Dad's a jailbird; daughter wants to fly free

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Dear Amy: I am an adult woman living my own life. My early life was chaotic and I moved from my father's home into my mother's when I was 13. Everyone was unhappy, even after seeking family counseling.

I continued a relationship with my father over the years. He has had two more failed marriages and has since been in and out of jail a few times. He is in jail again.

My problem is that every time his life falls apart, I am left to pick up the pieces. I have been given power of attorney and I'm left dealing with his legal issues, storing his belongings in my crowded home, accepting expensive collect calls and giving him money.

It makes me feel terrible whenever I have to say no to him (because I don't have money for him) or when I am not willing to do the legwork for him in yet another court case.

Despite being educated, I live a lower-middle-class life. I have told him about my personal finances, but he continues to ask for money. Recently I sent him $150 so he could buy personal items in jail. I asked him to write to me rather than call, but he just tried to call me collect again, and I figure he has run out of money.

I don't want to destroy our relationship by abandoning him, but I also feel I can no longer support him. What can I do?

— Daughter of Wayward Father

Dear Daughter: Your support so far has done nothing to improve your father's situation or change his decision making, and so you must conclude that you are not a part of his solution.

I am not suggesting you abandon your father, but that you detach from his problems instead of taking them on as your own.

Facilities vary in terms of what inmates can spend and how they can spend it. Contact the facility (not your dad) to see what inmates are expected to pay for (toiletries, for instance). I do suggest purchasing paper, envelopes and stamps for him. He will need to learn to write down his thoughts, rather than call you collect.

If your father wants to have a relationship with you, it will have to be based on things other than what materially he can gain from you. You should write to him (or visit) to keep in touch. And clarify your position that you will not allow yourself to be a prisoner to his mistakes.

Dear Amy: I have been dating my boyfriend for three years. We were both in long-term marriages that ended in nasty, protracted divorces.

I have attended his family's Easter, Christmas and graduation parties and we have hosted his large extended family for summer barbecues at my home.

Recently, he was invited to his nephew's engagement party. His ex-wife was also invited. I was not.

Since the divorce, the ex has never attended other family gatherings.

I told him that I found the situation crass and possibly a ploy to squeeze another gift out of the attendees. He is troubled and not sure what (if anything) to say about it.

I wonder what will happen at the wedding? Are we oversensitive?

— Excluded

Dear Excluded: It is not your job to question the motives of people inviting others to a party.

The polite thing for them to do is to include both members of a couple in a committed relationship to a family event. Your partner will have to decide how to respond to this exclusion; it seems obvious that because you have not been included in the invitation, he should not attend.

Dear Amy: "Sad After All These Years" was a man whose alcoholic wife was having an affair with her AA sponsor.

Your answer was good, but incomplete. There is a good reason people in AA should not work with sponsors of the opposite sex. They are vulnerable during this time. This man's wife was violating this simple guideline.

— Experienced in Recovery

Dear Experienced: Several readers have mentioned this. Thank you all.

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