DEAR AMY: Five years ago, my husband left me for his younger co-worker. He saw our two daughters (9-year-old twins) only twice a week, and never kept them overnight. We all survived, and my children seem happy and well-balanced today. They now see their father more frequently, and stay with him one night a week. I have never spoken to my children about their father's relationship with his girlfriend or his behavior in the past. I never disparage him. Today my ex-husband asked me to speak to our two daughters (now 14) about his girlfriend. He is afraid they "don't like" her because they are conflicted about my feelings about her. He caught me off-guard and I said, "Um, OK" but almost immediately regretted it. It's not my problem if they don't like her. I don't think anything positive can be gained from me broaching the topic. Since I haven't mentioned anything about her in four years, it may be painful for me! How do you think I should handle this?
-- Putting the Kids First
DEAR KIDS FIRST: If you could put yourself in the shoes of adolescent girls and their extreme sensitivities and maternal loyalty, you would see that there is a strong possibility that they are preventing themselves from accepting this other woman out of loyalty to you. But if you truly want them to live a well-balanced life, you will let them off the hook.
I assume you have never met your ex-husband's girlfriend. Therefore you cannot advocate for them to "like" her.
However, what he is really asking is to let the girls know that you are OK.
You can do this in many ways. After an overnight, you can say, "What did you guys do? Did 'Christy' go to the movies with you? . . . You know, girls, I'm OK. You know that, right?" They might not even realize that you know the girlfriend exists. They have likely been editing themselves for years out of fear that they would upset you.
It is not necessary for you to advocate for a relationship you don't care about. But if you crack the door open, your daughters will eventually walk through it.
And this is putting the kids first.
DEAR AMY: "Fed Up" was frustrated because her daughter had left her two cats with the mother to raise. I think she should gather up these cats and take them to the daughter's apartment (where animals are not allowed). This puts the problem back where it belongs -- with the daughter.
-- Cat Lover
DEAR LOVER: This is definitely not fair to the cats.