DEAR ABBY: I'm the mother of a 36-year-old daughter. She claims I treat her younger brothers better than I treat her. I am a recovering addict — clean for 20-plus years. I was in active addiction for nine years when she was a teenager, and she has never let that go. She constantly tells me how unfair I am, that I never make time for her and that I don't validate her feelings.
I have apologized many times and tried to show her I don't treat her siblings differently. I schedule us time, but this is an ongoing battle, and I'm at a loss about how to fix it. How do I show her there's no difference in the way I treat any of them? How do I reassure her that her feelings are validated? This has caused me many tearful nights. — WANTING SERENITY BACK
DEAR WANTING: Your daughter's sense of deprivation has probably caused her many tearful nights as well. Your years of active addiction kept her from having the mother she needed as a teen. I'm sorry to say that it may have created an emptiness in her you may not be able to fill. You can't "fix" her anger and feelings of deprivation, but that doesn't mean SHE can't do it herself. It may involve her joining a 12-step program, or seeking emotional counseling — if she's willing — but until she finds a way to stop trying to punish you, she will remain stuck in her anger and jealousy.
DEAR ABBY: How do I tell my sister I no longer wish to be included in family gatherings (birthdays, holidays, etc.)? What happened on my brother's birthday was the last straw.
I have since distanced myself for several reasons. 1) I won't waste my breath trying to explain to my parents; they won't believe a word I say. Also, my parents are the most judgmental people I know. 2) I have no tolerance for other people's jealousy or envy because I don't envy or get jealous. 3) I don't want to be surrounded by negative energy and emotional pain.
My sister is trying to get the family together again in spite of everything. I need her to respect my boundaries and my decision to stay away. I don't want to have to discuss this when I have a conversation with her. I no longer wish to attend gatherings because they always end up in disruption of some kind, and then I have to take that energy home with me. Please help. — SEEKING PEACE IN ILLINOIS
DEAR SEEKING PEACE: Your sister is not a mind reader. Because you don't want her to "bring this up" when she has a conversation with you, take the bull by the horns, explain that you won't be attending family get-togethers and state your reasons. And when you do, tell her your mind is made up and you do not want to discuss it further. Good luck.
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