Give me perspective on my dad's dating situation
August 4, 2009 8:02 AM   Subscribe

My parents split about a year ago. My father has started dating under unusual circumstances, and it makes me somewhat angry. Am I overreacting? How can I find peace with the situation?

I've read this recent question . The number of people telling the younger sister to just suck it up made me wonder if I was overreacting to my current situation as well. Help me find perspective.

I am 22, and attending university out-of-town. My sister is 10, and mainly lives with my mother; she stays with dad twice a week. It was an amicable split with fairly fluid arrangements. I’m with mom for the summer, though I recently spent three weeks staying with dad at his request to "be closer".

My dad took a trip business trip back to our home country in late February/early March, and met a girl there. Once he got back to North America, he found a one-year internship position for the girl and her coworker/supervisor at his office. They moved late March. Though this girl has her own apartment, she pretty much sleeps over whenever my sister isn't around, which means I saw a lot of her the past three weeks. She's 27, my dad is 48.

I didn't find out about this situation till I got back in town, late May. My sister met her in April as "just a friend", but clearly knows it's more - this girl had apparently made a comment about how my sister "is adorable, [and should] come be my daughter". Not great, as first impressions go. I talked to dad about this, and told him to try and keep things separate between the girlfriend and my sister.

I don't like this girl much personally - she seems very immature for her age - but I understand it's none of my business who my dad dates. My dad tends to see me in an advisory role and talks a lot about how I'm more mature than he and he's so glad he can talk to me about this stuff. We had a blow-up when he asked me to encourage my sister to be more receptive to his current and future girlfriends and expressed a desire that I would be part of his "new family". He seemed surprised that I felt negatively on both counts, and even more so when I didn't think I would be inclined to try to join in on his new happy shiny family. He can be irresponsible, and didn't consider, for example, common law marriage statuses until I pointed it out. FWIW, I get along a lot better with my mom.

While I was at his place staying in my sister's room, I didn't actually hang out with dad one-on-one, as the girlfriend was around. I don't have the best relationship with my dad, so this didn't bother me as much as the fact that he explicitly asked me to be there (and he's the type to guilt trip me about how we're growing apart) and failed to follow up on it (fairly typical). I'm also very resentful that I was asked to intervene on his behalf on something which I felt was his responsibility to deal with, even more so that it's been complicated by the age factor. I'm angry that he seemed surprised by the fact that my sister would be resistant to girlfriends, and that he expects me to hear about his relationship woes and give him advice (and if I rebuff him on this subject he tells me it's important to him that I be a part of his life). Furthermore, I think it's patently ridiculous he introduced my sister to this girl about 8 months after he moved out, and about a month after they started seeing each other.

My dad is a classic extrovert and while I was there he spent much time out with his girlfriend or hanging out with his friends. To a certain extent, I admit that I'm a little jealous - he tells her stories of his childhood he never told us, he does seem happy when he's around her. My childhood involved a lot of fights between my parents, and a lot of conflict between my dad and I. Nevertheless, every time I consciously think about the girlfriend situation (not often, I'm trying to just roll with it) and every time mom skirts close to the subject (she does understand now that I don't want to talk about it) I can't help but feel really bitter and resentful at nothing in particular, and sad that I feel like I can't trust my dad seems to look out for my sister's best interests. I can barely cover my own tuition and I'm already considering starting up my own fund for her eventual university education, if that tells you anything about what I feel about his reliability.

I want him to be happy, but not at our expense. Is that selfish? Am I wholly overreacting? If yes, and even if not, how can I deal with my anger in a constructive manner so it doesn't take over my life and any hope for better familial relationship with dad? How can I protect my sister from any potential fall-out of this situation? I don't really have any other adults I could talk to about this - I don't want to hurt mom, despite her claims that she's "over it", and all our relatives are thousands of miles away. Thanks for any input!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want him to be happy, but not at your expense? What the hell does that even mean?

How are you impacted negatively by your dad dating this woman?

If you want one-on-one time with your dad (and I don't think it sounds like you do) then you should speak up. You're an adult, so is your dad.

You feel jealous or hurt because your dad is dating this woman. You should say so. To him. You have concerns about your younger sister. You should articulate those to your dad.

There is nothing I see going on here that can't be resolved just by communicating better.
posted by wfrgms at 8:10 AM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

I want him to be happy, but not at our expense. Is that selfish? Am I wholly overreacting?

Yes and yes.

Imagine you brought a date home that your parent(s) hated. How would you wish them to react and treat you? Do that.
posted by rokusan at 8:15 AM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

It seems to me that your father is a classic immature dude. He is finally dating someone close to his mental age. He obviously loves you but many things due to his immaturity will be overlooked. Also I am noticing a little resentment with you and your dad dating someone else. Has your mother been dating since the split? You said you are closer to your mother and seeing your dad out living it up and dating whoever might be adding to your feelings right now. Honestly I think honest is the best policy here. If your father brings up the "tell your sister to be cool thing" again, give me both barrels. If he wants to truly be closer to you he will except it and appreciate your honesty. Now I'm not saying tell him to dump the GF (he has a right to be happy) but instead tell him to fight his own battles and not guilt you into talking your younger sister into behaving herself/ doing something that goes against her feelings.

Lastly your father is being selfish here however wanting you to be there and spend time with him is a step in the right direction. Perhaps he just does not know how to connect with you?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:19 AM on August 4, 2009

Oh, sorry to hear this. You have a lot of sh*tty things going on, but really only one problem: Dad's confiding in you inappropriately and trying to get you to smooth things over: this isn't your problem and you REALLY don't want to get into this position.

Unfortunately, very often Dad's first post-divorce GF is usually some kind of messy, hideous rebound-type mistake. It often goes too far too fast, and IMHO, that's what you've going on right now. Dads have a tendency to overly flaunt their new GFs, and very often wonder why their kids aren't as enchanted with her as they are. This can deteriorate and often, sadly, mark the end of a positive relationship between daughters and their dads, because to some extent, the dad replaces the female offspring in his life with a new GF and doesn't ever look back.

I am NOT saying all men do this, but come on; it happens way too often.

This will all be okay. Dad will probably settle down and find a more "appropriate" gf; but he may not. Either way, it would be very caring of you to talk your sister through this, because you can be sure she's very confused right now.

Don't step in on behalf of your Dad and absolutely don't become his listening post and offer to smooth things over for him; once a dad starts to do this, it gets harder and harder to not run interference for him.
posted by dzaz at 8:21 AM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

I feel like we're missing something here. As you've laid out the question, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with your dad's girlfriend--all the problems are on his end. (Except for her "immaturity," which, to be honest, isn't really an unforgivable fault in a "stepparent.") So they're not going to go away if the girl does, and would be things you would have to deal with regardless. I also don't see anything about the situation that's "at your expense" or represents not looking out for your sister's best interests. Were you hoping your dad would put his romantic life on hold until your sister comes of age?

For what it's worth, I had a similar experience as a child. After my parents divorced, my father went through a succession of younger girlfriends, which filled me with a sense of shame, bitterness, and resentment that I couldn't explain. Eventually I figured out that this wasn't about him or them. It was about my own desire to be the only thing in his life and to protect our little fortress against the intrusion of strangers. I learned to get over it (mostly by growing up and disassociating myself from my father psychologically) and soon my father found and married a kind, mature, and responsible woman that I couldn't find fault with at all.

I'm not saying this is what your problem is, but it's worth thinking about. Your feelings seem mostly to be caused by your internal thought-process and not any particular external factor, so I would just work on making the best of your relationship with your father without overinvesting yourself in his life. Trust me, your sister is more than capable of doing the same.
posted by nasreddin at 8:23 AM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Parents are people too, and people are messy. The sooner you stop holding him to unreasonable expectations, the sooner you'll find peace with them.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:26 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I want him to be happy, but not at our expense.

You are absolutely entitled to feel that way. However, that doesn't mean that your father should have to change his behavior to suit the way you feel. You are both adults, which means that the only way to resolve your feelings are to talk about them with him.

His behavior towards your sister, who is still a child, is the part that sticks out at me. She's still so young and he's acting like an ass. He really cannot fathom why she wouldn't welcome his girlfriend with open arms? The girlfriend's behavior towards your sister doesn't help, and from what you're saying, he probably doesn't get why that's a problem either.

Do you think he would talk to a therapist one on one and then with you and your sister?
posted by crankylex at 8:26 AM on August 4, 2009

I think you're probably reacting more to the classic flaky parent syndrome than anything. Yes, I coined that term myself. Flaky parent syndrome is typically caused by parents who aren't huge on the whole responsibility thing — especially if the responsibility devolves upon them. They come to rely on one or more children to be the rational, cool-headed ones with an eye to the future. They want you to be their buddies. The children might be latchkey kids.

Personally, I developed this feeling that my parents had traded some of the supposedly carefree nature of my childhood in exchange for the opportunity to have just a little more fun. As I grew older and they split, then took up with much younger partners, were financially casual, and generally bounced around like exuberant twenty-somethings, all while continuing to make me The Responsible One, I eventually figured out what was going on and began to resent their every move. The problem was that I was resenting pretty much everything, rather than the legitimate targets.

I could be reading my own situation into it, but it sounds like you're in a situation which is at least partially similar.

It's absolutely okay for parents to date whomever they want.

It's not okay that your father expects you to be his confidant. It's immature, and a complete role reversal.

It's not okay that you have to worry about your little sister. It's nice that you do, and a backup never hurts, but that duty is your father's duty.

It's not okay for your father to believe that your sister will just seamlessly transition to a new mom (especially one who seems a trifle clueless). It's not an adult expectation to have.

If you are suffering from flaky parent syndrome, it's okay to be annoyed. However, you cannot do anything about the past, aside from recognize it, then investigate how it has shaped you and your attitudes.

Focus on what your father's responsibilities are now, in particular the ones he is either attempting to foist upon you or neglecting with respect to your little sister. Be clear with yourself with regards to those issues, as much as you possibly can.

Only after that can you talk reasonably with your father about what he's expected to do. Do not bring up the past — it might feel good, but it won't be helpful. You'll be passing a burden (admittedly, one that belongs to him) already and he will not care for that, so tensions will be high enough.

Stress that he's the dad, not you, and with that certain things are expected of him.
posted by adipocere at 8:41 AM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

I mostly want to say this:

You call your dad's significant other a "girl" repeatedly. At twenty-seven years old, she's a woman, not a girl. I understand why it would make you uncomfortable, but if she makes your father happy, then you should be supportive, or at least refrain from commenting (common law marriage only exists in 11 states, by the way, so that might be a moot point).

You might also consider coming out and asking your father to spend some time alone with you. Be direct about it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. If you are staying at his place but not interacting, then perhaps you should not stay at his place, guilt trip or not.

2. While 27 is a bit young it still is old enough to be a mom of a 10 year old.

3. You don't have to, and shouldn't, run defense for him wrt your younger sister. Blowing up about it may not be the best solution though. State that it is his responsibility not yours, and refuse to address it again.

4. He is being manipulative, but you seem to be playing into the surrounding drama.

5. You are both adults now, at least one of you can act like one and the only person you have control over is yourself.

6. Someone above suggested your dad see a counselor, but I wonder if you should perhaps see one. Not, because there is anything "wrong" with you, but there certainly seems to be a lot of pent up emotions that come out as undifferentiated anger. It would also be a lot better forum to air all of this then to random strangers on the internet. All of us could say, "you are making too big a deal about it" or some other equally facile internet comment and it will do you little to no good.

If money is a concern check into your school's availability for health counseling services.

good luck
posted by edgeways at 8:53 AM on August 4, 2009

Other people are saying similar things to what I was thinking -- this is the part that jumped out at me:

My dad tends to see me in an advisory role and talks a lot about how I'm more mature than he and he's so glad he can talk to me about this stuff.

If your father is asking you for advice about his own love life, that's just....weird on his part, and it makes perfect sense for you to not want to have a part in that. And it is perfectly okay for you to draw that boundary and say "okay, look, I'm happy just knowing you're happy, but for the LOVE OF GOD I don't want to hear gory details." And as for his relationship with your younger sister, that's...between him and your younger sister.

It also makes perfect sense for you to feel let down that he's acting a little silly now. But it also is understandable for him to be acting silly -- lots of people do when they're in the giddy early stages of a romantic situation. It's unfortunate he's not handling that balance all that well right now; but none of that is your fault.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on August 4, 2009

I think there's a way to say "When you ask me to visit, please make time for me" without saying "It's your girlfriend or me: pick one." It would be wrong for you to ignore the girlfriend's role in your dad's life, but it's reasonable to suggest occasionally having breakfast or doing something else just the two of you.

I think I understand what you mean about wanting your dad's happiness, but not at your or your sister's expense. It's one thing for your dad to have found someone he enjoys dating and quite another to insist that you and/or your sister play a role in his fantasy of a "new family." He seems to want not only his new happy dating relationship, but also wants you and your sister to be part of it. He's an adult and you're right to respect his freedom to date whoever he likes. You're not obligated to like the woman he chooses to date, to consider her your family, or to enjoy spending time with her.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:18 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Work on communicating your feelings and boundaries to your father, and give your feelings time to settle.
posted by orange swan at 9:23 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think your feelings are reasonable and well-articulated.

He asked you to stay, but then spent little meaningful time with you.
He talks to you about new gf relationship issues.
He's oblivious to your feelings about the divorce and his new young gf.
He wants you to act on his behalf with siblings.

Many kids are resentful of the new person in their parents' lives. This is especially true when the split is quite recent. You haven't adjusted yet. It's his job to help you adjust, and he hasn't done that. In fact, he wants you to listen to him talk about this new relationship. Asking you to be persuasive with siblings is inappropriate.

However. He's unlikely to change much. It is his business who he dates, but he's being insensitive about it. Tell him you're uncomfortable listening to his relationship issues, and every time he does, leave the room, change the topic, get off the phone. Politely, and with as little fuss as possible. If he asks you again to to talk to siblings about the gf, respond with mild shock at the inappropriateness of the request, then move on.

Decide what you want the relationship to be, and take charge. If he asks you to visit, tell him you'd like to visit and then make plans to do things together. Could be bowling, golf, going to a basketball game, art exhibit, whatever. But don't just go hang out at his house, and if it turns out that way, tell him you'd be happy to reschedule, but have a busy life, and leave.

He doesn't have the parenting skills to give you the father/child relationship that you need and want. So try to find a relationship that will meet at least some of your wants, and build it. He may even marry this young woman, and you'll have more adjusting to do. It doesn't have to be awful. If you can build a friendly relationship with her, that's a wise move. She isn't going to be your, or your sister's, mother. You have a mother. But she may very well become a member of your family, a step-mother. That's a role that can be as good as both of you make it.
posted by theora55 at 9:24 AM on August 4, 2009

My dad pulled something similar like this with my brother and me after our parents' divorce.

Today he has been remarried about 15 years and we have been ostracized from his life. His new wife pretended to accept me & the bro up until about a week after they got married. Once she was the MRS., it took her just under 2 years to completely manipulate our father out of our lives. This is just one possible scenario.

Your dad sounds wishy washy. It doesn't sound like he sees himself as your "Father." Plenty of things might happen in the future (he might need money from you down the road due to poor financial choices, he could get involved with a younger woman with a serious agenda and all sorts of drama might ensue, he might fall in love and simply drift away into another family dynamic, etc. etc.)

Try to think of your dad as that cool kid in the neighborhood you looked up to when you were young. You are now in college getting a life, yet your old friend is wasting the days smoking bongs, playing Xbox, and watching Adult Swim. You still like your friend to hang out with occasionally, but you know one day he will have to pay the consequences for his choices. Try not to be responsible for paying HIS consequences either now or in the future.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:31 AM on August 4, 2009

There is no such thing as overreacting. There is a such thing as overreacting to your emotions.

That is to say that you are as angry as you are and denying that does no good, but you don't have to react to your anger via displaying it or acting in an offensive manner. It isn't the feeling, it is the acting out of the feeling. Just squelching things won't work.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:31 AM on August 4, 2009

While I was at his place staying in my sister's room, I didn't actually hang out with dad one-on-one, as the girlfriend was around. I don't have the best relationship with my dad, so this didn't bother me as much as the fact that he explicitly asked me to be there (and he's the type to guilt trip me about how we're growing apart) and failed to follow up on it (fairly typical). I'm also very resentful that I was asked to intervene on his behalf on something which I felt was his responsibility to deal with, even more so that it's been complicated by the age factor. I'm angry that he seemed surprised by the fact that my sister would be resistant to girlfriends, and that he expects me to hear about his relationship woes and give him advice (and if I rebuff him on this subject he tells me it's important to him that I be a part of his life). Furthermore, I think it's patently ridiculous he introduced my sister to this girl about 8 months after he moved out, and about a month after they started seeing each other.

This is the part where I see you as pretty damn justified. I'm thinking it's compounded by the fact that he moved his girlfriend here and set her up, which may be technically on-the-level, but certainly could be seen as inappropriate. And this probably reminds you of the ways that he is NOT providing for you. Maybe this is what's behind some of the unsettled "don't even know why you're angry" feelings?

I think that it's entirely fair for you to have a discussion where you set some boundaries, make some recommendations, but also listen to his side and make some concessions:

Most people would not be introducing new girlfriends to their young kids this soon. Your sister should be protected from emotional entanglements. Your dad should have a talk with his girlfriend about what's appropriate for her to say around your sister.

You should get alone time with your dad. In return, I think you could probably make a greater effort to find some sort of common ground with the girlfriend.

You and your dad should talk about what you're willing to discuss with your sister. He's got to talk to her himself, but perhaps you two could agree on what's best for her, and you could stand behind this agreement when you talk to her.

Draw some lines on what kind of advice you're willing to give him. Agree upon a signal that says "TMI, Dad."
posted by desuetude at 9:42 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can understand how this scenario would make many adult children unhappy, although I don't see what the "unusual circumstances" are. Your parents divorced, you father is dating again and this--for many people—is often aery difficult emotional terrain, regardless of whether the new interloper is, in your view, “appropriate.” I’m sorry that you are experiencing this.

The problem I see here has absolutely nothing to do with the girlfriend, but that your father appears to behave in a way that is insensitive to your time and your needs, and you are letting him. I’ve experienced a very extroverted, emotionally ostentatious parent (also divorced--3X) who would insist on my company and use guilt to secure my visits without seeming particularly interested in me (or even being available) when I got there. It sucked. As a young adult, you have more enjoyable things to do with your time (and, forgive me, but from the tone of your description it sounds like you might deserve to relax and have more fun). Finally, his making you his confident, as others have noted, is an inappropriate burden to put on any child and you should refuse it. As for your sister, it doesn't sound from your details that she is in any acute harm, and nor will the world end even if your father cannot afford to pay her college tuition almost a decade from now.
posted by applemeat at 9:46 AM on August 4, 2009

is often very
posted by applemeat at 9:47 AM on August 4, 2009

I agree with the above remarks on creating constructive communication with you father and let him get to know you through greater discussions. He is asking you for relationship advice because to him that does not seem strange, letting him know that it makes you uncomfortable will help him understand you more and get a feel for what you are interested in doing.

Human relationships are complicated things and they rarely end at the first sign of weakness. Try to be understanding that your dad is attempting to find personal growth as this tends to get lost in the months or years before a relationship ends. His way of growing is to go back and experience a younger version of himself. He wants to reconnect with the growth he feels (real or imagined) that he has been missing. This shouldn't be taken as a negative toward you, your sister or your mother, but rather as his way of coping and finding out who he is now that he is no longer married.

Parental dating is a tough thing but I think from the other comments that you will see that your dad's girlfriend will either eventually grow into her own or your dad will start to figure out what he really wants in a relationship. For the record I think that 1 month of dating prior to introducing your sister is respectful without being overbearing. It is really difficult to determine as a parent when you should introduce your children as you don't want to put unreasonable expectations on the children or the partner. Introducing after you and your partner agree that you are dating exclusively is only fair to the child so they can meet that person as well who may be sharing a good portion of their lives with them.
posted by occidental at 9:48 AM on August 4, 2009

And on preview, what adipocere said.
posted by jbenben at 9:53 AM on August 4, 2009

This is the part that jumped out at me right away:

I’m with mom for the summer, though I recently spent three weeks staying with dad at his request to "be closer".

A bit snide, there. It's all pretty complicated though, but you seem to be bringing some angst to the party as well.
posted by rhizome at 9:54 AM on August 4, 2009

Let your dad get his young tail for a while, it's probably just a phase.
Maybe for him it's a phase, but he brought this young tail in from a foreign country. I don't know if anonymous is in the US or not, but this situation screams out "Green card!" to me. If that's the case, not only is the girlfriend going to press Father to get married soon, she's also probably going to want to have a baby, just to solidify her situation. I hope Father isn't being used, but from the sound of it he's ripe for the pickin'.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:32 AM on August 4, 2009

As I posted last year to another similar AskMe: I wouldn't recommend making your Dad choose between his daughter who wants him to act his age and the woman who's making him feel young.
posted by nicwolff at 11:32 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

2. While 27 is a bit young it still is old enough to be a mom of a 10 year old.

If you want to put it that way, then the father is clearly old enough to be the new girlfriend's dad.
posted by milarepa at 1:15 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

For perspective, my dad had a 19 year old girlfriend when I was 14. She and I shared the same name. Her mother was my school librarian; she and I knew each other through church.

She became pregnant after five months (not his) and they broke up.

Dad got a little bit more realistic after that, but she was his "I'll do what the fuck I want now that I'm getting a divorce" rebound.

If you start to see signs of him marrying this rebound girl, THEN you have the long, drawn-out "you're fucking up and here's why" talk with him... you're at an age where he might listen to you (but he also might NOT). But give him a chance to realize the hole he's digging for himself. I know exactly how you feel -- your dad is dating what you consider a peer rather than a parental figure.

That's not setting a good example for your sister, but your dad may be emotionally unable to grasp what's best for everybody at this point. Your dad is sharing himself with the new girlfriend in a way he won't do with you because he's trying to relate to her on a peer level, but to you, he's trying to maintain a fatherly "disciplinarian" relationship while setting a poor example for both your sister and yourself in the process.

It could be worse. But don't let it get A LOT WORSE without having a talk; don't be super-confrontational, that will only cause more problems.

You might ask him if he plans to marry the girlfriend and if so, whether or not she'll want to adopt your sister. A question like that could have a rather sobering effect on your dad's youthful dalliance.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:13 PM on August 4, 2009

While 27 is a bit young it still is old enough to be a mom of a 10 year old.

Sure, but the 27-year-old has not been a mom for the last ten years -- if so, she'd be a different person. What's likely more striking to the OP is that his dad is dating someone barely older than his kid. It's not strange to find that uncomfortable.
posted by desuetude at 2:19 PM on August 4, 2009

It's not strange to find your parent dating anyone other than your other parent uncomfortable. But it is unhealthy for the OP, an adult, to expect that that discomfort entitles her to control her father's personal life.
posted by applemeat at 2:37 PM on August 4, 2009

Oh, in hindsight I didn't really elaborate my point as clearly as I intended. Sure, there's discomfort when your parent starts dating no matter what.

But not only is the OPs dad dating someone about his kid's age, he's asking (and possible guilting) his kid to be his buddy, his pal, his confidante, regarding his love life. With a girl who it would be age-appropriate for the OP to date. While Dad asks OP to step in and advocate with the little sister about what dad feels best for the family.

Dad's kinda asking for his kid to feel a little more entitled than usual to influence his love life.
posted by desuetude at 3:12 PM on August 4, 2009

A couple of things:

- You don't seem to like your dad very much. At the very least, your sympathies seem to lie more closely with your mom, and you probably have more in common with her than with your dad. You're not supposed to pick a side in divorces but I guess you subconsciously did already.

- You're not under any obligation to handle the relationship between your 10-year-old sister and your father. Neither is she, because she's a child. It's his responsibility. He should learn to talk to her.

- Your dad is not your friend. He is your father. He's acting like a child, or a love-stricken teenager. If he's throwing tantrums just because you honestly stated the fact that you don't really like her, he's the one who should learn to deal with it. Above, it was said "Imagine you brought a date home that your parent(s) hated." Let's be honest, if teenage you brought home a date your parents didn't like, you'd probably have a screaming match and storm out saying saying, "But I love him! STOP GETTING IN THE WAY OF OUR LURVE!" You would also most likely ignore the opinions of the disapproving parties and continue to date him. Which is pretty much the adolescent, youthful way of dealing with things and is how he's acting.

- You don't like her. Fine. You're not under any obligation to like her, just to be polite and cordial. Are you living with her? No, you're not. Since you have the options of staying with your mom or living on your own (er, if you work and save up enough), I don't think you need to feel the burden of having to accept in your family just yet. For now, and especially since you're only there for a few weeks, you don't have to enfold her into your life with a bear hug, you just have to be tolerant. I think it's inconsiderate of your dad to try to foist this responsibility of liking her on you and guilt-tripping you into doing so. I think it's shitty in general to force someone to feel a way they don't.

- And finally? Your dad is a crappy dad. Sorry, dude. He can't handle a relationship with his 10-year-old daughter, he can't handle a relationship with you without guilt-tripping you into hanging out with him, he thinks you're his bar buddy/confidante, after specifically inviting you he doesn't even make the time to be with you, and he's more anxious about making this outsider (who is arguably not a part of this family yet) comfortable in his home than he is about making you and your sister comfortable, what with all the sleepovers (to this last part I want to add: Seriously? You are his house-guest and roommate right now. Oh no wait, you're actually his daughter (son?); you're even more important than that. I wouldn't have a problem if someone who was merely a roommate to me had her Significant Other over once in a while but if he was over practically every night when he already had his own apartment I'd be pretty steamed too. And he's your father!). Don't mean to be harsh but these signs all add up, to me, to someone who's an idiot at being a parent. Even worse, he's an idiot at defining boundaries in his life, which is something mature adults and 47-year-olds should know how to do.

I think it's natural for you to want to "protect" your little sister from people who may only be in his life temporarily. Why should she to have to get to know and deeply family-bond with all of these (possibly) transient affections? Who knows though? She may be for real. In which case, good for him. I think part of your resentment at having to deal with this situation is that you're being asked to make a disproportionate amount of effort over someone you don't ultimately see as really important in his life. If there really was a sign that they were playing for keeps and really loved each other, I think you'd welcome her more in your life, despite her age. But their obvious immaturity (emotionally) leads you to question whether they really know how they're dealing with each other.

Too bad though. Signs don't come that easily. You'll have to accept that for now, that they might not love each other, but they really really like each other. It might not be love, but they enjoy being in each other's company and everyone in the situation needs to learn to take a step back. Who can hold a grudge against two people having fun? You need to learn to accept this and he needs to learn that you might not always be at your most accepting or understanding some days and that he shouldn't always count on you to be.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 3:15 PM on August 4, 2009

Gah, also rereading what I said, I probably am too harsh on your dad. Let me also just say that I think it's a good sign that he's made an effort to stay in your lives after the divorce; even if he's not good at it there's still room to learn. And even though he doesn't seem to be his handling his new girlfriend in any particularly dignified way (who does?), it's also good that she (as far as you know) doesn't have a problem with you. I mean if you wanted to be friendly with her, that's a good start.

MeMail me if you want some stuffy, self-righteous indignation your behalf!
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 3:28 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your dad's unlikely to grow up, sad and difficult as that is going to be for you and your sister. It sucks when parents are inappropriate, and I feel for you.

Blaming the girlfriend isn't going to address the problem, but coming up with ways to set your own boundaries and cope with your dad's limitations can only help you deal more comfortably with the situation.

I had Inappropriately Confiding Dad when I was your age, and it sucked. Now I have Slowly Dying in the Hospital Dad and it sucks, but until recently I had Forced to Respect My Boundaries Dad and it was by far the best of all the releases.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:43 PM on August 4, 2009

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