DEAR AMY: My husband died last October. I struggled being strong for our kids. When my dad and his wife offered for me to come and visit them, I jumped at the offer. I needed to feel my dad's hugs desperately. We were talking about me coming to stay with them for a couple months next winter. My father even said that they had a room in their home waiting for me — any time. A month later, I now hear that the room and their love for me has a stipulation: The catch is that I must stop smoking. They say that my smoking makes them both sick, even though I walk away from the house to smoke. Because of this, I know I smoke less when I'm there. My father claims that I make his wife sick, and she claims that I make him sick. I believe his wife has manipulated him. I have worked my whole life to try to stop smoking and even before this stipulation was placed on me, I was once again trying to quit, but this news just tore me up. I feel so hurt. This is evidence that my dad wouldn't even show me compassion when I am in mourning. I won't get a loving hug from my own father! This has made me feel as if I'm not only grieving the loss of my husband, but also the loss of my dad. How do I move past this, when my heart feels so broken?
DEAR GRIEVING: One way to move past this is to commit to trying, once again, to tackle your smoking addiction. (Smokefree.gov has guidelines, suggestions, support and a handy app that can help to keep you on track.)
You don't seem able, or willing, to see this from your father's perspective: He IS offering hugs, and housing, and he is using this leverage to try to force you to deal with your smoking. He cannot actually control you, so this leverage is all he has.
No nonsmoker wants to rub shoulders with a heavy smoker, but for some people, the residue on your skin and clothing is truly toxic.
You see your dad's nonnegotiable as a refusal to spend time with you — and you really blame his wife — but they are not refusing to see you. They are not refusing to love you. They are refusing to have you live with them while you are smoking. This is a very clear-cut nonnegotiable.
You can consume nicotine without smoking cigarettes — through gum, lozenges, patches, prescription inhalers and vaping. None of these nicotine delivery systems should bother other people and may help you to become smoke-free.
DEAR AMY: For as long as I can remember, my mother has been sharing with me her feelings of sadness and frustration with my father. I have expressed my frustration about this many times, and it gets better for a little while, but soon enough, she's back to doing it again. My parents moved across the street about 18 years ago, so it's not like I can avoid them — nor would I want to. They've been married for 60 years and I know they love each other. A therapist told me to tell my mother that when she does this, it's like she's throwing up on me. That worked for a while ... but mom says, "I just need to share it with someone." As far as I can tell, my dad never stops trying to please her, but it seems she always has a problem. Your advice?
Reached My Limit
DEAR LIMIT: This situation was far more charming when it was happening to Ray Romano in "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Your physical proximity to your parents leads me to offer two suggestions:
Stop explaining yourself. Vote with your feet. Every time she does this, you should say, "Well, that's my cue. I'm going to get going (or it's time for you to get going), now."
Also — your mother really does need an outlet. You should give her your therapist's number, to call for a referral.
DEAR AMY: "Three's a Crowd" said her friend accused her and her husband of propositioning her for a "threesome" several times over the years. I was shocked that you didn't come to the friend's defense. Her "strange accusation" might have been true!
DEAR UPSET: I have to trust the narrative that the writer supplies to me, and in this case, "Three's a Crowd" said the accusation was strange, embarrassing and totally baseless.