Carolyn Hax: A daughter doesn't get along with dad's new girlfriend
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
How do you nicely tell your father that you do not want his girlfriend at your graduation? I am deeply indebted to him for paying for graduate school but I don't want to feel indebted to the point of having to invite his girlfriend. She is not very pleasant for me to be around and would only be a reminder of that fact that my mother is not alive to be there.
Which impulse is stronger in you, to celebrate your moment, or to thank your dad? I know which I'd choose, and I have an opinion on which choice is the more evolved (and less regrettable) in your case, but you need to come to it on your own.
I'm sorry about your mom. If my own experience is any guide, you will be acutely aware of her absence regardless.
I am very thankful to my father but I did not solicit his help. He offered and I accepted. My mother actually passed during the first month of medical school so this is a big deal. My dad's girlfriend has made no effort to get to know me and at most family events finds a way to criticize me. She actually ruins most things for me. When she does that it just makes me wish even more that my mom were there.
This sounds like a conversation you need to have with your dad. Not, "I never asked you to pay and she's a witch to me," but, "I am grateful beyond words, but also in an awkward position on the graduation. Can you explain why [girlfriend] is so critical of me?"