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Your father has an issue with boundaries, says Mariella Frostrup. Try to mend your relationship with him first

The dilemma I’ve always had a close relationship with my dad despite not living with him since my parents’ divorce when I was a baby. He’s been through some difficult times over the past decade, coping with bereavement, financial troubles and addiction (his own and that of close relatives). He now lives with his own father to help care for him. For five years, he’s had an on-off relationship with a woman who I now can’t stand. She expects him to pay for her, despite his money worries. When my dad leaves her, she continually messages him or shows up at – or breaks into – the house. He tells me the insane stuff she did during their relationship, then they get back together. Repeatedly he’s promised he won’t go back to her, only to do so. I understand I can’t control who my dad associates with. I know he is to blame as well as her, but I feel if he weren’t so vulnerable he would not have given into her persistence. Could you give me a way to come to terms with this so I can be in the same room as her without my blood boiling?

Mariella replies How about looking at the situation through her lens? I’m not exonerating her of responsibility for her part in your dad’s dysfunctional behaviour, but it’s a common impulse to blame the other party. I once had an almost surreal conversation with a woman whose husband had left her and two young children, unceremoniously, for a more glamorous option – and listened to her fervently blame the other woman. Hooking up with someone else’s husband is not the most sisterly choice, but dumping your wife and children seems to me far more reprehensible. When I tried to reason that this other woman was a stranger with no responsibility to her, while the opposite was true of her ex, she looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. I’m sure there are plenty of other abandoned lovers out there who’ll think me equally misguided, but I’m all for apportioning blame where it should rightfully fall.

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