update: my dad is dating my boss, and they want me to go to couples therapy with them

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss was dating her dad, and she was being ordered to attend couples counseling with them? The first update is here, and here’s the latest.

Things are going okay– very busy. I’m still working at the same company where I was placed by a temp agency. I like my job all right, but the whole office culture has been wearing on me a bit (it’s a bit conservative). What gets me through is knowing that this job gives me and my husband stability, especially since we have two incomes now. It’s also nice to have a very low-stress job where I don’t need to take any of my work home with me, but I’m definitely not fulfilled.

I had a sort of epiphany in March that what I actually want to do is deliver babies (sounds out of the blue, but I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the importance of maternal health care as a measure of progress in developing countries), so now I’m applying to nurse/midwifery courses and waiting to hear back. I won’t know for sure whether I’ve been accepted anywhere until February, and right now I’m taking all my prerequisite courses online, which works out to be a full-time course load on top of my full-time job. It’s a lot! I’ve just done doula training, so I might try to work as a doula for awhile if I don’t get into school on this try. We’ll see!

As for family stuff… nothing has changed. My dad is still with Jill, and we haven’t spoken in person since my first letter (May 2018). We occasionally email and text. I ran into him and Jill on the street a few weeks ago (we were on a very narrow sidewalk and it was only the three of us; yes, he saw me), but he didn’t say hello or smile, and Jill just smirked at me. It was really horrible. My mom is great and doesn’t pressure me to speak to him, but the rest of the family isn’t as nice about it. Everyone obviously found out about my letter, and some relatives haven’t read it, but still think it was wrong of me to air family grievances online (even though it’s anonymous and I never expected my family to see it). My grandparents have asked if I’m “ever going to speak to [my] father again”, which is just so far off base… This isn’t about me being mad and pouting– it’s a matter of self-protection. Now, since I haven’t celebrated Christmas with my extended family on my dad’s side for a few years, I’m getting pressure to come for Christmas because my grandparents “won’t be alive forever.” It’s been really re-traumatizing to have to explain that the situation I was in with Dad and Jill was abusive, and I’m so tired of having to defend myself.

I’m seeing a therapist for support, which has been wonderful! About a year ago, my husband and I got a Cornish Rex kitten, and we’re currently planning a trip to Egypt to see the pyramids and cruise down the Nile. We’re really happy most of the time, and I feel very hopeful about the future.

Thank you and the whole Ask A Manager community!

Late-breaking update to the update:

I actually got into a great program and am moving to a new city in the spring!

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. I'm A Little Teapot*

    It’s unfortunate how people will try to force you to do something harmful to yourself just to relieve themselves of having to deal with something uncomfortable. It’s quite common actually, all in the name of FAMILLLLYYYY. It really says more about them than you.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      At least it reinforces what bullies her dad and Svengirlfriend are. And how toxic the whole situation is, with his zombie relatives dragging you into the sphere of delusion. Enjoy the hell out of Egypt.

    2. Melissa*

      Yeah, and in what way exactly was OP airing FAMILY business? She was asking for advice about an abusive boss and the boss’s enabling boyfriend….

      OP, I’m so glad you’re away from that environment. I missed the first update, and didnt know you had quit.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Family can be more than just blood ties. Family can also be the people you choose to make your way through life with. If it’s dysfunctional, it can definitely be healthier to cut out the dysfunction.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        And the opposite applies too – why does sharing blood somehow obligate you to spend time with people who don’t bring you joy? Its such a… bizarrely specific and irrelevant… reason to continue unhealthy relationships.

        1. JessaB*

          I’m not sure exactly where I stand on Marie Kondo and her decluttering method, but I totally believe it also applies to people in your life, as you mentioned “why bother if they don’t bring you joy.”

          1. Polkadotbird*

            In the book’s intro she describes a client who, as a result of konmari-ing her life, decided to divorce her husband. So there you go.

        2. T3k*

          While not abusive, I have family that showed a side I didn’t much care for after my parents divorced (amicable, no cheating going on, just went down different life paths) and some things came up that made me really despise the woman he married later. I think it drives that whole side of the family nuts that I essentially cut almost all contact with all of them so easily and with no regrets. Does make me mildly curious what my dad tells them though considering we only talk like, once or twice a year.

      2. Drago Cucina*

        Yes! I remind myself that the saying “Blood is thicker than water” means the opposite of what people assume. “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

        We can make our own, healthier, families.

        1. Ain’t Miss Behavin’*

          Oh wow, I never knew the origin of that saying. Thanks for the learning opportunity!

        2. Doubleglazed Bill*

          I’m one of today’s ten thousand on this. I always assumed it was the other way round too. Thanks Drago Cucina.

        3. Shadowbelle*

          “Blood may be thicker than water, but Bud Frump is thicker than anything!”
          There is much truth in ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’

        4. Miso*

          That’s not true, actually. It does mean what most people think and the “blood of the covenant” quote is more modern.

        5. Róisín*

          The “original” version is unattributable and etymologists have no idea where the myth came from. It shows up in writing long after the more common version, possibly as a way to bolster soldiers, with no evidence that it’s actually an older version. So if it makes you feel better, take that version. But be aware that it’s more modern and definitely a rewrite of history.

        6. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          That’s not true: the earliest origin of that “correct” phrase is, at most, 1994. The original “blood is thicker than water” is Viking-era old.

    4. AnonyLawyer*

      Yes, it is extremely common. I’m dealing with a similar scenario at the moment, as my mother perpetually pushes me to reunite with my estranged abusive, violent brother. With Christmas coming up, she is in full pressure mode. I’m so sorry for the OP. I can definitely relate to the feelings of re-traumatization.

      1. AKchic*

        It took forever for my mother to stop pushing me to reunite with my sister. I had to keep repeating over and over exactly *why* I wasn’t going to, and if she had done the same thing to *her*, would she have been so quick to forgive and forget?
        She still grumbles about how she’ll never have a “perfect family holiday” and I don’t give a flying fig about it. My mother’s idea of “perfect image” is of no consequence to me.

        1. Indy Dem*

          Just wanted to say how I admire the strength in both of you. It’s not easy to stand your ground against relatives, so congrats!

    5. Hills to Die on*

      Family tried to get me to reconcile with my dad and I never did. He died, and 25 years later I don’t regret keeping my distance from him.

      I’m so glad you have good things in your life! Thank you so much for the update because I had been thinking about you and hoping you were doing well.

    6. BelleMorte*

      It’s so ridiculous that it is ALWAYS the fault the person who stands up for themselves, never the abuser. Is OP’s grandparents guilting the father to apologize and bring the family back together? I seriously doubt it.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        The person who finally stands up for themselves is the ‘easy’ one to target. They’ve been reasonable or given in the past, they are more likely to be reasonable in the future than the abuser is.

        Go you, OP! Abuse spoils everything, but you’re doing the right thing by protecting yourself from it.

        1. LunaLena*

          Not just that, the person who stands up for themselves is seen as the one “responsible” for breaking up the family, therefore it is their “responsibility” to own up, admit they were wrong, and bring everyone back together. Never mind if they were standing up for themselves in the first place due to abusive or toxic behavior from other family members (take a wild guess as to how I know this).

          Congrats to the OP for getting out and finding a career path she can be passionate about! Also, Egypt AND new kitty? So jealous, but in a good way. :)

    7. Anita Brayke*

      So true! I’m so happy for you, OP!!! Congratulations on all the opportunities coming your way!!!

  2. emeemay*

    I think this might have been one of the first posts that made me comment. Your family being deaf to the issues you brought up sucks, but I’m so glad you’ve been able to stay the course and do what’s best for you.

    Also, KITTEN! Rexes are so cute. Little sheep cats.

  3. Wing Leader*

    Oohh, great update! I feel for you on being pressured to ignore the fact that you’ve been abused to “keep the peace.” Uggh. It’s never fun. But I’m glad you’re doing well, OP, and I really hope you’re accepted into your program of choice! Good maternal care is really needed right now.

    1. Snuck*

      I needed this one this morning, and remember the original with horror.

      So very, very, very glad this has worked out the way it has. It sounds like the whole family situation is a crapshoot… but that’s probably on the (armchair diagnosis ahead) narcissism courtesy of Jill…. People like this cultivate a lot of little seedlings all around them, all the time, and are always quietly brewing many small pots of doom, and when one gets away (good on you!) they just cultivate a few more around that one, in the hope they can finally pull it back into line…. and thus they are a fungus that spreads. Remain strong, carry Daktarin to deal with them, and always wear thongs in the pool showers!

      It sounds like you’ve had a tough run, but the future is slowly looking more and more promising. I’m so proud of you… I don’t know you, I know! But… I know how very very tough this level of dysfunction is to get out of, and oh boy… Well done YOU!!!

  4. Lena Clare*

    Ah, I’m sorry some of your dad’s family is pressuring you. It sounds like things are going well for you and your husband, and you’re feeling hopeful about the future!
    Cornish Rexes are my absolute favourite cats of all time – I’m so envious :D

    1. JSPA*

      If at some point you want to see the grandparents without other family around, there are 365 days in the year. (And if not, you don’t have to, on any other day, either.)

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, OP, if you decide you want to see your paternal grandparents, it might be easier to schedule a visit at another time of year, when you don’t have the additional pressure of The Holidays and relatives expecting everything to resolve like a Hallmark movie.

        1. Veronica Mars*

          Wait, Hallmark movies aren’t how the real world works??? Next you’ll tell me Santa isn’t real!

      2. Koala dreams*

        I was thinking that too. There are 52 weeks in a year, if the grand-parents want to re-connect with the OP they can invite them for a coffe another day, or send a card, or chat on Skype. A big Christmas celebration isn’t very good for re-connecting with people anyway, as it’s usually to many people and too much to do to really have time to talk. Of course, it’s very possible that this re-connecting idea is something that neither OP nor their grand-parents are interested in. From the letter it sounds like the pressure is coming from other people.

        Now I’m going to look at pictures of Cornish Rexes, cats are so cute!

    2. NW Mossy*

      And if this is the sort of behavior that the grandparents have modeled for OP’s dad his whole life, I can understand why it is that he’s both contributing to and not extricating himself (whether due to desire to stay or inability to go) from these warped dynamics. The “but faaaaaaaaaaaaaamily” strategy, especially from the family in question, is rarely deployed by people who have a healthy sense of how interpersonal relationships should be.

  5. veryanon*

    I’m glad you are doing better but it sucks that your dad is still in Jill’s clutches. I’m sorry about that, but you are absolutely not in the wrong! Stay strong and enjoy your new kitten and Egypt!

    1. JSPA*

      Dad is allowed his own priorities (including all the psychological weirdness, if on some level that’s what does it for him). Parents don’t owe their adult children closeness (because Faaaamily) any more than the other way around.

      Forcing it on OP is the “hard no.” OP is free of it. This is a full “win.” Dad gets to exit if and when it works for Dad to do so.

      1. Fikly*

        Dad is allowed his own priorities, but he’s not allowed to abuse his own daughter in the name of them. Or anyone else.

    1. Morticia*

      And I’m sorry the OP is still having family troubles, but so glad they are no longer work troubles. That was such a WTF.

    2. Hey there hey*

      CONGRATULATIONS OP!!! I considered nursing/midwifery when I had my quarter-life-crisis, but I eventually went with physics. Good luck!

      1. The IT Plebe*

        Beeeeeeeb! My cat also has a smallish head with big ears on a big body and it destroys me with the cuteness of it all. Enjoy your furbaby, OP! And best of luck keeping those boundaries with your family!

  6. First Star on the Right*

    I hate the “but faaaamily” stuff. I’m so happy to hear you’re happy and hopeful for the future! And KITTY! (I wish ww had pictures!)

    1. QCI*

      I hate that, too. Being family doesn’t mean I should spend time with horrible people or give them any time or energy.

      1. Ann Onny Muss*

        Yep. I’ve pretty much cut out most of my extended family because they’re mean, nasty people. Just because we share a fair amount of DNA does not obligate me to continue contact with someone when they treat me and others like crap.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          Families with abusive members often develop a double standard. They expect the victim to tolerate the abuse “because they’re family,” but they don’t expect the abuser to behave because the victim “is family.” It’s the path of least resistance, because they’re rather someone else be the target of the abuse than themselves. (Most do not realize that consciously, but that’s the bottom line.)

          It’s a form of choosing sides.

          And it’s just as easy to cut off contact with those who choose the abuser’s side as the abuser themself.

          1. Naomi*

            I think Captain Awkward made the point once that victims gets all the “but faaaamily” because the rest of the family know the abuser won’t listen to reason, so the burden is on the victim to “keep the peace” (read: sweep the dysfunction under the rug). It’s another way abusers use the social contract to protect themselves, even as they break it in their own behavior.

            1. Magenta Sky*

              The rest of the family may well believe they are trying to convince “the reasonable one,” but the reality is, they don’t want to have the abuser’s crap turned on them. Sometimes, when it’s pointed out to them, the abuser finds theirself isolated and lone in the world, except for, perhaps, one or two other a**hole relatives, but not often enough.

              1. AKchic*

                Abuse is generational. Abuse is learned somewhere. Families tend to adapt to the generational abuse and anyone who tries to minimize their own abuse gets ostracized because they are breaking the mold, stepping out of the pattern, and it isn’t “normal” to the cycle. Anything different must be shunned or quickly beaten back into the fold.

                The younger generations are learning to stand up to abusive cycles and generational trauma and some families aren’t liking it. This one appears to be fighting it.

                1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

                  This kind of stuck out to me too. Good for the OP for working to break the cycle.

                2. Venus*

                  Sorry, in case I wasn’t clear, the quote means that if one doesn’t get therapy (if the abuse isn’t transformed) then one will transmit it to the next generation. We have a choice – transform it.

          2. Veronica Mars*

            This is perfectly worded. People who side with abusers aren’t doing it because they don’t “understand” what impact they have on you. They’re doing it because its easier. And therefor, you deserve to choose the path that’s easiest for you, too. Namely – not doing things because fammmillllyyyy.

            1. Not Mommy Dearest*

              I would like to say that OP’s father sounds like a victim as well as an abuser (not an uncommon scenario, from what I understand). It sounds like Jill has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and may be mistreating the father as much as she mistreated OP, and it also sounds like the father is afraid of Jill.

              I think it’s really unkind to automatically assume the grandparents are also abusers, absent more information. Yes NPD can run in families, but that doesn’t mean it ALWAYS does. If OP would like to reconnect with her grandparents, she should do so outside of the holidays and without her father present.

          3. Dagny*

            “It’s the path of least resistance, because they’re rather someone else be the target of the abuse than themselves. (Most do not realize that consciously, but that’s the bottom line.)”

            For some. For others, they know deep down that engaging with the abuser will never result in change, so they apply pressure to the person who is able to change (i.e. the victim).

            1. Magenta Sky*

              You seem to be implying that the only two possible responses are engaging with the abuser to get them to change, or side with them. (And certainly, many family members believe that.) This is not the case. The other most obvious option (and there are others, too) is to shun the abuser, whether they side with the victim or not.

              But that requires standing up to the abuser. Not with any expectation they will change, or any attempt to get them to do so, but just to *force* them to accept that the victim isn’t the only one who will have nothing to do with them either.

              But that runs up against the deep seated aversion to confrontation that most people seem to have. Which is another way of saying, they don’t want to put up with the abuser’s crap to such a degree they’d rather the current victim do so.

              1. AnonyLawyer*

                Will you please talk to my mother for me?? All of your comments in this thread that I’ve read have been highly valuable.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Same. Some parts of my extended family are toxic and abusive. Whenever those abusers are around my “nuclear” family, they trigger the hell out of them, leaving them re-traumatized. I finally convinced folks that it’s ok not to spend holidays and important celebrations together.

          When the extended family enablers try to guilt me, I shut it down quick. I don’t spend time explaining my reasons for opting out, as they haven’t ever listened in the past and re-explaining upsets me. It’s ok to ghost those family members, OP, or to tell them you’re not going to discuss something (or even that you won’t be able to stay in touch if they keep bringing this up).

    2. Fikly*

      Right? 99% of the people who say “but family!” really mean “Family gets a free pass to abuse you and you have to put up with it because it’s family.”

      1. call centre bee*

        A part of me always wants to say, “being family makes it WORSE! Why treat family this way?”

  7. Elizabeth West*

    Ugh, family being jerks. I’m glad you are finding a good way through this. Good luck with your projected career path!

    Cornish Rex kitties are adorable. My friend has a white one named Winter and she’s the star of their social media. She gets cold easily so they sometimes put her in little clothes (she doesn’t mind). It’s Baby Yoda-levels of cute.

  8. Ann Onny Muss*

    I’m sorry you’re getting grief from relatives “because faaammmiiilllyyy.” But I’m glad you’re protecting yourself from Jill’s abuse and your dad continuing to be an accessory. I hope you find a job you find fulfilling, be it as a midwife or in another field. Congrats on the kitten! And you will love Egypt. My boyfriend and I were there in March and it was a fantastic trip.

  9. Jay*

    Your boundaries are valid. I’m so sorry your family is trying to emotionally manipulate you to revising your boundaries.

    When I found myself in a similar situation I found the only thing that resonated with my family was my stopping conversations surrounding the trauma— I would not allow them to gaslight me. If they want a relationship with me they need to be respectful and forcing you to relive your trauma is not respectful.

    I saw a quote recently, “The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are those who benefitted from you having not.”

    With narcissists you cannot get emotional— that just feeds into their ego and the narrative they’ve constructed for themselves.

    1. Jay*

      Another helpful reminder, “It’s okay for you to disagree with me. It is not okay for you to continue to push and force your opinion on me.”

    2. AnonEMoose*

      All of the above. If it helps at all, OP, know that the relatives are probably pressuring you in part because they see you as “the reasonable one” in this situation. And they’re used to and prefer you being there to suck up the abuse and shield the rest of them from Jill’s toxicity.

      None of that is your problem. Celebrate the holidays how and with whom yo please…and feel free to not take their calls and not answer any emails or text messages until after the holidays if that makes things easier for you.

      Many congratulations on the new kitten!

    3. Calvin the Bold*

      Best line I have ever read about stopping inter-family abuse. Had to cut and paste it to a friend who is having a terrible time with her ego driven Mother in law. Words of wisdom.

    4. RC Rascal*

      This entire thread is good stuff. Just wanted to remind everyone that everything said here applied to the workplace and dysfunctional work teams as well. I’m late to post so not sure how many will see this.

  10. Me*

    I’m super proud of you! “Family” is this thing that keeps people in toxic relationships they would never otherwise tolerate or encourage anyone they love to tolerate, but they feel they must some how excuse it because…family.

    It’s a hard thing to do in a culture that tends to look askance on it – but you ARE doing the right thing and you are not alone.

    Surround yourself with those who want the best for you. Sometimes family is found not bound by blood.

      1. Me*

        I’m so glad you found it helpful : ) I’m still figuring it out myself especially the whole other people’s feelings are not mine to manage.

        Always remember there are people out there who are/will think you are the shizz exactly how you are flaws and all. Spend your energy on finding them; not on feeding emotional vampires.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Exactly – sometimes family is made by birth, sometimes it is the people that you deliberately choose to travel through life with.

    2. Environmental Compliance*


      OP, I’ve also cut out family much to the dismay of other family (in my case, who aren’t even related to Cut Off Family, and really just have no bearing on the history or circumstances). You don’t need to justify anything to them, because honestly it’s better mentally & emotionally. The people who are best for you won’t badger you to keep people who are awful for you in your life. As I have reminded my MIL multiple times (and now simply won’t discuss at all with her), just because there’s blood doesn’t mean there’s family, that there’s love, that there’s good. And just because someone took part in making you doesn’t mean they deserve access to you. Maybe say it in a more appropriate way than I spat out at my MIL after she attempted to involve herself too many times, though.

      Many internet hugs, and good luck on the nursing/midwifery path!!

  11. kittymommy*

    Kittens make everything better!!! Their cute, and sweet, and goofy, and they have tongues like sandpaper which is oddly comforting.

    1. Mbarr*

      This. I’m so happy that OP is enjoying her new fur baby. (Though I looked up what a Cornish Rex looks like, and so maybe “Happy feline baby” would be a more appropriate cheer.)

  12. Catsaber*

    I wish you best of luck in your midwife training and with your future plans! That sounds awesome and I”m sure you will be wonderful. And good luck with your new kitten, that sounds ADORABLE.

    1. Catsaber*

      Everyone, please google Cornish Rex kittens right now. They are like….well, a certain fictional baby that has taken the internet by storm lately. I’m dying from the cuteness!

  13. Jaybeetee*

    Sounds like you have some good things and not-so-good things going on right now – a lot like life! Congratulations from getting away from a lot of toxicity.

    As for your faaaamily, the problem is, you’re breaking the illusion that everything’s fine. If they believe you, it gets a lot harder for them to rationalize their own actions/experiences. Easier to brand you a troublemaker than to admit to the presence of bees in their midst. Let that be their problem. Let yourself have a more peaceful life.

    I’m sorry to hear about your Dad. Hopefully he will come around in time. In the meantime, what you’re doing sounds correct. Keep living your life on your terms, let other people run their own circuses.

  14. EPLawyer*

    LW, this sounds like your life is on track. Sometimes, a job is just a paycheck so you can do the things you want. Like go to Egypt. Also, low stress job after what you have been through is probably better for your mental health in the long run.

    As for Jill, well she’s a piece of work. nothing will change that. All you can do is protect yourself from being splashed with this toxicity. If the rest of your family wants to deal with her, fine. But you don’t have to.

    1. Antilles*

      Sometimes, a job is just a paycheck so you can do the things you want. Like go to Egypt.
      In fact, thinking of it in this sort of way can actually help make it easier to deal with – spending 40 hours a week at your day job fundraises the stuff you love to do with the other 128 hours a week..

    2. RadManCF*

      Seconding this. I think that a job is not an ideal or reliable place to find fulfillment. You don’t have total control over your activities, you could get laid off or fired, you will inevitably get sick of your job at some point, the list goes on and on.

  15. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This update makes me happy. I’m glad things are going well overall for you, OP, though I’m sorry to hear that some of your relatives are not being supportive. Family isn’t defined by blood – family is the people who are there to celebrate the highs and lift us up when we’re low.

    Sidenote: I cannot believe it’s been a year and a half since your initial letter!

  16. spiced_apfel*

    I am so happy that this LW has left this truly awful situation, I am also sad for them that they lost their father in the process. Hopefully he will come around again one day after he’s gotten out from under Jill’s thumb. I also wish them luck in pursuing nurse/midwifery. They deserve a job that brings them joy.

  17. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP — Very glad to hear from you. After what you went through, a nice, boring job that lets you pay bills/study/travel/make career plans sounds like a major win.

    I’m sorry your other relatives are being thick about this, but at least your mother gets it now, and is supporting you. You may want to put the rest of the family on an information diet, and shut down the discussion as much as possible: “Well, that’s between me and Dad, and I’d rather not discuss it. Would you like to see some adorable kitten pictures?” (Captain Awkward has better scripts.)

    Best of luck on your applications to nurse midwife programs, and have a fantastic time in Egypt.

  18. Senor Montoya*

    Good luck on getting into a nurse-midwife program! Such good work :) Please update us again!

    I used a birthing center staffed by nurse-midwives and had a doula — it was a great experience from beginning to end, and I am glad to hear that folks want to go into this work.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      I was born at home with a nurse-midwife in attendance and my mother has had nothing but positive things to say about the experience (other than the part where she hassles me for being two weeks late!)

  19. MediQueen*

    Wow – what an update. I’m so glad you were able to get out! I just got back from Egypt several weeks ago, and I promise, the trip will be everything you imagine – and more!

  20. Cathy Gale*

    I’m just really sorry about the toxic behavior of your dad and extended family (Jill of course, goes without saying).

    It’s so sad that they are more concerned about you anonymously asking for help than Jill and your dad’s batshit behavior. Jaybeetee’s comment is simply perfect in explaining it. They have to blame you (in some families they even medicalize the “troublemaker”) because they can’t, you know, “Handle The Truth”.

    My parents are batshit in different ways, but personally, it was hardest for me to deal with family members who accepted my parents’ narrative but in other ways were not “bad people”, who still held out love for me but rejected the truth about our situation. I mention this because for a really long time I waited to be vindicated when they would figure things out… and I have a friend who is much older (60s) who held out hope with her family for *decades*. Please enjoy your grandparents but on your terms. See them separately. Send them cards. Love them, call them — but draw the line you need for you.

    The important thing is to pursue meaningful things, and surround yourself with loving people who don’t treat you like crap. I am wishing all good things for you this holiday season.

    1. Fikly*

      I refused to tell my abusive parents my address so they couldn’t find me. My mother’s biggest concern was “what if my mother asks me what your address is and I can’t tell her?” because it’d make her look bad. (I haven’t told my grandmother about the abuse, because she likes my mother, and it’d break her heart.)

  21. Serin*

    I hate it when people get mad at someone for “airing dirty laundry” in an anonymous forum. If you can recognize someone’s behavior when it’s written up with no names and no locations, that tells you something about how egregious it is — not like hundreds of people all over the country are going, “Wait, is that about my cousin? Or is it some OTHER person whose boss is demanding to go to couples therapy with them?”

    1. Oranges*

      Very good point! Also, you broke my brain because it tried to imagine a world where this was not egregious.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      You nailed it! What kind of person reads that letter and doesn’t kick themselves for not protecting the abused?

      A jerk, that’s who. They’re not worried about “dirty laundry”, they’re upset for (indirectly) being called out for allowing the abuse to occur.


    3. Batgirl*

      People who are this toxic are super afraid of exposure. In their minds, everything is fine as long as the Dorian Gray portrait stays in the attic.
      Well done OP! Keep living your life without the need for a scary attic. I would block the hell out of the rest. There’s no way Dad & Jill are the family’s first abuser-enabler cocktail.

  22. Observer*

    If your grandparents ask you again if you intend to talk to your father ever, tell them “When he commits to not abuse me and to not enable or assist someone else to abuse me.”

    Lather, rinse repeat.

  23. BelleMorte*

    There is a concept called “rocking the boat” on a reddit insane parents forum I was reading.


    You have an abusive/crazy person in your boat (family). They are causing it to wildly rock (tantrums, abusive behaviour etc), while everyone else focuses all their energy on keeping the boat steady (placating the rocker). When someone leaves the boat and sails off in a calm new boat (marriage, cutting ties etc), everyone who is left in the boat now has to work harder to keep it steady and resents the departing party. They know it’s better for the departing party, but they don’t care because now their life is harder. They will try to pull them back into the rocking boat to help them manage the task.

    They of course, will never toss the boat rocker overboard because then other people might start rocking the boat and then it will be worse, or the boat rocker will drag them down with them.

    Enjoy your smooth cruise to Egypt with your husband and kitty. Don’t look back.

  24. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Wishing you nothing but the very BEST. Thank you for that extremely optimistic update and I know that you know you are doing the right things for yourself.

  25. Jackalope*

    As a fellow doula, just wanted to say congrats and all the best in your new career field! I hope it goes well! (I decided not to go pro since I already have a day job that I love and didn’t want a job that kept me on call, but I have other pro friends who LOVE it and have had a great time). Here’s hoping everything keeps going well! Also, KITTEN!!!!

  26. Not So NewReader*

    OP, you are doing great here. It may not always feel great because this is how HARD this stuff is. Build your life and let Jill and Dad sort themselves out, or not, whichever.

    We don’t get to make people’s choices for them. BUT we DO get to pick people who are supportive to us and our endeavors and we can surround ourselves with those people. Going out of contact with a parent can feel like a black hole in life, find ways to fill the gaps such as befriending older people who show a genuine and caring interest in you. I am a big fan of having friends from all age groups as it really shows me a wide variety of things. But there are other ways to enrich your life. Guessing from your letter here, you are well on you way to finding all the different ways.

  27. S*

    Good for you for setting healthy boundaries. Your dad….sucks, sorry. It takes a lot of backbone to stand up to a parent and walk away from the relationship or set boundaries, so you should be very proud of yourself. It’s great you’re focusing on your own family with your husband and looking at a new career. Best of luck

  28. FormerFirstTimer*

    Listen to me OP: do not feel guilty about not spending time with someone who either harms your mental health OR allows their SO to harm your mental health. I don’t care if they’re family or the King of Mars. The situation you described in your first letter would have been child abuse had you not been an adult. I also commend you for not punching Jill in her smug face when you saw her on the street.

  29. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    LW, I think about you and your letter (I saw it on both sites) a lot and am glad to hear that you have stability and sanity restored to your life. I’m sorry that you are stuck grieving the loss of a relationship with an abusive parent (I’ve been there too) and it isn’t easy. I’m glad you have support in your husband and your mom. I wish you all the best and hope you find that fulfilling career you’re working towards.

    Also I had two cornish rexes growing up and they are adorable little alien cats who also do not understand that they are cats! Enjoy that little fuzzy thing!

  30. MuseumChick*

    Hi OP, echoing others here, I am so sorry some of your family is being terrible about this. Check out the Captain Awkward blog. She give some great advice for dealing with a toxic family. I’m glad you are therapy! Keep at it.

    My personal script for these kinds of situations: “I’ve answered this question multiple times already. Is there anything else you would like to discuss?”

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      CA actually answered the original letter too! It was great even by CA standards.

  31. BrotherFlounder*

    I’m really glad for you that things are going relatively well. And I really hope you’re able to pursue this! Definitely a great feeling when what you want to do clicks in your mind. That trip down the Nile sounds amazing, too.

    Echoing others here that you’re 100% fine in not giving into the demands of “but faaaaaaaaamily!” If your grandparents want to see you, they should make time without him there.

  32. MechanicalPencil*

    A friend of mine is a doula, has done that for years, and is now training to become a midwife. Best of luck in that endeavor. I’m sorry your dad is still…in that situation. I was hoping it would be a Hallmark moment.

  33. Oranges*

    I have a very good family. I can’t imagine cutting family out of my life. Saying this, if someone else has cut off family I trust them. Reasonable people don’t cut off a family member because it’s fun.

    Trust yourself and stay strong. Your father’s family wants to stay in denial since it means they don’t have to do the hard work of trying to help their son who is in an abusive relationship. Which is… sad.

    Good luck delivering babies! Labor (I have been told) is hard and making it even a little easier is a good thing.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, when I hear that someone is estranged from their family of origin, I always assume they have a good reason.

  34. Kisses*

    I really enjoyed the last paragraph. What a happy time- don’t let them bring you down. You are doing well.

  35. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I just got this email from the OP: “I actually got into a great program and am moving to a new city in the spring if you want to add that at the bottom!”

  36. animaniactoo*

    LW, I am so happy to hear that life is going well!

    For your family members who are putting pressure on you, asking if you will ever speak to your father again, I suggest a simple response: “Not as long as he’s willing to pass messages from Jill to me instead of telling her to leave me alone.” Grandparents won’t be around forever? “Are you guaranteeing that you personally will run interference for me if Jill or Dad come at me? Because otherwise, I am not willing to even consider it.”

  37. Mozzarellama*

    OP! I’m currently living in Egypt!please reach out if you want any insider tips/places to visit or avoid/whatever :)

  38. RedinSC*

    Dear LW, good for you!

    Hang in there. I’m sorry your dad is such a mess, but you’re not! You’re good to go now and just keep moving forward!

    Just wanted to say I’m so glad you’re in such a better place.

  39. Janis Mayhem*

    Growing up, I was the only one in my family that had a relationship with my dad. My siblings mostly kept out of it (not convincing me I was wrong or trying to discourage me) and so kept out of their decisions (not trying to for d them to make up/forgive:move on) to the point of not telling him when they were getting married or having kids. If 10-22 year old me can figure that out, why can’t grown adults who are probably a little removed from the situation?

  40. Campfire Raccoon*

    OP I am so glad you sent in an update. My family also tries to make me reconcile with my abusive mother – but nary a one of the 1) Called her out on her behavior when it was happening 2) Stepped in to protect my sister and me 3) Will call her out NOW when she’s spinning tales.

    I think a LOT of that pressure to reconcile is just an attempt to alleviate their own guilt.

    I just got my 5th (official) dad in October, OP. I’ve never met New Dad, but on Thanksgiving he told my BIL that he thinks I would benefit from “a lot of counseling”. After I finished laughing, I remembered your letter – so in a way you helped me, OP. You aren’t alone, and neither am I.

    Be happy OP, you deserve it!

  41. Don’t Think About a Cat*

    I’m so happy for you, and excited for your future, but honestly? Cornish Rex? The BEST.

    Cheers and thanks for the update. Nice to think of all the life and love you’ll be bringing into the world soon.

  42. AlmostRetired*

    What’s struck me from the very beginning, and forgive me if this has been mentioned, but you can’t drag a third person into couples counseling! Jill said the OP had communication problems (which we know was all on Jill). If all three people wanted to, I suppose there might be a possibility to hold a kind of therapy thing, but not couples counseling.

  43. Anona*

    I’m sorry that some of your family members are being jerks. It sounds like you’ve done everything right.
    I’m so happy for you with your new program. I wish many good things for you!

  44. Anon Here*

    So much respect for OP for moving forward and making good things happen and leaving the negative stuff behind. And I’m sorry about your family. They don’t deserve you.

  45. MissDisplaced*

    This was interesting. Sometimes with family all you can really do is protect yourself and move on to a better space. It seems OP did that. Dad is likewise free to enjoy whatever he gets from Jill.

    Enjoy your classes, new city and Kitty!

  46. bluephone*

    Congrats on your program!

    Your dad (and Jill) are terrible people, full stop. I know that hurts to hear because it’s your dad! He’s supposed to not be terrible to you! But he is, Jill is, and if their poor little fee-fees are hurt because the rest of the world knows it, well too bad. Maybe they should have considered that before being terrible.

    Congrats again, good luck, and feel free to tell not only your dad and Jill but the other family members giving you grief, that EVERYONE in the world knows
    they are being terrible, horrible, abusive butt-heads *and it’s their own damn fault* for being abusive/enabling abusers.

  47. Lady Phoenix*

    Hey OP, if you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Captain Awkward’s column about dealing with shotty families. She even did a whole round up of “Faaaaaaamily” letters for the holidays.

  48. BeckySuz*

    OP, I had midwives for all three of my kids and I just loved them. Good luck in your new program. Go forth and flourish !

  49. OrigCassandra*

    Best thing about the update-to-the-update, to my mind, is that OP is getting outta Dodge.

    I strongly suspect being a long way away from Jill and Dad will be a considerable relief. The longer the better!

  50. Nita*

    OP, glad to hear from you! I hope things continue to improve in your life and career. You sound exhausted by your “family” antics – don’t let them get to you. They’re all adults, they made their choices, and they get to live with the consequences. And you get to walk away from the dumpster fire. I’ve got to say, walking away feels great in the first year, and even better with every year that passes.

    I feel for you about the grandparent situation. I didn’t visit my grandparents enough in their last years, because they lived in the same house as an abusive family member and the enablers. I couldn’t deal with going over there often, or with staying for long. I assume your grandparents don’t live with your father or Jill (otherwise there’d be a few more people in the family able to attest to what a nut Jill is). So you can probably see them not on Christmas. That is, if they can keep the “whyyyy are you starting drama in the family?” talk to a minimum. And if they do start it, you can always remember you left your car unlocked, or your stove turned on, or something, and make a quick exit.

  51. Blue Horizon*

    Wow. As a parent myself, it’s difficult to overstate how angry it makes me to read the bit about how he ignored you on the street. Dude, you had one job!

    OP, it sounds like you are doing brilliantly in very trying circumstances and I wish you all the best. I know you are already familiar with Captain Awkward and topics like managing the parents/grandparents thing are right in her wheelhouse, so that could be another resource for you.

    1. Anji*

      As a parent, I couldn’t agree more. Daddy needs to polish his spine, dump the wicked woman, and delve into some serious groveling!

  52. Bowserkitty*

    Ugh, I can’t believe your dad and Jill still. I hope he gets out of that situation. Will you be obliging and going to your grandparents’ after all?

    also SQUEEEEEEEEEE I am 100% in approval of posts that talk about getting pets and then actually including photos. such a cutie <3

    Hang in there and congrats on your doula training!!!

  53. Anji*

    LW… Your cat is beautiful :)
    As for your father and family, please take care of you. As a parent and grandmother, I can’t imagine accepting anyone treat my offspring wrong without serious consequences that involve “good riddance”. You are worthy of your feelings and objections to abuse. Wishing you a great drama free Christmas and an ever better 2020.

  54. Tom (no, not that one)*

    There are several letters that made me go WTF?? sometimes out loud. (I am so happy i have my private office).
    This one seriously made me both angry, sad and scared for LW.

    Talk about a toxic workplace (even a chemical waste dump sounds like paradise compared) but to have that spill over into your private life?

    While I don`t know you – i found myself wishing for a break for you, LW – and i have seen so many others doing the same. So, while you are going upward again – as a friendly reminder – it is okay to cut out toxic people from your life. Even if, or maybe especially if they are family. For any person – their own health/well being is paramount – for you cannot care for others (husband, that marvelous kitty) if you yourself are not well.

    Choose you – choose what makes you happy, and choose what makes you healthy. If that means the choice is to cut out the ‘bad’ family – so be it. This does not reflect on how you are as a person.

    From all the way from the European mainland – keep choosing for yourself and your own family (husband, kitty) and the friends you choose – and above all – be happy! All the best.

  55. Pripyat Horse*

    This was one of the first topics I read on this site, and it took my breath away. I’m so glad you are doing well, and are in a better place. Jill sounds totally toxic and delusional and if your dad can’t see that, it’s not your fault. You need to put your health and sanity first. All the best, and keep smiling.

  56. HH*

    It is heartening to read all of these supportive comments for not being with family members who are toxic and abusive. I know they aren’t directed at me but to see so many do what I’ve done and feel the way I feel, is a relief. I haven’t spoken with my mom for about a year and a half now – after I called her out about lying to my dad and my brother about a number of things and about lying to me – for years! I told her I wanted to talk about these “inconsistencies” but she hasn’t reached out. I found out from my brother that she said if she reaches out to me then “HH has won”. I’m actually happier without her toxic ways and I don’t regret what I’ve done. Both my dad (especially my dad) and my brother have done what the writer’s father did in getting her to reconcile with Jill: (“just tell her you’re sorry!”; “you don’t know what I have to deal with because of what you’ve done!”)…not to mention battling her lies. It’s horrible and exhausting and traumatizing in its own way. On the flip side, my brother has listened to me and we’ve compared very similar stories from our childhoods and have done a lot of healing together. We talk every week so it’s been really lovely. I was talking to my dad for a while but my mother is abusive to him as well and checks his work calendar, his phone, etc., and so he doesn’t call me unless he’s not busy and at work; two things that don’t line up often. I’m fine with that, too, since he believes everything she tells him about how evil I am. This is a long reply to say “thank you” to all of the replies of support and to the writer for writing to Alison. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my choice – or my no regrets – or my happiness afterward!

  57. J*

    The part about the grandparents is sad, but not surprising. I’m hardly an expert on abusive relationships, but this appears to be a very common thing. Even after they’ve been told the details of the problem, they refuse to acknowledge or accept it because they don’t want to be disturbed by it. Accepting and believing the evidence would require them to make moral decisions, take a side, confront the malicious party, and confront feelings of guilt and shame. It’s waaaaay easier to disregard, minimize, or deny the accusations.

    At least OP recognizes that the third parties are not helpful and that her own health is more important than her family’s dysfunctions.

  58. NomadicEA*

    Your original letter is one I sometimes think about and I’m very happy to hear that things are on the up for you. Sorry to hear about the difficulties with your family though. I also got the family line when I stopped talking to my abusive father, but it eventually tapered off – now I just count it as experience in resisting manipulation. Stay strong and continue to do what is best for you.
    Thanks for the update and congratulations on being accepted on to the course!
    BEST wishes to you, your husband and your kitty!

  59. Coffee Cup*

    So Gandalf still hasn’t shown up to chase Wormtongue away… I am sorry OP. I am glad to read that you are doing so well. Best of luck with everything.

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