DEAR ABBY: Reader wonders about how to respond to boyfriend’s son

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

DEAR ABBY: I have been in a relationship with someone for 11 months. He has full custody of an 8-year-old son from a previous relationship. The mother hasn’t been in the child’s life for two years. His son knows I am his father’s girlfriend and has seen us be affectionate with each other. He has also heard us say “I love you.”

Lately, the boy has been saying “I love you” to me, and I am torn about how to respond. We have a good relationship, and I do care for him and his well-being, but I don’t know how to respond when he says this. Do I say “I love you” back because I care for him, or should I not respond? I don’t know if he’s just mimicking what he sees or hears, but I also don’t want to teach him that he shouldn’t be open about his feelings. — CAUGHT OFF-GUARD

DEAR CAUGHT: All children want to feel loved. Because you care about the boy, give him a hug and say you love him, too, and always will. I do have one caveat, however. If your relationship with his father doesn’t work out, it is very important that you and the child’s dad talk to him and tell him that the breakup has nothing to do with HIM, that it is not his fault, and he (the boy) will always have a special place in your heart.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend since childhood, “Jeff,” died eight months ago; he was in a 57-year marriage. I have known his still-attractive widow, “Della,” since they were newlyweds. I have been divorced for decades.

I have long admired Della at a distance, quietly, out of respect for Jeff. It helped that over the years we lived in different states. I believe she sensed my admiration for her.

How long should I wait before I begin showing my interest in her as a potential partner in our golden years? — WISHFUL IN THE EAST

DEAR WISHFUL: Did you reach out to Della to express condolences when you learned of Jeff’s death? If not, do it NOW. If she responds, follow up with a phone call — and possibly a visit to her community and dinner if she’s agreeable. Once you are in regular contact with her, you will be able to determine if the interest is mutual.

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.