Lifestyle

Ask Amy

Father and son engage in demolition derby

Q. I’ve been dating a wonderful man, “Don,” for a year.

I am worried that Don is being used by his father, “Don Sr.”

Don Sr. moved in with him three years ago. In that time frame Don has not only paid for everything, including his father’s bills, but he has also bought four cars for his father, and his father has put these cars into derbies, always without asking.

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This year Don Sr. put his only car into the derby, again. After a few fights, everything seemed OK.

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Now he needs another vehicle, otherwise he won’t be able to drive to work.

He hasn’t even started to look for a vehicle, and every time Don or I tell him about a car that we saw for sale, he shrugs it off. He is so content with Don handing him everything. He said he doesn’t care if he gets his own car, because he can just drive one of Don’s.

It’s not my place to say anything, and when I do, it usually ends up with Don and me fighting. I’m tired of him being used like this. I don’t want to fight with Don about his father, but what can I do to help?

Out of Place

A. Understand with clarity that this father-son relationship is its own contained system. Things would change if Don Jr. wanted them to change. But the father is a user and the son is an enabler. The son is actually training his father to be completely reliant on him.

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I love a demolition derby as much as the next gal, but what a colossal waste this is of a drivable vehicle!

The way out for you is to adopt total detachment. I’m going to provide two phrases which will help you:

“That’s too bad,” and, “You’ll figure it out.”

Don Jr. says, “Dad won’t look for a new car!” You say, “That’s too bad.”

Don Jr. says, “My father is using me!” You say, “You’ll figure it out.” That is the extent of your commentary or involvement.

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If you simply refuse to get wound up about this, this father-son relationship will either continue as it is or the son will finally set some limits. Either way, you will gradually stop caring.

Q. I came to the US almost 20 years ago. I have a niece who lives on the opposite coast — a six-hour flight from where I live. I am her only relative in the US.

Last year, she got married to a nice guy at the courthouse. My sister and husband came to the ceremony from overseas. We were informed and invited two days before our annual overseas vacation. We could not go to the wedding.

This year, my niece had a reception. Again, my sister informed and invited us less than a week before the reception and right before we went on vacation. This vacation, like the one last year, was planned months in advance. Both my husband and I work, so we had to request leave, buy air tickets, etc.

We were not given a good or clear reason of why we were not invited to these events in a timely way so that we could attend. We have helped our niece with school, jobs, visas, dating, etc., because we are her only relatives in this country.

Should I reach out to my sister, her family, and my niece about this?

I don’t think I will have a clear answer from them about why we were excluded from the wedding.

Can you help?

Upset Auntie

A. If you don’t believe you will be offered a clear or honest answer, then don’t ask the question.

You should send an e-mail to all parties, saying, “We are very upset that we have missed these very special events, but because we haven’t been informed in time to arrange travel, we’ve missed the opportunity to be with you. In the future, we hope you will give us more notice.”

Q. I loved your firm answer to “Unsure,” whose husband was battling their Home Owners Association (HOA) over his right to put up Halloween decorations.

I am on the board of my HOA, and we board members also fight the good fight over ridiculous rules.

I liked your advice that this man should continue his protest by joining the board.

HOA Happy

A. I was surprised (and pleased) by how many HOA board members contacted me, supporting this man’s position.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.