Unhappy family and child custody battle concept sketched on sticky note paper
Ask Rene: Birthday Dinner Horror!
How Should I Handle THIS One?


I’m 28 and I have two older, half-sisters. We have the same father and I am the product of an affair our father had when he was married to my sisters’ mother. My dad and mom eventually married after he and his first wife divorced. This weekend, my parents want to get the whole family together for dinner. My father’s first wife and her husband are coming over. This is all very strange for me. I’m not looking forward to seeing my sisters, as they have never been kind to me. The nicest thing that I can say about my relationship with them is that it has always been distant. They seem to blame me personally for breaking up their family. How can I get through dinner?


Dreading Dinner in Davis


Dear Dreading Dinner: I don’t want to talk badly about your father but…



So let me get this straight. Your dad uses poor judgment and has an affair. A baby results from said affair. Now, nearly three decades later he wants to act like this is normal and you all are one big happy family?


I’m not sure how you’d handle it but here’s what I would do if I were you.


time to talk watch illustration design concept over white

This is not going to be easy but you’re going to have to start at the source. I suspect that your father thinks that since this happened years ago, everything is okay. Clearly, everything is not. You have questions and probably a lot of feelings you want to express. While he may not give you the answers you want (like WHY he had the affair), he certainly owes it to you to listen.

Read more: 10 From GEM: 10 Ways To Teach Your Kids Compassion


 Time to HEAL illustration design over a white background

And by help the healing I mean more than swept under the rug. My thinking is that your father may be mistaking the passage of time with actual healing. Ignoring things or learning how to work around them does not mean everything is okay. It means that people have learned to cope. I know I recommend this a lot but I’m a big fan of counseling and it sounds as if your whole family could benefit from it. But you can’t force people (especially adults) to go if they don’t want to. If you suggest it and they balk, then go alone.

Read more: Our Story Begins: It’s Time to Take Care of You!


3D render of someone making a decision

It’s time for you to make some decisions about what you want the rest of your life to look like. You’re 28-years-old; you have many more years ahead of you, God willing. You are an innocent party in this, just as your half-sisters are, but they see you as the person who broke up their parents’ marriage. Obviously that is not true but sometimes it’s hard to reason with people who are hurting. You need to figure out how much time you want to spend trying to help them heal or getting them to like you.

Can I be honest? I’m not sure the latter is ever going to happen if they don’t work through their own emotions.

Read more: Better, Not Bitter: Top 10 Things I Am Thankful For As A Divorced Mom


Okay that leaves us with what to do? I can’t speak for you but if it were me, I would politely decline the dinner invitation. But if you do decide to go, maybe you can stay a short time and then high tail it out of there. And bring antacids; there’s enough here to give even the strongest person a bad case of indigestion.

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So, GEM readers, what would you recommend she do? Would you go?