Wedding Woes

You can love someone and not accept or tolerate their behavior.

Dear Prudence,
Years ago, while my wife and I were separated, I foolishly slept with “Molly,” who became pregnant with my daughter “Ally.” I reconciled with my wife, and ultimately we won custody of Ally when she was 9, after Molly went through a series of boyfriends and made repeated sexual overtures toward me. My wife has been incredible, but Molly’s influence has been strong. After completing her court-ordered therapy, Molly filed for custody when Ally was 13, and two years later Ally went to live with her permanently. Ally went from respectful and sweet to insubordinate and cruel. Finally, she used racial epithets against my wife and stepdaughters, and I threw her out of the house. She did the same thing when my wife and I came to her high school graduation. Molly looked so proud of her.

Ally is now 21. I haven’t spoken to her beyond a phone call on Christmas and her birthday unless she needs money. My wife openly grieves for the little girl that we lost, and my stepdaughters refuse to acknowledge Ally. I can’t blame them. I blame myself for not fighting harder, but what is done is done. At what point do I give up? Ally is sweet until she doesn’t get what she wants. The last time it was because I wouldn’t bail her drug-using boyfriend from jail; before that, it was when I wouldn’t buy her another car after she wrecked hers. I am tired and have no desire to do this dance for the next 20 years. I am at the end of my rope. For the record, I always paid my child support, while Molly didn’t pay a dime when Ally lived with me. I love my daughter, but I also love my wife and stepdaughters. I would give anything to have the Ally who I raised back, but that is an impossibility now. I don’t know what to do.

—Do I Give Up?

Re: You can love someone and not accept or tolerate their behavior.

  • Agreed, tough love and boundaries. Be clear that you love her and want the best, but that you won't tolerate the insulting and offensive language, and that you will not be subsidizing her life at this time. 

    But I would leave open the possibility for something in the future. Maybe Ally will change, maybe she'll see how her behavior has hurt the people around her and ask for forgiveness. The idea of "giving up" may seem good right now, but hopefully if she makes amends LW won't keep the door shut.  
    short+sassymrsconn23OurWildKingdom
  • I agree with not tolerating or supporting her poor behavior and lifestyle.  But she is also still young.  And, at least from the LW, didn't have a very good role model for the parent who raised her the majority of the time.  I could see her changing as she gets older and hopefully more mature and wiser.  So I think he should leave the door open for that possibility.

    In the meantime, his participation in her life is already fairly minor and not something where he would have to constantly be exposing himself or his family to her negativity.

    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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