Family front and center in rekindled relationship

Published 8:57 am Monday, February 28, 2022

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DEAR ABBY: I recently reconnected with an old boyfriend after 30 years, and I’m concerned about what I can only describe as co-dependency between him and his daughter. His wife of 20 years died two years ago after a long illness. He was her caregiver for the majority of those years, along with raising his daughter, who is now 21. He has a granddaughter as well, and they all live together.
When I shared with him that I could only imagine how difficult it must have been for everyone and delicately suggested family therapy, he replied, “Everything will be all right in a while.” The majority of our time is spent with his daughter and granddaughter.
I have expressed my concern to him about spending “together time” as a couple, courting one another while we navigate dating, and emotional and sexual intimacy at this phase in our lives. I am also concerned about him letting the granddaughter engage in adult interactions. There seems to be a lack of “healthy boundaries” in place.
Abby, if everything is going to be “all right,” as he believes, why do I feel like I’m filling an empty space with no foreseeable returns in this family dynamic? — CONFIRMED DIVORCEE FOR NOW

DEAR DIVORCEE: You and your old boyfriend need to have a frank discussion about what you can expect from this relationship. Certain things are private. Courting and emotional and sexual intimacy should take place away from his home — preferably on your turf. If he doesn’t see the wisdom in that and isn’t prepared to compromise, end the “romance” and waste no more of your time.
DEAR ABBY: My brother-in-law, “Harvey,” has a filthy habit of chewing tobacco in my home and around my family. He has promised many times to not do it when he visits, but has broken his word every time. The children are grown now, but there are grandchildren.
Harvey is a dirty, unhygienic man who wipes his chew-covered hands on his jeans and leaves a trail of chew and spittle everywhere. He spits into soda cans and leaves the cans on the end table. One time, my 2-year-old tipped it up and took a swig thinking it was soda!
It has been 25 years now, and I’m ready to ban him from my home and family get-togethers. My husband feels pity for him. He and my mother-in-law baby Harvey like a child. I’m ready to lay down the law, and I know there will be hell to pay, but I cannot take this any longer. What do you think? — HAD IT IN WASHINGTON

DEAR HAD IT: Frankly, I think that after 25 years, you’re a little late trying to lay down the law to Harvey. You should have put your foot down when your 2-year-old mistook Harvey’s spittoon for a soda. Whether you can enforce banning your brother-in-law from your home is anybody’s guess, but I suppose it’s worth a try if you’re willing to accept the consequences. An alternative might be to entertain him only during the milder months when you can do it outside.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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