Ask Amy: Widow is caught in a “parent trap”

Dear Amy: I have never seen a question like this in any advice column.

I am a widow, and have been dating a widower for approximately six years.

We have a very happy relationship. We have helped each other tremendously over the years to heal from our losses.

The issue is my boyfriend’s daughter, “Marcia.” She is a 34-year-old nurse (I am also a nurse) and she has had a difficult time moving forward after the loss of her mother seven years ago.

I believe grief counseling would help her a lot, but I’m not sure she ever went.

She will not accept our relationship. I am invisible to her. She refuses to believe her father can find happiness with anyone other than her mother, and has verbalized this to others.

She told her father that she felt I was “replacing” her mother.

I wonder if seeing her father happy is a problem for her. (My children love him and are so glad to see me happy again.)

She has a very immature demeanor and has gotten pretty much whatever she wanted since she was very young.

My boyfriend said she will probably not change. He acknowledges that she is a very self-centered person.

It has become very uncomfortable being around her at family events.

I have refused to go anywhere where we will both be present for a long period of time.

She recently married and I thought she would mature, but it hasn’t happened.

I have tried to improve the relationship, to no avail.

How do I deal with this constant elephant in the room?

— Stuck

Dear Stuck: Actually, this issue of a partner’s child not accepting a new partner is at least as old as “The Parent Trap.” It surfaces frequently in this space.

“Marcia’s” father helped to create this problem, and he doesn’t seem to be doing anything now to promote a healthier relationship between two women who are important to him.

The answer here is two-fold: Your boyfriend needs to stop letting his daughter run his life, and you need to stop letting her control you.

Marcia is taking up way too much space in your relationship. She is an adult. I understand wanting to keep your distance, but perhaps you should try the opposite.

You should be the elephant in her room — cordial, polite, but overall unconcerned about her behavior.

Dear Amy: My husband of 34 years has been cheating on me for years.

When I confronted him last year and told him I knew everything, he said he doesn’t remember doing it. That’s an odd way to answer the cheating question.

My problem is that even after all the things he’s put me through (giving her money, refusing intimacy with me, etc.) I still love him.

Why do I love him? I have no idea.

I definitely want a divorce, but I still care for him.

After confronting him last year, I have been losing my hair and have lost 12 pounds all from stress.

I cry myself to sleep almost every night. I don’t know why I can’t be strong enough to let go.

I have spoken to people about this, including my pastor.

I need your advice on how I can let go.

— Hurting

Dear Hurting: For most people, letting go is a process that can only be taken in stages.

For you, letting go would start with you accepting the reality of your situation (you’ve done that). You should then come to grips with the fact that your situation is not likely to change.

You should physically separate (at least temporarily) in order to remove yourself from constant triggers and clear your head.

You should see a lawyer — even if you are not yet emotionally ready to divorce.

You should focus on your mental and physical health. Your body’s reaction to this stress is evidence that it is harming you.

Letting go is an act of courage. It is not necessary to stop loving the person who has hurt you, but it is necessary for you to learn to love and value yourself.

Dear Amy: Like “Stop Haunting my Dreams,” I also had persistent dreams about a long-ago failed relationship.

The dreams only stopped once I ran into the other party and was reminded of what a total jerk she was.

Clearly, I had been holding onto a fantasy. I guess my subconscious was searching for answers. I’m glad I finally received them.

— Free At Last

Dear Free: The objects of our fantasies often do not hold up well in daylight.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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