Q. My parents divorced when my brother and I were very young.
We never had any contact with our biological father, or with his side of the family. Our mom remarried, and our wonderful stepfather legally adopted my brother and me. Mom and “Dad” have been married for over 30 years now.
Having our “Dad” and his family in our life has been wonderful!
Although we were raised with a loving extended family, my brother and I still battled with abandonment issues. We longed for contact with our bio family.
One fateful day, when I was a teenager, I found my paternal grandmother and gave her a call. Since then we have reconnected with our father’s family, but not with our father. He is still a deadbeat.
Knowing these family members has filled a hole in us. They are loving and supportive. Most still live in the state we grew up in. During our visits home, we make a point to visit with these family members, but this really bothers our “Dad.”
He knows we love him. But whenever he finds out we’re going to visit our other family, he pouts and gets sensitive, and is irritable and cold for the rest of the day.
We are to the point that we don’t want to mention visiting at all, but I don’t want to sneak around behind his back.
How can we let him know that we don’t like that he makes us feel guilty for visiting/loving our other family? Is there a way we could help him with his insecurity?
A. You should start by removing the quotation marks from your “Dad’s” status. The man who adopted you IS your father. He is legally, ethically, and emotionally your father.
The so-called “Dad” in your life is the biological father who abandoned you and who refuses to see you.
You and your brother should sit down with both of your parents — in person — and be as honest, loving, and respectful as you can possibly be. Tell your dad, “You are our dad, and you always will be. You will always come first for us. We know it is hard on you when we visit our biological family. Would you rather that we just never talk about it? We want to be honest with you. We don’t want to hide what we’re doing, but if that’s what you want us to do, we’ll try.”
If he responds that he doesn’t want you to see these other family members at all, you will have to tell him that this is off the table. You are adults, and you have the right to explore your biological roots, and to form your own relationships.
Q. When I entertain guests in my home, no one lifts a finger, and that’s the way I like it. I never ask people to bring food. Everyone enjoys a kitchen-free night.
All too frequently, I am invited to dinner at someone’s home, only to find out after accepting the invitation that it is a so-called potluck, and that everyone must bring a dish.
I loathe this bait and switch, especially if I am assigned a particular course.
How do I gracefully decline the invitation after discovering I am partially catering the affair against my will?
A. I’m like you — when I entertain, I like to do all of the cooking. But for some people, sharing the work is the only way they can manage to host a dinner, and there is nothing wrong or rude about asking others to help. The only thing your potluck friends should do differently is to inform you before you accept an invitation.
If you truly don’t want to be invited to these hosts’ house ever again, you could be ruthlessly honest about it: “This is a little embarrassing. I know I’ve already accepted the invitation, but I didn’t realize this was a potluck when I accepted, so now I’m going to decline. I’m sorry. I just don’t enjoy bringing part of the dinner when I’m invited somewhere.”
You can expect those invitations to dry up as quickly as my mother’s chicken cacciatore.
Q. I’m responding to the question from “Too Soon in Chi-Town,” about the couple who had met in AA and were now dating.
Your answer was OK as far as it went, but the first line of your answer should have been, “What does your sponsor think?”
A. You’re right! Thank you.Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.