DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: While my growing up was far from perfect, my partner is stuck on the wrongs she believes her parents did her as a child, causing, she claims, permanent damage.
Her father was not good at keeping jobs, so they had to move around a lot, and she felt this screwed up her ability to make and keep both friendships and romantic relationships. I keep reminding her we have been together for over five years, and that should prove to her that she can definitely do it. Not only that, but she has made a real life in our town, where she came for a summer internship and decided to make her home.
I had some similar experiences when I was little, with my parents splitting and then shuffling me between them, so I didn’t feel much at home in either house or city. But I have gotten past all that, and have an okay relationship with both my parents. She barely speaks to either of her parents, who are having a hard time because they both have to continue working fulltime and then some, even though they are in their late sixties, because all the job-changing did not leave them any much retirement money.
I feel a little sorry for them, and think it would be nice if their daughter at least reached out to them sometimes. But other than holiday time, when she sends them a card and calls and talks for a few minutes, she has no contact with them.
I think it is time for her to get past the past. Do you agree her still being angry with them cannot be healthy? --- NEEDS TO MOVE ON
DEAR NEEDS TO MOVE ON: Even outwardly successful people live with ghosts and resentments from their past, which they have trouble putting behind them. For some, mentally separating themselves from a painful history is what they feel they need to do to move on, as you’re seeing in your partner’s case. Whether it’s a healthy reaction or not, it’s the path she’s taken thus far.
To help put her pain in perspective, it might be useful to remind her that most likely her parents did what they truly believed they had to do for their family at the time decisions were being made back when she was a child. It’s easy for both those making the decisions and those affected by them to second-guess their actions in retrospect; so there’s a good chance her parents aren’t any happier about how things went for them and their family than she is.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to your partner to decide if she’ll make any more room in her life for her parents. I think it’ll be sad if she doesn’t, but it’s her decision to make and yours to respect.