Dear Abby: I am in a loving relationship with a kind and caring man, “Byron.” He has a preteen son, “Eli,” from a previous relationship. Eli stays with us several days a week, and I watch him while Byron goes to work. Byron and I would like to spend the rest of our lives together, but I’m uncertain if I can truly be a stepmother to his son.
Eli often yells at and hits his dad. He calls his dad stupid, among other things. He asks for expensive items during every visit, often refuses to bathe and won’t eat anything other than fast food or pizza. If Byron has to say no to Eli because he doesn’t have the money for something, Eli throws a temper tantrum worse than a 2-year-old.
I know the kid is capable of better behavior because he doesn’t behave this way with his mother or grandmother. Byron doesn’t discipline his son at all, which allows his rude and disrespectful behavior to continue. I worry about the boy’s future. How will he hold a job if he acts this way toward a boss?
I like Eli very much. When he’s in a good mood, he’s the kindest child I can think of. But when his mood turns, it’s like the dark side takes over. I love Byron. I would like to marry him. But I don’t know if I can handle watching Eli be so disrespectful to his father. Sometimes it makes me feel like ending things. Please advise me on what to do.
— Hesitant “Stepmom”
Dear “Stepmom”: I hope you realize that Eli behaves the way he does because his father allows it. Byron may do this because he feels guilty about the divorce and is afraid his son will “hate” him if he asserts himself. Your gentleman friend really needs to take some parenting classes because his failure to act isn’t good for Eli. Please suggest it.
Dear Abby: I’m surprised by how many people choose not to use headphones while talking on the phone, listening to music or watching videos in public places. Instead, they use the speaker option or their Bluetooth speakers for all to hear.
I travel frequently. It’s bad enough to suffer through one side of the conversation, but hearing both is worse (and these folks talk at top volume and make no attempt to step out of earshot). Lately, I have also noticed people watching videos in restaurants.
At my apartment’s pool, several neighbors do the same thing. Sometimes the music includes offensive language, which I find inappropriate at a family pool. I’m tempted to start competing with them with random videos and music, but I know that’s wrong. Is there a reasonable way to handle these folks?
— Blasted Out in Arizona
Dear Blasted: If you are in a restaurant, ask the manager to move you to a quieter table. If you are bothered at your apartment swimming pool, take your complaint to the manager of the complex so a sign can be posted asking tenants to keep the volume low on their devices or wear headphones. It’s worth a try. Do not make the mistake of confronting them yourself.
P.S. Consider putting on headphones and listening to something of your choosing. It will drown out what you don’t want to hear.
Dear Abby: Would you think a husband is in love with his wife if he never talks to her, touches her or shows any interest in her? The worst kind of loneliness is the kind in marriage.
What should a wife do if she feels her husband no longer cares for her? We have been married five years, and I think about the seven-year itch. The first two years were difficult, and things haven’t gotten better. Would counseling help? I’m ready to leave.
— Confused in Pennsylvania
Dear Confused: I am not sure who is itching, you or your husband. Because there is so much unhappiness in your marriage, talk to your husband about it. Ask him why he has withdrawn from you, and whether he would be interested in working things out with the help of a licensed marriage and family therapist. If he is not willing, then realize it’s time to leave because the atmosphere you have described is toxic for you, and it isn’t a marriage.