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My fiancé always puts his daughter before me. What do I do?

The question: My fiancé, whom I had been with for seven years, broke up with me in May, saying that he can't live with the fact that his 24-year-old daughter despises me. She and I have had a tumultuous relationship from day one, her hating me before she even met me or talked to me. I believe she feels threatened by anyone she perceives as taking away her dad, which I never tried to do, always respecting their time together. She has a history of mental illness (including suicide attempts) and her dad is ferociously protective of her. Regardless, I would do anything to get him back and work on a relationship with her. I also think he needs counselling to understand why he lets his 24-year-old daughter control him (he is 54) to the point where he is now sneaking around and seeing me behind her back, like I am the other woman. What do I do?

The answer: This is a difficult one, to the point that I'm tempted to reach for that hoary advice-columnist cop-out and suggest you all seek counselling.

But I don't like doing that. You sought my counsel. So let me attempt to pick apart some of the strands of this Gordian knot:

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First thing that jumps out: Honey, darling, bubeleh, if this guy broke up with you, he's no longer your "fiancé." He's not even your boyfriend! He's your ex-boyfriend, or, if you prefer, your former fiancé. Seems like the sooner you wrap your head around that, the better.

Second, by allowing him to pop around for what sounds like glorified (or perhaps not even all that glorified) booty calls, you're letting him have his cake and eat it, too. Just to be clear: in this metaphor, you're the cake. And you don't want to be the cake. It ends in tears for the cake. The fate of every cake is slowly to be diminished, slice by slice, by guilt-ridden parties ("Ooh, I shouldn't, well, maybe just a tiny sliver"), and what remains gets tossed aside when the cake grows stale.

That's exactly what will happen to you if you continue down this path.

Are you sure you want to be with this guy? What kind of man breaks off an engagement because his grown daughter doesn't like you? He should be telling her to butt out and that he loves you. I've heard of "Daddy's girls," but this guy sounds like a "Dotty Daughter's Besotted Daddy," with real bats in his drafty belfry.

And I can't help thinking that, maybe, he's just using his daughter as an excuse. You say you've been with him seven years – that's a heck of a long "courtship" for a man his age. Are you sure he wants to marry you?

Well, my sense from your question is that you do love him, and the preceding has probably all been white noise for you (blah, blah – fiancé – blah, blah – cake – blah, blah – he wants to marry you"). So here's what I'd do if I were you: Set a deadline and give him an ultimatum. Tell him in no uncertain terms that if the two of you are not standing in front of some sort of religious or nautical figure, exchanging vows, by X date (and make it soon), much as you care for him, you can't see him any more.

Now, I understand I'm asking you to roll the dice at an age ( assuming you're in the same ballpark) when the stakes are high (i.e. it might be hard for you to find someone else). But if I know my men, and I think I do, if presented with a clear, definitive, loophole-free ultimatum, if he cares for you at all, he will come around.

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Anyway, it's your only choice, as I see it. The alternative – you, the cake, dying a death of a thousand cuts – is even less sweet, less savoury.

Fortune favours the brave, baby. And if he says "no," well, you never really had him , anyway. And allow me to be a real buttinsky and say, you don't want him, either. You don't want to be part of some bizarre ménage. Let this dude and his daughter continue their Electra-licious folie à deux without you.

I don't know you, but I know you deserve better.

What am I supposed to do now?

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