December 14, 2000
Advice on life and relationships
Halting Taboo Tales
My brother and I were devastated, and everything we had counted on in our lives was turned upside down. Coming home for holidays, family functions, everything became an ordeal. All in all, we handled it pretty well and have remained close, although with the obvious changes in groupings. My mom and I have grown particularly close these past years.
My father recently got married. My brother and I are happy for him and glad that he found love in his life. The problem has become my mother. Ever since my father got engaged, she has been increasingly agitated and upset about their marriage, which has been over now for 12 years. She has begun to confide things to me about my father and his former affairs and their sexual problems. I am very uncomfortable hearing these things, yet I am concerned about my mother and want to be there for her. Last week I asked my mother to please stop telling me intimate details about my dad's and her marriage. She cried and accused me of being immature and unsympathetic. I feel bad and have begun to avoid her phone calls at work and home. Please advise.
Dear Distressed Daughter,
It's boundary time, DD. Let your mother know you want very much to be supportive, but that you draw the line at hearing the intimate details of your parents' marriage. If she feels a need to share those, suggest she do so with a friend, rabbi or a therapist.
It is equally important to consider that if, as you say, your mother has grown "increasingly agitated and upset" since your father found a new mate, some old feelings of being hurt or cheated have been reanimated by your father's marriage. She may feel that your father has finally moved on and that perhaps she has not.
In any case, stick to your boundaries. You will be better able to support your mother through this painful time if you do so, because at the very least, you won't be avoiding her calls.
Parents, remember that divulging intimate secrets to one's children (of any age) is not usually a good idea. When in doubt about whether or not to spill certain beans, stop and check out your motive for telling. If it is to relieve yourself of a burden, don't. Unload elsewhere. If sharing the information is meant to instruct, such as discussing the family's history of alcoholism, then it's usually OK.
Sidestep Self Serving Singles
After one phone conversation, which lasted 2 1/2 hours, my Internet friend and I made a date, and we've been together ever since. We just got engaged. We are extremely compatible, with many similar interests, and our paths had nearly crossed many times. But it took the Internet to introduce us, two people who live less than one mile apart, work in the same business, were on the same "singles circuit" and had more than one mutual acquaintance.
I am writing to say two things:
1. The Internet is just a way to meet, not good or bad. Whether you have a good experience or not depends on all the other usual factors, such as ability to communicate well, honesty, reliability, mutual interests and goals. Are you being honest with each other? Is the other person reliable over time? Do you want the same things?
2. Mostly I am writing to say to all the single people out there who are searching for a mate: Don't give up hope! It took me a long time, but I've met a very special and compatible guy (and I had to answer a lot of personal ads and attend a lot of singles events to do so).
And by the way, you may like to know that I just turned 40 this year.
Lucky in Love at Last
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