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Woman enmeshed in boss and father's romantic relationship, 'THEY WANT ME TO COME TO COUPLES THERAPY?!' AITA? UPDATED 2X

Woman enmeshed in boss and father's romantic relationship, 'THEY WANT ME TO COME TO COUPLES THERAPY?!' AITA? UPDATED 2X


When this woman feels completely overwhelmed by her father, her boss, and their romantic relationship, she asks Reddit:

"My dad is dating my boss, and now he's forcing me to go to couple's therapy with them? WTF?! AITA?"

My dad started dating this woman (Jill) about two years ago, after he and my stepmom amicably divorced. As this was going on, I graduated from grad school, ended my student internship, and started looking for jobs. In six months, I applied to 275 jobs and didn’t get a single interview.

I was desperate for work when my dad said Jill needed a new executive assistant. Jill is the chair of a nonprofit, and the job came with a good salary and a lot new responsibilities. I had an interview and was offered the job right away.

Immediately, things were much worse than I expected: She tells me when to start working either late at night or in the morning.

My hours aren’t terribly long, but it is impossible to schedule anything since I don’t know my schedule in advance, and my health and self-care have taken a beating. I don’t have set hours, so she calls and texts at any time, and I never know when I’m done for the day.

One of my main roles is to work on her book, a memoir about the struggles of being a minority and a woman.

My dad, a white man, is writing the entire thing secretly; she hasn’t told her publisher that a ghostwriter is involved, and he is getting no compensation or recognition as she goes around telling everyone that she’s the only woman of this ethnic group to write a book on the subject.

When I ask clarifying questions, she belittles me (“That’s common sense” or “You know as much as I do”).

She’s rude and cruel to me in front of others at meetings, events, and on conference calls. Once when I said the way she was talking to me was making me flustered, she yelled that this is how she manages people, that I perceive things the wrong way, and that it’s a problem with me.

She is always coming up with elaborate rumors about our out-of-state staff. She often says that her former assistant had brain damage; her reasoning was that she was born premature and therefore must have brain damage and be “mentally handicapped.”

So-and-so is obese because her kid died and now she’s too emotionally unstable to work. So-and-so must be crazy because he chose to serve on a submarine while in the Navy.

She doesn’t do anything herself because she doesn’t know how to use Word. She makes me come to her house to print things because she doesn’t want to open them on her computer.

I write columns under her name, and then we go through upwards of six drafts as she makes minuscule tweaks, forgets she made those tweaks, and changes them back to the original, all while criticizing me for not making any sense.

She volunteered to watch her infant granddaughter twice a week, but she started leaving the baby with me while she goes to her law office. I don’t get paid extra for this; she says that would be unfair to the organization.

We go through cycles where I think everything is fine, and then I get yelled at about something small that I didn’t realize was an issue. Every time there’s some sort of problem, I try to change what I do, only to have a new problem spring up that was never an issue before.

My job has become one big game of whack-a-mole that I’m being forced to play when I really just want to focus on the mountain of tasks I’ve been assigned.

She wants me to be just a personal assistant, but the job responsibilities I have are a lot bigger than that (helping to plan large events and writing for our publications), and tending to her has become a distraction from my work, which I know bothers her.

I try to be polite and helpful, but I have so much stuff to do that it’s hard to remind her to respond to emails, especially when usually she snaps that I should know how to respond myself, even when she needs to review things to give the final okay.

She’s also always brought my dad into things. When I first started, she’d say she cared more about me being her assistant than dating my dad, and that if she needed to devote more time to making our work relationship better, she’d end things with my dad.

I was constantly terrified of doing something that would make her dump my father. In the months since, my dad has moved in, and they started seeing a couples counselor (Jill constantly threatens to end their relationship).

Last week, I forgot to do something, she reminded me, and I quickly did the task. Hours later at 11 p.m., she accused me of not doing it and started sending me long, mean texts saying, “This is becoming a problem with you,” etc. When I said I had done the task, she said she shouldn’t have had to remind me.

I thought I’d just ride the storm out. Everything I said was met with a different criticism, I wasn’t sure what to do, it was late, and this wasn’t productive, so I didn’t respond to her last text (which hadn’t asked anything of me).

Soon after, my dad called to say that Jill had yelled at him for half an hour about distracting me from my work. The next day, they went on a weeklong vacation to Mexico, where she had sporadic internet access. She barely emailed me the entire time, leaving me to work on her book.

Yesterday, my father started giving me job advice: morning check-ins and updates with Jill, etc. — things I do every day and have been doing for the past 10 months. Then he said, “Would you be open to seeing our family therapist with us to help with your job?”

I told him there was no way I was going to do that. I was really upset afterwards that he would try to put me in that position where they would gang up on me in their therapist’s office, especially when he knows I’ve started seeking out other jobs.

This morning, she told me to come over at 8:30 a.m. When I got there, she and my dad sat opposite me and spent 45 minutes scolding me, citing “complaints” by the out-of-state employees with whom I have great relationships and get along very well.

Then she said that the only solution she can think of to deal with my communication problems is for me to join her and my father at their couples therapist. She said I hadn’t forgotten to do the task from the week before and that it was a deeper issue.

I was literally cornered in her living room, and I could see from my heart rate monitor that I was at 115 bpm, frantically trying not to hyperventilate. When I said I thought it was inappropriate to go see a therapist with my boss and my dad, she said she would write it into my job requirement or put me on probation.

She’s given me two days to agree to therapy or write a list of all the reasons I won’t go with them and what I’ll do to change my behavior. I seriously suspect she has narcissistic personality disorder, and I know from experience that she doesn’t respond well when I try to explain myself or disagree with her.

I’ve been depressed for months, but I’ve reached a new level of desperation. I would work anywhere else — I would do anything else. I’ve been applying to jobs for a couple weeks now, and I would be thrilled to wait tables while continuing my job hunt.

My mom says that I won’t be able to get a good job if I’ve quit a job after less than a year and start doing something that isn’t on a larger career path, but all of my friends my age say that my health is more important.

I feel so confused, gaslighted, abused — and then I feel like maybe I’m just being a millenial and don’t have what it takes to be successful.

Am I just a bad employee? I probably don’t have the best personality for a personal assistant, but I try to work hard, keep organized and professional, and board members go out of their way to compliment me when we’re at meetings and events.

Since getting this job, I never complained to my father about his girlfriend or brought her up, but Jill is constantly blurring the boundaries by asking about extremely personal things during work and bringing up work when we’re celebrating holidays and birthdays.

I am miserable and feel so trapped and confused. Is all this normal?! I have so many mixed signals about every aspect of my job, and this situation is taking over my life. What do I do when I have to give my answer to the ultimatum? AITA?

Before we read OP's two long updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

excelpager writes:

The confrontation seemed to empower my dad a little bit, and over the next few weeks we discussed on a regular basis how he could get out of the relationship.

I knew as soon as I read that comment her Dad wasn't going anywhere. If her Dad was going to leave Jill, he would have left. He wouldn't have not enabled Jill to bully his daughter & helped her attempts to force OOP into couples therapy.

People who have never experienced an abusive person before so often don't understand the way people behave around an abuser. My Dad is abusive.

At least once a year since I was 18, my Mum has had a conversation with me about how she feels like recent events have made her a new woman & she's going to leave my Dad, she just needs to not be rushed. 10 years we had the same conversation before I decided she join my Dad in No Contact.

At least once a year my Dad does something so awful to one her kids, something that if you were going to leave, you would. I have memories from when I was 5 of my Mum telling my Dad she was leaving him when the kids were old enough to leave. I've long since made my peace that they are going to die together.

When people get sucked into the enabling dynamic, you can't take their talk about how they're binding their time to leave seriously at all ever until you see them actually make plans to leave the dynamic of their own accord.

Things like OOP did in writing to Allison & organising a meeting with the top dog & her co-workers and even before that when OOP started to ask people around her if her work environment was healthy.

When someone gets sucked into the enabling dynamic, they are hooked on the amazing highs enough to stay during the lowest lows & end up taking pride in feeling like they are the only one who is able to clean up the abusers little fires...

that they are the only ones who truly understand the abuser & see the abusers good qualities and therefore the only ones to communicate the abusers displeasure to others on the abusers behalf, which also helps stop it being directed at them & instead makes them feel like they are on a little team with an abuser.

OOP has lost her Dad until her Dad starts to authentically want to get out. Which isn't going to happen until he's a lot more isolated & miserable & he starts to no longer take pride in doing things like harassing OOP's Mum to pass on Jill's displeasure with OOP to OOP.

nursepenelope writes:

If anybody needs a sign to move on from their emotionally abusive job please take this story as your sign.

I’m just going to rant about a previous job for a moment. Please feel free to join in. I did a job I absolutely hated, they were emotionally abusive, convinced me no one would hire me elsewhere and that I wasn’t smart. I ended up gaining a lot of weight because the only happy part of my day was lunch and dinner.

I kept talking myself into quitting but my mother would tell me ‘not to burn any bridges’ and closest friends kept telling me it wasn’t that bad. That combined with me being told that no one else would hire me, kept talking me out of applying elsewhere.

When I finally did apply for two jobs I got offered both of them and took one with an amazing work culture and pay increase. I know it’s not always possible to just quit your job, but theres nothing wrong with keeping you’re resume updated and applying for new jobs... even if you’re friends and family don’t agree.

One of my biggest regrets is giving my ex company a year of my life and I wish I’d gone with my gut instinct instead of listening to others.

gomerpyel writes:

I worked with someone like Jill, my own post griping about her would be some pretty toxic sounding shit like what you'd see on antiwork.

All I'll say is if you said the person's name to anyone in the company, or even outside of it, like our IT guys, they'd get a thousand-yard stare and take a step or two back, instinctively.

Staff turnover in the business office was mostly because of her, but her "institutional knowledge was too important" (bullshit, I literally wrote every fg instruction manual used in the place) for the boss to confront her shitty behavior. I didn't leave solely because of her, but she was definitely in the top 10 reasons why I gave them the finger.

Honestly I hate the bosses in this story (and in my case) more than the actual asshole. Because they KNOW this person is toxic and driving out other staffmembers, but apparently this individual is more important than everyone that's been cycled through?

OP then provides this update a few days later:

Here’s an update. I had to face the ultimatum two days after I first wrote in, so Alison hadn’t posted my letter on the site yet.

I decided to call Jill’s bluff; I did all of her work for her and knew she couldn’t get rid of me without everything collapsing. If she continued to threaten my job, I was prepared to say, “Then I think we need to talk about my transition out of this position.”

When I got there, she was so cheery that I knew she didn’t think this would be a fight. She and my dad had me sit across from them again, in the same spot as last time, and just said, “So?”

I said, “I’m not going to couple’s therapy with you because it’s really inappropriate, pretty unethical, and a conflict of interest. If you think my job performance needs work, you can hire someone to train me. And I really don’t appreciate being cornered and asked to go to therapy with you when I’d already told Dad I wasn’t interested.”

Over the next hour:
– Jill tried to tell me her therapist was the most ethical therapist.
– My dad said that we’re both really similar and sensitive, and it’s possible that I’m just being sensitive because Jill is so “direct.” I responded, “That’s insulting, and you don’t know what it’s like to do my job.”

Jill said, “Are you telling me you’re not going to finish the book?” I told her I was actively looking for other jobs.
– I used my line about transitioning out of the role, and immediately Jill started backtracking and saying we could revisit this in, say, nine months.

She started being friendly again, and said, “I was just telling your dad what a good job you did on that assignment yesterday.” She walked me to the door and tried to blame the whole thing on my dad, saying that she didn’t know I wasn’t comfortable going to therapy with them

(even though I made that clear the first time they sat me down), and that she’s a therapy junkie and does it with everyone (which says a lot about her interpersonal relationships).

After that, I felt really strong. I’d been physically sick over this, and was really proud of myself for facing that horrible situation head-on. My husband was still waiting on his green card/work permit, so he was relieved that we still had an income and could pay rent. I continued looking for other jobs.

The confrontation seemed to empower my dad a little bit, and over the next few weeks we discussed on a regular basis how he could get out of the relationship.

My policy of not saying bad things about Jill had officially ended, and I told Dad all the horrible things she said and did, how her behavior was cyclical, and that she would never change.

Not all of this was a surprise, though. I didn’t include these in the first letter because it wasn’t job-related, but my Dad had witnessed on multiple occasions Jill asking me how many people I’d had sex with and whether I was sexually attracted to my husband— lots of very weird, prying questions that felt like they were more about making me uncomfortable than learning more about me.

He’d also heard her call our relatives and family friends cruel names like “Stepford Wife,” “Dumb and Dumber,” and “Children of the Corn.” … So he needs to face why he’s okay being with someone who treats his loved ones (and him!) this badly.

My letter published two weeks after the ultimatum, and I’d forgotten that it was scheduled for that Wednesday because I was so busy with everything else that was going on. I was babysitting when I got an email with the link to my AAM letter from my dad with the subject: “Um.”

Someone he knew on Twitter had retweeted it. I just felt relieved; I’d already said all of what was in the letter directly to him, and I was so happy to finally have support from someone (Alison, thank you) to show that he was in the wrong.

I was so lost and desperate when I wrote my letter, and it was important for him to see that what he was doing was not okay.

I read every single comment. I cried out of happiness to know I wasn’t crazy, that this wasn’t my fault, and that so many people were worried about me. My friends kept texting me screenshots and quotes from their favorite comments, and I felt so lifted up.

To the person who offered to buy me Alison’s book: thank you! But I want to buy it myself when I can afford to as a thank you for all that Alison did for me. I took her up on her very generous offer to look over my resume and cover letter, and I made the changes she suggested when I continued sending out applications.

To the wonderful person who gave me a free massage: thank you! I decided to get the massage after I got a new job as a treat for moving on. Which brings me to the next part of the story.

The day after my letter was posted, I woke up to eight emails from Jill. I was going through them, responding and completing the tasks she’d assigned, when she texted me asking if I was awake and had seen her email. I responded, “Which one?” and she said, “Which one do you think.”

It was hardly the worst thing she’d said or done, but it was so rude and belittling. I heard all the commenters’ voices in my head, and I turned to my husband and said I wasn’t going to do this anymore.

I called a coworker, said that I think I needed to quit, and explained the situation. I told him everything: about the rumors she spreads, about the therapy threat, etc. We scheduled a call with the Vice Chair of the foundation, me, and two other employees (one of whom was resigning because they were moving).

I told the Vice Chair everything, said that I loved the work I was doing for the foundation, but that I couldn’t work for Jill anymore. He said that while she’s done a lot for the foundation, she is absolutely impossible to work for.

The other employees said they knew that her last assistant put up with a lot of abuse, and they had also noticed that Jill’s behaviors had patterns and cycles.

They all said that I do wonderful work, and that they would do whatever they could to keep me, but that it sounded like there wasn’t a way to fix this, so they would help me leave my job in the least traumatic way possible.

The Vice Chair said that if he were my father, he would tell me to do the same thing. He said to write a resignation letter effective immediately, otherwise Jill would try to convince me to stay.

He also said not to do it in person or on the phone; it needed to be in an email so she couldn’t manipulate me in a conversation. They all reviewed and okayed my resignation letter, and the Vice Chair offered to be a reference. I was so touched that they believed and supported me.

On the advice of the Vice Chair, I gave my dad a heads-up. Dad begged me to do it the next morning (I guess because he would be leaving the house to go to work and wouldn’t have to face her), so I waited until 6 am to press send on my resignation email. I blocked Jill on both my emails and on my cell phone.

I had arranged with my coworkers and the Vice Chair to transfer all of my files over to other staff members, so there was nothing Jill could claim only I had access to. Still, everything blew up.

Dad kept calling and emailing, saying that I had to return the key to Jill’s (and his) house, that I should work for at least two more weeks, that I should come over and explain to Jill that I resigned because she was emotionally abusive (he said he would protect me).

My husband and I left our apartment for a week and stayed with nearby relatives while things quieted down; we were worried Dad and Jill would come to our apartment.

Dad and I haven’t spoken since. Not talking to my dad has been very difficult and I miss him. What helps me is the response I got from Captain Awkward to my AAM letter: “Think of [your dad] as Theoden, King of Rohan while he’s still very much under Grima Wormtongue’s spell.

You can love him but your safety depends on working around him. His advice to you sucks. He is not on your side.”

There have been a few times where my dad has reached out to my mom about random work things (“She didn’t give Jill all her files, she didn’t reimburse the foundation for her airplane ticket,” etc.) that I had already arranged with other staff members.

Each time is very stressful because I worry that I did something wrong and that I won’t get a good reference from the Vice Chair, but then I remember that I arranged everything with them and that they would contact me themselves if there were a problem.

All the staff members supported me, and no sane coworker would deal with a problem by complaining to Jill, having her complain to my dad, having my dad complain to my mom, and having my mom talk to me.

It took a lot of talking with my mom before she realized that this situation is completely outside of the norms of professional behavior she’s dealt with, and that she can’t treat this like rational requests from a former employer. She’s now completely supportive of my choice to leave, and she knows I did so with the support of the other staff members.

In the months since, I’ve had a few interviews and signed up with a temp agency. Finally, I got a job! I start a new temp-to-perm position after the holiday weekend, and I’m so excited. My husband’s work permit has also come through, so soon we will have two incomes. Time to go get that massage!

Thank you so much for everything, Alison and the AAM community. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to leave my job if it hadn’t been for your kind words and support.

Almost a year later, OP provides this update:

Things are going okay– very busy. I’m still working at the same company where I was placed by a temp agency. I like my job all right, but the whole office culture has been wearing on me a bit (it’s a bit conservative).

What gets me through is knowing that this job gives me and my husband stability, especially since we have two incomes now. It’s also nice to have a very low-stress job where I don’t need to take any of my work home with me, but I’m definitely not fulfilled.

I had a sort of epiphany in March that what I actually want to do is deliver babies (sounds out of the blue, but I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the importance of maternal health care as a measure of progress in developing countries), so now I’m applying to nurse/midwifery courses and waiting to hear back.

I won’t know for sure whether I’ve been accepted anywhere until February, and right now I’m taking all my prerequisite courses online, which works out to be a full-time course load on top of my full-time job. It’s a lot! I’ve just done doula training, so I might try to work as a doula for awhile if I don’t get into school on this try. We’ll see!

As for family stuff… nothing has changed. My dad is still with Jill, and we haven’t spoken in person since my first letter (May 2018). We occasionally email and text.

I ran into him and Jill on the street a few weeks ago (we were on a very narrow sidewalk and it was only the three of us; yes, he saw me), but he didn’t say hello or smile, and Jill just smirked at me. It was really horrible.

My mom is great and doesn’t pressure me to speak to him, but the rest of the family isn’t as nice about it. Everyone obviously found out about my letter, and some relatives haven’t read it, but still think it was wrong of me to air family grievances online (even though it’s anonymous and I never expected my family to see it).

My grandparents have asked if I’m “ever going to speak to [my] father again”, which is just so far off base… This isn’t about me being mad and pouting– it’s a matter of self-protection.

Now, since I haven’t celebrated Christmas with my extended family on my dad’s side for a few years, I’m getting pressure to come for Christmas because my grandparents “won’t be alive forever.” It’s been really re-traumatizing to have to explain that the situation I was in with Dad and Jill was abusive, and I’m so tired of having to defend myself.

I’m seeing a therapist for support, which has been wonderful! About a year ago, my husband and I got a kitten and we’re currently planning a trip to Egypt to see the pyramids and cruise down the Nile. We’re really happy most of the time, and I feel very hopeful about the future.

There you have it. What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for her?

Sources: Reddit
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