Eight years ago, I started dating my now fiancé, a year after separating from my ex-husband. Our daughter was 15 at the time. She has never accepted my new relationship, and every attempt my fiancé and I make to change her feelings is met with coldness and resentment. She is now 23 and says that I am not respecting her boundaries by trying to bring everyone together. She bad-mouths our relationship behind our backs. (I know this from her sibling.) Is there any hope of rectifying this situation, or should I let it go and get married, knowing that my daughter will never sit in the same room with the man I love?
Eight years is a long time for your daughter to object so staunchly to your relationship. It probably didn’t help that those years coincided with her middle and late adolescence — a tricky time for many young people. And you don’t mention how your ex-husband fits in here: If your daughter is close to him or if she believes there was overlap between your marriage and this relationship, that may have affected her strongly.
If I were you, I would focus on your individual relationship with your daughter. You cannot reasonably expect to fix a serious, long-term problem simply by inviting her to family gatherings with your fiancé. No, if you are sincere about wanting to mend your bond with her, you and she will have to commit to some hard work. If you haven’t already suggested going to counseling together, do so.
My hunch — which may be off base — is that your daughter’s real issue is with you, not with your fiancé. (Why would she feel so strongly about a man she hardly knows?) I am not suggesting you did anything wrong here. I note only that your daughter seems to be suffering from a wound sustained in childhood. Try to help her resolve it.
If Assuming the Worst, Better to Confirm
We had houseguests (a couple and their 7-year-old daughter) stay in our guest room when they came to town. When they left, they didn’t say goodbye to me. I was working in my home office. I found that strange. Later, my husband and I discovered significant damage to the tinted concrete floor in the guest room: a gouge the size of a quarter. My husband suspects the child of having done it deliberately, but I think they dropped something heavy on the floor. We don’t want them to pay for the repair, but we would like to know what happened. Can we ask?
Why not? The truth can’t be worse than the story you’ve implied: that your friends slunk out of your home to avoid confessing the damage they did to your concrete floor. (Another, more charitable explanation: They left quietly because they didn’t want to interrupt your work.)
I am a house-proud person, so this episode would have upset me. It may have upset you, too. Wait until you can ask calmly: “What happened to the floor?” I hope they apologize, explain what happened and offer to pay for the repair. Hard as it may be to imagine (for me, at least), it’s possible that one of them dropped something and didn’t even notice the damage. Some people are like that!
After a Check In, Feeling Checked Off
I have an old friend who calls me only when she is in her car or running errands. She still works; I am retired. It makes me feel like an item on her “to do” list that she is checking off. Often, she asks me to wait while she puts in an order at Starbucks or talks to someone at the market. She often talks over me and misses important things I tell her because she’s not really paying attention. I barely feel like making the effort to sustain the friendship. Your thoughts?
Hang on! Your old friend has one bad habit (that we know of): She multitasks by calling you while doing errands. I agree: Very annoying! (And you may be a little sensitive about her busyness after your retirement, but I may be wrong about that.) Tell her: “I don’t like talking on the phone with you while you’re running errands. You’re scattered. Let’s wait until you’re settled in one place.” Isn’t asking for what you want better than scrapping years of friendship?
Bad News Finds Us All. No Need to Give It Directions.
My brother and I are in high school. He is one grade behind me. I’m pretty sure he likes this girl in my class. She would never like him back — like, not in a million years. Can I tell him it’s hopeless?
I am going to assume you want the best for your brother (and this isn’t some mean sibling-rivalry thing). What do you really know here? You suspect your brother has a crush on a girl, and you doubt she will reciprocate it. That’s not much!
You will probably have to deliver bad news many times in your life. I hope you do it kindly. But a major prerequisite is having actual news to deliver, and here, you’ve got only your suspicions. Leave your brother alone. And even if it plays out exactly as you predict, don’t take pleasure in being right. Be proud of your brother for following his heart.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.