The Mercury News
Dad's funeral stunt is last straw
DEAR AMY >> Ten years ago, my father had an affair with an old high school girlfriend. He divorced my mother to marry this other woman.
My parents had been married for more than 20 years, and mom was understandably devastated and went “no contact” with him.
My brother and I were in college at the time and, after a lengthy period of estrangement from our dad, are barely back on speaking terms with him.
Recently, our mother died after a brief illness.
I stopped by a relative's home prior to the funeral service and spotted my father dressed up and seemingly ready to attend the funeral.
Amy, I flipped out. My father treated my mom terribly during the divorce. They had been in the same room only a handful of times over the years for college graduations and a wedding.
They were not hostile toward one another, but also were not speaking.
I know my mother would not have wanted him to be at her funeral and I told him as much. (His wife had enough sense to stay away.)
I went into bouncer mode and forbade him from attending.
My brother and his wife backed me up, telling him that it would be inappropriate for him to be there, considering how he had ended the marriage, and taking into account their nonexistent current relationship.
He insisted that he was only there “to support us” and had no malicious intent. We stood our ground, he opted not to attend her services, and has been sulking ever since.
He says that we owe him an apology, but we think he's being his usual selfish, self-serving and perpetual-victim self.
What do you think?
— Not Going to Apologize
DEAR NOT GOING TO APOLOGIZE >>
I'm with you and your brother. If your father had really wanted to support you through this trying time, he would have contacted you both in advance of showing up to express his fatherly concern and to ask how he could best support you.
Showing up where you suspect you're not welcome is classic behavior for a practiced boundary crosser. His demand that you apologize for your reaction to his insensitivity is simple misdirection, but if your reaction created a scene that made others uncomfortable, then this is something to acknowledge and perhaps apologize for.
Now that you have asserted a strong boundary with your father, I suggest that you should use neutral language and communicate to him that in order for you to have a better relationship moving forward, you will need him to understand how deeply his actions over the last 10 years have affected you.
Use “I statements,” detailing your feelings. A defensive (or offensive) response from him will underscore your instincts, but you will have had your say.