Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am the mother of 21- and 19-year-old daughters. They are both in very self-absorbed stages — the older more than the younger. I have tried to encourage them to think generously and empathetically about others, but my oldest’s self-absorbed attitudes toward myself and family members have been the subject of family concern for eight or nine years now. I have frequently had to intervene with people who are unhappy with her sarcasm and snarky attitude. My husband sits back and does nothing, even if I talk to him. I have recently been diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. I’ve told both of my daughters. Despite my diagnosis, I still find myself having to cut through my oldest daughter’s lies and try to help her solve/figure out major issues in her life. Recently, I opened my computer and found she had left her Facebook page open. I read her messages to her sister, about how “stark raving bonkers” I am. It is a shock and a heartbreak to see how she speaks about me, despite all of my efforts to help her. I am tempted to give up. I need to focus on my recovery, but my heart is breaking that my daughter has grown up to be so self-absorbed. I have worked so hard to love and care for her. I’ve endured all her teenage issues. How do I deal with this child? How do I deal with my husband, who refuses to get involved?
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: It is possible that your behavior up until now has actually enabled your daughter to be more of a jerk. Why are you explaining or apologizing to people for her offenses? Is it because you are embarrassed to have raised a daughter who lacks the qualities you prize? If so, you should say, “I’m very embarrassed — but I can’t clean up her messes.”
I realize that this is disappointing. But — for a variety of reasons, your daughter is an obnoxious and selfish knucklehead. Surely you knew this before you clicked onto her private messages for confirmation? And — by the way, these messages were unkind, but this is exactly the way the Kardashian daughters talk to and about their mother. This is immature and obnoxious but should not be taken as gospel.
Concentrate on those things you can control — your health care, your positive relationships, your clean closet. Let the rest go. Not all horrible 21-year-olds grow into horrible adults. Give your daughter the good news: She will now be responsible for her own actions. Yay!
In addition to your own powerlessness, the stress you are taking on is very bad for your health. If you ask your husband to do specific things — other than trying to control the lack of empathy and character of an adolescent — he might rise to the occasion.
DEAR AMY: I am about to marry the love of my life — after we graduate from college this spring. We’ve been together since 10th grade. I have just found out that my fiancee has been having a four-month long affair with her manager at her job while I was living across the state, doing my student teaching. I found out through an email that was sent to me by mistake. She at first denied it all; then broke down and confessed in the face of overwhelming evidence. She said it was a one-time “sow-her-wild-oats” thing and broke off with the guy. She says she wants to marry and spend her life with me. She says she never loved him and that this is her one and only slip-up in six years together. I love her, but can I trust her?
Confused in California
DEAR CONFUSED: A one-time oats-sowing usually involves a night of abandon preceded by too many cocktails. A four-month long affair is a relationship.
You should both agree to postpone the wedding, in order to take the pressure off so that you can attend a full course of premarital counseling. Many couples recover successfully from cheating episodes, but you really do need to work it through together.
DEAR AMY: “Lost in California” is a teenage lesbian who wanted to go to the prom with her girlfriend. Lost is not “out” to her parents, however. I did “check-in” at my daughter’s prom, and am happy to note that many girls go as each other’s “dates.” It’s fun to go with friends.
DEAR MOM: Absolutely. I love this trend. Thank you.