DEAR ABBY: I'm a 43-year-old divorced mother with three kids, ages 17, 13 and 9. I have been dating a wonderful man I'll call Earl for more than a year. Everything is great; we plan to be married. My kids love him, he is great with them, and he has two teenagers of his own.
I recently suggested that my kids start calling him "Earl" instead of "Mr. Earl," as they have called him since they met him. But Earl said that even after we are married, they should continue to call him "Mr." because it is a matter of respect. I say that no stepfamilies do that, and if we are all sharing a home together, it's too formal. Your thoughts, please? -- IN A QUANDARY IN GEORGIA
DEAR IN A QUANDARY: I agree with you. Once you are married and living under the same roof, his insistence that he be addressed as "Mr." will be emotionally distancing for your children. It will also make them feel like second-class citizens if his own children call him "Dad" while yours are compelled to call him "Mister." Your boyfriend appears to have some significant self-esteem issues. I strongly recommend that they be dealt with before you marry him.