Care and Feeding

I Want to Intervene in My Dad’s Love Life But I’m Scared of His Reaction

Is it worth risking punishment for a shot at happiness?

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Dear Care and Feeding,

A few years ago, my dad broke up with his long-term, long-distance girlfriend. I wasn’t surprised, but this was their first issue, so I felt that with some good communication, it would have been resolved.

My mother died several years ago, and this girlfriend was the first woman my dad dated after that. The relationship lasted three years, and she became sort of like a mother figure to me—I truly loved her. I think about her all the time, and I miss her. They broke up because she wasn’t in a good place mentally and was distancing herself. There’s been no contact, so I have no clue whether she’s doing better. I only remember the good times, because I’ve only experienced the good times. A little while ago, I told my dad how I was feeling. He said that he was feeling some closure and distance from the event, but I feel like the wound is still open and unhealed.

I have the woman’s contact info in a texting app, but I think she blocked me. My dad has strictly asked me not to contact her, but I’m in lots of mental pain right now, and a lot of it is due to the breakup. I want to ask her if she would be willing to get back together if she was in a better place. But my dad is strict, and there’d be hell to pay if I got caught. What should I do? Is it worth risking punishments for what I believe is a shot at happiness?

— Worth the Risk?

Dear Worth the Risk?,

First, I’m sorry for your losses. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been first to lose your mom, then to bond with the first woman your dad dated after her passing, only to lose that maternal figure, too. You may have hoped that your dad’s ex would help your family regain some sense of emotional stability. The breakup has derailed that hope, and it’s natural for you to long for a reconciliation.

It sounds like your dad’s ex was kind and supportive when she was a part of your lives. You wouldn’t miss her so much otherwise. It also sounds like your dad is very resolute in his decision to stay broken up. He knows why they parted ways, and he would prefer if their paths remained separate. His ex likely shares that perspective if she’s blocked communication with you and your dad.

They’ve been apart for quite a while now, and, as painful as it is to let go of the connection you had with her, it’s important to let time and distance heal your wounds, just as your dad says they’ve been healing his.

I do think you would greatly benefit from talking to someone about what you’re going through, but your dad’s ex isn’t the appropriate person to reach out to right now. Try a peer or school counselor, a help or crisis hotline, or a professional therapist who might be able to help you move forward and process the various ways that your dad’s breakup and your mother’s death have been affecting you. I hope you feel better soon.

—Stacia

More Advice From Slate

I am in my 20s, I’m married, and I have two young children. My husband and I are totally financially independent from my parents and live a few states away. Whenever we visit their house, we’re expected to work. I’m not talking about helping with dishes or putting a load of laundry in the dryer.