DEAR AMY: I am in my 60s, the oldest of four children. My relationship with my family was distant, but for the past 10 years, I’ve attended a few family events (we are now all geographically scattered), kept in touch with my two brothers and have made an effort to see my mother, who’s getting older and lives alone. My sister hasn’t liked me since high school. The last time I saw or talked to her was at my brother’s wedding a dozen years ago. My sister’s son got married a few years ago. I was the only member of the immediate family who wasn’t invited to the wedding. I was heartbroken. My mother and my two brothers said nothing. They stood by and allowed her to treat me this way. My mother’s 89th birthday is coming up. My siblings are all traveling to where she lives to attend the celebration. Though I want to be part of it, I don’t know if I can bring myself to be there. This situation tears me apart. If I go, everyone will assume I’m “over it” and “all is forgiven.” All is not forgiven. I’ll never forgive my sister. And I harbor hurt and anger against my brothers and mother for standing by and allowing it to happen. How do I decide whether to go? I keep thinking, “To thine own self be true.”
DEAR SAD: Do an accounting of the pluses and minuses of attending this event. On the plus side, you may reconnect with your mother. You may also avoid suffering from guilt later on. In the minus column, you will be in the presence of people who have hurt you.
The path toward going does involve acceptance, if not forgiveness. Acceptance means that you acknowledge the faults and failings of other people, which have had such an impact on you, and find a way to lean in toward your own truth.
Your mother’s birthday party is not the place to air your grievances, but it is the perfect place to celebrate your own strength in being able to rise above people who have hurt you. Understand that your mother has four children and that she cannot choose between you.
If you do go, use an escape hatch. Tell yourself that you will stay for an hour, and then make a choice about staying another hour.
DEAR AMY: My ex-husband and I have known each other since we were kids. We are both in our 30s. We remain good friends. I had signs that I was about to make a huge mistake before getting married. After two years, I started to feel like I was trapped. I tried counseling, and it made me realize that I needed to let him go. Now, I feel so ashamed. I hate myself for this. I stayed married to him because I was afraid of what people were going to say if I left. After so many failed relationships, I think maybe I’m just meant to be alone. I decided that the best thing to do is to never get involved. The thought of it makes me anxious and depressed. God will never forgive me for this. It makes me want to lose my mind. Just thinking about getting involved with anyone ever again gives me anxiety. I don’t want to fail again. I need help dealing with these feelings.
DEAR HURT: I don’t think God judges or interferes in human relationships. Your guilt about leaving your marriage is something you must tackle and conquer before you will feel comfortable moving forward. You chose counseling to help you understand that you should leave your marriage; you should continue with the process to wrangle with the feelings you are having now. Nobody wants to fail, and yet we all do. Failing and falling are part of the human experience. Risking failure is an act of bravery, and with help, you can be brave again.
DEAR AMY: You criticized “From We to I” for insisting that her boyfriend not refer to his life with his ex-wife using “we.” I’m in her camp. He needs to avoid phrasing responses in ways that make her think about his past. The proper question she should pose to him is whether he wants her to be thinking about him with his ex as they move forward.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: After almost 30 years of marriage, insisting that her boyfriend basically pretend that he had been alone the whole time seemed unrealistic to me.