Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Daughter can't accept new woman in father's life
Dads and Mistresses: So my dad's leaving Wife No. 2, who started out as the "other woman" in my parents' marriage when I was in high school. In the process, it came out that he'd had numerous affairs during my parents' marriage.
Now he's seriously involved (again) with the woman he had an affair with when I was in kindergarten. Let's call her "Sally." At the time, he broke it off when Mom found out, and then Sally soon moved out of the area. Wife No. 2 didn't come along until another 10 years later.
Dad wants me to accept Sally and recognize that she makes him happy now (or "for now"). But I can't help but be angry with Sally. I understand the affair is ancient history for my dad, but it's recent history for me, since I only just found out about the other affairs.
Dad's not off the hook with me either, but we've worked hard to make peace, and I want him in my life.
But I really find it hard to respect or welcome Sally, someone unrelated to me who knowingly slept with a married man, especially one with kids. (She was a part-time employee of his who knew our family. I vaguely remember her from visits to his office.)
I haven't met her yet as an adult, but I'm not looking forward to the inevitable get-together on some visit.
So what do I do here? Suck it up and embrace her, and let go of the anger?
Be true to myself and try to gently say, "You know, I'm happy that you make my dad happy, but I have a problem with you on my own behalf"?
Carolyn: If Sally were the one and only mistress of an otherwise devoted family man, I would take this opportunity to validate your distress and try to figure out ways you could minimize your exposure to her.
But the story here is not about Sally victimizing your little family. Yes, she is absolutely responsible for her decision to get involved with a man she knew was married; it's easy to vilify her.
Yet this married man had an active dating life, apparently, and so it's reasonable to conclude that had there been no Sally, there would have been a Jane or a Susie. That makes Sally just another face in the chorus.
It's your dad who was directing and starring in this very unfortunate show.
You say your dad's not off the hook, but you do seem much more disgusted with Sally than you are with him. Yet, if we're judging just on the merits, based on the information you provided, Sally deserves more of a break than Dad does.
Just as your dad burned your mom and Wife No. 2, the pattern suggests Sally's next in line to get burned — possibly for the second time.
I understand you're going to want to work harder to forgive a family member — pure and simple, Dad's the one who helped raise you — but you can't just shift the displaced Dad-anger to Sally.
She deserves the total-stranger version of the approach you took with your dad: Resist black-and-white reactions, and learn to make peace with gray.