Help! My Deadbeat Ex Is Finally Coming to See the Daughter She Abandoned.

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 26 2013 6:00 AM

Uh Oh, Here She Comes

In a live chat, Prudie advises a single dad whose deadbeat ex-wife is visiting for Christmas.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.)

Q. Ex Stays With My Mom: I've been a single father for the last seven years. All this time I've raised my daughter, and her mom moved away and never paid child support. Last year, I finally sued to get child support. My ex-wife claimed she was broke and this month started paying only minimum-wage child support. This Christmas she will fly into town to see our daughter. She'll be in town a week. She informed me that she'll be staying with MY mother and using my mom's car! I called my mother and she says that she just can't say no. I'm pretty peeved because my mother knows how hard it's been for me before and during the child support case. She told me if it upsets me, she would tell my ex no. But I feel like I'm in a no-win situation. My daughter's excited to see her mom. And my mom says if I'm unhappy then I need to tell my ex-wife she can't stay with her. I feel betrayed, especially since my mom doesn't even like my ex-wife! Should I just suck it up for the holidays or risk my ex-wife telling our daughter how I won't let her visit for Christmas?

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A: I agree that your mother should have discussed this with you before opening her home to her prodigal former daughter-in-law. But far more important than where your troubled ex stays is what happens when she sees your little girl. This is going to be a very emotionally volatile Christmas for your daughter, and you need to prepare her, and yourself, for the roiling emotions that follow. Please talk to the school counselor about this and get some suggestions for a professional you and your daughter can talk to to guide your through this reunion. Privately with the therapist you can air your frustration with your mother. If this represents a long-standing pattern with her, you need to be able to address it. If it is more of a singular event, you need to make clear that what hurt you is the subterfuge. But you can also say you understand your mother’s feeling torn about wanting to make it possible for your daughter to see her mother. It doesn't sound as if your mother is trying to undercut you—she doesn't even like your ex—but she probably felt pressured and ended up not being forthright with you. Your mother handled this poorly, but don't let your anger at her deflect you from the central task of helping your daughter deal with a mother who abandoned her and likely will continue to do so.

Q. Penis Size: I wanted to ask a no-nonsense woman about that age old question that all men have. "Does size really matter?" I have asked this question to my wife several times, and her answer every time is, "You're fine." I'm just over 6 inches. The only problem is that the inflection in her voice tells me different. She is constantly reading romance novels and I can't help but think that she secretly wishes for "more."

A: I'm going to guess that your wife is not reading romance novels for the descriptions of gigantic members, but for the confidence with which the heroes wield them. Imagine how you would feel if your wife was constantly asking you for reassurance that her breasts were big enough and her thighs thin enough. I think you would feel she'd be a lot sexier if she thought of herself as being sexy. The romance novels may be fulfilling your wife's longing for someone who is more assertive in bed. So read a couple of the books and try taking a page from them. I think you will note, none of the main characters brings out a ruler and whines, "See, I'm definitely bigger than average!"

Q. Love or Friendship First?: I am a 23-year-old female. Since the day my friend introduced me to her current boyfriend, I have been totally and completely in love with him. They have been together for about two years now and my feelings are still very strong. I have told myself over and over that I need to stop and move on but I can't let it go. I am constantly comparing every guy I meet to him and they don't come close. He and I share more interests than he and his girlfriend do so we get along really well. But what makes it really difficult is the fact that I can’t get away from it since he is dating my friend and we see each other often. I feel like I need to tell him how I feel but I don't want to risk losing my friend over it. Any advice?

A: As Cher famously said to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck (accompanied by a slap to the face), "Snap out of it." Sorry, honey, you don't fall "totally and completely in love" at first introduction. You may have been wildly attracted to this guy, but since then you have concocted a self-indulgent fantasy life around coveting the boyfriend of your friend. You don't tell him; you just stop hanging around them. If you have to put a damper on the friendship because you can't control your emotions, so be it. Since you have been unable to conduct a love life of your own because your friend is involved with the man of your dreams, you should talk to a therapist about getting unstuck.

Q. Re: Ex stays with Mom: I can see why this rankles, but really, it's the best-case scenario! I presume that Grandma's is a safe place for this child. If/when Mom suggests a sleepover, then at least you know they'll be under Grandma's roof (and supervision). Your mom is doing you a favor here, so reframe the issue.

A: Nicely put. The mother should have had the wherewithal to tell her son that the ex asked to stay and why she thought this would be a good solution for everyone. But you've laid it out beautifully and the son should let this go and focus on his daughter's emotional health.

Q. Future In-Laws Visiting at Same Time My Friend's Baby Is Due: One of my childhood friends is expecting her first baby right before Christmas. I am very excited for her. I live in another state, a few hours' drive from her. However, I have my future in-laws coming to visit for the holidays for the first time, which I am also very excited to host (they live across the country; and we only get to see them once a year). I mentioned to my friend that I am not sure if I can make it to see her until after the holidays (and after the baby's born) due to the upcoming in-law visit, and she seemed upset and expectant that I am there right when the baby is born. Prudie, I do work full-time and live a few hours away in another state, and my friends and family from back home seem to forget this quite a bit. Both are important events to me, but what is the proper etiquette here?

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