Life Advice



Ask Amy: Modern family unit faces a ‘Rebecca’

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I need your objective opinion.

I'm a divorced mom of two and last year, my boyfriend moved in with me, followed by his daughter (age 12). I love them both very much.

I helped him through his alcoholism, which stemmed from a tragic event. His first wife, “Rebecca,” died shortly after they got married. More tragic was that when she died, she was expecting their first child together.

After some time, he went on to marry another woman and had his daughter. That wife got involved in drugs and cheated on him.

His health deteriorated and he ended up having life-saving surgery. He now has a great job, no longer drinks, and we are generally happy.

The issue is that he often brings up his first wife. He has a pendant of her face on their wedding day hanging in his car. He has also brought me and his daughter to her grave site, which also includes a photo of him and a burial spot right next to her.

He once made a comment that if she hadn't died, we wouldn't be together, and his daughter wouldn't exist. He once even credited his late-wife with his daughter speaking up and deciding to live with us, which felt like a gut-punch.

I told him that maybe it was the fact that I love and care for her like a mother.

He wants us to get married, but I am reluctant. I don't want to marry someone who doesn't want to be buried next to ME when they pass.

I also need the pendant to be put away. Seeing it all the time really bothers me. He always tells me that I'm the best thing that ever happened to him, but I can't get past feeling like a second fiddle.

Do you think I’m being too sensitive about this? I'm not a jealous person, but I feel like he puts her on a pedestal, but I'm the one who takes care of our family, and I feel like I deserve to be number one. What's your take?

– Jersey Mom

Dear Jersey Mom: My chief concern would be directed to your guy’s daughter, whom he seems to include in some of his musings about his late-wife. Imagine being told at that tender age that your very existence is only the result of a tragedy that happened well before you were born.

This girl spent her life (before you) being parented by two troubled people who subjected her to repeated traumas. Thank goodness she has a stable and loving mother in her life, now.

Next, I wonder about your children. Is he able to fully embrace his role as a parent to them?

I agree with your instincts. Your man needs and deserves therapy in order to process the trauma of his first wife’s death, and all that has flowed from it.

In my (objective) opinion, you should not agree to marriage until he accepts therapy on his own, and couple’s counseling with you.

Dear Amy: I often go to dinner with two other couples and their children. (I am single).

We take turns paying the bill.


This is my dilemma: My daughter thinks I should pay every third time. I am on a fixed income.

I think I should pay every fifth time, with each adult taking a turn.

(I don't expect the children to pay.)

I'd like to know what you think would be fair.

Thank you for your highly anticipated response!

– J

Dear J: I’m with you.

Let’s say the two other couples have two children each.

If you treat these families as single “units” and pick up the check every third time, the couple that pays is paying for five people outside of their family unit.

But every time you pick up the check, you are paying for eight people who aren’t in your family unit.

I cannot imagine expecting a single person in your situation to pick up the check for a larger group more frequently.

I assume your dining group doesn’t have a problem doing things the way you have been. So – rock on. Your daughter’s “just desert” is on me.

Dear Amy: “Stuck” was a widow dating a widower whose adult daughter rejected her. Stuck might suggest that he reassure his unaccepting daughter by telling her, “No one will ever replace my relationship with your Mom. I HONORED my marriage vow: ‘Til death do us part.’ And now I’m grateful to have a companion to share my life with.”

– Patty

Dear Patty: Great advice.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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