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August 18, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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My daughter hates me

Question:

My daughter hates me. She is the child I had with my first husband, the product of a really bad relationship. I left him when she was about 2 1/2 years old. She always saw him because of visitation rules. He was the Disneyland daddy - taking her to wonderful places, buying her whatever she wanted. I was the "eat your peas, do your homework, clean your room" mom. I did everything for her - gave her as much as I could - but she always felt I preferred her brother from my second marriage. She and I rarely saw eye to eye on anything, while her brother and I had a good relationship. Therefore, because she and I had more cause to disagree than I had with her brother, she believes I prefer him to her. He was easier to get along with - but I did everything for both of them - possibly even more for her because she had more emotional needs. But she doesn't see that at all.

We had a huge falling out about 4 years ago when she was 30. She moved in with her biological father where she remained until she married last year. Six months before her wedding she started coming around again. I did a lot of things to make her wedding beautiful and she seemed very happy with that. However, she would not let me come with her when she picked out her dress. I didn't get to go with her when she chose items for her registry. Now, she is pregnant. But she already told me she doesn't want me there when it's time for the baby to be born. She never shares anything about her pregnancy with me that I might enjoy knowing - like when she first felt life or what names she is considering. She has also moved out of the condo she was living in - but she won't tell me where she lives now. I feel hurt, left out, used, and totally helpless to change the situation.

I am so "stuck." If I call her she won't pick up. If I text her she doesn't respond. She has cut me out of her life and I am destroyed. When I think about my pregnancy with her what stands out most in my mind is that her "father" wanted me to have an abortion; his mother and sisters wouldn't speak to me because they were angry and annoyed that I had gotten pregnant - even though I had been with her father for 7 years and was married to him when I got pregnant. She wouldn't even be here if I had succumbed to their pressure to abort. I wanted her. I loved her. I took care of her. When we divorced I was granted sole and complete custody. She was my world and I did as much as I could - without trying to "buy" her as her father and his family did. After she was born and she favored their side of the family in looks and personality - she was acceptable to them - and I was the outsider.

I can't reach her. She doesn't appear to have any interest at all in repairing and having a relationship with me. I was not a perfect parent, but I did the best I knew how to do. Like her father, she appears to have the same mind set - both of them knowing what I need, what I want, what might make me happy or feel fulfilled and important - and a definite mind set to make sure I never get it. Why? How can anyone be this uncaring and hurtful? I would like to know my grandchild when it is finally born - but I fear that I will be allowed little contact. I would like to have a decent relationship with my daughter - but I can't do that alone. A relationship requires at least two people seeking the same end - and I don't have that with her. What can I do to fix this? I am at a total, debilitating loss. I need help.

Jeri, 61-year-old woman

Answer:

Jeri my dear,

Of course it really hurts to be rejected by your child, whom you clearly love, despite everything. As you said, all her life you've done your best, and yet she treats you as if you'd been a terrible mother.

Suppose someone showed her this cry for help you've written. If she thought it was from a stranger, I am sure she'd be touched and feel a lot of sympathy for its author. But if she knew it came from you, she'd indignantly reject it as a pack of lies. This is because we all live in the reality we create. You of course honestly believe what you have written. But suppose she wrote me a letter about her life, and in particular about her mother. I am sure I would not recognize you as the mother she would be referring to. She has created a mother in her mind that you would completely reject as applying to you.

I have encountered this kind of situation many times. For example, a client once brought along her mother and sister for a joint session. At the end of the hour, they were, if anything, more hostile to each other than at the start, despite everything I'd tried - and I am good at my work. There are such hostilities within my extended family too, and within the cooperative community I've been a member of for 38 years.

I can think of one faint hope for reconciliation: finding someone she cares for and whose opinion she respects, who can act as an intermediary. The approach may fail, but is worth trying. However, as well as that, there is something else you can do to improve the quality of your life. Your distress is not because of your daughter's behavior, but because you want the situation to be different. The same is true for everything. Suppose I have a bad physical pain. If I can, deeply and truly, simply accept the pain sensation: "It's there, it's allowed to be there and I can live with it," then I have an uncomfortable sensation, but not in pain; not hurting.

Your situation is as bad as any physical pain. It can be handled in the same way. "I love my daughter, and she rejects me and has cut off all contact. This is her choice, and I can live with it." As long as you manage to believe this, deep in your heart, you are not suffering. If this only lasts 10 seconds and you return to your current reaction, then that was 10 seconds of inner peace.

A second way of presenting exactly the same tool is to look at your situation as a Life Lesson. Suppose that, before you were born, you and a Superior Being designed some Lessons you needed to learn, and organized events designed to give you the learning opportunities. (The Superior Being can be God if you are religious, but the concept is useful even for an atheist.). And suppose your daughter's treatment of you is one of those situations. OK, "What are the Lessons I need to learn as a result of her rejection of me?"

You see, we only learn and grow from suffering. When everything is just right, there is no need for change. So, you have choices, although until now you didn't know you had them. There has been an automatic process: "1. I love my daughter. 2. She is rejecting me. 3. I want this rejection to stop. 4. It may never stop. 5. Therefore I am in despair." You can instead choose another reaction.

It is not for me or anyone else to design what that should be, but I can give you an example. A client who saw me because of an industrial injury told me of an event 20 years previously. His wife came home one night and said, "I'm leaving. I've been having an affair, and now want to live with the other man." The husband, as he told me 20 years later, couldn't help tears coming to his eyes, but he said, "I love you too much to hate you for this. I wish you a good life." He then ensured a fair division of their possessions, and did whatever he could to ease her transition. As a result, he grew, and became a better person.

I hope you can be inspired by his example and use this opportunity for growing also.

Love,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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