Ask Amy: Mom’s affair with exchange student shocks child

Dear Amy: When I was 16, our family had a foreign student come live with us on a summer exchange program. He was also 16.

He wanted to stay beyond his visa, so my parents arranged to take legal guardianship of him. It was very stressful having him move into our family. My mom and I constantly fought about his presence in our home. Six months after the guardianship, my dad moved out and my parents divorced.

Eventually, my siblings and I grew up and all left home, except the boy, who lived at home with our mother until he was 24. My siblings and I all moved on from this stressful, fracturing time in our family.

The now-adult guy recently contacted me over Facebook to apologize for “ruining” my family, disclosing that he was my mother’s boyfriend during his time with our family.


In shock, I called my mother, and she insisted that this relationship was consensual, and that it occurred “only after the guardianship had ended” (when he had turned 18).

I don’t understand why he found it necessary to tell me about their relationship. I feel shocked, hurt and betrayed — oscillating between considering that my mom is a child predator (grooming and taking guardianship of him), to realizing that she must have had very strong feelings for him to choose him over me, and our family.

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My mom and I used to talk once a week. I haven’t spoken to her in six months. Do you have any advice for me for how to move forward?


— Still in Shock

Dear Still in Shock: Of course your mother’s feelings for this boy were “strong”! Having strong feelings does not justify her behavior.

Because she was his guardian, with all legal parental control over him until he turned 18, what your mother did was creepy, wrong and possibly illegal. And regardless of the legality, her actions also seem to have directly led to the breakup of your family.

Your mother’s former lover may have contacted you because he is having his #MeToo moment. Perhaps he is trying to take responsibility for the impact of his own behavior while grappling with the impact of your mother’s behavior on his life.


Do you think a foreign student who was basically in a powerless situation — legally and physically — was able to fully consent, even if he was 18 when the actual sexual relationship started? Or does this man believe that he manipulated and used your mother? (It’s a possibility.)

Don’t let your mother’s normalizing or denial negate your own natural reaction. Yes, communicate with her. Be honest about your conflicted feelings. But your biggest job is to find a way to accept the truth and to cope with it. A therapist could help.

Dear Amy: I’m recently divorced. I have a longtime friend who is currently going through legal proceedings to end his common-law relationship. I’ve always had feelings for him — that “too bad I didn’t meet him first” kind.

Now that we are (almost) in the same place, I wonder how to let him know I’d be interested in more than just friendship.


I definitely feel firmly entrenched in the friend zone. How can I find out if he would even entertain the idea?

— Friends Forever?

Dear Friends: This is delicate, because you’re both newly single. Continue to see (or be in touch with) him, and let your friendship grow. Try to pick the right moment to use your line: “During my marriage, I definitely had that ‘too bad I didn’t meet you first’ feeling about you.” This is honest on your part but doesn’t box him in.

His reaction will reveal the zone where he has parked your relationship.


Dear Amy: When I read the letter from “Sad Mom,” I recognized my younger self: a parent of an undiagnosed autism spectrum child and a healthy newborn.

The behaviors Sad Mom described do not sound to me like a toddler acting out for attention, but rather one who cannot control his behavior.

I would recommend an evaluation to determine whether the child is on the spectrum. Early intervention is key. Sad Mom should not blame herself for not bonding with her first child. She may need to learn a new reality.

— Older and Wiser


Dear Wiser: Thank you for sharing your perspective. While to me this toddler’s behavior seemed in the normal range for a child who was stressed, yes, he should be evaluated.

(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.)

Copyright 2018 by Amy Dickinson

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency


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