DEAR AMY: My brother and his wife were divorced last year. The divorce was rather amicable, and no children were involved. My brother, my family and I are still friendly with her. She is a very nice person. We believe the marriage didn't work for reasons solely because of my brother's actions.
My issue is that she has decided to keep her married name.
I feel that because she is no longer an official part of our family she should go back to her maiden name.
I understand that it is difficult to change your name, and I am sympathetic. However, my family takes enormous pride in our name, and I don't feel she has the right to it any longer.
How can I approach her about this subject without being rude, while ensuring that she gets the message?
— Proudly Named
DEAR PROUD: Sometimes I try to help readers by providing a script to follow.
You: "Charlotte, I'm so sorry my brother wrecked your marriage. It was really swell having you in the family, but hey -- we're done with you now, and so we'd really like our name back."
She: "Well, you're all so classy I'm reluctant to give your wonderful name back to you, but I'll consider it."
Let me restate this in a more obvious way.
Your former sister-in-law's surname is hers to keep for as long as she cares to possess it. Think of it as a bounty of sorts for the privilege of being married to your brother, who according to you is a louse.
The only way I can see this being resolved in your favor would be if your former sister-in-law were so "over" the lot of you that she — of her own volition — shed your proud surname on the courthouse steps.
DEAR AMY: I have been married for seven years. Our children from previous marriages are grown. Shortly after we married, my husband started an affair with one of his employees.
I felt so bad that I stuffed all of my fears deep down inside.
Finally I had had enough and caught them. It was terrible. Then, much to my horror, I caught him with another employee. I learned that he was seeing both of them at the same time at one point.
I was just about out the door when he agreed to therapy. We went to marriage counseling and individual therapy for a long time.
Through time he seems completely changed (me too). We spend a lot more time together and talk about everything — as far as I know. We are both working very hard at our marriage.
Recently we were at a college reunion, and I learned that he has never been faithful to anyone in his life, including his first wife with whom he had three children. I talked to my husband, and he said he had never been faithful but he is not that person anymore.
Now, all of those bad feelings have come back, and I have to ask myself if someone has always cheated, is it possible for him to change?
— Worried Wife
DEAR WORRIED: If I didn't believe that people could really change, then I would hang up my laptop and become a house painter.
We all have triggers that compel us to behave in certain ways. Therapy and introspection are the key ingredients in recognizing these triggers. Strength of character and internal and external motivations help us make better choices.
Because of his abysmal track record and addictive behavior, continuing therapy and transparency are essential for both of you.
DEAR AMY: I'm responding to letters about a family member who will refuse to attend an event if "so and so is there."
You said this person was a "bully."
I've been part of a similar situation. It was about my family member not wanting to be around her stalker, whom the hostess insisted on inviting to the family function out of pity, as he didn't have anywhere else to go for the holiday.
It's entirely possible that the "bully" has a very good and valid reason for not wanting to attend the event if "so and so" is there, even if the rest of her family thinks "so and so" is a perfectly charming person.
— Different Point of View
DEAR DIFFERENT: Several readers have offered a view similar to yours. No one should be forced to spend time with an abuser. In this case, the person refusing to attend is wisely protecting herself.