Reality Steve

Dr. Reality Steve

Podcast #8 with “Bachelor Pad ” Winner Nick Peterson Along with “Dr. Reality Steve” Emails

Dr. Reality Steve

Hi Steve! I don’t really have a relationship issue but, just really looking for a man’s perspective.

I’m in a happy relationship with my boyfriend of almost a year and a half. Everything is great and we’re on the same page with where our future is going, so I know an engagement is imminent in the upcoming months.

My question is – as a man would you find it appropriate that your girlfriend show you the style of ring she would want? Would it be helpful to have guidance on what style of ring to buy, or would you rather hope she trusts you enough to know what she’d like? I’m just wondering if I should start dropping hints, or tell friends what I like, or just flat out bring it up and show him the style I love? I’m not even talking size or carats, but more so the setting and look of it all. I know some friends have picked out their exact rings ahead of time (which I definitely don’t want to do), while others have been totally surprised. I guess I’m asking your opinion because I’m somewhere in the middle. Us girls think about these things pretty much since the womb, so I’m just curious what a guy thinks about this big decision.

Comment: I would tell him if he asked. Like you said, you don’t want to pick out your ring beforehand. I agree, that’s kinda weird and ruins any element of surprise. Unless this guy is a jeweler in his spare time, I gotta imagine he’s gonna ask you what kind of cut you like, right? How would he know what type to get you if he didn’t? Or do guys try and wing that on their own and hope their fiancé likes it? I’ve never been engaged, so I wouldn’t necessarily know the protocol on this, but I think I would at least ask what she likes and go from there. And you would obviously not have a problem telling him what you like. I think he should ask you. I would.

Hey Steve. I could use your advice on a situation. I’m in my early 30’s and my Mom passed away suddenly about a year and a half ago. She seemed to be in perfect health, went in to get her gallbladder removed, they found cancer and she died 10 days later. She and I were extremely close and she was truly my best friend. My Mom had been married to my stepdad since I was 18 and he’s wonderful. I don’t have a good relationship with my biological father but I consider my stepdad my Dad. He was completely devastated when my Mom died.

Recently he’s begun acting cold and distant. He’s started throwing out things of my Mom’s that meant a lot to her (and me) without discussing it with me or my brother first. Then a week ago I texted him to ask if he would like to have lunch the following day. I got a response back that said he already had plans with his girlfriend and her family but maybe next weekend. What??? What girlfriend? And that’s how he decided to tell me he now has a girlfriend?

So, Sunday I met him to see a movie. I figured that was a good way to spend some time with him without having to talk about this girlfriend that I’m not ready to hear about. Best laid plans… as soon as we sat down he pulled his phone out and showed me a picture of them with their arms wrapped around each other and starts telling me about her. I tried to change the subject a couple times but he just kept talking about her.

He met her on NYE and she lives out of state but she was here visiting her family. He said that they’d found an excuse to see each other every day and that this weekend he’s flying out to spend the weekend with her. And he told me that on their first date he took her to a restaurant that was one he and my Mom used to go to together a lot. That got under my skin but I played it cool until the movie started and the conversation was over.

I have a lot of concerns and fears about him dating that I wanted to discuss with him before he started actually seeing someone. I tried to initiate that conversation about 6 months ago but he shut it down before I could tell him anything about my feelings.

My stepdad and his side of the family are the only family my brother and I have. I worry that if he gets serious with someone at some point she won’t want reminders of his deceased wife, my Mom around. Starting with her pictures, things around the house that were her touches or things, and possibly even my brother and I. (And it sort of seems that’s already beginning to happen.) I’m afraid it won’t be ok to talk about my Mom around him anymore. While I know it’s not my decision, I’m also not at all ok with another woman in my Mom’s house, the house I grew up in that she bought long before she ever met my stepdad. I’m afraid he will become distant towards me because I look so much like my Mom and I remind him of her a lot. And I KNOW this is a completely unfair and irrational thought that I’m most likely having because I’m still grieving but I feel like “why does he get to replace her when I can’t?”

I really don’t want my stepdad to be lonely or alone the rest of his life. I want him to be happy, whether that means meeting someone, casually dating, dating seriously, staying single, any of it as long as he’s happy. I’m just not ready for him to be dating anyone yet. It’s only been a year and a half since my Mom died and he’s always said she was the absolute love of his life; that she was the only woman he ever loved besides his mother. It just feels too soon for me to be comfortable with it. Plus, I wanted to share my concerns with him before he started seeing someone.

So my questions to you are:
– Am I irrational or out of place to feel like it’s too soon?
– In your opinion, is it too soon?
– Does it seem to you that it’s moving pretty fast? They met on NYE and he’s already met her family and taking trips to see her out of state.
– Do you think my fears/concerns are legitimate?
– How should I handle this situation? Should I only share my fears with him or should I also share with him my feelings on it being too soon for me to be comfortable with it?
– How do I start that conversation?
– Is it ok to tell him my feelings about any woman being in the house he shared with my Mom?

I don’t want to create a situation where he won’t ever talk to me about his dating life or where he feels like he has to keep things from me, but I do want him to understand and respect that it’s still very fresh for me and it hurts. I know he loved my Mom for about 15 years but he’s had about 50 years of his life without her in it. Until 17 months ago I had never gone a day of my life without my Mom in it so I’m still figuring out what the landscape of my life looks like without her, if that makes sense.

Thanks for your help Reality Steve. (Also, my Mom and I loved watching The Bachelor/ette together – we watched every episode from the 1st one together, even if it was just texting back and forth. She wouldn’t read your site because she claimed she didn’t want to know the spoilers but inevitably every season before the 1st episode aired she’d give in and ask me “What does Reality Steve say? Ha!)

Comment: First off, sorry for your loss.

It’s a tricky situation because of everything you laid out. She’s your mother, you knew her longer than he did, and he gets to move on but you don’t get a new mom. I get it. But obviously on his side, he gets to. I don’t think he’s being malicious in dating someone new, and you said you want him to be happy. Unfortunately, it kinda comes at your expense. But he’s going to date and see people now that your mother is passed and it’s something you’re going to have to accept. Now, onto your questions…

Is it too soon?: Everyone grieves differently. There’s no universal answer for this. It’s been 18 months. If that means for him it’s long enough, then it’s long enough. If it was a couple weeks later, yeah, that’d be too soon. But I don’t see a problem with 18 months.

Do I think it’s too soon?: No.

Is it moving too fast?: Again, there’s no universal answer. Relationships move at different paces for everyone. I say give it some time before deciding if him visiting her out of state is too fast.

Fears/concerns are legitimate?: Absolutely. Plus, you’re hurt. Even though you want him to be happy, of course it’s not gonna be natural at first to see him dating and being with another woman that’s not your mom. It’s gonna be awkward for a while I’m assuming. But if he’s happy, you’ll eventually get over it I’m sure.

How should you handle it?: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you telling him how you feel, that you want him to be happy, but that it’s still raw for you, and you’re not ready quite yet to be all one big happy family with his new girlfriend. He should respect that. I just wouldn’t tell him he shouldn’t be dating her, or that it’s too soon, or whatever, because he’ll shut you down. He feels like this is the right time for him so it’s not your place to tell him that it isn’t. But you can tell him you’re still adjusting and don’t need to spend time with her right now. But absolutely you should bring it up to him.

How do you start the convo?: Go to dinner with him and explain to him what I just laid out. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. He should understand.

Ok to tell him your feelings?: That’s probably the toughest one. Because if he’s dating someone, and she’s out of state, and she’s in town to see him, I mean I guess he could put her up a hotel, but that seems like a pretty big inconvenience. You don’t still live at home I assume, so maybe you just let him know that you’d rather not know about when she’s in town and staying there so you don’t actually see or hear about it yourself. It’s still a soft spot for you and that you think it’d be best if you just didn’t hear about it right now.

Send all links and emails to: To follow me on Twitter, it’s: Instagram name is “RealitySteve,” or join my Reality Steve Facebook Fan Page. Talk to you tomorrow.

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  1. walker

    January 19, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    Re: letter writer with Stepdad dating…

    May I suggest that if there are any items in his home that belonged to your mother that mean something to you that you meet with him to discuss that you you would like to please have these items because they hold personal value to you. Try not to sound like it is because he is dating but because you really value these items and it would give you happiness/solace to have something that belonged to your mother or that you associate with her in a positive way. If he is not ready to part with anything specific, perhaps you can mention that if he is ever going to get rid of certain items that he let you know first to give you the option of keeping them rather than the items going to strangers/Good Will. I do not think that it is too early for him to be happy with the companionship of someone else; in no way does this diminish his love for your mother or how much that relationship meant to him when they were together; but she is gone… It is a blessing to love and be loved and not go through life alone especially when one gets older (unless one prefers solo life which is a perfectly lovely as well if preferred) I think that you will be happier if you embrace his new relationship as positive and try to get to know the girlfriend – who knows how long this will last, but at least you will be supportive and not alienate yourself from your dad’s life. Be open to him telling you that he misses your mom, but also is happy to have met someone new to share his life with for now – be happy for him. It helps no one to sit at home alone depressed and not active wallowing in the pain of a spouse who is gone – how does this help your mom? I am sorry for your loss and the sadness of suddenly losing your mom, but you have an opportunity to not lose your dad as well. If you are supportive and loving, I hope that he is supportive and loving in return. Unfortunately there can be times when widowers/widows do try to erase the pain of loss by completely replacing their “old” lives with a new one and try to move on as if nothing was lost, but based on your letter, it seems that he was showing you pictures and openly telling you that he was spending time with his girlfriend in an attempt to bring you into his new relationship not block you out – good luck.

  2. rob22

    January 19, 2017 at 11:56 AM

    So, Mother Died, Dad’s dating: The first thing to understand is that A LOT of guys do not do well without a wife. It’s very common for guys to jump into a relationship a lot faster than 18 months after their wife passes. It’s true that some guys never get over it and struggle to date, but a lot more start to really struggle with being lonely & probably with household chores, shopping and cooking too (presuming Mom took care of those things. Wives often do a heck of a lot around the house).

    People don’t realize this, but after a spouse dies, there’s a lot of outpouring of support, visits, cards, flowers, etc. Then a couple of weeks later, everyone goes back to their life & the spouse is left in an empty house to fend for themselves. Given that, in a lot of cases (most cases really), they probably are looking at a choice to be depressed & alone or get out there and start dating. You actually have to be impressed that he’s not just sitting in his house moping. He’s actually doing something to improve his life.

    Grieving is different for different people. And clearly you are grieving differently than he is. So, of course, you don’t understand.

    My best advice for maintaining the relationship is for you to be extremely supportive of his new relationship & any others that he might have (even if you hate the woman). Tell him how great it is that he’s back dating and getting his life together. Tell him how sweet his girlfriend is, no matter what your might really be feeling. You may need to bite your tongue & bang your head against the wall later after doing this. But, you SHOULD be supportive. And the best way to be supportive is to actually act supportive. Anything else that you may want out of this whole thing will likely never happen if your relationship falls apart. So, if you want the relationship and want some other things as well (as you have noted) you FIRST have to make it clear that you’re supportive (even if you’re really not) and that him and his happiness is important to you. He wants you to be on his side. If you’re not on his side, or he perceives that you’re not, you don’t really have a relationship.

    Do all that and you’ll likely be able to get most everything else (like any of her stuff that you might want). But if you lay a guilt trip on him & make it all about YOUR feelings, you likely will lose the relationship and everything else you hope to gain. I’m all for communicating and sharing feelings, but this isn’t the time to lay your stuff on him. I get the sense that you’ve already guilted him some about this, and your relationship seems to be teetering. So, shift gears and be the MOST supportive person possible. Apologize for any drama that you may have started. Remember HIS WIFE DIED. I’m quite sure it wasn’t easy to move on. But it’s really good that he did. The other option is a depressed and lonely guy. Is that what you want? And BTW: OF COURSE you’re struggling with it. But what’s more important, the relationship with your Father/Stepfather or getting your feelings off your chest? Trust me, you’ll be able to express your feelings after your relationship is on better footing. Right now? Ehhhh. Sounds like he’s getting close to creating distance between the two of you. (Danger Will Robinson!)

    And while you’re at it, really seek to understand how he’s feeling. Swim around in his swim shorts for a while & see how he might be feeling. I think your attitude might change quite a bit if you walk in his shoes for a while. My wife told me once that she’d marry again quickly if I died. (Don’t ask me why we were discussing this.). It kind of hurt to hear that. But on the other hand, do I really want the person I love to be depressed and alone? Of course not. Of course she will date and possibly remarry. She SHOULD. So should your Father in Law.

  3. kmannone723

    January 19, 2017 at 7:36 PM

    Re: Step dad dating- I can kind of empathize with you; my father divorced my mother and less than a year later he was engaged to his mistress but they were dating waayyy before the divorce was final. I would suggest maybe asking your stepdad if you can take some of your mother’s stuff before he gives it all away.

  4. katieottawa

    January 19, 2017 at 8:37 PM

    My uncle was married to his wife for 40 years. She was sick with breast cancer for about 10 years and he took care of her through it all. My dad said he was pretty young when he met my aunt and 6months later they were engaged. She passed away december 1st 2015. Had the funeral dec. 12.2015 He came over at christmas and seemed ok, then he fell down a couple weeks later while skating and ended up injuring his head which caused him to get hospitalized and had to be operated for blot clots in his brain. After the hospitalization he was sent to a outpatient rehab center in april/may. While there he met a woman that was volunteering the patients by entertaining them playing the piano and singing. My uncle also has a love of music and plays the accordion. He was discharged in june. He sent us a letter in september telling us he had been seeing this woman since august and wrote “Goodbye loneliness” We were stunned as it had only been 9 months. He introduced her to the family in november by doing a surprise little concert show and told my dad (his brother) he was so happy and had started accompanying her on the accordion to do her singing shows. She is a widow as well with no kids. Fast forward 2 weeks ago and we got an invitation for an engagement party in march. They dont intend to get married because they both receive spousal widow checks from the government but if you think 18 months is bad my uncle managed it in half that time. He is a very sensitive emotional person and i think he wants to cling to companionship but all of us do think its really fast. His 2 kids seem ok with it though. My aunt was sick for a long time and he was very dedicated and put his own life on hold to take care of her for a long time so ware happy that he is enjoying himself but like he wrote at 60 or older when men are used to having someone with them, and suddenly the wife is no longer there, they get lonely very quickly and are looking to fill the void as they dont know what to do with themselves.

  5. katieottawa

    January 19, 2017 at 9:08 PM

    I just want to follow my other comment. I was made aware that my uncle soon after my aunts passing had already removed many of her belongings.

    In comparison, my other uncle who also lost his wife suddenly in august 2015 after being married just as long is still on his own. He apparently went on a few dates but wasnt really interested in any of them. He has left the house pretty much intact with all my aunts things still in the closet and left her message on the voicemail that when you call and want to leave a message its her voice you hear. Hes been pretty good about keeping house on his own and keeping himself busy by himself.

    I really think it ultimately comes down to the grieving, as well as the need for companionship. Some can transition to being alone better than others. Since you are an adult and have a life of your own he knows he cant depend on you to spend all your time with him so he has latched on to someone else to forget a bit of the sadness. If you go and see him and just want to talk about your mother than maybe he finds it hard to speak about or relive. I think you should give him time and space. Eventually I am sure he will be more willing to see you but i wouldnt bring up anything about dating quickly. If moving on is what it takes to make it easier for him than let him.

  6. rob22

    January 20, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    @katieottawa: exactly. There you have two different examples. Some manage being single very well, and maybe enjoy it. That type of person won’t rush into serious dating. Eventually they may find someone, but their life is not falling apart with loneliness. The other example, quite the opposite. I know of several examples of engagements closer to the six month time frame. Objectively, it’s way too fast. But it does no good to bring it up with them. They’re lonely. And men tend to get into problem solving mode real quickly. So, if they’re lonely, they’ll seek companionship. If they like the comforts of marriage, they’ll look to get married ASAP. Maybe surprisingly, it often works out pretty well. But, of course, it can be very upsetting for grieving families. I understand the feeling as I went through it with my Dad. Wow, it’s tough to watch. But I went ahead and was supportive. And, it didn’t last…. . But maintaining the relationship was the most important thing. Really, who am I to tell my Dad who to date and how long to grieve? I don’t even tell my sons who to date. Emotion can really get things twisted in your head. But I guarantee two things. (1) It will hurt the relationship if you challenge them about their dating (2) Nothing you say is going to change what they are doing. There is no benefit to giving them a hard time. Only the possibility of ruining the relationship.

  7. walker

    January 20, 2017 at 9:56 AM

    I think I missed the part at the beginning of the letter about widowed step dad being cold and distant – this seems to be a primary concern. Perhaps he is anticipating/projecting that you will have a non supportive negative response to his happily dating after your mom’s death – he doesn’t want to deal with conflict over this. As you tried to do, you met with him to deal with this change of behavior, but I think you may not have been supportive when you were not encouraging of him to share more pictures/stories of the new woman that he has met and brought into his life. May I suggest that you have an honest heart to heart in a comfortable space to really ask him about your concerns of him becoming cold and distant over time. Be prepared to really hear what he has to say. Share with him that he is your family, you love him, and that you do not want to lose him; then offer to work with him on how best to keep your father/daughter relationship strong through whatever happens next. Be kind, supportive, loving. Ask for him to be kind, supportive, loving in return. My friend who went through this recently bought a beautiful decorative chest for her dad after her mom died from illness, (he began dating the hospice caregiver shortly after her mom’s death and got engaged within the year…) Together she and her dad went around his home and took pictures of her mom off the walls/mantels etc and placed them in this very special box in preparation of making the home welcoming for his new wife and his next story in life. She was supportive, loving, compassionate, and created a healing ritual for the change – they both cried and laughed together as they made space for his fiance to assume role of late in life partner and “grandma” to young grandchildren in the family. He keeps his box in his office in a special cubby, he has a picture of his passed wife and the family on his desk next to a picture of his new wife and all the grandchildren on a recent family trip to Hawaii – No one has forgotten that he had a beautiful happy marriage to one woman for many years and now has another beautiful happy marriage for his final years – everyone appreciates the benefits of their ever expanding family.

  8. tbta4

    January 21, 2017 at 9:46 AM

    Thanks for the link to the epic Nick win. I forgot how much fun that entire moment was. I liked Nick even more after listening to the podcast.

  9. rehm

    January 23, 2017 at 4:40 AM

    rob22! help! i’m new to this and not exactly sure how to navigate this site, is there a way i can send you a message? or an email??

  10. rob22

    January 24, 2017 at 9:48 AM

    @rehm: not at this point. Basically if you click the Contact Me link above and email Steve with your question, he will undoubtedly print it. If I don’t answer it, alert me in a comment and I will make every effort to do so. I am considering starting a blog where I answer these type of questions, but not sure when I will get that up. I’m now reading Blogging for Dummies. Really. I try to be informed before I attempt anything new.

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