Ask Amy: Mom should back off, let stepdad step up

October 16, 2013

DEAR AMY: I have been married to my husband for 12 years. I have three grown children from a previous marriage, and he has none.

He has always been somewhat jealous of my kids and cannot understand why I talk to my daughter almost every day. She lives six hours away, and we have a very close relationship.

My boys live nearby, and when I want to have them over for dinner, my husband always acts angry and makes comments about them.

My latest dilemma is that my daughter and her husband are coming home for Thanksgiving and bringing their dog. The dog is very friendly and house-trained. My husband told me absolutely no dog. We have two dogs and a good-size home and yard. I feel he is being extremely difficult and putting me in a bad spot with my daughter.

This is another situation of feeling I have to choose between his wants and my kids’ wants. Some days I feel my life would be so much nicer if I were not married and could just have my kids around occasionally without the tension. What are your thoughts? -- In the Middle

DEAR MIDDLE: If your husband had more of a stake in these relationships, he wouldn’t feel so threatened by them. It sounds as if you’ve been the go-between for 12 years. You need to back off — just far enough so that all of your loved ones take more responsibility for their own feelings and opinions and bear actual consequences for their actions. And he needs to stop being such a baby.

Try this: Your daughter wants to bring her dog to your house. Your husband doesn’t want that. The next time you are talking to her on the phone, you can say, “Chrissy, Bob has expressed concerns about you bringing the dog. Here — let me put him on so he can explain it.” If your husband maintains his “no dog” stance with your daughter, then he’s not putting you in a bad spot with her — he’s putting himself there (and frankly, you should consider backing him up on this).

You shouldn’t have to choose “between his wants and the kids’ wants.” And he should definitely step up, try harder and be more respectful.

DEAR AMY: Is it appropriate to give my son’s fiancee a (relatively) expensive ring? I’m thinking of giving her a ring I had made for myself more than 40 years ago. It has great sentimental value, but I don’t wear it anymore. It has been rolling around in a safe-deposit box for the last 30 years.

My intention was to present it to her as a gift from the heart welcoming her into the family.

My son’s fiancee is not from this country, and both of her parents died a little over a year ago. She is a delightful, upbeat, loving and unselfish person.

My son is 41, and his girlfriend is 40; neither one has ever been married before. We are delighted for both of them.

If you think it is okay, could you please suggest some appropriate wording? -- Lost for Words in Seattle

DEAR LOST: This is a lovely gesture, and the “right” way to make it is directly from the heart. You say, “We are overjoyed for both of you and look forward to having you in our family. This is a ring I’ve had for a very long time, and I would love for you to have it.”

The only caveat is that you must not expect her to wear this ring. She may choose to have it reset, for instance. It will be hers now to enjoy as she wishes.

DEAR AMY: About the letter from “The Teach” on how to handle her hot flashes at school, my teacher carried a small plastic battery-operated fan, which could also be placed on her desk, hands free. Sometimes she’d say, “Is it hot in here, or is it just me?” And the class would reply back, “It’s just you!” -- Viola

DEAR VIOLA: I have received a surprisingly high volume of mail about this. Students have been paying attention.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

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