Ask Amy: Divorcing dad needs to put son first

Dear Amy: My wife and I are divorcing after 23 years of marriage. I am moving out soon.

We have a 21-year-old son.

I talked with him about it, and while he’s angry, he says he understands.

The problem, however, is that my marriage was bad for a very long time, and I fell in love with another woman.

My wife refers to me as an adulterer. She has said this to my son.

How can I help him understand that I am not an adulterer?

I want to have a great relationship with my son; I never want to leave him, but his mother has somewhat poisoned him.

How do I explain things to him?

– No Longer Lonely in Long Island

Dear No Longer Lonely: In the shorter term, you should focus less attention on justifying or trying to redefine your behavior, and focus more attention on your son.

Please understand that any younger person when facing extreme change thinks: “But what about me?” Your son’s first concern is (and should be) more on his own happiness and future than on yours.

And right now, because of this break-up, your son has about 10 times more relationship challenges than you do.

He has to somehow navigate having a separate relationship with his angry, bitter and betrayed mother – and his liberated, self-focused and (I assume) abundantly happy father.

I’m trying to figure out what about your behavior does NOT constitute adultery. So perhaps you should simply cop to this.

I assure you that every spouse who has ever exited their marriage via another relationship has justified it by pointing to their own unhappiness.

But the order of marriage-exit is supposed to be: Decide to separate, move out, divorce, new relationship.

Do your best to create a lot of space for your son to say whatever he needs to say. Absolutely correct the record if the narrative has strayed completely from the truth, but invite him to ask you any question and answer him truthfully.

My suggestion is that you not criticize his mother for feeling betrayed – even if she unfairly lashes out. Her feelings are her feelings, and you should say only that you are sorry she is feeling so sad and you wish she wouldn’t draw your son into her sadness.

Do not fling your new relationship into his path, compare your new woman to his mother, or ask him to be happy for you.

Apologize to him for disrupting his life in this way, and assure him that you will always be in his corner, no matter what.

Dear Amy: Our 25-year-old daughter was charged with a DUI over the weekend. She has never been through anything like this and is begging for our help.

Her dad and I believe that she needs to face the consequences of her choice to get in and drive her car when she’d had too much to drink.

What do you think we should do?

– Concerned Parents

Dear Concerned: You can’t make this go away, nor should you try. So yes, of course she must face the consequences. Your daughter is extremely lucky if the only consequences are legal (and that she didn’t cause an injury – or worse – to an innocent party or herself).

In terms of “helping,” you could attend any court hearings with her, help her to find an attorney, and help her to locate the public bus stop or find alternate transportation if/when her license is suspended.

She should also pay the fine associated with this crime.

I hope the court also insists that she receive alcohol counseling. You definitely should insist upon it.

You should make sure that she understands how alarming, serious, potentially devastating and dangerous this choice was.

She might not view this as “help,” but it is.

Dear Amy: Recently you published an “update” from “Ghosted Uncle.” His question was about the estrangement from his teenage niece and nephew.

You called him out for not trying hard enough.

Then he updated you, saying that he did try harder, but was unsuccessful.

He also said these young people had sent him a graduation invitation and two wedding invitations and that he had returned them, unopened.

You chose to criticize him again!

It’s a wonder that people ask you for advice.

It is obvious that these young people were grabbing for gifts, and nothing more.

– Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: I considered these invitations to be “bids” for connection, but “Ghosted Uncle” will never know their motivation, because he returned the mail unopened.