Dad’s Girlfriend

My Mom left my Dad after our neighbour got killed in a car accident two years ago and his wife started hanging around our house a lot. She cheated with my Dad and now she’s trying to steal our house too. She moved in like she owns it already and she’s chucking out everything my mom ever picked. She picks ugly things I hate her and I’m mad at my Dad for letting her do this to our family. How can I get him to see that she’s a bitch?

signed,
Angry Daughter

Dear Angry,

I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with these big adjustments. I can appreciate why the whole situation appears unappealing to you but I do think I can help you feel a lot better by providing you with some perspective. Your question was far more informative than you likely intended it to be.

362 Relax and Succeed - There are all kinds of loveYou don’t mention how old you are but if I had to guess I’d say your perspective would likely be that of a daughter, and that you’re likely somewhere between 12 and 25ish. With your mother gone it makes sense that you would become protective over your family—including your dad—and it also makes sense that you would be protective over the house because it’s your family’s home, plus it contains your memories of your parent’s marriage. So I get that it’s painful to see your dad’s girlfriend making changes, but let’s look at why those changes might be happening.

Firstly, you mention that “she cheated….” You make it sound as though your adult father has no free will. It’s as though he’s been hypnotized or mesmerized or drugged or conned. You also don’t mention why exactly your parents split up. I can read that you feel that this woman got in the way, but let’s not forget that both of your parents are not just your parents, they are also living breathing individuals with their own personal needs that will often exist separately from the family’s needs.

Did your mother leave because of this other woman, or did she leave because your parents were having troubles already? You may have been there, but people keep secrets and parents tend to at least attempt to hide a lot from their kids so neither you nor I can really hope to speculate about what went on in the heads of your parents. But we can certainly look at what some of the possibilities might have been.

About 50% of modern marriages don’t last, so it’s not like what’s happened to your parents is crazy or wrong or a failure. Matching two lives up is a much trickier thing than we realize when we’re younger and it’s also possible to simply make a big mistake and do pretty much the same thing I did in my own life, which is marry someone that you love and respect, but not someone who’s well matched to how you each want to actually live daily life. Two people can be awesome individuals but if they have extremely varied interests and they’re also the kind of people who like to do things together, then two awesome individuals can end up having a tough time being married. Bottom line, it is very unlikely that this woman just showed up and stole your dad if there already wasn’t some fractures in your parent’s relationship.

362 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes it ends up differentI have no idea what your actual situation is like but consider this example: what if your father was the sort of person who takes great comfort from being useful or helpful or needed. Maybe he grew up with a sick parent and he just naturally thinks in help mode. And imagine that when he met your mother, that she was quite needy at that time. Maybe a parent had died, maybe she failed at school, or maybe she was struggling with a tough boss at work. My point is that your dad would be attracted to the role he could play in your mother’s life. But if your mother then recovered and regained her strength then the very glue that was holding your parent’s marriage together starts to dry and crack. She needed him and he needed to be needed. If that goes away then, despite the awesomeness of both people, the attraction naturally fades.

Can you see that it would make sense that when this lonely needy neighbour shows up, she would be the person who would most authentically allow your father to be his most comfortable natural self? Far from this woman choosing to drive a wedge into your parent’s relationship, she was likely in pain and she was likely only seeking solace. If they fell in love through that process then that’s not really surprising—especially if your parents where concurrently having difficulties.

Keep in mind that the dissolution of your parent’s marriage would likely have been the biggest most upsetting experiences of either of their lifetimes. I’ve been there—it’s torture when you’re going through it. It’s a huge decision and you’re never sure what’s happening is what’s best for yourself or your loved ones. And I didn’t have kids in mine—I can easily imagine that your parents would have both struggled a lot thinking about the potential affects that the breakup could have on you and your siblings. Guaranteed there are loads of secrets involved of which you have zero knowledge.

362 Relax and Succeed - SerendipityNext we have the idea that this new woman is taking over the house. Keep in mind that this isn’t some hostile takeover at a corporation—your father and this woman have fallen in love, and it feels just like when you do it. They get the very same chemical rush from love at their age that you do at yours. So if your Dad felt he had no purpose, now he is excited. If she felt lonely, he has been the answer to her loneliness. Will they stay together? Who knows? Again, the divorce rate is about 50%. But that’s no measure of the value of the relationship while it’s still together. But they are not together because this woman tricked your dad. They are two adults choosing to make a big and complicated life decision that I guarantee they thought about incessantly. Your dad is mature enough to know that it’s not going to be easy or fun plunking some new woman down into his pre-existing family. Both he and the new girlfriend likely spent a lot of sleepless nights wondering if you and your siblings will hate or reject them for having realized they were in love.

So let’s look at it from the participant’s perspectives. Your dad has experienced the pain of a divorce and his house is still filled with the things that the wife that left him had chosen and bought. Whether there’s a new woman or not it makes sense that he’d want some changes. T hose are reminders of one of the most painful experiences of his life. And if he’s dating someone new then it makes sense that he would want the new things to be things that she liked. If you like a guy you’ll start dressing in clothes you think he’ll like. Same for your parents. Remember, your mom will have to do this some day too.

As for the new woman—she’s not breaking up your parent’s marriage, she’s dating a new guy after her going through the agony of her husband’s death. How would you feel is she wrote to me and described what’s going on as: “My husband passed away and it was devastating. I never thought I would love again but then after my neighbour’s wife left him I began to see the neighbour in a different light and we’ve eventually started dating. I really love him and he’s got great kids but his daughter just hates me because she thinks I broke up her parents marriage.” Can you see that you can easily be made to look like the little bitch who isn’t letting these two people be happy after they’ve both been through the pain of a divorce or death? I’m not saying you are a bitch of course, but I’m also saying neither is your dad362 Relax and Succeed - Love is like playing the piano‘s girlfriend. In fact, from the outside if feels a touch cruel that you feel that way. Again, how would you feel if your dad criticized a boy you love? I know you feel there should be a difference because he has the title “Dad” but there is no such difference isn’t. Your dad is human. Love is love no matter how old you are.

I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m not saying you won’t have learn how to be with each other nor that it will be by any other means other than fumbling awkwardly through it. And maybe in the end you as an individual decide that she as an individual isn’t appealing to you. But that’s unlikely if you were raised by your dad and he loves her. But none of that can happen if you’ve just labelled her a one-dimensional bitch who actually had some bizarre agenda to break up a marriage for no good reason.

I know it’s impossible for you to see what your father and this woman are facing. There is no way to gain the benefits of life experience without living it. But this relationship of your dad’s isn’t about you or your family. You’re involved, but the relationship is a very real thing between two adults. Maybe it’s rebound or based on unhealthy ideas but trust me you’ll do that too in your lifetime. So if you have to be upset with them or even with me that’s okay. But I can guarantee that, as you age, this situation will take on new angles and new depth and you will realize that there’s a lot more going on than some woman just breaking up your family as though that was her actual agenda. What they’re doing is super-hard and you’re making it harder. I’m sure they knew that was a possibility, but it might be worth your time to truly consider what it is you’re trying to make happen. Because if you thinking that breaking them up would be a good idea then I can tell you that all you would be doing is breaking some hearts that have already been through a lot.

I know this sucks for you and I wish the world could just give you a big hug while you’re going through it. But I hope this helps you at least see the relationship in a slightly different light. Maybe watch some movies with stories like this, or if you read there’s probably some great fiction out there that would let you see into the minds of the adults in a situation like this. But the divorce wasn’t about you nor is the new relationship. It’s an ego’s nature to want to put itself at the center of these things, but there is no center to life. There is only what we choose and then there are the intended and unintended consequences. And I’m confident that the affect this has had on you was both unintended and unwanted by both you father and the woman you’ve chosen to hate because she fell in love with your father—something I’ll remind you that your own mother did too.

Keep as open a mind as you can, try not to spread negativity, and listen with the intent to understand. Through the pain of this you will grow and with any luck at all it will make you all that more sensitive and effective as an adult. I wish you every good fortune with all of that.

peace and a great big hug, s

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