DEAR AMY: A couple we know in their early 30s have been unable to become pregnant because his sperm count is low.
They have decided to try a fertility treatment that has a cost of about $10,000 — which they don't have.
They have decided to ask for donations. They both work and have good jobs, with a combined income of more than $80,000 a year. They have few expenses. Their rent is $1,500 per month, and they have one car payment — yet they have no money saved and spend all they earn.
We feel this is not the kind of thing one should ask friends and family to donate money for.
If this is an acceptable practice, then we feel we should ask for donations for our daughter and her family for a down payment to purchase a home. Her family of six is living with relatives.
We think the couple have other options, one being to stop spending and start saving. What do you think?
DEAR HORRIFIED: I think people can ask for whatever they want, from whomever they want. The success of Internet Kickstarter campaigns for creative projects may have emboldened people to ask for donations to fund their personal projects. You needn't worry about whether this is "acceptable" because people will hold their hands out, regardless of what you think.
This doesn't mean you should feel pressure to comply, however.
One consequence of asking for money is the scrutiny this choice invites. Look at your own reaction to this request — you have drilled down, examined and now disclosed your perceptions of this couple's finances, even comparing their finances with others' (whose financial situation you've also disclosed).
And thank you for that sperm count detail, by the way.
You can certainly judge this couple's choice to ask for money, but in the end you need only decide whether to donate.
DEAR AMY: I am a 33-year-old man who is in a relatively new relationship with a woman. (We've been together for four months). We've both said, "I love you," but not with haste.
We have each had experiences in which we were hurt by significant others and took time to mend.
At this point in my life, I know what I want, I know what I am looking for, I know what I am willing to contribute and I'm ready for the next step.
We have already had conversations about expectations in a marriage but not necessarily with regard to each other.
Can you offer questions a couple should ask before deciding to marry each other? In a perfect world where everything can be measured by some standard, how long should a couple wait before considering becoming engaged?
DEAR D: In a perfect world, couples would delay marriage to enjoy the golden moments of engagement forever. In terms of how long to be together before becoming engaged, let me just say that when it comes to a true love match, you know what you know and time is immaterial.
Your thoughtful approach tells me that you and your beloved are ready to ask some challenging questions about money, family relationships and work-life balance. The real issue is: Can you hear the answers accurately and respectfully?
A book I like (which will stimulate important conversations) is "The Hard Questions: 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say 'I Do'" by Susan Piver (2007, Tarcher). These questions, ranging from what you think of when you think of "home," to how you handle friendships, family relationships, work and money, are important questions for any couple to tackle.
DEAR AMY: You missed something in your response to "Concerned," who wondered what he should do about his lying, cheating, old-boyfriend-loving girlfriend.
You essentially advised him to dump her fast, but you didn't tell him to get tested for STDs. He said his girlfriend got pregnant while they were dating, and he didn't seem to question that the child was his, which implies they were having unprotected sex.
What are the odds she was also having unprotected sex with those other boyfriends? Pretty high, I'd say.
— Concerned Reader
DEAR CONCERNED: Good catch. Thank you.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.