I’m in my mid-40s, divorced with two children. I’ve recently begun seeing a man, and it appears we’re going to take our relationship to the next level. He’s kind, funny and sensitive—everything I’m looking for in a partner. He also has a child from a former marriage, who is a nice young boy. But there’s been some strain at family gatherings lately. My kids don’t seem to like him as much as I would want them to, and they definitely don’t like his son. I’m at a crossroads. I really care for this guy, but is it worth putting our children through emotional turmoil just so we can be together? Am I being selfish? Do you think my kids can get used to the idea of me having a new man in my life—and possibly a blended family? Or should I put off seriously dating anyone until my kids are older and they can process these complicated feelings? I am told, but I can’t verify it, that second marriages have about the same divorce rate as first marriages. If you, as a single person, were to meet a guy from 40 to 55, chances are that he’s going to come with kids of his own. You are likely never going to fall in love with someone who doesn’t have a certain kind of difficult experiences in their past. The same is true for anyone seriously interested in you. I know that blended families can be wonderful. But my guess is that they’re the exception, not the rule. The perfectly dysfunctional family has since supplanted the perfect family that you only saw on TV. My advice to you is: Take care of yourself first. As a money manager, I’ve witnessed hundreds of divorces, with every conceivable result. It’s always traumatic for children. But they’re resilient. They will bounce back. If you are strong and happy, your family will endure. Again, love yourself first. It’s self-preservation. You don’t want to break it off now, and somewhere down the line resent your own children.
I work at a small company with about 25 employees. Most of us tend to wear a similar uniform: Men wear khakis, long-sleeved shirts with a jacket but no tie, while women wear pants and tops, although some of us wear skirts. We are all on the same playing field. One new female employee strays from this unofficial dress code with shorter skirts and low-cut tops. As one of the few women in the office, I’ve been elected to speak with her about this. She’s a good worker, and I don’t want to cramp her style, but there are limits—even here. How should I approach this, if at all? In any profession, if you’re a “rainmaker”—a producer of business— you’re king or queen. If you’re a “supporter” of the business, in hard times you’re at risk. If you’re that rainmaker in an office, you can wear anything you damn well please. You’re the 800-pound gorilla. The rainmakers are essential. They fuel the business. But they can be disruptive and controversial, too. People who do not conform to the norm can be resented.
But, I think, in this case, you’d be doing the woman a favor by talking to her about her choices in office clothing. You’re probably not going to wear a three-piece suit to an interview at Facebook. I know that a lot of companies want you to dress down. Their attitude is: “A lot of millennials are our customers, and they don’t want to do business with people who are ‘old’ or ‘out of touch.’ ”
It sounds like you’re not the boss at the office, so your comments are not official. But do say something to your co-worker.
My brother is home after five years of being stationed in Europe, where he served in the military. At a recent family gathering, he declared, “Americans are so fat! I never noticed it before, but now that I’m home, it feels like everyone here is overweight!” He added a few more colorful comments. I’m sure you get the idea. It did not go over well, and now my cousin has decided not to invite him to her wedding, fearing that he’ll get a few drinks in him and stir up trouble. Is he wrong to voice his opinion? Is she wrong to cut him from the wedding guest list? Are either of them right? Well, on many levels we’re a society in torment and turmoil, which may include a sense that we’re getting softer and weaker in the physical health department. Obesity and diabetes are real problems. One example I see every day is at lunch. Years ago, almost everyone went out for proper lunches. Lunch hour meant leaving the office. My entire team—seven people—eats at our desks at least 95 percent of the time. I go out perhaps twice a month on average, even though there are dozens of restaurants in the Financial District. In my opinion, every takeout place assumes that I’m three people based on the obscenely large portions. Where does it all lead for people sitting at desks for eight hours or more? Let’s face the truth: Americans love big food.
Your brother has been gone from the country for a long time. And if you’re a career military person, you have a sense that those who didn’t serve, “don’t get it.” I was in the Army Medical Corps, but not during wartime. Yet I agree with that assessment.
Your cousin should invite him to the wedding. He’ll be fine. Some other relative from the other side will probably be out of control. What we obsess about almost never happens. Just be conscious of portion size and encourage dancing. ◆
John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to firstname.lastname@example.org.