This guy sounds like a real asshole. I hope she leaves him. The kids would probably be better off without him too.


LW sounds like a bit of a nightmare. Kid issue aside; this dude isn't going to find what he's looking for until he makes some drastic changes to his outlook and personality. Chances are he'll just push some nice Vietnamese woman into becoming the woman (he perceives) he's married to now.


Seems like the issues surrounding Kid 1 were completely glossed over in the response. While LW does mention the /possibility/ of #1 going to college, he also says the kid, "may never be totally able to function without support." Conflicts surrounding Kid 1 also seem to be a big part of this couple's issues as he says, "She has threatened to leave over how I respond to Kid # 1." All of that mess really should not have been ignored. Response point 3 is completely negated by the fact that Kid 1 might need that continued support.

I wouldn't be surprised if a large part of the strife between them is due to the fact of Wife feeling like the sole primary care-giver to a child that really needs the active support of both parents. Sure, she might be naturally assertive, but after some point of your showing that you aren't going to do your part, I can see how she would just say, "Fuck it," and just take over. (Yes, that's a lot of assumption on my part, but that is the read I got from his letter.)

If your marriage is miserable, by all means, get a divorce and find a partner that meets your needs with whom you can be happy. But no, you're not allowed to move to India or Vietnam (yes, I recognize this was likely hyperbole) and escape from your responsibility to the child you /chose/ to bring into this world, who happens to be one with above-average needs, despite the fact that you weren't really into the idea of having kids in the first place. You made your bed.


First off... they are your kids and you can't run away from them. If you are right and your wife is pushing hard on the kids then you need to be there to support both kids, but especially number 1.

If your wife want everything done her way, stand up to her and tell her that you are caring for your kids your way and aren't apologizing for it.

But when you do make sure you are committed to helping kid #1 and kid #2. College ain't always easy. Make sure when you unapologetically parent according to your conscience that you have thought it through.

Don't run off, whether or not you stay married.


@1 & @ 2 couldn't agree more. He admits to being passive agressive and sounds like he's incapable of being assertive. Instead of telling her what he wants, he most likely withholds affection or takes pleasure in causing her stress. Her side would probably be that he neglects and ignores her. Bet they haven't had a nice date night in awhile. His fantasy escape to a third world country wouldn't fix anything. He needs to embrace his family, his wife and the life choices he has made. None of us get everything we want. He probably doesn't ever appreciate what he has. The only credit I give him is that he is aware of how passive aggressive he is. But that's as far as it goes for self awareness.because he doesn't make the connection between his shitty behavior and her alternating between freakouts and feeling like she has to assert herself to avoid being ruined by him.


The kid is not the only one if this family who is depressed


@1 To cut him a little slack, raising a kid who's on the autism spectrum isn't a walk in the park.

I agree with @3: ordinarily, once you get the kids to age 18, then they are on their own. The support doesn't really stop, of course, but there parents have no obligation to step up and, say, give the kids a place to live after they graduate from college. Ordinarily.

However, kid #1 throws a monkey-wrench into this calculation. Now, kid #1 is getting through college, which tells me that she does have the wherewithal to make it in the world, perhaps with a little extra help and encouragement, yes, but that does not have to be something that you two parents do 100% of.

There are, for instance, residential programs out there that can help provide adults on the spectrum with an appropriate level of support while still giving them a sense of independence. While kid #1 is finishing up school in the next two years, you and the wife need to sit down and start planning (along with kid #1 as prudent) for what life is going to look like after graduation and how that transition is going to be handled so as to cause the least amount to stress while getting you into where you need to be as parents of adult children.

Anywho, other than that, I have no idea what the point of bringing up #1 and #2 was. Bad boys and girls are WAAAAY overrated. The overwhelming majority of us end up working an 8-5 job. So what?

Honestly, kid #2 sounds like they'll take care of themselves. The big push right now should be to get kid #1 graduated and situated outside of the home, if at all feasible. Then proceed as Dan says. I think, once the kids are gone, it's a good idea to sit down with the wife and say "Let's talk about what we want the next stage in our lives to look like." And when you have that discussion, you need to be up front about what you would like to do and see. And also be open to whatever her ideas are too.


@1 No, autistic kids do not do well with major changes. And why so judgmental? Raising children with special needs in this country is very difficult, with our terrible healthcare system. There's also the ever-present fear of what will happen to the child when you die. The stress on families is tremendous. Not surprising there would be strain in the marriage. Sometimes the need to constantly fight for services can make parents angry all the time, and resentful of each other for not doing enough or doing too much. He's not an asshole for thinking of getting out because of unhappiness. He's writing to Dan to get advice because he doesn't want to hurt them so he's not only thinking of his own needs.


Hoo boy, have I heard this story before. And Corydon @7 is spot on (except for one thing which I will get to in a minute).

I used to volunteer at a nonprofit that provided services to disabled individuals. While some clients were adults, the vast majority were children and teenagers. I think the youngest client I helped with was about 4.

It was very, very, VERY common for the parents of the more severely disabled children to get divorced, and once divorced, the custodial parent (usually but not always the mother) wound up living in poverty. The stress of caretaking with no "end date" like neurotypical/healthy children broke even previously healthy and happy marriages. There may be no saving this marriage at this point, not if the husband has checked out to the point that he's contemplating abandoning his family and all of his responsibilities to his adult child -- and moving to India or Vietnam where there is no reasonable possibility of him driving the kid to appointments, dealing with financial stuff, or even doing the dishes while his wife drives the kid to an appointment is 100% no ifs ands or buts abandoning all his responsibilities to the person he helped create and the person with whom he helped create her--it may very well be too late to save even good feeling from the marriage.

It's understandable. It's still shitty.

If LW's oldest child is likely to be able to live relatively well even if she is never fully independent, then that's the goal here. At a minimum, I suggest that LW and his wife contact their state adult protective services NOW and find out what resources they have available to them while the oldest is in university and has student services to help pick up the slack. Having a careful transition plan in place is key here, both for the disabled kid and for the parents AND, critically, the neurotypical kid.

I also think that both parents should get some counseling themselves, either together or separately, to help THEM through what will be a big transition. It can include discussing their marriage, or not. It could include guiding the husband through how he wants to handle his responsibilities to his kid in the case that they divorce. It could include the wife identifying all the places in their lives where she had to be constantly in control (because you have to be with a kid that disabled when you're the primary caretaker) and learning how to decouple herself from that life--again, regardless of whether the two stay married.

Where I think Corydon is off the mark is Kid #2. The neurotypical kid is a key part of this transition plan, as they need to get their new lives in order and because they will be affected by everything about Kid #1's graduation and change in life status. Going off to college is a big life change all on its own and the stress of that can really do a number on a person. If Kid #2 feels like they've been abandoned by their parents, or even if they don't feel abandoned but don't feel like they can come to their parents for support, that's a rough start to their independent life. Getting Kid #2 to a counsellor (school counsellor can help here) to help them plan out support networks in advance (university counsellors, numbers to call, that sort of thing) for WHEN shit goes bonkers at home puts them in control whilst still leaving them a support network for when shit goes bonkers at school.


Taking care of medium/high maintenance disabled children takes a toll on the relationship. It requires a strong relationship where both people go out of their way to try and reach out to each other.

It isn't easy; not everyone is 'up' to raising an disabled child.

Chances are he'll never stop taking care of Kid #1 to some degree; then again maybe she will get married to some guy who wants her to be a stay at home mom and it'll just work?

Highly unlikely now adays

So the relationship has faulted; it could be rebuilt however both parties want to try.

I would say that Dan isn't in his sensitive mode lately... the guy isn't a prick; he's not an asshole just a man at his wit's end.

If you haven't been there; be thankful.


@3 That's kind of the vibe I got to. LW is so passive (to put it nicely, perhaps negligent is more accurate) the only way shit is going to get done is if his wife takes control.


"Sure, she might be naturally assertive, but after some point of your showing that you aren't going to do your part, I can see how she would just say, "Fuck it," and just take over."
Nice call, @nightscrawl

LW, it is natural to blame your frustration on the wife, as she's the only other adult in the room. It also sounds like your wife has been the main engine behind making sure that your daughter gets what she needs to have a chance at a relatively normal life. Respect to her for all that effort. Yes, it warps a person to live in that mind-set.

You guys have done extraordinarily well to stay together and raise those children to college age. It is understandable that you are both exhausted. Kudos to you both for getting through an incredibly difficult, protracted period. Yes, you will both be able to take a breather when the kids are away. And yes, your daughter is going to need support forever, so fantasies of escape are completely understandable.

Please remember that your wife has been there; she understands what you've been through. Please give one another a chance to reconnect when those pressures are reduced.

Autism needs to be treated as an international emergency. Successive presidents (including Obama) have promised inquiries and task-forces, with none delivering. Is it because the answer is known already and it is highly inconvenient? CDC whistleblower, anyone?


And before the insults begin, I've never found calling someone an idiot to be a valid scientific argument.

Solid data stands up to scrutiny. Transparency is required in relation to all trial data. (A relatively recent example of industry-wide data manipulation with direct negative impact on children's health: children, anti-depressants and suicide.)


Hate to break it to ya, but your responsibility to your kids doesn't end when they "move out". They still need love and support, (lots of support for a special needs kid) for years, especially the early years. You can't just pack up and move to East Bumfuckia and think it will solve all your problems.

Also, problems with a wife/husband NEVER get solved when the kids leave. If you can't communicate/work it out with wifey now, it won't be any better after her main reason to stay together is gone. Better get to joint counseling now if you want to have any hope of "later". You've got a shit ton of passive-aggressive problems to work out and they don't all belong to your spouse.


Poor India or Vietnam, this guy coming in to be a rich expat.


Raising a child with special needs is often difficult and sometimes a lifelong difficulty. Whether or not the marriage can be fixed or if he would be happier elsewhere or single- well there's possibilities for all scenarios. But one thing is not going to change: he has an adult child on the spectrum who will need his continued parenting, and cooperation between parents will make this easier for everyone. And one thing is unlikely to change unless he forces the change: he has to learn to stand up for himself and be assertive or else others will continue to take control of his life. If you don't act or make decisions, the world doesn't stop, you just get pulled along. No matter what he chooses to do, he's going to have to deal with the first, and if he doesn't learn to be assertive, he will continue to have other problems as well in any new lifestyle, country or relationship.


There's a key part of this equation bookended in the beginning and the end....and it's fairly gross. Husband says he doesn't like assertiveness and infers he wants a passive wife. At the end, he talks about moving to India or Vietnam and finding a new woman. What he really means to say is he envisions being a "sex-pat". An older man who is seeking a much younger and better looking "docile and doting" girlfriend or wife who will cook him meals, go on trips, and never be able to assert her opinion because he has all the money and power. Patriarchy and capitalism all rolled into one "my second life" dream.


Nomadic Gal, He didn't have the balls to go sail around the world or date "bad" girls even when he was young and unattached. Then he agreed to have kids even though he didn't want them, and his explanation is the passive aggressive, "why not my life sucks anyway"- what a lovely thing to say about why you became a parent. Now he's not happy, surprise surprise, even without the added difficult of a special needs child (which is tremendous, even for more mature and responsible people, see Slinky's great post above). Someone with these personality traits is unlikely to pull up stakes and move to another country in the first place, but if he decides to give India a shot, he's unlikely to even make it through getting his utilities hooked up and navigating the traffic without learning some assertiveness- no way in hell he goes so far as to set up a home and bringing on a new wife, don't worry. How in the world India ever flashed in his mind as an easy place to live like a king, especially for a person who lacks assertiveness, I have no idea. I'd wager he's never been there.


This guy sucks. He’s been bitching while she’s been handling shit for 30 years. I hope she’s got her own exit plan!


Kid 1, Kid 2,
Thing 1, Thing 2

They are human beings not just labels.

The car
the wife
The dog
The kid

that's just asshole talk


Ah yes. The “I’ve admitted my flaws so you’re not allowed to call me out on them,” trick. This guy is insufferable.


LW, you sound like an unpleasant man and why should I bother assisting except you have children. Kid#1 as you so lovingly say, will be yours and your wife’s responsibility until you die. Help your child find independent assisted living arrangements, you still can’t go running off somewhere and leave your wife to shoulder keeping an eye on them.
Have you bothered to talk to your wife of nearly three decades about how you are feeling? You know, instead of being a lover of passive aggressive bs you could embrace adult man shares his feelings with his wife.


I’m not suggesting LW you soldier on in what sounds like a toxic marriage, do as Dan suggested and wait until your first born has completed college. Then with care, separate from your wife and stay close enough so you and she can continue to parent your child/ ren.


This guy talks like his whole life is something that just happened to him. And yet again, he has no agency. Dear advice columnist, make my decisions for me! Has RON had any SOLO therapy? To find out why he is so passive / passive aggressive, and take steps to own his own life?

Sounds like he does have a good plan: wait a year and a half then leave because there's no need to jointly raise kids anymore. Unless the wife leaves first, which I can see happening. RON, if you're going to let someone else live your life for you, Dan's not a bad choice.


Nightscrawl @3: I took the India/Vietnam ideas literally, though this guy doesn't seem like he would have the chutzpah to actually move. And Christopher @4 is right: if he does want to do this, he shouldn't do it right away. Both kids, especially #1, need him nearby even if he is no longer married to their mother. Or perhaps they don't. If he's been as absentee a dad as his letter suggests, he may not leave a very big hole in their lives. (Yes, projection.)

Slinky @10: Gold star comment, thank you for your compassion.

Dumno @11: Dan mocked this guy's writing style but didn't call him an asshole, that was some of the commenters.

This guy's wife reminds me of my sister. She's a control freak; hubby can't do anything "right" so he's stopped trying, and she resents his lack of participation. It's a toxic dynamic.

Nomadic @18: I think you're speculating here based on sexist stereotypes. Other than stereotypes about the Far East, there's no hint here that RON would want a young, passive partner. I doubt he would know what to do with himself if he found himself expected to take on an "assertive" role. Perhaps he really does just want to live somewhere warm, where money goes further, far away from his problems.


Don’t we all Fan. It’s a hard one when the child may never fully become an adult.


I agree with 18. He's hoping to buy himself a concubine, basically, who will do whatever he says because she has no other way of earning a living. News flash: those women hate their meal tickets and fleece them dry.


"there's no problem so big you can't run away from it"

And that includes your young daughter with "Autism spectrum" who will always need you to "function"?

"It could be a life sentence."

Er, that's a fucked-up way to look at it, but that is parenting a live human being.

"I'm a whiner"

You praise yourself with faint damning.

DO NOT ABANDON YOUR CHILDREN, you heartless asshole.


Having a kid who will never outgrow the need for lots of help and support is tough, RON, and I feel for the challenges you and your wife have faced and will continue to face. If your wife is harsh, demanding, and critical with and of your children, that is also hard to witness, but perhaps you two should have some talks about parenting styles.

Other than those things, though, you come off like a horrible asshole. This is a tone issue again. But you likely know it, as you included that bit about being a whiner. If you're blowing off steam, fine; if you fantasize about moving far away from your responsibilities, we all do that and if it gets you through the dark moments, whatever.

But you sound depressed and would benefit from individual therapy, and it sounds like you and your wife would benefit from couples therapy. I hope you get both.


BiDanFan @26, thanks. I hope that if LW has read this, that he takes it on board.

Sometimes there are no good answers and there sure as heck aren't any RIGHT answers. The reality of living with a profoundly disabled person is one of those situations. Profoundly disabled people, especially profoundly mentally disabled people, can be extremely hard to live with and to cope with. Having a 150-pound adult with the mentality of a toddler who is nonverbal and needs sanitary garments is a physical, mental, social, and emotional challenge. With seriously disabled women, there's the additional challenge of preventing pregnancy and dealing with menstruation. Given the never-ending challenges, the cost, and the difficulty of finding adequate care, the stats on poverty, rape and sexual abuse, and physical abuse and neglect of the seriously disabled are shocking but not even slightly surprising.

At the nonprofit, I observed three kinds of clients: the ones who would live relatively independently and relatively well with the right community care, the ones who would never live independently but with the right care could live relatively well (for example, a young man who was legally blind)....and then there were the ones who would never live independently and never live well, and the biggest question was, what happens to these people when their parents die?

The small light in this darkness seems to be that LW's Kid #1 is in the second group: she can't live independently, but with the right kind of support can live well. If she has the ability to go to university and graduate, she has the ability to get and hold a job. That is KEY, because it means she will have a social connection outside of her immediate-family unit. It also means that more resources will be available to her, meaning, more money to get her into a better living situation than the ones who can't hold a job at all.

LW needs to get his internal house in order and soon, because all of the above is going to be HARD WORK and he needs to be involved.


As a decades-gone expat let me tell LW this:

If you're a fuck-up at home you'll be a fuck-up overseas too. Yeah, you can probably buy yourself a little ChoCho San with your relative wealth but those girls can smell mark like you a mile away so if you think "the Wife" walks all over you now you're going to have footprints tattooed all over your ass in Vietnam.


"Kid #1 may never be totally able to function without support... which we could afford"

Okay, so get Kid#1 through school, set up in some independent-living situation, within walking distance to whatever job she can handle. And then - you say you afford some support - set up a trust with a trustee designated to pay the bills and deal with the various upsets in her life. Then, whether you stay, go, die soon, or end up "in a home" yourself, she's is set. One of the better lawyers in my town does that for a variety of clients - adult children who can't handle their own finances (often drugs were involved), handles the trust and answers to the court for decisions made.


A great answer to the question, DiK, but (despite what the heartless dad suggested) I question whether this is really a situation one can throw money at. My experience with people with "Autism spectrum... anxious and depressed" is that their kind of support would best come from someone who cares about them. His daughter (unlike a drug addict) may be able to handle money, and (unlike a physically disabled person) may not have physical limitations...the support she needs might be more emotional and social, and it might be damaging to have to wait until someone attends to those on the clock.


Yes true, but David's advice is still good. If he really is going to run away, then he should follow David's advice. The wife will no doubt continue to help the adult child, and the sibling will play a role as well. If he has no qualms about them shouldering all the responsibility, this would at least relieve some of their burden. But regardless, even if he stays (near enough to parent, whether or not he stays in his marriage is another issue), all caregivers need some respite, and hiring out some of the burden is beneficial to everyone if they can afford it. Settling how to deal with this- making a plan with the wife and the adult child- should be his first priority, regardless of what he wants to do with the rest of his life and marriage. And before he can come to the table as an honest player, he needs to work on his lack of assertiveness and on setting aside that passive aggressive selfishness.

I've thought that I should keep this to myself a bit because it's so personal that I'm unlikely to be non-biased, but as someone whose had a pretty heavy caregiving burden in recent years that has taken my life on a totally different path / daily routine than I would prefer, I have to say that the passive aggressive and less involved family members are infuriating. What they do is stand back, refuse to make decisions or give input (which is a luxury because there are no right answers and no one knows exactly what to do) and then they sneer or blame when things go wrong. It's very adolescent- it's easy to judge people who take responsibility when you don't have any yourself. If this man has sincere differences of opinions with his wife on how they should help the kid or what the kid's future should look like, then he needs to jump in as an active and assertive partner and clearly state those things. If he has no suggestions or keeps it to himself and goes along with whatever, then he needs to shove the resentment and passive aggressive selfishness away.

I'm appalled that he could be such a pushover as to have a kid he didn't want in the first place, and then go along with the second one because his life sucks already- someone like doesn't strike me as the sort who actually has real suggestions or a real plan. He strikes me as someone who just goes along with whatever people around him do and then sneer at them and blame them when it doesn't turn out. Ideally, he'll learn to advocate for himself and his child and be an equal partner- maybe this would involve him getting a divorce to be able to get the breathing room (and break old habits) necessary to become a more assertive person. But if he can't do that, then maybe it's not such a bad idea for him to set the child up the way David suggests with the understanding that the wife and sibling will provide the emotional / social support, and then get out of the picture. This means he's selfishly dumping his burdens on others, but if all he's doing is passive aggressively complaining about shit and daydreaming about how great his life would be without his family, then maybe this would be an improvement.

Of course, it would be extremely expensive as well, and I doubt that would leave him enough money to go retire somewhere as an expat- India and Vietnam are both very cheap places to live if you move outside of the city, but if you expect the comforts of an American middle class lifestyle you will not find them unless you can pay for them. You will pay less than you pay in the US, but you will not live like a king. And this dude doesn't strike me as the sort who will figure out how to adjust his lifestyle to less comfortable standards, especially with that lack of assertiveness which will quickly be picked up on and taken advantage of, and no opportunist is going to give a shit about his passive aggressive grumblings as they fleece him.


I don't think LW really understands the "aggressive" part of passive aggressive and the subonscious intention he has been putting into his actions.

Once he takes responsibility for the aggressive acts ("assertive but with force"), he may see this differently.

"I'll give in to marriage, so someone will see how miserable I am and rescue me."

"I'll have kids. Then she'll know I'm the bigger sacrificer."

"I'll tune out from our needy child, that way everyone will see my pain."

Bud, you already run away from everyone mentally and then just stand in their faces expecting them to treat you like a kid.

I cannot IMAGINE raising a disabled child. So no advice there. But holy shit, get over yourself. You basically told this woman she could build a life around you and then you hollowed out yourself with your non decisions.

Grow up and become and adult and really understand that running (emotionally, verbally, physically, metaphorically on an international flight) is an aggressive and intentional act that you are choosing.

Your asking Dan to decide for you is also an active decision. You ARE making decisions, acting out, and causing pain intentionally. The thin veneer of trying to get other people to say the words for you doesn't fool anyone.

Finally, ASD is comorbid and related to many other disorders. Have you ever considered getting evaluated yourself? You may find that your passive aggressive coping mechanisms come from your own (perhaps treatable, counsel-able) issues.

Whatever the cause, you are not well. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of your family. Please do that.*

*And another former expat here... India solves nothing. At least do yourself a favor and go somewhere you can't become an alcoholic thanks to cheap alcohol.


Zeex, that's a good point about the possibility of the LW also being on the spectrum. Since he's so functional and old enough to have children in college, he probably would not have been identified as a child and could have developed the passive aggression as a coping mechanism. He has the reliance on others' assertiveness to order his life along with the limited ability to see their perspective. He comes across as a jerk, and that's not something that came about as a result of autism. And I don't know why he thinks that he'd be more likely to find a woman in another country than he does in his own location unless Nomadic Gal's suspicions are correct. Money or not, he's not super likely to find a wife in India, but he will be able to hire out all his domestic needs and likely his sexual ones as well. Plenty of expats there do, fewer take a local bride.


How does Dan keep such a cool head when responding to these letters?


@emmaliz, agreed that people cannot blame lack of character on a disorder. However, many different issues could make it hard for LW to put basic skills into practice. He's in no way a victim here but as an adult he may need to dig deeper into what is happening in him to improve his life.

He will always be a dad, and he made that choice. He can only now choose whether to start a journey of self improvement or to continue down the same road of blame and unhappiness.

We all get to that point as parents when we realize we have to change and get better LW. You can do this. It really is 100% up to you. Nobody else is responsible for your life.


Curious @34: Agreed, caring people in kid #1's life is best, but it sure sounds like the marriage is going to blow up one way or another and if kid#1 is physically healthy, she'll outlive her parents and then what? Does kid #2, themselves a senior citizen, care for their sister forever? Kicking that down the road a few decades isn't going to result in more assets in a trust for her care. And it's easy to imagine this marriage imploding in various ways in just a few years, so better to have something in place, sooner.

If it's not needed for 30 years because mom and/or dad are on the scene, great. Dealing with these issues in advance can bring some peace of mind to both parents - knowing that support is in place in their eventual absence and that the burden on kid#2 is lessened.



He implied it; you inferred it.


Bad Girls aren't attracted to you and your baggage broski


This is a likable, funny guy in an unhappy marriage. I think the love-life issues and the parenting issues are separate.

1) Does he want to be there, helping hands-on, with his depressed child? Could his wife do that as well without him? If so, then he should think of going. If he loves his struggling child and wants to be there for them, then do that.

2) In his love- and sex-life, he deserves someone for whom he is good enough. Or even have a relationship where he's the assertive one 50% of the time.


@3 & @4. nightscrawl & Christopher. Yes, he has specific parental responsibilities.

@6. Sportlandia. Yes, he's depressed. I like the new logo! People saw the triangle as somehow cryptically confrontational. Hope they don't see the new one in that light.


Slinky @10 knows something about this and has made the best comment. I would have to know something about the nature of the LW's first child's disabilities to be able to offer more specific useful comment: how is her anxiety linked to her autism, for example? What is she good at (helped to be, or compelled to be, excellent at, by her mother), and how does this interact with her unusual spread of abilities and disabilities? How easy or difficult are everyday adult activities, like managing money, or school tasks, like contributing in class?


Kudos, truly, for your great contribution/excellent plan. (Also excellent, @10 slinky!)

I think RON just pissed me off, what with his plan to run away. In the context of the letter it even set me (as it did @21 -B-) off that he called his young daughter "Kid #1".

I think I had tunnel vision. While I yelled at him for being a "heartless asshole", I think @37 zeex was right that he's probably on the spectrum himself.

It makes me sad to look down the road for them...but hopefully Kid Human Unit Number One will live a life full of many more people who gravitate to her and love her and also help make her life heaven. But just in case, yes, yours is a crucial plan.


@45 lol what? the triangle was conforntational?? anyone who thinks that is dumb.


I don't have a lot to add as it's a crappy situation that he's in and I have great sympathy for all involved(yes, even the LW).

I would just add that I feel way better about my(admittedly imperfect) situation now than I did before I read the letter and the comments. Wow.


@46 Harriet, sorry for the rant but I feel the need to clarify something here.

"Does he want to be there, helping hands-on, with his depressed child? Could his wife do that as well without him? If so, then he should think of going. If he loves his struggling child and wants to be there for them, then do that."

I think it's important to consider there that while his wife has made a choice to be that parent, and while she's managing, this is probably no walk in the park for her either. As much as parents can love their children in spite of disabilities, nobody loves that lifestyle. Nobody. Why the hell should he leave while she stays? That's not a kindness to her and no he's not "relieving" anyone of his poor attitude. It's just abandoning them on top of it.

In addition, it will never be the case that one parent can do the job of "being the other parent".

They might manage, they might do an amazing job, but nothing ever makes up for the fact that your mom or dad left you.

It is never the case that choosing not to be a better person for your kids is a good choice. It is never the case that giving up is a good choice.

It is never the case that the child will be as well off without dad or mom, as they would have been with a father who made even a minimal effort to be the person they needed.

It is never the case that it is better to leave, than to stay. Leaving is just another type of abuse, on top of the decision to not change or get help or be a better person.

I know there are a lot of kid free people on here so let me clarify that parenting is super hard, frustrating, and mind-numbingly boring even when the kids are typical. It's not like sunshine and rainbows except for people who are bad parents--a LOT of us want to get in the car and drive right past the school some days because it is all just so hard. But we don't. Because we love our kids. Not because it's fun, not because it comes naturally, not because we are really eager to get into a screamfest over homework, but just out of this deep sense of obligation, and it's not a precious or sweet feeling.

Every day you choose to try to be better-but-not-good-enough, or not. Those are the choices WL has. Leaving is deciding not to try to be better. He's not helping anyone by getting out of there. He's just making it harder for him to hurt them on a daily basis, and trading that for a more extreme sense of abandonment.

That's not a sacrifice, it's a cop-out.

(Also, he did choose to have kids. He wasn't raped and nobody stole his sperm, so he needs to just stop and take responsibility and stop confusing his narrative of self-pity for reality.)


@48 Sportlandia
"@45 lol what? the triangle was conforntational?? anyone who thinks that is dumb."

I for one never thought it was THE AVATAR that was confrontational. ;-)

(Hey I'll say it, I'm confrontational too!)

As for his new avatar:

I like the rainbow!
It's shaped like a StopSign, is that less confrontational than the previous (wasn't it a double triangle/diamond) shape?

Hell I dunno, the diamond did have sharper angles.

It's cool that people use avatars so we know who they are to START when they write a long post. At first when Spf85's Comments took a few PageDown's to get to the name, I too wondered while paging down if it might be from our beloved EmmaLiz.



This is off topic but here goes.

After reading things like this I wonder why people have more than one kid or even one kid if they think about it for a minute.

What you described sounds absolutely awful and for no good reason.

It isn't like we are living in a moment where bringing children into this world means that we are most likely giving them a good shot at a great life.

Everything from education to jobs to even finding someone to be with is getting harder and harder every day. The chances that any child that anyone who reads this would bring into the world will have a happy life aren't exactly high.

One thing I would suggest as a sidebar is that maybe it doesn't have to be this way. If raising children is this hard intrinsically I wonder how we got here in the first place. Though this may sound naïve, I have to think that there is a way to have and raise kids that isn't as miserable as you describe that doesn't require being a member of the 1%.


@52 GhostDog
Sure the world has a giant pile of problems. But being a great parent can result in one's kids growing up to be great people, which can genuinely make the world better "by example" in a bankshot "be the change you want to see" way.

Me? I did co-parent for a while and (exactly as any realistic person would expect, but unlike so many do expect) it was an huge responsibility on every level...but also enormously satisfying. I never personally wanted kids, but I would have been very happy embracing parenthood had a partner wished to.


@52 curious2

Yeah, that's possible but that seems to be a big gamble when it's also a possibility that the kid can become a Ted Bundy even if you are a genuinely great parent or you can have the situation that the LW wrote about.

That said, this might be one of those situations where "your mileage may vary" and we are both justifying something that is really a sort of "core orientation" where some people have the "babies" switch turned on and others have it turned off.


@51 I thought it was pretty explicit, "everything is the opposite of what it says it is"


"I like her, my wife, but... Jesus... she's a pain in the ass"

I think it's interesting that he doesn't mention their sex life at all. I bet they still have fun sex, or he'd complain about that too.

I'm with those above recommending personal therapy for him. There's no reason he can't figure out something he enjoys, and build more of that into his life, whether that's a daily bike ride, a weekly evening out dancing, a monthly weekend off fishing, an annual week away with friends, or some combination that helps him stay sane.


What's with middle aged people writing like this online? Excessive ellipses and writing with the assumption that the reader will know wtf they're talking about.


I’ve never read any comments about your old avatar Sportlandia. Some people make up stories.


One last thought.

About 10 years ago, I met a family (het married couple with their adult son) where the son was severely physically disabled, with what looked like birth injuries. The son wasn't able to do even basic self-care -- he could hold a spoon and he could eat, but the way his arms and hands were deformed, he wasn't able to feed himself -- and he needed a motorized wheelchair to get around.

He was also a computer programmer with a university degree, who had a job in his field. I can't remember whether he worked from home or whether he had transportation. He fit into the Group 2 category, of people who would never be able to live independently but with appropriate community support would be able to live very well.

This was in a country other than the USA, and once the son had a degree and a job, his parents applied for government assistance. The government bought, retrofitted, and provided him with a flat in a part of town where he would have easy access to services. They paid for a carer, who would cook, help him bathe and toilet, and so on. His parents would still do things with and for their son. But having him be able to live somewhere other than their house? Them being able to have some rest and some privacy and to not be constantly in caretaker mode? It was as much a relief and a breath of fresh air for them as it was for the son, who wanted his own life and privacy.

If LW and his wife are financially capable of finding a similar living situation for their daughter, it could be a GOOD thing all around. For the wife, if she's been in "always-on" mode, always needing to take care of every detail for her disabled child, it's an opportunity to....not. For the LW, he clearly wants some time to himself and that's a way to get there. For the sibling, it's an opportunity to see her sibling get some support and for she herself to know that she won't be hauled in as unpaid labour to her sibling. For the disabled child, it's a measure of independence and an opportunity to build a wider support network than her family unit can provide.

In some states, Medicaid will help pay for the living facilities.

My original comment still stands, though. LW needs to get his house in order and he needs to get cracking on that soon. He can continue to daydream about abandoning his wife and kid to go live on an island in Indonesia all he wants, so long as gets his house in order and does the right thing by his family.


Zeex @50: "It is never the case that it is better to leave, than to stay."
I have to disagree with you there. Sometimes kids are better with two parents who live separately and share custody than with one set of parents who are constantly fighting with each other. If by "leave" you mean leave the picture altogether, you are probably right in most cases, but again, I would say a kid is better off with one parent than with two, one of whom is abusive. Not saying either is abusive here. I get the impression that RON isn't very involved and his presence would not be much missed, but I admit this is projection on my own part.

Curious @51: LOL, agreed. At least Sportlandia didn't pick something like a fluffy kitten, which could eventually lead regulars to start seeing kittens as confrontational! ;-)

GhostDog @52/@54: I couldn't agree more. I've always thought that kids are such an all-consuming burden to be saddled with, no wonder nature has had to give us such an enjoyable way of making sure they continue to come into being. And I do think an attitude of "I'll breed so that I can bring the next generation of saviours into this world" is an extremely damaging attitude, as you're setting up an innocent child with unreasonable expectations, which never ends well. Children are not extensions of oneself, they are autonomous humans who are gonna live their lives the way they want, and parents can't do anything about that, except contribute to their neuroses by guilting them for not being the perfect beings you were attempting to create. Hmm, I seem to be projecting again ;-)


@50. zeex. I was unclear. In saying 'going', rather than 'staying', I meant RON leaving his wife sexually and romantically, not utterly throwing up any long-term caring responsibility he has for his elder child (in fact for both his children).

When his daughter is at college, he may be able to stand by her in ways that don't require his proximity--do or arrange the things she finds difficult. We don't know what these are. Her autism/Asperger's could frustrate her and provoke anxiety when it comes to interacting with teen friendship and in-groups; to be in a geeky context where everyone bonds over cell biology (or cellular automata) might be easier for her. How would she understand her parents breaking up? She could understand this as his abandonment, as a senseless or heartless repudiation of her mother; or she could construe it quite another way. It could possibly offer a respite to the elder child--in offering her somewhere to go away from her mother's supportive but hypercritical injunctions. We just don't know.

In principle I agree with your 'it's never better to give up on a child than to stick with a child'. But living even six months a year in Vietnam with a new partner wouldn’t necessarily be giving up.

RON's problems go back a long way: to his thinking that his daughter's problems are out of his hands--that he can't stop her being autistic, stop her being depressed--and his wife, stirred also by his fatalism and disengagement, responding just the opposite way--killing herself to do everything she can to make life tolerable for her child. To have a happier family life himself, where he's respected and can view himself with respect, RON has really to revisit with his wife their different caregiving styles and coordination as parents. But he despairs of this. Has done for a long time--and wants out.


@54 GhostDog
"some people have the "babies" switch turned on and others have it turned off"

Yes. It turns out that circumstances in my life made my switch being "off" a good thing.

@55 Sportlandia
"I thought it was pretty explicit, "everything is the opposite of what it says it is""

I can't think of a better avatar to have said that with, so I think it was a good choice to convey it but I didn't get it.

Perhaps people weren't TOO far afield from it's sense of 'contrary' to infer "confrontational".

My brain just saw a male energy in the double triangle, with a little sharpness.

Hopefully the rainbow stop sign signals a new day?

@56 EricaP
"I bet they still have fun sex, or he'd complain about that too."


@60 BiDanFan

Tragically many (most?) parents aren't (and don't know that they aren't) in good enough working order that they should even have kids.


@60 BiDanFan
Is "I'll breed so that I can bring the next generation of saviours into this world" a reason people breed? (I only went that way to counter 'the world is too terrible to breed'.)

I just know they (unlike me) want to be parents; I guess I thought it was more about what they wanted (for them and their children) than about what the world needed.


@63 I think it's a combo of the two. People who want to become parents (which is only about half the people who do become parents) desire children for all sorts of reasons, and I think this is perfectly natural (even though I do not have that desire). Some of the more compassionate among them also prioritize raising their children to be conscientious people who will have a positive impact on the admittedly grim trajectory of the future- or at least this is something they hope for when they imagine becoming parents. I don't think most well adjusted people sit down and think, "I'll have children so that my offspring will save humanity". BTW, I have never had a desire to reproduce, and I think childrearing (which I have participated in) is mostly tedious, and I agree that people have children for all sorts of dumb reasons and with ridiculous expectations. Nonetheless, it is perfectly natural for people to want to have families including children- it's a normal healthy human desire. If someone looks at the current situation and decides that they want to raise their children to be a force for good in the world, well I'm not going to ridicule those motives. It should be easier than it is to raise children, we should have more support and resources, and there's nothing wrong with hoping your children will be a benefit to their communities if not the world. What I think people lack is an accurate understanding of what the day to day reality of childrearing are, including the possibility that your kid will not be neurotypical. I think fewer people would have kids if they knew how hard it is, but I don't blame the people who unknowingly have them under false impressions and instead blame the larger structure of our economic and political system that has made it so hard for parents in the first place.


@64 EmmaLiz
It's true, raising kids well would be vastly easier if it didn't have to be done uphill. One of the most critical and tragic triumphs by the rightwing in the US a half-century ago was to strongly de-emphasize in public education many elements vital to democracy, things like critical thinking and civics curriculum (never mind Labor history). There's nothing the US rightwing fights harder to protect than these regressive educational gains; they know they are fundamental, that if society raises better people, there will be fewer of THEM (the worse people).

In fact one of my fondest dreams is to do the opposite of what they did. To provide kids with an educational system that gives them all the tools to not just think for themselves, but to have a high level of emotional and psychological health. Take the Dalai Lama for example; (whether or not one thinks he was the reincarnation of someone special) he started out as a basically normal kid, but given the benefit of an education/upbringing that made him (it seems to me) quite healthy emotionally and psychologically. (OK EmmaLiz, maybe you're gonna tell me I'm wrong about the DL here, but even if so that doesn't mean I'm wrong in principle.) I want that to be the f-ing NORM.

I know that couldn't cure mental health issues, and I understand that people aren't born as blank slates, so I guess we can't add the line "Imagine no conservatives" to the song, but I do dream of having so few they never politically dominate anything ever again. Not politically feasible now, but maybe one of these centuries.


I don't really know anything about the DL's personal life- just the basics of his flight and his life in exile in India and subsequent world celebrity, so I'm happy to take your word for it.

Yes on education, but also I meant the other sorts of resources that make parenting easier- affordable housing, free childcare, longer parental leave, better health insurance, better health care (including mental health), public green spaces and playgrounds, cheap and affordable food courts, etc. If you are going to arrange an economy so that extended family life is impossible, then you have to provide the infrastructure to compensate. And how to pay for it? Well nationalize some of those for-profit jobs programs that we call defense contractors, put some of that taxpayer money and surplus into social services instead of new fighter planes that will never see combat and employ some of the people who are laid off in public works projects etc. Absolutely impossible of course for the same reasons that your scenario is never going to happen here either. Still, we can bitch about it without blaming individual families!


cheap and affordable (oops) = cheap and healthy


@67 EmmaLiz
"also I meant the other sorts of resources that make parenting easier- affordable housing, free childcare, longer parental leave, better health insurance, better health care (including mental health), public green spaces and playgrounds, cheap and affordable food courts, etc. If you are going to arrange an economy so that extended family life is impossible, then you have to provide the infrastructure to compensate."

Reading this so warmed my heart I got misty. For heaven's sake that was beautiful.

I hear tell of countries enlightened enough (unlike the US) to do much of that.

I'm embarrassed I didn't think of every word of that; I can only give the excuse of being childless.


p.s. As I understand it, when Buddhists (let's say) 'find' a child who (let's say) was someone special in a previous life, they are at the time for all appearances always "a basically normal kid". Upbringing works wonders. In our societies, some of us work our whole lives to grow in ways we could be starting kids out with.

Last stats I heard was that 3/4 of the kids born into rightwing religious fundamentalist families BECOME rightwing religious fundamentalists. And yes I do have a problem with that; rightwing religious fundamentalist are many toxic things including anti-democratic.


Curious, Tibetan Buddhism is a unique form of Mahayana Buddhism that is regional and developed in Tibet. (Sort of how various Japanese Buddhist traditions- also usually Mahayana- are regional and culturally specific). I know Tibetan Buddhists have the practice of going out and finding incarnations of prior lamas, etc, but nearly everything I know about this is from that excellent Scorsese film. I don't know if this is a wider Buddhist practice among other traditions. Certainly it is not something I have heard of others doing. I studied Theravada Buddhism and my family are northern Vaishnavites- lots of Nepali and Tibetan Buddhists in the region and so there is lots of overlap. But I've never heard any stories of any Hindus or Buddhists (average people) going out to seek reborn loved ones, etc. Anecdotally, from time time you'll hear people tell about how very young children talk about their past lives, even insist on going places or doing things. The common sense response is that it's better to just accept the toddlers' words and then distract them with something else, redirecting them like you would with anything with a kid, as it's healthiest for them to move on. Of course, 'modern' people don't talk about rebirth at all really, but these are stories I'd hear from my grandparents or among rural people. I don't know any stories at all about finding special people from previous lives- I assume this is a Tibetan tradition, or a Mahayana one, or something limited to lamas, or who knows. In any case, my own opinion is that children are born with unique temperaments- it's why siblings are often so different even if they have the exact same upbringing- and different things work with different children. (Incidentally, those same traditional grandparents and aunties explained this variety even among cousins by rebirth which is not something I've thought about in a long long time- thanks for reminding me of a lost memory). But obviously no one is born with political beliefs, and I think most kids raised with emotional support and stability will turn out to be compassionate unless hard knocks or brainwashing gets in the way. I don't know how much education can make or break this- facts aren't really what makes people fundamentalists or not. I'm at a loss of what to do in the current situation regarding the rise in antidemocratic factors. If I know, I wouldn't be here having my third nightcap and wringing my hands about it.


@70 EmmaLiz
"it is not something I have heard of others doing"

Now that you mention it, neither have I. Thank you for the correction and all the rest!

"Anecdotally, from time time you'll hear people tell about how very young children talk about their past lives"

At one point (pre-Internet) I read a book or two about this citing evidence that seemed quite reputable; now that the Internet is a thing I should vet this, though.

"children are born with unique temperaments"

Yes, I trust that's true since parents say it is.

"I think most kids raised with emotional support and stability will turn out to be compassionate"

I think so too.

I'm not sure that some won't though. For all I know the 'unique temperament' that some start with might include things that do turn people into rightwingers (fear and it's symptoms such as selfishness, amorality, etc.) and fundamentalists (it's just my hunch, but I think insecurity might be a contributing factor).


@60 BiDanFan

Yes, I was referring to abandoning a child--not the relationship. To me that's the question here. He likes his wife but complains mostly about his kids.

Unless someone is literally unable, with medication and counseling, to stop beating their kid or repeatedly abusing them, yeah I think it's better to stay. Why? Because abandonment stings worse that most people can imagine. It also is a kind of lifelong, permanent abuse. Every day, not being there, is that subtle message. If you can only spend one hour with the kid, make that hour count. Be ON that hour and spend the rest of your time in structured support for the house, yourself, your job...

I wouldn't give parents an out. "I suck as a parent so I'll give up" is really not something that I think should be an option except in the most extreme cases, and nothing LW has said suggests this is one of those cases.

That said...

"But living even six months a year in Vietnam with a new partner wouldn’t necessarily be giving up."

I agree. I think a time delimited journey, after kid 2 goes to college and IF he has arranged support for his co-parent to help with kid 1, is fine. They're in college after all.


This guy is super bad at math. 53 + 25 = 78, not 89. Unless he thought that finding a new partner (and since he's focused on Southeast Asia, he's basically talking about buying a young woman rather than finding a partner) would take 11 years (which we can only hope is true), he's just plain wrong. And a bad person.


I have a thought re the letter-writer - it feels to me that he may be on the spectrum as well. His general unpleasantness aside, they way he writes - his narrative, his points, his not very effective coping strategies, as well as how he describes his own character traits echoes a how a family member (who is a genuinely nice person, unlike perhaps this letter-writer) speaks/writes about himself.

Autism occasionally runs in families. Although this guy doesn't sound very wonderful, let's give him a little benefit of the doubt and look at his letter with this frame.

Honestly, I feel therapy for each individual in this family - as well as family therapy - might go a long way into improving each of their lives individually as well as collectively, whether or not the marriage survives.

Poor kids

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