QUESTION: One of the things that struck me in last week’s webinar was your assertion that one should leave fairness out of the picture when working toward reconciliation. After nearly 10 years of estrangement, I took your advice. I stopped expecting my daughter to behave fairly and actually copied a letter out of your book to reply to a hurtful email she had sent me.

I also apologized profusely and avoided bringing up my feelings or
best interests. It worked. She apologized for being disrespectful and for distancing me and she has arranged to come visit next Monday. (She lives 5 hours’ drive away but will be staying at her in-laws’ a few hundred miles closer for the next week or so).

Despite this, I feel resentful. I don’t want a false relationship with my children. She is 27 years old, which in my mind is way past the age when a parent should exclusively cater to a child’s needs. In short: it worked but I am disgusted with myself for unfairly taking on the blame and for not being truthful about my feelings. I am also disappointed in my daughter and am less than sure I want to rekindle a “so-called” relationship.

I have two questions:

1. How is it okay to give an adult child the impression he or she can ignore another person’s thoughts and feelings in the context of a relationship, parent/child or any other?

2. What kind of relationship is built on one person not being permitted to express his or her true self?

ANSWER: An early reconciliation is not a model for the rest of your relationship; It’s a way to get a conversation started and open the door back into your child’s life. You asked how is it okay to give an adult child the impression he or she can ignore another person’s thoughts and feelings in the context of a relationship, parent/child or any other? Yet, you also said that she apologized for being disrespectful and for distancing you.

I’m not sure what you’re wanting, but those actions on your daughter’s part are not bupkis (Yiddish for “nothing”). You’re a long way away from having the kind of open exchange with your daughter that you’d like, and I’d caution you to move very slowly and lovingly. If you have to swallow your pride a little bit so that you don’t get to talk about what this has been like for you, so be it. You just had a breakthrough on a 10- year estrangement and your daughter is making a big effort to come see you. Maybe in a few years you’ll be able to talk more about your version of things. For now, smell the roses.



  1. Just because you want to express yourself doesn’t mean that the relationship is false!

    Boundaries are important.

    Your daughter is an adult. She’s grown. She may not need you to parent in the sense that you are invited and welcome to criticize how she chooses to live her life.

    Just because you are family, doesn’t mean that you have an excuse for not being polite and having good manners!

    If you want to speak your mind, realize that your daughter—like your friends—may be offended and choose to distance themselves from you.

    Is that wrong?

    Well I can see how important it is for you to speak freely.

    But understand this: it is just as important for adults to choose to be with people who are pleasant, loving and well-mannered.

    Politeness and diplomacy are not signs of a false relationship. But rather of a HEALTHY relationship.

    Besides, talk radio always needs angry callers who need to unload their opinions. Give it a try and don’t emotionally drain your adult daughter!

  2. I “hung-in-there” in the relationship with my dtr by using forgiveness, keeping quiet, being helpful and giving, etc. etc, etc. until I lost myself, became chronically depressed and have relied on anti-depressants.
    She is age 50 now. I always thought that eventually she would see what a good mother I am. I thought that one day we would have a good mother-dtr relationship.
    She has created a narrative about me earlier in her life which she feeds regularly – a narrative which tells herself everything about me is negative. My behavior for years has been to show up as good, kind, forgiving, etc.
    I would advice any mother in a similar situation to LET GO, expect nothing, long for nothing and save the rest of your life for some happiness. At some point we are just fools to try to change someone, a grown child, who is incapable of giving back!!!

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