DEAR AMY: I am a male. My best female friend is a divorced mother of two. Her kids are a preteen and an adolescent — a boy and a girl. My friend considers herself to be at fault for her divorce, even though her ex was a horrible human being (though not physically abusive). My friend is very lonely. She is going out of her way to make sure that her kids have a male “father figure” in their lives. She does this almost to a fault. I have tried telling her that she is enough, that the kids truly do love her, and that those of us around her are more than glad to pick up the slack, but it often falls on deaf ears. I believe that a lot of aimless dating isn’t really doing much good for her, or them. Is there any way she can be convinced that what she has is adequate and healthy for her kids and that she should concentrate more on herself?
DEAR WORRIED: You’re right — aimless dating because of loneliness, guilt, or desperation is not good for your friend or her children. Having positive male role models in their lives is definitely good for the kids, but having various men passing through the family as your friend searches for her next partner is confusing, and doesn’t help the young siblings to grasp positive relationship values.
The optimal thing for families stumbling through transitions is for the kids to have a loving relationship with both of their parents — even if the parents have split — and for all parties to settle down into a daily reality that is stable and balanced.
Spend time with your friend and her children, and urge her (privately) to relax into her new reality and help her children to enjoy their life as it is, now. You and other male friends and family members should be a positive presence in the life of this family.
DEAR AMY: I have been fortunate in my life and have been able to travel, especially with my husband. My single and cash-strapped sister has not been so lucky. I am planning a road trip for my 50th birthday, and I will pass up visiting a place that my sister and I have talked about going to, because my sister does not want me to go to this place out of respect for her. I have offered to take her places (and have taken her places), but she rarely wants to go — and sometimes she has trouble getting off of work. It is also hard for me to afford the cost of a trip for two people. We did go on a short road trip for her 50th birthday, which was fun, but the trip I’m planning is much longer than hers was. There are a few places I have told my husband I cannot visit unless I can go with her. I love my sister. She is my best friend. I feel I am generous to her throughout the year, and I am hurt that she wants to restrict where I can travel. Am I being insensitive? Is she being unfair?
DEAR WARY: Your sister does not own the globe. She does not get to call “dibs” on locations — especially if she has previously refused to visit these places with you. But you should not ride shotgun on your own guilt trip.
I can understand trying to place a special location or experience “on hold” if you are planning to visit it with a specific person, but the way you describe your sister-dynamic, you are giving her a lot of power because of your guilt over the difference in your fortunes.
It is unfortunate that your sister can’t always accompany you on all of your travels, but she is just going to have to manage her own feelings about this, without micro-managing you. The more positive way to handle this would be to try to enjoy your own life to the fullest without unnecessarily calling attention to it or lording it over her, and also generously sharing some experiences with her.
DEAR AMY: I 100 percent disagree with your snarky answer to “Caught in the Middle,” who was wrestling with a dilemma over hiring a contractor with a Trump bumper sticker on his truck. I polled friends on this, and we all fell into the “chase him off the property” category.
DEAR APPALLED: This attitude is nothing to be proud of.