I’m a 25-year-old single mom of two children, one of whom is autistic. Every day is a struggle, but I am trying to do my best. About three months ago, I had car trouble. A co-worker, married and about 20 years older, used his AAA card to call for assistance, waited with me for the tow truck, helped negotiate at the auto repair and drove me to work. We talked a lot during that time about our lives. After work, he drove me to pick up my car and insisted on paying for it. Since then, he’s been my protector and hero, which I both appreciate and feel uncomfortable about. He’s dismissed my concerns. Our conversations now continue outside of work, and I think of him as a friend. He buys groceries and gifts, and it means so much to me. But recently, he made a pass at me. I don’t know how to say no without losing his very appreciated and necessary support.
Is that support worth the cost of participating in the betrayal of his wife? Of course not. So stop tallying the list of goodies that you gain from befriending your married savior. Pay attention to your discomfort instead. That itty-bitty sense of ick you feel is a signal that you knew this man would ultimately want something in exchange for his efforts. Here it is: He wants you to save him from his marriage. But if he’s so accomplished at saving damsels like you, why can’t he rescue himself? Well, if he admits he’s unhappy in his marriage, he might have to shoulder some of the responsibility for improving the situation. But if he stumbles into an emotional and then physical affair, he can blame his wife for not attending to his needs and pretend that she forced him to go elsewhere. Or he can blame you for being so accessible and understanding that he had to cross the line into infidelity. His wife can blame you, too. The chaos that may result—like having his wife show up at your workplace to confront you—is the kind of stress you are better off without. So, decline your sugar daddy’s offer of sex, be grateful for the help you’ve had and bring the relationship to a compassionate close. You deserve better, and so do your children.
I’ve been estranged from my parents for many years due to my father’s violent temper, drinking and abuse. My mother is his enabler and, tired of her attempts to make me feel guilty for not seeing him, I cut off all contact. My brother just called to tell me that my father died and that my mother does not want me at the funeral. I feel like this is abuse, too, and I have tolerated it for too long. I want to attend the funeral because I think it will be healing for me. I also want to see my other family members. Do you think I should go?
Not unless you and your mother reach a heartfelt understanding first. Without establishing common ground, your presence at the funeral will be a distraction from the work of celebrating a life and grieving its loss. Plus, your reasons for wanting to attend are extraordinarily self-centered. It would probably help to realize that your mother lived the way she did because she didn’t believe or know she had other options. And if you want to see your other relatives, take a vacation to their hometowns or organize a family reunion. But attend the funeral if you want to honor your father and support your mother. Otherwise, stay home or make an appointment to see a psychotherapist to process your past.