Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Stepfather Wants More Information

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm a strict father who married a woman with two daughters who do as they please. They keep their rooms clean, work and do well in school; however, I am bothered that they don't feel the need to tell me where they are going or who they are going with. This isn't how I raised my children.

I don't want to make enemies of my new daughters; I just want them to keep me in the loop regarding their whereabouts. I have heard them fighting with their mother that they don't have to report back to me because they don't use my car or money, but they live under my roof. Do they get to go wherever they want just because that's how it worked before we all moved in together? -- Not on My Watch, Belair, Maryland

DEAR NOT ON MY WATCH: Blending families has never been easy. What's most important is for you and your wife to come to an agreement on how to parent her children. While she obviously gets most of the authority, you do have the right to have some input, given that they are living with you. What you may want to do is talk to your wife -- and then the girls -- about why you want to know their whereabouts. I suspect it is for their safety and your peace of mind. You can tell them about the stories that you have heard in the news of young ladies being in peril. You can make it clear that you believe your job is to protect them. You can also let them know that informing you and their mother of where you are going is respectful and thoughtful.

Whenever I visit my mother, even though I'm a fully grown adult with a family, she wants to know where I am going. It’s knee-jerk for her, as a protective mechanism. Do your best to get your wife to agree to present to the girls that your request is both for safety and respect reasons. Have her stand with you, asking them to step in line. Otherwise, it won’t work.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend "Lizzie" and I have been together for about three years. Although I have talked about moving in with her, she is adamant about having her own space or being engaged to the man she is living with. I live with her part-time and give her a third of her rent money. I don't want to live in my studio apartment anymore, and I want to move into her cabin full-time. I don't want to issue an ultimatum, but I can't think of any other way to get this to work in my favor. -- Full-Time Roommate, Boston

DEAR FULL-TIME ROOMMATE: The one mistake your girlfriend has made is letting you live with her at all. If she had been crystal clear and unwavering in her decision not to live with her boyfriend unless you had pledged to marry her and were headed toward the altar, you wouldn’t be in this position.

Respect her by making up your mind. If you want to marry her, propose and plan to take that leap. Do not try to force her to let you move in if you aren’t ready to make that commitment. She has made her desires known to you.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)