It has been three years since I have spoken with my parents, my brother and my brother's wife.
I am a type of person who has allowed my family to run my life just so they can be happy. Three years ago I met my current husband. Right before meeting him I had broken up with the guy I was living with. I did not expect to meet someone right away - it just happened. A month after we started dating, he moved in with my two daughters and me. As we got to know each other we discovered we would like to live in a warmer climate and decided to get married in the fall and move to Florida. I owned my house at the time and decided to put it up for sale. My brother found out before I got a chance to tell him about the plans. He called me and asked me what I was doing (I was 35 years old at the time, not a child asking for permission). He ended up calling me a slut and I hung up on him. Then his wife called me and said she heard that I had my house up for sale, my husband (boyfriend at the time) got on the other line and told her to leave me alone and they got in an argument and she told me she never wanted me over at her house again, I haven't seen or spoken to them since then. After that happened my husband said I better call my parents and let them know about what our plans were before they talked to my brother, just so they wouldn't get upset. Well, my mom ended up calling me a slut, etc. and told me I didn't know what I was doing. So I ended up hanging up on my parents too. I haven't spoken or seen them since.
Since then I have written my parents a letter telling them what they have done to me and outlining the kind of parents they have been to me. They always talked about my brother's wife, how they didn't like her, they never made her feel welcome. They really never made anyone I have been with feel welcome, not even any of my girlfriends. I feel so down when I see people with their parents and how they have such good relationships. I know that I will never have that and I do not like what has happened.
I feel that I should not be the one to apologize. I was always the one to say I am sorry even though it was not my fault. I want to write another letter, but write in it that I know that the way they raised me is not their fault. That they just did what they knew based on their experience. I know they wanted to give more to my brother and I (such as material things) than they had as children. They were never told they were loved, they were never hugged, but I guess they did not realize it was missing in their lives.
Do you think I should write a letter like that? I do not want to apologize for what happened because I feel they should say they are sorry but I know I won't get that either. Maybe I just want to get rid of this guilt. What do you think?
Thank you for listening.
Selena (38 year-old woman)
There's a lot of tragedy in your story. Your family was quick to judge you, harsh words were exchanged, and communication cut off. You sound sad about it, not just guilty. The old ways of being the "good girl" and letting their opinions guide your actions are over, and there's genuine loss that goes with that.
You might never come out of this with loving, approving parents and/or brother, and that's got to hurt. The odds are that it's true, though. So, as much as you reach out with letters or calls, your central process about your family may need to be one of grieving rather than attempts at reconciliation.
Surely, after three years of being with your current husband, your family could revise their judgment of you as a "slut". Hopefully, they can rise to an apology. I believe those words were spoken to you out of their own sense of hurt by your then newly independent actions. Your brother was hurt and angry with you for making a bold life-move like selling your house without informing him of your intent. I bet he took that to mean you didn't care about him enough to tell him or seek his counsel. Of course you were under no obligation to do that, but I bet in his mind he took personal offense at your independent move. The same goes for your parents.
But if you're feeling guilty for growing up to become your own person, then you are guilty, because that's what you're doing! OK, you didn't help your family wean away from you more gradually, and maybe some sort of apology from you about that is in order just to get some communication going, but hey, you can still feel good that you are growing up to be your own person. If they don't feel good about that or support you in that, then they remove themselves from your life, and are not your friends. I think it's reasonable to expect your family to celebrate your independence, especially after you've proved your actions were not some irresponsible lust, but rather, a move into a relationship that's lasting.
If you do reach out to them with some of these things in mind, be thinking about what sort of a goal you want with them. If you're holding out for approval, acceptance, or apology, then be prepared for disappointment. But if some small steps toward civility are acceptable to you, then go for it. If those steps lead to a deeper healing, great.
Your innocent childhood is over. With all the compassion you expressed for the people who hurt you, I believe you can be proud of the adult person you're becoming.