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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I am jealous of my boyfriend’s sister and it causes me anguish. I don’t like feeling this way.

We have a long-distance relationship and see each other every four or five weeks. We talk every day on the phone and e-mail, etc., but I get jealous when he spends time with her. She lives nearby, and they are very close. They spend a lot of time together, especially when she is between boyfriends. To complicate it further, he is separated and lives next door to his wife.

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I realized that I am jealous because he gets to have emotional support, whereas I am alone and do not pursue close relationships with other men. My siblings do not live near me, and I’m not close with them, anyway.

I have tried to tell myself not to care. It’s not like I fear it is a romantic situation, but when he was really sick recently, she took care of him. They spend weekends together. Once I went to visit him, and he invited her to join us on an outing!

Please help me to put this into a healthy perspective.

A. First of all, your guy isn’t quite divorced. If he was divorced, it might remove that niggling doubt and insecurity that’s settling round you like a fog.

It seems that you are jealous not only of the specific person he has a relationship with, but of the relationship itself. So the answer here is for you to do the hard work required to develop close and supportive friendships of your own. The more secure you feel, the less pressure you’ll place on this man to fulfill all of your emotional needs. Given the distance between you, he can’t provide everything you want.

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A word to the wise: Your guy’s sister is not going away. You should get to know her — through Facebook, e-mail, etc. If you have a friendship with her (independent of your mutual connection), your jealousy will dissipate and the fog will lift.

Q. I have been a teacher for many years and run a little nursery school for young children out of my home. This year I have a child whose mother is very supportive and positive about my school, but never addresses me by name.

If she e-mails me, she just writes, “Hi,” and if she leaves a voice message she does not address it to me by name. This is the same in face-to-face conversations. It is the first time in my teaching career that I have encountered this. She is an educator herself at a local school.

I was thinking about writing her an e-mail or asking her in person why she never says my name but am afraid to upset her.

Could you give me advice on how to tactfully solve this problem?

A. I’m going to advocate for an attitude of curiosity and honesty — probably much like what your young students demonstrate when they encounter behavior they don’t quite understand.

This would best be handled in person with this parent, not via e-mail. Say to her, “I have to bring up something a little bit awkward. I’ve noticed that you never seem to address me by name. Is there a reason for that? The kids call me Ms. Smith. You can call me that or Helen, either one is fine.”

Stop and listen to whatever she has to say. Then tell her, “I know you understand how important it is for the children to always address people by name, so this would be a good thing to model.”

Don’t approach this like it’s an unforgivable sign of disrespect. Be neutral and in charge and shelve your bewilderment — and she’ll respond in kind.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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