#1118: “My dad’s girlfriend is causing a rift in our family.”

Dear Captain,

My dad was a pretty hands-off parent with me and my sister, until my mom died about a decade ago. I was just out of college, but my sister was entering middle school, so he suddenly became a single parent of a teenage girl. He pulled through, but he was still pretty hands off. Aside from some anger issues and weird body-shaming stuff that she and I have learned to tune out, he’s not a “bad” dad–we love him, we just minimize time with him because of the anger issues and body-shaming.

The specific problem is his girlfriend–also not a “bad” girlfriend! I want him to be happy! I just don’t want to spend time with her. I’m sure my sister and I dislike her to some degree because she’s not our mom, I’ve addressed that in therapy and I’ve talked to my sister about it. But we also dislike her for some very non-grief reasons. She’s a Trump supporter, she behaves like a teenager (she once picked a fight with our dad because he didn’t ‘like’ her Facebook posts fast enough [these are both adults with fully grown children]), she regularly gets black-out drunk, they break up and get back together all the time, and when they’re together they’re constantly fighting. None of these things would really be problems if she weren’t insistent on “being a part of the family.” My dad has told her repeatedly (according to him) that he doesn’t want to get remarried, but she keeps pushing for it. This is the root of most of their breakups.

My sister and I have been very upfront about that fact that we prefer not to spend time with her. We will when absolutely necessary, such as at my wedding, and of course we’ll be polite. When our dad suggests events with her, I decline if at all possible. My dad conflates our not wanting to spend time with her with us “being mean,” and this frequently ends in us being yelled at. Can you help me come up with ways to establish this boundary, preferably without being yelled at? I’m currently leaning towards seeing him even less, but he is my only parent, and my husband and I are thinking of starting a family in the relatively near future, and I think I’d like him to be in my life for that.

Thanks for your help!
Not an Orphan Yet

Hi Not An Orphan Yet,

First, we interrupt our regularly-scheduled letter-answering with a Public Service Announcement For Significant Others Of People With Adult Children:

You can be one of those unsung heroes, the nicest, sweetest, best, most wonderful, supportive, awesome person who your partner’s kids genuinely love and dote on, the patient and kind step-parent whose labor put food on their table, changed their diapers, put up with teenaged outbursts, taught them to drive, etc., etc., and it would STILL be a nice thing if you gave your partner and their kids time and space to spend together without you once in a while. It’s not personal. They just need it sometimes. So, every now and then, if you could gracefully go get a pedicure or go to the movies or something when they have parent-child time without making them ask you for it or take care of your feelings around it, you will have truly given everyone a gift. I have at least a hundred letters of the “I feel bad saying this, but I wish my parent’s new partner would fuck off for even a few precious hours when we are together” genre in my box. I have zero letters complaining about the reverse.

Ok, back to you, Letter Writer.

99 times out of 100 I have a “Well, if my partner’s not welcome here, then I must not be welcome here either” policy when mixing romantic partners and family who don’t get along or approve of the relationship. Welcome to the 100th time, the exception to the rule, when the partner is actually an asshole and everyone has very good reasons to not want to hang out with them. People should probably be polite…or at least start off that way… when you do come to a thing together, but also you should think about how much you inflict your asshole partner on others and have some goddamn mercy on the people who still like you enough to put up with it.

Did I say asshole? Would you prefer “childish jerk?” “Fascism enabler?” I mean, you took pains to say that this lady is “not a bad girlfriend” and focused on the part where your dad keeps inflicting her on y’all, but you’re being waaaaaaay too generous. It’s okay to not want to spend the limited time you get with your dad watching him argue with her just because he can’t bother to tell her “Sometimes I just want to see my kids by themselves, you’re not invited this time.” (Like isn’t it a RELIEF for him to be not fighting with her for an afternoon here and there? Your email subject was “Dad’s girlfriend causing rift” but your dad’s inability to set boundaries with his girlfriend is the real rift.)

I think he knows she’s unreasonable, so he pressures you to be The Reasonable One because he thinks it’s somehow easier to fight with you…and fight with her the whole time he’s hanging out with you… than it is to fight with her on his way out the door/after he comes home. And because, as a parent, he has some more power/authority (or at least history of those things) in telling you what to do than he does with her.

If you’ve never asked him “Dad, why is it so important to you that she comes along to everything? Would you still enjoy it if you knew how uncomfortable it makes me to watch her get drunk and watch you both yell and argue? Don’t you know how sad and lonely it makes me feel when you bring a date to our hangouts? You want me to include her sometimes as a favor to you, can’t I ask you for some alone-time sometimes as a favor to me?” this is a good time to try, and then listen to what he says, and see if there’s something in there you can work with.

You can also get real unreasonable about this, too, like, oh, she gets upset when she’s left out of things? Maybe he hasn’t seen “upset” yet. “Well, hello there, Rock, my name is Hard Place, and I will not play this game with you. We’ve tried the thing where we all spend time together, and it’s zero percent enjoyable for me to watch your girlfriend get drunk and pick fights with you because you won’t marry her. 

You can bring her to the wedding as your date, and I will be as polite as I can when I absolutely have to see her for your sake. Based on her past behavior, that’s probably as good as it gets from my end and we’re all gonna have to find a way to deal with that. Sometimes people don’t like you and you just have to live with it because you’re a grownup

Anyway, even if I really liked her…which I don’t… sometimes I’d just want to see MY DAD.  I want you to be happy, I don’t want you to be lonely, but it’s really depressing to think that I have to deal with [specific example of Girlfriend’s bad behavior] all the time as the price of having MY DAD. Can’t you understand that?

Instead of trying to pressure me to include her, I think you need to set some boundaries with her that your time with your children isn’t about her – it’s not something you’re doing AT her, it’s not personal! If she wants ‘family time’ she can call her own kids – it’s not on me & my sister to provide that, and it’s incredibly unfair that you ask us to.” 

If your dad yells, then he yells. His choice. Maybe you yell back this time. Maybe you include him less. Does he want time with his daughters or does he want a command performance? His choice. If you start a family someday and have completely understandable reluctance about how much your babies hang out with an argumentative white supremacist asshole who might get blackout drunk, that will be sad…for your dad. His choice. If it’s a solace to you, your kids won’t really miss what they don’t know, and protecting them from assholes is way better than tying yourself in knots. But of course it’s sad. You need your dad to be so much better than this, and maybe he can’t right now. Of course you’d be sad.

As for the girlfriend, just like “come watch my band practice” isn’t a date, “I’m going to see my adult kids that I never get to see, please join us all for a stilted dinner they wish you weren’t attending but don’t feel like they can say no to” isn’t a date. If your dad’s girlfriend has feelings about not being included in your family outings, she can tell her therapist, her bartender, her pastor/rabbi/guru, her diary, her friends (if any), the unfortunate other person waiting at the bus stop who forgot headphones today, the New York Times reporter who will inevitably come by to ask her opinion on world events one “economically anxious” diner customer at a time, and/or…your dad! .

And then your dad can say “Well, stop acting like an asshole when we all get together, it’s not exactly a mystery why my kids don’t like you” or “I don’t know why they don’t like you, my dove, I know you try your best, it’s just going to take more time. But forcing it won’t help, so I’m going solo this time!” as it occurs to him. It’s his job to figure this out so that he can be a dad, not yours to endlessly accommodate it so that you can have one.

 

 

 

142 comments
  1. Can I be the person who asks you to ask for what you need, and devil take the hindmost?

    I’m not advocating being rude. Of course not. That would put you in the wrong. I think I’m just a little oversaturated, between this site and others I subscribe to, of people who can’t seem to ask what for what they need, and then wonder why they don’t get it.

    You seem like a lovely, reasonable person OP. Absolutely nothing in your letter struck me as precious or unreasonable. I can see what it is you want: time with your dad without this new person around. You’ve never once asked him to dump her and spend all his time with you. What instead you think you’d like, is some instances where you get to hang out with him without her around.

    That is not a wrong thing to want.

    What I wish for you, OP, is that you take the lovely politeness and reasonable-ness that you displayed in this letter, and use it to talk to your dad. Tell him what you need. Tell him what you want. At that point, of course, the ball will be in his court… but you will have spoken your truth, politely and pleasantly, and I just don’t see that you can be faulted for that.

    I’ll leave you with what I tell my kids (I’m a primary school teacher). As long as what you want isn’t actively hurting someone else or being mean or cruel to them, you can absolutely ask for the things you want and need.

    I believe in you, OP.

    • larielera said:

      From the OP:

      “My sister and I have been very upfront about that fact that we prefer not to spend time with her. We will when absolutely necessary, such as at my wedding, and of course we’ll be polite. When our dad suggests events with her, I decline if at all possible. ”

      Second, grown-assed adults shouldn’t need to be TOLD that some things–the immature behavior, fighting, and drunkenness mentioned in this letter–make them unpleasant to be around.

      • Buttercheek said:

        Yeah, like you don’t want to get run over by a car, but you shouldn’t need to go around telling everyone getting in a car to stay on the street and not the sidewalk LOL. The people you choose to have in your life DO affect other people. I think the advice for that needs to be told – that if you hang out with jerks and don’t have boundaries, then other people can’t/won’t be around you. It is not a matter of people outside of that setting boundaries in these cases.

  2. policychick said:

    This is such sound advice, and (for me) I see it in a broader light.

    I have a lot of issues with my Dad. Growing up, he was emotionally abusive to me. Throughout my adult life, he’s ‘taken in’ my successes as a his own, whereas my failures disappoint him. Basically, his love is conditional and I rarely measure up.

    Anyway, I know that getting past all of that, and living my best life is completely up to me. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean I owe him anything – forgiveness, tolerance, being the bigger person, whatever. Taking care of me is the beginning and end of my emotional responsibilities; no one else. And certainly not the parent who, as a grown-ass man and father, did me so much harm.

    So for you LW, I don’t think you owe the bending-over-backwards, the tolerating the girlfriend, the smoothing over and putting up with yelling and anger so your future kids have a grandfather. All that noise is squarely in your dad’s lap.

    So take care of yourself, LW. Set your boundaries, make them clear, and let your dad do the heavy lifting. I hope that made sense!

    • Madtown Maven said:

      Hi, Policychick. I think we had the same kinds of dads. Sorry. Your third paragraph is a therapy session in itself. Thanks for writing it.

  3. Don'tMindMe said:

    “It’s his job to figure this out so that he can be a dad, not yours to endlessly accommodate it so that you can have one.” Yes, that feeling has bothered me for over thirty years now, and I’ve never been able to articulate it quite that well. It’s only in the past year that my mom’s husband has been so flagrantly over the top awful that I felt able to tell her if he’s the price of admission to have a mom and grandma, we can’t afford it.

  4. Clarry said:

    “my husband and I are thinking of starting a family in the relatively near future, and I think I’d like him to be in my life for that.”

    This probably doesn’t need to be said, but just in case: “I just really don’t want the baby in the care of someone who gets blackout drunk even if she’s with other people at the time. Taking care of an infant is responsibility enough, but taking care of an infant while watching another adult who might or might not be drinking is too much.

    • Aveline said:

      I have grave concerns about the type of message the dynamic with father sends to a child.

      Will she be inadvertently sending the message that you should allow yourself to be treated poorly because “family” trumps all? That cranky old (white) men should be allowed to act like spoiled brats because “reasons.”

      Children should have relationships with grandparents that teach them positive lessons. But no relationship is better than one that teaches the wrong lessons and cauess pain.

      • Temporary Null said:

        My relationship with my grandfather taught me that men were unpredictable, unempathetic and oblivious. I think I would have been better off learning that lesson when I was older and had more options than avoidance and dissociating.

      • Jennifer Snook-Tracy said:

        Especially the age old yet never worn out message of “I’m a screamer and a body shamer who routinely withholds affection, yet accuse YOU of being the mean one if I get any pushback during an argument.” Which, A) HAH and B) even if it was true, where do you think they picked up that particular dynamic, Daddy-O?

      • YES!!! And if we allow our kids to be subjected to crap from dysfunctional, angry, yelling, selfish people/grandparents because (quoting Captain) “Faaaaaaamily!”, trust me, you are doing them no favors.

    • Alli525 said:

      THIIIIIIIIIIS. And I dislike referencing gender stereotypes when I’m not sure any exist in a particular situation, but it’s not entirely unreasonable that a male person might not be comfortable with caring for infants/small children, and could possibly try to unload (some of?) those responsibilities onto a female person, EVEN IF the child’s parents have specifically asked for this not to happen. If this happens with OP’s dad, then OP’s kids will be “looked after” in part by an unrepentant alcoholic.

      • CMart said:

        It’s enraging for me to report that, as a newer parent, I’ve already lost count of the number of “Grandpa doesn’t do diapers!” onesies, mugs, jokes, banter, memes, and and all sundry messages I have seen.

        Some of this messaging is all in “good fun”. Some of this messaging has been seeing the women around the otherwise doting Grandpa being conscripted into doing diapers. In two cases it’s resulted in an infant wearing the same soiled diapers for 8 hours because the womenfolk were away while Grandpa was providing the childcare and “I told you, grandpa doesn’t do diapers.”

        • CommanderBanana said:

          Wow.

          Someone who would leave an infant in a soiled diaper for 8 hours is not someone who can provide childcare.

        • Kitty said:

          Someone who would let a child sit in their own waste for 8 HOURS is someone who doesn’t get to be in that child’s life anymore. Full stop.

        • Pennie said:

          WTF? He should have thought of that before agreeing to look after an infant for 8 months.

          • Pennie said:

            Err, 8 hours, not months!

        • That’s pretty appalling. As you probably already know, baby skin is tender and prolonged contact with body waste can cause serious rash.

          My partner’s grandkids have spent a fair amount of time with us. One thing I love about the man is that when a diaper needs changing, HE does it. His feeling is that they’re his grandchildren, so his diapers are his responsibility. Heck, he’s probably better at it than I am, given that he raised two kids and I had one.

          That said, he doesn’t mind if I help distract a one-year-old who’s decided she doesn’t want to stop playing and have her diaper changed. But he doesn’t expect me to deal with the poop.

        • Jules the Third (I think) said:

          oh hell no.

        • Convallaria majalis said:

          “Grandpa does not do diapers” – aargh! What a shitty thing!

          I guess I have been very, very lucky. My grandfather was a wonderful human being, a volunteer in World War II, a car enthusiast and a technician, so very much a stereotype of a manly man – and yet, he ADORED children and quitely took care of all of our needs when we were children.

          By the way, gasoline and oil are much more harmful to health than a child’s poop and I have never heard of onesies and t-shirts with a text “Grandpa does not do oil change”.

      • Jennifer Snook-Tracy said:

        Especially one that has demonstrated he was uncomfortable and hands off in his parenting history.

    • Clarry said:

      Just to be clear what I’m envisioning. Let’s say LW has that baby. Let’s say her father wants to bring his girlfriend over for the afternoon to visit, a nice easy time of it hanging out while the baby naps and gurgles, smiles, eats, needs diaper changes and coos. Let’s say it’s the most unobjectionable visit if it were coming from someone else. It’s easy, no pressure, just hanging out, maybe watching television or chatting whenever LW isn’t actively doing something for the baby. Once you add the POSSIBILITY of drinking alcohol or having noisy arguments, even if those things don’t happen, you’ve still got the responsible person, LW, having to be on the look-out, having to be nervous that they MIGHT happen. As far as I’m concerned, that’s asking too much. Taking care of the baby, maybe doing some laundry or doing some computer work, that’s plenty. And that’s exactly what Father and Girlfriend are going to try to push. Why are you upset? We only were screaming at the top of our lungs once last week. We didn’t do it yesterday, and it’s been days since anyone was drunk. Don’t we get any credit for that? (Answer: No. 2nd answer: Hell no.)

      And not only that. A Trump supporter?

      • Clorinda said:

        Trump supporters don’t get to take care of other people’s babies. They are obviously unfit.

        • Drew said:

          Cages do not belong at playdates.

  5. Sarah said:

    “it would STILL be a nice thing if you gave your partner and their kids time and space to spend together without you once in a while. It’s not personal. They just need it sometimes.” — I love this so much. I’d also be perfectly happy to have solo time with my stepmom once in a while, too, because she’s great and I really do like her, but it’s like they’re locked together with an invisible chain that I cannot see. I can’t imagine how miserable it would be if she were as horrible as LW’s dad’s gf. I hope you can set some good boundaries, LW, and that your dad figures out how to respect them!

    • Cherries in the Snow said:

      This! My husband’s stepmother is amazing and we love her to bits, but he and his dad still occasionally go out for a drink to watch the football one on one without either of their spouses. Both me and his stepmom are more than happy to give them that time together; I think it’s really important and I’m glad to see them working to maintain a good relationship. It’s not hard.

      For the Lw, I’d say use the scripts but don’t get your hopes up too much; your dad is really unlikely to see your point of view (or acknowledge it if he does). More boundaries and less time together Re probably going to end up being your solution. Hang up/leave when he starts yelling. It’s too bad, but think about your future kid—do you really want them to be around a screamer/body shamer + his drunken immature volatile girlfriend, just so you can say “this is your grandpa and he’s your family!!”? Sometimes it’s better to make your own family when the one nature provided for you kind of sucks.

      • LeighTX said:

        Ooooh, how I wish my own husband’s stepmother were this willing to step back. She’s not awful by any stretch, she’s very nice, but she’s ALWAYS THERE. They’ve only been together three years, and we were very accustomed to having Father-in-Law all to ourselves but now she’s at every event and if he drops by she comes too and when we’re together she talks and talks and talks about her own family and people we don’t know and uuuggghhh I would love to have just one conversation with him without her input!

    • Pizkies said:

      This this this. Hell, my birth parents are alive and together, and I STILL carve out occasional time to meet them one-on-one. The “official” excuse is that they just have different hobbies – I’ll go shopping with my mom and art-watching with my dad – but we all explicitly acknowledge that this time apart is a good thing for all relationships involved. I’ve had some amazing talks with my dad about his childhood and life that I would’ve never had if my mom were there (I love her to bits, but she can dominate a conversation like no one’s business), and I’ve had so many fun times with my mom when we haven’t had to adapt to my dad’s need for structure and planning. It’s great. They’re also great and lovely together, but I’m so glad I’m in a family where separate relationships are encouraged across the board.

    • Inspector Spacetime said:

      Yeppp. We never see my mom without her new boyfriend anymore. He’s literally there all the time, including family events and major holidays. I can’t even have a phone conversation with her without her relaying things I’m saying to him in the background.

      • Michelle said:

        My brother started doing that with wife #2 SO MUCH that I quit calling. Example: I called him to wish him a happy birthday, he says thanks then he says “It’s my sister wishing me a happy birthday. Not her, my other sister Michelle. I told her thanks.” Just put it on speaker phone if she had to hear everything.

        • Inspector Spacetime said:

          Oh jeez, that’s annoying. I’ll go for like ten minutes in a conversation with my mom thinking it’s just us, and then she’ll relay something to her bf and I’ll be like, “Oh, he’s been listening this whole time?” I should probably say something, but I don’t care that much yet.

          • Salymander said:

            Yes, my sis was always big on doing this stuff. FaceTime with BIL shoving his face in the way, talking over us and lurking in the background and supervising the conversation. Sitting down between us on a small loveseat so he could be in the middle of the conversation. Not just once or twice, either, but all the freaking time! Ugh, just exhausting. And that was without any alcohol or screaming, just rampant attention seeking and immaturity.

            I think that people who get blackout drunk, engage in screaming fights, body shame and withhold affection from their kids, or enable their partner to do any if these things are not great people to have around your child. I know the idea of denying your child a grandparent is uncomfortable, but in some cases it is necessary.

            I cut off my dad entirely when my daughter was born, as he is a dangerous and violent pedophile. My parents were long divorced, so I didn’t have to cut off contact with them both.

            I was able to keep a rather shallow and uninvolved relationship with my mom. She sounds a lot like your dad, OP. My mom never babysat, and I always closely supervised her when she was with my daughter. She questioned me about it a few times, and I was really honest about why that was. It was intensely uncomfortable, and she was sulky about it at first, but eventually she realized that I would not change my mind. Lots of strong and obvious boundaries helped. My daughter got to know my mom a bit, but they were never close due to my mom’s difficult personality. In retrospect, it seems like a lot of effort without much of a rewarding experience for my daughter. Not dangerous or nasty, but not involved either. I didn’t want to put my mom in a position where she could give or withhold affection as a manipulative device, so the contact had to be limited and strictly controlled. It took a lot of work and regular reinforcement to keep boundaries in place.

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      There was this Big Study in the 90’s that said that the healthiest thing for offspring is to demonstrate the “primacy” of their parents’ committed relationship, whether or not it’s the parents of origin. I have only my own personal anecdata, but I suspect that people let that override their gut parenting instincts in unhealthy ways, particularly when there are addiction/ codependency issues at play overriding other gut instincts.

      Also, PSA to stepparents everywhere: yup. It would be great if your s/o had a better relationship with their kids. Guess what? That’s not your responsibility, and the kids and your POSSLQ and the co-parents will love or hate you on their own merit. If they are not going to hang out with your kids unless you drive them and be their entourage and claque, well, maybe that’s unpaid emotional labor best left undone for today.

    • QoB said:

      Absolutely. Hell, my parents have been married for decades and I still arrange to see them one-on-one every so often.

    • One of the weirdest and most awkward evenings of my life involved my high school BFF asking if it was okay if her mom came to the pub with us for a little bit, just to catch up with me as well as spend time with her while we were both in Hometown for Christmas. I said sure, since I had known her mom for years and was willing to be agreeable; I was more than a little surprised when the stepdad, whom I had never met because the mom had married him after BFF had left for university, turned up too. He was a perfectly pleasant man, but we had nothing in common, and when the mom started talking to my friend mostly, it left the two of us stranded in the lagoon of boring small talk. My friend later apologized profoundly and said she hadn’t expected that to happen, but she hadn’t realized quite how profound her mother’s refusal to leave the house without the stepdad was.

  6. Dear LW,

    My experience indicates your father won’t stop bringing his girlfriend along.

    My brother and I were explicit for years that we would prefer time without Daddy’s Girlfriend. Both of us asked him damn near every time whether DGF was expected. Even when he said she wasn’t, she’d often show.

    So I have no advice for how to avoid her and keep seeing him.

    I believe you should consider her part of the price of admission for socializing with your father. Over time, I found that price too high.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • bad at screen names said:

      Yeah, it sounds like this is one move in the GF’s ongoing power struggle with your dad. She sounds a lot like my former friend. It doesn’t matter if she enjoys being with her you & your sister or not, it’s about her trying to control your dad (imo). Your dad’s done a cost/benefit analysis & has decided it’s easier to piss off you & your sister than the GF – and that really sucks, I’m sorry.

      • I don’t know what it is. If the LW’s father is at all like mine the girlfriend might merely be misinformed (as well as awful). My father told different people different things. (Or maybe he allowed people to infer different things.)

        For example, we found out years later that DGF thought that the country house was Daddy’s and hers. (It wasn’t. My father’s mother was still alive, and the house was hers.) Apparently he’d also told DGF (or allowed her to infer) that she was our step mother.

        He’d told us that he wasn’t serious about her, that he didn’t like her much, and that we weren’t to think of her as having any bearing on our lives. We had observed him with other women while he was dating her.

        So I have no idea what’s up with the LW’s father and his girlfriend. She sounds like a very unpleasant person – much worse than the girlfriend my brother and I disliked.

  7. Abe Froman said:

    I think kids really change the equation on things like this. It’s amazing what we will put up with from our own parents, but then when we see the possibility of our children facing that situation/toxicity/abuse it can become a lot easier to say no. I made myself responsible for my mother’s happiness for a lot of years and dealt with so many blow ups over nothing, but when my son was born, I finally found the ability to say no, to disengage, and to make it clear that we would not accommodate her behavior. And everything is better now.

    • Solo said:

      I hear that, but sometimes kids change the equation in the wrong direction. “I’d be fine with never speaking to my mother again, but who am I to deny my child a relationship with their grandmother?” (Answer: EXACTLY THE RIGHT PERSON to protect your child from a known abuser who will instill weirdly warped expectations around family in your child.)

      aka “but faaaaaaamily” is a hell of a drug :/

      • Pennie said:

        I’m doing this as well. Now that I’m an adult, and I don’t live with him, my dad is actually quite a charming person. But I have a baby due in October, and I don’t want her to have a close relationship with him, and potentially take the risk of him being violent to her. Which means I’m now withdrawing from my dad, and making my excuses for the occasions he wants to catch up one on one.

        Same with my mother. She’s threatening to visit us often when the baby’s due. I’m just trying to put her off for the time being because I don’t want bubba to have to put up with her extremely negative behaviour more often than at christmas and birthdays. I will probably have to put my foot down firmly once bubba is born.

      • We say “It’s too bad our child only has two grandparents” the way we say “It’s too bad there are no sequels to Highlander“. Sometimes we have to say it extra loud to remind ourselves that we are doing things the way we’re doing them on purpose and for good reason, because the “but faaaaaaaamily” echoes are loud. And then one of the faaaaaaaamily members we’re distant from does something to remind us why we made that choice, and we are so glad we did.

        (Today it was my partner’s abusive mother leaving them a comment on Facebook: “You’d go to a march for keeping families together but you won’t speak with your own mother?”)

      • EXACTLY THE RIGHT PERSON to protect your child from a known abuser who will instill weirdly warped expectations around family in your child

        This this this! I get a little bit HULK SMASH when I hear about people deliberately exposing their children to asshole grandparents because faaaaaaamily. No! It’s your job as a parent to protect your kid from assholes, get your shit together and do it.

  8. Rhoda said:

    Your dad is “not a bad dad” despite angry outbursts and the fact that he body-shames you? Oh, dear. I’m sorry, but he isn’t exactly a good dad either. You’re twisting yourself into a pretzel trying so hard to be fair to two rather awful people.
    What are your husband’s parents like? Could they be your substitute parents?

    • correcthorsebatterystaple said:

      People are more than the few sentences we use to describe them in an advice letter. I understand where the LW’s head is on this. My dad was abusive in a number of ways when I was growing up, but he was a genuinely good parent in others, and by the time I was in college we were in the process of negotiating our way into a reasonable relationship. Unfortunately, he died suddenly and so I can’t say what our relationship would be like today, but I suspect it would be similar to the LW’s – good in some respects, not good in others, but all in all manageable and worth the price of admission. I can see how she could feel that the girlfriend has upset the careful balance she’s achieved and be frustrated by it.

      • Aveline said:

        We need to stop saying “good dad” v. “bad dad” as if they are absolutes.

        However, anger and body-shaming ARE toxic. Those behaviors alone give me great pause.

      • (A+ username!)

        And agreed, there’s no point trying to label people “bad” and “good” ….ever, probably, but especially when we only know a single-topic letter’s worth about them.

    • Kitty said:

      I was just thinking this, how when we’re in the middle of a situation it’s so easy to minimise these bad aspects in the midst of everything else, but when laid out to strangers who don’t know the rest of the context, the badness comes across so starkly.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      …and voluntarily in a relationship with an immature, emotionally manipulative, alcoholic, trump-supporting attention hog.
      He might not be a bad dad, but it’s not points in his favor that this is the kind of woman he chooses to be with.

  9. neverjaunty said:

    LW, your dad is essentially throwing tantrums at his adult children because they won’t do what he wants. You may recognize this as an completely ass-backwards parent-child dynamic.

    The Captain’s scripts are great; your instincts are correct; and I would urge you to spend some time reconsidering just how much any future children need to be around an angry, childish grandpa who body-shames them.

    • Aveline said:

      He’s a complete man-baby.

      The problem is NOT the girlfriend, it’s dad.

      Any woman he has in his life is going to be a problem, because he won’t be capable of having a healthy relationship with a woman who is an equal unless he does a lot of difficult emotional labor. He won’t.

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        Yup. The reason dad has an immature woman-child for a girlfriend is because like seeks like.

    • GreyjoyGardens said:

      I agree with this – kids don’t *need* grandparents in their lives just because they are faaaaamily. Chosen family is just as valuable and valid as biological family. I think it’s great for families to get to know *unrelated* older people (through activities, religious services, neighbors, or what have you) – there are a lot of terrific “foster grandparent” relationships out there.

      There can also (depending on your family) be the option of reaching farther out in the family tree if you want your kids to have grandparent figures – a great-uncle, or a cousin, can fill the bill.

      Loads of kids grow up without grandparents and they turn out just fine. In fact, no grandparents are preferable to a substance abuser and a yeller, IMO – I wouldn’t want those around my kids unless they changed their ways and stuck to it.

      • Convallaria majalis said:

        I completely agree with GreyjoyGardens – and both me and my children have fantastic relationships with non-related older people whom we consider family as much as any blood relatives. I do not believe it is possible to have too many wonderful human beings in a child’s life.

  10. Aveline said:

    You don’t really have a dad’s girlfriend problem. You have a dad problem.

    You seem unwilling to say he is and was a bad father. Why?

    It doesn’t make you less of a person if he’s not a good dad.

    It doesn’t mean you can’t love him if he’s a bad dad.

    But if you say “he’s not a bad dad, but for X, Y, and Z” you are creating a situation where X, Y, and Z are permanent features of how he interacts.

    • subliminalflicker said:

      I think the “except x, y, z” but also somehow shift responsibility to her instead of her dad. Like she somehow had to manage these behaviors for him in order to maintain the illusion of “good dad”. Which lets him off the hook.

      It might be better to reframe this as “I love my dad. Behaviors x, y, and z though are not acceptable/are hurtful/bother me/whatever.” And take it from there. Like, maybe it’ll be easier to draw boundaries when the behavior than the person?

  11. Aveline said:

    Posted prematurely.

    You really can’t solve the girlfriend problem until you start addressing your father’s shortcomings and how you interact with him.

    I guarantee you if he dumps her and gets another girlfriend you will have the same issues. Why? He’s emotionally immature, angry, and needy…..and selfish. Very selfish. (“GF, I want you around but won’t marry you” “Sorry, daughter, do this unreasonable thing so I don’t have to be an actual adult and deal with difficulty”). If he dups her, he will find another woman who continues to allow him to do what he wants.

    This is who he is. His girlfriend and his behavior with her and toward you and sis are who he is.

    What does he want? He wants to live life on the easy setting. He’s getting it. Everyone else, including GF, are cow-towing to him.

    He’s not going to grow up and behave like an adult unless there are CONSEQUENCES. Even then, he may say, “nope, I don’t value my children enough to grow up, I’d rather stay a man-baby.”

    Be prepared for the fact that no matter what you do, he’s going to stay a man-baby. Man-baby types often value their own comfort and ease above all else, even the people they love.

    • Oranges said:

      I think all people tend to have the tendency to go the easy way. The man-baby* just has this it to an unhealthy degree. The “easy way” means that you can save your mental energy/spoons for more “needed” things. We do cost/benefit analysis of all our choices and we will choose the best choice for us.**

      *There are woman-babies too they just tend to be rarer since the “cost” of their behavior is much much steeper in our society.

      **This takes into account the social costs for our actions. Example: I personally love helping my friends and family but, that is because a) the feeling of warm fuzzies I get b) I like feeling competent c) I like the image of myself as a helpful person. So when someone asks me for a favor and I don’t want to do it (eg fixing my mom’s computer) I have to give up those “rewards”.

      • I really dislike the term man-baby. I guess I still have some of that elementary-school “no put-downs” ethic 😛

        (And…I do think that in a weird way the gendering of the concept kind of gives men a pass on it? Or normalizes it? like it feeds into the whole “men just aren’t as mature as women” thing, as though it’s an innate quality of male-ness, which reinforces the problem behaviors rather than pushing towards change.)

  12. TO_Ont said:

    FWIW, even when your parents are both together and you really love and get along with both of them equally well etc etc, you still need time to do things with each of them individually, both when you’re a child and later when you’re an adult.

    Relationships need one-on-one time.

    • Lizards80 said:

      Your dad: “Body Shaming Stuff”

      You: “that’s body shaming. I’m not going to accept that and if you bring it up again, I’m leaving/going to the other room/this conversation is over”

      Your dad: “Anger”

      You: “Welp, I guess we’ll talk some time when you’re not angry, bye!”

      Cut it off completely. Don’t take his bait. Don’t think about the sunk costs (you drove all the way out there, you already paid for a babysitter once you have kids, you just sat down to dinner). Treat it like the complete offense it is, and remove yourself entirely. Remove yourself offensively if you want – you’re not the one causing a scene.

      Your sister seems to be in a different position…she can’t really leave since she’s young and still lives with him. Can you continue to send her positive healthy messages to counter his messages, help her seek other forms of support like a guidance counselor at school, something to help her get through this time till she can move out of the house (as soon as she possibly can)?

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. The tone of your letter sounds to me like you’ve been conditioned to step carefully and avoid ‘causing’ conflict (you aren’t causing conflict, he’s using things as an excuse to be angry). I hope you can continue to step into your own power and your own sense of deserving to take up space. To do things that affect your dad, like tell him no and then enforce your boundaries. Becsuse you’d actually be doing him a favor by not allowing him to continue to act that way around you. It would be one fewer time that he would be emotionally outburst-ing, and that’s healthy for you, him, and the universe in general.

      • JenniferP said:

        I agree with folks that the yelling & body shaming from the dad are not great.

        BUT ALSO the LW says she is able to tune most of that stuff out at this point, and she is allowed to want to hang out with her shitty dad sometimes without his shitty girlfriend without having to optimize everything about their relationship first. “I can only handle so much yelling and shittiness, if I’m going to decide to put up with yours so I get to feel like I have one parent, do me the courtesy of not adding Drunky McFascism to the event, cool.”

        It’s good to protect babies from shitty relatives. But there’s no baby right now. If the LW wants to have lunch with a parent, she can do that, and still expect that certain boundaries will be observed.

        • storyranger said:

          Captain, can I just take a second to say you are THE GODDESS of nicknames?!

          Also, once babies are in the mix, boundaries become even harder to set because everyone and their landlord has an opinion about how you should raise the thing, so you’re constantly expending energy fending off bad vibes. This is the perfect time to establish simple boundaries such as “me and you going to lunch means JUST YOU, DAD” and test if dad is willing to get on board or needs to become a “small doses, mostly via Skype” relationship.
          Jedi hugs to you from another child of Difficult!People.

          • JenniferP said:

            My go-to is the Daily Show’s “A Rape-y Can of Fanta”

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            @Megan_NJ: my favorite remains Cheeto-Faced ShitGibbon (short for “tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon” of course)

      • vanadiumoxide said:

        I think the sister was entering middle school a decade ago–she is now an adult and, it seems from the letter, has control over how much time she spends with the girlfriend.

  13. johann7 said:

    LW, you don’t have a dad’s girlfriend problem, you have a dad problem. I’m very sorry that’s the case when he’s your only remaining parent.

    “anger issues and weird body-shaming stuff”

    So, a grown adult shouting at (or otherwise taking his anger out on) his young children is emotional abuse. So is body-shaming. To me, what you describe your dad doing, continuing into the present (inflicting constant fighting with his girlfriend on you, for example), is abuse. Maybe reconsider inflicting HIM on any children that you have, too, and just limit time dealing with his circus and associated monkeys. You deserve better than being left with one, abusive parent; unfortunately, the just world fallacy is a fallacy. As someone who had a couple emotionally abusive grandparents occasionally inflicted on me, so that I “could have a relationship” with them, please just don’t. I know what parents are imagining a healthy relationship they never had, but the problem isn’t you, the abused-children-now-parents, the problem is your abusive parents, who really have a hard time doing relationships in a way that doesn’t harm other people, and the relationship for which you’re setting your kids up is ABUSIVE. So don’t. Please. You can and should maintain as much of a relationship with your dad as works for you, but please don’t force that on any kids you have in pursuit of a fantasy of the kind, loving parent you should have had.

    • correcthorsebatterystaple said:

      I want to push back on this a bit – my father had some of the same issues when I was growing up, and I do name them as emotional abuse. However, he was a loving and doting surrogate grandfather to my young cousin, with none of the same things I experienced, and I do believe that had he lived he would have behaved similarly with my children. I do think sometimes abusive parents can make loving grandparents because the stakes are lower for them, if that makes sense. Only the LW knows her circumstances well enough to know which of these is the case (and I do urge her to make sure that any children are never left in the care of the GF for safety reasons), but I don’t think you can automatically assume that the abusive behaviors will continue one generation down.

      • It’s actually a pretty common thing, for shitty parents to be better grandparents, because they’ve had time to mature themselves, and also learn a thing or two. My grandfather was The Best Grandfather, absolutely. In my 20’s, I learned from my youngest aunt that he had been a terror of a father, yelling about bills and being domineering and I don’t know what-all else… because I never saw it.

        My youngest aunt is less than 3 years older than me. She told me that it was GREAT when my sister and me were brought over for an afternoon or overnight, because “Dad never yelled!”

        (And this is an important thing that does not excuse anything but does help explain things: if the Grandfather in question was in WW2, he came home with PTSD. That was my grandfather, and I’m in my 50’s. (The same goes for people who were in other wars, until the armed forces started figuring PTSD out. Soldiers still get it, but there is treatment now.))

  14. Cyberwulf said:

    LW, one script you could try is, “Dad, how would you feel if every time you saw me, you had to worry about whether my partner would get drunk and start fights with me about Facebook?”

    • Clarry said:

      I’m pushing back against this advice. Reasoning is for reasonable people. How-would-you-feel questions are for people who are capable of considering the other person’s point of view. Any question is for people who are willing to answer questions. LW’s father doesn’t seem to be any of these things. A question like that would likely get a defensive response: “She does not get drunk, and we don’t fight.” From there it devolves into a does not/does so argument. When dealing with unreasonable people, it makes more sense to skip directly to consequences. I generally compare it to putting a 3 year old to bed. (A 3 yo is the epitome of an unreasonable person.) Try explaining to a 3 yo why she should go to bed now, and all she hears is that she’s being made to do something she doesn’t want to do. Try asking how she’d like it if the parent refused to go to bed when the parent was tired, and that’s so far outside her way of thinking that it’s impossible to imagine. But say “you’re cranky and tired” while physically putting the child into her bed and proceeding straight to story and lullaby, then you stand a chance. Thus with LW’s father. Proceed directly to “No, Girlfriend is not invited,” “No, I can’t stay” (since Girlfriend is here– and that’s a drink in her hand), “Oops, gotta run.”

  15. Argablarg said:

    LW, I want to push back on the idea that you should keep your father and his girlfriend in your future childrens’ lives. One set of my grandparents was much as you describe your dad’s GF, and my dad did one of the best things he has ever done for me when he decided to cut them out of his life before I arrived. He modeled such good behavior for me. First, I didn’t grow up thinking that sort of behavior was normal because I was around it all the time. Second, all of the emotional energy he would have burned dealing with them was free to be spent on me. Third, he was a huge inspiration when I ended up in an abusive relationship of my own and I had a model that it was OK not tolerante that sort of behavior and how to get out.

    I know you’re worried about what benefits your hypothetical child might be missing out on by not having them in their life, but I hope you also think about all the benefits to your child of *not* having them in its life.

    • Twitchy said:

      Seconded with all my heart. The last things any child needs in their life are body-shaming, anger issues, and blackout drunk Trump supporters.

  16. Eye said:

    “She’s a Trump supporter[…] None of these things would really be problems if she weren’t insistent on ‘being a part of the family.'”

    So… Did everyone else miss this? Nobody’s gonna comment on the fact that the girlfriend is a racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, ableist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic white nationalist (or the fact that LW doesn’t have a problem with this)??? And, yes, we are ABSOLUTELY at the point where NOBODY is able to claim or pretend the aren’t those things if they support Trump and his government. Personally I think we hit that point ages ago, but “putting children in prison camps as hostages and de-naturalizing citizens” should really be the tipping point for anybody, I should damn well hope.

    Let’s stop pretending it’s normal or remotely okay to support the blatantly fascist, blatantly white nationalist administration currently running things here. This is literally a matter of SURVIVAL for a lot of people, and things are only going to continue to escalate from here… Especially if people continue to be too cowardly (or too invested in their own privilege, however “woke” they claim to be) to start treating this administration and its supporters with the justified fear, rage, disgust, and action they deserve.

    Also disappointed in Cap for not noticing and calling this out. If somebody mentioned their father’s girlfriend were, say, a Klan member, and they didn’t have a problem with that, I’m sure you wouldn’t have let that slide.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hi there, you’re not wrong about any of what supporting Trump means and like you I am done being “civil” about it, but also I noticed and referred to it in the response? (“asshole” “white supremacist asshole” “the New York Times reporter who will inevitably come by to ask her opinion on world events one “economically anxious” diner customer at a time”)

      I think the LW does have a problem with the girlfriend about this, which is why she mentioned it and it is one of the reasons that she doesn’t want the girlfriend around (or anywhere near future kids) – I think she is being way too generous to the girlfriend and the dad about the whole situation. If you like, I can also add “Dad, fuck your Trump supporting asshole girlfriend and fuck you too if you agree with her” to the scripts if it will make you feel better though. It makes me feel better, thanks for going hard on this.

      • I also saw “Trump supporter” and just Noped the heck out. Nope. Nope. Nope.

      • george011 said:

        It doesn’t bother you to say 40% of the country don’t deserve basic human treatment?

        • JenniferP said:

          I don’t know how this one snuck through moderation, but hi there.

          Define “basic human treatment.” If 40% of the country is gonna vote for the super racist misogynist sexual predator who shows nothing but contempt for them and for every institution in the country, I am ok NOT BEING FRIENDS WITH THEM. I’m ok not inviting them to my parties. I’m ok telling them to fuck right off from my website. I’m ok making that explicitly the reason that we don’t hang out anymore. I’m okay with thinking they are bad, selfish, awful people who are ok with me losing my healthcare and with breaking the social safety net so that wealthy people can pay even lower taxes. If they are ok with “threatening nuclear war over Twitter,” then I’m okay with an occasional “fuck off, stay away from me.” Or “you might end up seeing your grandkids a lot less.” These are people whose unofficial campaign slogan was “Fuck Your Feelings 2016” and now “Fuck Your Feelings 2020,” so forgive me if the cries for civility are ringing a bit hollow these days.Y’all control all three branches of government and everything you wanted to happen politically is happening. Do I have to love it, and you? No. You can survive without my good opinion.

          As for this 40%, I’m not advocating tearing their children away from them and putting them in concentration camps because they crossed an imaginary line in the dirt that it was legal for them to cross 2 months ago and literally every other year of our lives. I mean, if we’re talking basic human treatment.

          If you voted for Trump in 2016 and regret it, help us organize to stop him. Vote for the other party in the midterms and allow there to be some checks and balances. If you still support Donald Trump even after you’ve had time to see who and what he is, fuck off from my website. If you support him and his agenda, I think chances are that you are a bad person, and if you’re not one, then the burden is on you to show me that. I don’t have the time or energy to try to convince you, my only goal is to outvote you and out-organize you.

          • vanadiumoxide said:

            Thank you for this reply!

            (And here I was interpreting “40% of the country” as the proportion of immigrants, black and brown people, Muslims, disabled people, and combinations of the above who are being denied basic human treatment by the Trump administration, and I was about to say “no, it does bother her, that’s what she’s saying!” Because that would be a reasonable comment to make about the world, and a simple misunderstanding of the comment thread. Sigh.)

          • JenniferP said:

            We tried gentle coaxing.

            Now it’s time to take all of that energy and put it towards:

            1) Making sure everyone who wants to vote CAN vote
            2) Making sure everyone who wants to vote and can vote DOES vote
            3) Other acts of protest, resistance, and incivility
            4) Dragging that Overton window leftward. Hard.

          • Convallaria majalis said:

            Dear Captain and all other US citizens on this page,

            For a long time I have wanted to say this: please, do all you can to get rid of Trump, not only for the sake of US but for the whole world. Almost every single one of us in here are still having a hard time to really believe that he is the president of United States. We watch in horror the news of the children in metal cages and we try to uphold the international agreements to reduce the effects of climate change, the existence of which he nor his government does not recognize. I work in the field of biology and am constantly witnessing the effects the climate change has in Nordic environment – but it is not really about us. We are doing quite well in here, but all over the world people are suffering of droughts, floods and conflicts caused by climate change.

            When I was younger US used to be a country we all upheld and we all dreamed of long road trips and seeing all the famous sights. Well, not anymore. Before Trump was elected we used to have a special section in every grocery store for American products; when Trump was elected they quietly disappeared. United States is not a good brand anymore.

            The world has become more unpredictable. US used to be a power we could rely on, a state which upheld the human rights, was famous for quality research and promoted trade opportunities and it seems that soon we are going to have a trade war in our hands, and look what one did in 1930’s.

            Is there anything we non-US-citizens can do? We want our old trustworthy friend back.

          • Vicki said:

            @Convallaria majalis:

            We’re trying.

            Right now, I think the best thing you can do is resist fascism, and racist, sexist, anti-LGBT, and anti-immigrant policies, wherever you live.

          • george011 said:

            Well, I hope it snuck through moderation because it’s not against the comment terms of service? I certainly didn’t mean it to be. Sorry if this is long, I don’t know how to make it shorter.

            Hi, Captain! I’m a longtime and grateful reader of your column; I’ve read almost all the archives, posted a few comments, and, once, you answered a longer question of mine, when I was desperate. You, and your commenters, helped me through a really bad time, I remember commenting on the overwhelming support and even love that I felt. It got me through. Your site is a treasure of the Internet.

            Here, though – unless I’m wrong; please tell me I’m wrong; please tell me there is more to the email that says something about the girlfriend and white supremacy than you printed – you’re advocating calling anyone who is a Trump supporter a “white supremacist asshole”. That’s just under half the country, a lot of people. Though some certainly are, I find it hard to believe they could all be white supremacists; or even a majority of them. That would be a terrible way to see every second person.

            I can’t speak for Trump supporters, I’m not one, and I live in a very liberal state, and hang with very liberal people: I don’t know many Trump supporters. But I did speak to one. My mother. I know she is not a white supremacist; we’re arguably not even white. I know she is not a misogynist, she is one of the strongest women I know, very feminist, and supported me when I worked with N. O. W. defending abortion clinics and organizing a march on Washington. I know she is not anti-immigrant or refugee, we are immigrants and refugees, and our friends are immigrants and refugees.

            When I asked why she voted for Trump, she said to shake up the system. We come from a country with a history of one party rule, and that leads to terrible things, which we’ve experienced. See refugees. Even here, in the United States, states with one party in power continuously are always more corrupt than those where the people at the top regularly change. So while I don’t agree with her, at least now I understand her. And I can’t see calling her a “white supremacist asshole”. Or an asshole of any kind. She is amazing, and when someone whom I respect, who is wise, and kind, and a treasure of the Internet – but who doesn’t know her – calls her an asshole because of how she voted, because of deep and complex reasons, it hurts me. It hurts me deeply.

            So I think it is basic human treatment to grant the just under half the country, including the majority of white women, the same benefit of doubt, to give them the possibility of having their reasons. I think it is basic human treatment not to call all those people that I’ve never met, “white supremacist assholes”. I have to give them the possibility of being more like my mother than like Steve Bannon.

            OK?

          • JenniferP said:

            Hi George, I’m sure there is a lot to love about your mom. So go collect her and get her to stop voting for assholes. That way people won’t think she’s an asshole, too. That’s what I got for you.

            In the meantime, other people might not have good opinions about her, since their fucking survival is at stake. They might lump her into the category of people who loved racism so much that they voted against their own economic interests and human rights. Oops!

            Also, thanks for mentioning it, but yeah, I think the white women who voted for Trump chose white supremacy over even their own rights and self-interest, and I don’t have a lot of love for them. They need to do better, and they need to do it fast. They get the quickest “you are probably an asshole” assumption, where with person like your mom I might stop at “what the fuck are you thinking?”

            Q: You know what they called people who didn’t hate Jewish people but who voted for Hitler because of “economic anxiety” or other reasons?
            A: Nazis. They call them Nazis.

            After the war they all claimed “they didn’t know.”
            They did know, though.

            And we definitely know.

          • Convallaria majalis said:

            @Vicki: I love to hear that!

            We are doing everything we can here in Scandinavia. I joined in a party concentrating in environmental and social justice issues and promise to vote in every election. I am signing petitions and volunteering and will keep doing that.

            The rise of fascism in here is scary and repulsive. Luckily, the supporters of fascism are a very, very small minority in here according to research which was published just yesterday – but the situation is worse elsewhere in Europe. I promise you we will not give in, not an inch.

            To everyone doing work for a better future thank you so much! Keep doing the good work and know that you have the gratitude of people outside US as well.

        • Vicki said:

          Basic human treatment, yes. I expect emergency rooms to treat patients without asking their politics. If Trump supporters are accused of crimes, they should get due process and the chance to convince a jury that they’re not guilty. If a Trump supporter is arrested, their children shouldn’t be “placed in foster care” and lost track of, and handed to a stranger to adopt because the parent is in jail and can’t take care of the child this week.

          That is basic human treatment that everyone is entitled to, including people who have no problem with taking it away from the rest of us. An invitation to my party is not a human right, and “basic human treatment” doesn’t require the pretense that it’s “just a difference of opinion” when you support a rapist who wants to lock children in cages, take away people’s health care, and otherwise deprive them of basic human treatment because they happen to be nonwhite, disabled, queer, or poor.

      • Eye said:

        “If you like, I can also add ‘Dad, fuck your Trump supporting asshole girlfriend and fuck you too if you agree with her’ to the scripts if it will make you feel better though. It makes me feel better, thanks for going hard on this.”

        Yes, 100% absolutely. These people are dangerous and deadly, and the time of pretending that we can sit at a table with them and make nice and not be complicit is well past.

    • Feminist BI-tch said:

      YES THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SAYING THIS and not trying to minimize this shit. I am not in America or American, but politics aren’t any better where I live, and I am so fed up with people pretending it’s “not as bad as fascism” (like, 20th century fascism) or even that “well fascism is not so bad”. I feel physically threatened just for the fact that I exist, and I AM ONE OF THE PRIVILEGED HERE (aka, not a migrant or too poor, but still queer, female and way too left wing). It is bad. Let us at least say it is. And stop saying fascists are good people, I don’t care if they help orphans in the weekends they’re still fascists and we need them OUT.

      • Feminist BI-tch said:

        Ps LW, I get that it is shitty when you didn’t choose to have fascists in your family or as part of your family’s lives, I really do. I also, like the captain, interpreted your letter as “well OBVIOUSLY it’s a problem she’s a fascist but if I could just avoid her that’s basically all I can do, it’s not like I can “convert” her” and that’s fine, it’s not your job to change her and you probably cannot anyway. Just. Please never ever say “X is a Trump supporter but that’s not a problem except that Y”, whatever Y is. Being a fascist IS a problem. Even if you get not to see her at family dinner, she IS a problem (and a threat). Let’s please acknowledge that.

        • purps said:

          I hear you, and it’s a scary time to be, well, us, and a scarier time to be not-us. Speaking as another non-immigrant queer female left winger.

          At the same time, I do think taken as a whole, “I can’t decide who my father dates and it’s his adult choice to date blackout-drinking fascists with huge boundary problems” is a reasonable statement, which is how I interpreted this.

          People in my family got divorces to get away from surprise white supremacists two generations back, when divorce was harder. I believe in peoples’ ability not to date fascists. I also do believe that it’s healthy that the LW is not trying to convince her particular father what bad news this lady is. She sounds like she is perfectly capable of announcing what bad news she is on her own.

          • Feminist BI-tch said:

            Absolutely! I do not suggest she engage with the gf at all about this, actually – I don’t really believe in “converting” fascists and think her wellbeing and safety come waaay before – I just suggested that she doesn’t frame her being a fascist as “not a problem”. Admittedly, my rant is 99% on current politics and maybe 1% on that phrasing in the letter

    • RedSonja said:

      Yup. My stepmom is dating a Trump supporter (has been since before the election) and I’m just so revolted and enraged and disappointed. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable showdown about him.

    • I took that wording to mean that none of those facts about Dad’s GF are the OP’s problem to deal with.

  17. Amy said:

    There is a specific type of person in the world who will straight-up take the path of least resistance regardless of whether it’s the ‘right’ or ‘kind’ or ‘sensible’ option or not. Your dad sounds like this is what he’s doing in regards to his girlfriend. I’m betting it’s easier for him to argue with you–who he doesn’t see every day, who doesn’t throw massive fits over nothing, who reacts reasonably to the situation at hand–than to argue with her. So he goes for the path of least resistance, and makes her your problem.

    Honestly, I’ve only seen two paths actually work with this kind of person (with ‘work’ meaning ‘shield you from their desire to shove all the awkwardness and difficulty of the situation onto your shoulders instead of theirs’). The first is to just cut them off so you’re not a part of their life anymore–effective, but it means you lose that person in your life.

    The second is to make your desired option the path of least resistance. Dad’s girlfriend will throw a fit if she’s not included? You throw a bigger one if she is. Dad’s girlfriend wails about not Being A Family? You wail louder about Missing Your Dad. She screams about how awful you’re being towards you? You scream louder and longer about how awful SHE is. This will feel rude–and it is rude in almost any circumstance–but in this specific dynamic, sometimes it’s the only way to push Dad through the “it will just be easier to give Girlfriend what she wants” and get him to actually recognize what his behavior is costing everyone else. Which might actually give him the kick in the pants to shape up and be a dad.

    (Note: this doesn’t preclude being polite at large, less private events like weddings where you can reasonably expect to see her. You can be civil at those kinds of things and still throw a massive fit any time your dad asks you to be around her in a more intimate/family mode.)

    • Cyberwulf said:

      I wonder if the dad is so used to the drinking and fights that he can no longer see the impact it has on the people around him. He’s accepted the drama as the price of not being alone at night and it’s just background noise to him now. That’s why I suggested upthread that the LW could try asking him how he’d feel if one of his daughters was involved with someone who did [X] behaviours the girlfriend does.

    • The thing with option 2 and throwing bigger fits is, you then run the risk of being labeled “difficult”, and difficult = easily dismissed opinions. I am officially the “difficult” one of my dad’s offspring, because I stopped being “nice” and started holding firm boundaries and yelling LOUDLY back at dad’s wife when she’d go on the attack.

      It also runs the risk of escalating the situation with dad’s GF. In my case, dad’s wife escalated from huge screaming fits to threatening me and my kid because I said “Your wife isn’t allowed to throw screaming fits in front of my kid anymore. If it happens again, I will say something about it to her and then we will leave”.

      • PrairieChick said:

        People who act out (yelling, shaming others, throwing hissy fits, consistently over-drinking), etc. ) LOVE drama. If there’s no drama happening, like Trump, they will create some. I have a drama-loving daughter-in-law and a son who hates it but “goes along to get along”
        Sometimes, years of exposure (28 years of marriage) inure people to what isn’t healthy – and it’s maybe the same, in the case of LW’s dad. . Allso, DIL drinks excessively (her family jokes about it), is self-centered, critical and gossipy.

        I agree with what Clem Lemon said. In my case, DIL announced, via my son, that she does not want to come to my house any more. Rather than ask him why (and get into triangulation, and possibly create a rift with him), I said: “sorry to hear that. If she wants to, she can talk about it with me.” Drama averted.

        The Talk hasn’t happened, and probably won’t, ever, I entertain my son and his family every so often at a restaurant or an event that we all would enjoy. I am pleasant and polite to my DIL at extended family events. I see my son and my adult grandson and granddaughter on their own, at my home or outside it. It works!

        I believe that if I had made a big issue about my DIL’s announcement, it would have turned into a sick game of Uproar with everyone involved and long-lasting damage. I hope that my experience will be helpful to whomever may relate to this.

  18. MAC said:

    I guess I’m the exception to the Captain’s PSA – I have no need for one-on-one time with my bio father. My parents divorced 48 years ago (I’m 49) and I’m his only child, and I was always so relieved when there was a buffer person – my first stepmother or one of his later girlfriends. While I know he loves me, he has always been a … let’s say challenging … person to deal with. Resentful of my mom and stepdad’s relationship and that I had siblings on that side, alcoholic until I was in my teens, verbally angry much of the time. When he married my current stepmother 17 years ago, I told him if he screwed this one up, he’d have to get another daughter because I was keeping new stepmom. He’s much better now, but on my yearly visits, I’m always happy when it’s the three of us and never wish she’d give us space.

    • RiverSongTam said:

      You’re not alone. My bio dad never remarried, but I would have been grateful for a buffer person for the handful of interactions I’ve had with him since my parents’ divorce.

    • JenniferP said:

      There’s always one! I’m glad your stepmom is cool

      What I see a lot of in my inbox is shitty lazy dads who want to put all the emotional labor of interacting with their adult kids onto their new partner. So nice stepmom plans the holidays. Nice stepmom remembers the birthdays. Nice stepmom makes an effort to include the kids, ask how they are doing, etc.

      And the kids appreciate it on one level and resent the fuck out of it on the other level, because why is the stepmom doing all the work and where the fuck is their DAD? But they don’t take it out on him, they take it out on her. It becomes a story about how she tries too hard (instead of the story about how he doesn’t try at all).

      Which is kind of what you’ve got going on here, but you’ve placed the blame for the weirdness correctly on your dad.

  19. RiverSongTam said:

    LW, you have all my sympathies and jedi hugs, if you want them. This situation sucks. It really does.
    Truth time: your dad’s GF *is* a bad GF. Your dad *is* being a bad dad, both in failing to manage his romantic relationship himself, without making it your problem, and his own bad behavior, viz. anger issues and body shaming. I know how much it can hurt to admit to yourself that a parent is not acting the way they should, that they have failed you, that your relationship could have been so different had they kept up with their parental responsibilities. I hope you’re taking care of yourself as best you can and that you have a healthy, loving support system in place. I think it’s time for you to consider your needs and then have the big talk with your father, the results of which would determine his continued presence in your life.

  20. Twitchy said:

    It might help to re-frame your relationships with your dad and with his girlfriend as entirely optional, because they are. There are no times when it’s absolutely necessary to interact with them. Every time you do it, you do it by choice. I know for me, with the difficult people in my life, it was a lot easier once I accepted that I never ‘had’ to see them. That let me evaluate the choices I was making. Like with the old paradigm, I felt like I ‘had’ to see these people, so the only way the situation could get better was if they behaved better, which I had no control over. With the new paradigm, it let me focus on the control I did have over the situation. Every time a situation came up where I might see them, I thought about the pros and cons and how I felt about it, and it let me make more clearheaded decisions.

  21. Goober said:

    Dear letter writer: I hate to say this, but I think your view of what’s “normal” in a family relationship is skewed by growing up in a dysfunctional environment. (And if you give him – or his girlfriend – access to grandchildren without addressing these issues, there’s a good chance he’ll make your family dysfunctional, too.)

  22. subliminalflicker said:

    “I think he knows she’s unreasonable, so he pressures you to be The Reasonable One because he thinks it’s somehow easier to fight with you…and fight with her the whole time he’s hanging out with you… than it is to fight with her on his way out the door/after he comes home. And because, as a parent, he has some more power/authority (or at least history of those things) in telling you what to do than he does with her.”

    ^^ this was basically my childhood. My dad found it easier to require his children be reasonable and rational even when their mother couldn’t manage it, or when he wanted something despite what would be best for us kids. This is the epitomy of a coward, a man who’ll throw his children under the bus to avoid a bit of discomfort (discomfort caused, even, by his own choices!) or to avoid standing up to his wife.

    Captain gives good advice here, just … Solidarity man. It’s really frustrating to be the adult in a relationship with your parents.

    • Sarah said:

      This is also my family dynamics, *hugs*. Except it’s my enabling mother wanting me to be the reasonable one so she doesn’t have to fight my terrible sister all the time.

      • In my case, my mom wanted me to be reasonable because her husband (not my father) wouldn’t be. I swallowed that for awhile, and then I stopped, and told her that I was done apologizing when it wasn’t my fault, and if that meant her husband was mad at me, so be it. (And if it made her husband mad at *her* I was really sad about it, really I was, but I still wasn’t eating that pie anymore.)

  23. Nope octopus said:

    A huge portion of LW’s problem IS a Dad’s GF problem, in that GF is the person LW doesn’t want to see, be around, or have anything to do with.

    Any thoughts on the appropriateness of making it just unpleasant for GF to be around LW as it is for LW to be around her? By telling her directly, every time LW sees her, how much she is disliked, exactly how highly LW does not think of her, asking in the tone of voice one reserves for mouldering dog poop why she’s even there, AGAIN?

    Warn them that LW is done being polite if they’re feeling charitible, but then unleash the fucking hounds?

    TBH I do not have the gumption to pull. This kind of thing off myself, but it’s something I’ve thought about doing to my more awful relatives more than once.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      In fantasy this sounds great. But in reality it might backfire if this very dramatic GF who fights all the time enjoys fighting. She might find it invigorating.

      • Goober said:

        That’s what restraining orders are for. When you’re in the right legally, never hesitate to escalate to the next level, and never, ever engage on their level. The consequence they want is to upset you. If the consequence they get is a summons to a hearing, it usually serves as a wake-up call.

        The point to consider is that getting rid of GF may involve cutting off contact with Dad, too, and whether that’s the right choice is up to the letter writer.

        • purps said:

          So, what, the LW should escalate the conflict until there’s grounds for, I guess, an ex parte order? In my state that wears off after 10 days and then you have to prove that you are substantially at risk, or that domestic abuse or sexual assault has already occurred. The LW is not saying at any point that she’s physically afraid of this woman, just that she absolutely and utterly sucks. Restraining orders are not broadly available against people who just suck.

          LW, you sound like you’re already being a champ about sticking up for yourself and asserting yourself with your dad. Good on you for not doing what I reflexively tend to do in this situation, which is to just internalize all the drama to keep the peace without considering whether it’s *even my drama to start with*.

          I do think that the boundary you have to set is going to have to be around how your father treats you. If you can (rightly) let go of his dad-ness enough to acknowledge that it’s his right to date a blackout-drinking Trump supporter who starts fights about Facebook, then I think you also will have to let go of his dad-ness enough to disengage when he yells at you about it, and make it clear that the boundary is not “whether the girlfriend is included in things”, it’s “whether he can yell until you, an adult human, change your mind”. I don’t think any of us can offer a script that will make him _like_ this, warm up to it immediately, see your point of view, and stop externalizing the drama of his relationship onto his kids. As you have so reasonably observed: he chose to date this woman with his eyes open, he knows what she’s like, and your problem is whether he respects _your_ right to choose your proximity to other human beings you feel meh or worse about.

        • MuddieMae said:

          Is this something you’ve actually ever done? Because this sounds like some Internet Tough Guy bullshit, frankly.

        • JenniferP said:

          That is not how restraining orders work.

          • Goober said:

            It is if it escalates beyond a certain point. If you’re not willing to escalate to that point, and the other party is, then they control your life, not you. A very rare circumstance, but it does happen.

            The real question here is, “Do you want to get rid of Dad’s GF badly enough to get rid of Dad if that’s the only way to do it.” That’s a difficult question in the best of times, and only the letter writer can answer it. But it’s a choice she might well have to make.

            As I said above, her definition of what’s normal in a family relationship is very skewed by growing up in a dysfunctional family. She needs to set boundaries, and enforce them, or there won’t be any.

          • JenniferP said:

            Ok, Goober, we’re at “come back some other thread, some other day” levels of absurdity here. Have you ever actually gotten a restraining order against what…an annoying not-quite-family member? Actually, don’t answer that.

            The Dad’s GF is annoying. The Letter Writer might not be able to rid her life of the GF without also going no contact with the Dad. Sure.

            Restraining orders often make contentious situations MORE violent and contentious. How would it help anyone to escalate things to the point where one is needed? How are cops really gonna help this? I think it’s a good rule that you don’t add cops to family situations unless it’s pretty close to life or death.

            Come back some other day, some other thread. This is bad advice.

      • MsM said:

        It doesn’t even sound great in fantasy, honestly. Showing disdain for the girlfriend still requires having to be around the girlfriend and put up with the things that girlfriend is doing to cause the disdain. Personally, I’d rather just nope out (and nope out on Dad, too, if he refuses to take no for an answer).

        • Traffic_Spiral said:

          Also, it requires that LW be a grumpy asshole, which isn’t actually fun to do.

      • Indeed, she will find it invigorating, and it will justify her acting terrible to LW and their sister, “SEE?!?!? I try SO HAAAAARD and your kids are SOOOO MEEEEEEEAN and I’m SOOO JUSTIFIED in being awful to everyone because everyone is awful to me!!!”.

        Also, the restraining order talk below? Why why why would someone recommend escalating an already bad situation to the point where the court system is necessary? This is a terrible idea.

        • Traffic_Spiral said:

          Yup. GF loves drama. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

    • Cyberwulf said:

      This will just hand LW’s dad more reason to scream at her. LW, don’t do this.

      • Purps said:

        As a bit of a pushover myself, I get why this seems like it would be relaxing – but getting locked into a drama cycle with this lady is actually a very similar mechanic to never asserting yourself in order to keep the peace. Either way, it’s reacting to someone else’s needs in the moment instead of keeping your own needs and goals at the front of your brain and disentangling what you need from what they want out of you. And this lady doesn’t seem like she’s really averse to open conflict anyway, she seems particularly enthusiastic about getting into it. My guess is that she plays in a much more advanced drama league then the letter writer. My experience with trying to go toe-to-toe with very high conflict, high drama people is that they are both more skilled and more enthusiastic at shitstirring than I will ever be, and they don’t get tired at the point where I just want to crawl into a hole and hibernate for a year. People whose reactions are super disproportionate – and I’m gonna go ahead and class this lady under the “hoo buddy” label – often will not respond in a way that makes a lot of external sense, which means engaging with them in a high-energy way will prime them to sort of go off in a random direction? Trying to follow those twists and turns and outgame them in open conflict means giving them a lot more of your mental real estate then you need to. anyway, I think the letter writer has already done a really good job of just flatly saying “I don’t like this person at all and I don’t want to see her if I can avoid it”.

        (Therapy for being disproportionately explosively conflict driven often, ironically, involve teaching you to be less of a pushover because from the inside there’s often a pushover-explosion cycle going on. That would be why I in particular am nerding out about this mechanic 🙂

    • Lily said:

      I’m a person who is known for seeming pretty cold and heartless and even I would never advise to so this. You can tell her that you’re done with her racist shit and that you don’t want her in your home, right. That’s probably a good idea if you want to go this route.
      But engaging in a stinking fit? With the goal to be a better asshole than the real asshole? Not a good idea. You will never be as good as them at it and it will eat your soul to not even have the high ground any more.
      Don’t insult people until they’ve insulted you.

  24. Hey Anonnynonny said:

    LW, you don’t even have to have her at your wedding – it is hard but not impossible to rescind an invitation. If your dad’s on-again, off-again girlfriend causes drunken scenes at low-stakes family gatherings, do you want to risk it at your wedding?

    My FIL’s partner is a very strange woman who insinuates herself in his relationships with his children and I fully agree with the Captain that just like this is my FIL’s issue to solve, your dad’s girlfriend with a bad attitude is his issue to solve.

    I also agree that you are being pressured into being the reasonable one. You don’t have to accept that role.

    My husband and I are first-time parents and my FIL is a first-time grandfather. His partner keeps insisting that she is also a grandparent of equal standing – she came into my husband’s life when he was an adult and no longer living in his childhood home, so like you LW, he did not have FIL’s partner assuming any mother-type role in his life at any point. It felt awkward to cut her short when she started suggesting grandparent names for herself for our baby to call her, but there was no sense in letting it snowball when we knew we absolutely did not see her as a grandmother to our kid. If you want to start a family soon, this is the kind of thing you’re going to come up against. If your dad’s girlfriend insists she’s part of the furniture now, just wait and see how crazy it gets when there’s a beautiful bouncing baby in the mix.

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      I think the wedding already happened! (or at least, LW refers to their husband in the letter.)

      Good for you for asserting boundaries with your FIL’s partner, and I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

      • Hey Anonnynonny said:

        Ok, I wasn’t sure from the wording but I think its worth reminding people that invites can be giveth and taketh away as the inviter chooses based on the invitee’s behaviour rather than on who’s dating who. Guest lists are fraught things and the Wedding Industrial Complex is built on the notions of saving face and ‘but faaaaaaamily’.

        Setting boundaries early and firmly is crucial when there is a glimmer of baby on the horizon. Weddings and babies bring out the worst fear, obligation and guilt!

  25. mf said:

    LW: My mom’s parents were emotionally abusive assholes when she was a kid. They mellowed a bit after she grew up and moved out, but they’re mostly terrible parents. (My paternal grandparents lived on another continent, so I didn’t get to know them before they died.)

    My mom took us to visit them for holidays and a few weekends here and there, but we were never close. She didn’t criticize them (often) but was open with us about how they raised and treated her. From there I was able to draw my own conclusions about the kind of people they were/are.

    Now my grandmother has passed away and I’ve moved 2000 miles across the country, so I haven’t seen my grandfather in 4 years.

    And you know what? I’m okay with this. I don’t feel sad that I’m not close to my grandparents. I don’t feel that I’m missing anything. It’s great that you want to have your dad in your life as you raise your own kids, but I just want to make one thing clear: if that’s not possible, your kids will be fine. You do not need to foster a relationship with their dysfunctional grandfather in order to be a good parent.

  26. C baker said:

    LW, I don’t know how to say this, but you seem to be arguing with yourself in this letter. You state that your father isn’t a “bad dad”… but then you state all the ways he was and is, in fact, a crappy father. He was hands off, even when you needed him to step up. He has anger issues. He has body-shaming issues. You and your sister have both had to minimize time with him because of these issues, and when you do this, he doesn’t accept responsibility for either his behavior or his girlfriend’s, he just blames you for being “mean”.

    And then you do the same thing about his girlfriend. She’s not a bad person, and disliking her is probably some psychological thing – except for all the major red flags that you enumerate. Neither you, nor your sister, nor probably your dad is happy with him dating somebody who regularly gets black-out drunk and has screaming matches and dramatic breakups with him all the time. That’s got nothing to do with her replacing your mom, and I don’t know why you would position that reason for your dislike *first*.

    You say you’re already in therapy. Maybe you can bring this up again? Why are you committed to calling these people great people when, from your description, they’re really not? They both sound wholly unpleasant and, honestly, if your dad wants to be in your life then he’ll cool it with the body-shaming and guilt-tripping, and get some help for the anger issues. You and your sister shouldn’t be the ones doing all the work.

  27. Shifrah said:

    I just want to re-phrase one of the Captain’s sentences above.

    *You can be one of those unsung heroes, the nicest, sweetest, best, most wonderful, supportive, awesome PARENT who your kids genuinely love and dote on, the patient and kind PARENT whose labor put food on their table, changed their diapers, put up with teenaged outbursts, taught them to drive, etc., etc., and it would STILL be a nice thing if you gave your partner and the kids time and space to spend together without you once in a while.*

    In my opinion, young children and adult children and people in general get to have meaningful, one-on-one interactions with the people that they love, without always having to do some kind of GroupThing with the PeopleUnit. Whether the PeopleUnit is your bio parents, or your two best friends who happen to be dating each other, or whatever.

    When I see new step-parents or new in-laws being all “but we’re faaaaamily now so I have to tag along to everything,” I don’t think that they are misapplying a principle that applies to Real Families but not to them. I think that’s not how Real Families should expect to behave, anyway.

  28. thereismorethanoneharriet said:

    Yes – people should be able to have one-on-one bonding time (if they want it). I would love more time alone with my Dad, but since they’ve moved to a retirement community it seems impossible to escape my Mom. She’s a good person, but I miss having a conversation with just him.
    In contrast, when my Grandfather was alive, we always wanted him around because he was an excellent buffer against my Grandmother’s extreme criticism. We had a sibling agreement never to leave each other alone with her.

  29. h. said:

    It might not work. But could you try invoking reciprocity? (I’m thinking it’s likely that there are some gendered expectations going on here – it will only work if so).

    Do you know if the GF talks to/spends time with her adult kids without your dad being present? I suspect she probably does, but neither of them think much about it – as they both like it, she centre-of-attention time, he alone time. And that the issue (from GF’s pov) is that you’re wanting time with your dad, that she also wants with him.

    If you point out to your dad that you want alone time with him, just like her kids want/get alone time with her – then it MIGHT be a way of bypassing the “mean” accusation. Importantly it’s a reason he can also relay to her in a positive way. (That “mean” comment sounds to me like it might be a referred comment from her)

    This, of course, won’t work if she’s so toxic that she’s driven her kids away – but .. here’s hoping.

  30. ambergris said:

    So my dad’s girlfriend is a nightmare control freak, but the upside of this is that she always has to be The Hostess, so when my sister and I refused to go to her house ever again she was not going to turn up at ours. Where we don’t have to let her in anyway! My dad eventually (after much shouting and ‘oh woe poor me I am stuck in the middle of all these unreasonable women why is life so unfair’) cottoned on that if he continued trying to foist her on us all the time he just wasn’t going to see us anymore. And there have been times when I’ve seriously feared we would end up estranged as a result, but somewhere along the way he realised that he didn’t want that to happen any more than we did, so yay? I think it helped that there was a precendent of his wife having very little to do with his mother due to similar egregious violation of boundaries, so he is used to this kind of compartmentalisation even if girlfriend isn’t. As far as I can tell, girlfriend mostly deals with the situation by pretending we no longer exist, which is FINE.

  31. Kitty said:

    “the unfortunate other person waiting at the bus stop who forgot headphones today”

    This made me snort with laughter 😂

  32. Clarry said:

    Many have said that Father and Girlfriend with the anger, body shaming, drinking, fight-picking, hands-off parenting, Trump-supporting, and yelling, should not be part of the LW’s life, and certainly not part of the any grandchildren’s lives. There is enough support for that, but LW also writes that growing up Father wasn’t all bad and that she loves him. There is a middle ground here that doesn’t go all the way over to total estrangement. There’s making a phone call every few months and chatting briefly. There’s letting them see some of your facebook posts. There’s email. There’s having them as guests at the wedding (plus a security employee to escort them out if drunkenness becomes a problem). Same for whatever welcome-to-the-world party or ceremony you throw for a few friends when children are born. Note that this does NOT include frequent visits, notifying them when you go into labor, inviting them for hallmark holidays or other parties, or even talking very often. It’s just the minimum of staying in contact. It’s even leaving the doors to communication open should Father break up with Girlfriend once and for all.

  33. Indie said:

    A grown man throwing “mean” at you? Good grief it’s the kind of pathetic throw that makes for easier dodges, if nothing else:
    “If you’re resorting to name calling, I’m going”
    “I had hoped you’d heard at least one of my concerns. What were they again?”
    “It’s not mean to avoid someone argumentative. You break up with her yourself regularly. When you find out how to get along with her you let me in on the secret”
    “Yes I’m mean! So?”
    “Dad it will be more peaceful for you to keep us in separate worlds. I won’t give you a hard time about her. I’m glad you’re happy!”

  34. Convallaria majalis said:

    Dear LW,

    Like so many other commenters here, I, too, am going to mention how patient and loving your letter sounds – and I agree with The Captain: you do give way too much credit to your father’s girlfriend. Since Trump is a factor, I am going to assume that you live in US.

    My mother was a single mother and I have never really managed to develop a contact to my father. I have spoken in phone with him but he was really only a voice to me; I have never met him. Nowadays that I have a family of my own I wish I could get to know him so that my children could meet him. We probably share many similar thoughts and wishes on this matter.

    Here in Scandinavia we have charitable organizations which unite volunteer “spare grannies” and “spare grandpas” to families with children for the (social) benefit of both parts. Most countries here (aside from Denmark) are sparsely populated and many grandparents live far from their children – or are deceased or for some other reason not available. I recognize the desire to create a connection between blood relatives but if their spouse is, as The Captain put it, an asshole, it might be best to spare the future children from knowing them. I wonder if you have other people in your life who could take the role of a grandparent?

    Your father is who he is and no-one else can force him to change. To me it sounds like you have already tried talking to him and he has not listened. So, perhaps it is time for action – to distance yourself from him even further. Keep the front with your sister united. Being related to an adult (of sound mind) should not force anyone to anything: if they behave badly, it is their choise and they should be responsible for it – or if they choose a spouse who behaves badly.

    Best of luck to you and your sister!

  35. LW, I have been stuck in a 3 year battle with my own dad over this same issue. He got engaged and both he and his wife were very pushy about “FAMILY!” and insisting that wife must be a part of every interaction and phone call and wanting my kiddo (who was 8 and had met her *once*) to call her “grandma”. My younger niece and nephew were calling her “grandma” so according to dad and wife, my kiddo must also call her “grandma” otherwise it was just “too confusing”. It set the ball rolling for accusations of me being petty, mean, inflexible, “stuck in the past” and “unable to move forward”, and blah blah blah.

    This is a common issue with step-families and late-in-life remarriages after one parent has died, the insistence that the “kids” must blindly and unquestioningly embrace the parent’s new partner. Instant intimacy! What could be better! If you’d simply just *try a little harder* you would see all that is good and wonderful about the partner and you could all be a new family again together forever yay!!!!

    It just doesn’t work that way. Relationships take time to build. “Assigned relationships”, like the one your father has now given you via his girlfriend, take even longer to build. You didn’t go looking for this person to fill a role in your life, but now they are here and everyone is full of expectations.

    Even if dad’s girlfriend was the nicest, kindest person in the world and a generally lovely person, you still don’t have to have a relationship with her if you don’t want one. You can opt out of doing the emotional labor of forming a bond with a person simply because you don’t want to do it. It’s not an act of hostility. It’s actually a very neutral statement. My neighbors seem nice enough, but we’re not friends because we’re just not. My adult step-kids are decent people but we don’t have a relationship beyond pleasant small-talk because we just don’t. I’m not friends with my husband’s friends because I’m just not.

    Like you, I do not have a perfectly-lovely-thanks-but-no-thanks step-person attached to my dad. I have a very-very-volatile-completely-unpleasant-and-probably-has-a-personality-disorder step-person attached to my dad. T

    • Ugh, something went wrong and my comment got cut off at the end. The TL/DR is: LW, you might have to take some time to figure out what the “next best thing” is for your relationship with your dad. My dad isn’t capable of being the kind of dad I need and want. My dad is perfectly happy to throw me and my kiddo under the bus if it makes his wife happy, (and then spend his time cheerfully gaslighting us about why we should be delighted to be thrown under the bus if he had in fact thrown us under the bus, but there is no bus, it’s all in my head and everything is perfectly normal!)

      The nonsense with my dad means that he’s been downgraded to “Guy I can trust to call once a week to share knock-knock jokes with my kid, and talk about the weather”. Which is about the same level of relationship I have with our local librarian, whom I’ve known and worked with for 4 years.

      What’s the next best option for you and your dad, LW?

  36. Ypsiann said:

    I’m very surprised at the easy “Trump-supporter = equals Fascist= bad babysitter” I am a Trump supporter who is none of these things. I’m very disappointed at the negative groupthink. It’s not the usual Captain kindness and good will.

    • JenniferP said:

      So, by saying you’re still a Trump supporter in 2018, you are saying logic and facts couldn’t convince you.
      The entire history of his horrible business decisions and practices, where he renegs on every contract and leaves all his vendors holding the bag, couldn’t convince you.
      His constant lies couldn’t convince you.
      Choosing Mike Pence, a person who supports child abuse for gay kids (Google “conversion therapy”), and whose policies jumpstarted a resurgence of AIDS in Indiana, didn’t convince you.
      Choosing Jeff Sessions, a known white supremacist, didn’t convince you.
      His racist dogwhistle campaign about Obama’s birth certificate and constant racist messaging about the first black president couldn’t convince you.
      Appointing a completely dysfunctional cabinet of kleptocrats couldn’t convince you.
      His own words about what he wanted to do or what he has done couldn’t convince you. (Like bragging about sexually assaulting women)
      His disgusting nepotism couldn’t convince you.
      Destroying our alliances, starting trade wars, and publicly admiring and kissing up to dictators didn’t convince you.
      His completely fake religious “conversion” didn’t convince you.
      Bringing us to the brink of nuclear conflict over Twitter couldn’t convince you.
      Praise of Nazis marching in Charlottesville didn’t convince you.
      Gleefully destroying decades of bipartisan protections for clean air and water so that businesses could make a tiny bit more money didn’t convince you.
      Letting 4000+ people die of neglect in Puerto Rico didn’t convince you.
      BABIES STOLEN FROM REFUGEES AND PUT IN TODDLER JAILS (with no plan to reunite them and no intention of reuniting them with their families) couldn’t convince you.

      And you’re not even going with the “well, I just wanted to shake things up” or “I didn’t think he was serious about all the horrible things he said he was going to do, I just thought there’d be jobs!” defense. You’re still at it in 2018. Embarrassing!

      If you are gonna admit to being a Trump supporter after all the evidence of what he is, I’m going to assume that you are just like him. I’m going to assume that you LOVE what he does and the things he says he stands for. And you may have all three branches of government for now, but you can’t have my good opinion or my benefit of the doubt. And I, Captain Awkward, a person you’ve always thought was kind and good-willed, have a very low opinion of you right now. WHY IS THAT, I WONDER?

      And unless I see you working to undo the damage being done right now (like the fact that when he gets his way and the Affordable Care Act is finally repealed and replaced with some BULLSHIT & I and my family won’t be able to access the medical care I need anymore), I will always take it very personally, and I will go to bed tonight thinking “God, that Ypsiann person is a fucking asshole and she fucking sucks so bad.” You may have power, but you don’t get to have my good opinion. You don’t get to sit at my table and break bread like everything is normal. You just don’t. Maybe that will convince you? I don’t care anymore. I’d love to think that we still have common ground, that good is possible. But we tried the gentle, patient way two years ago and right now there are special jails for brown babies and plans to build more. So, no. I’m done. No more benefit of the doubt. No more valuing “civility” over people’s lives. Help us fix it, or at least have the grace to shut the fuck up if you don’t want to be lumped in with assholes. But don’t chide me about being kind.

      Go babysit some white babies, though. I’m sure you’re great at it.

  37. JenniferP said:

    Ok clearly time to close the thread before I lose my goddamn mind.

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