Dear Prudence

Focused on the Family?

My parents give all their money to loathsome charities but won’t pay for a trip to visit me.

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Dear Prudence,
My parents are in their 70s and have never been good with money. They spent years as Christian missionaries, tithed regularly, and continue to give to fundamentalist charities and right-wing political movements. I never felt that they provided sufficiently for my sisters and me when we were growing up. Though they both have white-collar jobs and we lived in the suburbs, they saved nothing for any of us for college and have barely maintained the family home, which is their only asset. I made a life for myself far away from them, and about five years ago, I started paying for them to fly out to see me every year. I paid for everything while they were my guests. Recently I found out that my father continues to give money to people he hardly knows. This year’s election also brings into focus the fact that I disagree with everything my parents stand for and fund politically. I would like to stop paying for their yearly trips to sunny climes, particularly since it feels like the money I save them on funding their vacation they simply spend on efforts to make the world a very scary place for people like me. Should I tell them? Just stop paying with no comments? Or continue along the same path while they still have the energy to travel?

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—Go Fund Yourself

As much as you (and I, for that matter) disagree with how your parents spend their money, it is, after all, their money to spend. It’s not as if you’ve been sending them a check every month to pay for their mortgage and bills, only to find out they’ve gone into foreclosure in order to keep donating to Focus on the Family. If you want to stop paying for your parents to visit you every year, you’d be well within your rights, but don’t do so because you want to control how they handle their own finances. If you enjoy their visits, and you can afford it, I think you should keep the tradition alive. If it feels like more of a burden than something you enjoy, or if it’s making it difficult for you to maintain your own lifestyle, then tell them you’d love to see them next year but won’t be able to cover the cost of their tickets.

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Dear Prudence,
I have been married for five years and have a 4-year-old son with my husband. I have been a stay-at-home mom until recently. I thought I had the perfect life until my husband sat me down and told me he had an affair, and now this woman is having his baby. I can’t tell you how devastated I am. My husband confessed to sleeping with this woman for several months before breaking it off. Then she got pregnant and blackmailed him for abortion money. My husband has given her nearly $1,000, only for her to take the money and change her mind. I hate my husband for letting this creature crawl into our marriage bed. I hate myself for still loving him. I hate that I can’t leave now—it is impossible financially.

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We are trying to go to counseling, but this pregnancy is killing me. I don’t want this woman in our lives, and I don’t want to be responsible for her offspring. When I have vented this privately to my few friends, I get a shocked response like I kicked a puppy, because being a woman and a mother myself means anything less than loving this baby like my son makes me a horrible person. We are going to have to tell our families at some point, and it is just humiliating. I am angry and just want all this to go away and be done with, but it never will be. I don’t know what to do. Please help.

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—Bastard in the Family

Whatever you do, please don’t try to co-parent this child with your husband. You are in no condition to be a parent to this baby, and it would only damage you and the child to even try. This child will already have a mother and a father, and if you do not feel emotionally prepared to be a part of his or her life, the absolute best thing you can do for everyone concerned is to make that clear upfront. Just because you are not financially able to leave your husband right now does not mean you have to grin and bear it and resume your post as a happy wife. Your marriage has been shattered by a monumental, life-changing betrayal, and a few weeks of therapy is barely going to scratch the surface.

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I hope you at least consider your legal options—it may be that you are entitled to spousal and child support that would make divorce at least one possible option. You may pursue mediation and try to find a living situation that would enable you and your husband to co-parent the child you have together separately from the child he’s going to be responsible for with his former mistress. Whatever you do, if you try to force yourself into “loving this baby like my son,” you will set yourself up for failure, and this future child will bear the brunt of your frustration and bitterness. This child is not going to be your son, and there is no reason why you should try to love him or her like a mother. He or she will already have a mother. Your job will be to take care of yourself and your own child and, in whatever capacity you remain in your husband’s life, to not take out your anger toward him against the product of his infidelity. Your husband’s behavior cannot be his child’s responsibility. That doesn’t mean you have to love the child, but you do have to refrain from punishing him or her for the sins of the father.

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Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. We live very close to each other, less than a 20-minute drive. For the past year I’ve barely gotten to see him—maybe once a month. He constantly cancels plans citing his health (which really isn’t great), appointments he forgot about, or family obligations. I also have to remind him multiple times, every week, to get him to tell me his work schedule. I’ve made multiple requests for us to use a shared calendar app so that we can schedule better, but it never happens. He also never initiates calling or Skyping me. And on days we are supposed to see each other, I will go for hours without contact with him, repeatedly having to ask him if he’s there and if I can see him, only for him to invariably tell me no, never taking the initiative to tell me he can’t see me without me prompting him. Despite him continuing to profess his love for me, I can’t help but feel like he’s really not that into me anymore and is trying to get me to break up with him so he doesn’t have to do it himself. Despite all this, I still love him, but can this relationship be salvaged?

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—Distant Boyfriend

No. There are few romantic acts more cowardly than trying to get someone to dump himself for you, but that’s exactly what your boyfriend is trying to pull. His health is a valid concern, but if he’s putting you off for weeks at a time because of “appointments he forgot about,” refuses to call you, and fails to show up when you arrange to get together, he is not interested in continuing your relationship. You’re already more than halfway through a breakup. Do yourself a favor and finish the job.

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Dear Prudence,
I recently started dating someone I thought I was head-over-heels for. Before meeting in person, we spent hours each day talking and getting to know each other. I felt I knew what I was getting into and was ready for marriage and babies. Fast-forward three months, and I’m not sure I can stand the guy. I feel like he lied to me when he told me about himself. This man has no social consciousness. He doesn’t know anything about the upcoming elections. He ignores news about gun violence and other important events. His passivity often causes him to act offensively, in my opinion. For instance, we recently found out a woman we know is in an abusive relationship. Rather than helping the woman, he said he couldn’t make a judgment about the situation because he didn’t “know all the details.” When I eventually showed him proof the woman has been hurt, he finally relented and helped me give her assistance. I was angry that it took so long before he finally stepped up to the plate and helped. I also see this in his relationship to my brother, who is handicapped and has been discriminated against. Rather than standing up for my brother, my boyfriend just chooses to walk away, leaving my brother and me to fend for ourselves. I am getting to the point where I cannot stand to be around my boyfriend and almost feel like he is doing this on purpose. Thus far, I’ve chosen to stay with him, hoping that the person I thought he was will eventually emerge. But I’m scared that if anything happens to me or my family he will disappear and only resurface after we’ve dealt with everything. I’ve brought this to his attention many times, and all he says is that he’s not an opinionated person. Is there a way for us to meet in the middle?

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—Bait and Switch

You’ve known this guy for three months, and you’re already not sure if you can stand him, think he’s a liar, and don’t have faith in his ability to take a stand over the issues and people that matter to you. Unless you are interested in compromising your values, there is no middle here, only an exit.

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Dear Prudence,
I have developed a close friendship with a married man whose wife is terminally ill. I’m attracted to him and think that the feeling is mutual, but we’ve never acknowledged our feelings and have never come anywhere close to crossing a line. My own marriage is now falling apart after years of emotional and verbal abuse from my husband, and I’m struggling with whether and how much to tell my friend. On the one hand, we are close enough that it seems dishonest not to share this information with him. On the other hand, I’m worried that telling him will add to his already high stress load and may amp up the intimacy and attraction between us. How can I share what I’m going through without these unintended consequences?

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—Keeping Quiet

It’s not dishonest to keep a feeling to yourself. You are mistaking privacy for dishonesty; they are not the same thing. The failure of your own marriage and your feelings for this man are two separate issues. For now, it may be safer to share your concerns about your husband with a friend you are not attracted to, or a counselor, or a divorce lawyer, or all three. Even if you weren’t interested in someone else, it is worth ending your marriage if it means you can escape your emotionally and verbally abusive husband. It sounds like right now you are not interested in confessing your feelings to this friend (an action that I think is fairly sound; this can wait a while, as both of you have very stressful marital situations to deal with), so I think you should avoid giving him more than the barest details. You don’t have to keep it a secret from him if you file for divorce but spare him the specifics about how painful you find your marriage, at least for now.

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Dear Prudence,
I am a 23-year-old woman, and my boyfriend is 27. We have been dating for a little more than a year. I really see a future with this guy, except for one issue: Every Sunday during football season he gets together with his friends and gets absolutely wasted, so drunk he can’t even complete proper sentences. When he gets this drunk, he is belligerent and incomprehensible. We got into a fight this weekend when I told him he needs to stop acting like a frat boy. He told me he is not going to stop, and he plans on watching football and drinking with his friends for the rest of his life.

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It wouldn’t be such a problem if he drank in moderation, but I shudder to think of being married to a 47-year-old who is still getting wasted watching marathon football games. Do you think he has an alcohol problem, and is this worth breaking up over? He only ever gets this drunk during football Sundays.

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—Every Given Sunday

I can’t say for certain if your boyfriend has a drinking problem—some people consider getting drunk once a week to be fairly restrained, while others find it excessive—but it’s definitely troubling that when he does drink, he becomes belligerent and incoherent. It’s not so much the frequency of his drinking as it is his behavior once he gets drunk that troubles you, and it’s not encouraging that his response to your feedback is “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,” especially considering that you asked him to drink more moderately, not to abstain completely. If you find his behavior when he’s trashed (and the prospect of putting up with this for the rest of your relationship) abhorrent, then you should ask yourself whether you could be happy giving him a wide berth on football Sundays, or if you’d constantly worry what kind of trouble he might get into, or if you resent losing time with him every weekend for a large portion of the year. If you truly don’t think you can live with it, and he’s genuinely uninterested in modifying his drinking or his behavior while drinking, you might need to consider parting ways. It may be that you can have a calmer conversation later, and he might be able to respond less defensively; I don’t think this is a relationship with no chance of success, but at the very least you’ll need to set clearer boundaries on what kind of behavior you are willing to put up with while you’re in the same room. Maybe you’ll need to have separate plans on Sundays during football season. Maybe you’ll need to be in separate relationships. Either way, I think it’s more important to determine what you both want out of (and are willing to give to) a relationship. You’re allowed to want different things and to have different ideas about what constitutes “fun” drinking sessions. If his belligerence ever turns into violence or a propensity to seek out physical confrontation, though, I think you should walk away immediately.

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Dear Prudence,
I’m at a loss. From a reliable source, I found out that, while they were separated, one of my best friend’s husbands was seen kissing a man. Because they were formally separated for more than a year, I don’t really feel I would be compelled to tell her if he had been dating another woman, but I am wondering if it changes things that her (presumably straight) husband may be hiding a pretty big part of his identity from her (do people still experiment in their 50s?). I also feel that it’s wrong that I know (as do others of our group who were present when the reliable source told us what he had seen), and she does not. If it is relevant, they are both in their early 50s and have two school-age children and a pretty terrible marriage (according to her), but they seem to be trying to make it work. We all wish we did not know, but we do. What should I do?

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—Do I Tell My Friend Her Husband Is Bisexual or Gay?

You didn’t see the kiss yourself, and no matter how reliable the source, secondhand information is not the same thing as being an eyewitness. Your friend and her husband were separated at the time and presumably free to get involved with other people, and you have no reason to believe your friend is not already aware that her husband might have, at various points in his life, kissed other men. You have no reason to call him “presumably straight”—you yourself have merely assumed it—and there is no justifiable reason to get involved here.

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To answer your other question: People can experiment all their lives, but a man kissing another man isn’t necessarily experimenting. He may, in fact, know perfectly well that he enjoys kissing men.

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