervisors value, and that that outweighs his shortcomings in their eyes. All you can do is try to avoid working closely with him, if at all possible.  If that’s not possible, then you and your other coworkers will have to accept that this is who he is, and try to minimize his involvement in projects so that you can maintain some semblance of control. Fortunately, he sounds like the type of person who won’t mind being shut out. In the long-term, since he’s not going anywhere, let’s try to refocus your attention from what he’s not doing to what you are doing. Document those things. Then, sing your own praises at your next performance review. You can’t do anything to ensure that your lackadaisical coworker is punished, but you can lobby for your own rewards.

My daughter just started college, and I’m worried that she’s falling in with the wrong crowd already. When I call her, she doesn’t always answer, and I don’t know anything about the new friends she’s making. She used to share everything with me, but suddenly it feels like she’s avoiding me. How can I help her make good choices in college when I can’t even get her to communicate with me?  It sounds like you’re worrying unnecessarily. College students – especially first-year college students – are supposed to be busy. So, if your daughter has been too busy to return calls, that probably means she’s been going to class and getting involved with activities on campus – which is what you wanted, right? As far as her new friends go, you may not hear much about them until your daughter is home for Thanksgiving. But the thing about adults is: They can make their own friends. And your daughter is an adult. You’ll have to trust that she’s meeting a wider variety of people than ever before and that she’s filtering people out as needed. If she’s ready for college, then she’s more than capable of doing that. Of course it’s possible that your daughter is frittering away her time on campus with a variety of bad influences. But if that were the case, I think she’d be responding to your calls and texts – with lies. She’d be reassuring you that, yes, she’s going to class. Yes, everything is fine. The fact that she’s not offering you those reassurances indicates that she’s independent, and she wants to figure out her new routines and rhythms on her own, so give her the space and trust to do that.