DEAR ABBY: My fiancee has two daughters (14 and 11) from a previous marriage. Their dad, "Brett," was just arrested for his fourth DUI, the second within a year. The girls don't trust him anymore, and their image of him has changed greatly.
We have always encouraged the girls to stay with their dad on "his" days, but when they do, Brett rarely does anything with them, and he berates them. I know he misses his girls, and his siblings have told us the girls need to get past this because "tomorrow is not guaranteed." I understand. I live my life on that premise. But if Brett isn't willing to change, then why should we continue to encourage his being in their lives? He cares only about his image, not the actual relationship with his daughters.
He has a history with drugs and alcohol, and in the last 12 months, he has been fired from three different jobs. This is not the role model the girls need. I know I'm not their father, but it kills me seeing them hurt. Should we encourage them to still visit him? Or do we let them decide? I'm a soon-to-be stepfather who wants only what is best for the girls. -- PARENTING IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR PARENTING: When there is a divorce with children involved, custody arrangements are usually dictated by the court. Your fiancee's daughters may not have much choice but to visit their father on "his" days. That said, the custody arrangement can be altered if it becomes necessary.
I agree that someone with four DUIs is not a great role model, and he could be a danger to them if he is still allowed to drive. Encourage the girls to keep you informed of what transpires during their visits with their father. I disagree with the relatives who say they must get past their father's neglect and verbal abuse.
DEAR ABBY: I have three sisters. We are all in our 50s and 60s. Three of us get along great and always have, but we have all had issues with our oldest sister, "Lulu." She has gotten angry at us for many different reasons.
When our father was terminally ill, she wanted one of us to live with him in his home even though we thought it was enough that we were in the same small town and went over there daily. Also, Lulu is a widow and not financially secure, and she feels we have not helped her out enough. There have been times we have gotten along wonderfully, but sadly, it always ends in drama.
I miss her regardless of the drama, but she seems to have written us off. She is convinced that she is right, and we are bad for her. Must I learn to accept this and move on? Or should I try to make it right? My youngest sister wants nothing to do with her. She says Lulu is bad for her mental health. Can you help me to finally resolve this one way or the other? -- DYSFUNCTIONAL IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR DYSFUNCTIONAL: You are not responsible for Lulu's financial woes. Let her know you are there for her, but cannot help support her financially. I'm sorry you didn't mention whether she has a job. If she doesn't, she needs to find one to supplement her income. Unless you are willing to cave to emotional blackmail and supplement your sister's income for the rest of her life (or yours), accept that it may be time to move on.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have two sons in their late 30s. We always thought they got along well and loved each other. Over the past year, they are no longer speaking with each other because of hard feelings over current situations. They live in the same neighborhood.
My husband refuses to stay at either one's house now when we visit from out of town because he's so upset at the turn of events. (We have been getting a hotel room.) When I visit on my own, I stay with our older son because there is no place to stay with the younger one.
The disagreement between my husband and me is I want to continue to visit as I have, understanding there are differences but hoping they will come to a solution. I refuse to choose one over the other, and I'm trying to be consistent with love and be a good role model. Both of our sons know this.
My husband is upset with me because I don't support his position of not staying at either house until they make up. This is creating more friction in a situation that is already breaking our hearts. What do you recommend? We have made our suggestions for a resolution, but these are grown men who must do the work themselves. -- MOM IN A DIFFICULT SPOT
DEAR MOM: I recommend you continue to do what makes you comfortable. Your sons both know you love them. If your husband thinks that your staying in a hotel -- provided you can find one during the current shutdowns -- will somehow manipulate your sons into settling their differences more quickly, he is mistaken. It hasn't worked so far. As you stated, your "boys" are grown men. I agree with you that they will have to hash this out on their own.
DEAR ABBY: My fiance often leaves memory cards out on his dresser after a day of being home alone. I was by myself one day and looked at them. There were photos of a nude woman wrapped in his bed sheet on his bed back in 2018. In them, she is posing. We were dating when they were taken, but not yet living together or engaged.
He dabbles in photography, but never mentioned this or informed me he was doing this shoot. I found another set from 2017 -- prior to our relationship -- that is not as "tastefully" done. Do I have reason for concern? I thought these things were professionally done off-site. His bedroom, though? -- UNEASY IN NEW YORK
DEAR UNEASY: If the photos were taken before you and your fiance were exclusive, I doubt you have any reason to worry. However, rather than ask me if you have anything to be concerned about, any questions you have about his "dabbling" would be better
DEAR ABBY: I have a grown daughter whom my ex-husband named "Brenda." (It is her middle name.) She's married, a mother of five and lived abroad for quite some time. She's back in the U.S. now and living 50 miles away from our family. She now wants to be called by her first name, which is "Riley." The problem is, everyone here at home knows her as Brenda. Presently, I still call her Brenda. How can this be resolved? -- NOT HAPPY IN THE SOUTH
DEAR NOT HAPPY: Resolve this by using the name your adult daughter prefers. If you refuse, expect the distance between you to become greater than 50 miles.