lilysea: Serious (Default)
[personal profile] lilysea
DEAR ABBY: I have been friends with a woman for the last 30 years. Our children are the same age. My daughter, who is in her late 20s, has a number of tattoos on her arm that she can cover with clothing if she chooses. However, she doesn't cover them often because she likes them and they mean something to her.

Recently, I showed my friend a picture of my daughter that showed one of the tattoos on her upper arm. My friend said, "Oh, I am so sorry about the tattoo," and proceeded to cover the tattoo with her hand, implying that my daughter would be attractive if it weren't for the body art. I was shocked.

I have always been supportive of my friend's children and have never criticized any of them, even though I haven't agreed with everything they have done. I was so hurt by her comment that I was speechless. I'm not sure I can continue the relationship feeling this way. But I'm hesitant to lose a 30-year friendship over something I might be overblowing. Am I being too sensitive? How do I resolve this? -- COMPLETELY THROWN BY THIS

DEAR THROWN:
For a friendship of 30 years to end over one thoughtless comment would be sad for both of you. Sometimes people say things without thinking, and this is an example. Resolve your feelings by talking to her in person and telling her how deeply hurt you were by what she said. It will give her the chance to apologize and make amends.
minoanmiss: (Default)
[personal profile] minoanmiss
Dear Carolyn: In my childhood, criticism from my parents was the constant theme. My grades were never good enough, my room was never clean enough, whatever. As a result, I feel little to no affection for my parents now that I’m an adult, and I don’t spend much time with them or talk to them much. I just don’t like them very much.

However, some people who know this say I’m going to regret distancing myself from them when they’re gone. Do you think that’s true? Should I make more of an effort to spend more time with them now so I don’t regret it later?

— Criticized


Criticized: Your friends would regret distancing themselves, if they were in your position. That doesn’t mean you will.

So, no, I don’t think that is universally true that distance equals regrets.

However, I do believe that seeing parents as people, instead of just as parents, is a more useful way to determine how to adapt your relationship with them over time.

What you describe of your parents is a child’s view of people who, apparently, thought that being a parent meant being strict and teachy all the time. I agree with you that it’s a cold way to go, and tough to forgive, but there are other aspects of parenthood that could provide a fuller and fairer picture. Were their parents that way with them? Was the culture around them one of “seen and not heard” and “spare the rod” orthodoxy? Did they tend not to question things about life in general, their parenting views among them? Was one of them softer but not strong enough to counteract the other?

And: What did they become after their active child-rearing years were over? Did they remain locked in a cold orthodoxy, or did they bloom a little when the weight of responsibility was removed? Are they trying to get to know you now, or are you still 12 to them?

Do you know them all that well as people, or did you distance yourself effectively enough that your last real impression of them was formed as you fled their home after high school?

I ask these questions entirely without judgment. People have their natural, even reflexive ways of looking out for their own health, and kids of unhappy childhoods can even have this need as their central motivation. It makes sense.

But when you get to the point where you’re asking whether this is the right way to go, my inclination is to suggest that you keep asking questions and see where your inquiry leads you. If you don’t feel up to digging all that out, that’s reasonable. Your prerogative. It might also make sense to spend a few sessions with a skilled therapist.

And it might be liberating just to try, once or twice, with no great expectations, to talk to your parents with a different image of them in mind as you do it.

They’re people. Possibly kind of stunted people who meant no harm but had no clue. People who might have interesting things to say if you asked them different questions, and/or with a different objective in mind. Not “I want them to say they’re sorry” or “I want just once for them to be warm and welcoming,” but maybe “I want to see them how their friends do,” or one of my favorite suggestions from a long-ago chatter, “I want to approach them as an anthropologist would and see what I find out.”
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
Dear Carolyn,

I am at my wits' end with family drama. I will spare you the very long and ugly details and start with the most recent heartache.

My husband's daughter from a previous marriage invited our son and his wife and 2-year-old to spend the weekend with them since they were going to be in town for a wedding. His wife accepted. My husband has been estranged from this daughter for over two years. She lives down the street from my husband and me.

When my son and his family arrived, they went to lunch with my husband and stayed through the evening with us. It was a lovely time. Our little granddaughter even went into "her room" and told her dad she wanted to sleep in her bed. It was cruel to see her cry when she had to leave and go to my stepdaughter's house.

My husband is furious. His feelings are crushed and he is angry they would subject her to such nonsense. My husband feels they have been disloyal to him by staying with his estranged daughter.

I have expressed to my son how I felt about his staying with his half-sister. Not because of her so much as how wrong it feels to me to not stay with us. After we are dead and gone, he will have time to stay with his half-sister.

My first thought was to leave town before they got here so I could avoid the whole ordeal. Now, my husband and I have hurt feelings, plenty of tears to go around, and lost sleep over this.

Heartbreak seems to follow wherever my stepdaughter is concerned. I don't want to alienate my daughter-in-law because she will cut my granddaughter out of my life. How can I manage to keep the peace and not "betray" my husband in the process?

-- C.

Your argument, recapped: It's your stepdaughter's fault that she wants to spend time with her brother. Except the part that's your daughter-in-law's fault for saying yes.

Maybe you won't like it in those words, but that's what you're saying -- and it's impressive that you're able to present this without attributing any drama to the man who was "crushed" and "angry" and suffering "tears ... and lost sleep" at the "ordeal" of witnessing the "cruel" and "disloyal" "nonsense" of a child "subject[ed] to" ...

[theatrical pause]

A planned visit to her aunt's house.

After spending an entire day with you two.

Drama, thy name is Grandpa.

I can understand your powerful incentive not to see this; even thinking it opens you to accusations of betrayal from your wounded husband, no doubt. And more tears and sleepless nights and garment-rending and whatever other tactics he uses to keep you emotionally at his service.

But the longer you remain faithful spokesbot for your husband -- or for Stockholm Syndrome -- and declare with a straight face that your son can't sleep at his sister's house until you're dead! (you really said that!), the more soul-rebuilding you'll need when you see the view I've got from here: that you've been devoured by your husband's narcissistic fantasy world.

Even if I'm way off, your family dynamic is still way off. Please find a well-recommended family therapist and go. Just you. Unspool those "very long and ugly details."
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: The husbands of both my two daughters asked for my blessing prior to asking my girls to marry them. I felt what they did was respectful and it was very much appreciated. My wife felt the same way when I relayed the good news to her.

I believe this courtesy replaced what in the "olden days" was a request for permission from the father rather than a blessing and, in my opinion, is more appropriate. If I am correct in my assumption that "permission" has evolved to "blessing," I wonder if it would have been more appropriate for them to have asked my wife and me together for our blessing. Your thoughts? -- PROUD PAPA

DEAR PROUD PAPA: Men asked permission of fathers to marry their daughters in "olden days" because the daughters were considered property. They could not marry without their father's consent. Thankfully, those customs are long gone -- in western society, at least. Please stop second-guessing your sons-in-law, who both seem like gems to me. Many couples today forgo the courtesy altogether.
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: I'm starting to worry about my boyfriend's relationship with his mother. He's deploying at the end of the month. We have been friends for a long time and dating for a year. He's 31 and lives with his parents. We had just gotten a place together prior to finding out about his deployment.

The problem is, his mother comes over constantly, and she waits on him hand and foot. She tags along to his sporting events and cheers him on as if he's a 6-year-old. If he's hungry, she rushes to fix his food and brings him lunch while he's working. She makes all of his doctors' appointments for him and is on his bank account. She also texts me to find out where he is if he has been out of touch for a few hours.

She has taken a lot of time off work to spend with him. I hardly see him alone anymore because he's constantly with her. At the beginning of his deployment, he will be in Texas for a month. During that time he will get a week off. He told his mom the dates of his time off prior to telling me, and she booked a flight for the entire time! This means I will have no alone time with him or time to say a private goodbye.

I love him very much, but this whole mom thing has got me second-guessing everything. Abby, is this normal? -- COMING IN SECOND

DEAR COMING IN SECOND: No, it's not normal. It appears that when your boyfriend was born, the umbilical cord, instead of being severed, remained securely in place.

I hope you realize that if you should marry him at some point, you will be getting a husband who never learned independence, and you will be expected to take up exactly where his mother left off. Your problem is not that you are "coming in second," honey, it's that he appears to be already married -- to Mom!
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: I am estranged from my son because he changed his last name when he married. He did it over my objection. Reportedly, his wife's parents tried to dissuade them from doing it, too. The explanation we were given was "they need to have the same last name to feel like a family." I suppose our last name was not acceptable, although they claimed they had nothing against it.

I tried to compromise and suggested my son use a hyphenated name. They agreed to it, but changed their minds after the wedding. I suspect that their reason was they want their children to have a different last name than ours.

What is your take on this? Am I overreacting by wanting to have nothing to do with them? -- MOM OF ANOTHER NAME

DEAR MOM: Yes, you are overreacting. If you keep this up, your grandchildren will miss out on a loving grandma. It is possible that your son and his wife preferred a name that was less ethnic or easier to spell. Hyphenating names can create problems -- especially if it continues into the next generation.
cereta: Amy Pond in space (Amy Pond)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: My parents have been happily married for more than 30 years. While flipping through an old family album recently, I discovered photos from a wedding many years ago that I had never seen before. Turns out, they were from my father's first wedding. That's when I realized his marriage to my mother was his second wedding.

I'd like to learn more about his first marriage, but it's clearly something from my father's past that I can't talk to him about. I also wouldn't want to sour relations with his side of the family by bringing it up with them. What should I do? -- WANTS TO KNOW MORE

DEAR WANTS TO KNOW MORE: The shortest distance between two points is a direct line. How do you know this is "clearly" something your father won't discuss? If his first marriage was a deep dark secret, those photos would not have been kept in an album. The solution to your question would be to tell him you saw them and ask him to tell you about it. He may have learned lessons from his first marriage from which you could benefit.
cereta: Wendy Watson in Goggles (Wendy goggles)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex-girlfriend is a little too invested in my family. My mother regularly texts her, and I get unnerved when I see her name pop up on my mom's screen. I haven't brought my new girlfriend home because of my mother's close relationship with my ex. Do I just ignore the fact that they are still in contact? My ex and I do not speak. -- Unnecessary BFFs, Denver

DEAR UNNECESSARY BFFS: You and your mother need to get on the same page. Visit her by yourself, and ask her if you can have a heart-to-heart talk. Honestly explain to her that it makes you uncomfortable that she and your ex are close. Acknowledge that you did appreciate how welcoming she was to this woman, but remind her that you are not in a relationship with her now, and you are not even speaking to each other.

Make it clear to your mother that you have a girlfriend whom you would like to bring around to meet your mom, but you have hesitated because your mother is so enmeshed with your ex. Ask your mother to sever or at least reduce her interaction with your ex so that she can create space for your new girlfriend. Further, make it clear to her that you do not want her sharing anything about your new girlfriend with your ex.

Just so you know, this situation is not as uncommon as you may think. Especially if you dated your ex for a long while and she spent considerable time with your mother, it is understandable that they developed a relationship. Still, you really do need your mother to honor your life as it is today. I will add that you should be mindful of whom you bring home. Your mother has already shown you that whomever you bring will be welcomed with open arms. Be conscious and intentional about who deserves to meet your family.

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