While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On making conversation with monosyllabic teenagers:
When my boys were in high school, it did no good to ask how their day had been, so I tried the following questions: What was the craziest thing you saw in the lunchroom/hall/bus? What was the funniest thing that happened today? Who asked the stupidest question in (name a class)? Why was it stupid? How did the teacher respond? How would you have responded differently? Which teacher did you disagree with the most today? Why?
Then, listen, and ask follow-up questions to expand on their ideas and opinions. Your opinions are not important. Attentive, nonjudgmental listening, the same kind you give your adult friends, can lead to understanding and further confidences. And some of the stories are really funny!
-- Miss those days
On trying to keep it interesting:
Please don't sit at a table week after week. Go out and do things. See a play, go to a movie, eat out, plan an activity including some of her friends or cousins. How do you expect to have something in common with her if you don't have something in common with her? That you are living and seeing her once a week does not make you close, does not allow time for each pairing (father/daughter, father/stepmother, stepmother/stepdaughter) to find common appreciation for one another. The best thing people can give one another is time. Mix it with fun and laughter, now you've got a start to friendship and love.
On recovering from a deceptive spouse:
There is a very strange sort of grief associated with finding out the person you thought was the most important person in your life did not actually exist, or at least not in the way you thought they did. The lover, the spouse of your memory, was in reality a kind of folie a deux. This column has well used the "glass bowl" euphemism. I got the blind duck. Very few people, even friends, will comprehend the destructive power.
When your loved ones die, at least you can mourn them, which is ultimately a healing and life-affirming process. For me, the transformation of a loved one into a malevolent stranger was actually a harder experience to get my head around. The fact that people don't get it doesn't help.
The advice to "let go of that anger" is good, and easy to give, but painfully hard to follow. Ditto for "work on trust issues." But giving into revenge ideation or behavior has no rewards and many nasty pitfalls. You can waste a lot of years in that maze. Try not to let people drag you down more than they already have.
-- Was married to a secret agent