Thursday, May 31, 2018

She Abandoned Her Daughter to Find True Love

In the best of all possible worlds you will be living your true love and fulfilling all of your adult responsibilities. You will never feel torn between the two because everything always works out for the best. In the best of all possible worlds you will have it all and will not make any compromises.

But, what if you do not live in an adolescent fantasy? What if you do not have a tenuous hold on reality? What if one day you have to choose between true love and adult responsibilities? Then what?

True love or parental responsibility? Choose one. You cannot have both.

Of course it does happen. In fact, it happened to Lady Diana Spencer, aka Princess Diana. When she was six years old Diana’s mother ran off with her true love, abandoning home and hearth and family. You can ask yourself how that one worked out for her daughter Diana… who later suffered from borderline personality disorder, one of whose primary characteristics is an exaggerated fear of abandonment. And yet, when you are a six-year-old girl and your mother abandons you, it isn't an exaggeration.

To be more timely, take the case of a married mother of an eight-year-old daughter. One day she falls in love with a man who is not her husband. It does happen. And let’s imagine that the price of finding true love in this new relationship is not merely abandoning her husband, but also abandoning her daughter. She has fallen in love who does not want the young girl around. What should she do? In this case she runs away with her true love... and is haunted with shame. 

Now, the young girl is grown up and her mother’s family wants to be in touch with her. The woman writes to Carolyn Hax at the Washington Post.

Here is the letter, from Anonymous:

When I was 8, my mom left my dad and me and married another man. That man didn't want me around, and so I saw my mom only three times between ages 8 and 18. I also very rarely saw aunts, uncles and cousins on my mom's side of the family.

Now that I'm an adult, I'm beginning to develop relationships with my relatives on my mom's side, but it's difficult because they seem so insistent on my forgiving my mom. For instance, I mentioned to my aunt that it was difficult not having my mom around, and she said, "You should be happy that your mom found a man who made her happy."

Do you think it's worth my pursuing relationships with my mom's side of the family? Or is it pointless when they act like my mom abandoning me at age 8 was a perfectly acceptable thing to do?

Consider it a moral dilemma. Should Anonymous forgive her mother? Should she act as though the behavior was acceptable? Which is more important, finding a man who made her happy or fulfilling her responsibility to a minor child?

Hax is properly outraged by it all and largely correct in her assessment.

I’m sorry, that’s just mind-blowing. You were 8!

The mama bear in me wants to tell you, no, it’s not worth pursuing relationships with people this bloody myopic. And cruel.

However, pointing out the absurdity of what they’re suggesting is worth a shot: “I want to be sure I have this right. I hear you say that I should be happy my mom traded me, at 8 years old, for a man. Is that what you meant?” Go into anthropologist mode, because you want this data.

So, Hax offers a few words that Anonymous might throw in the face of her mother’s relatives. One assumes, naturally, that these relatives have been put up to it by her guilt-ridden mother. And yet, forgiving what the British would call a bolter is not a job for Anonymous. 

You cannot undo child abandonment and neglect by pretending that it was alright to seek true love. And besides, one assumes that her father shouldered the task of bring her up by himself. Doesn’t she own him her loyalty? We would have liked to know what he thinks of this. 

Hax continues:

Remember, too: Your mom’s family might carry a lot of guilt around about this. Your mom is the one who left you, yes, but in doing so she forced all of her family to respond to her in some way — to deplore her actions, to distance themselves from her, to stay in touch with you on their own ... or to welcome the new guy in all of his child-rejecting horror and act as if nothing was wrong. If they chose the last one, then you can expect they’ll spend a lot of their time with you trying to justify their own moral lapses — and what’s the weapon of choice for such people? 

These are not, in other words, good people. They are not only seeking absolution for the mother’s moral failings, but also for their own. Haven't they been going along with it for yo these many years? Now they seek absolution. They seek forgiveness, a forgiveness that Anonymous ought not to be offering at this stage. More so when these relations want Anonymous to act as though what her mother did was perfectly normal, thus, perfectly moral.

They are looking to salve their guilty consciences, and Hax is quite correct. An abandoned daughter is not responsible for pretending that her mother's moral dereliction was the right thing to do.


Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: In the best of all possible worlds you will have it all and will *NOT* make any compromises.

Is there a missing *NOT* above? (or *NOT NEED TO*)

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Diana… who later suffered from borderline personality disorder

Is this just a rumor? I presume she was never diagnosed so its no different than people trying to diagnose Trump from a distance.

Anonymous said...

Enough of Ares Olympus!

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Consider it a moral dilemma. Should Anonymous forgive her mother? Should she act as though the behavior was acceptable?

What should we DO about past "unacceptable behavior" in others, but the word "act" is a hint. How do we find peace in the unacceptable? I recall C.S. Lewis wrote about forgiveness and used the word "act" as something important - how we act changes how we feel. Book 3: Christian Behaviour 7. Forgiveness
"Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."

ASM826 said...

The value here for Anonymous is not what the family or the mother gains. It is her own well-being. Letting the past be past and find her own way forward may include forgiveness because that is what is healthiest for her.

I not suggesting that includes condoning the behavior or even making excuses for it. You can look directly at the behavior, recognize the damage and pain it caused, and then choose to forgive. This frees the forgiver without justifying or pretending.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Sally Bedell Smith wrote a comprehensive biography of Diana... by her account most the the psychiatrists who looked at her case... admittedly from a distance... thought that she was borderline. As do I.

L. Beau said...

...I mentioned to my aunt that it was difficult not having my mom around, and she said, "You should be happy that your mom found a man who made her happy."

Even if the Anonymous's Auntie meant those words in the nicest possible way, such a response is still unbelievably tone deaf. And if any person in the world has the right not to appreciate her mother's new lover for the amazing, heroic son-of-a-gun that he is, it should be the (now grown-up) young girl whom Mr. Wonderful all-but-commanded her mother to abandon.

When Anonymous chooses to forgive her mother, or even if she chooses to do so, should be a choice she gets to make without any pressure from her relatives (as Dr. Schneiderman and Carolyn Hax have already implied.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

ASM826 is correct. Forgiveness is the best option, but for Anonymous's own sake, not for that side of the family's. Forgiveness does not mean "overlooking," or saying "oh, it doesn't matter now." It means not holding the act against someone in terms of further criticism or poisoning the well. You give up your right to revenge (and she has one), but extending trust and chumminess aren't required. One forgives the debt, but it is not an order to lend more money. It may or may not mean the resumption of relations. I would guess not in this case. It's not about feelings. And to become real it will likely take a hundred repetitions of the forgiveness.

Additionally, it should be noted that this family, if they are pressuring Anonymous, are still sinning against her. It isn't over, and each sting will have to be dealt with on its own, making all the other forgivings more difficult. She will likely do better forgiving them if she stays away from them.

Echoing Ares Olympus, there is another CS Lewis piece.

Anonymous said...

I married a young lady that was abandoned by her mother; well actually she and her two sisters. My father in law married the typical evil step wife and she began her terror and torture of the three girls. In fact the step grandfather molested all three; because they "weren't blood". When the birth mother was dying she contacted my wife; my wonderful, loving wife, absolutely shut her down and out. And I knew not to bring up the topic.
Other family members have said, the birth mother could never say why she left; I think there may have been prenatal depression involved.


JPL17 said...

This situation is extremely sad, but at the same time fascinating, because it presents the very difficult question of whether one should forgive those who caused one great pain but who refuse (or are unable) to repent. This question arises here because Anonymous' mother and relatives clearly aren't sorry for the pain they caused and continue to cause. Instead, they're trying to justify the unjustifiable.

According to the famous Gospel, as Christ hung on the cross, he asked God to forgive his torturers and executioners because they "know not what they do", even though they'd neither asked for forgiveness nor repented. And we are asked -- actually, commanded -- to imitate Christ. Thus, I think Anonymous is required to at least try to find it in her heart to forgive her mother and relatives.

That said, what her relatives are asking goes way beyond forgiveness for past wrongs. As Assistant Village Idiot pointed out above, they're asking Anonymous to continue forgiving them indefinitely as they continue to cause her pain. I don't think Christ's example requires us to go that far. At some point one has to (figuratively) brush the dust off one's sandals and move on, as Christ himself did with those who rejected his message.

Therefore, I think Anonymous is fully justified in rejecting her relative's attempts to reconnect with her, until they acknowledge the wrongness of her mother's actions.