DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Rita," and I separated a year ago. Our divorce is pending. The man she's seeing, whom I believe she was cheating with before we split, has a violent criminal past. He has already cheated on Rita with his ex-girlfriend, the woman who had him locked up in the first place.
Rita caters to him to the point that she ignores our kids. When he shows up, they often "retire" to the bedroom and my children are on their own for dinner. She even paid his bail when we were supposed to be saving for our daughter's school trip, which meant I ended up paying her half.
She is oblivious. She believes the kids want to spend time at my place only because there's a game system here. Our daughter is slightly overweight, and Rita and I had agreed to make sure we keep up her self-esteem. I don't think Rita's behavior is helping in this area at all.
My kids want him gone. They have expressed this to their mother, but she keeps making excuses to keep him around. They have told me she comes apart when he's not there. Could she be terrified of being alone? Is it possible to make her realize how this is affecting our kids? Or am I making too much of all this? -- PERPLEXED IN MINNESOTA
DEAR PERPLEXED: Your wife may have a severe fear of being alone, but if it's true that she can't function when he's not there, there may be other emotional issues as well. Please understand that now that you are separated, you cannot dictate how often she sees this man, or in what room of the house. However, because she appears to be unable or unwilling to be present for her children when he's there, consider having a calm, non-accusatory conversation with her about them staying with you "a while" -- a long while. She may surprise you and be open to it.