Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn • Ten years ago, my brother had an affair with my now ex-wife, which resulted in twins. I have not seen or spoken to them since, nor have I met their offspring. This caused an estrangement with me and my parents, who insisted on having a relationship with my brother and his kids.
Recently they contacted me because they "are getting older and are trying to bring the family back together." I’d rather have my teeth pulled out with pliers. I will never forgive the deceit, lies and deep betrayal. I have never understood why my parents did.
I told them no, I would not meet, visit with, have dinner with or be in the same room with my brother and his kids. I believe I added something about how they can go to hell for all I care. Thanks for calling. Click. My mother has written to me claiming they are hurt by my intransigent attitude. What options do I have here?
Dear Anonymous • I’m sorry. I think you just learned that it’s easier for siblings to cut ties with each other and children with parents than for a parent to cut ties with a child — or, especially, grandchildren. It might be as basic as that.
My concern is whether you are hurt by your intransigent attitude. I won’t even begin to suggest peace with your brother, but it might be time to make peace with your parents’ decision not to disown him on your behalf. He did the unthinkable, yes, but you’re essentially insisting that your parents spurn innocent grandchildren. It was that or forgive, so they forgave — probably not anticipating that it would cost them their other child to do so.
I can’t help but think it would be healthier for you to say 10 years is enough, and forgive your parents. Again, not to restore ties with your brother, but instead to shorten the list of people this betrayal cost you.
Ten years is enough spent steeped in anger, too. Justified anger is no less corrosive than other kinds. If you haven’t talked to a good, reputable therapist, I strongly suggest you do.
Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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