Dear Readers: Because of syndication scheduling, I write and submit my columns two weeks in advance of publication. Due to this time lag, the Q&A’s will not reflect the latest information about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic we are currently facing.
Dear Amy: I have abandonment issues. My biological mother left me when I was a baby. Due to the extreme parental neglect in my infancy, the courts awarded custody to my paternal grandmother. My father moved in with her as well.
In my mind, my father “saved” me from a world that I could’ve died in, but the truth is, he was just as responsible for my neglect.
My father remarried, and my grandmother allowed me to live with my dad in his new home with his new wife. I called her “Mom” until she passed away.
Mom was not affectionate toward me. She was very strict.
Fast-forward to now. I am 50 years old. My biological mother and stepmother are both dead. My father remarried again and moved hundreds of miles away.
My issue is a new resentment toward my father. Having learned that he wasn’t the saint I always thought him to be, I find I don’t want to speak to him much.
I love him very much, but I’m hurt that every woman in his life has had such an influence on him to the neglect of, not just me, but also my two half-sisters.
I don’t really want to go down this path. My bitterness toward my biological mother, and lack of love from the woman that raised me has made me a cold person toward family. I feel more empathy toward strangers than my own relations (sometimes, even my own children, which I am acutely ashamed of).
Therapy is not easily accessible in my rural area, so I’m left to my own devices.
What advice can you provide that may warm my heart toward the very few that have loved me? — Heart Two Sizes Too Small
Dear Heart: You already seem to have a lot of insight about your challenging past. You have made the connection between the neglect you suffered as a child and your own hesitance (or inability) to express affection toward family members. Insight is a positive start, and you can definitely continue to grow and change.
As a child, your emotional needs weren’t met. Your mother abandoned you and then the other adults in your life didn’t provide an emotionally safe and nurturing environment.
To love others fully, you have to learn to fully love yourself. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you are arrogantly declaring how great you are, but that you are learning to accept and embrace your own vulnerability, owning your own mistakes, and leaning into your determination to do better. Your very efforts toward healing and self-love should be considered your first triumph.
One way to love others is to physically be there for them. Be present, especially for your children. Show up for them. Express an interest in their lives and be bravely expressive toward them. You should tell them your own story, share your insight, express the desire to be better, and tell them you are in their corner — through good times and bad. You are trying to break a generational chain of neglect, so understand that your kids may be bewildered, hurting, and affection-starved, too.
You would benefit from reading “Healing Your Emotional Self,” by Beverly Engel (2007, Wiley & Sons).
Dear Amy: I am an average-attractive single woman who lives in a big city.
I am frequently approached by men of other races that flirt with me and try to get my phone number.
How do I tell them I am not interested without offending them? I stick to my own kind. — No Thanks
Dear No Thanks: It is fairly easy to say, “No thank you.” But if you truly want to repel these interested men, you could tell them the truth: “No offense, but I’m a racist.”
They should leave you alone after that.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your response to “Shy in Boston,” the shy guy who was wondering how to possibly meet a nice woman in the supermarket.
It may sound like a cliche, but this is how I met my husband! He somewhat shyly asked me for advice about produce.
The rest is history. We’re celebrating 15 years of marriage this year. — Happily Together
Dear Together: “I need a price check for happily-ever-after on Aisle One!”