Thirteen years later, the pain from parents' divorce continues
Dear Annie: My parents divorced 13 years ago when I was 32. I haven't spoken to my mother for the past eight years, because she is a very angry person, and every conversation we had ended up with her hurting me. Since I could not get her to stop, I had to quit talking to her.
My problem now is my dad, who never caused me a minute of trouble until three weeks ago. That's when he began dating for the first time since the divorce. I don't mind that he's seeing other women. The difficulty is that the person he has chosen to date is his secretary -- the same woman my mother accused of breaking up their marriage.
My mother complained endlessly about this secretary, and I always defended my father against her accusations. Now it has come true. I feel completely betrayed by my father and cannot accept that he is dating my mother's worst enemy. I can't bear to spend a minute in the same room with my father and his girlfriend.
I was so devastated when my dad told me the news that I cried for days. I am also worried about my mother, because if it hurt me this much, I can't imagine how she feels. I have contemplated calling to console her, but I know she will use the opportunity to belittle me.
It has taken me years to get over the pain Mom caused me, but I feel I owe her an apology for not believing her about the secretary. Any suggestions? Lost Daughter
Dear Daughter: Your father waited 13 years to date the secretary? We don't think you owe Mom an apology, but you might want to call to see how she's doing. It's possible she has mellowed in the past eight years, or at least has missed you enough to make a greater effort. And please forgive Dad for dating the secretary. Whatever their previous relationship, he's waited a long time to start living again.
Dear Annie: I am a 44-year-old married woman who has begun the legal process of changing my first name. I've wanted to change it since I was a child. My mother and a few friends refuse to call me by my new name, and I resent being called by the old one. What can I say to people who refuse to respect my feelings on this? Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: It takes a long while for those who know you by one name to start calling you by another. You can refuse to respond to your old name, although that probably won't work with Mom.
You could save yourself a great deal of aggravation by allowing longtime friends and relatives to call you by the old name, correcting them gently now and then. Your more recent friends will call you by your new name, and it will be on all your legal documents. That will have to suffice.
Dear Annie: I read your response to "Lied To in Virginia," who adopted a daughter out of the foster care system, and the child, now 11, constantly lies. Lying is a behavior typical of children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder, a very serious and complicated phenomena that presents itself frequently in children who have been adopted or have been in and out of foster homes.
These parents should get an evaluation of their daughter by a Reactive Attachment Disorder specialist and seek assistance in dealing with the situation. It would benefit this family greatly to learn more about RAD and ways to treat it within the family. A good resource for finding help is the Attachment Disorder Network (radzebra.org) at P.O. Box 23508, Overland Park, KS 66283. Anne M. Johnson, M.S.W./L.C.S.W., Director, Children and Families First Inc.
Dear Anne Johnson: Thank you for your expert advice. Other readers recommended a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (www.bacb.com), trained specifically to deal with child behavior problems. Our thanks to all who wrote.
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