DEAR AMY: I casually dated two different men at the same time: One man is my age (early-50s), and another man is 20 years older. I did not commit to either man, nor did I lead them to believe that we were exclusive. When my mom got sick and my workload increased, I told each man that I needed to focus on other things, and asked for some space. The younger man respected my request and for the past several months has sent me an occasional text or phone call to say hello, which is fine with me. The other man was texting me every single day. I found it annoying, and rarely responded. Eventually I wrote him a letter making it very clear that I do not want a romantic relationship and would like to be friends, but that can only happen if he backs off. He continues to send me at least one text every day, which goes unanswered. My mother is now stable, and I am ready to start dating again. The guy who texts every day tells me he loves me and that he just wants me in his life. He's not a terrible guy; he's generally kind and makes a good living. Is it possible that he is being chivalrous, and this is his way of fighting for me? Or is this a red flag hitting me in the face?
DEAR DATER: Here's a basic dating rule of thumb: If you have to ask if something is a red flag, then it IS a red flag. What's that I see? It's a "not so terrible" guy hoisting a piece of crimson colored fabric up a flagpole.
You don't like his behavior. You've told him so and have asked him to stop.
Stalkers, boundary-crossers, or obsessed lovelorn or love-struck people often believe they are being chivalrous. But there is nothing chivalrous about disrespecting someone's stated wishes. True chivalry involves being willing to sacrifice your own wishes and desires for someone else's sake.
This man is of an older generation, and he may not fully understand how annoying it can be to receive unwanted texts, but telling a woman that you love her after she has asked you to back off is not a Hallmark movie; it's a Lifetime movie.
Meanwhile, there's a perfectly nice guy close to your age who is respecting your wishes. Hmmm. It's your call.
DEAR AMY: I am a 66-year-old man — recently remarried. My wife has three grown daughters, ages 33, 31, and 29 (none are married). She has a codependent relationship with all three daughters. They know how to manipulate her, and she seems to need to allow it. This has put a tremendous strain on our marriage. Less than a year into our marriage, we separated and are close to divorcing. I feel very alone and cannot accept being neglected while she caters to her daughters' every need, at the expense of our marriage. Neither of us seems to want to divorce, but unless things change it seems inevitable. We have sought counseling, where she admits this and vows to change, but never follows through. I don't want to give up, but continuing this way is no longer an option for me. Your advice?
Married but Soon Single
DEAR SOON SINGLE: My understanding of codependency is that it really boils down to a desire to control. And so while your wife's daughters manipulate her, her intense engagement with them is really about her own wish to manipulate and control them.
Grown-ups need to be allowed to grow up. And your wife's over-involvement is likely impeding her daughters' growth and independence, which might be her actual (but unspoken) goal.
If she wanted to be in a robust and healthy marriage with you, your wife would put the marriage at the center, and engage with her daughters lovingly, but not exclusively, while they orbit.
That having been said, if she can't or won't adjust her behavior, you will either have to accept being a satellite in this family system, or exit it altogether.
DEAR AMY: Reflecting on the letter from "Stressed," the teen who was having panic attacks, I suffered from anxiety for years in my 40s, which was weird to me because I was a yoga instructor. Finally, I chose to go to a practitioner, who immediately put me on the perfect medication. I had anxiety-related asthma!
DEAR BETTER: A physical checkup should be the first stop.