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Meeting the new woman in Dad's life

DEAR CAROLYN: I'm in my late 20s and my parents are going through a nasty, drawn-out divorce. A new couple moved in next door to them and my dad and the wife fell for each other. Each of them left their spouses, my dad after years of unhappiness with my mom. It has been a roller-coaster ride for me. Starting with anger at my father, sympathy for my mother, unhealthy boundary crossing by my mother talking badly about my dad to me, and of course my disdain for the new woman. After a lot of reflection, I have set boundaries with my mother, been in much more frequent contact with my dad, and have realized what a beautiful childhood I had and how wonderful both of my parents have always been to me. This divorce has everything to do with their relationship and nothing to do with me. I got to know the new woman in my dad's life before all this happened and I really enjoyed her company! She loves her dogs (like me!) and was so well spoken and educated. We kept in touch and would send each other funny pictures of our dogs, and she helped me with my job search. Since finding out about their relationship, I haven't spoken to her. I hear she is "terrified" of me now. I would never want anyone to feel that way about me! I am thinking of sending her a text, possibly inviting my dad to visit us and bring her with him. But I am worried it will be awkward and change our close father/daughter dynamic. I don't really know how to navigate this new relationship. Any tips? Fiance thinks I am overthinking it; his parents have been divorced since he was 3.


OVERTHINKING?: I agree with your fiance, but I'd like to call it something else: under-trusting.

You've given this a lot of thought, and the situation called for every bit of it. It is wrenching to have two people you love pitted against each other.

Not only did you summon the strength not to get caught in the middle, but you also found the wisdom to see the larger context and shared humanity of all the people involved, and to resist the easy, and temptingly divisive, labels. You embraced complexity when you knew it could come at a cost.

So now it's time to trust your work. You want to start the process, yes, of inviting the neighbor/friend back into your life, now as the "new woman"? Then trust that it's the right impulse at the right time for you.

It will be awkward, you're right. New things typically are, and messy new things are almost guaranteed to be. Again, trust yourself to manage that, and to get past it.

It will change the balance of your recent detente with your dad. Trust yourself to find a way to rebalance it.

It will upset your mother. So trust your judgment and hold your ground, even as you remain sympathetic to her hard, utterly valid feelings.

Most important, when things go wrong, or disappoint you, or stir up new stuff you didn't expect: Trust yourself to find your way through it. The "tip" that always applies.

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