DEAR AMY: I'm a divorced father of a teenage daughter. I've been seeing a fantastic divorced mother of three young children (ages 4, 6 and 8) for more than two years. I was seeing a therapist for my own personal growth, and we attempted couples counseling to work on some issues, but things did not improve, mostly because she wasn't working on herself.
About six weeks ago, I decided to break it off. We had no contact for a few weeks, then decided to reunite. Now things are really good and our commitment is strong. I am even buying a home on the same street as my girlfriend to work on combining our families.
Her children seem to feel that I didn't just break up with their mom, I broke up with them. The 4-year-old even asked me why I broke up with him. I didn't know what to say.
I don't know what my girlfriend said to the kids. I fear that she showed her anger and hurt. Now she wants the two of us to talk to them about the breakup and our commitment to each other. I question if this is appropriate because we are not married.
I said that I would participate, but if the kids ask me why I broke up with their mom I would only say that this is an adult conversation. I believe it will come up. How do you suggest we handle this discussion, and what should be the message to the kids?
— "P" in P-town
DEAR "P": If you left their mother and didn't have any contact with the kids for several weeks, I have news for you — you did break up with them. Without engaging them in personal issues, you should acknowledge that this would be confusing and sad for them.
I agree with the idea of both of you sitting down with them to reassure them and answer any questions they might have. But I agree with you that, short of getting married, there is no "commitment" information to share — other than your friendship and personal commitment toward them.
It's OK to say, "Recently I needed time away from your mom to sort things out. But I'm completely cuckoo crazy about you kids and I'm always on your side, no matter what. Do you understand that?"
DEAR AMY: My beautiful, blond, brilliant daughter has two master's degrees. She is hard working and successful in every way except with men, which she runs through like water through a sieve.
Her marriage lasted three years (he wanted out).
She has moved some guy into her new home. Here's another Christmas present I must buy for another man who means nothing to me. Additionally, my 75th birthday is coming up. I do not want to include this guy for either celebration.
He has no college education and nothing to offer. My warning to her that he is a user falls on deaf ears. She is the only one in her group without a husband, and she is "lonely."
How to handle her insecurity and my annoyance?
— Frustrated Mother
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Let's stick with you. Your scrutiny and judgment might be contributing to your daughter's insecurity. She is certainly doing a good job of fulfilling your lowest estimation of her.
Unless she is leaving these guys on your doorstep like my cat does with his nightly mouse, then you really shouldn't have to weigh in.
If you don't want to include him in Christmas or your birthday celebration, then say so. This will alienate your daughter, which might be exactly what you hope to do.
Your annoyance is definitely in your power to control. I suggest you try harder.
DEAR AMY: You asked to hear from readers who had been "called out" for being odorous. I had a boss who told me, "I would rather be in a war zone than tell you this, but other employees have said that you have body odor."
Of course I'm glad he told me. Ultimately I figured out the source of the problem. But it was mortifying.
— Formerly Odorous
DEAR FORMERLY: Ugh. This sounds extremely challenging. I give you both credit.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.