DEAR AMY: My boyfriend of four years is married. He and his wife separated months before we got together, and I am sure he has had limited to no contact with her while he is with me. But as I get older and friends are becoming engaged and married, I find myself wanting those things too.
Confronting him with the topic of filing for divorce ends in World War III! He says the only reason he hasn’t filed for a divorce is due to laziness, but I worry it is more than that.
My dilemma is that I have a 4 1 / 2-year-old son (my boyfriend is not his biological father). They adore each other, and he has been an amazing bonus dad.
I feel bad complaining about his refusing to get a divorce because he has helped to raise my son. But his unwillingness to settle down with me is unfair.
I can’t walk away from the relationship because a child is involved. How can I approach the situation and express my feelings without sounding controlling? -- Upset Girlfriend
DEAR UPSET: Your judgment seems so compromised, it is hard to advise you about a specific course of action, other than for you to take a long look in the mirror and make a promise to yourself to act in your son’s best interests from here on out.
Ponder your choices: Committing to a married man who gets attached to your son but will not legally commit to either of you? Not in your son’s best interests.
Being in a relationship with someone who engages in “World War III” when you try to talk about his choices and your future? Not in your son’s best interests.
If you truly feel that “I haven’t filed for a divorce because I’m too lazy” is anywhere near an acceptable answer, then you two might just deserve each other. Bringing this up is not controlling; it is raising a topic of importance to everyone.
Know this, however: Locking this guy down with marriage is no guarantee he will stay.
You don’t seem involved with your son’s birth father; at some point I hope you will realize that being alone is almost always preferable to being with the wrong person.
If this man loves your child, he can continue to love and spend time with the child as a special friend, regardless of whether you two are a couple.
DEAR AMY: I read the recent letter from “Rejected and Dejected,” who wrote about feeling bullied by some “frenemies.”
In my research there have emerged a few tips that can be helpful for people in these situations.
First, try not to spend too much energy imagining a witty comeback that will make the bully wilt with shame. In reality it doesn’t happen easily or often.
Second, in the short term, use distraction. Watch a funny movie or read a good book — something that will absorb your attention and keep you from dwelling on the situation. Time will almost always make you feel better.
Third, and this is most important and most effective, make an effort to spend time with people who you know do truly care about you. Stick with your friends, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your siblings — whoever can dependably be nice to you. Remind yourself that others really do love you and this will make the mean people seem much less important.
Meanness can be coped with. The trick is to not suffer alone. Most people do pull through just fine. You can’t change what mean people do, but you can work on changing how you feel about it. -- Elizabeth K. Englander, director, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center
DEAR ELIZABETH: Excellent and practical advice. Thank you.
DEAR AMY: Regarding your advice to “Flummoxed,” whose 37-year-old daughter was pregnant and in no position to raise a child, I think that instead of your “soft and gentle” approach, this would-be grandmother should have told her daughter, “Fine. You want this? You’re on your own. Good luck.”
That’s tough love. -- Upset Reader
DEAR READER: That’s no love.