Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Woman Wants Recognition for the Roles She's Taken On

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve been dating an awesome man for about three years. Everything was great while we lived separately for the first two years. We decided to move in together about three months ago, and two weeks after that, his son's mother fell into a coma due to drinking. My boyfriend’s 8-year-old son is now with us full-time and will probably be with us for a long time.

I am now acting as a mom and wife, but without the actual titles. My boyfriend has said he's "just not there yet" when it comes to marriage and that at this point he would be marrying me only to make me happy. I feel stuck now that I am living with him and his child even though he doesn't see us getting married. Meanwhile, I’m a successful professional in my 30s. How can he not want to marry me? What should I do? -- Playing House, Syracuse, New York

DEAR PLAYING HOUSE: This is an unusual circumstance that has shaken your boyfriend, and indeed, all of you, to the core. Still, you two need to take the time to assess what you want in your lives. If you want to be married, you need to lay it out for him clearly so that there is no question about your intentions. If you didn’t do that already, you have some course correction to handle. If you want to be committed to him and are willing to care for his child long-term, tell him. If you are not willing to play mom indefinitely without being his wife, say that. He deserves to know where you stand.

If you believe he will not make any changes, help him to figure out ways to care for his son before you leave. You may have to walk away if your boyfriend can’t take full responsibility for the changes that this tragedy has created.

Reader Doesn't Like Name Girlfriend Picked for Baby

DEAR HARRIETTE: What's an appropriate way to respond to my pregnant girlfriend who told me the name she's selected for our baby? She asked what I think, and the truth is that I think she's punishing our child for life with such a silly moniker. But she's obviously put a lot of thought into it, and I don't think anything positive will come from me sharing my thoughts. Is it OK to lie so she’s happy, saying, "Nice, how original!"? And on a similar subject, what's a good way to shut down the conversation when friends start gossiping about her choice? -- What's in a Name?, San Francisco

DEAR WHAT’S IN A NAME?: You have every right to participate in naming your child. I believe that names help to pave the way for people. In some traditions, the elders “divine” the name of a child with the intention of guiding the child’s steps. Others incorporate family names to ensure that children know whence they come. Tell your girlfriend your thoughts about her name choice. Suggest you discuss it together, and consider a range of names before agreeing on one. Get things straight with her before you have to deal with friends.

(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.)