DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: Our family is in splinters. I had three children and a drinking problem when I started out. Now the two oldest boys are living with my husband. The third kid -- my teenage daughter -- has no interest in living over there. I am working steadily at a decent job and no longer drinking. We have all the amenities here, and she lives near her high school and friends. She doesn't like my rules, which are strict, but she appreciates having a mother who loves her and takes care of her.
At Dad's house, the boys can walk around drinking beer, have parties because their father works the night shift and skip school frequently. My ex encourages the boys to be rude to me, and they have called me names on the phone and said things like "Shut up" and "Stop calling."
I tried to make amends with the boys, but they don't forgive me for the nine years of drinking, even though it is long over. Now they are drinking every day and I am worried. How can I talk to them when they won't talk to me? They only come over here when they are hungry and there is no food at their dad's place. -- Broken-hearted Mother, Winnipeg
Dear Broken-hearted: When you need to cross a creek, you use whatever bridge is available, even if it's a fallen tree trunk. In your case, the bridge is food. You also need to speak the same language kids do, and that is brief texting, not calling on the phone. So text your kids at the beginning of a weekend that you're cooking a big meal on Sunday detailing what you're making and that includes, of course, their favourite dishes. Invite them over. You might ask a favourite relative of theirs over as well, and tell them, so they know you aren't using the meal as an excuse to harangue them over anything. Two weeks later, same deal. Don't make it once a week or they will fear an every-Sunday trap. Send them home with extra food. Smile and tell them they're always welcome for a meal with no lectures. Keep it light. They may have a lot of memories to erase, one positive experience at a time.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I'm positive my husband was having an affair, but think he's ended it. I've asked him about it a lot and we fight about it. A month or two ago you recommended to a reader not to approach the other woman/man, but to have them followed. It's too late for that.
My only hope now of finding out is by talking to the other woman myself and hoping she will come clean. I don't have any more options. I can't get over being suspicious and as much as the truth will hurt, I need to know. I may not trust my husband again, but I'm having trouble trusting him now. I know there are many women like me out there so please provide us with some advice how we can tactfully approach the other woman. -- Needing Answers, Winnipeg
Dear Needing Answers: You're wasting your own time, Chiquita. It sounds like you plan to stay with this hound dog, no matter what. You think he's ended the affair, but you're on the clock obsessing about the other woman's identity. So what would you do if you got hold of her name? Trot over there and give her what's what? Then say to him, "I could have stayed for the cheating, but I hate your lying. Goodbye!"
Here's the irony: None of this is necessary. The problem can be fixed from your side. You go for counselling and get over the need to be with this cheater you can't trust ever again. There will be more hidden partners for him, and sad to say, all your digging and suspicions and fighting have just made him feel justified in doing it again.
Please send your questions or comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or mail letters to Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6.