Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My parents divorced when I was young, and my father was quickly involved with someone else. Even though we found her intriguing at first — she was pretty young — as we got older and my father changed, my siblings and I were definitely hard on the stepmonster. Sometimes with good reason, but now as an adult looking back, I feel like I owe her an apology.
My father passed away several years ago, and I don’t have any contact with the stepmonster … but I could probably get a letter to her. I’m not quite sure what I would say, other than I’m sorry that when I was a kid (and into my 20s … ), I wasn’t kind to you (and sometimes downright mean) — but I’m also afraid that she might come back with some scathing response.
Which I guess might be fair. I’m just wondering what you might think.
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Apologizing to the Stepmonster
The point of an apology isn’t to dislodge a response from someone that makes you feel better. The point is to acknowledge your own wrongdoing and, if possible, to ease your victim’s mind in the event she blamed or still blames herself.
So, yes, write the letter. Admit how unfair you were, and how unkind. Tell her you understand now that she was in a thankless role. Prepare yourself for the worst from her, but also hope for the best.
And stop using “stepmonster.” It sounds like a humor defense, a vestige of a younger you, but your new state of enlightenment only underscores the casual meanness of it now.
Re: Apology: Please write her a genuine letter if you really mean it. You call her a “stepmonster,” but in my experience as a stepmother, the reality is probably that it was difficult for all of you. I suspect she would appreciate the letter, even if it didn’t change your relationship.
I have a biological daughter, too, and it is 10 times harder to be a stepparent any day, hands down. If she really wasn’t a monster, let her know you now understand.
Dear Carolyn: I am very hesitant to visit friends in the hospital because, when I’m not feeling well, I really prefer to not have visitors.
My sister thinks it is terrible of me to not visit people, and she said I’m unique in that I “don’t enjoy smiles and flowers” (her words).
I’d like to hear your opinion on this subject. I don’t want my friends to think I’m uncaring.
Tons of people hate visitors when they’re sick.
Tons of people also think that if they feel one way, then everyone else on earth must also feel the same way — but you didn’t ask me to diagnose your sister.
Since different people have different preferences when they’re sick, it makes sense just to ask what they want. “I know some people hate visits and some love them — I’m happy to stop by, so just say the word. I also won’t be offended if you say no.”
When you are dealing with someone who doesn’t like visits, one way to show you care is to drop off something for them at the desk. It’s presence without pressure to make conversation.
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