Ask A Manager: “My dad is dating my boss, and they want me to go to couples’ therapy with them.”

Did y’all read this letter over at Ask A Manager?

Alison deftly handled the workplace advice, but I can’t stop thinking about the letter and I want to say a few things to the poor Letter Writer about the family stuff.

Letter Writer,

This is a horrible situation for so many reasons. Your boss is cartoonishly awful. Your dad is her willing flying monkey. And your mom is no fucking help at all. You are about to learn a lot of very painful lessons all at once, and I am sorry.

If you can get any other job at all, please do it. Waiting tables sounds pretty great, especially since most places that would hire you will want you to start soon. You’ve got a knack for administrative work, so register at every temp agency in your town. You can find ways to volunteer and network and build a portfolio in your chosen field over time, and that will actually be much easier when you’re out of the toxic situation you’re in. Those board members who complimented your work – are they hiring, by chance? Above all, do not listen to people who want you to do “prestigious” things at the expense of putting food on your table.

Also, if you live with either of your parents, it is time to move out ASAP. I know this is scary, but I promise you: A house full of roommates and a lumpy futon in a room with a door you can shut is going to be better than living with either of these people. You’re gonna need some space from your parents – especially your dad – before you can think about rebuilding a healthier adult relationship.

Keep your plans absolutely secret until you’ve got another gig and can quit. Your dad is not a safe person right now. If it helps, think of him as Theoden, King of Rohan while he’s still very much under Grima Wormtongue’s spell. You can love him but your safety depends on working around him. His advice to you sucks. He is not on your side. Do not consult him about or alert him to your plans. Your mom is also not a safe person right now. She is prioritizing the fear of a theoretical resumé gap over your actual well-being. It’s time for them to both hear a blanket “Thanks for the advice, I’ll think about it!” whenever they counsel you to do something about your career. You will think about it, and then you’ll do what is best for you. It is very, very hard to come to terms with the fact that the people you’ve trusted all your life to take care of you and steer you wisely are not up to that job.

When you leave working for Jill, expect an extinction burst of her trying to keep you in place. She might offer you more money. She might offer to give you a more regular schedule. She might promise to not leave the baby with you anymore. Don’t believe her. Do not be sucked in. She has already shown you that she will abuse you, the damage is already done, there is nothing she can do to turn this awful job into an acceptable job. The longer you stay, the more time she has to damage you professionally and personally. She may turn to threats – “I’ll break up with your Dad if you leave this job!” And like, what can you say besides “Okay?” or “Good?” or “Do whatever you want, I’m still out of here!” It may help you to find neutral scripts you can repeat to Jill, like “Thanks so much for the opportunity, but [New Job] will be a better fit for me.” You can alter it for your dad, like “Thanks to you and Jill for finding me a position when I really needed one, but I think [New Job] will be a better fit for me.” You will never convince them that your reasons for leaving are good enough, so, stop giving them reasons and stick with platitudes. Reasons are for reasonable people. Unreasonable people just see your reasons as things they can argue with.

Also get ready for Jill (and your dad, by proxy) to tell a bunch of lies about you. Do not use her as a reference, for anything. The  story will become how she gave you a job out of the goodness of her heart and you were bad at it and also ungrateful. The truth is you are pretty good at your job and would thrive in a functional workplace with functional people. The truth is she would have a very hard time finding anyone to replace the work you do, and definitely would have a hard time finding someone who would put up with her whims as patiently as you have, especially for the bullshit low wages she is almost definitely paying you. This is a very hard lesson to learn, but sometimes people will tell stories about you that aren’t true to try to punish you or manipulate you, and your best option out of a bunch of bad options is for you is to let them think and say whatever they want, because for you to stay and try to argue with them or prove them wrong gives them more access to abuse you. Abusive people like Jill are experts in creating an alternate reality, where you are both the worst person who ever lived and someone who is completely irreplaceable and owes it to them to stay forever (and let yourself be abused). It’s easier to get out of this trap when you know it’s coming.

Finally, if you can put some mental health support resources in place for yourself, do it. Here are some places to start. A trained person who be a reality check against the gaslighting and terrible advice from your parents is a valuable resource.

May you be in a new job very, very soon.

May this seven months of hell not even warrant a line on your resume.

May this become just an entertaining story that you tell at cocktail parties someday. (In your shoes I’d be tempted to go to at least one couples’ counseling session because: story fodder and to ask the therapist to his or her face “What the fuck made you think this would be a good idea?” but I also don’t have to look at any of these people again, so, do what works for you)

❤ and luck,

Captain Awkward


95 thoughts on “Ask A Manager: “My dad is dating my boss, and they want me to go to couples’ therapy with them.”

  1. Thank you for writing this. LW’s boss and parents are appalling and I hope she can get out (I don’t remember if LW is actually a “she” but for some reason I assume that is the case). HUGE JEDI HUGS, LW, and please please please take care of yourself and take Captain A’s and Allison’s advice. ❤

    1. I know AaM uses “she” by default regardless of the LW’s actual gender, even if known, so it’s gotten natural for me to assume all AaM’s are “she” unless otherwise specified.

      1. I think Allison usually knows the gender of the person writing in so uses that when she knows it, and only defaults to “she” if gender is unknown, but yeah, I love that about her. I use “she” for all animals if I don’t know the gender, with the assumption that since most bees and ants are female, more animals are female than male.

          1. Neutrality isn’t the point of this strategy on AAM; the point as I understand it is that the default (especially in business language) is to use “he” to refer to the generic idea of a person and this is pushing back against that.

          2. Except it reinforces the idea that only women need help, that men can’t/don’t ask for help, etc. Also I was misgendered on AAM and it sucked, and I had people in the comments telling me “Well we ALWAYS assume LW is a woman, so it’s not about you” as an excuse. And I think there’s a lot of subconscious misogyny evoked, especially among male AAM commenters, when they think they’re explaining things to women. Allison herself doesn’t do that, but her commenters do.

          3. It seems like this is a good discussion to take TO AAM, since it is her comment policy and not mine.

          4. Actually, Alison uses “she” as the default for MANAGERS, not letter writers.

        1. Hi! I do indeed use the gender of the person if I know it. If I don’t, I default to she/her because it’s (to me) a nice counter-weight against centuries of defaulting to he/him. And I’ve had readers tell me that after reading a lot of AAM, they now picture a woman when they picture a generic manager (versus researching showing most people assume a boss will be a man).

          But I do not ask commenters to do the same; it’s just a habit I’m in with my own writing. I’m happy to talk about this over at my site if anyone wants to, perhaps on the next Friday open thread.

    2. I assumed the same. Getting random baby handed off to you unexpectedly and at length (for free!) is just such a gendered thing it didn’t occur to me the LW mightn’t be a woman.

      1. Ditto. People frequently expect women to have maternal feelings for any baby dropped in their path-or shoved into their arms-and automagically care for and nurture it. I didn’t think it would be a man for that reason.

  2. Rarely has there been so much WTF in one letter.

    All I can say is that I sympathize SO MUCH with parents that feel entitled to participate in your work/social life, to the point where they crowd you out of your own professional and social circles.

  3. When I read this over on Ask A Manager last week, my second thought* was “This needs to be a Captain Awkward letter!” I’m so glad you addressed this!

    *(My first thought was, approximately, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA nooooooooooooooo!!!!! Bees, so many bees!!!!”

    1. I could barely read the letter because the AAAAAHHHH NOOOOO in my head was so loud.

    2. My response on AaM:

      May 9, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      It’s too bad that the Ask a Manager and Captain Awkward collaboration has already happened. This would have been the perfect juxtaposition for Alison and Jennifer!”

      Called it!

      1. I also suggested that the LW and CA make an indie movie of the whole sordid story.

        1. OOOH! I’d watch that. Especially if they cast Bernard Hill as the father, and Brad Dourif in drag as the boss.

  4. Holy wow.

    Yeah. Line something up, ANYTHING up. And when you quit, thank her for the opportunity to get experience in your field and to beef up your resume, but you either: didn’t want your work relationship to interfere with her relationship with your father and thus, felt it was probably time for you to move on. OR didn’t want to take advantage of her relationship with your father, and thus to avoid the appearance of nepotism, felt it was time to move on.

    (partially)True, honest, gracious, and hopefully can be enough ego stroke to keep her from badmouthing you/smooth over family gatherings.

    1. I don’t know that I’d mention not wanting to interfere with Jill’s relationship with the dad, or anything about taking advantage/nepotism. I feel like that might just give Jill further ammunition for one hell of an extinction burst, because these are both ideas she can argue with. I’d stick to “I found something that’s a better fit.” Keep things as neutral as possible.

      1. “I found a better fit” and don’t tell Jill, dad, or mom where until after LW has started, lest Jill engage an attempt at sabotage.

        1. “It fits so much better because there aren’t three assholes in here with me stretching it out.”

          Say it to yourself, LW, as many times as you need to.

          1. This job fits like a beautiful evening gown… with three former occupants still inside it. And a couples therapist. And a baby.

        2. Don’t tell them where at all. Ever. Jill will still try to sabotage after LW starts a new job.
          Stay away from the family gatherings for a few years, or at least till Jill is no longer a member.

      2. Even if you wind up doing something completely different (such as waiting tables or working at a carnival), you can say, “I’m still young and wanted to explore different avenues before I settle down to a permanent career path.”

        That way, it’s not about “fit” at all, and if you change again soon (to an actual better fit, after a “just to pay the bills” job), you can say, “Well, I tried something different, and now I know what I really want.”

  5. This situation is my Monday Morning Reminder that the world will never run out of terrible people.


    Dear God, LW. I hope you read this. And I hope that this isn’t indicative of your relationships to your parents and their care of you to this point.

  6. One of the commentors on the AAM thread noted that the ENTIRE COMMENT SECTION was united in telling LW that they needed to GTFO of that as fast as they possibly could. When was the last time you saw the entire internet agree on something?

    1. Right? That’s pretty amazing. I hope we get an update from this LW and SOON!

    2. Also, the number of people on AAM who were like “I can get you job leads in my state!” I haven’t seen so many offers for help since that lady who was living off the break room cupcakes.

  7. Just an FYI to Cap & readers, lots of people on AAM have stepped up and offered the letter writer help getting a new job. She’s getting a lot of support over there!

    1. Yes, I saw the thread! It’s great! I wanted to write about the manipulation from family and Jill that the Letter Writer will continue experiencing until they are good and out of there.

      1. LW had also posted a few updates last I read, so from what I read it sounded like she was taking steps to get a new job and get out of that situation.

      2. Can you link this to that post in case the Letter Writer doesn’t read your blog? This was a horrifying letter on so many levels and you’ve got great advice for her.

  8. Oof. That letter is indicative of all the reasons I generally advise* people to steer clear of working for family or close friends of family. Now, working with family can be great, but working for family/FoF is, from my observation, often clusterfuckian on about the level of the LW’s situation. It’s way too easy to cross boundaries and ignore professional courtesies to the point of abuse when an employer is also occupying a privileged position in the family hierarchy. The only things missing are “tells humiliating stories about my childhood to clients” and “introduces me in professional situations by cutsey nickname I have always hated” and “withholds my pay.”

    Run, dear LW. RUUUUUUN.

    *in my capacity as opinion haver to whom people frequently overshare, not in any official capacity

  9. I’m all out of ‘WTF’ on this one, so will simply add a quick practical point: The answer to “I’ll split up with your dad” threats is a very dignified “What happens with you and your father is between the two of you. I wish you well.” (The out-loud answer, anyway. The true answer would be “Well, thank fuck for that,” but obviously you don’t want to fuel the fire in that way.)

    1. Similar to the abuser’s “If you leave me, I’ll kill myself” threat. 1) they almost never actually mean it, and 2) I’m not going to say #2, but I think we can all fill in the blank.

      Don’t feel guilty about the problems they generate for themselves. They are CHOOSING to be horrible.

      1. I have a friend whose boyfriend dumped her, wanted her back, and when she realized he was TERRIBLE and refused went and bought a gun and threatened to kill himself.

        I said to her: the worst thing he can do is not kill himself. The worst thing he can do is hurt or kill YOU.

        hashtag people from whom we should all get TF away

  10. I agree hard with all of this, with the additional note that, the longer LW stays in that job, the worse the resume gap is going to be, because as the Captain and others on AAM have pointed out, there is no way that boss can be trusted to give a decent reference. So even if a resume gap was a reason to stay (it’s so NOT a reason with this abuse, wtf LW’s mom), in this case, staying in the job is actually going to make the job gap WORSE.

    Get the NOPE outta there, please.

    1. If an interviewer asks about the gap on the resume, because you didn’t even list the job, you can answer simply, “I worked for an abuser, and got out. I just want to put it behind me, so I decided never to list it.”

      You’d be surprised how many people will accept that, and some will even say, “I wish I had thought of that.”

      1. I think AAM nailed this with “My boss was in a relationship with my Dad, and the family/work streams crossing was just too weird.”

      2. No, no, no. Leave the abuser behind by not mentioning the abuser to a potential new employer. Potential new employer is a complete stranger and is trying to assess your suitability as an employee. Keep sad icky personal stuff out of your job interview.

        Here’s what you do: Go on one vacation before your next job interview. If you’ve already gone on a vacation between school and now, great. Now, in your next job interview, say, “I took some time off to travel.” If you need any travel stories, you can mention that vacation. Or a vacation you took several years ago.

        Just repeat after me: “I took some time off to travel.”

  11. I’m completely with you on the curiosity about the therapist Captain. Like… is this actually the therapists idea? Does the therapist have some warped version of the story where the LW is actually a problem and Jill isn’t a completely manipulative person? I basically want this to be a scene where the therapist suddenly realizes that they’ve been being manipulated by a monster for months into believing that an innocent third party was the root of some relationship troubles. But really, the therapist just played into her hands.

    Unfortunately reality is not a scene I am writing. And the risk that it would not go the way it should go seems too high. Like in theory she should have a chance to air her issues and make Jill and her father hear her problems and stop making her life hell. But the risk that she just gets emotionally destroyed by a mental health professional seems too high, much too high.

    1. I have to admit, I would LOVE to go to that therapist meeting, but I’ve had a lot of therapy and am a lot older than the LW, so for me, it would be a joyous opportunity to rant like crazy about how incredibly disrespectful the boss and the father are. There would be no “working on relationships” but a lot of “do you even halfway understand how demented this woman is?” I’d be the person in the group session who never leaves space for anyone else to speak but who walks out feeling incredibly relieved. Also unemployed, but that would also probably be an immense relief!

    2. I agree. I would *love* for LW to go to the therapy appt and to be a fly on the wall when LW does, but I wholeheartedly agree that LW should stay the hell away from that. It would take a very very very brave person to do that, and I am not that person and I would not pressure anyone else to be that person either.

    3. Sometimes manipulative people manage to manipulate their therapists.

      Not the same type of therapy, but the author of the oft-recommended “Why does he do that?” does mention how many therapists of abusive men buy into the abusers’ stories about their partners, at least partly, and end up feeding the abuse. It would not be surprising if a similar thing happened here.

      1. Agreed. Therapists aren’t magic. It’s a really bad idea to walk into a therapy office with someone who’s mistreating you! Therapy requires emotional openness, and just like reasons are for reasonable people, emotional openness is for safe people.

        1. Oh, for sure going to that therapy session is a TERRIBLE idea and the Letter Writer should not do it. But I’m only human, and my curiosity/imp of the perverse would sorely tempt me.

      2. Oh yes, this 100% happened to a friend of mine all through her teenage years regarding her absentee yet still controlling father. And the most manipulative evil person i knew in college had a therapist who was like “you don’t even NEED therapy.”

        But I so want there to be a reckoning. Even though it is not a thing except in the story I will some day write for my own catharsis.

      3. “Why Does He Do That?” is a terrific book that I highly recommend. It’s for anyone who is trying to survive an abusive relationship of any kind (not just romantic!) or who has been through one. It should be called “Why do THEY Do That?” because the insights go far beyond abusive men in marriages or partnerships.

    4. Perhaps call the therapist directly? Or write a letter? Or find out if the therapist has some sort of boss/manager/reporting agency, and ask THEM if this is considered a good idea, or even ethical?

      I mean, seriously, is this a reportable ethical offense? I’m asking for real. I don’t know. But it certainly seems grey area, at least.

      1. I would think it depends on how much the therapist is aware of the whole situation. If it’s the therapist’s idea to make going to therapy a condition of employment then it’s at the very least unbelievably sketchy. If the therapist just thinks it’s an unusual and potentially-fraught family dynamic, then if everyone involved were sincerely interested in working things out, joint therapy could be a really useful thing.

    5. I lay 100 to 1 odds that the therapist has no idea that a daughter/employee is even being invited to couples counseling, let alone being threatened with her job and dad’s unhappiness if she doesn’t come. Unless Boss managed to find a therapist as unethical as herself, that “you’re fired if you don’t do therapy with me and btw your dad would be miserable” wouldn’t fly.

      If the therapist is aware that daughter/employee is being invited, Boss and Dad are selling it as “family” counseling while acting like they are pretty much defacto in a permanent, committed relationship already. Almost like it’s on the verge of becoming an intergenerational family business and they’re seeking counseling to do a successful handoff to the next generation.

      I agree that it would be fascinating to find out more about therapist by going, and I also agree that going could be an extremely abusive experience and it’s better for LW to run screaming.

  12. This email gave me so much anxiety when I read it over at AAM. Thank you for addressing the family side of things!

    1. Same – that letter has haunted me all week. All I could think of, while reading the response and all the comments, was that the OP was going to need to put some major distance between herself and both of her parents in order to truly be free of this mess.

  13. LW’s mom reminds me of my mom. Her viewpoint is that *all* jobs are terrible, that’s why they have to pay people to do them, and the obvious corollary of this fact is that a terrible job is never a excuse to quit or complain. Fortunately, she raised me with much more kindness and security than she got herself, so it didn’t take me long to decide that her advice in this area is no good at all. It’s totally OK to quit LW! I am rooting for you. If you could deal with this, I feel good about your chances of thribv

    1. Haha, that sounds like my parents! They were Depression babies, so I am sure that’s where they learned that lesson – be grateful for *any* job, don’t ever quit or complain, because all jobs are like that. It really messed with my head for a while.

  14. I love everything that AaM and CA have said about a mind-numbingly skin-crawling letter, but one thing stood out to me with my personal experience:

    Also get ready for Jill (and your dad, by proxy) to tell a bunch of lies about you. Do not use her as a reference, for anything.

    I have learned through two hard experiences that an employer complaining about former employees is a Huge Red Flag.

    1. I needed a summer job right after college. I saw a lab nearby was hiring and went to interview. Two different people, when alone in a room with me, looked at me intently and asked if I was “really serious” about the job. Of course I was, I needed money and experience before I went to grad school, why wouldn’t I be serious? Then I started the job it became rapidly clear that they’d hired a college graduate with two years of lab research experience to do a job that a high school student could/should have been doing. Suddenly the previous “unserious” employees made sense– if we were going to get constantly underestimated and underutilized, it’s hard to stay invested.

    2. The worst was what my spouse went through. It’s a long and sordid story, but basically he got hired to work at a company run by a person whose kids I had tutored at one point, and they seemed reasonable and friendly (if, you know, rich). He wasn’t happy at his previous job, and they offered him a ridiculously high salary and told him how much trouble they’d had with previous employees in that role and how much better he would be. They turned the charm on both of us, telling us the sad and in hindsight weirdly personal stories of what the previous person had gone through and put them through. Spouse had worked there about three months when they suddenly and terrifyingly turned on him– he was incompetent, he was failing them, they even insinuated that maybe he’d fabricated his academic credentials. Fortunately we were strong enough (or they hadn’t had enough time to groom us for their abuse) to say OH SWEET FANCY MOSES NO and he quit on the spot. They even tried to hold my pregnancy over his head to get him to stay (“how can you quit when you have a bayyyyybeeeee coming?”) while continuing to pour on the abuse. It was a shattering experience for Spouse and me and we still carry the scars 5+ years later. But above that: I am 100% sure that we are now another sob story in their arsenal for the next poor schmuck. “We were so kind to them and they just quit for no reason and left us in the lurch, but YOU are so much better and would NEVER do a thing like that” or somesuch. It sucks to know that, especially after all the work Spouse put into that rotten company, but we definitely learned our lesson.

    tl;dr: Just like you shouldn’t trust a romantic partner who constantly complains about their previous relationships, DO NOT TRUST AN EMPLOYER WHO BAD-MOUTHS FORMER EMPLOYEES.

    1. A friend of mine took a job where the person who would be her boss’s boss said “I ruin the reputation of people who leave before two years” which I told her was a big ol’ red flag. She took the job anyway ( she is a dear, sweet optimist who really needed to get out of Utah and to DC) and it was a miserable job. People who use the threat of bad references as a stick to keep employees are not good employers.

      1. Holy sh!t! I hope your friend survived and came out sanity and reputation intact!

      2. I’m just nodding over here, because I was willing to endure a *lot* to get out of Utah too. Even with a not-great job, my partner is glad we’re on the east coast instead of Utah.

    2. Cosigning this so hard. I took a job where, in the first week, my boss’s boss took me to lunch and complained about my predecessor the entire time. Unfortunately, I had worked with said predecessor at another company and knew him to be wholly incompetent, so this was not the red flag it should have been (in the back of my mind, i registered it as… less than ideal, but attributed it to a combination of justifiable frustration and an open personality.)

      Reader, that was the most toxic place I have ever worked.

      Lesson learned: red flag behavior is consistent across relationships persobal, professional and romantic.

    3. My former supervisor does this. When I first got hired, we were all buddy-buddy, I got invited out to lunch with her little clique, etc. And she would tell stories about people who used to work there, or sometimes about people who still worked there but in different departments. Oh man, that one woman who used to work in our department under her and then switched without telling her until the day of the switch–the nerve! What was her problem, right?

      And then we had a falling out over the stupidest thing (like, I legit did not realize it was a falling out, because instead of coming to me like an adult, she just gradually cut me out and cut me down), and I realized…oh wow, actually, I totally understand why other person switched but didn’t tell her until she was out. Also, all those other coworkers she’s always complaining about are pretty cool people, and yes it is totally reasonable that she has to submit request in writing to department heads instead of asking other workers directly, because she’s petty and cruel and makes people feel terrible.

      At the time of the falling out, one of our other department folks was still on good terms with me, so I’d get to hear what she said about me sometimes. Now it’s a new girl who’s polite but rarely talks to me, and I can only imagine what she’s told her. But hey, she’s close to retirement.

      1. Actually, I also realized recently that I’m *still* not free of her influence, because there’s this years-long ongoing project that we were working on with another department, and for years I’d just assumed it was like she said, and the reason it took so long was because the other department head kept changing her mind on how she wanted things done.

        Then we all had a massive sit-down to try and suss out a way forward, and when former-supervisor said as much (after a lot of needling), the other department head almost came over the table at her she was so upset because apparently it’s been *our* rotating department heads who have been changing things, something former-supervisor is absolutely aware of. Unfortunately, she’s spent most of a year getting in the good graces of our current department head, so…*shrug*

  15. I think it’s good for as many people to weigh in on this as possible, just because poor LW doesn’t have nearly enough people in her corner right now. After so much abuse, it’s helpful to hear, repeatedly, that you don’t deserve it, that it IS unusual, and that you should get out.

    I’ve been thinking of you since reading the post on Ask A Manager, LW. I don’t have a lot of concrete resources to offer, and I’m not religious enough to offer prayers, but I hope this experience illustrates how many people wish you well, and that good people are out there in the world. It’s going to feel like you can’t trust anyone again–and that feeling is very much earned–but I hope you’re able to surround yourself with kindness soon and that this nightmare ends quickly.

  16. Poor LW! I literally gasped, reading that letter over at AAM. I’ve had really terrible bosses and been in really toxic work environments before, but NOTHING as awful as this scenario. I cannot even.

  17. “This is a very hard lesson to learn, but sometimes people will tell stories about you that aren’t true to try to punish you or manipulate you, and your best option out of a bunch of bad options is for you is to let them think and say whatever they want, because for you to stay and try to argue with them or prove them wrong gives them more access to abuse you.”

    The above was a super-hard lesson to learn and I still struggle with it from time to time, because (of course) I like to think that I try really hard to be a good person and thus it is only fair and logical that everyone will appreciate that effort and the mostly-good results that follow the effort (IOW, I still fuck up now and then, but I’m not actively doing unwise stuff or deliberately fucking up).

    Here’s what a new age-y and/but pretty wise friend told me: “It’s none of my business what you or anyone else thinks about me.” It’s not something we can control (what others think), and fretting about it or trying to do anything to make what someone thinks about you ‘better’ is wasted energy and effort if you’re already going through life trying to be a decent human.

    “It’s none of my business” works really well on me because I have a horror of being nosy or intrusive (thanks to a very controlling parent who did not respect privacy or boundaries and still has problems with this) and probably go too far in the laissez-faire/hands-off direction to avoid being perceived as meddlesome in any way.

    it’s none of my business! It’s something I can do nothing about! This thought is, perhaps a bit paradoxically, freeing to me.

    If someone is actively saying stuff about you and there is something you can do about it, and you have the energy, time and resources to do it, fine, but if you suspect someone is just thinking ill of you…let it go. Be your best self, spend a lot more time around people who make you feel good and don’t stress you out (or alone and doing self-care things) than you do negative or awful people, and try hard not to worry about the kind of thing (like what others think) or let it weigh you down too much.

  18. I like that Jill presumes the babysitting gig, if it were paid at all (which it’s not), would be paid by the organization, not Jill herself. Sure, it’s wrong to stick the org with babysitting fees. They’re YOURS to pay, Jill!

    I mean, that’s the smallest of the WTFery in this letter, but it stuck out to me.

    1. IKR? Why would the org pay for babysitting? Does the baby work for org? Are they the CEO? Is LW the baby’s personal assistant?

      Per the letter, Jill volunteered to care for her own grandbaby. Presumably the parent/s believe that is what’s happening, that they are leaving Baby in the experienced, doting care of Grandma. I wonder how the parent/s would feel if they knew that Grandma, instead of spending promised quality time bonding with the baby, was dumping their infant off on a possibly inexperienced and definitely unpaid sitter who didn’t sign on for the duty and had other work to do.

      I’d be SO PISSED, myself.

      1. On the other hand, one of that baby’s parents was raised by Jill, so their normal-behavior monitor may be way out of whack.

      2. I’d be wondering about the same thing. Now maybe the LW is close enough to the baby’s parents to be called Aunt LW; but I would think that parents of a small baby would be *livid* if their baby was being cared for by someone who wasn’t the acknowledged, designated caregiver. If Grandma or Aunt Sue or Cousin George is supposed to be doing the caregiving, then that person *better be the actual caregiver.*

        If I had a baby – especially a pre-verbal one – and the person who agreed to babysit then handed Baby off to someone else – even if I knew that person – except for a real emergency, I’d be SO MAD. Babysitting privileges would be revoked, immediately.

  19. I have gaps in my resume. This situation is way worse than anything that has ever happened to me due to a resume gap. DO NOT FRET ABOUT RESUME GAPS, LW.

  20. So much UGH. This reminds me way too much of my emotionally abusive step mother who threatened me that she’d leave my father whenever any conflict came up with us. Newsflash she didn’t leave but I sure did. I went no contact 10 years ago and feel the benefit every single day of not having to be part of their continuing house of bees.

    From the original letter it doesn’t sound to me like the therapist has come up with the idea of the LW joining them. More likely her father has suggested it, maybe at Jill’s prompting, and then Jill has demanded it.

    These are people with bad boundaries who may not even consider that it’s not okay to ask, let alone demand, that LW join them in their couples therapy. As weird as it sounds some people, especially those with boundary/ enmeshment issues, assume that they can bring in whoever they’ve been talking about with them without it being okay with the therapist because it doesn’t occur to them that they need to ask.
    Couples therapy is for the couple to work on themselves. There are no featured extra roles.

    Jill has problems that no amount of effort or care or flexibility by the LW is going to assuage. Destroying and undermining LW’s confidence to the extent that she believes no one else will want her is an abuser’s trick. You can google the Duluth wheel of Power and Control and it names some of these behaviours pretty clearly for what they are.

  21. Holy Fuck. Wow. I mean that couples therapy session would just be gold in the film adaptation of your memoir. But, like, artistic license exists. Your wellbeing comes first. If you do decide to go though, imagine the entirety of the awkward army standing behind you, glaring with hands on hips in the universal “you must be fucking shitting me right now” stance. We’ve got your back!

  22. I deeply suspect that if LW turns up to the family therapy session and Grima and Theoden start on about work performance, Therapist is going to be like “WTF, you said that you wanted to bring your adult offspring in to talk about your family relationship, what the fresh hell is this, and why is it happening in my office?”

    1. If they started doing that it would be mighty obvious to any decent therapist that the session was actually a trap designed to lure LW in for abusive grilling. And that Grima and Theoden want the therapist to back them up on everything, so they can later claim “well the PROFESSIONAL therapist said you have a problem so it’s CLEARLY you and not me.”

  23. I’m pretty torn about whether to make this suggestion. I think the chances of it being a good idea in this situation are fairly slim, but on the off chance it is helpful: would it do any good to lay out your own list of demands as a stopgap until you can find a new job? Maybe even in the therapy session if you decide to go?

    Like, you could sit them down and say “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you’ve said and I think you have made some interesting points. I would like to be a better employee, and I think in order to do that I need an advance schedule and my duties/tasks clearly laid out in writing.”

    It’s all truth – you have been thinking about it, their points are about as interesting as a train wreck, and everyone wants to be better at their job. It could sound like capitulation.

    Only you will be able to judge if this is a horrible idea. I certainly don’t want you to be put in danger or made more uncomfortable. It’s just for if you think it will help based on how your dad and Jill would respond.


    Abusive people are often quite capable of working their manipulation in front of witnesses and being believed, or at least not confronted about it. I’ve been on the receiving end of verbal abuse and grade-A gaslighting where the person denied or directly contradicted things they’d said 2 or 3 sentences previously, and despite all of it occurring IRL in front of multiple witnesses and/or in an internet thread where there was seemingly no way to deny what had been said, everyone else seemed to unquestioningly accept whatever this guy said at any given moment. It was completely bizarre, like they’d all been hypnotised or something.

  25. Holy cats.

    Everything about that sounded like a flipping nightmare, but also: “Once when I said the way she was talking to me was making me flustered, she yelled that this is how she manages people, that I perceive things the wrong way, and that it’s a problem with me.”


    She would come up behind me and startle me, then admonish me for being jumpy. She would (and still does, but not my supervisor anymore) say small, cutting things, and then if it upset me, claim it was a problem with my perception. Fortunately, our department head recognized her for the bully she was.

    1. Yeah, unfortunately I had to *nope* out of that letter before I got more than a paragraph in because all those bees were very familiar bees (though at least my boss had no familial ties to me JHFC)

      LW: This is not normal. A resume gap isn’t the end of the world. You have skills, you are employable. Please please please don’t be me and get out of this “job” (and I use the term loosely) before you lose ten years of your life to misery.

  26. I can’t believe that any reputable therapist would go along with what was proposed to LW, but I guess it’s amazing what some people will do for money. I’m sure LW already knows this, but her dad would be lucky if that witch did break up with her. And what’s dad doing putting Witch ahead of Daughter?

    Yes, they will say bad things about you after you’re gone, but that won’t matter, and to anyone with any perception, the bad things Witch says will say more about her than they do about you. I once had a prospective employer call me and advise me to take one of my references off my resume. I was surprised, since I thought I’d done well there and left under good circs, but the prospective employer’s only comment was, “That guy’s nuts. Don’t let him derail your career path.”

    1. I was thinking the same thing, but someone did point out that /maybe/ the therapist was told more about it being dad’s daughter than StepBoss’s employee. On the other hand, there are certainly bad therapists out there (there’s bad everything out there) and I wouldn’t put it past StepBoss to shop around until she found one willing to enable her. If LW did go to the therapy (hopefully won’t happen!) one would hope the therapist would quickly sniff out the pile of BS and turn it on StepBoss and Dad, but seems unlikely given the overall setup.

  27. I want to comment on this thread, but I can’t stop doing the icky dance every time I think about the situation.

  28. So glad you covered this letter, Captain! I’ve been worried about LW since reading it over at AAM

  29. LW, I’m curious about why it’s so difficult for you to find a job. Unemployment is really low right now, so I’m wondering if your city isn’t such a great match for your career field. Also, I know the AAM folks are planning to help you with whatever you need, job-seeking wise and I hope you stay connected there. If you do, please check in with them about interviewing skills and so on. There’s a certain art to getting hired, but it’s an art you can easily learn. The AAM team will make excellent coaches. My guess is that a month from now you’ll have a shiny new job with regular hours, a written job description, and zero drama. Good luck.

  30. \\When I first started, she’d say she cared more about me being her assistant than dating my dad, and that if she needed to devote more time to making our work relationship better, she’d end things with my dad.

    Jill makes it sound like she’s willing to stop dating your dad to start “workdating” you. The fact that she thinks those two things are interchangeable shows she doesn’t understand the difference between work time and personal time. It also shows how ridiculously enmeshed her personal life is with work: You hire an assistant to allow you to work less, not more. No sane person would hire an assistant in order to spend so much overtime with the assistant that she has to stop dating.

    \\Soon after, my dad called to say that Jill had yelled at him for half an hour about distracting me from my work.
    In other words, “My dad interrupted my work to say that he was yelled at for interrupting my work.” And no doubt the same boss complaining about dad’s work interruptions *instructed* him to interrupt your work to let you know she yelled at him. Because work isn’t work for her. It’s workpersonal (as opposed to personalpersonal). Work doesn’t exist for itself: it’s just another way to approach the personal. Work is entirely beside the point — in her eyes, your job is to be engaged in the personal drama. That’s not how she consciously sees it, but that’s how it is for her.

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