Ask Amy: Family reunion will be short one member

July 19, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have been in a serious relationship with a man for four years. When we first got together, he was legally separated and after a year was divorced. We have been living together for the past three years.

The problem is that three of his four young adult children hold me responsible for his divorce and refuse to even meet me. Essentially, my partner has been living a double life; visiting and spending time with his adult children and then coming home to me. I am never included in their visits due to their refusal to have anything to do with me.

This summer, his side of the family is having a reunion to celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday. My partner’s mother and his sister have asked me not to go to the reunion because my partner’s children said that if I am going, they will not attend. As a result, my partner is buying tickets for his two younger children to attend the reunion but is not attending the reunion himself.

I have done everything possible to welcome them into our lives (through my partner, of course, since I’ve never spoken to them) but to no avail. My partner is at his wits’ end. He is still trying to make everyone happy. I love him dearly and want this to end. What do you suggest we do? -- Sad Partner

DEAR SAD: Your partner can nudge his children along by being empathetic to them, honest and straightforward about his choices, but not beholden to their reactions.

This family reunion presents an opportunity for him to say to them, “Carol is part of my life now. She has nothing to do with my divorce from your mom. I know this has been hard on you, but it is time to move forward.”

He is not only allowing his children to reject you, but he is letting them call the shots for his whole family — and he is footing the bill! Perhaps his absence from this landmark celebration will get the family’s attention.

DEAR AMY: My father (who is 80) is dying. My stepmother, his third wife (who is my age), is caring for him at her small home. They don’t have a lot of money. I don’t have much either and have not saved for my retirement (and have no children). They did not have children during their 35-year marriage.

I would like to see him but our relationship is not the best. He left my mother and didn’t financially support the family. I live within driving distance (five hours away). My father has been discouraging a visit, I think because he is embarrassed about his frail condition.

Many people, including psychotherapists, say I should drive there (uninvited) if I want to visit, stay a short while (if admitted) and leave.

The rejection is hurting me and I could be rejected at the door.

I have a somewhat stressful new job, a significant other who wants to move and a million other stressors.

None of my siblings cares to see our father. My sister at first was up for a visit but now declines, saying it would be a waste of her time. What would you advise? -- Daughter With Dilemma

DEAR DAUGHTER: Go for a visit. Call the day before (or when you’re on the road) and say, “I’m coming out to see you. Don’t worry about the house or anything — I won’t stay long but I really do want to visit.”

Bring some food and a plant. Knock on the door and take it from there.

DEAR AMY: “Worried” cut her leg badly on a table at her boyfriend’s apartment. She asks, “Are my parents right to be concerned about his character?”

Yes! If he were a responsible adult, he would have removed the table or covered the broken edge with a piece of duct tape immediately. Furthermore, he would have insisted on paying a small part of the bill at the time of the injury as well as offering to repay the parents in installments. -- DV

DEAR DV: I agree that this fellow could have done much more to step up.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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