DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced mother with an 11-year-old daughter. My boyfriend, “John,” and I have been together for two years and we’re serious. He is also divorced, with a 13-year-old daughter.
We have tried to be sensitive and understanding about their feelings about our recent divorces and our relationship, but both girls are having a difficult time coping with it. We are very loving and inclusive, so it’s not as if they should feel resentful or left out. But this is starting to cause a rift in our relationship.
There comes a point when they need to understand that this is the new norm and get used to it. We try to include each other’s daughter in shared events, but it ends up becoming a forced struggle. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. — THE NEW NORM
DEAR NEW NORM: Welcome to the world of blended families. As much as we would wish it, the adjustment isn’t always smooth, because when children are involved, their world is often torn apart. A resource that can be helpful would be the Stepfamily Foundation Inc. (stepfamily.org).
Your former spouses can also ease the adjustment for the girls by remaining actively involved in their lives, curbing their hostility and not pitting the children against either of you. However, if that’s not in the cards, then enlist the help of a licensed family therapist.
Blended family counseling, divorce and remarriage counseling may be necessary to ease the girls’ transition into “the new norm,” which is anything but normal for them.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, “Alex,” and I are a young couple and have been married for four years. I recently took a trip with him to visit his uncle and met one of Alex’s cousins for the first time.
I was helping my mother-in-law in the kitchen when Alex called me to come and look at something on his computer. I responded, “Sir?” His cousin immediately started poking fun at it, and the rest of his family joined in.
To me, “Sir” is a gesture of respect to my husband. His family seemed to interpret it to mean I think I’m less than an equal in our relationship. This is definitely not the case. Alex and I both make sure to show respect and appreciation to each other in little ways throughout the day.
This isn’t the first instance in which someone heard me address my husband as “Sir” and criticized my decision to use the word. Frankly, I have no intention to change the way I interact with my husband. What I’d like to know is, how do I nicely shut the conversation down when people give their unwelcome opinion? — ANNOYED IN ROUND ROCK, TEXAS
DEAR ANNOYED: It’s possible these relatives did not grow up with the same formalities you are used to. If that’s the case, smile and say, “I consider calling my husband ‘Sir’ a sign of respect. That’s how I was raised. Don’t you think he deserves it?” However, if the teasing doesn’t stop, add, “I’m neither downtrodden nor subservient — and what I call him is really not your business.”
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