DEAR ABBY: I am a 28-year-old divorced man dating a wonderful 24-year-old woman. She lights up my life and is very kind to my daughter and me. I love her very much. However, there is a problem -- her 7-year-old son.
Everything seemed fine at first. He got along pretty well with my 5-year-old daughter, playing and having a good time. As time went on, though, my daughter told me about strange sexual comments he made to her. At first I thought he just had a dirty mouth, as his mother lacks somewhat in the discipline department. But this is turning into a problem.
My daughter recently reported that he told her he was going "to have sex with her." He has been investigated by Child Protective Services on two occasions for similar behavior around other children.
So now the children are no longer allowed to be together at all because I refuse to have my daughter talked to like that by anyone. I have her one week on, one week off.
I cannot imagine combining families at this point when her child has so many problems. It's not that I don't want to help him; it's that I need to protect my daughter. I love his mother very much, though, and feel terrible about what she's going through. Is this relationship worth working for, or is this little family "damaged goods"? -- WONDERING IN WASHINGTON
DEAR WONDERING: Because you say you love this woman, the answer to both of your questions is "yes." You have described a boy who appears not to understand what boundaries are, and who very likely has either been sexualized (molested) or exposed in some other way to adult sexual activity. The child needs professional help, and I hope he is receiving it.
I am not sure that the children should be entirely separated. However, they should not be together unless they are supervised by an adult at all times.
Does this mean you should not marry this woman? My advice is to take a wait-and-see attitude. It's not like you are racing down the home stretch toward a finish line. The mother needs parenting classes and the boy needs therapy. If both are successful, you might have a happy life together.