Ask Amy: Widower's New Woman Causes Family Rift

By Amy Dickinson | December 2nd, 2020

She's new to the clan, and she's taking control

Widower with his new woman

Dear Amy: My mom died two years ago. Less than six months later, my father started dating a new woman.

My siblings and I tried to be as supportive as possible. Our father was amazing to our mother as she battled cancer. He deserves love and companionship, and our mother wanted that for him, too.

However, over time it has become evident that this woman’s intentions are to drive a massive wedge between our father and his four kids. She has created lies that change our father’s image of each of us. She’s hidden pictures of our mother and replaced them with ones of herself. She has insulted the “way we were raised.” She has made each of us feel so distant — and unwelcome — in our home and with our family.

At this point, all four of us are beginning to feel estranged from our father. We’ve tried speaking with him and with her; but it always ends in vicious fights and with our father taking her side.

We want Dad to be happy, but with someone else.

We are hoping that, as he is a devoted reader of your column, he’ll see this, and your objectivity will provide some clarity.

— Three Daughters

Dear Three Daughters: Unfortunately, trying to rescue someone from the heartbreak of a toxic relationship most often results in a dynamic that reminds me of the old “Chinese finger trap” puzzle: the harder you pull, the harder they cling to the relationship.

Furthermore, his partner can look to your panicked behavior and accuse you and your sisters of being controlling and manipulative.

And she would be right! You are trying to control your father, because you can see how his partner is changing the dynamic between you, gaslighting him and creating a widening breech.

Don’t help her! The more you sisters “gang up” on her, the harder your father will cling.

Despite your own loss and grief, you likely have no idea of what his loss has been like and what his needs are.

You’re going to have to do the hardest thing a loved one can do: Respect your father’s right to make choices about his own life (even if they are bad choices); maintain a cordial relationship with her (if she is the gatekeeper to seeing him); never trash or disrespect her (even if you can’t stand her).

Here is what you convey: “We love you. We want you to be happy. Your partner isn’t very nice to us, and we worry about you, but you have the right to make your own choices. We’ll always be your daughters, we’ll always be here for you, and we’ll do our best to be supportive, no matter what. Dad, let’s just promise that we will always keep the door open.”

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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