My mom passed away several years ago. Dad had been her primary caregiver for years, but he hid this fact because I lived so far away, and mostly only saw them at Christmas.
Last summer my dad told me that he was dating. Both my brother and I and our families were super excited because he deserves a lot of happiness.
We slowly learned about this woman. Years ago, she’d noticed my dad at a local pub. They talked, nothing more. More recently, her daughter encouraged her to talk to him.
Dad knew she was married. She said that she and her husband had separated weeks earlier. So, he felt it was okay to engage in dates.
I’ve since discovered some red flags that bothered me, but I haven't really said anything. For example, her husband filed a restraining order against her. She was concerned with whether my brother liked her or not. Dad has to constantly check in and see if she was okay. And we can’t mention my mom at all. She’s also refused to exchange contact information with me.
He started spending a lot of time with her grandsons, but not visiting my nephews who live just an hour away. He’s also made no new effort to see my sons.
There’s also the fact that once she was divorced, she started dating a new man a few weeks later.
So, my husband, brother and sister-in-law started communicating privately. Public court records revealed disturbing information.
She and her husband have filed for divorce and separated several times. One separation lasted five years. They’ve both filed restraining orders against each other (both dismissed by the courts). And she filed one against her dad.
There have also been claims related to debt.
Someone recently stole money out of my dad’s checking account. We fear they may either take, or cause him to lose, what little money he has.
Something is amiss and we’re worried. We fear that if my dad doesn't do things her way, she may fabricate something and file a protective order against him.
Also, her aggressive outbursts may cause other issues for him with random people.
We’re leery of speaking to my dad directly. We all feel that he may not listen. I have the most open and communicative relationship with him, but I’m unsure if I should raise all this. Or should we ask his most dear and trusted friend if he’ll speak to our dad?
Feeling Lost and Worried
Living far from your father, it’s not easy to raise or calmly discuss such a potentially difficult topic. And, however you or your brother end up communicating with him, the greater chance this woman has to dismiss your interfering thoughts.
It could even separate you and your brother from being able to visit or talk to your father.
Your suggestion to involve his trusted friend in a conversation with your father, is less directly explosive. He could ask how the “new relationship” is going, remind him of the past when your mom was healthy and the kind of loving, trusting relationship they had (if, hopefully, that was so).
But tread carefully, all of you. Even if this woman seems harsh and self-serving, your dad’s need for a companion and extended family is his choice.
Here’s what you can do: Visit him. If necessary, stay in a hotel, but be in his presence. Bring one or more of your sons along. It’s obvious that he longs for family connections.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the woman who’s been emotionally abused by her sister-in-law (April 24):
“In addition to seeking out support from a women’s group and/or a psychotherapist, as you suggest, it would help this woman to know that it is completely appropriate for her to establish boundaries.
“This is especially so if it is predictable that she will be exposed to continuing abuse whenever there is contact between her and the abuser.
“This means limiting the type of contact and time allowed for each. If she is able, she might inform her sister-in-law about what she is not prepared to condone.
“This could mean exposing herself to more of the same, in which case cut-off may be appropriate even while the husband continues to remain in touch with his family.
“In this way, she would be taking control over how she manages the relationship, which should release her from the constant rumination about it.”
Tip of the day:
If you want to protect a family member you love, make time to visit and be present in their life.