Relationship Advice

The Way Back

man on seashore with arms outstretched to the sky

Some years ago I dated a woman from a different country who learned she was pregnant by another man. I stuck with her and raised the child as my son. When the boy was six, this woman decided she didn’t want to be with me anymore and left for home, on the other side of the world.

I tried keeping in contact with the boy and visited, though it costs quite a bit. I also pay maintenance and try to "do the right thing" by my son. The problem is I often feel I’ve been mugged and taken for a ride. My friends and family certainly think so!

This leaves me feeling very, very angry. Compounding my anger is the fact that, while she has facilitated my visits to see my son, she shows no remorse or truly apologized for what she did to me and to him. Give me advice on how to get over this, get past the anger, and make a life for myself again.


Stephen, psychologist Fritz Strack is famous for noticing an odd fact. People find cartoons funnier when they are holding a pen between their teeth than when they are holding a pen using only their lips. There’s a simple explanation. The first method forces us to use our smiling muscles, while the second makes smiling impossible.

In the same way, you are clinging to ideas which make it impossible to be happy with your life. It’s as if you are paralyzed, standing on a road with three forks and you cannot decide which fork to take.

The first fork is duty. It says you have an obligation to be a father to the boy. The second fork is fear. It says you cannot be the kind of man who deserts a child. And the third fork? It leads directly back to this woman.

As a good-natured person, if you harmed another, you would do one of two things. You would repeatedly say you are sorry, or you would avoid the other person altogether. But self-centered people don’t think that way. They think in terms of advantage to themselves.

When good people stay connected to selfish people, they turn their feelings inward and feel bad about themselves.

You did not take a father away from the boy; she did. And she did it twice, once with a birth father and once with a boyfriend father. You ask why you can’t get over your anger, but your real question is, why isn’t she sorry.

You wonder where her sorry is, but she doesn’t have a sorry. And she never will.

There are two problems human beings have in seeing reality. The first is viewing the world in terms of their own needs, and the second is thinking other people think as they do.

You have been paying maintenance for a son who isn’t yours to a wife you didn’t have. The boy is being raised around her and her family. He is not going to point a finger at them; he is going to turn out like them. You are not the father figure in his life. You are more like a great uncle who shows up every now and then.

What you don’t realize is there is a fourth path. It is the one which lies directly behind you. It leads back to the beginning.

You were with a woman pregnant by another man. You did not have a faithful, caring woman in your life. She stands in the stead of the real life you should have had, and you still haven’t broken up with her.

Breaking ties is not taking your anger out on the boy. It is making sure this woman doesn’t collect dividends on a stock she doesn’t own.

Remember what Fritz Strack discovered. Some things in life make it simply impossible to smile.

Wayne & Tamara