Wedding plans clouded by young man’s mental illness

Published 8:34 am Thursday, September 15, 2022

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DEAR ABBY: After three years together, my fiancé and I plan to be married next year. While we have the usual couples’ things going on, one concern is making me consider postponing the wedding or ending the engagement. My fiancé has a son whose mental illness led him to withdraw from high school at 16. He has done nothing since. He doesn’t work, and his father hasn’t gotten him treatment for his issues.
I made it clear at the beginning of our relationship that I have no desire for us to be lifelong caretakers to someone who refuses to help himself. He doesn’t want to tell his son to leave. Nobody wants to take him in, and he constantly flips between wanting treatment and not wanting treatment. I told my fiancé he has until later this year to figure out what to do about this, or we will have to postpone the wedding. He said if we postpone now, what’s to stop me from postponing again in the future?
He mentioned that we should work through this as a couple and get married with this unresolved, if necessary. I told him this is an important issue that needs to be resolved before the wedding. I applaud him for being a single father and raising his son from such a young age. Please let me know your thoughts on the situation. — BIG DILEMMA IN INDIANA

DEAR DILEMMA: When a person marries into a family, they marry into its problems. (No family is without them.) If you don’t want to share the responsibility of his mentally ill son, you should not marry this man. Rather than make him choose between the two of you, assume the responsibility for making the decision.
If your fiancé doesn’t already know about The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), he should look into it. NAMI comprises families with the same problems he is facing, and it might help him to know what has worked for them. Its website is Should you decide to go through with the marriage, you should consider joining as well.
DEAR ABBY: At what age do you stop holding hands when going for walks? I say never, but my boyfriend thinks we’re too old to be holding hands because it’s a teenager thing. I’m 61 and he is 60. I have just started dating again, and I love the feeling of holding his hand. I never had that during my two marriages.
I am white, and he is Black. He says it’s just something Black folks don’t do. I’m not sure about that because I have seen a lot of couples of many ages and races holding hands. How do I get him to understand that holding hands gives me comfort and a good feeling? — AFFECTIONATE IN NEW YORK

DEAR AFFECTIONATE: If you have told your boyfriend you need this and he responds by making excuses and ignoring you, then face it — he isn’t receptive. Is he also unwilling to hold hands in private? Holding hands is not uncommon in Black culture. Many African American couples of every age hold hands and enjoy doing it. From where I sit, your boyfriend is either not affectionate or is reluctant to display affection in public because you’re an interracial couple and he is concerned about unwanted attention.
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.
Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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