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Ask Amy

Kids want to nudge their dad toward divorce

Q. My sister and I have recently found out that our father has been seeing a woman who is not our mother.

Our parents’ marriage over the last 15 years has not been much of a relationship. They are more like roommates, just living in the same house. They each go about their own business and come together only at family functions that we kids arrange. They don’t seem to fight, but we observe a total disinterest in each other. Years ago, I remember my mother saying that “we are not a family who divorces.”

We would like to tell our father that we know about his lady friend. We would like to encourage him to pursue a life with someone who has made an obvious improvement in his life.

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He has seemed happier over the last year and we support any change he might make. We love our mother, of course, but she does nothing to be a couple with our father anymore. Sadly, couples therapy did not help because our mother did not want to change anything. She prefers the company of her friends to him.

We also think our father would not make any move to separate or divorce without our input, as we are sure he would think that we would think less of him, which is not true.

How can we convey our feelings to him? Or, should we even try?

Is it our place or responsibility to encourage at least one of our parents to be happier?

Sympathetic Son

and Daughter

A. Thank you for offering a somewhat refreshing take on a very old story. I appreciate that you, as adult children, can see that your parents are individuals who have wants, needs, desires, and paths to happiness that extend beyond their singular roles as parents. All the same, aren’t you a shred disappointed that your father has chosen this path out of marriage?

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You hold a distinctly negative view of your mother’s role in this drama. I don’t know how you can know what happened during their couples counseling, but I take your word for it that she has not demonstrated an interest in maintaining a thriving marriage.

You should communicate with your father. Meet with him privately and tell him everything you say above. Tell him you are aware of his extramarital relationship, and say that you want him to be happy. Say that you will support whatever choice he and your mother make — and that includes staying together. Be loving and supportive, but don’t involve yourself further.

Understand that your parents have created a life together that might not look ideal to you, but which is a consequence of their choices over the years.

Even though you cast your mother as the villain here, if the marriage breaks up, she will likely require — and probably deserve — some empathy and understanding from her children.

Q. My husband has very poor hygiene habits. He brushes his teeth only at the end of the day and showers once a week, even though he exercises daily. His breath and body odor are often very unpleasant.

I have been upfront with him on countless occasions, gently explaining both the health issues, as well as the “social” problem when he is in public. However, if he can’t smell the odors, he doesn’t believe they exist and that the problem is in my head. I’m only hoping that he and others like him will see this letter and make an effort to improve their hygiene.

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Nose-Plugged Wife

A. Does your husband like to have sex? Does he want a morning kiss from you? Does he want to spend time with you in close quarters?

You have leverage here, and you should use it. If your husband is able-bodied and there are no obvious impediments to bathing, then he should clean himself every day, whether or not he has body odor, or regardless of whether he can detect it.

Q. “Still Here” described my exact frustration! Like Still Here, I am in my 30s and single with no children. I have spent literally thousands of dollars celebrating the life choices of my friends and family members, with nothing in return.

It’s not like I want total equality here, but honestly, I love your idea of a “singleton shower.”

Thinking About It

A. Whether or not there are gifts involved, each of us deserves to be celebrated.


Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.