Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 17 2007 7:22 AM

Gun Control

What can I do about my dangerously unwell father-in-law?

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Dear Prudie,
My husband's father is not well mentally. He quit his job 10 years ago and hasn't held a steady position since. He is awkward in social settings and prefers to be a recluse in his basement, which he has completely trashed. My mother-in-law is a very nice woman and is frustrated with her husband, but would rather pretend everything is OK. While my husband and I were visiting his mother, the father was in the basement, when at one point we heard a loud pop from downstairs. When we got down there, we saw a hole in the wall. Apparently his father, who was watching Star Trek, mistakenly put a bullet instead of a cap into a rifle and fired. Since then, his family has done nothing except to acknowledge that the incident was bad. I don't feel comfortable going over there. My husband recently got very upset with me for not wanting to go there for his birthday even though he's having a party at a restaurant and could have invited his parents. He feels like I'm making him choose between me and his family, which is not the case. I just feel very angry that his family has done nothing to remedy their issues and expect me to be OK with almost being killed. What should I do?

—Worried

Dear Worried,
Talk about it being time to beam me up, Scotty. The image of Dad in the basement shooting at television shows like an even-more-unhinged Elvis is terrifying. No one is doing your father-in-law any good by allowing his madness—and gun-owning—to go unchecked. Your husband has to understand that you are not trying to keep him apart from his family, you're just trying to stay intact. Tell him it is imperative that he and his mother get the firearms removed, and you don't feel safe going over there until that happens. Your father-in-law also should get into treatment before he decides some visitor is the Borg and mayhem ensues.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I was involved with a married man for about two years. In the first few months of dating, he told me he was divorced, with two kids. I later found out he'd lied—he was still married and had three kids. I walked away, but later allowed him back in (stupid me). Now I am pregnant with his child. We are no longer seeing each other, but he still wants to be a father to his child. However, his wife gave him an ultimatum: If he wants to make their marriage work, he can't have anything to do with our child (except sending money). She called me to confirm that we were no longer seeing each other. I told her we were not and apologized for my part in this very awful situation. I understand that her insecurities are what's causing her to not want him to be a father to our child, but I can't help but feel angry toward her. He told her that since he grew up without his father, he didn't want that for any of his kids, and this baby shouldn't be punished for the mistakes he and I made. He is stuck between wanting to make his marriage work and wanting to be a father to our child. What should he do?

—Stuck in a Rut

Dear Stuck,
What should he do? He should make an appointment with a urologist and get a vasectomy. It's reflective of your tumbleweed approach to life that you're not asking the relevant question: What should you do? Stop letting life happen to you, and start planning how you're going to take care of your child and support yourself. You also should take specific steps to secure the financial future of your child. I spoke with Scott Altman, a specialist in family law at the University of Southern California's law school. He advised hiring a lawyer so that you get paternity established and work out issues of child support, health insurance, funding for college, etc. But the law does not solve the problem of having a child who will at best have a constrained relationship with his or her father and at worst will be completely rejected. Sadly, because of the "awful situation" you and this man have created, your child is going to suffer. It's understandable that the wife wants her husband to have nothing to do with you. However, she has to face the fact that her husband is a rat and a liar who is about to start another family, and no ultimatum is going to change that. Let's hope that over time the reality of your child's existence will lead everyone to accept that it's better if the father tries to discharge his paternal duties.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband and I have been married for 16 years, and over the past six, I have become increasingly detached from him because of his appearance. Before we married, I was upfront with him about how I felt about potbellies: I find them repulsive. I don't expect my middle-aged husband to look like Brad Pitt. I certainly don't look like Angelina, but I take care of myself. However, my husband doesn't seem to share my desire to be visually stimulating and has developed a belly that resembles the last trimester of pregnancy. I have gently tried to tell him how unattractive I find his girth and on occasion have been downright blunt, but he has refused to do anything about it. Furthermore, his stomach gets in the way of our love-making, and he has become a lazy lover. I love my husband, but I am no longer attracted to him and this makes me feel both sad and horribly guilty. Plus, the thought of being with a man that I'm not attracted to for the rest of my life is downright depressing. So, am I a horrible person or just human?

—Repulsed

Dear Repulsed,
You're repulsed by something your husband could do something about, so let's say you're a human in an unpleasant situation. Whenever I deal with the "my spouse has become an elephant seal and it turns me off" question, I always get lots of angry mail for not providing the answer to a) How to make said spouse stop looking like an elephant seal, or b) How to get turned on by an elephant seal. I will not provide the answer yet again. In your case, talk to your husband about your health concerns about his girth. Give him a copy of this article, which provides detail on why belly fat is particularly dangerous. On the sexual side, work on getting out of your rut, even if your husband continues to gestate. He surely senses your lack of interest, which makes him withdraw as a lover. So, initiate new positions, go away for a romantic weekend—you know the drill. Accept that your husband will never be Brad Pitt, but could you find yourself turned on by Jack Nicholson?

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
There is a boy in my art class who is very attractive. I have never done pottery before, and this was his second quarter. I had no idea how to glaze my work, so I asked someone next to me. He was nearby glazing his work and I looked over at him. Then he came over and explained how to glaze. He was standing so close I was able to look into his beautiful eyes. I realized later that I didn't even pay attention to what he said. From that point on, I have been thinking about nothing but him. My problem is that I want him to know how I feel but I am too scared. What should I do?

—Hopelessly in Love

Dear Hopelessly,
You need a way to let him know that wasn't your eyes glazing over at his lecture on glazing. This is why Facebook was invented. Send him a "friend" request with a message saying you appreciate him helping you out in class the other day. Do not explain that you have also fallen deeply in love. Then he'll follow up if he thinks you two can make beautiful pots together.

—Prudie