DEAR AMY: I'm a 20-year-old guy. I have an older sister and younger brother. All of us have had major fallings-out with our dad, all of which arose after he got remarried. All of our issues with him had to do with his new wife. She kicked out my sister after catching wind that she planned to rent an apartment with friends; threw me out scornfully after I graduated high school because I wanted to live with my mother; and kicked out my brother after he ran away because she kept locking up his stuff. Even almost three years later, I've been trying hard to keep in contact with my father, despite these conflicts. We live pretty far apart, so I've tried phone calls, emails and private messages. He used to reply all the time, but in the last few months he hasn't replied to anything. I've seen and heard of way too many stories where father and son become alienated, and I don't want that happening to us. I miss him, but I am ready to give up. Should I give him some time? Should I keep trying? And how can I deal with his new wife? I know he's not happy with her, but he won't listen to me.
DEAR ABANDONED: If your father is married to someone who controls him and forces his children from the home, then I'd say that he needs you to keep demonstrating that you want to have a relationship with him.
I give you a lot of credit for wanting to restore and repair this relationship, and I hope you won't give up.
If you are able, you should plan a visit. Don't stay with him but do try to see him -- one on one -- so that you can start to rebuild your connection. Don't tell him how to lead his life or conduct his marriage, but do try to form a connection focusing on positive ways to be together. The time to review his past mistakes would be after you are closer -- and it would be best if he started that particular conversation. He must have done some things right, because you seem like a very kind person.
DEAR AMY: A friend of my daughter's (and not a particularly close friend) is getting married in a month. I have been invited to the wedding. It is more than a three-hour drive, so I've already made up my mind not to attend. I have only met this young lady one time. What is my socially correct obligation? Is it necessary for me to buy her a gift? I am not a stingy person, but the going rate for cash gifts is around $150 in our area. Your thoughts are appreciated.
DEAR VEXED: Your only obligation is to RSVP in a timely fashion, to thank the couple for inviting you, and to congratulate them on their upcoming marriage.
If you don't attend a wedding you are under no obligation to give a gift. The $150 "going rate" you mention might originate with people who assume they are expected to compensate marrying couples for the "per plate" cost of hosting a sit-down dinner and reception. Giving cash as a gift is a practice that varies culturally and regionally, but you are under no obligation at all.
DEAR AMY: I survived a situation similar to the one "Desperate" described. My wife also told me that she had lost interest in me. My wife also took up with a male friend from work, but she claimed the relationship was platonic. I wish I could save this guy from what I went through. After we dragged ourselves through marriage counseling, it turned out that it was already too late. Like Desperate, I wanted to save our marriage. I learned that one person cannot save a marriage. I hope things turn out better for him than for me. I also hope he doesn't waste years trying to fix something that can't be repaired.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Several men responded to this question by saying that "Desperate" should get out now.