I am a divorced mother with two kids. I own a business in which I work with children, and I started dating the father of a student recently. Admittedly, this is a delicate situation, but so far, it has been good for us. He told me he loves me, but I didn’t say it back: It feels too soon. He separated from his wife of 23 years and the mother of his kids just three months ago. (I know this can be a turbulent time.) Aside from concerns about my own heart, I worry how our news may affect his family. I have worked with his young son for several years and don’t want to breach his trust or make the divorce more difficult. I know it’s not my job to communicate with his family, but when should we tell them about our relationship — in the interest of living an honest life?
I respect your desire for honesty, but I urge you to be more sensitive here: In the span of just 90 days, your boyfriend has separated from his wife and declared his love for you, all while you worked with his young son. I predict universal heartache — especially for the child. You have violated his trust by secretly dating his father as his family fell apart, and his father’s speedy substitution of you as a new partner may be painful for him.
Please slow down! I don’t particularly care whether you had an affair with your boyfriend before he left his wife or if he ended his marriage independently of you. In either case, it is hard to imagine that jumping into a relationship with a man freshly out of a 23-year marriage is a healthy choice for either of you.
There are also children involved. Before things progress any further with your boyfriend, bring your work with his son to a gentle conclusion and be careful about making this man a big part of your own children’s lives. Decisions about this relationship are for you to make with your boyfriend, of course, but I suggest putting them on hold for several months while he processes his major life changes.
A Sister’s Claim on a Family Name
My sister has a 14-month-old son. She gave him a family name as a middle name. (Everyone calls him by his first name.) My husband and I would like to use this same family name as our daughter’s first name. She is due in November. Do we have to ask for permission from my sister and brother-in-law? I want to be respectful, but I’d like to keep the name a secret, and I don’t want to give them an opportunity to say no.
There are plenty of times when it is easier to apologize than to ask for permission. This is not one of them. I don’t foresee a problem here, but new parents are often territorial (and a little touchy) about baby names.
Tell your sister what you have in mind and ask her to keep it a secret. If she objects, talk it out. You can still name your baby whatever you like, even if she objects. Wouldn’t it be better, though, to know her feelings before you do? She is your sister, after all!
Diminishing Returns on Colleagues’ Kindness
I have a medical condition that results in bouts of severe pain several times a year. I told a few co-workers about it: If my pain prevented me from working, it would affect their work. Now, whenever I speak with them, they ask how I’m holding up. I appreciate their concern, but I don’t want to be reminded of my condition all the time or to report on my health. Advice?
Here’s my take: In an act of (perhaps excessive) responsibility, you gave your colleagues probably the most personal information they have about you. I suspect they are trying to be thoughtful in response. Still, I understand your feelings. Start with something like: “I feel great, thanks. I’ll let you know if I don’t.” If you are comfortable, add: “I know you mean well, but I’d rather not talk about my health every time we speak.”
My Welcome Mat Isn’t Your Territory to Mark
I live in a large apartment building. Someone has been letting his or her dog pee in the hallway, directly outside my door, at least twice a week. My neighbors and I put up signs asking for this to stop, but it hasn’t. The managing agent says he can’t do much until we figure out who it is. Should I set up a camera to catch them in the act or pack up and move?
Allow me to make this problem even more disgusting: There may be multiple culprits here. My dog frequently marks where other dogs have urinated. This is not an excuse, mind you! Problem dogs should be carried outdoors, and owners (or dog walkers) are responsible for cleanup — preferably with a stain- and odor-removal product.
Ask the managing agent to install a camera. This problem is unsanitary (and gross) for all tenants. If he refuses to pay, consider installing a doorbell with a camera. That may do the trick.