DEAR AMY: I recently experienced a terrible heartbreak. This has changed the way I view the world (and myself), and I find myself having trouble trusting other people. Basically, it’s been a very tough time for me emotionally. My father has a history of being emotionally abusive toward me and the rest of the family. I usually come home on the weekends, and except for my father’s occasional behavior, my parents have, for the most part, been supportive of me. My father recently initiated an episode that quite frankly crossed a line. There was a very small, unimportant issue that he used as an excuse to yell at me and belittle me, as usual. But this time he used my heartbreak to personally attack me, and it hurt on a very deep level. He said that I was a pig and that’s why my ex broke up with me. I can’t even look him in the eye after he said something so cruel to me. I usually ignore his episodes, but if I don’t, he is defensive, makes excuses, has another episode and often “forgets” what he’s done and denies it. Now, I feel like cutting him off and never talking to him again, but realistically that won’t be easy. I am quite dependent on my family now, and I still love my mom and want to spend time at home. What can I do in this situation? Is giving him the cold shoulder a good idea? Should I stop going home? I’m really at a loss.
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: The person who calls you a pig is the person who shouldn’t be given the opportunity to do so again.
The rational consequence of your father’s behavior should be for you to react honestly, and then keep your distance from him.
I’ll also venture an armchair opinion that being the daughter of a verbally abusive father has set you up for challenges in other relationships with men in your life.
You say you need your family, but given the tremendous cost to you, you should consider not going home every weekend, and using those times away from them to develop other interests, healthy hobbies, and friendships. It would be ideal if you could spend time with your supportive mother, outside of your father’s presence. I certainly hope he doesn’t treat his wife the way he treats his daughter.
During one of your solo weekends, you should take time to read: “Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life,” by Susan Forward and Craig Buck (2002, Bantam).
DEAR AMY: Here is a scenario I’d like you to weigh in on: Eight of us are at a restaurant dinner party. The “host” begins to eat, and we then start and finish the salad portion. The main meal begins being served, which sometimes takes a few minutes, but I start to eat without waiting. My son says I should have waited for all to be served. I say, “No,” as the “host” had already lifted her fork for the salad portion, which was the only thing we needed to wait for. Am I required to wait for all to be served the main portion?
Just Wanna Dig In
DEAR DIG IN: Yes, you should have waited to eat until everyone had been served their main course. Oftentimes, the host of the party will encourage people to eat by saying, “Oh, please don’t wait for me,” but even then, the polite thing to do is to wait so that everyone may start together, unless the kitchen is taking an exceptionally long time to deliver the last entrees, and others at your table insist that you start.
DEAR AMY: I couldn’t believe your uncompassionate response to “Wondering Resident.” Wondering is a condo dweller who has an obese neighbor who knocks on the door every day asking for household help. Basically, you answered, “Let the fat lady fend for herself.” I was appalled.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: My response was that these neighbors should choose which chores they are willing to do for their neighbor, and urge her to get professional household help for others.
In the original letter, they said that their needy neighbor had denied that she needed outside help, while knocking on their door more than once a day. The previous residents had moved away to avoid this issue.
Being transparent about this boundary isn’t disrespectful — and I maintain that it might preserve the relationship.