Attorney daughter needs to set limits with dad

Helping a relative has its limits, Hax says.
Boundaries should be set — and respected.



February 13, 2020 - 9:34 AM

Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn: My father is having a legal issue (not criminal) and has been asking for my help. I’m a lawyer. I’m sure others manage to help family in this way, but I’ve found it extremely stressful. He doesn’t always tell me the whole situation, is disorganized, doesn’t always take my advice and any call turns into a half-hour rant about his case. He doesn’t respect the boundaries I put in place. For example, if something is due on Friday and I say in advance I can’t help on Thursday, he will inevitably send it to me on Thursday afternoon, knowing I would never refuse him help.

I’m becoming resentful and frustrated, and it’s showing. Any advice? — Lawyer

Lawyer: You need to respect your boundaries. If he sends you something on Thursday afternoon, then you need to refuse to do it, as you said. When he starts to rant, interrupt him after X minutes (decide beforehand what your boundary is, but even one minute sounds generous) and tell him you have to go.

The “knowing I would never refuse” is on you, not him, 100 percent.

If you can’t see that and fix it, then you need to find him a new attorney.

Dear Carolyn: I became friends (mildly) with my brother’s girlfriend, “Lauren,” during the three years they dated. And so I was saddened (again, mildly) when my brother ended the relationship earlier this year. I actually reached out at one point to tell her I would miss her and wished her well.

She has since stayed in touch at the same rate as before, which until recently I was okay with. However, I now have reason to believe she is trying to use our connection to find a way back into contact with my brother, who has shut down communication channels as part of the moving-on process. For instance, she asked if she could come to a dinner I’m hosting, knowing my brother will be there.

I don’t want to put my brother in an uncomfortable position. His reaction when I told him about dinner was to roll his eyes and offer to talk to her if I felt uncomfortable. But as part of an effort to be less weenieish overall, I want to handle it myself. What do you suggest? — Caught (Mildly)

Caught (Mildly): A quick, “Ooh, that’s not a good idea,” would have conveyed all you needed to say. And if she missed the cue: “I’m glad we’re friends, but I also believe my brother has a right to family gatherings without his ex-girlfriend there.”

Maybe that’s not the nicest sequence of words ever strung together, but it’s also such a “duh” that you get a little more license to be blunt.