DEAR NATALIE: I recently learned that my fiancé’s previous marriage was very happy, and they only got divorced because their teenage daughter suggested it. She apparently wanted to experience a broken home, and thought it could help all three of them to grow. I have talked individually with my fiancé, his ex-wife, and their daughter, and all three say the same thing: the marriage was wonderful, and the daughter suggested divorce as a way to help them grow and learn. This daughter has always been wonderful to me, and is supposed to be a bridesmaid in our wedding. Now I’m wondering whether I should step aside and let my fiancé and his ex possibly reunite. His ex told me that she’s happy being single, but I have to wonder. The other obvious question is, if we get married, what happens if my stepdaughter then decides we should get divorced, like she did with her parents. Would I be crazy to go ahead and marry him? I know this sounds crazy, but I actually find it encouraging that his previous marriage was so good, and I kind of admire them for taking such a drastic step just for the experience and growth. –IS GROWTH ALWAYS GOOD
DEAR IS GROWTH ALWAYS GOOD: I had to read your email a few times because I was incredibly confused. Why on earth would two adults allow their teenage daughter to dictate whether or not they stay together? I find this scenario utterly bizarre and confusing. Happy couples do not divorce. They don’t decide to go through all of that stress, pain and financial upheaval just to see if it could be a good “growing” experience. Children should not be trying to experience hardship vicariously through their parents – and this shouldn’t be indulged by the parents, either. This feels like a big mess. And like you were saying, if your fiancé is so easily manipulated by his daughter, who’s to say she won’t recommend he dump you a few years from now just to “see how it helps them grow?” If you also are wondering about his ex and how happy she is being single, I would sit with that feeling. It sounds as though they could still have feelings for one another. Either you clear the air with all of them and get to the bottom of this weirdness or you walk away. I wouldn’t want to feel as though people were meddling in my marriage or still pining for my husband. Get this mess sorted before you say “I do” because this situation has “Just don’t” written all over it.
DEAR NATALIE: My dad and I haven’t spoken in nearly 20 years. He is an alcoholic who has made some terrible decisions in his life. We have had an awful relationship for so long because he was incredibly abusive to my mother and I would often step in between to protect her. You can imagine how that turned out for a kid. Since leaving home at 18, I haven’t looked back. I’m 37 now and happily married with two kids of my own who I adore. They have never met their grandfather. He called me recently wanting to “reconnect.” I was skeptical. My wife told me I should just give it a chance. Well, I should have let it go to voicemail. He is dying. He needs a liver transplant and asked me if I would be open to exploring that option with him. Meaning, if I qualified to give him part of my liver, would I? I was totally taken aback. Here’s a man who abused me and mom, who abandoned us, who never even sent a Christmas card… and now he wants my liver? My wife, who grew up in a loving household and doesn’t have the faintest idea of how this feels, said that she “feels sorry for him. Maybe I should consider it.” She even invited him over for dinner this week. She thinks at the very least I should try to make amends. Make amends for what? I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t even know if he is sober. I don’t even know if I want my kids around him. I am angry. I am anxious. My mom died five years ago and I can’t even imagine what she would say if I offered to do this for him. I do feel a slight twinge of guilt, too. He was sad and pathetic on the phone. Sounded full of regret and remorse. Should I hear him out? I’m incredibly conflicted. Any thoughts on this?
–SAD ABOUT DAD
DEAR SAD ABOUT DAD: Wanting to find some sense of closure through a family dinner is not a bad thing, but I don’t know if I would be jumping at the chance to give this abuser a part of my liver so easily. He should sound remorseful and sad. Facing death has made him take stock of his life and he most likely doesn’t like what he sees. You don’t owe him anything – least of all your body. If you want to give him the opportunity to apologize, then do that. But to go under the knife for him when you have your own wife and children to worry about doesn’t sit right with me. He made his bed. Relationships and trust take time to build. His decision to reach out only when he needed something says all that you need to know. I would keep my guard up. He is pitiful, yes, but he’s not yours to fix.
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