Advice on duplicitous dads, sneaky sisters, and mendacious mates.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 29 2009 7:17 AM

Lies, All Lies!

Prudie advises a family whose foundations have been shaken by the revelation of a secret love child.

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This week Dear Prudence answers readers' questions about lies. Find out what happened when Emily Yoffe (aka Dear Prudence) attempted to beat a lie detector and read more Slate coverage on deceit here.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My sister is a pathological liar with a criminal record for child abuse and a history of creating chaos wherever she goes. When I was young, she regularly verbally and physically abused me. I left home at 16 just to get away from her, even though I had to drop out of school to do it. My sister was just as abusive to her four children, all of whom have been removed from her "care." Three years ago, I cut myself free from her. I told my parents I would no longer speak to or be around her. Because I refuse to be drawn into endless conversations about her with my parents, my relationship with them is better than ever. This has been hard, as they've never acknowledged what she did to me. I'm going to visit my parents for the first time since I stopped speaking to her. My mother gave my sister my e-mail address, and she's e-mailed me "wanting to make peace." My gut instinct is to ignore her, but I know this will upset my mother, who is hoping for a reconciliation. I could write and tell her I do not want any contact, but it will just cause yet another scene. What should I do?

—Wish I Were an Only Child

Dear Wish,
Your parents let you leave home as a girl to escape your dangerous sister and never apologized to you. They appear to still be defending her, even though she has shattered the lives of her four children. They violated your trust and gave her your e-mail address, hoping everything could just be nice—although all it's ever been is miserable. Your sister is a deeply disturbed woman, and it's too bad she has inflicted her madness on so many. Your parents failed in their obligation to you. Yes, dangerous people can be born to decent people. But decent people do not pretend everything is all right when one child is abusing another. I would cancel the visit. Your gut instinct about your sister is right—ignore the e-mail. Silence is the only way to keep her insanity out of your life. So what if this upsets your mother? Your mother has little sense of right and wrong, and you have to make very clear that what she did was an unforgivable breach. If you're willing to have a relationship with your parents, they have to know you will hold them accountable for their actions.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
In the last few months, my husband just hasn't been the same person. He started losing weight and dropped 60 pounds. Kudos for him! Then one day, I came across him exchanging instant messages with one of his former girlfriends. I let it go. About a month later I found a message on his Facebook account from her. He said he had no idea what it was all about. I knew he was lying, but I let that go as well. A month or so later, I decided to look at our phone bill. He and his ex had been communicating for months, after he told me he hadn't talked to her on the phone. The phone bill shows they talk multiple times a day. I finally told him that in order for me to trust him again, he needs to cut all ties with her, but he continues to talk to her and lie to me. Am I out of line for asking him to stop talking to her?

—Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,
Thank you for solving the oft-asked and vexing question of how to get one's spouse to lose a ton of weight. The answer is: Have your spouse get a new romantic partner! Since your spouse has done that, now it's time for you to lose some weight—him. Getting rid of a husband like yours sounds as if it will be a net gain.

—Prudie