Dear Annie: I’m often frustrated when people say that family always comes first. By “family,” they mean the people you’re related to by blood. My mother was a toxic presence in my life from age 11 to 22. I recently took a big step by asking her not to contact me anymore, instead letting me initiate conversation.
My life has only improved since making this change and since moving out of her home. No longer do I have to deal with her daily gaslighting — telling me that my memory’s incorrect, that her good intentions are more important than the pain she’s caused me. No longer do I have to spend hours of the day denying my truth, living a lie.
She may be upset with me for choosing to severely limit our communication, but I have to take care of myself first. I have tried to make amends again and again and again. I have tried method after method. At some point, it became obvious I was talking to a wall. So, I wish more people understood that birth family isn’t everything — at least, not for everyone.
Please stop telling people things like, “But she’s your mom!” or “But you’re family!” We cannot choose the family we’re born into. But we can choose the people we keep in our lives. People who love and respect us — they come first.
— Better Off With My Chosen Family
Dear Chosen Family: I’m printing your letter to help people be more sensitive to someone in your position. Congratulations on finding friends who love and support you. While I’m not saying you have to interact with your mother on a daily basis, it might benefit you to seek individual counseling for better understanding of why she is like talking to a wall. Or why she does the things that she does. In that understanding, you might have more compassion for her limitations. Sorry, but after all, she is your mom.
Dear Annie: I can’t stop thinking about your July 14 column, “Furious Over a Ring.” May I add to your spot-on advice?
Do NOT sell the ring. You fought hard to keep something that symbolizes the love you had for your precious mother. You rose above the manipulation that was tossed your way.
Fighting hard and rising above are no doubt qualities you inherited from your mother — along with the ring.
Sinking to your grandmother’s level of spite would really be the catalyst for ruining the ring’s sentimental value. Don’t let that happen. Take the high road. By not sinking to her level, you’ll have no regrets later. Your mother would no doubt be proud.
— Spot On
Dear Spot On: Thank you for your kind words. I am printing your letter because you focused on what I regard as the most important issue — the daughter’s courage to stand up to her grandmother because she knew it was the right thing to do.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.