Dear Annie: I was hoping you could help me out with a family problem. I’m a woman in my early 20s who was adopted at age 5 by a gay couple (two men). One of them, “Eric,” is fairly kind and docile but is only comfortable with surfacelevel emotions and discussions. My other “dad,” “Tom,” is another matter entirely. He is aggressive, contemptuous and hostile. Whenever I have had life challenges, he blames me and screams and rants for hours until I’m a mess of tears and feel infinitely worse than I did to begin with.
This consistent treatment over time led me to have issues with substance abuse, which lets Tom have something to paint himself as a martyr about while berating me worse than ever under the guise of being “worried about me.”
I escaped from them at age 20, becoming homeless and then crawling my way out and into a better life situation with no help from them. You might ask, “Where was Eric when Tom was screaming abuse at you?” He would often stand there stone-faced, sometimes leave the room in discomfort, but always, always would defend Tom and insist that this is just his way of showing his love and worry for me. For a long time, I believed I was worthless -- otherwise, why would they have treated me this way? I finally have found a therapist who sees what I went through as traumatic, and it feels so validating. She recommends going completely “no contact” with my parents in order to heal. Annie, do you think there’s any hope for my relationship with my parents? I’m prepared to walk away but was wondering if you had ever encountered a similar situation and could possibly offer some advice. -- Parent Problems
Dear Parent Problems: First things first, I want to congratulate you on something that you gloss over in your letter. As you put it, you “crawled your way out and into a better life situation,” but such an occurrence is never an accident. The truth is you yourself a better life situation, from the ground up, against all odds. Don’t forget that.
As for your relationship with your parents, your therapist has the right idea. That’s not to say you can have a relationship with your dads, but it will be hard to keep them in your life while you are trying to repair the very damage that they caused. Oftentimes, a little distance grants us a new -- and more objective -perspective.
Eventually, with the help of your therapist, you can work on creating a set of boundaries -- and articulating these boundaries -- for your parents, if you decide you want them in your life. For today, though, I would focus on protecting your energy, healing and surrounding yourself with trusted members of your new “better life.”
“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http:// www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.