Dear Amy: I recently got engaged to my boyfriend of 11 years! It’s been a whirlwind.
I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 16 because of my alcoholic father and very complicated mom. I moved into my boyfriend’s parents’ house. They have treated me like their own, and I have a very good relationship with them.
I have a decent relationship with my parents, but only when my dad is sober. If he drinks too much, he becomes combative and verbally abusive.
When planning the wedding, I told my boyfriend’s father that if my dad became too drunk, then he could walk me down the aisle, but then someone suggested having both him and my dad walking me down the aisle.
Today I lightly suggested this to my father, and I feel like I hurt his feelings, but what should I do?
I feel like if I don’t let them both walk me, then my boyfriend’s father will be disappointed, but I don’t know if I can fully depend on my father, either.
— Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck: The essential error I believe you made was making your request contingent: “If my dad gets too drunk, will you walk me down the aisle?”
First of all, how very sad that you even have to think about that — and yet, of course you do!
That’s what life is like for the child of an alcoholic; every decision you make regarding your own life has a “what if” at its core. Being raised in the household rattled by addiction is extremely destabilizing. Children of alcoholics are most often on high-alert trying to anticipate other people’s feelings, so they can try to head off problems or incidents before they become overwhelming.
Your wedding day is the one day where you should plan to do exactly what you want — and the people around you should work hard to help you have the wedding you want to have.
My own bias is toward the marrying couple walking together down the aisle, and yet I realize that culturally this is not the norm, although this would help you to avoid the entire awkward question.
If you want to honor these men, my suggestion is that you recognize both families — the one that you escaped from, and the one that lovingly took you in. Tell these fathers of yours that you would like them both to flank you as you walk down the aisle.
If your father doesn’t want to do this, decides to punish you by acting unhappy about it, or gets too drunk on the day to manage, then you should press ahead with your fiancé’s father.
I urge you to find a support group for adult children of alcoholics. This sort of support would help you so much as you enter this exciting and stressful time of your life. Check adultchildren.org.
Dear Amy: For the first time since 2019, the large company where I work is hosting a holiday party. The party will be held after-hours at our headquarters. I’ve worked for this company for over a decade. My memory of previous parties is that they could sometimes get a little wild.
I’m not talking about mass-destruction here — but too many opportunities for embarrassment.
The older I get, the less I want to participate in this kind of thing, but the understanding is that attendance is more-or-less mandatory.
I’d appreciate your take on this and if you think it’s necessary for me to attend.
— Tired Worker
Dear Tired: I’m going to sidestep the possible health risks of attending a crowded indoor event this winter, and focus on the party itself.
Should you go? Yes. Should you drink? No.
Show up, enjoy some of the food, make sure your various bosses see that you are there, don’t talk shop but exchange pleasantries, and stay for at least 90 minutes. Thank the organizers for hosting.
Once you have made the rounds, you can liberate yourself into the night — your reputation (hopefully) intact.
Dear Amy: More insipid advice from you. I cannot believe that you suggested to “Doting Dad” that he should keep his estate and will a secret from his kids! This would only leave a big mess for them to sort out later.
— Another Doting Dad
Dear Dad: I did not suggest that he keep these things a “secret.” I did suggest discretion, however, especially since he was considering sharing account numbers and passwords with his children now. He needs a qualified executor.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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