Dear Amy: I'm a 30-something whose parents (both in their 60s) are on the edge of divorce. Their marital discord has affected me my whole life.
As children, my siblings and I listened to their frequent bickering. Their dissatisfaction with their lives translated into my father making us feel like he didn't like us, and my mother leaning too heavily on us for emotional support. This dynamic has continued into adulthood.
Over the past two years, my father has spent much of his time living in another state. He recently visited, and my mother intimated to us kids that she wants a divorce.
I am a mess of emotions. I wish they would have divorced long ago. I wish they were better communicators and kinder to each other. I wish they never let their problems become our problems. I don't know what to expect or how to deal with what's next. Even though I realize everyone would likely be better off if they divorce, it is still very painful.
Amy says: Facing your parents' divorce will naturally make you revisit your childhood feelings and emotions — including sadness that it is happening, as well as anger that it didn't happen sooner. These two emotions seem to conflict, which makes things more confusing.
Your path will involve learning to accept both of your parents, without always liking them or respecting their choices.
Unfortunately, witnessing your parents' discord may have trained you to become something of a "keeper" of their relationship. They exposed you to anger and fighting, and then your father emotionally rejected you and your mother leaned too heavily on you. What a burden.
But you are no more responsible for their relationship than they are for any of your relationships. You should seek insight into how to create and maintain healthy boundaries. I think it's appropriate for you to express your disappointment in their choices. Perhaps they will acknowledge this and ask for forgiveness — probably not.
You cannot do their emotional work for them. You cannot undo their regrettable actions. You can do you. Therapy would help you navigate through this passage.
I highly recommend the book "The Way They Were: Dealing With Your Parents' Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage," by Brooke Lea Foster. She uses her parents' divorce to explore the substantial toll divorce takes on adult children.
Just say no
Dear Amy: I have been invited to a baby shower for an acquaintance's daughter.
I have met the daughter once, and it was at a group dinner, so we spoke about three sentences to each other. I know the mother from a social circle, but we are not close.
The baby shower invitation is from the mother, and the RSVP is to the mother and daughter. Amy, this is not proper!
I do not want to attend, nor send a gift, as I do not know the daughter or her tastes.
I might add that many of us who were invited are in the same boat — and none of us was invited to this person's wedding, which was recently.
How should I handle this situation?
Amy says: I think you should RSVP very politely and respectfully, keep your judgment to yourself, not gossip with others about the propriety of this and move on with your life.
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