DEAR SUSAN: Please pass on my thoughts to your readers who are dating a single parent and seriously thinking of marriage. Please tell them they must be sure their role as stepparent is clearly defined and understood by the future spouse, the stepchildren, the former spouse -- before taking marriage vows. This includes not only matters of discipline but also respect for the new spouse and for the marriage. I learned the hard way that if a child isn't given boundaries early and isn't taught to respect the stepparent, the marriage is doomed. If the biological parent who is your intended spouse allows the disrespect to continue and is controlled by a child who uses the guilt angle, walk away. Remember that you aren't the stepchild's pal or peer, that you're an adult worthy of respect and that there shouldn't be competition between you and a child for the spouse's attention/ affection. Pleasing a child and an ex-spouse shouldn't be the priority; thenew union is paramount.
DEAR BLOGGER: Wow. Those last five words seem etched in your memory with great clarity. Let's hope that single parents everywhere will take those words to heart and follow through by rearranging their priorities. It's far from easy, I say with grim remembrance. Even after bringing a new love into their family, the single parent must face the complexities of the triangle. That can wear down even the most stalwart. Careful handling lays out the road map to a happy ending. The main foundation of the family is the two adults who head it. When they're getting what they need from the relationship, the children will reflect those vibes and bring that contentment with them into their own lives. It sounds great, but it's not easily done. Still, it's the worthiest of efforts for all concerned. Fingers crossed.
Jessica D., Long Island
DEAR JESSICA: "Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances of getting a date on Saturday night." That's Woody Allen's spin on the issue. I plan to dig deeper into research on bisexuality.