The EX Responds!

[Dear Readers: This week we're running a letter from the ex-husband of a woman whose letter I recently answered in this column. Her main complaint was that he was going to bars and seeing other women, and not expressing remorse. I advised her to see a lawyer and make some decisions about her life.]

Q: I am the EX-husband of the woman who wrote in for advice. The fact is that we have been divorced for over 12 years! My ex-wife and children still live in my home and I still provide their sole income. As for my nights out, that consisted of approximately a one-month span, maybe 5-6 times before we divorced. This was after months of my coming home from work to her asking for a little cash to go out to the casino with a friend. She'd return just in time for me to get my car back so I could go to work. I asked her to get a job to help with the bills or to pay for her gambling. She refused. It takes two incomes for most families to survive! So I think she should get a job, not a lawyer, and provide our children the life that they should have been living for all these years. I will always provide for them, but it's time for her to grow up and stop blaming everyone else for her problems and be a parent who contributes to the welfare of our children. Am I right or just confused? -- "The Father," 36

Dr. Susan: Talk about crazy-making living arrangements! The two of you are so entangled with one another that I think it would be fair to say you're both confused, as your children must be also. (Were some of them born after the divorce?) Of course I had no idea that you were divorced for 12 years and still living together when I advised her to see a lawyer. Seeing a lawyer wouldn't be a bad idea after all, but for both of you. Your ex needs to get her own place and a job so she can pay more of her own way. You need to consider what percentage of custody you can handle, including perhaps full custody if their mother does nothing but gamble. If, on the other hand, she's a decent mother and simply won't work, a judge will help decide the limits of your responsibility toward her. Living together and torturing one another the way you are, how can either of you provide a good model of either a marriage or of individuals making their way independently in the world? You have the right to find a new partner, as does she. And your children deserve a more transparent living condition, that is, one in which both parents face reality about what they owe one another. I'd say you both owe the kids a lot, but you don't owe much to one another after 12 years of divorce. That's why I say to see a lawyer and stop arguing about who should do what.

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