DEAR ABBY: I agree with the response you gave to "Low Priority in Pennsylvania" (Dec. 11) that she reconsider her relationship with her fiance, but not for the reason you may think. Unless they are kids just out of college, three years is a long time to be engaged. Add to this the fact that the man seems to be making no moves to blend his old family with his new one, and it suggests to me that he isn't really serious about making his relationship with "Low Priority" permanent.
After three years, a man who is planning to remarry should be gently encouraging his biological children to accept the new relationship. Obviously, when his kids are visiting he is going to spend a lot of time with them on their own, but he shouldn't be reluctant to show her affection and respect in their presence. He also should not be ignoring her or her child, and there should be time scheduled for all of them to do things together.
That Sunday breakfast would be a perfect opportunity. A man who is serious would wake up the whole house and they'd go to breakfast together. Then afterward, maybe she would go home and he would take all the kids — her son included — to do something fun. Or maybe she should be the one who takes the kids for an afternoon, to give his kids a chance to get used to this new woman and negotiate a relationship with her on their own terms.
The fact that he has done none of this should be a huge red flag to "Low Priority." She needs to decide if being engaged for life is good enough, or if she'd rather cut bait and look for a man who loves and respects her enough to fully incorporate her into his life.
— JAYMI IN ATLANTA
DEAR JAYMI: Thank you for writing. Many readers disagreed with my comments and told me emphatically that not only did they regard the man as an uncaring partner, but also as an ineffective parent. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: That man is not being a good parent when he has his kids. A real parent sets bedtimes and teaches the kids to consider all the members of the family. He is shortchanging his kids because of his behavior!
— ELIZABETH IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR ABBY: Through 23 years of marriage I tolerated isolating behavior from my husband when his two sons were visiting, first as teens and later as young adults. Nothing worked — talking to him, ignoring the behavior, taking my own trips on visit weekends, marriage counseling. I had no say in matters pertaining to the two stepsons, even though they affected my marriage and our home life.
My marriage ended when I finally decided if I was going to feel alone, I might as well enjoy the benefits. My former husband is now alone and none too happy about it. And his now grown sons are no more concerned with his feelings than he was with mine. Children learn by example.
— FORMER STEPMOTHER
DEAR ABBY: In a family, blended or otherwise, the adults are the heads of the family. It's the so-called "executive system." Their relationship must be kind, harmonious and respectful because it sets the tone for the entire family dynamic.
The fiance may love his children, but he's actually causing them more harm by allowing them to rule the roost and see him essentially mistreat the woman and child with whom he has lived for three years. The part of your advice I agree with is that the woman should not marry him.
— THERAPIST IN MAINE
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.