Annie's Mailbox: How do I get boyfriend's children to respect me?

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Dear Annie: I am 60 and have been in a relationship with “James” for nine years. He is 76 and a kind man. When we met, his wife had died six weeks earlier. I had been widowed for four years.

We live together in my home. I never go to his. James never treats me as a wife because we are not married. My children are OK with our relationship. His children, however, have a hard time accepting me. Only one of his daughters treats me nicely.

When I met James, he felt like a lifesaver. We’ve had great times together, but when it comes to his kids, I’m always left out. We also have no sex life. What do you suggest I do? I don’t want to be fighting all the time, yet I don’t want to be alone. It’s also very hard to find a good man.

— Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: If James began seeing you six weeks after his wife died, we can understand why his children might have had a hard time accepting you. And the fact that after nine years he doesn’t treat you as a lifetime partner indicates he still is not fully committed to you. His children can see that and use it to drive a wedge. If James doesn’t insist that they show you more respect, nothing will change.

One of the major mistakes a woman can make is believing her life is only worthwhile if there is a man in it. Don’t be so afraid to be alone that you remain in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy.

Dear Annie: I’m the mother of a beautiful 9-year-old daughter who has autism. “Shawna” doesn’t speak or use the bathroom, but she is a very active child.

My husband and I don’t have any friends or family who are supportive, because they don’t understand Shawna’s behavior (shrieking, grabbing food, hitting others and running away). When we are at family gatherings, they treat her like a problem child and act annoyed at us for her “bad” behavior.

I want to let people know it makes the parents feel very lonely and isolated. Taking care of a child with autism or any other disability is hard work. Please be more understanding and supportive. Let them know you are there for them.

— V.W.

Dear V.W.: Autistic children are a tremendous challenge for the parents and are exceedingly difficult for relatives and friends who aren’t as emotionally invested.

You cannot expect them to understand if they haven’t been educated. Please contact the Autism Society of America (autism-society.org), 4340 East-West Hwy., Suite 350, Bethesda, MD 20814, for support and help. Good luck.

Dear Annie: “It’s Cold in Maine” was upset with her granddaughter’s language on Facebook. One would think a 21-year-old college student would be interested in projecting a more professional attitude on a Facebook page that might be seen by future employers. There will always be someone who will pull photos and comments out of cyberspace and often at the most inopportune time, ruining that job or promotion they worked so hard for. Skeletons have a way of falling out the closet.

We grew up in a different time. Most parents want their children to be brighter, smarter and better educated than they were, simply because it will take that much more knowledge and money to support them through life in the manner they would like. I’d like to share some great wisdom that my mother gave me:

  1. I cannot stand between you and what will hurt you as you travel through life.

  2. Think twice before you speak.

  3. Never put anything in writing that will come back to haunt you.

  4. Fools’ names and fools’ faces are often seen in public places.

— Chicago

Dear Chicago: Excellent advice for everyone. Thank you.

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