Posted by fxckfeelings on January 9, 2018
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If, like our reader from earlier, you have a shady/”complicated” past, it can be easy to imagine all the not-good ways your current, not-shady friends would react. Often, however, those imaged responses are the kinds of things that are far more likely to come from the anxious, critical, demonic recesses of one’s brain than the mouths of others. So, in order to both demonstrate how unlikely these responses are and how easy they are to rebut, here are five horrible, hypothetical reactions to your past and the best (or at least snappiest) ways to respond.
1) “I get it—you’re”
As someone who’s managed to clean her life up, get a real job, and function as well as whoever could be lobbing this insult your way, you should know better than to take this seriously. “If crazy means putting myself through school, saving some money, and establishing myself in a real career, then fine, lock my ass up. But even a crazy person—this one—can understand when someone’s being a judgmental asshole.”
2) “Now I don’t think you can be trusted.”
If someone can talk frankly about stuff in their past that’s hard to admit to or talk about, that’s an indication that they’re more likely to be honest, even under the toughest circumstances. “I got to where I am the hard way and I’ve established a good reputation with my employers and friends. If you can’t see my ownership of my past and what I’ve accomplished in spite of it as reasons to trust me instead of the opposite, then the only untrusted thing here is your judgment.”
3) “From now on I’ll only see you as a whore.”
If you’re talking to someone who throws the word “whore” around, then it’s not worth talking to them for much longer, let alone trying to earn their understanding. “You can’t make me feel ashamed for doing what I had to do, just as you can’t convince me to judge someone by anything but how hard they work, how they keep their promises, and how they deal with adversity. If you can only see me for what I did instead of who I am, then it’s best for both of us if we shouldn’t see more of each other than is absolutely necessary.”
4) “How can I rely on someone so clearly damaged?”
Baggage doesn’t necessarily mean damage, because if you were truly damaged you wouldn’t have found the strength and will to come as far as you have. “Whether you’re talking about a car or a person, you judge damage by how well something functions after it’s been put through the ringer, so by those standards, “damaged” doesn’t apply to me. If your perception of me is too damaged, then that’s on you, not me.”
5) “My opinion of you has irrevocably changed for the worse.”
Anyone who wants to cut you off for having gone through hard times is not someone worth holding on to. “If someone has a negative opinion of me, I always want to know why, because I try to live up to certain standards and criticism may reflect my failure to do so. Then I can assess how their reaction compares to my perception of what happened and apologize if necessary. From what I know of my past and my efforts to overcome it, however, I have nothing to apologize for, so let’s just come to terms with the fact that our opinions of each other have now both irrevocably changed for the worse and wish each other well on our opposing trajectories.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 28, 2017
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Finding stability after an especially shaky period is a major and worthwhile achievement, but it may leave you feeling a new kind of uncertainty, stranded between troubled old friends who know you well and well-balanced new friends who would be totally thrown if they learned about your past. Gaining respectability, however, doesn’t require you to hide your past or get approved by other respectable types; instead, decide for yourself whether your efforts have helped you become a decent, independent person. If you respect what you’ve done with your life then you can insist on finding solid friends, whether you have a solid past or not.
Due to a combination of bad luck, poor decisions and generally reckless behavior, I went through a difficult patch in my late teens/early 20s. A brief highlights tour: abortion, severe depression, being broke, sex work, failing out of college…all in all, it was shitty. Ten years later and I’ve gotten a degree, a good therapist, some success in a far-less-shady line of work…I’ve even gotten engaged to a very nurturing and wonderful man. The problem is that these two realities—my past and my present—are so at odds with each other that it’s becoming increasingly hard for me to deal with. For example, having lost a lot of friends during the bad years, I have recently started trying to make new ones with colleagues I really like and would like to be closer to, but having to hide the details of my past/“double life” means they’ll always be at a distance. The same thing applies to my fiancé’s family, since knowing about my past will make them both wary of me and create difficulties for him. Even my long-time friends (who know my history) are reluctant to talk about the topic, and now that I’ve recently started experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks about that time, it does hurt that I can’t seem to confide in them about the practical problems that I am currently facing. I am functioning quite well about 75% of the time, but my moods can be unstable and at the times when I see this situation stretching out of me for the rest of my life I feel, frankly, almost as depressed as I did in the bad old days, despite being happy and extremely grateful about how well things have turned out. My goal is to A, find some way of making peace with my past and B, figure out some way of sharing my experiences with friends in a way that is appropriate but lessens my feelings of loneliness.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 24, 2017
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If, like our reader from earlier, your best efforts to find someone to be friends with, let alone date, are constantly fruitless, it can be hard to deal with both loneliness and the desperation that comes with it. So, instead of letting loneliness push you to lower your standards and reach out to the wrong people, let yourself embrace being alone a bit more. While you keep searching for connections, here are five ways to like being alone so you can’t be spooked by being lonely in the meantime.
1) Seek Out Activities You Can Enjoy Solo…
Take up hobbies that you can enjoy alone or in groups, like crafting, gardening, or running. If it makes you stronger, wiser, or richer on Etsy, so much the better, but the main goal, after getting used to your new hobby, is to actually like it and look forward to it. What you’re after is not a Fortress of Solitude but a well-stocked zone in your house, well-tilled corner of the back-yard, and well-established running path where you look forward to spending time of your own and/or with some other people who enjoy the same yarn/plants/stride lengths that you do.
2) …While Soaking In Activities You Can Enjoy Solo
As smart as it is to find solo activities that can also be done in groups, it’s also worth pushing yourself to try things alone that you’re used to doing with others; from going to the movies alone to driving cross-country by yourself, take on tasks that you might be wary of doing without a partner in crime. By doing so, you’ll gain a sense of independence that will help you overcome the fear of loneliness and teach you to enjoy your own company. Plus, you will often find that people are more eager to chat with you when you’re by yourself and the best adventures are more likely to happen when you’re not part of a couple or crowd.
3) Volunteer Your Time
You may think that being alone is pathetic, but there’s nothing less pathetic than contributing your otherwise solo time to a good cause, like teaching or caring for others. Even if you don’t meet like-minded people, you’ll feel useful, not just social, and build meaningful relationships with those you help. If they happen to be people in your community, you can stay in touch over many years, but if they’re not you can learn about other cultures and widen your view of the world. In any case, you’ll start to see your non-working, not-friend-filled time as a gift, not a burden.
4) Get A Damn Dog
Cats may be fine pets (for some people, who aren’t the authors), but they tend to encourage anti-social, house-bound behavior; even if you force your cat to go out for walks, most people are keen to avoid someone with a pissed off cat on a leash. Dogs, on the other hand, aren’t just loyal in-house companions; walking them forces you to be active and, if you live near a dog park, even social, although they also allow you to talk to yourself in public without seeming crazy. Most importantly, they oblige you to think about the needs of others (particularly when it comes to their need to eat, poop, not eat something that will make them sick and poop way too much, etc.), which is really what having a family, or any loving relationship, is all about.
5) Never Stop Looking For A Better Match
Just because you’ve learned to love your own company doesn’t mean you should then give up on finding someone who appreciates it as much as you do. For many people, finding worthwhile friends doesn’t result from trying to be more friendly or sociable; in most cases, there was nothing wrong with their social approach in the first place, but, for lots of reasons beyond their control, there was something wrong with the ability of their personality to mesh well with the people who happened to be around them. If you can pursue your own path until you finally meet a person or group that is a good match for you, and then enjoy, then you won’t need to fear loneliness while finding your own kind of fulfillment.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2017
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When you’ve searched high and low for companionship with no results, it’s easy to conclude that, as you’re the only constant factor in your search, you must be the problem/cause of your own loneliness and misery. And of course, trying harder, especially when you aren’t actually doing anything wrong, will only wind up making you feel more unlikeable and hate yourself more. In reality, of course, much of friendship depends on factors you don’t control, like chemistry, the kind of personality you got at birth, and the way you mesh with your local pool of friend candidates. So if love and friendship don’t come easily to you, despite good strong efforts, never assume you’ve failed. You may have found something in life that won’t come easily, but a weakness in relationships need never stop you from finding ways to leading a full and independent life until you discover the right person or people or share it with.
I’m a (maybe over-)educated female in my late 30s who just broke up with what seemed like an emotional/verbal abuser after a very rocky three year relationship. My major issue is that the past many years (20 in total with bursts of good-ish relationships) I’ve been very lonely, mostly because I move around a lot for work and making friends is very hard in new cities. I keep bumping into deadbeats and weirdos, and at my age, most people (especially good people) are too busy with their lives to be looking for friends. So I’m busting my ass to be social, going on hikes with lots of depressing divorcees, to eco-festivals, to any group activities I’m interested in…progress is very slow and shaky. And I’m making a go at dating again (yet once again in my life), this time with more courage than my previous/difficult breakup with the same guy. I quit therapy because it was too expensive and slow, and besides, what I’ve been sorely lacking these past years are FRIENDS. Instead, despite all my efforts, I’m dealing with empty weekends, sending messages (text, FB, etc.) to people who said let’s have a coffee and never respond. I am getting a few replies but with people busy things often get cancelled, especially by the most interesting folks, and I wind up hanging out with the outsiders and deadbeats I should probably avoid. It’s hard, but I’m trying to hang in there and keep pushing. And BOY do I drop everything if I get a chance to see people that I consider worthwhile. My goal is to figure out if there’s something, *anything* I can do—from trying a new way to expand my search to moving to a whole new country—to find the kind of relationships that will make my life feel whole.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 27, 2017
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If, like our reader from earlier, you can’t get over a crush, even if you could prevent yourself from acting on it, it’s important to remind yourself why your brain told you it wasn’t worth it, even as your heart tries to convince you otherwise. As such, here are five soothing questions to consider when you’re consumed with longing you can’t get over.
1) Does your current partnership suffice when it comes to survival?
Unless you’ve got a big trust fund, invented an app of the gods, or have any in with the Russian government, financial survival isn’t something to take for granted in this world, particularly after starting a family. That’s why, as a good way to counter reveries about missed intimacy, it’s worth considering what your current partner has contributed to the important stuff, i.e., not to your emotional satisfaction, but to your shared ability to stay solvent. Think about total income, yearly savings, and having enough funds to safely support your family in terms of childcare and when someone’s out of work or sick. Knowing that your partner contributes financially may not make you feel fuzzy about him again, but it will make clear how important he is in your life, and how valuable your partnership is in your family’s life overall.
2) How does your current partnership help you reach higher goals?
As corny as it sounds, and no matter how many people tell you true meaning is found in being rich, thin, and/or YouTube famous, doing good in the world is the best way to make life meaningful, so finding a partnership that helps you to be a better person and parent is a major goal. Ask yourself then whether you have a partner who helps keep your dark side in check, encourages your better side, and gives you the freedom to realize your most significant ideals. Intimacy is nice, but feeling you’re making an important, positive difference matters a lot more overall.
3) Are you particularly vulnerable to falling for faulty partners?
Whenever you find yourself really enjoying someone’s company, it’s worthwhile doing a mental inventory and asking yourself what you really enjoy about this person and whether you tend to like spending time with/fall for people who aren’t good for you. It’s a common problem because the people who are best at connecting are often filterless; that means they can draw you in by saying everything, from the most revealing, kind things to the nastiest, empassioned words that you’re thinking but would be too embarrassed to ever say outloud. And while someone like that can be exciting to be around at first, they can also prove to be unreliable and hurtful in the long run. So go over prior relationships to see if this person reminds you of anyone you felt close to in the past, why you felt close to them, how long those relationships lasted, and whether you’d want to put yourself through something similar again.
4) How would changing partners at this stage change your life?
The most obvious way to talk yourself off the ledge of longing is to add up everything you’ve built together with your current partner, like the kids’ confidence in your ability to work as a team, your joint friendships, your shared memories, and positive connections with one another’s families. This is not an exercise in taking pride in what you’ve accomplished in your marriage, though it’s fine if you do; rather, it’s a way to prevent yourself from taking your partnership for granted by remembering the good things you’ve created and that you’d miss if you gave them up by giving into your longing for someone else.
5) Is your crush even up to snuff?
If your new prospect is still worth thinking about, then give him the full due diligence exam that you would apply to any possible partner, especially in terms of the standards your current partner has set. As such, begin by thinking through the present partnership job description, including all responsibilities that your current partner does well, as well as those that could use improvement. Then ask yourself how your possible partner meets these same standards and compare his score to your husband’s. Remember, this is not about the intensity of your feelings but about his ability to work with you, be financially responsible, reliable, disciplined, and a good parent. Then you’re ready to make decisions that aren’t based on longing but on what’s good for you and your family in the long term.
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 13, 2017
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Yearning is the bastard child of love and frustrated need; both emotions promise happiness if only you can spend more time with whomever or whatever it is you yearn for, but their emotional spawn is less a miracle than something that’s usually shameful, illegitimate, and not discussed in mixed company. That’s because most people you yearn for are out of reach for good reason; if a love is forbidden, then getting what you yearn for is rarely good for you, better than what you’ve got, or likely to make you a better person. So persistent yearning isn’t a sign of true love; it’s a sign that you’ve got the beginnings of an addiction and should use all your experience, wisdom, and proven techniques to evaluate whether it’s worth trying to satisfy or avoid in order to escape shame, social or otherwise.
I have a good life, especially from the outside. I have the most beautiful children and a husband, who, despite his incredibly high levels of anxiety and his sometimes ridiculous temper, loves me and cares for us. The problem is that after almost 20 years of marriage I met a man whom I fell into a meaningful relationship with (although nothing physical ever happened because I knew that was a slippery slope and I made sure not to go there). It’s now been a few years since I told this man that I wasn’t leaving my husband, and while we have occasional contact because of work requirements, we’ve remained professional. The issue is that I cannot truly get over it— I believe he is my soulmate and that this is all just a cruel joke that the world is playing on me. I was fine with never knowing what that kind of love felt like because it was better that way. My goal is to get over this man and to stop feeling sad and sorry for myself.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 15, 2017
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When it seems like the whole world is plunging into the abyss, it can be hard not to make like our reader from earlier this week and fear getting swept up in the chaos, giving in to despair, and letting your own little world/entire life get sucked into the black hole. Of course, no matter how hard it can get to find your way in a confusing world, all hope is not lost; if you take the five steps listed below, you can learn to tune out as much chaos as possible and keep your own life from together as the world falls apart.
1) Tune Out the Negative and Unnecessary
Constantly following the news, especially if it’s all scary and bad, may seem necessary in order to stay on top of important information. In reality, it’s more like keeping your tongue on top of a canker sore; a nasty compulsion that only makes you feel worse. That’s why, no matter how frightening and constant the bad news may be, it’s important to step away from TV, periodicals, and Facebook feed, change the subject when people start to go off about world events, and generally avoid the urge to fixate on all things horrible. Yes, you’re part of a greater community and you want to make it better when you have the chance, but when you’re sure that/scaring yourself because no such chance exists, you have to protect yourself from aggravation and fears that you can do nothing about with a bubble of blessed silence.
2) Make Time for (and Merriment With) Those You Care About
When you’re feeling scared and down, being social requires a lot of effort—even more effort than being political—but it also offers much deeper rewards. It’s easy to share intense political feelings and opinions with others who feel the same way, online or in person, but then you’re left with deeper discontents and shallower personal connections. So keep the focus on getting to know people beyond politics as well as doing enjoyable things with the people you already know well and love. Sharing individual concerns, involving yourself in day-to-day realities, and generally reminding yourself there are good, caring people in the world will give you small doses of much needed hope.
3) Don’t Take the Bait From People You Hate
When the world is driving you crazy, then it’s easy for the people around you to drive you crazy and natural to seek ways of expressing and relieving your irritation. Unfortunately, trying to release your rage through picking fights with those you disagree with online is almost guaranteed to backfire. As we always say, nobody has ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty have died (or at least gotten threated or doxed) from unbottling them. Not only do you do more damage to yourself by stirring up fights with people you think are deserving idiots, you don’t even do anything positive for them since verbally attacking someone, online or in-person, isn’t the best way to win others over. Instead of ruminating about your anger until you crave release, remind yourself of your most important priorities, like being a decent person and focusing on the people and things that matter to you, not the morons who ultimately don’t.
4) Mind Self-medication
Aside from seeking relief from anger by getting into fights, it’s also natural to do so by getting high or drunk while giving the finger to all those who claim to reward hard working people like you in what’s supposed to be a reasonable, fair world. Unfortunately, self-medication is also a form of self-destruction that will turn you into a selfish jerk and make you accomplice to what you most despise. So bear your pain without finding chemical shortcuts to alleviating it, continue to fight hard to stay good, and you’ll find yourself refocusing on what you value in life instead of seeking the relief that comes with losing focus altogether.
5) Concentrate on What You Control
It’s not easy to make a living and be a good guy in this world, particularly given all the bad guys out there who find real success and the distractions and disappointments that come from periods of political craziness so nutty that we worry about our ability to continue living, period. It’s not easy, but it’s your responsibility to put your foot down and put a big beautiful wall around your own mind, family, and life; all the other craziness is totally out of your control, but the craziness that can be affected by your own actions and relationships is what you can realistically have a positive impact on. The state of the world matters, but your own life matters more; stay on top of the things that are actually in your control, not on the bad news, so you can make your world, and a small part of the larger world, a better place.
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2017
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It’s hard not to take it personally when your country’s leaders represent values that you despise, making you feel obliged to both renounce all they represent and responsible for making things better. After all, you are expected to make sacrifices for your country, but if you can’t make sacrifices for new national goals you don’t believe in, it’s hard to decide whether to give your all to getting your country back or getting out of Dodge and leaving the leadership to self-destruct. Whether you’re describing personal problems or national ones, however, it’s never fair to hold yourself responsible for righting wrongs that are beyond your control, especially when doing so distracts you from your actual responsibilities. It’s important then to remain in touch with the responsibilities you actually control so you can keep your head up and be proud of doing your best to be a good person, even if you feel your country is headed down the toilet.
A year ago I knew what I wanted to do for the next 30 years, but then, after a series of challenges, including a re-valuation of my nine-year romantic partnership and Donald Trump getting elected President of the United States, I don’t know what I want to do next. I want to get as far away from my current life as possible as it’s based heavily on the American Dream (TM)—I just bought a house and I own my own business with my spouse, and it’s a decent life, at least hypothetically, even with the financial stress of a large amount of debt. But after America made a really bad choice, I don’t want to have anything to do with the country, its ideals, or its empty commercialized promises. I don’t want the American Dream, or even to live here. I’ve never fit in well and now I realize just how mismatched my entire life philosophy is with American culture. Maybe this shouldn’t be a traumatizing experience, but I’m having serious trouble shaking this off— I am a planner without a plan, I don’t know my purpose, and I’m still trying to work through anger at the people who voted for the current President, many who are my friends and family. I want to move out of the country partly just to say “fuck you all, you voted for him and now you never get to see us because we live on the other side of the Earth.” Now, I think once I get out of this hole I will be better for it, with a more complete view of myself and my place in the world, but I’ve been struggling to get out of this hole for months now and not seeing any progress. I take meds for chronic depression but this is a serious dip even for me. My goal is to find a smart sensible plan, even though I’m depressed as fuck, everything feels meaningless, and all I really want to do is get away from my life and the American nightmare. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2017
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Sometimes our brains act like our parents, tricking us with white lies so we’ll do what’s best for us. Unfortunately, unlike our parents, our brains sometimes get the wrong idea about what the right is for us in the long run. Parents reason that it’s OK to bribe kids into eating broccoli or coax them out of inappropriate behavior with empty threats of brain damage or blindness (or both) if the benefit outweighs the crime, but brains often do the opposite, convincing us that we should do what feels best in the short term, consequences be damned. So, if like our reader from earlier this week, your heart is broken and your brain is giving you any of the following seemingly legitimate reasons to reach out the person who did the breaking (with the secret hope of putting everything back together again), push your brain to think twice.
1) “I’m genuinely concerned about her wellbeing.”
Unselfish love is a wonderful feeling and seems above approach reproach, but once you’ve learned that a specific love will likely lead to misery/not-wonderful feelings, you’re supposed to protect yourself and keep your own wellbeing in mind. You may genuinely believe that the act of checking in on your ex is truly altruistic and that no harm can come from wanting good things for another human being, but if that were true, then martyrs wouldn’t exist. Your job isn’t to sacrifice yourself to save your ex but to keep yourself out of troubled relationships, exhaustion, and pain. Your brain may tell you that you’re doing the right thing by making sure she’s OK, but experience tells you that the buzz you get from seeing and helping her is like that from any other heavy drug; short-lived with a nasty hangover and a high risk for longterm damage.
2) “I don’t want to get back together, I just want to get some closure.”
Closure, like true love or perfect New York apartments, is another of those good feelings we see Nora Ephron movies for (RIP) because real life seldom provides it. As long as you’re honest and fearless in sharing your true feelings, TV and movies generally tell you that you can end a relationship with both parties (or more) accepting that it’s over and that, regardless of sadness and loss, with no resentment, unfinished business or unanswered questions, or self-doubt. Unfortunately, experience and Woody Allen movies (his career and integrity, RIP) tell you otherwise. Yes, you should try to be honest and accepting, but when closure doesn’t happen, remind yourself that the irreparable conflict is why the relationship didn’t work in the first place; if you were able to feel closure, you probably wouldn’t have broken up. In real life, closure isn’t a possibility, just an excuse to see your ex for a momentary respite from the pain of being closed out of his life.
3) “We were friends before we dated so we should be able to be friends now.”
Most people weren’t really friends before dating, just friendly; most people go through a platonic, getting-to-know-you period before dating begins in earnest (unless they’re in an arranged marriage or lost a bet in Las Vegas).
As such, they don’t actually have a pre-existing relationship to fall back on if romance fails, because real friendship requires a kind of comfort and trust that no one controls or manufactures at will, even with the best of intentions. That’s why even good people can’t necessarily be friends with the people they used to date or even love, even if they wish them well and have the strength to apologize, forgive, and get over past grievances. So, if your feelings and chemistry permitit, friendship is great, but if it’s not working, don’t try to pretend the uncomfortable or negative feelings aren’t there or you’ll make them worse. Being friendly non-friends is better than trying to force a friendship you just can’t have, especially since you’ll probably ruin any possible friendship in the process.
4) “I just want to let her know I forgive her.”
We may watch Nora Ephron movies to experience things that rarely happen in real life, but we watch Larry David to see someone suffer the same humiliations that we do, mostly from trying to do the right thing, at a safe distance. Trying to offer forgiveness is one of those good deeds that usually backfires and makes for good comedy on TV but tragedy in real life. After all, if your ex did something wrong but doesn’t see things that way, then forgiveness feels like condescension or re-accusation and will just stir up her old resentments. If she acknowledges responsibility, then forgiveness may be acceptable but won’t change the fact that most kinds of bad behavior happen again unless someone really, really wants to change, and even then they can’t always do it. In other words, you’re forgiving something your ex may not be able to prevent herself from doing again. No matter how strong the urge to give your ex the gift of forgiveness, do the more difficult work of finding acceptance instead, both of her unfixable flaws and your own covert desire to reconnect. Then decide whether further contact will give you the protection you need from whatever you’re forgiving her for.
5) “I just want to tell him this story I know he’d find really funny—it’s not like I want to get back together again or anything.”
Next to the aforementioned “I just want to ask him for my favorite T-shirt/mug/broken umbrella” excuse, “I just want to tell him (X unimportant fun thing)” is one of the flimsiest pretenses there is. As innocuous as it may seem to share stories that you used to enjoy together, it’s risky to share anything together until the not-enjoyable negative feelings left over from most normal breakups have truly cooled. Yes, you might like to see him again and remember the good times (and to possibly remind him or you of your friendship—see #3), but doing so won’t really help you and your ex move on to the next stage of life. Again, most of the painful feelings caused by breakups can’t be smoothed away by good talks, conjoint crying, or wacky anecdotes. It’s best not to reach out to your ex until you can be sure you’re truly over each other, but paradoxically, being over it means that you can hear a funny story (or do almost anything) without thinking of your ex or wanting to reach out to him at all.
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier, you feel uncertain about remaining estranged from Asshole™ parents, it’s important to keep guilt from pushing you to attempt an otherwise unwise reconciliation. So, before trying to reach out, take these five steps to figure out whether it’s worth the attempt to make peace with your wretched parents.
1) Determine The Danger to Your Kids
Don’t assume that you can always protect kids from your parents’ potentially hurtful words or actions, or stem their cruelty with your own kind, reasonable behavior. If they are sufficiently bitter or crazy they may attack on sight, leaving your kids shaken by their destructive and out of control behavior. Be realistic in evaluating your parents’ detonation times and never let your wish for reconciliation cause you to underestimate danger, especially when your kids are at risk.
2) Determine the Danger Overall
Imagine other potential kinds of of hurt and harm that reaching out to your parents may trigger; with some malicious, explosive people, any kind of contact is dangerous. Even if your efforts are kind and well meant, nothing will reduce their sense of grievance or eagerness to even the score. Rely on your prior experience, not wishful thinking, to predict whether a well-intentioned call or visit will expose you to spiteful behavior including shaming, verbal assaults, and legal struggles over gifts and inheritances.
3) Process the Potential Benefits
Ask yourself whether your willingness to engage in polite conversation and reconnect will have any potential longterm benefits for you and yours, beyond possibly feeling less guilty and isolated. Be realistic about whether your efforts will facilitate real gains, like larger family get-togethers and friendships between cousins. Include whatever pleasure such contact may give others and the satisfaction you may feel for being kind when you have good reason to feel hurt or mistreated.
4) Test Your Ability to Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe
Drawing on your experience from prior family conflicts, guilt trips, or shame shake-downs, prepare for the worst with exit strategies that will end unacceptable conversations and protect you and yours from hurtful fallout before you can get sucked in. Rehearse polite statements that express regret for quick exits while not attacking, defending, or prolonging the discomfort, and make sure to choose locations that are easy to leave. Don’t reach out until you are confident you can protect yourself from unacceptable behavior.
5) Tally Up Total Outreach Pros and Cons
If, after examining all the potential risks and gains, it becomes clear that reaching out to your parents isn’t likely to benefit anyone or build a stronger family, don’t do it, and certainly don’t hold yourself responsible. Your only obligation is to your family, and all you can do is try to give peace a chance if peace is even a possibility. As long as your decision is based on realistic risk assessment and good values, it will never be wrong, no matter how bad the guilt gets.