Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Bipolar in California

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: I am a 56-year-old stepfather to two wonderful young women, ages 20 and 17. My wife of five years did a wonderful job raising the girls after their father died. Our relationship is open and trusting. I never call them stepdaughters. I view them as my own. And they tell me they love me.

My problem? Lately, the title of "stepfather" is having an adverse effect. It makes me feel excluded. I want them to call me "Dad." I am starting to feel less and less a part of the family. They've done nothing to merit this. It's all me.

I have talked about this with my wife and oldest child because they noticed me withdrawing. We've discussed adoption, but neither they nor I want to write their father off their birth certificates. And a piece of paper isn't going to change the way we care about each other. So, why am I hung up on a title? All I know is, I don't like waking up at 3:30 a.m. feeling so despondent. -- Bob

Dear Bob: The girls can call you "Dad" without having it become official on their birth certificates. It's a form of address, not a legal title. And while you can point out that calling you "Dad" doesn't undermine the girls' respect for their own father, you must allow it to be their decision. If they agree, they will need to make a concerted effort to use the title until it becomes automatic and natural, and you will have to be patient.

But also please work on your attitude. If they opt to call you "Bob," it doesn't mean they don't consider you their father. If you put your mind to it, you can learn to enjoy that name, too.

Dear Annie: My fiance, "Harry," has several female friends, but one in particular bothers me. Harry lives 60 miles away and visits on weekends. In between, he often goes out with "Liza" for breakfast, lunch or dinner, for long rides, to climb mountains or to swim.

Liza is a lovely lady, and I like her, but she is single, and their relationship is making me uncomfortable. I tried to talk with Harry about it, but he ranted and raved about my jealousy. I don't believe anything has happened between them, but I feel they are playing with fire and not considering my feelings. What should I do? Am I wrong to worry? -- Getting Under My Skin

Dear Getting: Harry's friendship with Liza doesn't concern us as much as his reaction when you brought it up. Ranting, raving and accusing you of jealousy is not the reaction of a caring, loving, respectful fiance. It is manipulative. It puts you on the defensive, possibly to shield his own feelings or actions. Whether anything has happened with Liza (or will) is not as important as how Harry feels about her and what that relationship means to him. Please get some premarital counseling so the two of you can hash this out before making things permanent.


Dear Annie: As someone with bipolar disorder, I felt the need to respond to "Confused," who wants to marry his girlfriend, but is concerned that her bipolar son might move in.

Bipolar disease is a genetic disorder, and the mom may have it. It can take 20 years to properly diagnose, because the signs of mania are often overlooked when depression symptoms are prevalent. Before "Confused" proposes, he may want to see a psychologist with experience in the field and attend counseling sessions for family members to find out what he is getting into. -- Bipolar in California

Dear Bipolar: Thank you for your expertise. We hope he follows through.

Annie's Snippet for Earth Day: Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money. (Cree Indian Proverb)


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2017. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at



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