Question: Dear Luise: I’ve three adult daughters with whom, until five years ago I had a great relationship. For some reason suddenly the two elders stopped all communication with me. While this was painful in that I being a quiet, non meddling sort have no idea what brought these events about, I’ve gotten past that part by obtaining counseling and thus, “forgiving them for they know not what they do” (it’s been suggested their behavior is more about them than me). My question is, should I entertain any communication from the prodigal daughters, even if, in my minds eye it is abusive? That is, one of the estranged daughters will communicate with me through her younger sister with whom I maintain a relationship. She sends mail with return address to this amicable daughter, or messages through her to me etc. catching me up on the details of her life. I am not allowed to do vice-versa in that I’m not allowed to know where she lives, emails, etc. to she or her family of two grandchildren. I don’t want to enable this, what I think to be twisted controlling behavior. That is, she can share with me all of her life (of which I am interested), but she’s found a way for me to be unable to reciprocate. Sort of a “look what you’re missing out on”, and “we don’t care about your life” and “there’s nothing you can do about it” poke? In the event you agree with me that I need to throw away the gate keepers key…how do I do this? I try very much not to involve the younger daughter, and I am aware I am needy for contact, maybe any contact. Youngest daughter thinks at least this is a start of a reconciliation (but then, she likes this weird control too and even refers to herself as “the bridge”). This being the case, and I knowing all parties like this game to much to stop it on their own, should I merely not react or respond when information is sent my way, and inform younger daughter henceforth until there is a two way sharing with elder sister and I, I’m not interested in any involvement thereby risking once again any relationship for which I pine gravely each passing day in any form? Perhaps my expectations are to high and I should accept whatever I can get? Thank you in advance for your advice (some of it so good in fact when I read others whose advice I find applicable to myself, I cut and paste it into a file so that on particularly bad days I can read and reflect on it). N.
Answer: Dear N.: My take is that what you are describing is often called triangular communication…and falls into the “he said, she said” category of what becomes covert abuse. I agree that the only way past it is to set a boundary and maintain it with your youngest. You matter and you are still a role model. Your self respect doesn’t cancel out your love for your older daughters, it sets an example.
I have created a Web-forum for women who are facing issues with adult children and extended families. What is often needed, and is lacking here, is the continued support of a community that understands and cares. This isn’t something most of us can’t do alone. At least I couldn’t. Please consider coming over to www.WiseWomenUnite.com Blessings, Luise