Dear Prudence

Partial Parenting

How to handle a deadbeat dad who wants back into your child’s life.

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Dear Prudence,

My son’s biological father ended our relationship when I asked him to pull his financial weight with our son. This man played Daddy for two years and then left the state, saying he had a trip out of town. Actually, he moved out of the state. He ended up with another woman in a state that is close to where we are, yet he never bothered coming back to say good-bye to us. I found out from a mutual friend that he then got a job overseas, so I sent him an e-mail message letting him know that I’d found him. I have no doubt he was hiding out to avoid having to pay child support, although the Child Support Services Division took care of that for me, fortunately. He again cut off contact for another five months because he was angry about the amount of child support the state calculated. This man has no legal rights (visitation or custody) although, by law, he is required to pay child support. I consider him a pathological liar, a spineless coward, and a horrible role model. My son has forgotten who he is, and I consider my child better off without him. My problem is that this sperm donor now claims he wants to be a part of my son’s life. Given all that he’s put us through, I believe he has no right to be, especially considering he has not changed at all. He still lies to me and treats me with a great amount of disrespect, yelling at me on the phone, hanging up, etc. What do you think, Prudie?

—No More Chances

Dear No,

Your signature nicely sums up Prudie’s opinion … arrived at because you say he’s behaved like a swine, fled like a rat, and isn’t Prudie just losing her mind here with similes? The most important consideration, however, is that your son feels no connection to him. This man clearly has not cleaned up his act, and your son may well be a pawn in his game to wind you up. There is, of course, no quid pro quo between child support obligations and access to the child. Continue to do what is best for you and your son.

—Prudie, concurringly

Dear Prudence,

I don’t know where else to go for advice about this matter. This isn’t something I can share with friends. My husband and I have been married for 16 years. It’s a second marriage, and we’ve always had a great sex life. We raised four kids, put them through college, did the weddings, and are now grandparents. We have a beautiful home and family. The pressure’s off, financially and emotionally. But now our sex life seems to be over. My husband, 59, is still outwardly affectionate and caring, but instead of enjoying sex together, he’s only interested in watching HBO soft porn (alone) and masturbating. When I’ve tried to get him to talk about this, he says “nothing’s wrong.” He tells me he loves me, but night after night I go to bed alone while he’s “entertaining” himself in front of the TV. I’m no prude, but watching porn is something I find repulsive. I don’t know how to deal with this.


Dear Puzz,

Not knowing what’s going on in your life—or more precisely, your husband’s life—it is impossible to give you a definitive answer. Here are some ideas, though, that could help you tackle the problem. Women in porn are always available, nonjudgmental, and usually 23. Seriously, you two have to TALK. Tell him that “nothing’s wrong” is not an answer, and it is not accurate. What you need to determine is when this shift in interest occurred. Did it have anything to do with you? Did it coincide with something … like retirement or becoming a grandparent? If so, what did those events mean to him? When did his own father die, and might it have been from a heart attack? Don’t let him brush you off. This is your marriage, too. Good luck.

—Prudie, investigatively

Dear Prudence,

My boss is having an affair with a former employee, and she’s not the first one. This babe has lasted the longest, though, almost six months. The thing is, he takes this party girl around with him everywhere, including company functions and to clients’ places of business. Then he tells the clients that she is his niece because there is such an age difference. It’s like she is arm candy for him, and he wants to get caught. He has also taken her with him on “business trips” all over the world. I am worried for the business, as it is taking a big turn for the worse. I have been with this company for over five years and have never seen our boss behave this way over a fling. It seems as if he is throwing away the company he started for this woman. I need my job, and I haven’t found a better one, so I can’t quit yet and leave this all behind me. I am acquaintance of his wife, who travels a lot with HER job, and I know she would be devastated if she found out. Any advice would be appreciated.

—Just Another Worker Bee

Dear Just,

Shall we hum together “There’s No Fool Like an Old Fool?” If this dolly has your boss so besotted that the business is going down the tubes, there is, unfortunately, nothing you can do. Some people might suggest blowing the whistle about the “niece” to the wife, but Prudie’s feeling is that that would not save the business; it would merely add a divorce to the equation. Some people might suggest the wife spend more time at home, but that wouldn’t reform this jerk’s proclivity for roaming. He will learn soon enough that he’s made an irretrievable error—and by then the bimbo may have lost interest. Keep up your job search.

—Prudie, pragmatically

Dear Prudie,

I write to you today because I really don’t know what else to do. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive family. My parents are always there for me, and my sister is my best friend. The only problem is my mother is an alcoholic. I know that seems like a big “only problem,” but she’s not ever violent or dangerous. She doesn’t get drunk, so to speak, but my understanding of alcoholism is that even if you are just having one drink, it could be dangerous. When I was 15, our family went to a counselor, and my mom went through treatment. However, I suspect that she is drinking again and hiding it from my father and me. (I recently moved back home after graduating college.) I am terrified to accuse her because if I am wrong, it may ruin our relationship. But if I ignore my suspicion, she may be harming herself. So my question is: Should I confront my mother and risk accusing an innocent woman?


Dear Un,

Where is your father in all this? In any case, Prudie thinks you should go to an Al-Anon meeting. The people who have lived through what you are struggling with will have the best advice for you. That is a setting where you can ask questions, get opinions, and reap the benefit of other people’s experience. Good luck.

—Prudie, communally