Dear Dategirl, Help! My ex-husband had an affair that broke up

Dear Dategirl,

Help! My ex-husband had an affair that broke up our marriage, three years ago. He was screwing his assistant—cliche

!—but they’re not together anymore. I think he’s even dating someone else now. I’m not sure.

The other night my 17-year-old son was out with some friends, and I think they were drinking because they called the other woman, pretending to be looking for a prostitute. Of course the number traces back to my son’s phone. The next day my ex calls. He’s very unhappy. His ex-skank had called him and given him an earful. He blames me.

Our son knew the other woman because he was interning at his father’s office, and was the one who told me that he thought his dad might be having an affair with her. My ex initially denied it (and has been cold to our son since), but the skank confirmed it when I confronted her. I guess she thought he’d marry her. Ha.

Part of me thinks this is funny and the whore deserves it. I’m touched by my son’s loyalty, but I was very careful to keep my son out of our marital problems and I know I can’t condone this behavior. I’m struggling with how or if to punish him. 
Any thoughts?

—Trying to Be the Bigger Person

You’re only human, so of course your first reaction is to be touched, and maybe even a little gleeful, that your son pulled this. But for the sake of raising a good kid, take your personal feelings out of the scenario. Warning: PC Rant Ahead.

It sounds like your son’s dad was probably a shitty role model, but by fixating on the other woman’s behavior and slut-shaming her, your son is putting all the blame on her when it’s his dad who had a commitment to his family. And while in an ideal world his dad would be the one having this talk with him, it doesn’t sound as if they have anything close to an ideal relationship, so it’s time for you to step up and, yes, be the better person.

This doesn’t mean that I consider the other woman some lost lamb, but, tempting though it is, you want to avoid language like “whore,” “skank,” and/or “slut.” Your son is still young, which means you have an opportunity to raise him to value women (even us slutty ones!) as human beings.

It sounds like your kid probably blames the other woman for his father’s distance, when really his dad’s just a jackass. I mean, if you’re going to cheat, don’t put your kid in a situation where he’s going to witness it (poor Sally Draper!)—and you sure as shit shouldn’t expect him to keep any secrets if he does find out (again, poor Sally!). But if you start badmouthing his dad, you’re just putting your kid back in the middle, which is a shitty place to sit.

So explain that while you appreciate his loyalty, prank-calling people in the middle of the night is stupid. It’s doubly stupid now that every single phone everywhere has caller ID, btw. As this was probably a ploy to get some attention from his dad, you would be a real menschette if you tried to bury the hatchet with your ex and convince him to rekindle a relationship with his kid.

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