After witnessing her father at a motel with a woman who was not her mother, a young reader describes experiencing near-daily guilt about not having spoken up.
Three years ago, when I was 15, I saw my dad going into a motel with a woman I didn’t know. I happened to be getting frozen yogurt with friends next door. I was totally freaked out, but I said nothing. I just pretended it never happened. A few months later, my mom asked me directly if I thought my dad was having an affair. I said I didn’t — which was obviously a lie. My parents separated, then divorced, about a year later. Pretty much every day since then, I have felt guilty about my behavior. Do you think if I’d confronted my dad or told my mom the truth, at the time, my parents might still be married today?
Let me be crystal clear: The only person who did nothing wrong here is you. Your father was reckless to subject you to what seemed to be his adultery, even by accident. And while I sympathize with your mother, she was wrong to involve a child in her marital difficulties. It was natural for you to shut down about what you had seen and, later, to try to protect your father and keep your family intact.
Sadly, your (unwarranted) guilt makes perfect sense to me, too. Young people often feel responsible for creating crises to which they are witnesses at most. I can’t say with certainty that your parents would be divorced today no matter how you had responded to what you saw, but I suspect they would be.
That leaves my overriding concern: Unless you address your feelings of guilt about this episode, they may bleed into other areas of your life and diminish them. (I worry that may be happening already.) I am sorry you have to grapple with your parents’ poor judgment, but you do. Talk to a counselor to help put this episode into perspective and acknowledge your blamelessness.
Better an Empty Seat Than an Upset Sister
My sister’s partner of six years, 46, doesn’t like spending time with our family. He frequently fails to show up for family dinners even after accepting invitations. He did this at Easter lunch. More often, he says he “might” come, leaving us guessing until the last minute, which is stressful and annoying. His behavior upsets my sister, but she puts up with it. Should we stop inviting him?
Without question, your sister’s partner is behaving impolitely — both as a no-show and by failing to respond definitively to invitations. For me, though, these are small potatoes in the larger scheme: It is more important for your sister to feel supported by her family than for you to satisfy your (reasonable) pique.
So, let her drive this bus. Your sister is the best judge, for instance, of whether her partner is extremely introverted or being a jerk. And while your annoyance is legitimate, excluding him — without consulting your sister — may strike her as harsh or judgmental of her relationship. Instead, ask her gently what she would prefer: that you keep inviting her partner to family gatherings or that you stop. Then follow her lead. There are worse things than removing a place setting at the last minute — and hurting your sister is one of them.
What Are You Waiting for, an Invitation?
I received a save-the-date announcement for a wedding I’ve decided not to attend for scheduling reasons. I am not particularly close with the bridal couple; in fact, I was surprised to be invited. Is it better to let them know right away that I can’t attend, or should I wait until I receive the formal invitation?
Given the difficulty (and occasional heartbreak) of creating guest lists for many bridal couples, the kindest thing would be to let them know as soon as possible that you are unable to attend. This way, they can adjust their plans and possibly invite someone in your place. Send a warm note with your regrets.
Now, in my experience, when letter writers express surprise at receiving wedding invitations, they usually couple it with a question about their obligation to send a gift. You didn’t, but just in case: You are not required to give a gift, though depending on your relationship with the bridal couple, you may want to.
I am a Swiftie. I have an extra (nearly impossible to get) ticket to one of Taylor’s upcoming concerts. I could invite my fiancé’s sister, who has been extremely nice to me. Or I could invite a former best friend whom I haven’t been close to in recent years. (It could be a rapprochement.) Or I could sell the ticket for a big profit. What would you do?
I am going to assume that you are as devoted to Taylor Swift as I am to Joni Mitchell. (Now, Joni’s superfans may not have a cute nickname — like yours — but we wear the mantle proudly just the same.) Based on my experience, your best companion at the concert will share your love of the woman and her music.
You will have plenty of opportunities to repay the kindness of your future sister-in-law and to mend fences with your former BFF. And ticket scalping is illegal in many places. So, invite the person who is most likely to share your unbridled joy in an evening devoted to Tay Tay.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.