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Situation calls for new normal

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: Last year my husband of 33 years and I were on the verge of divorce. He informed his family we were divorcing. The two sisters called me to say goodbye and have a nice life, but there was no other communication with anyone else. After a year of separation we decided to get back together. My problem is that I cannot get over the fact that the whole family, who were my family for more than 30 years, just dropped me from their lives.

Now that we are back together, I find it very very very hard to be with them as a group and “pretend” everything is back to normal. I feel as if I am walking into a room full of people who rejected me. What is the best way for me to handle this? – D.

The best way to handle anything you’re stuck on: Look at it from a different perspective.

Specifically here: Why was it on them to call you?

I think it’s great that the two sisters did call. But I don’t believe their doing so translates into a clear mandate for his entire family to contact you.

You are an adult who had adult relationships with members of his family. Presumably, all of those relationships began solely through your link to your husband. Possibly some of these grew beyond that into affection or commonality independent of your husband. Inevitably, some of those relationships didn’t grow, and existed only through your husband.

It strikes me as natural and healthy to let the latter end with the marriage. The former, it would make sense either to maintain or end with a formal goodbye – I agree with you there. Try to strengthen your footing with the family members you missed, and consider yourself released from the obligation to reinforce your ties to the rest. Presumably you haven’t gotten “back to normal” with your husband, but instead have worked through your problems and arrived at a new normal. That’s what I’d shoot for with his family: normal, with needed renovations.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.
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