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May 7, 2001


The Digital Camera, and My Ex-husband's Wife



Dear Mrs. Web,

Six weeks ago I found the address of a woman I last saw in 10th grade. We are now in our 50ís. We grew up in the same neighborhood, and spent 10 years in school together. She is single now and we have reestablished our friendship by email. We have been exchanging information and chatting by email for a couple of months.

Recently we were able to do some heavy schedule-bending and meet.  We both were visiting  relatives that were close by each other.  We had a fun casual restaurant dinner with her son and my brotherís children.

It was as if we picked up our conversation from 40 years ago! We have much in common. She told me in one of her first letters that she had faced some problems with her former husband, and was involved in raising her teenaged son. She has since told me she is not ready for a relationship with another man. She also suggested I meet a friend of hers instead. 

I have told her I am interested in a relationship with her when she is ready. I have sent a digital camera and asked for pictures of her and her family, and friends. I would really like to trade recent photos as we continue to exchange email. 

Now the camera has become an issue. She refuses to keep it. Therefore, I suggested that I "loan" it to here or that she can pay me back in 80 years if she wants to buy it.  She still says no.

Do you think she should keep the camera, without obligation? Or do you think that my hope of a deeper relationship clouds the picture? This issue is making her very uncomfortable 

Slow down a bit, guy. Women do not like expensive gifts, no matter how the terms are couched, when they are not or donít want to be in relationship. Women perceive it as a form of pressure. Listen to her. Continue to grow your friendship. Check my website for Things to Discuss with the Beloved so you can deepen your friendship and emotional intimacy.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My 16-year-old daughter was caught recently with both alcohol and marijuana in her possession. When I found out, I immediately called her father (my ex-husband), We have a remarkably good relationship and I knew this was something we should handle together. We are both recently remarried.

We sat down with her, blew off some steam, then calmly, but firmly doled out the consequences (no friend visits or sleepovers, no telephone, no computer, additional chores, look for a part-time job, etc.). We also promised her that this was just the beginning and that we would be addressing her behavior and choices together on an on-going basis.

My daughter spent the next day her father and stepmother's house. She does not have a close relationship with her stepmother. That evening stepmother took my daughter aside privately, and verbally let her have it. I have no problem with it; her own children could have been at risk because of my daughterís behavior.

However, then she proceeded to dole out more punishment (which, I could look over), and then told her she wished she could "beat her senseless, tell everyone she fell down the stairs, then send her off to boot camp." She also said my daughter reminded her of her own ex-husband and that she couldnít find anything she liked about her. My ex was not present but was aware of what his wife was doing. My daughter came home upset. I do feel that the stepmother overstepped her bounds. I would love your opinion.

Before I say anything let me state that there is nothing like an acting-out teenager to explode a family or two.

Your husbandís wife was way out of line. It sounds like one of her emotional hot buttons was pushed by your daughter's behaviors.  She needs to be separated from your daughter for your daughter's well-being and emotional safety.

A good family boundary that every one should agree on is that all the parents discipline their own biological children in these big issues. The step spouse should support the mom or dad but should not inflict her own discipline.  I advocate this position because a loosely or unconnected adult does not have the long-term storehouse of affection and love that an involved parent can draw upon when the children takes her to those painful places.  Talk to your ex about the boundaries and have him handle his wife.

Nothing that happened here is big enough to blow up the family, but it did show the cracks in the relationships. I would let the dust settle a bit and then talk with your ex about these boundaries, for both him and his wife. By the way, you sound like you have a good, level head on your shoulders, and be aware, Dear Mrs. Web does not give compliments often.




May 4, 2001




The Attack Bird,   Coed Showers, Thank you, Dear Mrs. Web,  and 

Breaking Up is Hard to Do



Dear Mrs. Web,

I live on a small lake surrounded by thirty-six homes. Last spring a group of 2/3 of the residents pooled their money and purchased a pair of adult swans for the lake. Some residents chose not to contribute.

This spring during the mating season, the male swan has become somewhat aggressive. The mating season lasts about two months. An aggressive swan at worst will rush at a perceived intruder, wings flapping (they cannot fly), and mouth open as to bite (they have no teeth). Their only weapon is intimidation. The only response needed is to stand up to him and not run. Shoo him back into the water and it's finished.

Most of the neighbors use this method. However, we have two residents who think that the only way to deal with him is with an instrument of some sort, a leaf rake, a broom, a fishing pole, and even a metal pole of some sort. They don't shoo him back; they hit him repeatedly with what they have. One even taught his children to do this.

I have videotape of both of these neighbors mistreating the swans. We have had the authorities talk with them on three occasions to no avail. The warden says that the next step is court action. Would going to court be the right thing to do to neighbors that we must live with on a daily basis?

The thought of being confronted and chased by an amorous, protective swan certainly gives Dear Mrs. Web a long pause. Although I do not agree with your neighborís solution, I understand that people sometimes become upset or riled by an out-of-control attacking animal. Not everyone can face these sorts of situations with grace and coolness.

I donít think I would take legal action. It would be difficult for the entire lake association. It would turn what must be a pleasant neighborhood into a bickering, angry, and uncomfortable place. Sometimes excellent ideas just donít work with certain groups of people. I donít think having the swans there is worth this sort of alienation.

Instead, I would address the problem. You have an animal that comes onto different residentís properties and sometimes attacks the owners and their families. Small children may be at risk. Moreover, some of the people in the neighborhood actually got together to pay for this privilege.

Perhaps another female can replace the male. Your local wildlife biologist or swan hatchery may be able to help you make this decision. If two females would not work, this may not be the time, or the right group of people for swans in the lake. I know there are just one or two problem people, but they are part of the group that lives around the lake, and it isnít working for them, so the group, in my opinion, needs to find an alternative.



Dear Mrs. Web,

What is your opinion on a married couple who have young children taking a shower alone together?

What is your opinion of a couple who is engaged and has young children from previous marriages taking a shower alone together? 

I think married couples who have young children should be able to enjoy a shower together if they are discreet.

If you have spent any time visiting Dear Mrs Web, you will realize that she does not approve of premarital co-ed showering. After the wedding howeverÖ



Dear Mrs Web,

I just wanted you to know that your answer to my email  was a big help and I will never forget you. Your advice helped me so much! I have realized quite a bit about my old relationship. I will keep in touch.

Thanks for everything.

Dear Mrs Web is happy she could help. Take care of yourself and your little one.

Dear Mrs Web needs many more visits and hits at her site as well as more newspapers to publish her column. Please let people in your area know about Dear Mrs Web .com



Dear Mrs. Web,

My girlfriend and I have been together for three years. She has just told me she wants to date someone else and that she has been unhappy about our relationship some time.

We do have our problems and things werenít going that well but I am in shock. I thought things would work out. I want to be happy with her again. How can I get her to come back to me? I am shipping out soon.  Help!

I understand your concern and pain. Three years is a long time. I donít know whether you can restart your relationship with your girlfriend. I would ask her whether she would meet with you for dinner and talk it over. Tell her that three years is a long time to toss aside.

I will be frank, it sounds like her heart is in another place and usually when a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship breaks up like this it is rare for them to re-establish. There is no true commitment in a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship, no matter what privately agreement for fidelity or commitment that your both may have developed.

This is the major difference between marriage and non-marital relationships. Marriage commitment is held together with the commitment of the two people and the commitment of the community, law, children, family, and friends. It is more than I love you and want to be with you forever, because that part disappears in normal relationships and sometimes it is only the outside forces that continue to hold the marriage commitment in place during the tough patches that all relationships endure.

Therefore, my short answer is you can reach out to her, but donít be surprised if it doesnít work. Instead, you might consider taking care of yourself and learn from a relationship better ways of providing the commitment you want. I advise courtship as a way of stepping towards commitment. I think it offers a better alternative to the consecutive, emotionally destructive heart and body relationships that some people almost take for granted today.



May 3, 2001


Frustrating Neighbors,

  Visiting In-laws, 

My Best Friend's Husband, and 

I Can't Leave!



Dear Mrs. Web,

I have recently moved into a townhouse. It is lovely except for my next door neighbors. They are a pair of lawyers who are savvy about staying within the letter of the law and pushing the townhouse associationís rules. They have annoying behaviors such as claiming unassigned parking spaces in such a way that puts the rest of us at a disadvantage. They drive their motorcycles off their patios, filling our homes with exhaust and noise, and leave on bright floodlights for nights on end, which lights up my window and is annoying.

The other neighbors have adjusted to this pairís limit bending. I seem to be the neighbor most affected by their behaviors. Is there anything I can do? I'm about ready to lose my mind, it just isnít fair.

Now you know why the condominium next to these people was empty. If the condominium association is not able to back you and your neighbors are technically with in the rules of the association, I donít think you have much of a leg to stand on. 

I would buy a room-blackening shade and attractive drapes for my bedroom to block the light and I would stop expecting these people to behave differently. They are arrogant and self centered and they will not change. So, donít get yourself wrapped up in waiting for them to change and expecting them to do the right thing. They wonít.

Wait until the property appreciates enough, then sell and move.


Dear Mrs. Web

My husband and I have been married for 5 years. I have always felt like an outsider in his family. I donít know them well and they donít really know me. Although we lived near them for a short period after our marriage, we moved close to my family in the next state.

We visit his family twice a year and now for the first time they are finally going to come downs and visit us for a special occasion here. Whenever I visit them I feel uncomfortable and not welcomed but I am eager to show them my home and offer them our hospitality.

They are planning to stay in a hotel and not at our five bedroom house. I feel totally insulted. We always stay with them when we visit. I feel like saying if your turning down our hospitality donít bother to come. What should I do?

Leave it alone. They want their space. Be a wonderful, warm welcoming hostess. Graciously overlook their little oddities. These are your husbandís parents. Treat them with respect and warmth. 

If they are mean, repeat the mean words back to them, and tell them, it hurt to hear those words. Then change the subject. Do not expect them to be any different than they have been in the past five years toward year. They are a dry well. Read my In-laws Archives for more insights on in-laws. Have a wonderful special occasion!



Dear Mrs. Web,

My best friendís husband is cheating on her with a neighbor of mine. I see him with her often during the weekday. My friend has wonderful children and I hesitate to rock the boat. Should I tell my friend? Should I send her an anonymous letter? I would hate to be the one to break my friendís heart.

I think an anonymous letter would be much more painful than having loving friend break the news gently and with concern. Besides one shouldnít ever give credence to anonymous sources. They could be the work of spite or malice.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I need your clear perspective. I have lived with the same man for over 20 years. He was physically abusive during the first 10 years. During the second 10 years the physical abuse stopped but the emotional abuse increased. I have been foolish enough to put up with this but over the last few years, I have had enough. I now realize that there are things in him that I canít change. We both are here living difficult and painful lives together because it is the easiest thing to do.

I have put a lot into the things we have our house, the business, and generally being the caretaker and homemaker. I have done so much and he never has had to lift a fingerÖ He has had free household help and a "Mother" in me for years. We donít even sleep together any more.

Oddly enough I am afraid and just cannot leave. I have made plans, packed stuff away, squirreled away money, and have laid the groundwork for the day I leave. The final step has been too daunting.

I am sad to leave the house we have had together. I daydream about my leaving but it never happens. Life is passing me by and I am not striking up new relationships with men and living life as a free agent. I wish he would leave me then I wouldnít have to do it. At times, I also have the fantasy that someone would just knock on the door and rescue me!

Let Dear Mrs. Web assure you that there are no knights in shining armor on white chargers to save you from yourself.

You both sound like you are two sides of the same coin: uncommitted and afraid to change things. Sounds like you have both danced the same waltz for a long time. You have had no limits and no boundaries on this relationship, what you expect from it and what you will accept from it. Your "no boundaries" existence continues in your inability to leave it.

To tell you the truth your letter reads like a complaint session about him and truthfully I think you should be looking at your paralysis, your enabling, and your complaining and see what these behaviors have gotten you in your relationship. You talk about beginning new relationships with other men but frankly, I canít see whatever could possibly be different in other relationships because what you bring to a relationship is what needs to be changed for you to be successful in one.


May 2, 2001


Thank You Notes, 

He Owes Me Money, and Destructive Playtimes



Dear Mrs. Web,

I found the letter about children and thank you notes  in your Archives. Do you actually mean that since my children donít write thank you notes and instead, call to thank their relatives for gifts they receive that they donít have good manners?

If someone made the commitment to send your children a gift, your child has an obligation to send them a thank you note. I think a child who has not been taught to write thank you notes to be poorly brought up.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am a 19-year-old college student and I live with my boyfriend. We have been together for the past 3 years. I have decided to move home for the summer and live someplace else when school begins next autumn. I am breaking this off because we just are not getting along.

My problem is that he owes me about $1000.00 in back rent and loans. Now that we are separate and I am moving away, I am afraid he will never pay me back. I have stuck around because I knew that if I did leave he wouldn't repay me. I think I still love him but I know I shouldn't because he is no good for me. I want my money back but at the same time I need out of this relationship. Please help me!

I donít think you can get your money back. You can ask, but donít count on it being repaid. It is time to walk away and begin again. You wonít be the first person who lost money lent on an uncommitted relationship...and you wonít be the last either!!

If you are living with someone, you consider not good for you just for the sake of some dollars; you need to think about your priorities. Your emotional and physical well-being is worth much more than a thousand dollars. You are young and have many thousands of dollars worth of earning power ahead of you, but you only have one heart.



Dear Mrs. Web, 

My sons are three and two years old. Overall, they are good children who know right from wrong and are obedient.

However, their latest game is 'being big men'. This involves picking up their chairs and table, their tricycles, their entire bedding etc. and throwing it in a huge pile in center of the room. They also pull all the books off their bookshelf, empty their toy boxes and empty all their puzzles into one big mess.

They do play nicely with their toys on occasion or when either my wife or I sit with them, but if left alone for any appreciable amount of time; they are like lightening and turn the house into a rubbish dump. As I said they are good children and help to tidy up afterward, but so many toys are getting broken. We also are spending much of our time tidying up rather than playing. 

How can we encourage the boys to 'play' rather than simply carry toys about and behave so destructively? T

The behavior is normal for their ages.   They are playing. When the indoor play is overly exuberant, I usually chalk it up to not enough exercise. In your situation, I would take the children out and run them at least an hour a day, seven days a week. They may need more than an hour. You should be seeing sound sleeping at night (except for teething intervals) and less frantic play at home.

Find interesting active things to do: walks on the beach, at the park, and at the playground. Go wherever you can have there energetic and sturdy bodies exercised. Use strollers, tricycles, wagons, and any other manner of locomotion they can handle.

I also help begin my children at play when needed. I give them some ideas such as "Nice truck, why donít you take your blocks and build it a garage? Or " I would take these items and those items and build a city or outer space station orÖ I donít play with them but I do give them ideas to jump off into play.

Remember to purchase toys that are open-ended. Capes and jackets instead of character dress up clothes that force them into the characterís role. Fill the toy boxes with building blocks, Legos, tiny trucks and cars and lots of construction equipment. Stuffed animals that are not cartoon characters but look like real animals, story tapes and their own cassette players. Donít buy toys that have the answers built in. Let the imagination roam!!

By the way, place puzzles, clay, paints, and games with pieces up high out of reach to be taken down by a parent and used with supervision. Until 6 or so many children use these item as bitty parts or missiles, when unsupervised. They canít help it; it is just too fun!




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