Carolyn Hax: What not to do when Dad marries a virtual stranger

Carolyn Hax
Columnist March 24, 2012

Adapted from two recent online discussions.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My father is getting remarried in June to a woman I have met one time for an hour and my sister has never met. I was introduced to this woman as a “friend” of my father’s. I am old enough to know this woman was not just his “friend.” I believe they have been involved for less than a year.

She is from a different state, so I know scheduling can be difficult between my sister’s and my jobs, and the fact that my sister lives out of state. But I feel that I should know this woman more before she officially becomes part of the family. My mom thinks I should tell my father my feelings, but I don’t know where to start. I don’t think he needs my approval, but I do think I should know her more. I don’t even know her kids’ names or genders!

Anonymous


Then do what you can to get to know her better. Ask your dad questions, ask him to suggest ways you and she can get to know each other, or invite them to come visit you.

Now here’s the don’t: Don’t advance any further your notion of how this “should” go down. That suggests she’s not welcome in the family until you decide you know her well enough, and that’s neither practical nor fair.

Your dad is family, and he has chosen her, so she will be family. You would want nothing less from him if you, say, lived on the other side of the Earth for a year or two and came home married. Time to reach out to your dad as you’d want him reaching out to you.

Dear Carolyn:

My fiance and I are eating crow in a major way. My parents were paying for most of our spring wedding, but we were butting heads over certain things, such as their insistence that we invite a number of irrelevant family members and acquaintances of theirs instead of our own third-tier friends. We had a falling-out last month that ended with my saying we would plan and pay for the wedding ourselves. They backed off.

Well, as it turns out, we cannot swing it ourselves. Not even close. Fiance is neutral but I’m torturing myself trying to decide whether to grovel for help and accept the strings that come along with it.

Purse Strings, Puppet Strings

Please please please please PLEEEEEEASE greet this challenge by having the wedding you can afford, and not one frill or bubble more. It can be intimate and beautiful and a love letter from each of you to the other, which is what a wedding ought to be anyway, at least at its heart.

Developing and owning a habit of living within your means, meanwhile, is a love letter from each of you to your marriage and your kids someday, if you have them.

Both outcomes are SO much cooler than groveling. Even though I’m groveling to you. But that’s different.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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