Dear Annie: I’m 30 years old, and for the past two years, I’ve been seeing a wonderful man who’s 48. “Taylor” is recently divorced and has two grown children. We get along great and seem to be a perfect match. We are very much in love and intend to get married someday. Which leads me to my question:
I’ve never had kids. I was married for eight years and divorced just before meeting Taylor. I never had any interest in having children with my ex. Now I will have two stepkids. I love children and I’ve grown fond of his, but I worry what they will think of me.
When I was 13, my dad married a woman 14 years his junior who’s made our life hell for the past 17 years. I don’t want to be the “wicked stepmom.” I want to be a friend to them and a help to their father. I’d never try to take their mother’s place. I guess what I’m asking is, how can I be a good stepmother to these kids? What are some things to remember? — The Good Witch in Salem, Mass.
Dear Salem: You are wise to want a warm and solid relationship with these children, and your experience as a stepchild should be helpful. Encourage your future husband to maintain a friendship with his ex, and don’t let your insecurities make you pushy and demanding. Keep the lines of communication open at all times. You can find information, support groups and resources through the National Stepfamily Resource Center (email@example.com), c/o Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.
Dear Annie: Our family is small and we enjoy it when our relatives gather on holidays. Unfortunately, my middle-aged sister has disrupted these otherwise happy events for several years. She takes casual comments out of context and becomes offended, angry and tearful. She attacks others and then leaves the house without bothering to resolve differences. It’s becoming a pattern and we don’t know what to do. We love her and want to include her, but we’re afraid of what will set her off. We wonder if there are psychiatric or alcohol problems, as her behavior is more pronounced when she drinks.
I’m afraid if we confront her, she’ll cut off all contact. Is this a time for tough love or kid gloves? — A Family That Wants What Is Best
Dear Family: There are definite mental health issues here, but unless your sister recognizes that her behavior is off-kilter, it won’t matter. Kid gloves can be stressful, and tough love works only if you are willing to lose contact. One of you could take her aside and say you’ve noticed she seems unhappy and, because you love her, you want to help. However, if you insist on including her regardless of her behavior, you will have to ignore the small things, keep the conversation superficial and apologize often, saying you didn’t mean to upset her. Then quickly change the subject to something that will deflect her anger. Lots of luck.
Dear Annie: This is for “Stressed in Georgia,” who used pot for stress relief. As a clinical social worker, when I hear that someone suffers from extreme anxiety and anger, that antidepressants make it worse and pot helps, my first thought is to send him back to his doctor, preferably a psychiatrist, for further evaluation of his mood disorder.
He may have a bipolar disorder, in which case he needs a mood stabilizer, not an antidepressant. Many people who suffer from undiagnosed mood disorders on the bipolar spectrum try to self-medicate with recreational drugs, legal and illegal, and end up addicted. He needs a chance to find legal help that works. — Longtime Therapist in Wisconsin
Dear Therapist: Thank you for your expertise. If anyone sees themselves or a loved one in this letter, please talk to your doctor.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. 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.
Published in The Messenger 1.2.08