After Years of Dementia, My Boyfriend’s Wife Has Died. Now What?

My boyfriend’s wife died this week. For years, she lived with severe dementia — unable to walk, feed herself or communicate. I respect that she was my boyfriend’s great love and the mother of his adult children. Still, we have been dating for a year and are solidly in love. Some people disapprove, but we think we were respectful of his wife and family. We agreed that I should stay away from him now and from her funeral to keep the focus on his wife. We’ve had several discussions about what would happen after she died. I suggested he may want to play the field, but he was adamant about being with me. He is grieving now, but what should I do down the road — let him bounce back into my life or insist he take time on his own?


I am not a grief counselor, but in my experience there is little point in trying to plan grief. It often takes unexpected paths, hitting us harder or later or just plain differently than we might have predicted. Here, you may think your boyfriend had a head start grieving his wife, given her diminished state. But he may be clobbered by grief. (He may also feel guilty about having moved on before she died — not that he should.)

Try to take the future one day at a time. Your relationship with your boyfriend grew out of complicated circumstances. Now, he will be mourning his wife and his marriage, and his feelings for you and your complex relationship may be all over the place. So take care of yourself. No matter what your boyfriend thought he would want before his wife died, he may feel differently now that she has.

I hope both of you are open to counseling and support groups for those who have lost loved ones and those affected by dementia. I suspect your situation is not uncommon in some of those groups. And I wish you the best as you navigate your relationship amid fresh loss.

My oldest sister is having a big birthday this year. I’ve been planning a surprise all-sisters trip to celebrate for months. I mentioned it to my mother over the holidays. She has since learned of our weekend agenda and is under the impression that she’s invited. I love my mom, but this trip was meant for her grown daughters. Can I tell her delicately that she’s not invited?


I may be the wrong person to ask. I would give anything to be able to go on a trip with my mother again. In fairness, that’s not your situation — though it will be one day. Still, it seems unkind to tell your mother about a getaway with all her daughters and then exclude her from it.

You don’t say how she came to be “under the impression” that she is invited or for how long she has labored under that belief. I would include her in any event. Enforcing your sisters-only concept seems mean if it requires barring the woman who connects you all. Next time: Shh!

For years, I walked the neighborhood with a friend. We met at 7 a.m., got our exercise in and caught up on life. Out of nowhere, she started bringing a dog she inherited when her mother died. The dog is unruly — stopping and starting, peeing on everything and barking at other dogs. Our formerly enjoyable walks became intolerable. I asked her nicely if she could leave the dog with her husband and take it out later. (She doesn’t work.) She said if I wouldn’t allow the dog, she wouldn’t be coming, either. She dropped me like a stone after 15 years of friendship. What would you do?


Look at this from your friend’s perspective: Her mother died, and she inherited a dog that needs a morning walk. Rather than waiting for her to get the hang of walking with you and the dog together, though, you suggested she add a second walk to her morning routine to accommodate you. That may have seemed selfish to her.

I would call her to apologize. Don’t get me wrong: It may not work for you to walk with her (and the dog) anymore. But you can probably salvage your friendship by empathizing with her.

I am a sommelier. Often, I am invited to dinners with the understanding that I will bring the wine. I like doing it. I know I’ll enjoy the wines I bring, and I like introducing them to people. Usually, I bring way too much: I don’t know the exact menu or how much the guests will drink. Is it rude for me to take home the unopened bottles?


Hang on! Do hosts actually ask you to bring all the wine, or do you offer? (I think I’m Diamond Jim when I bring two bottles to a dinner party.) Use your words here. When you and the host are discussing the evening, say: “I’ll bring several bottles of wine and take home what we don’t drink, OK?” No way to misunderstand that — or your generosity, either.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.