DEAR AMY I'm a young woman in my 20s. I live some distance from my parents, but we have always been a close family. A few weeks ago, I found out that my father has been unfaithful, and that he and my mother are separating. My relationship with my father has always been a nice one: He gives me advice about work and my car; when I visit, we go out for burgers or to the movies and watch TV together. I don't talk to him much about emotions, love and intimacy because he gets awkward and gruff. I'm angry and hurt by the choice he made, and angry that my family is now broken. I'm angry that he said, "You're the most important thing in this world," instead of, "I love you and your mom, and we're going to try to work this out." I can't imagine speaking to him, though we've kept in contact by text message. But I feel like I should call him to comfort him, because isn't that what good daughters are supposed to do? I know the infidelity was not about me, and it's not my fault and not my job to fix it. I know, too, that many daughters and sons grow to loathe their parents, and I don't want that to happen. How do we move on? When is the right time to be brave and generous, and when is it OK to self-preserve?
DEAR DAUGHTER First, you already are the "good daughter" your parents raised you to be. You are compassionate about both parents, even the one with whom you are angry. So now you can throw out the rule book about what good daughters are supposed to do and respond honestly.
Your father has hurt his family, and now he is hiding because he isn't sure what to do next.
Your job is not to comfort him in your hour of need but to do what you need to do to receive comfort.
Communicating is how you will "self-preserve." Writing him a letter (not a text message) might be a good first step toward a conversation.