DEAR HARRIETTE: My dad and I haven’t always had the best relationship, but now that I am older, I am starting to realize the importance of having a father figure in my life. We’ve been reconnecting lately and starting to mend our relationship, but we’ve been doing it privately because I am afraid that our reconnecting would hurt my mother. She was never able to forgive him for a lot of things he did in the past -- including being an absentee father. I’ve forgiven him, and I think she should, too. What should I do? -- Dad Issues
DEAR DAD ISSUES: Your budding relationship with your father is wonderful. And you should definitely continue to nurture that bond and get to know him. You should also be able to do so publicly if you like. He is your father, after all. But what you cannot do is put a burden on your mother by trying to get her to have a relationship with him. What happened between the two of them is very different from what happened between you and him. Marriages can be complicated and messy. Whatever occurred that hurt your mother so deeply is up to her to face.
What you can do is let her know how grateful you are that you are able to develop a new bond with your father. You can let her know that you do not want this to hurt her feelings. You should also be thoughtful about it. While you may see your father publicly, do not create scenarios where the two of them have to be in the same space unless and until your mother is comfortable with that.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My friends don’t seem to be happy for me about my engagement. I can’t imagine why. My fiance is a really great guy. He’s nice to my friends and shows them nothing but love whenever they’re around. We got engaged on Valentine’s Day, and the proposal was a total surprise. When I told them about it, their reactions weren’t at all what I expected. They immediately had questions and concerns and started asking why they weren’t invited to the surprise proposal. It was just the two of us! No one was invited. What do you think could be making them act this way? -- Surprise Engagement
DEAR SURPRISE ENGAGEMENT: Sometimes friends feel threatened when one member of the group gets serious about a relationship, because the friend dynamics often change. You probably will have less time to spend with them, because very naturally you are devoting more time to your fiance. You cannot promise that this won’t happen, by the way, because it probably will. What you can do is assure them that you love them and express that it is important to you that they get to know him. Don’t dwell on their comments about not being invited to the engagement.
Sit down with your friends. Remind them of how close you have been for so long. Tell them that while your life is changing, your love for them is not. Ask them why they seem to be so upset. Listen to see if they have any legitimate concerns. Then invite them to be happy for 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 email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)