Dear Amy: I’ve been dating a wonderful man, “Don,” for a year, and am worried that he is being used by his father, “Don Sr.”
Don Sr. moved in with him three years ago. In that time frame Don has not only paid for everything, including his father’s bills, but he has also bought four cars for his father, and his father has put these cars into derbies, always without asking.
This year Don Sr. put his only car into the derby, again. After a few fights, everything seemed OK. Now he needs another vehicle or he won’t be able to drive to work.
He hasn’t even started to look for a vehicle, and every time Don or I tell him about a car that we saw for sale, he shrugs it off. He is so content with Don handing him everything. He said he doesn’t care if he gets his own car, because he can just drive one of Don’s.
It’s not my place to say anything, and when I do, it usually ends up with Don and me fighting. I’m tired of him being used like this. I don’t want to fight with Don about his father, but what can I do to help?
Amy says: Understand that their relationship is its own contained system. Things would change if Don Jr. wanted them to change. But the father is a user and the son is an enabler. The son is actually training his father to be completely reliant on him.
The way out for you is to adopt total detachment. I’m going to provide two phrases which will help you:
“That’s too bad,” and, “You’ll figure it out.”
Don Jr. says, “Dad won’t look for a new car!” You say, “That’s too bad.”
Don Jr. says, “My father is using me!” You say, “You’ll figure it out.” That is the extent of your commentary or involvement.
If you simply refuse to get wound up about this, this father-son relationship will continue as it is, or the son will finally set some limits. Either way, you will gradually stop caring.
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