Best friend is turning into wicked stepmother
Dear Annie: I have a dear friend from high school who I’ve never lost touch with. We have the kind of friendship where it doesn’t matter if we haven’t talked for months; she is there to listen and stand up for me. As we’ve grown older, our lives have changed. She has gotten married, and I have a long-term partner. After much difficult effort, she got pregnant and finally had a daughter whom the whole family dotes on.
The problem comes with how she treats her stepsons. She is an incredibly harsh disciplinarian with them, even for silly things or complete accidents. Her husband intercedes on their behalf in the moment, but he does nothing to try to get her to change this behavior, which I feel is emotionally abusive.
I don’t know how to talk to this friend who I love and value about how she is damaging innocent lives around her. When we talk about the boys, it is obvious she does care about them, but her standards and expectations seem arbitrary, and her reaction if they aren’t met is often incredibly harsh.
I only see her in person a couple of times a year at most; it hasn’t even been that often since the pandemic.
How do I help her? How do I help the boys whom I feel she’s hurting? I know that they’ve considered running away before. And every child deserves to feel safe and loved! — Friend of the Wicked Stepmother
Dear Friend: You are right that every child deserves to feel safe and loved. It is beautiful that you are so close to this friend, but it is beyond ugly to contemplate how she is treating her stepchildren. Sit her down and talk to her straight about your observations. If she is as good a friend as you claim, she will appreciate the advice. She might not be aware of how harshly she is treating the boys and need a wake-up call.
Also, if she wants to have a nice environment for her biological daughter, emotionally abusing her stepbrothers is going to damage her little girl as well. Blending families can be tricky but also beautiful when done with awareness, kindness and patience.
Dear Annie: I was with my last partner for two years, until January of this year. I love him, even though it didn’t work out.
The reason why is because he repeatedly shut me out of emotional or physical intimacy, and he would not communicate his feelings. He didn’t want to break up but said he understood why I preferred to remain friends.
This worked fine when I wasn’t dating, but now that I have begun dating again, he is visibly upset. I feel guilty dating and shouldn’t. He sat on the sidelines for two years. Why am I holding out hope he will come around or let me go in his heart? — Stuck Hoping
Dear Stuck Hoping: He sounds like he only desires you when he can’t have you. In the long run, that is not a relationship to hope for but rather one to run for the hills from. True intimacy and love come when both people are open physically and emotionally to each other. Continue on your dating search, and try to see his visible upset face as a child throwing a temper tantrum for a toy he wants right now and then will get bored with when he finds something new.
— “How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.