Dear Amy:

I am new to dating after a very long marriage.

I met an interesting man six months ago and got involved, knowing full well his heart belonged to someone else: his 9-year-old daughter!

He is a wonderful and devoted father, which is part of his charm, but I feel like the other woman, and I'm not sure what is normal.

I have the feeling I will always be a distant second and am not sure that is good enough. I grew up with my parents telling us that they loved each other first and us kids second because they couldn't pick a favorite child.

This attitude seemed to work in a family of five, but with a single father and an only child, it feels as if they are a couple. It is hard to know where I fit in.

The daughter and I get along perfectly well, but I want to see the same sparkle in his eye when I walk in the room as when she does.

Do you think that will come over time, or am I setting myself up for being the runner-up?

- Wondering

Dear Wondering:

I assume that you don't have children - otherwise you might understand a little more what is behind the look in a father's eyes when his adored child enters the room.

All the same, mature adults make sure the other adults in their lives know that they are treasured and adored too. The best parents differentiate their attention and affection naturally and easily from adults to children.

Parents shouldn't have to state who comes "first" in their lives. It should be quite obvious that there are different sorts of love, that there is plenty to go around, and that no one is more loved than anyone else.

My instinct is that if you feel a "distant second" to this devoted dad in the early days of your romance, the situation isn't likely to change - and no, distant second is definitely not good enough in a romantic partnership. All the same, you and the man in your life should talk about this.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to "Ask Amy," Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.