Dear Annie: My husband and his ex shared custody of their son, "Danny," for 11 years. Two years ago, when his ex and her new husband began experiencing financial problems, she started pressuring Danny to live with her full time. It was no stretch to see that she wanted a big increase in child support.
Danny's mother manipulated him into believing that living with her would translate into some significant monetary rewards for him. Danny lied to the family court judge so his mother could claim my husband was an unfit father, and she won full custody and completely destroyed her child's relationship with his father. For the past two years, the only time we hear anything from Danny is when he wants something. He does not visit. Although it's likely he now recognizes his mother's manipulations, he has yet to acknowledge it to us.
Danny graduates from high school in June, and at that time, child support will stop. I worry that when Danny ceases to be an income-producing asset, his mother will send him to us with his packed bags. My husband insists he will never allow Danny to live with us, but I know he's severely depressed about the loss of their relationship, and I'd like them to patch things up. How can I help that happen?
Dear California: If Danny shows up on your doorstep and Dad throws him out, it will only cause further harm to the relationship, even though it is perfectly justified. Instead, allow Danny to live with you temporarily while you arrange for him to go to college and live in a dorm or to find a job and an apartment. Set a realistic deadline for him to move out, and stick to it.
If that plan is not feasible, Dad should take the initiative and arrange to get together with Danny for some regular father-son time - tickets to a ballgame, a fishing trip or something else they both enjoy. They need to find a way to reconnect.
Dear Annie: My whole life, I have had jealousy issues. Past boyfriends have had problems with my possessiveness, and I am worried that I will lose my current boyfriend because of it. I know that he would never cheat on me. It is just that every time he talks to a girl, I get mad at him. I try not to, but I feel like every girl he speaks to is prettier than me. How can I stop feeling so inferior and save my relationship?
- Nervous Nellie
Dear Nellie: People who are seriously insecure often need professional help to overcome the problem. You are smart to understand that you are being unreasonable and damaging your relationships. You have already taken the first two steps - recognizing you have a problem and wanting to fix it. Now, talk to someone. Ask your doctor or clergyperson for a referral.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.