It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Worried Daughter” whose father was unemployed again and down on his luck only months after the LW and her husband spent 20 grand supporting him for a year. She was torn over whether to offer help again, even though her husband was staunchly opposed. “Or do I watch my marriage, business and the life I’ve worked hard to build for myself crumble because my father won’t/can’t support himself?” she asked. Keep reading to see what she decided to do.
As for the general situation, there’s been no magic bullet, but things are improving. As it happens, the day you published my letter (but before I saw it), I had just met with my dad for coffee (I was in “his” town on business), and, I did give him a some money to tide him over for a bit and again pressed him for what his plans were. I got more of the same, and, maybe I shouldn’t have given him the money at the time, but living 5 hours away and not knowing how he was eating and sleeping is terribly hard. Throwing money at the problem wasn’t a permanent fix, but it helped ease the stress a bit. So, I did. I also provided him with names of companies that were hiring in my area and more information about job services and housing, etc.
About a week or so later, my dad called and said that he had some interviews where I live and asked if he could stay for a couple of days. His request happened to coincide with a time when it was incredibly convenient for us to have a house-sitter, so I (and my husband, albeit reluctantly) agreed he could stay for a few days. While he was here, and with your advice (and your readers’ advice) in mind, I laid it out for him (again) that he simply had to find a stable, if not permanent, living and employment situation and that he may not find his dream job, but he had to find something. This time, though, when the “I’m trying” and “I know thats” started, I told him that we have been having this same conversation for going on a year and a half and that I couldn’t help him anymore and that I couldn’t let him stay in my house any longer than until after his interviews. I told him that we had done all we can do and that it’s simply not fair or possible for me to keep asking my husband to support my father under these circumstances. I told him that I know that the idea of public assistance isn’t very palatable, but that I cannot be his back-up assistance plan and that his refusal to even look into those avenues makes me feel as if I am being taken advantage of, even if that is not his intention. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have. In fact, it’s one of the hardest conversations I have ever had, hands down. I may not be able to support him indefinitely, but I do love my father and it’s hard for me to say no; especially in these circumstances. But, I did it, and the world didn’t end, my dad didn’t break down and tell me how disappointing I am (not that he ever has said that or anything to that effect) and I think that conversation actually had a real impact on him. Maybe I should have had it earlier.
In any event, he’s found a somewhat stable place to live renting a room for now, and he’s gotten one part-to-full time contract position and another temporary job on an as-needed basis. Is it ideal? No. Is the situation still in a lot of flux? Yes; more than I’d like. But, I’m working on accepting that it’s not my responsibility to take care of everyone when the “taking care of” is seriously detrimental to me. I wish I could say that everything was solved perfectly and, presto-chango, the situation was perfect and stable and alright, but I’m also working on accepting that sometimes “okay, at least for now” is enough, too. In any event, my father has a place to stay and a means of earning some type of income, and we’re on good enough terms that we’re going to go grab dinner this evening, so things are definitely in a better place than they were when I wrote in. If I hadn’t written in, without the added insight, I doubt I would have been able to have that hard conversation, and who knows if things would have improved, stayed the same or gotten worse? So, thank you.
Finally, I’d like to say something about the comments. I know that in updates we see that a lot of LWs find the comments to be less than helpful. I disagree completely. I read the comments – all of them – many, many times. And, each and every one of them was helpful because each and every one of them was something I had thought before. Everything from “I could never turn my back on my dad!” to “what kind of dad would do this to his kid” and “her husband is a saint for dealing with this” to “why can he not give in because he loves his wife and he should do it for her” to “my god haven’t they done enough!” — all of it I have thought at one point or another. This has been a crazy emotional time, and reading my emotions and thoughts in the form of others’ comments was incredibly useful in helping me sort out my own emotions about things. Funny, but I’d read something and argue with it in my head a bit, then read the opposite, and argue with that in my head for a bit, and then I finally ended up making peace with the situation. I also appreciated the comments of kindness. One thing that my therapist (yes, I started seeing one to help me get refocused after being sucked into long-buried family patterns) keeps saying to me is that I should be more compassionate to myself. Good advice, that. Seeing that other, random people on the Internet could have compassion for me in my situation made me realize that she’s right. So, thanks to ALL of the commenters. Wendy helped me see the “What do I do” solution more clearly, and you guys all helped me work through a lot of the emotional side.
I’d never written in to an advice columnist before, and I was really nervous about being this exposed. But, all in all, I think this was a great experience that really helped me a lot.
What a wonderfully thoughtful and well-written update! Thank you so much for sharing. You affirmed for me that what we do on DW is meaningful and makes a difference, so thank you for that. And I have so much respect for you for having the difficult discussions you’ve had so far and for working through what is understandably a highly sensitive and challenging circumstance on multiple levels. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and go back and read these columns when you need to be reminded about what’s important.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.