Family reunification has a downside
Dear Amy: I am 65 years old. Three years ago, I was fortunate to locate my birth family through a DNA search.
To my surprise, my birth mother was still alive and in good health. When we first spoke, she said, “I’ve been waiting for this call for 60 years.”
They live about 1,200 miles away, and I made a visit shortly after we first connected.
It was a mostly positive experience, and I am especially fond of my brother and his wife.
There are other siblings who have decided not to be in touch, which is fine.
We continue to talk by phone, but when I speak with any of these family members, they always pressure me to make a return visit.
When I talk to my mother, she makes remarks like, “I thought you forgot about me,” or, “Why haven’t I heard from you?”
For her, it’s as if the past 60-odd years never happened.
She never asks anything about my life growing up or about my (wonderful) parents, who have both passed away.
I want to see these family members, but for my own emotional sanity I want only a brief visit.
When I arranged a hotel room for my first visit, my mother nearly flipped out and I had to cancel the room and agree to stay at her house.
If I go back, I need to stay at a hotel, for my own health.
How can I frame a brief visit without seeming cold or as if I don’t want to be with her/them?
Also, my mother knows that my husband is Black. What do I say when “casual” racist comments are made?
This is so challenging — sometimes I just want to give up.
Dear A: You have undertaken a momentous and laudable effort to find and visit your birth family. Unfortunately, you are allowing your mother to emotionally manipulate you.
Obviously, this reconnection is very important to you both, but you were a full-formed person with a very long history before this connection. You want to be open to these new relationships, but you also need to work hard to retain your own identity and to attend to your needs.
If you plan another visit, say, “I’m booking a room at a nearby hotel.” If your mother protests, stay very quiet and let her run out of steam. Just. Wait.
Then you say, “OK, well I’ll call when I get in. It will be nice to visit again.”
If you seem cold — so be it. Your mother has not really gotten to know you — she has only insisted that you know her.
When “casual” racist comments are made, you should say, “Whoa. Stop. I can’t accept that.” Racist comments are a very good reason for you to rethink whether you want to extend yourself so generously.
Dear Amy: I am a 41-year-old man, who found a very caring woman (15 years younger) online about three years ago. She has all the qualities that I have longed to find in a woman, and she likes me, too.
We hit it off the first day we started talking through a dating site.
My question is, how do I go about telling my family that I have met a woman online?
She has told her family and friends about me.
Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
— How to Tell?
Dear How to Tell?: You are a man in your own mid-life. You have met a partner the way almost a third of other couples meet: online.
It isn’t quite clear whether you and this woman have actually met in person, or whether your relationship, like your introduction, is conducted online.
If you are serious enough about this relationship to tell your family members about it, then the best way to do this is with your head held high. Meeting online should not be a shameful or embarrassing fact, and if your family members focus exclusively on this aspect of your relationship and try to shame you for it, then they — not you — should be embarrassed.
Dear Amy: “New Job New Me” did not want to answer questions from new co-workers about a high-profile previous employer.
New Job should turn these questions around in a friendly and interested way: “What was your longest job? What was your first job?”
For better or worse, most people find themselves interesting. Might as well use it.
— Old Job, Old Me
Dear Old You: Polite questions are often a graceful way of changing the subject.