DEAR AMY: Recently, my mother and I found out that my father is having an affair with a woman not much older than myself (I am 21). This has (understandably) shocked and devastated our household. My mother has two older daughters, my half-sisters from a previous marriage, who — putting it nicely, have a tendency to gossip without thinking about the feelings of others. Knowing this, I asked my mother to keep our family situation to herself while we process and decide our next steps. She agreed that keeping this private was for the best. However, she ended up telling one sister, who then told the other, who then told my entire extended family. I now receive calls from aunts and uncles, cousins I barely talk to, and family friends expressing their condolences and subtly prying for more information. I am shocked and hurt and don’t know whom to be most angry with: my mother or my sisters for betraying my confidence. On the other hand, I feel as if I don’t have the right to be angry as the primary victim is my mother, but I do also feel cheated by my father’s affair. Thoughts?
DEAR DEVASTATED: Of course you have the right to be angry. Anyone would be. Validating your own feelings about this betrayal will help you to cope with those feelings.
In terms of your mother and sisters essentially gossiping about this, you might be feeling somewhat torn because the person your sisters are gossiping about is your father (not theirs). I could imagine that you are even wrestling with a defensive impulse, as these other women who are not DNA-related to your father perhaps gang up on him, gossip about him and call him out.
You can certainly ask family members to keep something a secret or to be discreet, but your mother and sisters are definitely a part of this story, and they have the right to discuss it. You are in a family together. You can’t control their pages in this family album — only your own.
Without question, this would be easier on you if people would simmer down long enough for you to get your emotions in check, but people don’t work that way. Mainly they duct tape themselves to their own drama, heedless of the impact on others.
When you hear from far-flung family members, thank them for their concern, offer up no details and refer them to your mother if they want to talk further about it.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have recently decided we want to move to his hometown, near his family. My mom is incredibly upset with me over it. The thing is, I haven’t lived near my mother since I left for college and have lived almost halfway across the country from my mom and other family for almost a decade. She obviously thinks I’m choosing his family over my own, even though I don’t see it that way at all. We have many good reasons to move. Our friends have moved away, and we want to be near family now that we have a child. I just don’t feel connected to my hometown. I never planned to live there as an adult. I love my mom and family and we will see one another just as often, but she’s making what should be an exciting and somewhat difficult decision a miserable one, and I feel horrible enough about it to possibly not make the move.
DEAR DAUGHTER: You blame your mother for creating an untrue narrative (“I’m choosing his family over my own”), and then feed it (“We want to be near family now that we have a child”).
It is your right and responsibility to live wherever you want to live. But you are deliberately moving your mother’s grandchild to be closer to your husband’s family. You can expect your mother to be sad about this — and she is.
Reassure her. Say, “Mom, I know this is hard on you, but everything’s going to be OK.” Plan trips home with your child. Invite her out to stay with you.
DEAR AMY: “Done In” described the same feeling I have. After more than 50 years of being a full-time homemaker, I found that when my husband retired, my duties seemed to double. Don’t I get to retire too?
DEAR HAD IT: Yes, you should get to retire. A pattern of more than 50 years will not change overnight, but your partner should.