Ask Amy: A possible stepmother worries about favoritism

Dear Amy: My boyfriend “Steve” and I have been together for over two years. He is extremely kind and generous to me. I can see a long-term future with him.

Steve is divorced with three children, ages 5 (a son “A”), 7 (a daughter, “B”), and 9 (a son, “C”).

He and his ex-wife have an acrimonious relationship, but have a loose agreement regarding the children. He gets the kids every other weekend and also sees them during the weekdays.

The issue is this: Steve openly favors the youngest, “A,” and is openly disdainful of the middle child, “B.”

I have spoken to him repeatedly of the obvious favoritism and the mistreatment of his daughter, but he then accuses me of favoring her.

When we get into arguments about the kids, he will blame the kids for me being upset and will punish them.

B recently confided in me that their mother threatened to take him to court if he didn’t change his behavior toward them.

B has told both me and her mother about this favoritism, but Steve will staunchly deny it, even though multiple people have brought it to his attention.

I am worried that if he doesn’t start acknowledging the deeper issues and rectifying his relationship with his daughter, his ex will take him to court (rightfully so).

I am also torn, wondering if I should stay with someone who refuses to accept any responsibility in conflict, particularly when it comes to his children.

— Conflicted Girlfriend in Tennessee

Dear Conflicted: No you should not stay with someone who refuses to accept any responsibility regarding conflicts, and who blames and punishes his children if you become upset.

Both of these parents seem quite flawed — for instance, using a 9-year-old to convey a message regarding pulling her father into court shows poor judgment on the mother’s part.

You are someone outside these family units who nonetheless has an inside view and a valid point of view regarding these children.

When pondering life in the longer term with this man, I’d like you to imagine the next 10 years with three children growing into challenging adolescent and teen years, with you trying to mediate on the kids’ behalf between two warring parents, with at least one of these parents unwilling to even consider altering his behavior, even when it threatens to harm his relationship with his family.

You should be with someone who is willing to co-parent through conflict, because when it comes to stepparenting, if you don’t work as a team, you don’t work.

Dear Amy: My husband was recently diagnosed with cancer (for the second time).

While we have been assured that this is not a death sentence, we have an unpredictable journey ahead of us with tests, treatments, lifestyle changes, and so on.

Would you please ask your readers not to dismiss news like this?

One person said to me, “Oh, that cancer is nothing!”

Maybe it would be nothing to her, but it is certainly something to us.

And I know that people mean well when they say, “I know several people who have had cancer and they’re fine.”

More people are surviving cancer today, but we are in the early stages and uncertain about everything.

What is even worse is one friend telling us about all of the people he knew with that cancer who subsequently died.

Really, folks, comments like these don’t help, and create more anxiety for the patient and family. Thank you for letting me vent.

— Retired English Professor

Dear Professor: I am running your comment as yet another in a series of “public service announcements” regarding how people sometimes respond to troubling health news.

I once watched someone dismiss a friend’s obvious concern regarding a cancer diagnosis with the familiar: “I had a friend with that, and it’s no big deal.”

This might seem helpful or reassuring to the person saying it, but what they are doing is telling a very worried person that their current feelings are not legitimate.

Dear Amy: Like “Old Worrier,” I met a woman and knew immediately that she was “the one.”

I gave her a ring and she gave me the news that she was pregnant by a one-night stand.

I knew that she was a human — just like me. I also knew that if she was divorced or a widow with a child, I would still marry her.

Well into our senior years now, we know this was the best choice we ever made.

— Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: Beautiful!

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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