How to improve a dysfunctional family dynamic.

Prettyandsweet12 asks: For the longest time I’ve wanted to move back to a particular part of the country to be with my cousins. I recently graduated high school and moved there with my mom. At first I was having a hard time because I had no friends here, but I figured it would get better once I got settled in. But I’ve been here for 5 months now and things just stink! I currently take classes online and I occasionally see my family in a nearby state over the weekend, but recently some things have happened and I’m starting to question if moving here was the right thing. My cousins barely come around, and my dad is now married and I don’t even know who he is anymore. I just turned 18 and I had a party at a hotel with my two cousins and she tried to give us alcohol. I didn’t have any but my cousins did, and I don’t know if you remembered but you gave me advice a long time ago on how to deal with my medical condition called myoclonis dystonia, which I still have and am on medicine for, and my dad knows this, but he was still willing to let her give me alcohol; that crushed me, and I feel like he chose her over me because he always lets her run over him. I recently got in touch with my high school crush, who is two years younger than me, so he’s a sophomore in high school (I’m supposed to be a senior in high school but I skipped a grade). He really wants to be able to see me and I want the same; I feel like I need him now more than ever, but I’m faced with a complicated choice: do I leave my mom and find living arrangements where he lives so we can see each other, or do I stay with my mom and put on a happy face like I’ve been doing?

Hi prettyandsweet12 –


I need to confess, I’m more confused than you are, so I’m not sure how much good I can do here! First, one question – when you say “she tried to give us alcohol,” I’m going to guess that that’s your dad’s new wife, but am I right?


But then, my main confusion is – what are all these people doing?! You moved across the country to be closer to your mother, your father, and your cousins, and it sounds like you’re not getting much attention from any of them. Then, sure, the fact that you’re taking online classes means you’re not meeting nearly as many people as you would if you were in high school or college. So it sure makes sense to me that when your dad, who probably just thinks he was being friendly and playful, encouraged you to drink alcohol which isn’t good for your condition, this made you feel really hurt and mad – normally it would be just silly, but given the treatment you’ve been receiving, it would just seem to be the ultimate symbol of everything wrong!


We dogs are very patient, and are famous for giving unconditional love. But even that has its limits. There have been times when Handsome has ignored me too much, so I’ve done things like climb on the white furniture just so he’ll get mad, or he’ll pet one other dog too many and instead of my being nice and tolerant, I’ll just growl and threaten the pooch (I know, I should be doing it to Handsome instead, but I just can’t – my love for him makes me too weak!).


So as I said above, I don’t have any great answers. But I will say, moving to be near your high school boyfriend seems like an invitation for what happened before to happen again – for you to be ready to start a beautiful meaningful new life with someone who may or may not be capable of giving you what you need.


If you’re able to afford it, I’d be way more in favor of you taking a trip to meet him, maybe spend a weekend or so with him, and see how that goes. Maybe it’ll be great, and maybe not. But I’d like you to know a lot more before you make that big a commitment (and take the chance on another disappointment).


And in the meantime, how about doing what I do, and making a little obnoxious noise! For example:

  • Call your cousins up and tell them you traveled hundreds (thousands?) of miles to see them and want more than “occasionally.”
  • Get your mom to take you out more often with her friends. Even if they’re older than you, you’re mature enough that you’ll probably hit it off with some of them – and maybe get to meet their kids.
  • Call Dad and tell him you need time with him alone. Go to dinner and a movie, go on a hike, but be as forceful as “She” is, with the added force that you’re his pretty and sweet daughter!
  • And… oh, you know me well enough to know I’d say this… between now and the time you get a bunch of new human friends, the best friend you could possibly have is a POOCH! I love that you can write me, but I can’t go on walks with you or lick your face or jump up and down to tell you that your coming home is the greatest event of the day every day.


So I’m not saying that you shouldn’t move. But I am saying that it might be too much too soon. In the meantime, see what you can do to improve things where you are. But if they don’t get better, and a visit or two to that boy go super-well… hey I’m the last one in the world to talk anyone out of a romantic adventure!!!


All my best,



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