Father's co-worker's constant attention causes discomfort
Q: A woman who works VERY closely with my father pays uncommon attention to him — fussing over his being thirsty or hungry, putting pictures of him on her bulletin board (but none of her own husband), etc.
She has insinuated herself into my parents' lives — my father can't live without her help and says she's his best friend, she's very nice to my elderly grandmother, and my mother likes her and her husband a lot, even though she admits that some of these behaviors make her uncomfortable.
All involved insist there is no affair, but my mom is afraid of being on the losing end of any ultimatum. So, she has made her tenuous peace with the situation.
Not so my partner and me. We try not to discuss it with my mother (who often tries to defend this woman, ending with a feeble "Well, she's not going anywhere"), but we also do not like to be with this woman.
We see her interest in us as another way she's trying to cement her presence. So, if she tries to get a conversation going, we end it quickly.
My parents feel we are being rude, and my mom is stressed over our basing our plans on whether she will be present. My mom doesn't want me to talk about it again with my father, and I don't think either of them will respect our position.
My partner is angrier over the situation than I am, so I'm juggling that, too. Do we bend, stay firm, get firmer, tell her off, tell my dad off, live and let live, what?
A: The details here are specific, but it's a general problem with a general answer. You don't know what you're trying to accomplish or whom you're trying to please, and so you're accomplishing nothing and pleasing no one.
The vehemence of your position only makes the problem worse. You're taking a firm and public stand, but for whom? As far as I can tell, the only thing you know for certain is that you dislike this woman intensely and want nothing to do with her.
That's a perfectly legitimate stand to take. But you also seem to envision yourself as sticking up for your mom — yet she's "stressed" (rightly or not) by your public stand, so that part isn't working. And you imply your partner isn't happy with you, either, and you're not happy with that.
As always, when you're stuck amid conflicting interests — and here's the most general of answers — you have to figure out what you think is right, then chart a course that satisfies that sense of decency — and possibly nothing and nobody else. Then you need to stick to it.
So. Do you want to fight the fight your mom isn't strong enough to take on? Or do you want to shorten her list of worries by respecting her "tenuous peace"?
Is your partner alone on the high road, or should he or she be less invested in your family's business and more invested in alleviating your distress? Are you meddling or simply living by your convictions?
Miserable questions all, but, like all matters of conscience, yours alone to address.
In situations with no appealing choices, making peace with yourself might be the only comfort there is.