Question: My father moved to a retirement community in a scenic part of Florida and expects that I should visit him. Now that he has escaped the harsh winters of D.C., he doesn’t want to come back up here. I am busy with my job and do not necessarily have the money to fly a lot. My father is physically healthy and financially stable and now gives me a guilt trip that I am not coming down and seeing him.
Answer: Has he always been the type to expect that others make the effort to accommodate him, rather than vice versa? Might there be a generational or cultural component at work, in terms of respecting one’s elders? If not, it could simply be that he had a highly hopeful visual of moving to a place that people would jump at the chance to visit, and now he’s covering up his hurt and disappointment with a thick layer of guilt-ing. Be empathetic and practical: “Dad, you know I really want to see you, but it’s hard to get away as much as I’d like. How can we make this happen?”
Suggest a respite from the palm-tree monotony with a fall or spring getaway where you vow to be the hostess with the mostest. Or see if you can meet in the middle somewhere new you both want to go. My guess is it’s less about the actual visiting logistics and more about what a visit represents, so find a way to make sure he feels loved and valued even from afar.
Q: I think my co-worker is seriously disturbed. She believes all kinds of conspiracy theories and flies off the handle about the smallest things. I do not feel comfortable around her. Every time I hear of someone getting violent at their workplace, I think of her. What’s a person to do?
A: I understand your discomfort, but if every conspiracy theorist with a hair-trigger temper posed a serious threat of violence, then entire swaths of the population would be wiped out in a massive melee worthy of a “Game of Thrones” episode.
Has she used specific terms about violence, or does she just get agitated and angry? Are her conspiracy theories simply naive, or do they show a paranoia or an aggressive me-vs.-the-world mentality? Are things getting worse?
Keep yourself from engaging when it could escalate her, document instances that seem particularly bizarre or uncomfortable, and seek advice from a trusted superior about whether there is reason for concern. But just because she’s not someone you want to have over for dinner doesn’t necessarily mean she poses any real risk.
Andrea Bonior, a Washington-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.” For more information, see drandreabonior.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @drandreabonior.