Be honest about ex-girlfriend

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was involved with this lovely lady in a short-term relationship. As it turned out, we went our separate ways, but remained friends, sharing the small details of life. Well, I thought I had a true friend, but soon found out differently. After moving into another relationship, as did my friend, we would share jokes on the Internet; but on one fateful day, I shared one with her and my new girlfriend. When my ex discovered my girlfriend's e-mail address, she pounced - sending old e-mails about our past to my new lady. My new girlfriend was hurt by these messages. What do I do now?



DEAR LEVI: If you haven't already, it's time to come clean with your girlfriend. Tell her about your previous relationship. Explain that you thought the two of you had neutralized your relationship to "just friends," which meant you thought you could include the ex in your general friend base. The reality is, while you were foolhardy to believe she could continue to be just your friend, your behavior points to a level of honesty that is noteworthy. You weren't trying to hide your friendship. Including her on an e-mail joke meant, in a way, that she was just part of your database.

Yes, you will have to address any of the disclosures she shared with your girlfriend. So just do it with honesty and integrity. Apologize to your girlfriend for upsetting her in any way. And cut this other woman off. She's not worth it.


By the way, I rarely pass along e-mail jokes. As you unfortunately discovered, they often end up in the wrong hands.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend was looking for a job. When I heard of an opening at a nearby company, I thought of her first. I knew the owner, and he is a genuinely nice person. She got the job, but she's not only getting paid less than what the owner initially offered, she says he's sexually harassing her. I feel guilty about this because I assured her that the owner would treat her well. Now she wants to leave but has no job prospects. What can I do to make up for this?


DEAR NADINE: You may have believed you were making the right decision, but ultimately the job is hers. You can remind her of how you presented her to the owner. You can suggest that she defend her position. Then you must step off and let her handle her business. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water. Now it's time for her to drink - or prepare to leave.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I gave a ton of my daughter's old clothing to my sister's friend, who has children younger than mine. She never acknowledged she received them. I was definitely offended, but then time passed. Now I have more stuff to give away. Should I give it to her or to a charity?


DEAR ETTA: Get over the woman's bad manners. She can likely use your hand-me-downs. Give them to her and offer your personal support. If you have time to engage her, you may be able to help instill good manners as she juggles being a mom.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a 6-year-old daughter who is very interested in this election because my husband and I have been. My husband and I supported different candidates in the primary, but ultimately we both rallied around Barack Obama. We tried not to show any strong feelings we had for any of the candidates during the primary, although I'm sure we did. How do we keep our daughter engaged now and teach her about democracy?



DEAR LINDA: What makes me happiest is that children are interested in the race for the presidency. No matter who is capturing their attention, it's significant that children know a presidential race is on. This says that adults are paying closer attention - we all feel that we have a stake in our future.

For parents, we - and I include myself, because my 4-year-old is clear about her choice for the Oval Office - must be democratic. We must remain informed about the issues and share the candidates' views on them as honestly as possible. When we see "our" candidate make a misstep, we talk to our children and explain it in context. Essentially, it means that we stay engaged.

Especially if you have children, your job is to support the democracy in which we live by knowing what the candidates believe and discussing those beliefs with your children. It also means standing up for what you believe, even when it's not comfortable. Then you will be teaching your child that your beliefs count for something, specifically the evolution of the promise of greatness that defines our nation.

Life coach and author Harriette Cole is the creative director of Ebony magazine. You can send questions to her at the above e-mail address.