Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 6 2005 6:45 AM

Who's Your Stepdaddy?

When your boyfriend isn't ready to parent your kids.

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Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Prudence,
I have been dating a man seven years younger than me (he's in his mid-20s) for a year. I have three children from my previous marriage. He has never been married, so no kids, and never dated anyone with kids. He has also never told anyone he loved her, except me. He is a wonderful man ... successful, attentive to me, always thoughtful, and would do anything to see me (he lives an hour away). I love his family, he loves mine. We enjoy being together no matter what we are doing. Here's the problem: He says he's not ready to step into the stepfather role and doesn't know if he'll ever be, so he therefore limits his time with my children. He says he couldn't bear hurting them if something were to happen to us. And he hasn't introduced them to his family. This is a sore spot for me because it is so hard for me to separate my children (who are my life) from the person I love so much. I've told him I was willing to wait until he was ready and more comfortable, but it's getting hard. I don't know if he'll ever be ready for my kids. I really don't want to lose him, but I have to do what's best for my kids. I want someone who sees how wonderful they are and loves them as much as I do.

—Wavering

Dear Wave,
This chap is rather young to functionally become the father of three ... and you do have seven years on him. Guys who are afraid of kids are hard to turn around. Prudie suggests you frankly discuss your dilemma with your beau and maybe together you can arrive at a compromise, if not a solution. There is always the chance that in time he would grow more at ease with your kids, and maybe, for the near-term, you could keep the romance going while parenting on your own. If he doesn't grow into the role, however, he cannot be "the one."

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—Prudie, thoughtfully

Dear Prudie,
I married the most wonderful guy in the world about a month ago. Just a few days ago he told me of something upsetting that happened on our wedding day. A few hours before we were to be married, his sister told him that she'd made a bet that our marriage would be over in three years or less. I was horrified that someone would think that, and even more so that someone would say such a thing on our wedding day. As I write this to you, I am supposed to be at a family gathering at my in-laws for his sister's birthday. I refused to attend for two reasons. The first is that when I calmly confronted her, she was not apologetic, saying she is "just honest." The second is that when his parents were informed of what she had said, they excused her behavior! I am unsure of how to proceed here. My husband's family has been unkind to me in the past and I want them to know I will not put up with this hurtful behavior anymore. I have kept my mouth shut until this point, letting my husband stick up for me, which he's been wonderful about. But now that we are married, I feel the need to communicate directly to them that I will not be their whipping girl any longer. I believe they are punishing me for what his first wife did: cheated on him, left him, and took a nice chunk of his money with her. What is the best way to speak up for myself while still taking the high road?

—Mrs. Not Going To Be Divorced

Dear Mrs.,
The woman who is now your sister-in-law must be a four-door bitch, and actually, the whole family sounds unfriendly. To presume you are a repeat of your husband's ex is simply hostile. Seeing as how the situation could not get any worse, you've nothing to lose by initiating a sit-down and asking why they're unwilling to give you a chance. If you don't like the answer, skip future gatherings. Because you say your husband supports you, one of two results is possible. Your speaking out will shape them up, or … there will be two fewer settings at the table. Some people, no doubt, would advise you to just ignore this rotten treatment, but in a situation such as yours, Prudie concurs with Shakespeare: "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."

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—Prudie, determinedly

Dear Prudence,
A year ago I met and fell for a guy from the U.K. We dated for about eight months. We made plans to find a way to be together once he returned home. I planned to fly out to see him for 10 days two months after he'd returned. Several things should have prepared me for what happened next. His parents disapproved of our romance and pushed him to get back together with his ex just a week before I was to arrive. He broke up with me over e-mail and promised to send me a check for the flight. The last two e-mails have only mentioned the trips he's planned with his girlfriend. He's told me that he still loves me, wants to come back and visit, but my friends believe it is in an effort to keep me as a backup. I responded by gently asking him when he would be able to send the money. I followed up by calling his cell over the weekend, and he picked up the phone and simply hung up before saying anything. When I called back he did not pick up, and later turned it off so that it went to voice mail. Unfortunately, his weird games just keep bringing up painful memories. I want to just move on but hate the idea that I am out the money for the trip. What would you do?

—Looking for Closure

Dear Look,
Prudie would make a mental list. In the negative column would be the following items: His parents tried—and succeeded—in putting the dead hand on the romance; he realized he owed you money for the ticket because he said it was forthcoming, then stiffed you; he bothered to inform you of trips he's planned with your successor; he's told you he still loves you, but … he is ducking your calls. In the plus column there is—well, actually, there is no plus column. This has been an expensive lesson. Perhaps being stuck for the price of the ticket will be useful as a reminder that this chap was not only weak but dishonorable. This "list" should provide you with all the closure you need.

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—Prudie, finally

Dear Prudence,
The other night I heard a musician introduce a song, "The City of New Orleans," by saying it was written by the "late Steve Goodman." Steve's been dead more than 20 years now. I had always thought that "late" referred to the recently dead, but his introduction made me wonder. Is there a generally accepted period of time after which describing the departed as "late" is no longer appropriate?

—Curious John

Dear Cure,
There is no early dead or late dead distinction, honey. Dead is dead, and dead is "late." Happy to help.

—Prudie, linguistically