Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Last week my family took a vacation to Chicago, where I lived for seven years prior to moving to NYC to close the gap in my long distance relationship with Drew. I typically go back twice a year for long weekend visits to see my close friends who still live there (none of whom have kids, so it’s always a nice break from the parenting world for me). Of course, with the pandemic, this time it was a longer spread between visits – a year and a half – and I stayed for eight whole days to make up for some lost time (and to really give myself a mental palate cleanser after… well, everything). Drew and the kids were with me for the first half of the visit, and then they went back home and I moved from our airbnb into my friends’ place for the remainder of the visit. It was so much fun, and I came back feeling refreshed (which lasted, oh, about 12 hours until the anxiety of… well, everything, settled back in, but that’s a topic for another day). Today I want to talk about a topic a friend in Chicago brought up on our lunch date: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self, using only three words?
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From the forums:

My brother has a daughter, my beautiful little niece, who is approaching 2 years old. Bit of a back story on my brother: He has never really been able to hold a job for very long (usually from preferring to sleep or go out drinking with his mates than go to work), he has been in and out of trouble with the law for most of his adult life, he’s not respectful of women in many ways, and he has a foul temper. (To my knowledge he has never laid his hands on a woman, but he has been known to get into many many fights with other men – often his own friends, and he has threatened our mother with physical violence in the past.)

My brother had been used to our mother having his daughter for three, sometimes four, days a week so that he and his girlfriend (my niece’s mother) were able to go to work. However, it is common knowledge that my brother often didn’t go to work during those days and would just sleep or get high (yes, he uses marijuana too). Recently, my mother moved out of the country, leaving my brother without an on-demand babysitter for my niece. So I knew it wouldn’t be long before my phone started ringing.

He has since been in touch with me asking whether I would have my niece one day a week. I don’t know whether to say yes or no. My son is 11 years old and I never got the help from our mother that my brother did. My son’s father and I did it almost completely by ourselves and we’re happy we did. However, throughout the years, and even since my brother had his daughter, my brother has made nasty comments to me about my “motherhood,” claiming his girlfriend is a natural mother whereas I, apparently, am not, arguing that my having my mother babysit on an occasional Friday night meant I was lazy (I stopped her having my son overnight because he hated it).

All these reasons and some others make me want to say no to his request that I babysit one day a week. He has complained how difficult his daughter is, allegedly constantly crying no matter what he does, that he doesn’t get a break, that it’s so hard, etc. A huge part of me is glad he’s finally experiencing the reality of parenthood (especially in the younger years) so he knows it’s not as easy as he made it out to be prior to his having children of his own. I would love to spend time with my niece and develop a relationship with her, and I am free (for the time-being) to do so.

Am I just being spiteful if I refuse and tell him to deal with it like most other parents (including myself) had to? I feel like I would just be being spiteful, so I’m leaning towards saying yes. I would also much rather my niece be with me than around her father when he’s stressed out as he’s not a pleasant presence when he’s in one of his moods and she deserves better than that. — Worried Aunt

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Here’s what we’re discussing this week in the forums:

Handling questions about family absent from wedding

Cousins acting strange and I’m confused by their actions

Best Friend and Boyfriend

Friend made offensive joke, other friend snapped, things only got worse.

My boyfriend keeps going through my phone

Hello all from Robert

Sexting and infidelity

Am I wrong for feeling this way about my husband and thirteen year old daughter?

I think it’s time to leave… Should I?

My friend is having an affair with a married man

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updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear again not from a LW, but from the subject of a letter. In this case, it’s the sister of “Questioning my Sister,” who thought her sister was giving bad advice to her teenage sons and wondered if she should offer a different POV to her nephews. Her sister, the mother of the teenage boys, read the letter posted here and shared her response to that with us a couple weeks ago, which a lot of us felt changed the tenor of the whole situation. She was a bit… pessimistic about love. She considered our comments and emailed me this week, saying: “I have taken your and commenters’ responses to heart, and I don’t want to have my kids grow up cynical. I am thinking of revising what I told them and wanted your (and maybe commenters’) thoughts on if this is right? Here’s what I’m thinking of saying:”
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Seven months ago I moved across the country to start a new career. My partner at the time, “Greg,” told me in no uncertain terms he would be following me in a few months’ time so we could carry on our relationship and build a life together. We had been together nine months at that point and had been living together for six months. We are both mid-thirties, and had made plans to start a family. We had a genuinely good relationship, open communication, shared interests, but also separate lives and friends outside of the relationship.

After I left to move, Greg called me everyday, and continued to make future plans. When I had been gone approximately two months I pushed for a more concrete timeline and that’s when he dropped the bomb: he was not sure if he wanted to move. But he still loved me and had all the feelings for me and did not want to break up. Fast forward to a week after that bombshell and he drops another: he would not be moving and did not want a long distance relationship. He ended it.

I was/am devastated. I got permission from my job to travel and work from home and returned back to our formerly shared home (his house) to try and work things out. It was a disaster. He told me he did not want me to leave my job to come back to him. He told me if I moved in with him that he was afraid I would eventually leave and take half his house. If we ever had children, he was afraid that I would leave and take them away from him. He felt like I was making him responsible for my happiness and that he couldn’t decide right then and there if he wanted to be with me forever. It ended very badly with an hours’ long fight and him eventually telling me that he didn’t love me, he had never loved me, he was done with me, and he never wanted to see me or speak to me again.

I returned back to my new location. I tried reaching out (too much!) with repeated calls and emails for about another month. He told me if I ever again tried to make contact he would call the police, report me for harassment and have me fired from my job. Needless to say, I stopped contacting him. I’ve entered therapy. But I still miss him so much. The last I heard he is seeing someone new and has totally moved on.

I am struggling to decide if I should move back home (all my friends and family are there) or if I should stay in my new location (which I hate). I know the only chance we would ever have to be together is if I moved back home. But given what he has said, any reconciliation seems unlikely. I know I should give up and move on but part of me still thinks we could be together if only I was there in person. Part of me thinks the only thing that broke us up was the distance. If I close the distance we could be together again. What should I do? — Lost and Devastated

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