• Troubleshooter

My relationship with my relatives has soured since my father remarried

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my 40s and lost my mother three years ago. About a year later, my father, who is in his late 70s, remarried unexpectedly. My wife and I were against the marriage, but he wouldn’t listen to us, saying things like, “You two won’t take care of me.”

My father remarrying complicates matters surrounding his property and assets, but I feel worse for my mother.

My wife already disliked my father, but has since come to increasingly loathe him. She says that he has “no common sense” and she feels sorry for my mother.

She might be right, but I feel as though she’s directing her comments toward me, and I feel very uncomfortable about it. Perhaps she is also annoyed that I support my father. I believe that no matter how terrible he is, he’s still my father.

Recently, I attended my aunt’s funeral with him, but my mother’s relatives gave us the cold shoulder. My uncle, among others who had treated me well since I was a child, didn’t speak to me.

I’m torn between my wish for my father’s happiness and my thoughts of how my mother would feel if she knew he got remarried. How should I deal with my relatives in the future and how should I feel about the situation?

T, Ibaraki Prefecture

Dear Mr. T:

I like your words, “No matter how terrible he is, he’s still my father,” which I think precisely describe your current situation.

For your wife and relatives, your father is a total stranger who is not related to them by blood. My late father was also quite a troubled man, but I think my brother and I fulfilled our duty to him at the very least.

This is where you need to separate your feelings from how you should handle the situation. Even if your father has been relatively deplorable, there must have been times when he treated you well while you were growing up.

When you think back on that, you may want to sympathize with him. However, the people who have never experienced those things are likely to be displeased with such a display.

Thus, you should not tell those around you how you feel, and instead deal with the situation rationally. First of all, you need to make some form of an agreement with your father that you will neither take care of him, nor his new wife. This means, of course, that you will renounce any claim to his property and assets.

It is better to think it is fortunate for you that his new wife will now take care of your “terrible” father. This way, you only need to fulfill the minimal duties as a son, such as occasionally asking him how he is doing and confirming the contents of his will.

Masahiro Yamada, university professor

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 4, 2022)