Q: Your recent quip about the treatment noncustodial moms endure isn't the half of it! What about the noncustodial fathers?
I've been accused of raping my ex-girlfriend. Her new boyfriend then tried to kick in my back door to get at me. She is the mother of my child, and because of this lie I wasn't allowed to see my daughter for eight years. Then, all of a sudden, when they were strapped for cash, I was considered a very convenient bank and was allowed to see my child a few times before being told that if I were a real father I'd pay child support.
The amount they asked for support was a bit unreasonable, for I had my own two stepchildren to consider also. I offered them $300 a month, which my wife and I thought was very reasonable, but that wasn't enough for them. By the way, before any other man was involved with my ex-girlfriend, I was helping with day-care expenses and other necessities that my daughter needed, until I was cut off from my visitation rights. The story goes on but the conclusion is that my ex got the state involved. The stepchildren decided to go back to their father, I pay $458 a month to my ex, and I've seen my daughter twice in the past seven months.
I really resent your implying that "society has no idea what noncustodial mothers endure." Fathers have been enduring this mistreatment for decades. I'm tired of hearing about how bad women have it. These custody decisions affect all of us.
A: You missed the many times I've lamented the plight of the father forced away from home and family by a system that ranks him last in priorities. His emotional needs are given short shrift by our society, yet he is made to pay dearly for his fatherhood. (You also missed the letter from a father who was living in his car because custody payments precluded his having a roof over his head.)
But you are dead-on about the unfairness of the system and the lopsided justice often meted out to fathers. Speaking out against it and lobbying for equal rights are powerful tools to make change happen.
Q: After a 12-year marriage, I recently divorced. (My ex phoned me while working overseas, saying he had fallen in love with a 20-year-old.) The problem with me now is that I cannot seem to trust anyone. I'm really afraid to love again. Does this feeling ever go away?
A: Put your energy into interests and work, friends and family. Take baby steps toward re-entering the dating world. Your trust will be renewed as you meet people and relate to them as companions, friends and interest-sharers rather than formal "dates" or set-up romances.
This process will take time, and that's for the best. You should not rush into any major commitments or serious relationships, so be gentle and patient with yourself. But step up your involvement in the world around you, in the areas that naturally attract your time and attention. Meeting people will take care of itself, and with time your instincts will tell you whom you can trust.
Q: I've been divorced two years and at 42 I am not really sure I want to get interested in men again. I value my privacy and freedom, after 20 years of marriage. Sometimes I'm afraid I might never have a love relationship again -- or even go out with a man. I'm not sure what I want. Is this common after a divorce?
A: After all those years of sharing, you are entitled to your own timetable and instincts. The uncertainty you feel is the shock wave of divorce, and it hits different people at different times. Savor this phase and enjoy it to the fullest -- why not? Men and dating will always be there, ready and waiting for your interest to be rekindled. This is the ideal time to explore the world around you and bend it to suit yourself. When you come across someone who is worth surrendering sovereignty for, you'll reconsider the game plan. Until then, be guided by positive thoughts without fear.
Q: I'm 18 and in love with a beautiful 19-year-old. We were seeing each other steadily, but then she dated another man. I know she stayed faithful to me, but since that date she feels confused and unsure about our relationship. She says it's not because of him, and she also says it's temporary, but she wants to be single for now. So what do I do?
A: The only choice you have is the tone of your acceptance. No love can thrive unilaterally, so be gracious and mature when you talk this over and agree to her request.
What else can you do? But be wise beyond your years, and show your love during the dialogue. After all, loving means wanting the very best for one's beloved, no matter what that means. Don't recriminate or play on her guilt, but be firm about your own needs. If you choose, you can discuss a time frame for this pause in the relationship and announce that you may want to pursue your own interests as well. (Whether that means dating others is something that should be made clear in the discussion.) This could be a pause that renews love.
+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate