DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Rita," and I separated a year ago. Our divorce is pending. The man she's seeing, whom I believe she was cheating with before we split, has a violent criminal past. He has already cheated on Rita with his ex-girlfriend, the woman who had him locked up in the first place.
Rita caters to him to the point that she ignores our kids. When he shows up, they often "retire" to the bedroom, and my children are on their own for dinner. She even paid his bail when we were supposed to be saving for our daughter's school trip, which meant I ended up paying her half.
She is oblivious. She believes the kids want to spend time at my place only because there's a game system here. Our daughter is slightly overweight, and Rita and I had agreed to make sure we keep up her self-esteem. I don't think Rita's behavior is helping in this area at all.
My kids want him gone. They have expressed this to their mother, but she keeps making excuses to keep him around. They have told me she comes apart when he's not there. Could she be terrified of being alone? Is it possible to make her realize how this is affecting our kids? Or am I making too much of all this?
- Perplexed in Minnesota
DEAR PERPLEXED: Your wife may have a severe fear of being alone, but if it's true that she can't function when he's not there, there may be other emotional issues as well. Please understand that now that you are separated, you cannot dictate how often she sees this man, or in what room of the house. However, because she appears to be unable or unwilling to be present for her children when he's there, consider having a calm, nonaccusatory conversation with her about their staying with you "awhile" - a long while. She may surprise you and be open to it.
Sneezing, wheezing, cleanliness not linked
DEAR ABBY: A friend of a friend was looking for a weekend getaway. I offered my summer home to the couple at no cost. I love the place and spend all my summers relaxing there. They quickly accepted.
I gave them the keys, they left for the weekend, and she texted me to say they had arrived. Two hours later, I received another text saying that they could not stay there because their allergies were really bad and that they had to leave.
I felt bad, but they were well aware of my two large, hairy dogs. I'm not a dirty person. Quite a few people come and stay at the summer house, and no one has ever left before. How should I react when I see them again? I thought I was doing something nice.
- Feeling Bad in Pennsylvania
DEAR FEELING BAD: You were doing something nice, and you should not take what happened personally. Some people are extremely sensitive to animal dander, which is what likely caused your guests to leave. It was in no way a criticism of your skills as a housekeeper. While you may have been able to remove all or most of the dog hair, you may have missed flakes from their skin that were embedded in the upholstered furniture and that triggered the allergic reaction. Let it go, and when you see these people, treat them as you always have.