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by Abigail Van Buren

Husband Resents Sharing Wife's Time With Her Sons

DEAR ABBY: "Unwilling Stepmother in New Mexico" told you she "can't stand" her fiance's 3-year-old daughter and knows she will be forced to care for the child because the mother doesn't want her.

"Unwilling" should do all three of them a huge favor and end the relationship. I married a man two years ago, when my sons were 19 and 21. He had no children of his own and assured me he would accept mine unconditionally.

Now I am constantly berated for not "putting him first" or consulting him each and every time I want to spend time with my sons or help them. I'm heartsick that I didn't see this before I married him. He has since told me that he "thought" he could handle it, but I really believe he thought he could make me choose him over my children.

If "Unwilling" has any doubts, she should not go through with the marriage. I am seriously contemplating divorce because I see no other option. -- FOOLED IN TEXAS

DEAR FOOLED: I advised "Unwilling" that unless she can accept her fiance and his daughter as a package deal and learn to love the little girl, that marriage would be a disservice to all of them. Thank you for adding the voice of experience. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Unwilling Stepmother" seems to be more like a child than an adult. When she became serious with her fiance, how could she not realize that his little girl would be a big part of her life?

"Unwilling" needs serious family counseling, or to get out of there. She also seems to have no clue about child development. Most 3-year-olds have a very self-centered view of life. They must be lovingly taught to become giving as they grow.

I married a man with two children eight years ago. As part of our marriage vows, I promised to love his children as my own. It wasn't easy, but today I am reaping the rewards of having two wonderful stepchildren and one biological child. I became very ill after the baby was born, and who do you think was always there to help? Yes -- both of my stepchildren. I love them as my own and could not imagine life without them.

"Unwilling Stepmother" is missing the best chance of her life to really care and to make a difference in that child's life. -- DISGUSTED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR DISGUSTED: You have made some excellent points in your letter. However, for family counseling to work, all parties have to be honest with each other and willing to compromise. "Unwilling" would be the little one's primary caregiver -- and her mind seemed pretty well made up. Her question was whether she should level with her fiance about her feelings and tell him she's leaving -- or wait for him to figure out how she felt and give her her walking papers.