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.