How do I forgive?
January 25, 2013 9:51 AM Subscribe
I am struggling with deciding what the right balance is between forgiving someone even though they have not (and probably will not) acknowledge their wrong thoroughly and ceasing substantial contact with them (which will also make me sad) in order to demand the treatment that I feel I deserve. (snowflake details inside)
posted by sb3 to Human Relations (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There are two semi-recent situations in which I feel very hurt by someone important to me to the extent that I have really limited relations with the person. I tend to be very committed to working through problems with people I care about; I express dissatisfaction or hurt calmly and directly, and I do not like the idea of withholding contact just to illicit a desired response. But in both of these circumstances, when I search myself, I feel like the idea of continuing contact without a serious acknowledgment of my being wronged brings me a lot of anguish and feelings of resentment toward the person. I will describe one situation. Sorry for the hairy details.
My mid-fifties father is remarried to a woman (will call her J) who is now in her mid to early thirties. I am 26. They got together when I was a senior in high school. My father has been a truly committed, communicative, compassionate parent, and because of issues between my mother and I and between he and my mother, he and I were very close growing up, probably too close in retrospect.
His wife is a good person and has worked hard to embrace me and my younger sisters. But she is young, insecure, a control-freak, and has seemed intimidated by me at various times over the years. My sisters and I have all struggled with her in ways but it's been the most difficult between her, myself and my father, probably because of my father and my close relationship and definitely because of J and my closeness in age. As they build a new life together, it continually is my presence that has had to shift to accommodate it. She has recently become pregnant, something that's shocking but that I was very happy for them about.
I came home Christmas weekend (I live out of state) to overhear them talking negatively about me. I was shocked and asked them to sit down and talk with me about it. Dad's wife turned to me and told me that I was 26, that when she was 26 and she had issues, she didn't talk to her dad or her friends, but she went and talked to a doctor. (I have been frustrated with my new living situation and have expressed that to my dad but hadn't talked to him since Thanksgiving. I do talk to a therapist and feel good about my ability to cope with problems). It went on from there with her basically saying that I shouldn't be talking with my father about challenges in my life and should be dealing with them myself. My father wouldn't get involved in the conversation too much until I really pushed him to acknowledge that I wasn't calling him asking for support but that J had heard him be frustrated that I sounded discontent and that he couldn't fix it.
The talk went on for several hours with her telling me what was wrong with me and asking me if I was working on myself and bringing up things that had happened 8 years ago. This was obnoxious as she doesn't contact me and could have done so if she was truly concerned. I felt humiliated, hurt, shocked, angry. I told them that I didn't want to be reactive and say something I didn't mean, and left. I gave it some time, and decided that I really feel like the situation was inappropriate, that she shouldn't be setting the boundaries of my relationship with my father or making judgments about me and that it was wrong that he not get involved in the conversation when it was directly about his and my relationship; instead he let a woman who he has brought into my life, not my parent, effectively speak for both of them.
I have since talked to my father, who has reached and he would clearly like to just move on as if everything is ok. I have told him everything above; he tries to be neutral, will not acknowledge directly that anything that went on was wrong or that his wife was out of line. He would like to see me when I come home, and I would like to see both of them very much. I want to give his wife a present for the baby, hear about her pregnancy. But I am deeply unsatisfied with the fact that she has not acknowledged any wrong doing or even reached out to me in any way (she doesn't have to because she quite has the power in this situation) and that my father will not even say "Yes, there are some things that happened that shouldn't have happened and I have spoken with her as well about it.")
As I said, there is one other situation in my life like this where I'm fairly certain that the person will never say what I would like them to say about their misdeed, though I do care about them being in my life. I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face, but it's so hard to let go of my negative feelings toward them without this. Any suggestions? Or how do other people determine when you just have to suck it up and be the bigger person? Thanks for taking the time to read all this above.