By Cheryl Lavin

DEAR CHERYL: I’ve been in a serious relationship with my girlfriend for four years. During a one-month breakup last year, I had a one-night stand. I was wearing protection which broke. She told me she was pregnant, but I didn’t believe her and I got back together with my girlfriend.

After the child was born, the fling contacted me to have a paternity test. Turns out, I was the father! I’ve seen the baby a handful of times.

My baby’s momma is kind of crazy and she lives over 1,000 miles away. I’ve been sending a check to her each month for the kid. I’ve also been playing everything cool with her to avoid the courts, due to the fear of increased financial obligations! I’m not even sure how to be a good father.

Now my girlfriend is pressuring me to get married. She’s 32, I’m 30. I don’t feel ready, even though I know she would make a wonderful wife and she’s willing to accept this boy.

Should I sacrifice my happiness and move to be with the fling for the sake of the child? — I’M CONFUSED ABOUT EVERYTHING

DEAR ICAE: You’ve got two problems. Let’s start with the easy one. Tell your girlfriend you’re not ready to get married and you don’t know if you’ll ever be. If she wants to get married and have children, she needs to get on with her life. Wish her good luck and stay out of her life.

Now, about your child and the baby’s mother. Hire a lawyer and have a legal child support settlement drawn up. It’s the right thing to do, even if it costs you more money. Be a man and accept your full responsibility, both financial and emotional, to your child.

I’m not advising you to marry the child’s mother. But make the boy a part of your life. See him on a regular basis. Visit him and, when he’s older, have him visit you. Buy him gifts for his birthday and Christmas. Call him. Send him cards and letters. Involve yourself in his life. Introduce him to your family. He deserves to know his father and that side of his family.

It’s not his fault the condom broke.

DEAR CHERYL: I consistently praise and compliment my wife, but she doesn’t appreciate it.  All she can focus on is her hair — or lack of it.  She suffers from a syndrome wherein she pulls out her hair whenever she gets stressed.  Consequently, she’s virtually bald.  She wears a wig, but she pulls the hair on it as well.

I’ve told her that I think she’s beautiful, and I’ve encouraged her to go without a wig.  I’ve pointed out that you occasionally see women in public with little or no hair. No dice.

How can I help my wife overcome her phobia about her hair?  Of course, the best thing I could do is to prevent her stress — and if I could I certainly would — but, unfortunately, that is presently impossible. —SUPPORTIVE HUSBAND

DEAR SUPPORTIVE HUSBAND: This isn’t a problem about hair, it’s about compulsive behavior. Your wife suffers from trichotillomania. She feels bad about herself, not just because she’s bald, but because she can’t control her behavior.

She needs therapy. Her internist or gynecologist should be able to recommend someone.

Got a problem? Send it, along with your questions and rants to cheryllavinrapp@gmail.comAnd check out my new ebook, “Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front.”