Monday, February 13, 2012

Good Intentions

I have this friend I'll call Charlie who has been a friend since something like the second grade. Actually, it wasn't until sixth grade that we got to be good friends, and after we were graduated from high school we've stayed in contact more through e-mail and social networking than anything else, but every few years we've had dinner or whatever.

Recently, he sent me a message that made me think of this:

My wife had a very good idea the last time we saw Charlie in person. She wanted to set him up with a friend of hers. Charlie and this friend have compatible careers and faith. My wife's friend is attractive and has never been married. (My wife can't figure out why, I point out that my wife has never dated her friend.)

Charlie, however, isn't open to dating. He told me he really thinks he's supposed to be with a certain woman I'll call Chrissy. Many years back, Charlie, who thinks of himself as a good Christian man, "married" Chrissy and moved her and her kids into his place. I wrote "married" because Chrissy was still legally married to the father of her children, supposedly just for benefit purposes.

Wouldn't you know it? After a few years, Chrissy ended up taking her kids and reuniting with their father, who was still her legal husband. Charlie refused to move on. Mind you, Charlie had been legally married before in a marriage that didn't last long because his wife, who was about ten years older than we are, was a control freak who couldn't handle the fact that Charlie threw her a surprise birthday party. That ended that marriage.

But back to the situation with Chrissy

So Chrissy and the kids left because Charlie was tired of divided loyalties, and Chrissy later moved out on her husband again without coming back to Charlie, but that hasn't stopped Charlie from referring to her kids, who have a father, as his kids, travelling to see them, having them come for visits, etc... and for keeping his heart fixated on Chrissy (who is NOT some beautiful prize, mind you).

But wait... it gets better.

One of Chrissy's daughter had a friend I'll call Allison who a bad home life, so Chrissy took her in. When Charlie was returning one of Chrissy's kids to her, he met Allison. Since he treated Chrissy's kids like his own, he agreed to treat Allison like one of his own (he has no biological or adopted kids of his own). Allison has referred to him as dad ever since.

Allison went back to her parents, and Charlie and Allison kept in contact. Charlie went to visit and Allison and her parents. They later sent Allison to visit Charlie. Allison didn't want to go back home, but she did after she and Charlie talked about the possibilities, and Charlie sent a letter to her parents asking if he could take care of Charlie. Her parents sent her back to Charlie.

Charlie wrote to me and told me that he has "assumed custody" of Allison.

I wrote back a blunt reponse, part of which is below:

What do you think the average (not YOU, the average) social worker, police officer, prosecutor, judge, jury member, or TV news viewer would think if they heard that a single heterosexual man... “assumed custody” of an unrelated, troubled 16-year-old girl whose family lives halfway across the country?

What does “assumed custody” mean? Is there a legal contract? Official sanction from state/local governments? Approval from a licensed social worker?

There's a reason people legally marry and build a nest before raising children or foster parenting. As you noted, it is hard being a single parent. (It is hard enough being a married parent.) You can’t provide Allison with enough supervision, especially given her background, and she’s at high risk to end up pregnant within the next couple of years.
Charlie has not responded, and it has been a while. The age of consent in our state is 18, by the way. I'm pretty sure Charlie was a virgin until well after high school, and he may just not have a grasp on the reality of the situation.

I do not believe his intentions are for ill, but as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I would not be the least surprised if Allison has or develops a crush on Charlie, or if her parents were to screw him over. Charlie wants to stay connected to Chrissy and play the hero, and that is what he's doing here. For whatever reason, he doesn't want healthy, available women. He wants projects. The problem is, this a very risky situation and I can't think of any professional advice-giver saying this is a good idea. Dr. Laura would name which chapters in her book Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess Up Their Lives Charlie is doing. He has given no idication that his parents or sister, or anyone else, has told him this is a bad idea.

I pray this doesn't end up a train wreck.

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