Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Son wants to cure father of serial infidelity

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hello, Carolyn:

I'm wondering the best way to confront my father about his behavior in respect to women. I'm the 25-year-old eldest of my father's five children. My sister and I were conceived with my mother, who left him some 20 years ago. His actions precipitated it. He remarried and had a son, now 13, who I love and know well.

In 2015, my father revealed he had a 4-year-old child with a mistress. This was obviously devastating to my stepmother, but she was extremely mature and allowed the child (but not the mistress) to visit and spend time with his sibling. A year later, my father reveals he has a 1-year-old WITH THE SAME MISTRESS, meaning he knew about the second when he revealed the first. This was too much, and now my father and stepmother are careening toward divorce. My stepmother is an intelligent and successful woman who deserves better.

My worry is that he will simply find another woman and do the same things again. I feel compelled to try and prevent this. How do I help him change?

-- Eldest Son

Prevention and "help[ing] him change" are different things.

You can help prevent a repeat, if you so choose, by being honest when you meet women he dates. It wouldn't be a boundary violation to inquire, in friendly get-to-know-you conversation, whether she has met all five of his kids and their three mothers.

Your impulse to "help him change," though, sets off boundary alarms. Has he said he wants to change? Asked for your help?

You have standing, always, to say how you feel. You can tell your dad you're embarrassed/disappointed/[your word here] by his actions. You can tell your stepmother she has your support, and make the effort to be present for your other siblings.

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