Dear Amy:

I am a 31-year-old woman and have been dating a 54-year-old man for the last 31/2 years.

I have three children and he has always declared that we are all a family.

Two weeks ago, I learned that he was planning to take another woman to his daughter's wedding in another state. He says his reason is that my children are stressing him and he simply wanted to have fun.

Amy, I have stood by this man's side through thick and thin. I have been there for him when no one else was. I have picked him up when he has fallen -- more than once.

He has since vowed that we would work on our "family" and he wouldn't contact this woman again. She knows about me and also about my children.

I want to trust and believe in him because I have made a commitment to him, but I don't know if I can truly trust him again.

What's going to happen the next time he is stressed? Am I wasting both my children's and my time? I don't think I could handle being hurt this way again.

Hurting in D.C.

The next time your guy is "stressed" he will do exactly the same as he has done before. Why? Because using your children as an excuse to dump on you is an indication of what a weenie he is.

After more than three years with someone, you should know just about everything you need to know in terms of how he will hold up over the long term, and, well, here you are.

Your children deserve the very best from all of the adults in their lives. Now it's time for you to take more responsibility for yourself and for them, by putting yourself in the driver's seat of your relationship.

Give him the heave-ho.

And while I'm at it, I can't help but point out your extreme age difference. He is either too immature or at a different life stage than you. If you want to be in a relationship, find yourself a nice guy who wants to be part of a family, someone whose idea of "fun" includes you and the kids.

Dear Amy:

I am a 44-year-old man who would like to ask a 38-year-old woman to marry me. Her father has passed away, so do I ask her mother for permission, or her oldest sister, or the oldest sister's husband? Her brother is not in the picture.

Virginia GentlemanThis is very sweet, but why on earth would you think of asking her older sister's husband if you could marry his sister-in-law? I can tell that you are trying very hard to be a proper and respectful Virginia gentleman, but the most important person to ask is your beloved. She is a 38-year-old woman, for goodness' sake, and should be in charge of her own life.

After you ask her, then the two of you should go to her mother in order to share your happy news and respectfully ask for her blessing.

If you are devoted to the tradition of asking somebody in your beloved's family for permission to ask her to marry you, then seek out her mother privately in order to get her permission.

Dear Amy:

After reading your response to "Happy Grandma," I had to write. Happy wanted to know if the parents or grandparents should decide the nickname that the grandkids should call the grandparents. You said you couldn't imagine a happy grandma choosing an objectionable nickname.

Well, I've got one for you -- my mother-in-law wants my son to call her "Mom." My husband doesn't understand why that bothers me. Apparently, in their family, the kids called their mothers either "Mother" or "Mama," and they called the grandmother "Mom."

While I am not specifically addressing the issue with my in-laws, I kindly refer to her as "Grandma" when talking with my son. I guess I'll explain when they ask, but I don't want to open the can of worms.

The "Real" Mom

Well -- now you've got me, because my daughter calls my mother "Mom." My mom and I love it, probably because my daughter chose the name herself. It seems that when she was little, she heard me calling her grandmother "Mom," so she figured that it must be her name. When we're around "Mom," I become "Mommy."

I hope that your son does as many young children do, allowing you to sidestep this awkwardness by choosing his own name for his grandmother.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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