Ask Amy: Widower’s new woman plays out old story
Dear Amy: My mom died two years ago. Less than six months later, my father started dating a new woman.
My siblings and I tried to be as supportive as possible. Our father was amazing to our mother as she battled cancer. He deserves love and companionship, and our mother wanted that for him, too.
However, over time it has become evident that this woman’s intentions are to drive a massive wedge between our father and his four kids. She has created lies that change our father’s image of each of us. She’s hidden pictures of our mother and replaced them with ones of herself. She has insulted the “way we were raised.” She has made each of us feel so distant — and unwelcome — in our home and with our family.
At this point, all four of us are beginning to feel estranged from our father. We’ve tried speaking with him and with her, but it always ends in vicious fights and with our father taking her side.
We want Dad to be happy, but with someone else.
We are hoping that, as he is a devoted reader of your column, he’ll see this, and your objectivity will provide some clarity. — Three Daughters
Dear Three Daughters: Unfortunately, trying to rescue someone from the heartbreak of a toxic relationship most often results in a dynamic that reminds me of the old “Chinese finger trap” puzzle: the harder you pull, the harder they cling to the relationship.
Furthermore, his partner can look to your panicked behavior and accuse you and your sisters of being controlling and manipulative.
And she would be right! You are trying to control your father, because you can see how his partner is changing the dynamic between you, gaslighting him and creating a widening breech.
Don’t help her! The more you sisters “gang up” on her, the harder your father will cling.
Despite your own loss and grief, you likely have no idea of what his loss has been like and what his needs are.
You’re going to have to do the hardest thing a loved one can do: Respect your father’s right to make choices about his own life (even if they are bad choices); maintain a cordial relationship with her (if she is the gatekeeper to seeing him); never trash or disrespect her (even if you can’t stand her).
Here is what you convey: “We love you. We want you to be happy. Your partner isn’t very nice to us, and we worry about you, but you have the right to make your own choices. We’ll always be your daughters, we’ll always be here for you, and we’ll do our best to be supportive, no matter what. Dad, let’s just promise that we will always keep the door open.”
Dear Amy: Why are so many women willing to give up so much just to be with a man?
I see so many questions to you regarding mistreatment by men, and yet the women have to turn to you for advice as to whether they should stay in the relationship?
Has society really convinced so many women that they can’t be happy without a man?
Your thoughts? — Wondering
Dear Wondering: I don’t think that this behavior is exclusive to women.
However, I do believe that for centuries, women have been told and taught that their true worth lies in their relationships, and that their womanhood hinged on motherhood, which (until recently) required a mate and outside financial support.
Lack of access to education and opportunities outside the family structure reinforced this idea.
When people feel systemically disempowered, they tend to lower their expectations, and take what they can get, until they don’t have to take it anymore.
So, welcome to now. People across the spectrum of human experience are waking up and insisting on change.
Dear Amy: This is in response to your answer to “Worried About Wedding,” who wondered if she could commit to attending a family wedding next year.
You said, “One thing I hope we have all learned is that each person needs to be responsible for their own safety, comfort, and health, regardless of the pressure they may feel to override their own judgment for the sake of appearances.”
That comment also applies to people like me who choose NOT to wear masks. — No Mask!
Dear No Mask!: Nope. Masks protect others, as well as yourself.
You do not have the right to potentially endanger someone else because you are too foolish to wear a mask.