#404: My thief of a dad is going to be at my sister’s wedding.

Dear Captain Awkward,

In a few months, my big sister’s getting married, and I’m a bridesmaid. Awesome!

The problem is that my estranged father will be there, and I legit cannot be around him.

My parents are divorced and Dad was always weird. When I was 16, he and I had a massive argument where he physically hurt me and I ran away. That was the last time I saw him. He mailed many long, convoluted, ranting letters about how horrible I was and how he would set me straight. I never responded. Mom had my back, and Dad disappeared.

But just before my eighteenth birthday, he cleaned out my savings account. It was full of money given by my late grandmother, before she died, for college. There was nothing legally we could do; the money was gone. Mom just gets by, financially, so I took out loans for college, and am paying them back. They’re large, and it’s tough, and it still stings, and when I as much as THINK about Dad I start to get angry.

Now, Sister also hates Dad, but they’re in touch. He would probably disown her, too, if she didn’t invite him to her wedding, but (probably to cement his invitation) he mailed her a VERY large check when she got engaged. Sister’s totally sympathetic, and I’m not angry at her for inviting him. She’s seating the two of us far apart at the reception, and sticking him with one of his annoying colleagues so they can keep each other occupied.

But a couple weeks ago, Sister grudgingly passed along a message from Dad saying that he hopes I’m doing well. This is the first communication we’ve had in years. It didn’t make me happy.

What do I do if he weasels through Sister’s precautions and tries to talk to me? My instinct is to run away, but he’s notorious for trying to drag people in, against all social etiquette. And though I like to think I can stay cool under pressure, I’ve got my own temper issues and if he won’t leave me alone, I’m very, very likely to yell at him.

I really don’t want to ruin my sister’s wedding. Or, be a part of my dad ruining it.

Bitter Bridesmaid

Hey Bitter Bridesmaid,

I don’t know why people think that weddings magically make people un-hate each other’s guts or magically behave like grownups. If your sister is…optimistic…enough to invite your Dad to the same party as you, she gets what she gets, and as the hostess, the worry about whether he’ll use her special day as an occasion to ambush you into an unwanted reconciliation is pretty much on her shoulders. Fortunately, a wedding can’t be ruined unless the couple somehow fails to be married to each other by the end of the day.

The best thing is to say very short, noncommittal things and be brief, polite, and perfunctory. “Hey dad.” “Wasn’t it a lovely wedding?” “The weather is nice today.” And then be elsewhere as soon as possible. Do not get drawn into long conversations, hugs, family photos that include him, talking about the past.

If he pushes you – tries to suck you in, tries to bring up old issues, will not take no for an answer, makes a scene of any kind, I want you to respond politely THREE TIMES. “Dad, this isn’t really the time or place. Let’s just enjoy the wedding, ok?” Repeat it like a robot.

If he will not stop, or he makes a scene, after three attempts to shut him down I give you permission to hand him the following message on a card that you’ve written up before the wedding and are keeping in your purse just in case. Say, “Dad, I thought something like this might come up, so I brought you this letter. Let’s go back to enjoying the wedding.” And then walk away. Far away.

Dad, you may have noticed that I don’t want to talk to you. The reason for that is not a mystery! When I was 17, you stole $_______ from me. If you are serious about having a conversation with me, pay that money back and apologize. If you make amends and return what you stole, then MAYBE we can have a conversation like civil adults. Until then, I can’t even contemplate talking with someone who caused me such harm and financial hardship, and I am asking you directly to leave me alone.”


You can present him with this bill any time he ever tries to talk to you again. “Hey, Dad, so where’s my $_________? No? Okay, goodbye.” He’ll probably never pay you back. He has a million bullshit excuses stored up about why that-wasn’t-really-his-fault-and-now-you-are-just-an-ungrateful-jerk-who-only-wants-his-money blah blah blah he’s-the-real-victim-here blah blah blah. So, the odds are that you’ll never have to talk to him. Your sister can help here, if she wants to put herself in the middle so much. “Yeah, Dad, sorry, she’s really still mad about the college fund. Maybe you should just pay her back and stop bugging me.

I know it’s somewhat taboo to talk about money in this way and I’m focusing on the money to the exclusion of the abuse & neglect you suffered at his hands. My reasoning is that you can’t ask him to go back in time and be less of an ass. You probably can’t ever get him to acknowledge his part in what went down between you and why your relationship became so fractured. But you know that he knows that you know that he STOLE x amount of $ from you. It’s a crime he can answer for that can stand in for the whole.

So if the guy is actively trying to push his way back into your life, I think you should be totally unashamed and unshy about asking for a literal dollar amount back and using the words “thief” “stole” and “mine” when you discuss it. You can’t act like everything is okay between you because everything is not okay until he makes restitution. And this isn’t some shameful secret that you have to cover up. If he appeals to other relatives and tries to get them to pressure you to feel sorry for him, be blunt. “You guys know that he stole my college fund, right? Until he returns what he stole, I really can’t talk to the guy.” It’s rare that you can cite a LITERAL price of admission for a given relationship, so, um, relish it?

Oh, by the way, if he DOES pay you back, once the check has cleared, have ONE lunch. And then you’re done forever if you want to be. He was an adult who had a lot of choices about how he behaved, and you hating his guts is one of the predictable consequences of those choices. That doesn’t really get erased with money.


114 thoughts on “#404: My thief of a dad is going to be at my sister’s wedding.

  1. I think the Captain’s advice is really sound, and I agree with the general advice on how to deal with Thief Dad trying to worm his way back into your life.

    Specific to the wedding… is there someone on Team You who can run interference at the wedding? I know it can be really hard to ask other people to do that kind of thing for you, but in most cases it’s a lot easier for them–who do not have all these complicated and (deservedly) angry feelings tied up in it–to help you keep a weather-eye out and avoid the person you want to avoid, and/or give you an out in a conversation that is not going anywhere good. I have had friends who I asked to step in if I seemed embroiled with a toxic person, and since they didn’t have an emotional attachment (short of not wanting me to have a horrible time) it was easy for them to say, “Hey, Badger, we need your help with a thing” and give me a lower-stress way out.

    Obviously this is not a replacement for actually dealing with things, and the Captain gives you good scripts for that. But it can be such a tremendous relief to have an ally on hand, who knows the situation and can help you out.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Obviously LW can’t ask the sister, since it’s her Big Day!!!1!, but perhaps her mother, since she was so supportive of LW cutting out her father? Is that an option?

      1. Me too. Even just a tallish friend who is good at the death-glare and would be willing to make sure he/she is physically between the LW and Dick-Dad at all times. It is hard to get in someone’s face for a proper rant if you have to peer around someone else.

        1. Yeah, exactly. In fact, I think a friend who is unrelated to the whole mess might be best, because they can’t be readily baited by Thief Dad.

          Doesn’t even have to be someone who is up for direct conflict. Even if all they do is step in at an opportune moment and say, “There’s someone who wants to talk to you over here” or “Can you help me shampoo the hamster really quick?”, it’s valuable because it’s an easy escape. And often (not often enough to rely on it, but… often) misbehaving people will misbehave less in front of Unrelated Third Party.

          I don’t know how late in the preparations they are, but LW’s sister sounds sufficiently sympathetic that it might be worth asking if you could bring $Friend for assistance, if no one who is already on the invite list would work.

          1. Definitely agreed on unrelated friend who has no history with Thief Dad being the best choice here. And I endorse the strategy overall; I’ve already recruited a socially adept friend to run interference with someone at my unavoidably public thesis defense in a few months.

        2. The friend is a really good idea — I can picture several people I know who would probably do this, were I the LW. (And they’d enjoy it too, because of some misplaced thirst for mob justice…) If LW has a “+1” for the wedding and doesn’t have a SO (or if SO feels up to the task), this could work pretty well.

        3. Lots of Yes to Big Tall Friend and “help me shampoo the hamster.” Love, love, love it.

        1. I agree. Also, someone unrelated is less able to be baited by Thief Dad, which is invaluable.

          1. Ooh, good point. I just thought that maybe LW’s mother might have some good experience at dealing with DouchenozzleDad and might therefore be a good pick. But someone totally uninvolved might be better for the resons you and others mentioned.

    2. Yes this. Absolutely ask a friend, significant other, relative, fellow bridesmaid… whoever to help run interference. I have been this friend before in social situations. I was totally OK with intervening, creating a distraction, or simply giving the friend another direction to look.

    3. Totally this. And, it’s really easy. If you’re friendly with any of the other women who will be present, give them a heads up about this potentially awkward situation. You can just use the fact that it’s an accepted Thing that women go to the bathroom in groups. If he tries to corner you or makes you uncomfortable, a lady can swoop in to ask you to help her with her lipstick, or her dress, etc.

    4. The LW could even enlist all the other bridesmaids. Anytime any of them sees the dad coming toward/trapping in a corner/talking to LW then they can come over to her and say “The Bride needs you.” There is no arguing with that, thus making it the perfect escape! She can even just say it herself – “I see the bride waving at me to come over. Bye.”

    5. A bridesmaid’s date could also be a good choice. They will be hanging out with you, but also probably won’t know many people, including your dad.

  2. LW, you may have already explored this and if so feel free to skip this comment, but I was pretty surprised at hearing there was nothing you could do about dad’s theft; maybe you could not stop him, but sometimes even if something is not go-to-jail illegal it is still a tort and you can try and recover through the civil justice system. Without knowing more (and please don’t tell me; you don’t want legal advice off the Internet) I could not say yes or no, and you might not want the hassle. BUT if you have not already might be worth half an hour chatting with a lawyer. Most state bars can refer you to somebody who will give you an initial consultation free or supercheap.

    Bonus: Dad may go into hiding and leave you the hell alone if he thinks you might sue him.

    1. I thought this, too.

      Was his name on the account, or did the theft also involve his committing fraud? Even if his name was on the account, if the money was bequeathed from her grandmother to her for a specific purpose, and someone else took it for not that purpose….I think she should get a second opinion from a lawyer.

      1. Hey, LW here! Thanks for the advice, and I desperately wish there was something we could have done. We did consult a lawyer at the time, but yes, his name was on the account, I was underage, and it was a living gift, not part of a will, so my grandmother couldn’t testify that it was mine. Also, part of the story I left out for brevity’s sake was that Dad dragged me and Mom into a huge, weird, expensive, ugly custody battle and kept hiring new lawyers whenever his old one would quit, and though he obviously lost it was a huge emotional and financial hassle for my poor mom so we just couldn’t keep going.

        1. My father was an asshole to me in other ways (although with similar college fund outcomes), but I really don’t want to lose contact with his side of the family. So I quietly don’t speak to him, and when I see him at family events I engage with other people. When he inevitably seeks me out, I just tell him “I’m not ready to talk to you yet.” And then walk away. Even if all you do is walk to the restroom and wash your hands.

          And if you can’t get someone at the wedding to have you back, at least have a text-buddy you can contact to vent if things go badly.

    2. She was under 18, so it’s possible that the money was not legally hers. Laws vary state-to-state, obviously.

    3. OK, I may be viewed as backseat modding but I think the original advice of “Maybe you should talk to a lawyer is sound” and leave everything alone past that. I can see this potentially heading in that direction and would rather avoid internet legal talks. Leave the conversation about law to attorneys and their clients.

      Back in topic to supporting LW. It can be really hard when you have an issue with someone that other people cant/wont recognize. If you want, my piece of advice is to literally and without words walk away if this person tries to engage you. Silence is powerful and he will likely make a bigger scene by talking to the back of a person leaving.

      Nobody owes anybody a conversation and the captain gave some great scripts for IF you feel up to it, but just walking away is also an acceptable option, no words, no gestures, nothing verbal or non-verbal, walking away is a great power.

      Good luck at the wedding.

  3. LW: I just wanted to give you some ups for standing up for yourself and not engaging with this dick.

    My bio-dad also raided my college fund. I think I was 11 or so and had almost $1,000 saved (20 years ago) (pretty much every cash gift/allowance I’d ever made). He claims he used it to pay rent. Which may be true that the check he wrote from my account was used to pay rent, but it was only because he drank and gambled away his own money.

    We also no longer speak, although that particular outrage is pretty far down on the list of reasons. But I’ve never been forced to interact with him since I cut him out of my life about 12 years ago.

    So, big jedi hugs. You’re so awesome. I’m sorry your dad is garbage.

  4. I had a couple of similar experiences with my estranged dad who used his parents’ funerals to try to talk to me even though I’ve made it pretty clear over the last decade or so that I have zero interest in ever seeing/speaking to him again. This may not be true for your dad, but from my experience, abusive assholes know their presence is going to be a Big Fucking Deal for you, and they know that, given years of silence, talking to them is going to be an even Bigger Fucking Deal for you, and they like having another opportunity to control what you’re feeling, even if it’s framed in terms of reconciliation or whatever. My strategy, which worked wonders, was to politely say hi and treat it like he was a distasteful coworker I saw every day but had no desire to talk to. When it became clear that it wasn’t a Big Fucking Deal for me (which it actually was, but no way am I going to let him know that), it confused him and he ended up giving me a business card and leaving me alone.

    1. I love this!

      Just pretend he is someone that you used to know and basically have no interest in. How would you treat the uncle of your childhood best-friend that you met once when you were 8? Be polite, talk about the wedding. Don’t engage.

      1. This is great in theory, but since Asshat Dad clearly has no concept of personal boundaries, seem unlikely to work I would imagine. I see something like,

        ‘Bitter. OI BITTER.’
        ‘Oh hi, Dad. Lovely weather we’re having isn’t it?’
        ‘Why haven’t you called or spoken to me in the last several years?’
        ‘I thought the flowers arrangements were lovely.’
        ‘Fuck the flowers. Tell me why you’re such an ungrateful little c**t to me.’
        ‘Um. I especially like… the tiny sandwiches?’
        *nuclear detonation*

        Not that it would be LW’s fault in any way if this did happen, of course. But I’m not sure ‘don’t engage’ is a viable option with someone who is so oblivious to the social contract, that they will fully engage in the argument they want to have whether you participate or not. I think having someone else to run interference and/or just walking away is the much better plan.

        1. Yes, “oblivious to the social contract” is the key phrase. My father wouldn’t be (openly) insulting, but he does – not – just – get – the – hint.

        2. In my experience, the key is to say something politely acknowledging their existence, then *walk away*. Not always easy, but “don’t engage” doesn’t have to mean sit there ignoring the abuse they’re heaping on you.

        3. Not that this is a fun situation to be in, but I am pretty sure that at the very least it would be obvious to onlookers that LW is not the one with the problem in this event.

        4. Well, that’s where “Got the $_____ you stole from me? No? Then leave me alone, thief.” comes in handy.

          Along with “Stolen anything else lately?” “Do you just steal money from minors or have you moved up to adults?” “Do you steal from other children or just your own?” Etc.

    2. A funeral is also how my father, who is not unlike the LW’s father (I’ll put it that way), decided to try to force contact after I had refused to so much as be in the same building as him for something like 12-13 years. I wore sunglasses in the churchyard (where the service was held), took them off only to do a short eulogy sort of thing, and refused to make any sort of eye contact whatsoever. (The bonus to the sunglasses was that I could still keep the corner of my eye on him as he prowled the far reaches of the cemetery, staring at me from afar, without anyone knowing where I was actually looking. Yeah, it was creepy.) My mother had my back, and a couple of his sisters did too–they promised they would make sure no one forced me to see him. He sent a message via my sister, from the opposite end of the churchyard, that he wanted to talk to me. “Well, I guess you can tell him that’s not gonna happen!” I said brightly, and that was it. Just prowling and sunglasses and getting the hell out of there as soon as the service was done from that point on. So… yeah. People who try to force shit at important occasions where you’re too decent to want to fight back are assholes, and sometimes you just have to fake your way through it, I guess?

  5. If your reception venue is anything like mine then there should be a room set aside for the bridal party to keep their things in. Ours had a little bathroom and all of the stuff that I wanted my bridesmaid to be able to fetch and carry for me given that I kept getting caught up talking to people and I was wearing an enormous dress.

    Use this room. If he tries to talk to you you can say “sorry! got to get something for [sister]” (or just “excuse me” or whatever) and then go into that room where he can’t follow you. Wait a minute or so then leave and go and talk to someone else.

    Or just be super attentive to your bride! It’s her day after all – go and check if she actually needs you to fetch and carry anything. Make sure she’s drinking enough water, has painkillers if she gets a headache, if she’s got a bulky dress she might need assistance in the bathroom etc etc. Be super attentive (but don’t bug her, obviously!) – make sure all the guests have signed the guestbook! If there are disposable cameras on the tables – take photos of guests! If you see people taking photos of each other, offer to take the photo! What I am saying is that you can probably arrange things such that you don’t really have any free time to be chatty-chatty with your jerkface father because you are being the best bridesmaid ever and making sure that your sister and her guests have an awesome and non-stressful time and if he tries to have a chat with you you will, legitimately, have something else you need to do!

    Good luck, LW! It’s just one day and then I hope you’ll never have to see him again (I haven’t seen my jerkface father in nearly 13 years and not having anything to do with him continues to be a positive aspect to our father-daughter relationship).

    1. This was my first thought for a strategy as well. There’s so much to be handled at most weddings, especially for a bridesmaid/sister of the bride, it can give you nearly infinite excuses to make yourself scarce before things get weird with Dad.

      And if he really pushes and insists even when you try to escape because you have something to attend to? That is 1000% on him, LW, and whatever fallout is entirely not your fault.

    2. This is what I was going to say, although I did have a comedy suggestion to pretend you have food poisoning and thus every time you are cornered by dickhead Dad rush off to the ladies. That’s totally what I would do but then I am incredibly childish.

      1. I would projectile vomit on him, but I am also childish. Don’t take this advice, LW! I love the Captain’s suggestion of presenting an actual BILL. Dang, that is brilliant.

        1. I’m childish enough to want to do that too! Barfing down his front, heheh.

  6. A practical suggestion for the event:

    Have someone (a friend, a partner, etc) who is not in the wedding party run interference. This person, who is not emotionally invested, can keep him out of pictures with you; can pull you onto/off of the dance floor; etc. You shouldn’t have to spend the whole day being all worked about about whether that jerk is going to talk to you again; you can ask for help.

    You might negotiate with your sister and her fiance about whether this friend is authorized to remove your father from the party, as well, and under what circumstances it would be appropriate to do so. Also whether they want to know at the time.

    This friend may also give a heads-up to the bartender if alcohol has ever been involved in your father’s misbehavior; how the card box is to be secured; etc.

    The cool thing is that this is a really concrete thing for Team You to do! Someone can get the good feelings of helping you while you get the good feelings of enjoying your sister’s wedding.

    I hope it goes well!

    1. I’m right there with you on the removal strategy. The sister and her new husband should get to make the call of when he’s gone over the line and they want him out, but arranging that beforehand is key. Who’s going to take him out of the room (preferably big people) and what is the signal? Also, what would be grounds for calling the police? It may never get there and I hope it doesn’t but it is so much easier to handle things going wrong when you plan. Be there, done that.

    2. Given thiefdad’s thieving history, someone guarding the card box is a great idea. Not every gift comes in the form of check – lots of folks put cash in those envelopes. Another ugly side effect is that folks don’t get thanked for their gift, which then starts tongues wagging. I know that’s minor in comparison to LW having to deal with thiefdad at all, but it’s still a good point.

      I also like the idea of having a strategy figured out beforehand to remove thiefdad if things turn ugly. Actually, all the ideas presented have been pretty good, and sister seems on board (from the letter), so hopefully will be amenable to discussions with LW.

      I’d really like to know how this turns out for LW.

      1. Yeah, that was a great catch by Carbonated Wit there. I wonder if mentioning the security of any cash gifts to the sister might also help the LW in getting her to take this all more seriously. It can be easier to be all ‘bygones’ with someone else’s pain about an event in the past, but maybe specific threats to her own wedding will make her more realistic about the situation and more open to helping the LW in practical ways.

  7. Your dad is a big stupid jerk. I kind of hate him.

    Ignore him. He’s not worthy of your attention. I think the one you should talk to is your sister. She knows how you feel and you say she’s supportive, yet she passes on a message from him. Grudgingly, you write, but she still chose to do it. She may not be ready to cut her losses with your dad, but she should respect your decision to stay clear of him.

    A public place such as a wedding is usually safe. Abusers tend to pick times to strike when you’re alone and can’t get away and there are no witnesses. Can you tell some other guests on Team You about your feelings and ask them to run interference?

    I wouldn’t worry too much about destroying the wedding. If you end up yelling at him, he deserved it. He is the one who acted wrong. Your sister invited him. YOU didn’t do anything.

    This strikes close to home for me. I stopped having voluntary contact with my father several years ago. I won’t go into a big rant on why. Now and then my dad shows up unexpectedly at my house, or assaults me, or just sends me long awful letters. I hate it when that happens, but I can’t control his actions so I tend to be sad and angry about it for a few days and then move on. I’ve found that a short “No, I don’t want any contact with you” works the best. Logic and reasoning and explaining my feelings don’t work, so nowadays I don’t even try. And like the Captain says, then I get a safe distance away.

    1. Ack. If your dad is showing up and assaulting you, call the police! You can’t control his actions, but getting arrested might make a dent. Assaulting you is also grounds for a restraining order. His behavior is still illegal, even if he is your dad.

      Good luck.

        1. I would document all these incidents, if you are not already. You could perhaps get the police to treat him as a stalker. Many states (if you are in the US, don’t know about elsewhere) have changed their laws to make it easier for the stalkee to get help.

      1. Just to stick a bit of contrariness in there, you don’t know what Kellis Amberlee has or has not done re: legal remedies. Zie just put in their experience and feelings about it. Zie didn’t ask for help, and may not want advice. Which, this is an advice blog so people put their Advice Giving hats on, but that’s not always what people in the comments want.

  8. Just a quick comment: I would amend the card (in case he chooses to show it around and try to tell a sob story about how much you hate him and how much he doesn’t deserve it) to say:

    …When I was 17, you stole $_______, from me. That money was given to me by my grandmother for college. …

    You know, in case he claims the money was his to begin with.

    Yes, I know that’s a blatant lie. Since when will abusers and thieves balk at a lie?

    I also favor cultivating a very cold, calm demeanor, if you can manage it, LW. This is also one of the times when the cut direct (ignoring whatever he says, turning your back and walking away if he speaks to you, looking at your watch (wear one if necessary) and yawning if you cannot walk away, etc.) is totally justified. You do not have to talk to him. There is absolutely no obligation there and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    1. You could also add “with interest” if applicable (i.e. if $_____ sum of money is actually worth a lot less now or you have lost a fair amount by not having $____ in your savings account).

  9. This feels a little mercantilistic, but: I think you have every right to demand enough money to make you financially whole, not just what he stole. To begin with, interest. If the loans or work forced you to make suboptimal decisions, bill him for that too. Couldn’t afford teeth cleanings? He gets to pay for the cavities. The point is not just MORE MONEY, but that you existed for those intervening years and having the money now is not the same as having the money then.

    1. WORD. I’d love to send a bill to my father for the unpaid child support, money to make up for the crappy jobs my mom worked to support the two of us, the cost of moves across the country and the friendships it cost me as my mom chased work, the dating years my mom lost because food was too much to worry about, let alone a babysitter, the vacations my grandparents paid for so my mom didn’t have to pay for childcare when I wasn’t in school. I’m looking into garnishing his pension for the child support but I know he’s broke and I can’t get my mom her time back.

    2. You know, this is a really good point. Extreme odds are that you’ll never see a dime from him, but some sort of accounting of what he’s really cost by stealing that money could potentially be a good sort of cathartic exercise and maybe, maybe, maaaaaaaaybe make the point to him of just how much damage he’s done.

  10. Great advice, Captain. My dad also stole my college fund right before my parents’ divorce; the account my mom set up had both their names on it, unfortunately, so his theft was completely legal. The few times he would contact us after was always for money. After promising his half of the house would go to me, he showed up a couple of years later and demanded “his” half of it. My mom had to take out a second mortgage so she could pay him off and still keep a roof over our heads.

    When I got married, I informed him of the wedding but did not invite him. That was almost 13 years ago and I never heard from him again until this last summer, when suddenly he wants to see me. Even though I suspect he just wants money again, I wrestled with that societal pressure to “forgive and forget” even though he’s done nothing to earn it. We’re trained to worry about hurting other people’s feelings, even when they’ve done us wrong. I realized that if I responded to him, the best possible outcome for me would be a horribly stressful email exchange, and possibly a painful dinner. Why go through that to make a thief and a liar happy?

    So in the end, I simply didn’t engage at all, because replying to him would be taken as an invitation for him to respond to me. He gave it a couple more tries, then disappeared again when I refused to answer.

    Bitter Bridesmaid, you can’t escape his presence entirely at the wedding, but walking away and refusing to engage with him will go a long way. If he decides to make a scene, let him–your sister knew what she was getting into when she accepted the check and invited him. My heart truly goes out to you, because I know how incredibly stressful it is to be forced even into the same room with someone who has hurt and abused you so badly. Take it from someone who has been there: in time he’ll be nothing to you but an unpleasant memory.

    1. Urgh, turning up out of the blue is something my father did years ago. He had the hide to send an anniversary card to my mother (they’d been divorced longer than they were married) with some pathetic moan about “wanting to get to know me better” and seeming to think SHE would conspire with HIM to bring it about. I took great pleasure in writing an acid letter to him detailing just how uninterested in me he was, how he’d had his chance when I was a child and never taken it (I was eight when he deserted us) and oh, by the way, does his current wife, the woman he left us for, the one whose daughters he praised as being “so sweet” to my mother’s face, know that he’s writing? Or is he deceiving her as well?

      I had the satisfaction of knowing he was really burned by that letter. I did meet him once, years later, and it confirmed my suspicion that, even if he hadn’t been a cheating bastard, he was a totally boring and self-centred man I’d never want to be friends with. Haven’t seen him since, mercifully.

  11. You can also be that bridesmaid the whole day of the wedding – the one who’s keeping people on schedule, grabbing flowers, producing tissues at the sight of tears, helping the photographers, knows the who and what and where of everything – and then you may not need a reason to get away, because everyone will be coming up to you and asking for things. If you’re inclined to that sort of thing, the bride will love you forever.

  12. Everyone’s advice on how the LW can keep busy all day long is great. I just feel it’s important to remember that it isn’t her responsibility keeping out of the way. She should get to have a fun day. The responsibility of behaving correctly should be placed on the father. Preferably by the sister as a condition of coming to the wedding at all.

    1. I agree with you and was thinking that too. She shouldn’t have to go to great lengths to dodge him.

  13. As someone who’s run interference on a few occasions, let me tell you that it really is quite easy if you’re not emotionally involved and not a huge favor at all.

    About ten years ago, a friend was running a large music festival, and somehow both her parents were in town at the same time, which is odd since they both lived quite far away. She was close with both of them at that time (no longer) but they had a very, very, very nasty divorce. I’d met them both so it was very easy for me to keep an eye on where they were relative to each other and, say, bring the mom to the bathroom with me. (Dad was the more likely candidate for STARTING shit, but Mom would’ve contributed big time once it started.)

    I’ve also gotten between someone and an insensitive journalist at his wife’s funeral. I can’t say enough – helping in this way isn’t an imposition, and anyone you’re close to would be honored to be trusted and asked.

    1. This, and it takes some of the pressure off LW (as pointed out above, her day should not be centered around Avoiding Dad.)

      I have a large, loving, mutual-hobby-based social circle. My abusive ex occasionally shared this hobby with me many many years ago with other friends elsewhere, and occasionally shows up on the fringes of my new social circle. (It’s difficult to explicitly exclude him from public venues, but he’s pretty well shunned for reasons of his own creation that don’t even have anything to do with me – asses keep making asses of themselves, you know? – but he occasionally still fails to take the hint.) I have a few friends now who are absolutely gleeful about creating the Wall of Beth whenever he shows up; it’s lovely. I felt bad the first couple of times I asked, but then I realized it fell into the “make your friends happy by giving them something they can do for you” category. And, over time, he’s actually learned not to try to accost me(!); he stays on the other side of the room pretty much without herding.

      Unfortunately, unless your sister decides on her own to cut him off, to support you or because of her own grievances, you’ll have to share her with him from time to time in the future. Getting that support structure in place now will save you headaches, and ease your enjoyment of family gatherings, in the future too.

    2. I too ran interference once, for my Son in law at his mother’s funeral when it became clear that his stepbrother wanted trouble, and it was so easy! I just made sure that wherever the two of them were, I was between them. Sometimes they were at opposite ends of the venue, I certainly didn’t cling to my SIL but the troublemaker wanted him on his own, and it didn’t happen. It was actually fun in a bizarre way!

    3. And maybe this makes me a bad person, but because I don’t know the person against whom I’m running interference, I feel no obligation to be kind. Polite, sure. But getting to throw down with a sternly-voiced “It is time for you to go.” is actually a little bit…satisfying. So definitely: phone a friend. I’m sure they’ll be only too glad to help. And I hope you get to actually enjoy your sister’s wedding!

  14. Captain’s advice is solid, and all of these comments describing how to avoid EvilDad are spot on! But I wanted to throw out a thought on the flip side. Don’t let your avoidance of your Dad ruin your joy in watching your sister get married. (Or further down the road, if she maintains contact with him, potentially missing out on other big moments in her life that necessitate family coming together).

    I say this because I have watched my mom deal with similar issues. Her father (my grandfather) was seriously abusive, and they are estranged. At first when family events would come up that he would be in attendance at, she inevitably would get a bladder infection, presumably from the stress? Long story short, she wound up never attending any family events. This has continued for about 20 years, and her aunts and uncles are quite old and beginning to die off. Her avoidance of her dad resulted in her missing out on the lives of people she loved. She loved them, and has missed out on immense family joy due to avoidance of this evil man. Don’t wind up like her, because there is no going back in time to get back missed special moments.

    I second all the advice given on how to avoid interacting with him. But don’t exert so much energy dodging that you forget to enjoy yourself and this special family moment. Balance is key.

  15. Can you bring a trusted friend who will stick by your side for the entire night, including hanging out by the bathroom when you need to go? If dad gets pushy, having a witness right there might make him stop. Friend can also verbally intervene if dad tries to suck you in to a conversation.

    Good luck and I’m sorry. I’ve disowned my father and dread running in to him anywhere.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Having a stranger (that is, someone he doesn’t know) close by to say “Wow, dude, your daughter’s wedding isn’t the time or place for this!” could help shut him down.

  16. The advice on how to handle the wedding itself seems sound to me but the bit about presenting thiefdad with a bill has me imagining flinging myself between you and him in slow motion going NOOOOOOOOO. I don’t actually think it’s as unlikely as all that that he’d pay it back, or at least say he was going to, given that he’s apparently already bought himself an invitation to your sister’s wedding, and then you’re in even worse trouble, for a couple reasons:

    1) I’m pretty sure that money is not actually going to change your feelings, here. Even if you take the suggestion upthread about making the demand be not just for the amount he stole but also enough to make right the things that happened because of that theft, that doesn’t make those hardships not have happened and it doesn’t make him not be the kind of person who steals from family in the first place, so most likely you’ll still feel however you feel now about those things – and rightly so, in my mind – so you’re setting yourself up to have implicitly offered a clean slate to someone that you can’t actually give one to. This is not a wise thing to do.

    2) Even if you do manage to get to a point of being able to offer a clean slate somehow, it seems very likely to me that he’s not going to actually be on board with *just* starting from a clean slate and having to build from there – I expect that what will actually happen is that he’ll be all “yay, family, awesome” and skip a bunch of actually-building-a-relationship steps and then get mad when you don’t respond in kind, probably with the result of him bringing the money issue up again (“I gave you all that money and now you’re being a bitch!”) and reopening that wound. Why set yourself up for drama?

    Also, this might be me, but if I were in your shoes, for there to be any chance of the relationship being salvaged at all, he’d have to offer *on his own and with no strings attached* to pay that money back, as a sign that he fully understands that he was in the wrong; you asking for it or making it a stated precondition for anything takes that option off the table permanently. The relationship is almost certainly dead anyway, but you should be sure you’re comfortable giving up on it before you go nailing the lid on the coffin there, if your intuitions run the same way mine do on that issue.

    1. Possibly get across more like “ALL I WANT FROM YOU is the money you stole from me.” He might still get wishful thinkings but then she can say that that’s all she said she wanted, and I’m willing to bet that money would be really fucking useful to pay off loans.

      1. That seems safe enough, though I suspect it has just about zero chance of ending with him giving her anything.

        1. I mean, given the strong social message that FAAAAAAAAMILY! and all. Being able to look a family member in the face and say, “I don’t want anything from you, you have no place in my life and you know exactly why”, that’s pretty powerful.

    2. This.
      I was surprised the Captain didn’t have anymore to say on what happens if and when he ponies up. My dad is and was a horrible dad too, but if I said (or he thought I said) “HERE IS THE MAGICAL DOOR BACK INTO MY LIFE, IT COSTS $___” he’d open that shit right up and he is still the same person who got into my head when I was growing up and he will still have the whole bag of tricks that he played on everyone in my life, then and now. I don’t want him and it would seriously be a matter of: Can I live without this money? If I can’t, is there an option that is *not* my dad? It’s hard to put a price tag on a relationship, but if that’s what you’re doing anyway, keep in mind that buyer’s remorse is a very real thing, and make sure it’s worth the price he paid to have dear old dad right back in.

    3. I think you’re right on. The letter, the money – these just seem like ways of engaging, and I think engaging is the wrong choice. Quoting a figure and calling him a thief (even though he is one) is just a way of hitting back at him and it’s not going to make the situation, or the LW, any better. Eff him and his money, anyway. LW doesn’t need anything from him.

    4. I don’t think the point of the letter is to repair their relationship. If he’s unwilling to pay and she makes it clear that payment is ALL she’s willing to talk about, then good! They clearly have nothing to talk about and he goes away.

      And if he is willing to pay then good! She can use the much-needed money to repay loans, and THEN cut him off completely. Because it’s shitty to steal someone’s stuff even if you do pay them back years later. Not to even mention the other damage. His reward for paying back the money is getting to feel like a slightly less-shitty person, not getting a free do-over with the LW.

      1. Exactly. I got the impression from the Captain’s advice that the tactic was to have a reply handy for when the Dad is all, ‘BUT WHYYYYYYYY won’t you talk to me, I’m your father!!!!!’ or if other relatives make similar comments. Usually in these situations there’s not much you can say as saying ‘because you abused me’ in a public, high pressure setting takes huge emotional resources and can often make the survivor feel very vulnerable. Having something specific where the words themselves aren’t a huge emotional trigger, like the theft of money, provides a really good, succinct way of shutting down conversation.

        And totally agree it’s not an in with LW if he pays back. It brings him a step closer to basic standard of human decency, not best buds.

        1. Responding to “but whyyyy” in a way that suggests even slightly that the person can change your mind when they can’t – and especially pointing to something specific that they can take as ‘if I do this, everything will be how I want it!’ even if that’s not what you actually said – is pretty much never a good idea. I think that’s only come up here before in the context of ending romantic relationships and maybe friendships, but there’s no reason for that logic not to apply in this situation, too.

          1. The trouble in this situation is that there HAS to be a reply to BUT WHHHHYYYY? because these people will Not. Leave. It. Alone. There has to be some sort of reply, and “the answer is just no” …generally doesn’t work. At least in my experience.

            The money issue is succinct, embarrassing for Bad Dad, and intelligible to anyone who overhears. It is also, and this is the important part, not NEARLY as much of an emotional can of worms as “You abused me, you asshole,” which is always an arguable premise. Money is tangible. Abuse isn’t. Not even when there are bruises and rapes. (You deserved it, you little… <– you see where that is going, right?)

            Furthermore, the abuse business is something one does NOT want to be dealing with out of the blue, in front of strangers, and at a wedding.

            Take it from me, they don't like just taking a flat NO for an answer. Raising the money issue isn't an ideal way of dealing with this, but it may be the best way.

            It depends on Bad Dad and how LW thinks he will react, and on LW’s preference. But given my own experience with bad parents and a family who did not want to believe the game of Happy Families was make-believe, it’s a good strategy.

    5. I think it is perfectly valid to bring up the money that he stole. It has nothing to do with their relationship. HE STOLE MONEY FROM HER. He should give it back. Period. It is not an extra perk for her so that she will deign to speak to him again. It is HER MONEY. As the Captain said, return of the money does not repair any damage from abuse. It will not make her forget that he’s an ass. It is simply a thing that needs to be done. He stole. He needs to return. That’s it. Easy peasy. Yes, if LW doesn’t want to bring up the money, she doesn’t have to. But, it is an easy thing to demand and she is well within her rights to do so.

    6. Eh. I don’t know. I mean, really. He’s awful. He owes her money that he stole. Paying back the money means he paid back the money. Addressing the other harms is a different issue entirely. If LW felt like it, she could ask for the money he owes her, get it, and still never speak to ThiefDad again. At the next family wedding the card could read “you physically hurt me, were emotionally abusive, and are a liar. I am not ready to talk to you yet” and the no-contact could just stay the same.

    7. The money won’t heal their relationship. The money will get her money, and she needs money. That he stole.

      She’s not gonna get it, and therefore I think the letter is one way to get him OUT of her life for good. If he does unexpectedly pay it back, plus interest, and then expect something from her afterward, she can deal with him then — or not.

  17. Based on what my adopted sister has gone through with her biological father, I have one teensy addendum to the Captain’s excellent script — you don’t HAVE to call him “dad” if you don’t feel like it. You can call him by his first name. I know how words like that can be really loaded, and it may also help you maintain some emotional distance if he *insists* on speaking to you, like “Oh, hello vague acquaintance, what weather we are having.” Good luck, LW, it sounds like you really have your head on straight about this whole thing.

    1. This is a brilliant point. Words, most especially names and role-names, have huge power to shape how we think about people and situations. They’re great for reinforcing roles and power dynamics between people (professor/student, parent/child, etc.). Sometimes that’s all well and good, but sometimes it stunts our growth.

      *Not* using those more-powerful-half-of-the-pair role-names and using their person-names can totes help you reinforce “we’re all adults here. See, we are using names!”

  18. This is all wonderful advice. LW, I’m so sorry this had to happen to you. Something happened like this in my family too but with the added misfortune of no one taking our side. Now my immediate family and I are cut off from everyone else.

    My story: Dad immigrated to the US at 17, worked his ass off in college, and delayed starting a much-desired family of his own for 7 years so he could sponsor his whole family’s immigration to the States. The first older sister who came was grateful (and her husband was too). The next older sister? Not so much. Let’s just say her husband is one of those people who give welfare users a bad name (DISCLAIMER: I think the welfare system is good for helping people when they need it!). They basically took a bunch of money from my Dad, whined hard when the family matriarch passed away and willed me all her jewelry and money (which they insisted should have gone to their daughter), and completely wrecked the house my Dad had bought (and paid off) for them to live in. The icing on this nasty cake? My grandmother wants my dad to turn the other cheek and let his sister and her husband carry on with their bullshittery. Dad (and Mom) firmly stood their ground and refused, despite all the insults, lies, and stupid comments that were thrown at them. Then my Dad threatened legal action against their many illegal activities (which he had meticulously documented); this made the rest of the family go apeshit because “OMG Airing our dirty laundry to other people! How could you be so Americanized!” (lol)

    The holiday season hits me pretty hard. When I hear of people talking about going to grandma for cookies, cake, and lots of love, it makes me wish my grandma wasn’t such a bitch.

    I am so glad you have a sister and mother who is there for you. You’re going to need all the allies you can get.

    Sorry for the rant, but allow me to give my two cents of advice: Document everything, with physical proof if possible. Photocopy that letter the Captain suggested you have on hand. Every time your asshole dad tries to contact you, write down the date and time. If things get out of hand, you’ll have a body of proof to go to.

    1. just a quick note – my grandmother’s a bitch, too. I cut her and my dad’s entire family off years ago. They are horrid, hypocritical, evil people who lie, steal, spread false information and backstab on like a daily basis, among SO MANY other things. Also, my parents used my college fund to pay for a new car when I was 11. They did not necessarily need a new car; they just wanted a new one because they were sick of the old one. Didn’t tell me until I was a freshman in high school and I mentioned in passing something like, I’m so glad you guys started a college fund for me, thank you – I don’t want to have to take out loans. Parents: Oh! Um… about that. My mother denies it ever happened to this day.

  19. I like the captain’s advice, but have an additional suggestion: if he talks to you after you show him the letter, ask for the money firmly and be sure to include the words “…that you stole from me.” Doesn’t have to be shouty, but definitely say it loud enough that anyone nearby will hear. Annoyance or anger or frustration aren’t always deterrents, but public shaming will usually do the trick. And this is definitely something he should be ashamed of.

  20. Don’t know if this is possible or not, but maybe ask sis if there will be security (sometimes venues provide it/require it) at the reception? Or if a bodyguard/police offer/other trained person will be attending? Or invite one of your own? SAFETY FIRST, ok? It’s just…your father has a history of physical abuse (from literally the last time you saw him!?), and receptions usually have alcohol, and no amount of sequins or starch can stop that bullshit from resurfacing. Not that he will, necessarily, try to physically harm you, but please just be aware of it…Also, maybe don’t spend the whole day flitting off to an accessible but private location like the ‘bridal party room’, where you could be followed and isolated. But have fun!! (Sigh.)

    1. I agree with this: if Sister wants to invite someone with a history of violence then there should be someone who will be able to make him leave if he gets out of line.

    2. Seconding the safety concern. Also, talk to your sister about what plans are in place to handle thiefdad (or anyone, really) making a scene. A drunken, dramatic relative can make an event extremely un-fun, and having security (or specially-assigned) people to run interference and remove problem people is a good thing to plan for. It might not happen, but it’s better to be prepared if it does. A brief, awkward thing that people can laugh about later is much less sucky than having everyone flee hours before they planned to because they can’t watch the carnage.

  21. Another aspect I’d be concerned about is having to deal with various interfere-y relatives and other guests, who might not know the details and be inclined to meddle.

    LW has more than enough to deal with trying to be there and be a good sister/bridesmaid in the face of this hugely uncomfortable situation. If ThiefDad is a manipulative jerk (if?), he may try sympathy ploys and being the poor poor victim whose daughter is being such a meaniebutt to him, and LW could find herself bombarded by often well-meaning but aggravating approaches from people who want to ‘help.’ Or who pick up on the tension and want to ask what’s going on, aren’t you glad to see your dad, why don’t you want to make amends with him, etc. etc.

    The day should not be spent having to tell the same thing to one person after another, with fraying nerves of politeness that might eventually snap.

    So, I suggest something like a pre-printed card or note to discreetly hand out to anybody that makes such an approach. Have it plainly state the facts of the matter: ThiefDad stole the college fund left by grandma, this created a lot of hardship for LW and LW’s mom, LW is not inclined to forgive or forget, until this incident is addressed and rectified by ThiefDad, LW wants nothing more to do with him. LW appreciates your concern but is not interested in addressing this further, particularly on what should be LW’s sister’s big day.

    Give them the card, do not engage, do not get drawn into conversations about it with the explaining and the justifying and the arguing … if they persist, smile sweetly and give them ANOTHER card in case the first one didn’t take, or something. That puts it all back on them for being nosy, and on ThiefDad for thieving in the first place as well as then trying to weasel his way back into anybody’s good graces.

    If it does blow up, if ThiefDad chooses to force a confrontation, stay calm and leave it all on him. Change the focus. Excuse yourself to talk to someone else or tend to wedding distraction or duty. Stay focused on Sister’s Big Day.

    My couple of cents, anyway.

    1. Oh man this is a brilliant idea. I have a Thief Grandma and for the past 3 years since our estrangement, my sister and I have had to fend off such well-intended interlopers as you describe. We’ve found the broken record approach to be somewhat effective (“No, we’re not interested in reconciling with a woman who tried to have us killed for what amounted to a dispute over $2,000 and a used car, please can we just enjoy this lunch together?”) but a pre-printed message is so much more convenient!

  22. I feel for you, sister. Really, really. What a douche your father is. What about this: It’s vital, of course, that you stand with your sister as bridesmaid, but, at the end of the day, a reception is just a party. Why not skip the reception?

  23. Here’s an idea: don’t go to the wedding. Stay home and curl up with a good book. Schedule a stress-free private celebration between you and your sister to make up for your absence.

      1. Well, that really strongly depends on the LW. She will know whether she’d rather take the stress and be there for and with her sister or if it would be too much stress. Any decision she makes is the right one.

        1. You’re right. But I get the impression that LW and her sister are close so I can imagine that to miss a big day like that in her sister’s life would be really sad. I think if she felt it was too much and didn’t want to go it would be worth talking to the sister about the possibility of EvilDad not going so that LW felt comfortable enough. to go.

          1. I agree ’cause to be honest: I’d appreciate it when a lot more abusive people wouldn’t get invited to familiy … or any big event.

          2. All this talk of running interference, having scripts ready, building up your armor for a possible confrontation with jerkdad – it all sounds horribly stressful and exhausting, like the mental equivalent of running uphill for several hours while carrying dumbbells.
            How can you possibly relax and enjoy the party if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder?
            Refusing to attend isn’t maybe the best choice but it is a possible choice.
            There isn’t really a wrong choice – I’m sure LW knows what best for her.

          3. It sounds like Dad made his attendance a condition for a significant, maybe even life-altering, financial contribution. Now I’m broke and struggling so I’m biased but I just can’t blame Sis for giving in and not 100% standing on noble principle – she didn’t get anything from Dad growing up, she deserves something to make her life easier now. And it sounds like LW feels the same way and isn’t mad at her sister for making that choice.

  24. Several thoughts here.

    First, I strongly echo the previous advice of “bring someone who will interpose.” This assumes you don’t already have a date for the wedding; if you do, then I guess you and your date need to have a talk about What I Need On This Stressful Day. But if you have a large male friend who’s willing to get your back in exchange for a pretty good party, it might be worth bringing him along.

    Second, you don’t owe your father ANYTHING. As you quite correctly point out, he owes YOU quite a lot. You already have no interest in causing a scene at the wedding, so follow through on that and you’ll be fine. In the sadly likely event that he heads over to say hi, the script I would recommend is, “Hello, Mr. Surname. I can’t talk right now.” And turn to someone else.

    Not “Dad” — this person isn’t a Dad, he’s someone whose DNA you unfortunately share. And not even “FirstName”; there are a few parents and adult children who have taken that route, so he might think you’re being familiar. “Mr. Surname” is formal enough, especially with a relative, that it should bring him up short, and that gives you a chance to make an escape.

    Of course, this is where Imposing Friend should step in. THAT script is, “LW doesn’t want to talk to you. You need to leave.” If your father persists, the next iteration is, “You are done here. You need to leave.” Even if that doesn’t work, it should give you enough time to get away — but I suspect your father is unlikely to persist.

    Well-meaning relatives or family friends who try to reconnect you are easy to handle: “Oh, I really don’t feel like bringing up old dirty laundry. Look, isn’t Sister’s dress lovely?” And then refuse to discuss the past any further — you have a WEDDING to talk about, and that should be enough for any short conversation.

    Finally, after the wedding, if your sister gets caught in the middle again, you should say, “Sister, I love you and I love that you’re trying to rebuild this bridge, but I’m not at all interested in hearing from him, even secondhand. I’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t pass on any more messages, and I give you my permission to lie to him about it if that’s easier than just telling him I’ve moved on.”

    Have a great time. You’re going to be awesome, your sister is going to be lovely, and you’ll all have a good cry together when she kisses her new husband.

    1. Hey, it doesn’t have to be a large male friend. Can be any friend who’s physically imposing or has an authoritative personality/teacher voice or has fighting training or maybe one who’s really excellent at diffusing heated public situations. I can see the benefit of having someone tall for blocking vision – as mentioned upthread – but should the LW choose someone to run interference, there are a number of ways it can be done well.

  25. Hey LW, might you be willing to show your sister the blog entry/the Captain’s reply? I bet she would be incredibly touched by just how far you are willing to go to support her and she might have some ideas about how to protect you in turn. Just because she took Evildad’s check doesn’t mean she can’t lay down the law with him about how he is meant to behave at the wedding. It’s the couple’s show and on a certain level, they have to own that.

  26. Error #404: money not found.
    Sorry. Had to.

    Also…I agree with everything that’s been said here. I’ve had people run interference for me, and I’ve done it for others. In some cases it was possible to have a semi perimeter of friends around. I know that doesn’t seem feasible in this situation, but having even one noninvolved person helping to keep an eye out is helpful.

  27. I agree with the people who say you dont have to talk to him at all,just because you are at a social event there are no rules which say you have to make small talk with everyone!…Take yourself out of the emotion for a minute, if you had a friend who’s relation had treated her Mum like this, tried to take kid away and had stolen money from the child, would you choose to talk to her Dad?
    Dont feel obliged,avoid avoid avoid…..I expect your Mum will be there too, it will be just as uncomfortable for her,try and look after her too! Your Dad passed a message through your Sister,you could use that too! You could make it clear You will not tolerate ANY comunication with him,with you or your Mum, you could say you will call the Police if he does, and will get a restraining order.
    What people have said about the money, i don’t agree, abusive people NEVER think they have done wrong,and are completely justified in their own Minds,(thats why he feels able to come to the wedding after everything he has done), no amount of convincing to trying to explain your feelings will affect him,your Dad will use any talk of this to cause a scene,which he knows everyone is scared of,and then cause trouble in the family for you and Mum.
    It would be best not to explain your side,dont give him any ammunition. You have a right in Law not to put up with anyone who has been abusive in the Past, use it.
    I admire your Mum, what a great Lady,you have a great Parent, to be proud of, its a shame she has to endure this at her daughters wedding too. Take care.

  28. LW, since you are worried about your on rage getting the better of you, stay sober! You are much more likely to remain in control of yourself and your emotions if you don’t drink. This is my own strategy now on those occasions I know I will have to put up with Asshole Relatives at Important Family Events. If I don’t drink alcohol, it is just that much easier to disengage and walk away. If I have even one or two glasses of wine, I am just so much more likely to become a Rage Monster if these people get nasty with me. Letting the Rage Monster out on these people does not actually make me feel better. It is just more shitty on top of their shit. Shrugging, saying whatever, and walking away feels far more empowering. Because I don’t give these people what they want and crave by engaging emotionally with them.

    1. Oh god yes. I don’t drink these days anyway so I hadn’t even thought of this, but of course, WEDDING = ALCOHOL. A thousand times yes to this advice.

  29. What is with friends and family exposing people they care about to other people who victimized them? Thereby forcing the victims to bend over backwards while giving the abusers access to the victims again.

    I do not understand this. There’s nothing to be done about it in this case, apparently. But it’s not up to LW to avoid a scene. All this talk about the wedding being the “bride’s day” doesn’t mean the bride gets to force pain on other people, especially pain of this magnitude on her own sister. I just do not get it.

    1. Same here! Does the sister really need (or feel obligated by) the cheque Creepy Thieving Biological Parent sent her? I’d guess she’s been well and truly manipulated on this one (the bride, I mean). 😦

      1. As someone with a father who seems quite similar to this one, you would not BELIEVE the manipulation these types of people can lay down on their own children. It often works even when you dislike the guy, know you’re being manipulated, and are trying NOT to give in. It is epic mindfuck land, and it’s the kind of place one can spend years trying to desperately claw oneself out of.

        1. Scary stuff. Makes me glad my idiot father hasn’t tried that on, though telling him to GFH would be a positive pleasure if he did.

          1. Yeah and it usually takes a while for someone to break contact. It’s so ingrained in us to love our parents and to cherish that relationship. I know plenty of people who say “yeah, s/he’s a stupid shit head, but it’s my parent, what are you gonna do?” It’s easy for me to talk about breaking contact since I’ve done it and gotten some distance. But it’s not as simple when you’re in the middle of it and desperately want to believe things will change.

  30. Wow. I am so sorry your dad is such a jerk, LW.

    My dad also stole some money from me once. We had a difficult history, too. Fortunately he never hit me, but there were other things.

    It really sucks to be betrayed by that like a family member. It is so great to see all the supportive people here getting firmly behind the idea that it is up to us to decide when/if/how we relate to people who have done shitty things to us. The whole thing was much easier once I learned that it really IS my decision, and I can set boundaries, and — well you know all that because you kicked ASS at setting boundaries, and at sixteen, too! I really admire that and I think you are awesome.

    I think in general this advice is good. I just want to say that you shouldn’t have a moment’s doubt about setting the boundaries you think are best to set, at this wedding, just like you have done up until this point. Because you have been doing an awesome job and I believe your judgment about this is excellent. I hope that it doesn’t wind up being an uncomfortable scene but if it does that will be on your dad and NOT on you. Keep on being awesome!!

    1. Dunno if you’ll see this at this point, but I still wanted to leave the link. Harriett J, who I cannot seem to stop linking to, did a piece back in 2010 about cutting off one’s family and some of the difficulties therein. Basically, further affirmation + tips on practical application.

  31. I hope you are able to have a great time at your sister’s wedding despite your Bad Dad, LW. I think that there is a lot of good advice here, especially on bringing a non-family friend to run interference. Bring two if you can! (I know weddings are “plus-one” but surely your sister can make an exception to keep you safe and happy while you are being her bridesmaid.)

    Don’t hesitate to tell other family members that your sister’s wedding is not the place to discuss this matter if they “try to bring you together,” “mend fences” or just be nosyparkers.

    Reading this thread has been very good for me. I’m estranged from both my parents and sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the whole world who is so awful as to never speak to her parents. It sucks.

    But you know, sometimes they can turn out to be horrible people. You don’t get to choose your parents.

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