Dear Amy:

I have been dating my boyfriend for almost three years. I am deeply in love with him and know that I could probably stay with him for years to come. I am concerned, however, because our relationship is the first serious relationship either of us has had.

I feel as though the smart thing to do would be to take a break and explore other options. We've talked about it a couple of times, and the end result is his saying, "Well, I don't want to be together if I know we're just going to break up in the future, so let's go on and break now." After we discuss this, both of us are miserable.

I feel as though taking a break is the smart thing to do - I don't want either of us regretting not exploring when we had the chance. But I'm nervous that if we go our separate ways, I'll grow apart from my best friend and he'll always wonder about what I've done, and vice versa.

Dear Confused:

You seem to want to talk about taking a break, while your boyfriend feels that if you're going to hurt each other by talking about it, you should just go ahead and do it.

I agree with him that dangling a future break over your relationship is the equivalent of relationship water torture.

I can't say definitively whether taking a break is a good idea for you, though I can say this: If you want to take one to the extent that you think about it frequently, then you should take one. If you were truly happy and secure with your one-and-only, taking a break and exploring other options would be the last thing you'd think about.

If you do take this break, of course you would grow apart from your best friend. That's the whole idea. On the other hand, you may find that this break would magnify your feelings for each other.

Dear Amy: This summer, our family vacationed with my sister and her kids, who are 19 and 17. The teenagers took silly video footage of my 11-year-old son and attempted to load it onto YouTube.

When I got wind of this, I insisted that they take the video off. They laughed and shrugged me off. I became more insistent and began to lecture them on the dangers of the Internet, and about how I had authority as his parent to demand that they not load images of my son onto the Internet.

Unfortunately, it erupted, and my niece and nephew began yelling at me, swearing at me, and stormed out of the room. We have not spoken since.

Amy, I am very close to my sister, but not her children.

I think they should apologize to me. My sister thinks that I don't understand teenagers, that I "got in their face," and that I should be the adult and forgive them.

Dear Fed Up:

Because your sister seems incapable of placing normal boundaries on her own children, you should assume some leadership here, apologize for going overboard, and calmly tell these rude young adults that you expect them also to apologize for their behavior. If they do, even begrudgingly, then you should forgive them.