Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Is there a way to make someone want to marry you? I mean, after three and a half years of being together, are there any guarantees short of giving an ultimatum?

— How to get married?

Better question: Is there a way to make a good marriage out of a coerced proposal?
Marry someone who, after spending years getting to know you, is eager to take whatever initiative is necessary to be your partner in life. Otherwise, pass.

Hi, Carolyn: Found out last weekend that my boyfriend of a year and a half has been cheating on me the whole time, despite talk of marriage and babies. It appears that he is actually a compulsive liar and lied about just about everything.

I'm hurt and angry and devastated. He is begging to come back and saying I'm "the one" and he'll do anything — right now, of course, that is out of the question.

But I do believe in general that people can change. Is there any point to telling him to go get treatment and come back if he's ready to have a fully honest relationship — or are compulsive liars/cheaters a doomed prospect no matter what?

— Is Change Even Possible?

That's my question for you, actually: Is there any point in telling him to come back when he's honest?

Yes, sure, people can undergo all kinds of wonderful transformations, when they want to and put in the effort, but I don't see why you need to hang any kind of hopes on the possible transformation of this one guy — especially with a track record like his. He "lied about just about everything," so how can you be confident that anything you liked about him was real?

There are over three billion men in the world. Surely you can find happiness with one of them.
By the way — those wonderful transformations tend to come from people who look at themselves and feel disgust at what they see. From your description, this guy looked at his life and saw that it was about to become less comfortable. Not quite as persuasive.

Dear Carolyn: Our friends' 16-month-old son died unexpectedly in his sleep this week. I'm holding my 8-month-old son and trying to figure out what to write in a card, and whether we should go to the funeral (out of town, so would have to bring son . . . but that seems wrong), and trying to wrap my head around the idea of a baby just . . . gone.

   - Anonymous

 Oh how awful. Write that you are so sorry for their loss and that you will never forget their little boy, because you won't. And do go to the funeral, even if one of you stays with the baby and the other represents your family at the service. Your friends need you now, and it's more important to show up than it is to be perfect.

Except: Don't reach for the positive unless your friends do; "It's God's will," for example, needs to come from their mouths first. To avoid well-intentioned stumbles, just keep it simple - be sorry and present, and willing to follow their lead.