DEAR AMY: My parents recently split up. It was my mom’s decision and seemed quite sudden. For a few days I was angry with my mom for not explaining it beforehand and for just doing this without a reason. Turns out my parents had been having problems for a while. They are adults and my siblings and I are grown, too. They can do as they please. However, my father started dating a friend of his a month after the breakup, which seemed odd because he said he was so in love with my mother and that he is absolutely heartbroken. Well, it turns out he had been cheating on my mother for at least two years with this woman. He doesn’t know that I know this, and I think my mother doesn’t know about it, either. I run a small business with my father and one of my siblings, so I don’t want to fight with my father, but every time he starts to say how my mother is a terrible person who dumped him, and every time he starts to wallow in self-pity, I just want to throw it in his face that I know about the cheating and tell him he is a hypocrite. Should I confront him about this whole thing? Or just keep things as they are and let this be their business and not get involved?
Caught in the Middle
DEAR CAUGHT: One of the privileges of adulthood is the freedom to speak your truth.
One of the responsibilities of adulthood is to ensure that one parent not mistreat the other parent.
If your mother pulled the plug on this marriage, you could assume that she knew about this affair.
Your father should not criticize your mother to you or involve you in their breakup. You should tell him, privately, “Dad, you are in another relationship already. Were you having an affair?”
Regardless of how he responds, you should tell him, “Please, don’t criticize Mom to me. I don’t appreciate it, it puts us in a terrible position and it’s not fair.”
Stating your own point of view is not starting a fight, and even if your father gets mad at you, if you stay calm and stalwart, it will clear the air and you will be unburdened.
DEAR AMY: Tensions have been high in my husband’s family for more than 20 years. Between my father-in-law’s infidelity, rude behavior and lies, all the extended family have stepped away, or been shut out. It is now just his parents and one married sister. The last time my husband stood up to his father, his parents and sister didn’t speak to us for six years. After the reconciliation, my husband turns a blind eye to his father’s behavior, and has asked me not to say anything. He says, “That’s the way my Dad is, it’s just easier not to say anything.” I know it tore him up not to have his family around. Everyone now puts on smiles. We’ve been asked to host holiday meals. This past Easter my father-in-law was rude, made comments and complained the entire time. I told my husband that I won’t stand for it any longer, but due to various circumstances, we are the only people whose house is big enough. I know with the holidays approaching I will be expected to host. I want things to be easier on my husband, but I will not reward my father-in-law’s bad behavior. How do I stand my ground without putting more pressure on my husband?
Feeling Like an Outlaw
DEAR OUTLAW: If your husband wants to host a holiday meal for his family, he should take the lead. You could be a supportive spouse and help him to prepare the meal and set the table. If things get too difficult for you, you should very calmly, quietly and politely excuse yourself and start the cleanup, or go for a walk.
I’m suggesting emotional detachment, backed up by actual detachment, if necessary.
DEAR AMY: “Grieving” was written by parents who were frantic about their daughter’s choice to be with an abusive man. I thought your answer was excellent, but I would also add that a surrogate — an aunt, an uncle, a family friend — can be so helpful. They are seen as more emotionally removed, and can be an escape hatch. My uncle bought me a plane ticket to escape my situation, and that has made all the difference in my life.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Beautiful. Thank you.