DEAR ABBY: I'm a 34-year-old professional woman who has never married. For the last two years, I have been dating "Mel," the single father of 11-year-old "Tracey." We live separately, but I'm at their house frequently, helping with and sharing meals, helping Tracey with her homework, contributing to and buying groceries, doing dishes and other chores. I often sleep at Mel's and am involved in the evening "tucking in" ritual. It has been an enlightening and challenging experience for me.
When I do things independently -- keep in mind that Mel and Tracey are almost always invited to participate in whatever I'm doing -- he often chooses to stay home. Then he tells me it's unfair that I get "all the freedom" and he's stuck here with the kid again. Mel has never had a baby sitter, although the parents of Tracey's friends were willing to have her on play dates a few times when we first started dating.
I try to be fair and helpful, but it seems like Mel resents me (or at least his life choices) for not always dedicating myself to "the family." Is he right? Am I being selfish? Should I stand my ground even if it results in the end of the relationship? -- CORNERED IN MONTANA
DEAR CORNERED: Stand your ground and recognize that you are dealing with a negative personality. Rather than being grateful for everything you do for him and his daughter, Mel is attempting to make you feel guilty for not doing more. It's not selfish to want or need personal time, so please don't allow yourself to be put on the defensive or manipulated.
There is a reason you signed your letter "Cornered." Before devoting more time to the relationship, carefully consider what his expectations of you are and whether you're willing and able to meet them.