Dear Carolyn: Is it normal, understandable, forgivable to have conflicting feelings toward your father and his (second, current) wife, when their relationship started while your father was still married to your mother? And your mother kind of fell apart after the separation to the point where she is no longer the same person? (She went from being young, hip, beautiful and socially active to depressed, obese, disabled and isolated.) My dad has now been married to his current wife for 25 years.
And can they expect me to celebrate their anniversary, and when I don’t – by not signing an anniversary card – tell me I’m no longer welcome in their home if I don’t apologize? – S.
They “can” do what they want, even if it’s needlessly punitive. And while your conflicted feelings are understandable, I don’t see why you’d want to embrace so fully your family’s emotional signature, which apparently is to build your lives around every affront, be it trivial or life-altering.
Your mom did it with such gusto over your dad that she lost herself to it; your dad is doing it now over the anniversary card; and you’re into your second quarter-century of doing it over the bad (and unchangeable) timing of the second wife.
It is within your power to decide you’ve been angry long enough. I suggest you do just that.