Q. My father and my father-in-law are in related professional fields. From time to time, my father has contacted my father-in-law, as well as others in my husband’s family, to try to make business contacts or team up on a project.
Even though my father’s requests are always kindly refused, this makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t want bad feelings over business, money, or reputation to interfere with an otherwise loving set of relationships.
My father does not generally have much contact with my in-laws, and I feel like it is selfish of him to exploit my relationship with them. When I declined to put him in touch with one of them recently, he was very offended. He insisted that his behavior was completely acceptable because he wouldn’t directly profit from it.
Am I being unreasonable? Or should he respect my preference for keeping work and family separate?
A. You are not being unreasonable. But more than “protecting” your in-laws from your father’s schemes, what you are really trying to do is to spare yourself the discomfort and embarrassment his contact causes you.
You have tried mightily to keep the personal/business firewall in place, and your father simply dons his fireproof business suit and charges on through.
I suggest you step back and let both parties manage this themselves. Your in-laws have graciously and respectfully handled your father’s business ideas; unless they ask you to intervene, you should assume that they understand what is going on and will find a way to build a better wall.
Q. When my son and daughter were 7 and 5 years old, a neighborhood boy abused them, particularly my daughter.
She finally told me when she was in college, though she won’t tell me any specifics. I know it impacts her life today, and she has been in therapy for many years.
She has refused to have anything to do with her brother, now 36 and married, as she blames him (with some justification, as he was her older brother), even though he was also a very young child when these things happened. Our son adores his sister and has tried over the years to apologize and build a bridge, but she refuses to accept it.
This means that she won’t attend any family event where he is present. Now there is a grandson who will likely never meet his uncle, which is very painful for us.
I’ve tried to support both of my children through this, but I am starting to fear they will only meet at our funerals, and that is heartbreaking. Do you have any advice?
A. Because your daughter will not disclose what happened to her, you have to assume that you simply don’t have information that might shed more light on her choices, because it is simply not rational to blame a 7-year-old (who you say was also a victim). If she blames her brother for not protecting her, then why doesn’t she also blame you?
You should ask your daughter if she would invite you to join her in therapy so that you could learn the truth about what she has been through. She may have solid reasons for keeping her distance from her brother, and you should encourage her to be brave enough to disclose them.