DEAR AMY: My fiance and I are in our late 50s. His late wife (the mother of his 10-year-old daughter) died suddenly and unexpectedly six years ago. His wife was younger than he, and he has not dated anyone since her death. That is, until me. Before his wife died, she shared a bed with their daughter. He slept alone. After his wife’s death, he began sharing a bed with his daughter. Nothing inappropriate goes on, but the girl cannot — or will not — sleep alone. This means that he and I can only be intimate when she is not home. We’ve talked about this issue as an impediment to getting married. For many reasons, I refuse to sleep in the bed with him and his daughter, as he’s asked me to do. I don’t see this as being a solution to what I see as a huge problem. Do you have any suggestions or advice? I’ve been alone for seven years, and I thought I’d found The One after years of dating many others.
An Older Lonely Heart
DEAR LONELY: Do not enter this family system as an official member until your guy and his daughter feel secure enough to sleep separately. Realistically, even if your fiance wanted to change, this could take many months.
Given that the daughter has slept with a parent her entire life, and also that she suffered an extremely traumatic and sudden loss at a tender age, she will not be able to change her sleeping habits on her own.
At her age, co-sleeping retards her growth in a number of ways. For instance, though she’s at an age when many children enjoy sleepovers with friends, I assume that she is too insecure at night to do this.
Your guy is obviously not motivated to make a change, and instead of helping and encouraging his daughter to grow physically and emotionally strong and separate, he is doubling down on his poor judgment and asking you to join the family bed.
Another mark of his poor judgment is that he is deluding himself if he thinks an adolescent girl would welcome another woman to quite literally take her mother’s place in the family bedroom.
This girl needs professional therapeutic and bereavement counseling regarding her traumatic loss. The focus should be not only to change this sleeping arrangement, but — most importantly — to help her to heal and grow. Your guy does not seem at all ready to form a new family with you. He needs professional help and parenting counseling, too.
DEAR AMY: I am a middle-aged, attractive woman. I took my car to get serviced yesterday. It was my first time at this dealership. As the representative began helping me, he introduced himself. I’ll call him “Freddy.” Immediately another customer, a man around my age who is obviously a regular client there, leaned in and said, “The women call him, ‘Lover Freddy.’ ” I smiled politely and continued with my business but I am sick of having to deal with professional situations being turned into sexual ones. Is there any reply I can keep in my back pocket for the next time a man makes an inappropriate comment like that?
Stick to Business
DEAR STICK TO BUSINESS: In this specific situation, when the man said, “The women call him ‘Lover Freddy,’ ” you might have responded: “I wonder what they call you.”
Keeping a snappy reply in your back pocket might be less effective than deciding ahead of time to try to respond to this sort of thing in the moment, expressing a genuine reaction along the lines of, “Huh? What the heck?”
This other customer might have been trying to let you in on an inside jocular dynamic within the dealership. Or, he was being a horse’s ass and embarrassing an employee (who can’t correct him), and a fellow customer.
Saying nothing in reply telegraphs that — whatever the joke might be, you don’t get it (or don’t want to get it). As would this response: “I can’t figure out why you just said that to me.”
DEAR AMY: Responding to “Not a Sister,” when I started college, I became best friends with a girl who already had a much-beloved sister. I became close to her family, but I never thought of us as sisters until after all four parents had passed. We changed our relationship to “Sisters of the Heart.” It works and doesn’t diminish the love she has for her sister.
DEAR “SISTER”: I love it.