Dear Amy: My partner “Michael’s” father, “Ned” walked out on their family when Michael was a teenager.
It was a nasty divorce, leaving behind many emotional and financial scars.
In the years following the divorce, Ned made little and then no effort to keep in touch with his children.
The family is understandably angry and hurt by his betrayal. Michael is especially hurt. He never speaks of his father and becomes visibly closed off if he ever comes up in conversation.
Michael and I now have a wonderful son together, and while we know Ned is aware of this through mutual friends and family, Ned has never reached out.
Our son is three. We have accepted that this man will likely never be a part of our son’s life, but how do we tell our son that?
The dreaded question has already come up (“Nana is mom’s mom, Grandma is dad’s mom. … Who is Grandpa? Where is he?”), and I explained that Grandpa went far away a long time ago and we don’t really know where he is, as Michael looked on, stone-faced and silent.
Our son accepted this vague explanation and moved on, but I can feel follow-up questions brewing.
I plan to address them openly and honestly as they arise, but am at a loss as to how to frame it in a way that is age-appropriate and will not be hurtful to him. How do you tell a child that some parents just leave their families?
How can we reassure him we would never do that to him? As the most objective adult in this situation, I feel it would be best for me to be the one who discusses this with him.
I’d appreciate any guidance.
– Estranged in-law
Dear Estranged: You should talk to your partner about this and ask him if the two of you can come up with simple and truthful explanations for your precocious son: “Daddy’s father’s name is ‘Ned.’ Daddy hasn’t seen him in a long time because Steven chose to move away and hasn’t been in touch.”
If your son asks why, you can truthfully say, “I’m not sure why, but I’m sorry he made that choice.”
Some people don’t want to be parents and grandparents. And some people never learn how.
Don’t overload your son with a sense of loss and sadness over this. Follow his curiosity where it leads, and offer lots of affirmations and reassurance.
Dear Amy: I have been to therapy off and on throughout the course of my 40-plus year marriage.
The advice I’ve been given is to pray about it, to find a hobby, or to get a divorce.
My wife is my best friend and I love her dearly, but when it comes to love and affection, she is not interested.
We have slept in separate bedrooms for most of our marriage. There is never any hand holding, cuddling or intimacy.
When I tell her how lonely I am, she basically ignores me. She is not willing to attend couples’ therapy and is perfectly content with our platonic relationship.
I have hobbies and grandchildren to occupy my days, but I’m extremely lonely. I’m in great shape for my age and hope to live another 30 years.
I can’t bear to think that I will live out the rest of my life being lonesome and wanting a woman’s affection.
I’ve been faithful through all of this, but worry about giving in to temptation someday.
– Suffering from Touch Deprivation
Dear Suffering: I don’t know about praying this loneliness away, but I’d add an idea to your basket of solicited advice: If you are unwilling to leave your marriage in order to pursue the possibility of other relationships, you could approach your wife to see if she is willing to “open” your marriage so that you could both step out, possibly for a trial period of a few months.
If you two are best friends and great roommates, she may be willing to participate in this experiment.
There is a substantial downside to this sort of trial: Harsh judgment from children, family members and friends, as well as the loneliness and disappointment that so often accompanies dating.
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Dear Amy: I was surprised at your response to “Wondering,” suggesting explaining artificial insemination to very young children who are conceived this way.
What does a 6-year-old know about eggs and sperm?!
Dear Upset: Young children understand that babies come from parents. Their folks will explain the rest.
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