Dear Amy: I was raised in a heavily religious family and recently decided to leave the church.
I cannot tell my family. I would no longer be allowed to visit my special-needs sibling. I am very close with this sibling and would lose my primary caregiver responsibilities if my family found out I’ve left the church. When my brother left the church, they cut his inheritance.
My mother keeps stopping by unannounced and even rifles through my cupboards looking for signs (alcohol) that we have left the church. When I ask her to stop, she retorts, “What are you hiding?” Do you have any advice for setting boundaries or adjusting to the idea I will never be able to be honest with my family about my feelings?
Amy says: You needn’t say that you are “hiding” anything when your mother rifles through your cupboards. You need only to say to her, “I’m not hiding anything, but I am protecting my privacy, and you need to respect it.”
Given the extreme cost to you regarding your relationship with your special-needs sibling, I suggest a “don’t ask, don’t tell” (or rather, don’t tell) approach. Tell your parents that you simply aren’t willing to discuss this with them. You are an adult and you have the right and responsibility to lead your own life in a way that reflects your own values.
Move forward assuming that the inheritance is gone. Doing so will remove this as a way for your parents to control you.
Gift was too much
Dear Amy: Church friends of my son spent $500 on a sky-diving experience as a high school graduation gift. The parents didn’t ask my opinion; my son told me about the gift. I had grave safety and financial concerns. I’ve spent years as a single parent, keeping my only son safe.
At my insistence, the gift was refunded, so they are not out financially. But I was very hurt and puzzled. I had a meltdown over this, which has affected my relationship with these friends. My son thinks the world of this family and often vacations with them. I still feel very judged and excluded (they now avoid me at church). I feel as if my son has been hijacked by this family. In your opinion, was this sky-diving gift appropriate?
Amy says: Many people would accept and enjoy this gift. But given how extravagant and potentially dangerous it was, they should have run it past you. Given your reservations, you took appropriate action to control your son’s access to it and to refund the family’s cost.
Your son is growing toward adulthood, and you will have to find ways to accept his choices as time goes on. He is fortunate to have an affiliation with another family that enjoys his company.
But you’ll have to accept that you and this family will not be friends, regardless of how your son feels about them.
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