Dear Abby: I am a 29-year-old man with a criminal record. I got involved in some fraud and embezzlement rings when I was in my early 20s, and served 9 months before being released on parole.
Since then I have moved in with my mother, found a job, and I'm trying to be the man I know I'm capable of being. I have reached the point where I'd like to begin dating again.
The problem is, I don't know when the time is right to bring up my past. If I wait too long, my name is mud for not saying anything sooner. I want to do the right thing so I can stay on the right path. Can you help me? – A Better Man in New York
Dear Better Man: I agree that the chapter of your life in which you were in prison is not something you should reveal on a first date. But do raise the subject around the fourth date, because by then the woman will have had a chance to get to know you.
When you bring it up, make it clear that you didn't go to jail for a violent crime and you're not on any offenders' list. If she likes you, she'll hear you out and understand that you don't plan to repeat your past mistakes. Men who have served their time can go on to lead successful lives, and tell her that you plan to be one of them.
Dear Abby: I am blessed with two beautiful daughters. One is 13; the other is 4 months old. For 11 years my 13-year-old, "Lily," was my life. I had dated, but they were all Mr. Wrongs.
Two years ago I finally met a wonderful man, "Kevin." He is good to me, and he and Lily get along to a point, but he's shy and doesn't talk much. Kevin moved in with us a few months after I found out I was pregnant.
I try to include Lily in our new family, but she feels left out. She stays in her room and doesn't have much to do with Kevin. She wouldn't go with me to the baby's doctor appointments and pretty much ignores her new baby sister. I have told myself she'll come around, but it hasn't happened.
What can I do to assure Lily that I love her as much as I always have? I want our family to be happy. I hope to eventually marry Kevin. Lily's dad isn't very involved in her life. Every time I try to include Lily, she gets mad and says she doesn't want to do the family functions. Help, please. – West Virginia Mom
Dear Mom: Thirteen can be a difficult age and your work is cut out for you. You will have to be more proactive in order to make this arrangement function more like a family. Kevin may be shy, but he should be encouraged to make more of an effort to get to know Lily. As the adult, it is his job to break the ice and find something in common with her.
Also, Lily should not be allowed to hide out in her room and not participate in any activities. If you permit the status quo to continue, at some point she will start looking for a place where she feels she "belongs" in a situation beyond your control or supervision. If you are out of ideas on how to get your daughter to cooperate, then involve a family therapist to help you through the roadblocks.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.