By Amy Dickinson
December 3, 2013
Dear Amy: My conscience is bothering me. Two years ago, I divorced my husband of five years. It was a second marriage for both of us. We loved each other, but our
marriage was deeply troubled.
I frequently caught him lying. He had many inappropriate relationships with other women. His spending was out of control, putting me in serious financial jeopardy.
Worst of all, during a two-year period of our marriage and on five occasions, he was physically abusive. Not a slap or a shove, but full-out rage. I thought he would kill me.
Fast forward to today: He and I continue to be close. We see each other frequently and have a lively sexual relationship. I have no illusions about his other activities and have always assumed that he is dating other women, as I have been dating other men.
Still, I was shocked to learn that he has been in a serious relationship with a lovely young woman. I looked her up on social media, and I can tell she is head over heels in love with him.
He has told me they are talking about marriage and children, although he is conflicted (about me). While she knows about our continued “friendship,” she has no idea how entrenched we continue to be, nor does she know that he has been sexually intimate with me the entire time he was courting her. Further, she does not know that he owes thousands of dollars on credits cards and has not filed his taxes in two years. Creditors call me daily looking for him. Clearly, he also has not told her about his history with domestic violence.
Dear Conflicted: I cannot imagine remaining in a relationship with someone you (at one time) feared would kill you. This is a dangerous choice.
Because of the overwhelming quantity and severity of your ex-husband’s issues, yes, this woman should be told about him. Obviously, because this man is violent, you need to figure out a way to warn her while protecting yourself. Doing this anonymously might be best.
This presents an opportunity for you to take a fresh look at someone who presents risk to your emotional and physical well-being. Divorce was a great idea; now you should leave the rest of the relationship.
By Amy Dickinson
November 27, 2013
Dear Amy: An in-law of mine is very racist. This individual rants and raves and most often these outbursts are politically charged. This individual even tells racist stories at family events, trying to get a laugh.
I have a young child and one on the way. I do not want my children exposed to this kind of ignorant behavior. I know this is a sensitive subject and I have spoken to this individual, my husband and his siblings about this person’s views. It is always shrugged off.
I believe that people are racist because they learn it. No one is born hating someone of a different race.
I don’t necessarily want to keep my children away from this individual, so how can I cope?
Dear Oppressed: ‘Tis the season to get together with our relatives — and sometimes said relatives are obnoxious, racist, annoying, rude, drunk, disorderly — and so not funny.
As a parent, your job is not to inoculate your children against all of the slings, stupidity and insults of the world; it is to guide them toward your own values, while understanding that others don’t share them.
In the moment, you can express your own distaste for these remarks: “Uncle Buck, I really do not like it when you go there. Please don’t talk that way in front of the kids.”
As your children get older, they will become discerning, just as you are. You can say to them, “I don’t like it when Uncle Buck gets this way and says unkind things. But I can’t control him. I just want to make sure you realize that he is wrong and that we do not talk that way in our family.”
By Amy Dickinson
November 26, 2013
Dear Amy: I’m a 15-year-old girl, and my dream is to dance competitively. I’ve taken jazz classes for almost six years, and I have a talent for it. My mom hates that I love dancing more than other team sports, and she looked appalled when I asked if I could try out for the poms team at my high school. When I asked her why she didn’t want me to try out, she said it is ridiculously expensive and that the pom squad was an elite club when she was in high school, and she doesn’t want me to get mixed up with that type of girls.
At open tryouts the girls were really friendly! They even asked me to have lunch with them!
My mom just frowned and went back to the old “we can’t afford it” line. I know we can afford this since my 13-year-old brother is a competitive gymnast who is talented, and my parents pay for things for him.
I have looked at what it costs to compete and I found out it’s $15 cheaper per month than my regular dance class (aside from uniforms and entrance fees).
Do you think I should bring this up to my mom when the new dance season starts in June? Any advice on how I should ask her? She has a tendency to blow things way out of proportion when she says “no” to stuff like this.
— Dreaming Dancer
Dear Dreaming: You might be correct that your mom can afford this. But maybe she just doesn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for you to shake your poms on this particular dance squad. The person holding the purse strings gets to make the choice about what to pay for.
I have an idea to help you smooth this over, however: Research the entire cost of joining the pom squad (including uniforms and entrance fees). Spend the next six months baby-sitting, shoveling walks, mowing lawns, doing chores, etc., to earn the money required to participate.
Approach your mom with proof that you have saved this money and a guarantee that you won’t become an elitist snob and that your grades won’t suffer — and hope for a “yes” from her.
By Amy Dickinson
November 25, 2013
Dear Amy: After being married for about 15 years, my husband recently came out to me as gay. I know he loves me and I love him. We are communicating and being honest about how we’re feeling. We are in couples counseling together and are trying to work this through and figure out what is the best path forward for our family (we have young children).
Through our talks, I realized that his best friend is also gay (he is also married with children).
It has become obvious to me that they are attracted to each other, although his wife doesn’t know about any of it.
I don’t believe the two men have been unfaithful, and they are using each other as support through this self-discovery time. Should I say anything to this other woman about her husband being gay? I feel like my husband’s friend is not being honest with his wife, and she deserves to know the truth.
I’m not sure it’s my place to say anything, but I don’t think he will ever tell her. This other woman and I are merely acquaintances and I hold no ill feelings toward her, but I’m not sure what to do.
— Secret Holder
Dear Secret Holder: It sounds as if you haven’t really discussed this aspect of your husband’s story with him — but have had a dawning realization that the two men are emotionally involved.
You and your husband should start by discussing this openly with your counselor; if the emotional connection between the two men deepens and/or becomes a physical one, what happens to your marriage?
By Amy Dickinson
November 24, 2013
Dear Amy: Recently, I misdialed my phone while attempting to call my husband. As soon as I heard the voice-mail message, I realized my mistake and hung up. Several hours later, the person I accidentally called, called me and said someone from this number had called him.
I told the caller that I had called his number by accident and that’s why I didn’t leave a message.
I have noticed friends and family doing this all the time; they will see that they missed a call on their phone and then call that number back, not even knowing who the caller is.
This seems odd to me. I don’t understand why you would return a “missed call” from someone you do not know and who did not leave you a message.
What is the appropriate response to a missed call with no message left on your voice mail? Is it appropriate to call them back?
Conversely, should I have left a voice mail message to the misdialed number, saying that I called the wrong number and apologize? This has happened to me a couple of times, and I would like to know the polite way to handle it.
— Miss Dialer in Saratoga, Calif.
Dear Miss Dialer: I am aware of, and also confused by, this phenomenon. The only explanation I have for the tendency to return a misdialed call (even many hours later) is sheer unadulterated curiosity. We think to ourselves: “What if the missed call is actually from the Publishers Clearing House — or Justin Timberlake?” What if opportunity is not knocking but … calling?
Other (younger) members of my household report that (in their world) it is now considered obnoxious to leave a message! They say when they receive a “missed call,” they consider it like a tap on the shoulder and they always respond, even if they don’t recognize the number. They return the call and say, “Hi, I’m returning a call placed from this number.”
I’ll happily let readers weigh in on the reasons behind missedcallitis.
By Amy Dickinson
November 22, 2013
Dear Amy: I am a 24-year-old woman who has been involved with a man since high school.
In high school we’d hook up, and then afterward he’d act like he didn’t know me. Now we are dating, and I still haven’t met his family. When we get together he only seems to want to have sex, whereas I’d be happy to sit and watch a movie or make dinner.
I feel my biological clock ticking but want to get married before I have children. I don’t know, but I don’t see this happening with him because it feels more like a fling to me. Is he my boyfriend or am I just a fling? —
Confused About His Motives
Dear Confused: I’ll state what you already know: You are a booty call. After several years of hooking up, if an actual friendship or romantic relationship was going to develop between you two, it would have happened long ago. I don’t know if this arrangement even qualifies as a “fling,” because, frankly, a fling sounds like more fun than what you are experiencing.
If you find you enjoy these encounters and accept them for what they are, then by all means continue. Do not try to marry this person. Do not try to “date” him. And, please, do not have a baby with him. If you are ready for commitment, you deserve to have someone in your life who wants to be with you in the daytime, who wants what you want, and who, yes, will be brave enough to go out in public with you.
By Amy Dickinson
November 20, 2013
DEAR AMY: I have raised an idiot, albeit a kindhearted one. Two years ago, my then 34-year-old son got engaged to an attractive, 30-year-old, college-educated woman.
They moved to another city where my son restarted his mortgage business, which had grown moribund in the stagnant economy. His father and I have been helping him financially, but now he is getting back on his feet.
While he has struggled financially, his fiancee has steadfastly refused to look for a job. He continues to pay her bills, including her college loans.
I have asked him to either set the date or end the relationship, but he seems incapable of doing either. I realize that marrying her will not fix her work ethic, but he will also not move on.
I am eager to see some grandchildren — I just celebrated my 70th birthday. It is heartbreaking to see him working 12-hour days six days a week, returning home to help get dinner ready — and she refuses to help him financially.
To me, marriage is a partnership and she does not seem to be playing her part in this relationship.
— Failed Mother
DEAR FAILED MOTHER: On the one hand, this really doesn’t have anything to do with you. On the other, your choices definitely influence your son. You refer to him as a kindhearted idiot, and he is doing his best to fulfill the role you have assigned to him.
If you had not helped him financially, for instance, he might have expected and required more of his fiancee. And your insistence that he make a choice between a lifetime of marriage and children (with someone you clearly don’t think is deserving) or ditching her altogether could be exactly what is keeping him in limbo now.
Back off. Do not interfere. You do not have an automatic right to have grandchildren bestowed upon you on your timetable — or at all.
By Amy Dickinson
November 19, 2013
Dear Amy: I recently discovered that my son, who is 17, is a homosexual. We are part of a church group and I fear that if people in that group find out they will make fun of me for having a gay child.
He won’t listen to reason, and he will not stop being gay. I feel as if he is doing this just to get back at me for forgetting his birthday for the past three years — I have a busy work schedule.
Please help him make the right choice in life by not being gay. He won’t listen to me, so maybe he will listen to you.
— Feeling Betrayed
Dear Betrayed: You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your own sexuality to show him how easy it is. Try it for the next year or so: Stop being a heterosexual to demonstrate to your son that a person’s sexuality is a matter of choice — to be dictated by one’s parents, the parents’ church and social pressure.
I assume that my suggestion will evoke a reaction that your sexuality is at the core of who you are. The same is true for your son. He has a right to be accepted by his parents for being exactly who he is.
When you “forget” a child’s birthday, you are basically negating him as a person. It is as if you are saying that you have forgotten his presence in the world. How very sad for him.
A group that could help you and your family figure out how to navigate this is Pflag.org. This organization is founded for parents, families, friends and allies of LGBT people, and has helped countless families through this challenge. Please research and connect with a local chapter.
By Amy Dickinson
November 18, 2013
Dear Amy: I have a confession to make. I do not vote the way my wife tells me to vote. In fact, most often, I cancel out her vote. If she knew this, she would be very angry because she thinks I agree with her political opinions.
Also, I always listen to her talks and hit “Like” on her Facebook posts. The truth is, I like her and want her to think I support her, but I do not like her increasingly radical ideology related to liberal politics.
I consider myself a moderate traditionalist. Others may consider me old-fashioned or conservative.
I would like to tell her this but do not want to start a fight. Besides, I think she would feel betrayed if she discovered my secret.
Should I risk the truth so that we can have an honest relationship in which she understands that I don’t share her politics?
— Conflicted in the Heartland
Dear Conflicted: Hitting “Like” on Facebook does not necessarily convey that you actually “like” something. This “thumbs up” sign indicates mainly that you have seen the post or photo. On Facebook, “sharing” a post is a true endorsement. That having been said, if you don’t want to say something positive about one of your wife’s FB posts, then don’t.
Your vote is your own. You are not keeping a secret when you don’t disclose your vote — you are merely demonstrating citizenship in its pure form.
Actively pretending (or implying) that you agree with your wife about her changing politics to avoid an argument exposes a fault line in your relationship. I suggest you be brave enough to leap across it. You say that raising these issues will “start a fight.” You won’t be starting a fight if you state your own truth. (“Your views seem to be changing, and we are further apart politically than we used to be.”)
If your wife insists that you must always agree with her politics and vote alongside her to be in a peaceful relationship, then you have a real problem.