AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

My Parents Are Awful People

I’m going through a horrible family rift with my parents. I’m an adult in my late 30s, I am married, and I’m gay. The problem is, I’ve kept the fact that I am gay from them, pretty much all my life until I found the person of my dreams, we dated, got engaged, and finally we got married. The reason I kept it a secret from my parents is because they’ve always said mean and hurtful things about gay people, and knowing my parents are potentially mean/hurtful meant that I was better off just not telling them. They are also very toxic people. My mother is narcissistic, greedy, jealous, controlling and has zero respect for anyone else. She’s caused horrible issues between my brother and his wife.

Along with telling me she disowns me for being gay, she’s decided to tell my brother that he is no longer her son, and her grandchildren mean nothing to her, as long as he remains married to my sister-in-law. Long story short, my brother and I have lived a very long time under the mental/verbal abuse of my parents. My father is just a huge enabler.

One part of me is extremely happy and living a very healthy lifestyle without the burden of having my toxic parents in my life. My work performance is thriving, I’m having a wonderful time with my spouse and our friends, and basically, knowing I am no longer obligated to try and tend to my mother’s worthless needs and intolerable behavior has caused me to have a whole new outlook on life.

The other part of me gets silent/depressed when I think of the fact that my mother and father are both sinking in their own misery. My brother and I are 100 percent sure they’re not thinking of changing so that we can all have a healthy and loving relationship. We’re sure they’re pretty much doing immature things, such as writing us out of their will and telling what few friends they do have how horrible their children turned out to be. My spouse and I are currently in therapy because of how this situation has affected me, and sometimes it stops me in my tracks. I mean, they are my parents, and I do love them.

I’m sad our relationship has turned from barely existing/functioning to completely non-existent. With Mother’s Day coming around the corner, I’m wondering if I should mail my mother a card. To her, Mother’s Day has always been bigger than Christmas (of course, because it’s about her), and I just know the moment she realizes she hasn’t gotten a phone call from me, or a card at least, then it’ll add more fuel to the fire. On the flip side, I feel like if I do send her something, she may just rip it up and throw it into an envelope and mail it back to me. Most of my friends say that I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Any advice?


You are in an ugly situation, Disowned, and let me congratulate you on extricating yourself as much as you have and living a great life. Crawling out from under the kind of upbringing you described is not easy, and it appears you’ve done a great job and are continuing to work at it. The reward for that is sweet—a much happier life than you would have had if you spent it trying to please your parents.

Unfortunately, the reward for your hard work does not include your parents realizing the error of their ways and building a healthy relationship with you. And that feels unfair. It is unfair. But that’s not going to change.

You ask about sending a Mother’s Day card, but the real question is to what extent you try to build a “normal” relationship with your parents. That’s a trick question, though, because your parents are so unhealthy that a “normal” relationship isn’t possible. So take that thought right off the table.

You say damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And that’s true. What that means, though, is it doesn’t matter what you do. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10. On that day, your mother will be angry and worked up. Period.  If you send a card, she’ll act angry and worked up. If you don’t send a card, she’ll act angry and worked up. If you had never been born, she would still be angry and worked up on Sunday, May 10. Her reaction has nothing to do with you. Nothing. Her fit of temper on Sunday, May 10 is preordained. It will happen no matter what. Again: It is unrelated to you. You just happen to be metaphorically close enough to the explosion to get hit with some debris.

What this means for you, then, is that all your decisions about how you interact with your mother have to be based on one question: “How will I feel about doing this?” Not “How will I feel about her reaction?” You’ll never be able to predict her reaction, and it will never be what you want it to be, but how will you feel about what you’re doing? Do you want to send her a card and wish her a happy Mother’s Day? Do you want to refrain from sending a card? Apply this question to all issues involving your mother. The only person you’re ever going to be able to please is yourself, so don’t spend one second more trying to please her.

And thank you to my own parents for not being like this.

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