Dear Annie: I have been with "John" for more than 10 years. We have children together. I have reached the point in my life that I wish to be married. I never wanted to be a girlfriend forever, and he knew this from the beginning.
John says stupid things like, "If you did such-and-such, then I'd marry you." I don't believe marriage is about how much I can do for him. It's about loving each other enough to commit. I love John, but he is unwilling to take that step, so I have told him if we are not married by next summer, he has to move out and let me get on with my life. I'm not trying to force him to the altar. It's simply that if a legal commitment isn't in the cards, I need to plan my future without him.
The problem is, John tells me he will not leave. I don't want things to get nasty by involving the authorities, but I want more out of my life than he does. Over the past few months, I have made myself completely miserable just thinking about all of this. Am I being unreasonable? Am I putting myself and my needs first by demanding he make a choice? — Dazed and Confused
Dear Dazed: No. John's needs have come first for the past 10 years. But aside from that, you already may have a legal commitment in place. When a couple lives together as long as you have, it is recognized in many states as a common-law marriage. So, although you haven't had a ceremony, you may, in fact, be legally tied.
You also have children, and a separation will entail custody, visitation and child support arrangements, so you might consider counseling before disentangling yourself. Even something as simple as tossing him out of the house becomes a legal matter. Check the laws in your state regarding common-law marriage, and if necessary, get the assistance of an attorney.
Dear Annie: We have a home in another state and allow family members and friends to vacation there. Recently, when we went to the house, we found several framed family photographs of our guests throughout the family room and bedroom.
I think this is in poor taste and that our guests have overstepped their privileges. Should I say thank you and simply put the photos away? Or should I allow others to decorate my home? — Concerned
Dear Concerned: Well, this is certainly nervy. You are obviously such an accommodating host that your guests feel a little too much at home. We suggest returning the photographs to the owners, saying, "You must have left these at our house when you last stayed there. I know you would want them back so you can appreciate them in your own home."
Dear Annie: I am "S.W. from California," the 88-year-old who had a falling out with his daughter. She and her husband cut off contact, so I cut them out of my will.
After the letter appeared, I got a call from my son-in-law, who referred me to some online comments about your column. I was surprised by the negative response. It seems there is a generation gap. I was a Depression kid, and there was no help from the government. If you couldn't pay for food, you starved. Having gone through such rough times, we wanted to make things easy for our kids, and we gave them everything. It only resulted in spoiling them, and they, in turn, spoiled the next generation. These kids expect everything to be given to them and show no respect for their parents. My generation always showed respect.
Fortunately, as a result of your publishing my letter, my daughter contacted me, and we are now speaking again. She doesn't see things my way, and I don't see things her way, but we have agreed to disagree. — S.W. from California
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.