March 1, 2013 at 1:01 PM ET
Q: My boyfriend has an 11-year-old daughter that he has been raising for 3 years on his own. He has spoiled her so much that she is extremely lazy and she believes that everyone needs to do things for her. I have advised my boyfriend to give her responsibility around the house since we live together and both of us work. She refuses to clean up and always leaves a mess. It bothers me because I’m a clean person and I’m not used to the mess. We always argue about her leaving a mess around the house, and he has punished her, but it doesn’t work. My question is should I stay in this relationship with a child who doesn't respect me or follow directions? I have no small children; mine are grown and living their lives. I feel I’m living my past all over, with the difference that this is not my child and I can't do anything to change her. I love my boyfriend, but I can't live in a dirty house. —Not My Mess
Dear Not My Mess,
As my Gilda-Gram™ says, “The issue you see is not the issue at stake.” You’re arguing about the mess your boyfriend’s child is making, but your real beef is that this 11-year-old is her daddy’s angel, and you’re just an add-on. Now you’re embroiled in a contentious triangle with a little girl, vying for one guy’s attention.
You and boyfriend must set new rules and boundaries for this living arrangement. Ask his daughter to recommend payoffs for compliant behaviors and punishments for noncompliance. His daughter needs to feel part of this family configuration, and you need to build a friendship with her. She may come around, and actually look to emulate you. But if you leave, what will you gain? —Dr. Gilda
Q: I told my boyfriend that I loved him after a year of dating. I didn't expect him to say it, but he made it clear that he doesn't know if he could have the same feelings for me. Now I'm upset because he’s saying he might not love me, even in the future. I'm sure I said the words too early, but am I overreacting about his reaction? Can he really never love me? I feel dumb for even telling him my true feelings, even though we said we would never hide anything from each other. —Too Much, Too Soon
A year of dating gives two people enough time to assess where they’re going. Especially since you and your boyfriend agreed “never [to] hide anything from each other,” it was appropriate for you to express your feelings. So stop berating yourself for having done so! It’s a credit to your boyfriend for not wanting to string you along. He responded with what you didn’t want to hear, but what you nonetheless need to digest. As painful as this is, begin planning your life without him.
Postponing your personal needs would have just delayed the inevitable. While you can’t make someone love you, you can make a life for yourself that attracts someone who will. —Dr. Gilda
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Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.