Washington, DC: I'm 24 years old and have recently decided to stop talking to my father. (I live in D.C.; he lives in the Midwest.) He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 14 and refused to get treatment. He is verbally and physically abusive with me (when I'm around) and my mother, but my mother does not want to leave him. I haven't talked to him for over a month. My mother says that he rants about the fact that I don't talk to him and that it is taxing for her. She's asked me to call him once a week. I've tried, for her sake, and I really don't have anything to say, nor do I have any desire to speak with this man. Is it selfish of me to tell her that I don't want to talk to him?
Emily Yoffe: Your mother has decided she's stuck—but fortunately you're not. Bipolar disorder is a terrible disease, but it can be helped enormously with treatment. Your father is responsible for his destructive decision to let the illness run its course. You could have a phone conversation with him in which you tell him you love him, but unless he gets treatment for his illness, you will not be able to have a relationship with him because he acts abusively toward you. Then continue a separate relationship with your mother, but don't let her guilt-trip you because you don't call. It is up to her to draw her own lines with him.
Atlanta: I can't believe people write you to ask about destination weddings. Don't they read your column on a regular basis? Prudie don't like! I am astonished by people's unmitigated gall. I simply refuse every destination wedding I'm invited to, and I've been invited to some beauties.
Emily Yoffe: I don't think a blanket refusal of the destination wedding is necessary. I have friends who've been to ones they've loved. If you've always wanted to go to a place, and the wedding gets you there, why not? But you're right, I think generally this is a most unfortunate trend that only adds time and expense to an event that has become the marital Long March.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: My mother has mild to moderate dementia manifested in short-term memory loss. My sisters and I visited her attorney with her in the beginning of the year to help her make some updates to her will (at her request). After her will was redone, the attorney sent copies of my mother's will to my sisters and me. I was horrified—I believe this document should remain private until after her death—so I chose not to read it. My oldest sister did read it, and she and her husband are now upset about its contents. According to her, the will says that if she predeceases our mother, the money that is left to her will pass to her two children. Here's the part she is mad about: My mother does not want her husband to have control of the funds if their children are under the age of 18—my mother has requested that I (and I am the executor of her estate) distribute the funds for education, health care, etc., until they come of age. Her husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, nearly drove his family to bankruptcy, and has had a spotty employment record over the past five years. My sister and her husband are so mad at my mother that they will not be coming to Thanksgiving, which is the only time of the year that our (rather small) family gathers. Naturally, our 82-year-old mother is extremely upset, and my sister will not tell her anything—she just keeps making lame excuses about missing our family's annual traditional gathering. They have said they will not travel at Christmas or Easter, either, because of their deep faith and religious activities with their church (I know, ironic, huh?) Also, none of us lives near our mother. It's beginning to sound like my oldest sister will not see our mother ever again. My other sister and I don't know what—if anything—we should do. Any advice?
Emily Yoffe: What an awful situation, which unfortunately vindicates your mother's assessment that the money for the children should be protected from the whims of their parents. You and your sister can sit down with your oldest sister and acknowledge that you understand that she and her husband are upset, but that it is very common for money that is to go to the next generation have limitations put on it. Say that this was not meant as a slap at her and her husband but a way of making sure the grandchildren get help with their tuition, which will benefit the whole family. Impress upon her that if she becomes estranged now, the time will be short to heal this breach, and that the entire family will suffer. Then let it be. If they choose to reject the family, make sure the rest of you work extra hard to make your mother's life filled with love.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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