DEAR AMY: I am a 20-year-old male looking for some advice on improving myself. Growing up, I didn't really have any friends until high school.
My parents were divorced when I was a baby. My family life wasn't positive, and I was bullied. My mom was the only one who protected me, so I'm a pretty passive person. I've never had a girlfriend.
I have a simple job as a cashier and I've worked myself into a niche that I don't know how to get out of. I've been doing research on the Internet on becoming more assertive; the suggestions seem to be to "just do it." If it were that simple, it wouldn't be a problem.
I want to be able to stand up for myself but I don't think I can do it alone. I have been trying to find courses on assertiveness, but most of them are for colleges. I know nothing in my life will change until I change, but I just don't know how. Do you have any ideas?
— Stuck in a Rut
DEAR STUCK: "Just do it" always sounds easy when those hard-core athletes say it to sell sneakers.
It's harder to do in real life, although you're already "just doing it" by wanting to make some positive changes in your life and taking responsibility for your efforts.
I'd suggest that you start small by making minor, conscious changes in your behavior. Ask your boss for a little more responsibility at work. Make eye contact and smile at customers as you handle their change. It would help to watch someone more assertive operate and mirror his or her behavior.
Now that you are looking for inspiration, you are likely to find it.
Go to the self-help section in your library and spend an afternoon reading through various books. Choose a book whose tone and substance most appeals to you. I find that many self-help books contain kernels of useful information and inspiration.
You should also sign up to volunteer somewhere where you'll be around people who can positively influence and mentor you; Habitat for Humanity might be a good fit because working with a team is a great way to build houses — and confidence (www.habitat.org).
DEAR AMY: I am at my wits' end. My husband has a female friend that he just can't seem to part ways with. They talk on the phone and send text messages back and forth. She occasionally calls him to ask him if he could use his truck to move things for her.
I found out the other day that he dropped off a bottle of wine at her house when she was not there and then texted her to see if she got it. What should I do?
He has given me an ultimatum — he says if I keep the house clean he will stop calling her.
— Upset Wife
DEAR WIFE: Somebody needs to tell your husband that he's not the one who gets to issue the ultimatum — you are. His offer of a deal means that he knows what he is doing is wrong. In fact, he may enjoy that this is driving you a little crazy.
Carmela Soprano would have told her husband, "I'll give you a deal — you stop texting her and you clean the house."
After you explain to your husband that his behavior is disrespectful to you and after you contact his friend to tell her that her friendship with your husband is interfering with your marriage, you should get busy.
Sign up for a karate class, join a book club, choose to get fit and healthy, and have a calm conversation with your husband that starts with the phrase, "Well, now that you've gotten my attention, let's talk about our marriage."
DEAR AMY: In a recent column you responded to "Indecisive Bride" by mentioning that tacky brides and grooms could sing a "medley of Carpenters hits."
This reminded us of "We've Only Just Begun" and "For All We Know," two of the duo's biggest hits — and big wedding songs.
DEAR JON: Exactly.
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