DEAR ABBY: As a child, I suffered a lot of abuse from my parents until I finally, at 13, opened up to a teacher. I was removed from my house and spent the remainder of my youth in various foster homes. I never felt like I had a home or family until I was an adult and made my own.
I have cut all ties with my biological family, as I am happier and more sane without them. They have never shown remorse for their abuse, and I feel my children’s safety would be jeopardized if I were to rekindle a relationship with them.
The problem is, co-workers and sometimes even strangers at my retail job ask me about my children’s grandparents. When I explain that we have a “strained” relationship, they often tell me I need to get over it, learn to forgive or that I’ll regret not mending things. Am I wrong for wanting to maintain a distance? How can I assert my position firmly without giving too much detail? – Cut Off by Choice in Kentucky
DEAR CUT OFF: You are not obligated to give a detailed response to these individuals, who may only be trying to make conversation when they ask. All you need to say is that “the grandparents are not involved.” There could be many reasons for it, but you don’t have to share them. If you are questioned further say, “I’d rather not discuss it.”
Also, while forgiveness may work in some situations, when a family is so dysfunctional that the children must be removed from the home, those children are not obligated to forgive what was done to them!
DEAR ABBY: I married right out of high school, 20 years ago. We have two amazing kids in their late teens – a son in college and a daughter in her last year of high school.
I haven’t been in love with my wife for a very long time. I have tried everything to bring those feelings back, including talking with her about it, but the feelings just aren’t there anymore.
When I first realized I was no longer in love with her, I was going to file for divorce, but my kids were little. I didn’t want to put them through that, so I pushed my happiness aside. Now the kids are doing great, I’m still miserable and I don’t know what to do anymore.
Sometimes I feel I don’t deserve to be happy, but doesn’t my happiness count? Must I continue putting on a fake smile and pretending to be happy, or is it time for me to look out for my happiness? – Miserable in Maine
DEAR MISERABLE: Talk to your wife again about the fact that you haven’t been happy for many years. Unless you are an Academy Award-winning actor, she probably won’t be shocked. Delay separating until your daughter has left for college, and in the meantime, give marriage counseling a shot, even if you already have. If, after that, nothing has improved, try to keep the divorce as amicable as possible for the sake of everyone concerned. A divorce mediator may be able to help you through the process.