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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Carolyn Hax: Decide whom you want to please

By Carolyn Hax Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: 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.

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, 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. Do we bend, stay firm, get firmer, tell her off, tell my dad off, live and let live, what? – J.

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.

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.

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”? 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.

E-mail Carolyn at, or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at

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