Dear Annie: Your column is the first page I turn to in the newspaper. I now have a problem and hope you can help.
My boyfriend, “John,” and I have been together for five years. We have a wonderful relationship. He loves my three young children, and they adore him. John also has a grown daughter, “Sarah,” whom he raised as a single father. Sarah is now 27 and has two young children from two different fathers. Her kids are slightly younger than mine.
Sarah is resentful and jealous of the relationship John has with my children. The only time John hears from her is when she needs help, and we have given it, emotionally and financially. We even took her in for a few months and cared for the children. Her relationships are always in turmoil.
Every time Sarah contacts John, she upsets him. I listen to him vent and try to stay out of their relationship. But it hurts me to see him in pain over and over. Sarah recently mentioned that she was diagnosed with bipolar disease, but we have no idea what type of treatment (if any) she is receiving.
What is the best way to handle Sarah? How do I keep my boyfriend from being hurt every time she calls?
— Concerned Girlfriend
Dear Concerned: You cannot prevent John from being hurt by his daughter’s words or actions. Allowing him to vent gives him a release valve for his pain, which is probably the most helpful thing you can do right now. Sarah needs to grow up, and that takes longer for some people than for others.
You also can reassure John that he’s a great guy, and that Sarah is simply having a hard time adjusting to his current situation. Her behavior is a way of seeking his undivided attention. You could suggest he encourage Sarah to talk to her doctor about medication and therapy. Beyond that, try to make your presence in his life an oasis of peace.
Dear Annie: My boyfriend of two years assured me that my new smart-phone plan would allow me to use all of the same services I get at home while I am traveling. So on a recent trip, I used it as I normally would.
Upon returning home, I was faced with a bill for more than $200. He admits he misread the phone’s website information, but feels no obligation to pay even half of my bill. I think it would be the honorable thing to do, especially since he makes three times what I do. What do you think?
Dear Disappointed: Yes, it would be honorable for him to offer to pay a portion of your bill since you used it on his advice, and you can ask him. It doesn’t speak well for his character that he would hang you out to dry. But it’s your phone. You are ultimately responsible for understanding the costs involved. Consider it an expensive lesson in learning to double-check the facts.
Dear Annie: Your advice to “In the Middle” was dead on. Her husband will never nag or shame their daughter into losing weight. I speak from experience. My late father (an underweight picky eater) nagged, harangued and shamed me about my weight for most of my life. Not only did it reinforce my feelings of worthlessness, but it also made me angry and motivated me to eat in secret for comfort.
”Middle’s” daughter has to control her own life, regardless of whether Dad agrees with her choices or not. I wonder why Dad has so much trouble having an overweight child. Is he really concerned for her, or is he embarrassed by her? Or maybe he is simply prejudiced against overweight women, like many people.
I’m now 53 and still overweight. I’m trying to eat more healthfully, but it’s a tremendous struggle to ignore a lifetime of negativity from Dad. The less Mom supports him or argues with him the better.
— Been There, Done That
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
— Creators Syndicate Inc.