Dear Prudence: My friend has made a child-abuse accusation during her divorce.

Help! My Friend Has Accused Her Estranged Husband of Molesting Their Daughter.

Help! My Friend Has Accused Her Estranged Husband of Molesting Their Daughter.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 11 2012 6:15 AM

Liar vs. Jerk

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on whether a friend should get involved in an accusation-filled divorce.

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A: Stay at a hotel and limit the time in the house. Sorry their feelings will be hurt, but you will need a drip pan for your nose if you stay with them. Perhaps, when the kids come, it would be more convenient if your in-laws came to you—with the understanding that grandma has to smoke outside.

Q. Re: For Weight-Losing Daughter: What you're doing is AWESOME and you should be incredibly proud of yourself. I've lost 45 pounds, much less than you have, and I know how difficult it is. Trust me, the compliments will come to an end soon enough! But you should find a better circle of support and not try to do this alone, especially with a sabotaging mom. Weight Watchers meetings work really well for me (once I found the right group leader, because some of them are annoying). There are discussions about how to handle things like someone telling you you're too skinny and just eat something. I don't work for WW, but it's really been helpful for me so I thought I'd share the idea. Keep it up, girl!


A: Excellent advice. Getting support to maintain the loss is a good idea.

Q. Paranoid Parent: My mom is a very intelligent, with-it person in her 70s. She also believes that people are coming in her apartment frequently at night, that they take her financial paperwork, that her phone is not secure, that her computer is monitored—so she stopped using it. I end up doing a lot of checking up on her finances for her, since she is without computer, and she worries that someone is stealing her money. I've suggested therapy, and she's even tried it, but she thinks she is smarter than her therapists and there is no change in her outlook. She's been sure people are after her since she was in her early 50s—sometimes because of a weird conflict in her family, other times because she was involved in local politics. She has since moved far from these troubles—so now it's people after her money. (Since I've been monitoring, a couple of years now, nothing has been taken.) I feel sorry for her, because she is really suffering, but resent the time I spend on something she is perfectly capable of doing. Any suggestions?

A: Your mother is not with it, she's ill. She needs a physical and mental work-up to try to figure out the cause of her crippling paranoia. You tell her you're making a doctor's appointment for her and will go with her. If she refuses you explain you are done checking up on nonexistent intruders.

Q. Impending Divorce: I found out just over a month ago that my husband had been having an affair since shortly after our second daughter was born in January 2011. I took several weeks and decided that I could probably get over the infidelity with a lot of time and work, but that what the past two years revealed about his character led me to the decision that I did not want to try to save our marriage. He seems to feel that this now gives him a "pass" as far as the affair, as in, "That's not what is causing our breakup. You said so yourself." He also accuses me of clinging to my "victim" status. I don't want to become a bitter-victim type, but I do feel like it's unfair when he tells people that we are breaking up, he leaves out the part where he was having an affair for most of the past two years, and treating me terribly at the same time. I am seeing a therapist, but I would welcome input from a different perspective.

A: Good luck to the next woman (women) who end up with this gem. You don't want to engage in a war of accusations with this jerk. But you are also entitled to tell your story to your friends. When they express sadness at your divorce you are entitled to say, "Unfortunately, I found out Dick had been cheating on me for the past two years. I still wanted to save the marriage, but it turned out the problems ran so deep, it couldn't be done." You don't have to give details or malign his character—his character is evidently malign enough on its face. If you let the facts be known to a few blabby friends, soon the facts will be known by all.

Q. Postal Workers: I work downtown in a high-rise in a major metropolitan area. We have a postal worker who delivers the mail and he really does a great job. He recognizes the tenants well enough to hand us our mail when we come get it in the mail room. I think he's great, and I appreciate his cheerful demeanor. The problem is that every day, once he distributes everyone's mail to their box, he sits in the mail room and hangs out, reading the paper or just taking a nap, for at least an hour. I'm not usually the type of person who is concerned about what everyone else is doing, but considering all the troubles that the USPS is going through financially these days, I'm wondering if I should do or say anything. What do you think, Prudie, leave it alone or tattle-tale?

A: Your complaint makes me want to go postal. Apparently you think you'll solve the postal service problems by reporting this guy for taking a break in your mail room. Unless his presence is disturbing to your company, it should be of no concern to you that he takes his break in a quiet and comfortable place. Instead of reporting him, have everyone in the office chip in and get him a Christmas gift in recognition of his excellent service.

Q. Rekindled Relationship: About a month ago, my boyfriend broke up with me without providing any reason and there was never any indication that anything was amiss. I took it as a sign and recently started seeing someone else. Over this weekend, my ex called wanting to talk. We met, talked, and are going to try to work things out. We decided that for now, we will not go back into an exclusive relationship but what if any explanation do I owe to the other guy? Do I not mention it and see how things pan out or do I owe him the courtesy of at least knowing we are trying to work things out?

A: I hope he gave you some fabulous explanation that would justify your giving a second chance to someone who so cavalierly and cruelly ended things. I think you should take this very slow. Given your timeline, you've only dated this new guy a few times. So what you say depends on what you've said to each other about your social lives. If you've each made clear neither of you is seeing anyone else, then you have to give him a heads up. But if it's ambiguous, you can leave it that way until you know better what you're feeling are about the guy who just dumped you.

Q. Impending Divorce again: Thanks! That all seems so simple once you spell it out, but I was up most of the night noodling it through. The one other issue is that he told his parents, who I adore, this weekend, of course leaving out the affair. I want them to know the truth, but I also feel like it would be a case of tattling to his mommy. Should I tell them, or leave it up to him to come clean?

A: The parents are tougher because they are going to have to come to terms with what a jerk they've raised. Wait this out and see how it goes. If they reach out to you in some way and express their sadness, or raise the issue of the divorce, then you can say, as if in all innocence, "Yes, it was very painful to find out about his long affair. But there were other problems we just couldn't get past besides his infidelity."

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.