Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I married a single mom. Now that I am in the thick of it, I find I want out. I grew up an orphan, so I have found that navigating family life is challenging. I am 35 now and am getting established, but I am finding the requirements of being a dad, finding and buying a house for the family and other expectations to be too much. Is there any graceful way to leave? Have I morally committed myself to the relationship? — Regretful Stepdad
DEAR REGRETFUL: Yes, you have morally committed yourself to the relationship. That’s what the marriage vows are all about.
Leaving will never be “graceful.” Leaving a marriage is most often messy and emotionally challenging, certainly when there are children involved.
Stepparenting is the most challenging form of parenting there is, and you are insightful to realize that, given your own upbringing, you lack the tools necessary to cope with the demands of family life.
And because you lack any context, you may believe that marriage and family building should be easier than it really is. I assure you, many a young parent has wanted to flee in the night. Do not feel pressured to purchase a home unless (or until) you feel more stable in the marriage.
Because you seem so distressed and disassociated, it might be best for you to separate now, but, please, only do so with some therapeutic counsel and support. Start on your own and then invite your wife to join you in order to discuss your unique challenges. Be aware that you carry your history with you everywhere you go. Your challenges will not flee, even if you do. Your goal should be to live an integrated and emotionally balanced life, but you will need support to get there.
DEAR AMY: Two years ago, my best friend “Jackie” ended our 15-year friendship because she felt “manipulated” and “put out” by me. Jackie asked me not to contact her, and I respected her wishes. A few months before Jackie ended our friendship, I started decreasing the amount of time I spent talking with her. Most of the time, she and I talked about depressing events (such as gun violence) or superficial topics (like Kim Kardashian), and we would talk about these events for days. I felt depressed and hopeless (though not about Kim Kardashian, of course), and it just was not healthy. Fast forward to now. I am engaged. While this is an exciting time, I also feel an overwhelming sadness that my best friend is not with me. I am not sure if our friendship can be repaired, or if I even want it to be repaired, but I don’t know what to do with this sadness. I just miss my best friend. What should I do? — Bride Without Her Best Friend
DEAR BRIDE: Weddings and other important or ceremonial events often bring on grief and sadness for the people who are no longer in your life. It is simply part of the poignancy of a major life transition: Happy and sad seem intertwined.
Invite “Jackie” to your wedding, with a note saying, “I miss you! Brad and I hope you will share this special day with us.”
This would violate your “no contact” agreement, but this wedding could offer the two of you an opportunity to reset your friendship, even if this only results in cordiality.
You should not have any expectation that Jackie will attend your wedding, or even respond to your invitation, but you will feel better knowing you had sent this open-ended kindness her way.
DEAR AMY: I always enjoy your column, but your response to “Puzzled,” who wrote about regifting baby chicks “as a joke” was absolutely spot on, and I cheered in my kitchen. I loved it when you said that in addition to being wrong, this was “not funny. Not at all.” Too many people are unwilling to say something isn’t funny because they’re fearful of being told they don’t have a sense of humor. The truth is that those who do have a sense of humor — you, for instance — must accept the responsibility of declaring “not funny” when the barbarians are at the gate. Or the henhouse. Thank you. — Gina
DEAR GINA: Awww, I’m just doing my bit to make the world safe for real comedy.