Life Advice



Ask Amy: Mother frets over monstrous middle name

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My 24-year-old daughter is expecting a baby boy.

She told me that she plans to use her biological dad's name as her baby's middle name.

Her dad, "Tobias," and I divorced when she was six and her brother was four. At the time, the literature advised divorced parents to never say anything unkind about one's ex. Thus, I did not tell my daughter how horribly I was abused, both physically and verbally, his serial adultery, as well as his alcohol and cocaine use that drove us to near bankruptcy.

He mercilessly targeted me, but never harmed our children.

After lots of therapy I still cringe when I hear his name.

My daughter has a good relationship with her father. I’m happy about this, but I can hardly bear the thought that an innocent baby will have the name of a person I consider to be a monster.

On the one hand I want to tell my daughter about her dad so she can pick another middle name. On the other hand, I worry that I would selfishly evoke unwelcome turmoil and think I should remain quiet.

Your thoughts?

– K

Dear K: Protecting a child’s regard for her father while she is young is the right thing to do – as long as you know that the child is safe.

Now that your daughter is an adult, you should be more forthcoming.

There are valid reasons to disclose your ex-husband’s history of addiction to your daughter.

Drug and alcohol abuse might explain (but not excuse) some of his out-of-control behavior during your marriage. Addiction might answer some unanswered questions your daughter has held from her own experiences with her father.

And addiction does seem to run in some families, so your daughter should be told about it.

You should answer any question honestly, but in my opinion you should keep in mind that a child benefits from an attachment to a parent (even a deeply flawed one), while an adult has the duty and responsibility to make their own decisions about their own relationships.

So no – don’t describe her father as a “monster,” even though his behavior was monstrous.

This would not necessarily lead to her picking another middle name for her child, and would box both of you into a corner.

You should completely separate the conversation about your past from the middle name conversation, because when it comes to their child’s name, the parents get to choose, and if you don’t like the name they choose, then … too bad.

Dear Amy: I’ve been with my boyfriend “Anthony” for three years. We met in college and moved in together after graduation.

I absolutely adore him and he and I are very compatible and very kind and loving toward each other. Our families know one another and get along well.


Anthony recently told me that he doesn’t see himself ever getting married. His folks divorced when he was a child and each remarried other people. I have never heard that there was any discord there and Anthony seems to have a decent relationship with his parents and stepparents.

When Anthony made his statement, he spoke as if we were just casual pals, sitting around and talking about hypotheticals.

I am fairly shattered to learn this and don’t know what to do now.

Your advice?

– Sad

Dear Sad: You and “Anthony” live together. You are romantic cohabiting partners. His tone might have sounded casual, but I suspect he said this quite deliberately. He is telling you something extremely important about where he stands.

If you are itching to get married (and it sounds as if you are), you really need to have a very serious conversation about this.

Does he see staying with you in an exclusive committed partnership for a very long time? Is he interested in having a family?

I’m sorry you are going through this. You have some tough conversations and choices ahead.

Dear Amy: “At a Loss” described the fact that her husband seemed to resent her closeness to her adult children.

You are right: his behavior is concerning.

Now that At A Loss is retired, her social relationships are important for her safety and wellness. Abusers work hard to alienate their victims.

My ex-husband did this. A healthy, caring spouse would not avoid his own children or seek to alienate her from her own.

– Abuse Survivor

Dear Survivor: This husband seemed quite jealous over his wife’s affectionate attachment to her children. This does not bode well for their future.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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