My biological father took his own life within a few months of the divorce. His company was going bankrupt, he had lost most of his assets and hard-earned money in two draining divorces, and, most importantly, he had lost his family and kids from his previous marriage. It was a tight-knit community and I grew up hearing all this nasty stuff about how my slutty mom destroyed a good man and a good family. It used to get to me and it kinda shaped how I still feel about myself and my mom. My mother, on the other hand, never gave a shit about what people thought of her. She was an attractive woman who never had a hard time attracting attention from men. Even with a kid and a not-so-good reputation, she found one rich lover after another. They were mostly married men when they met her. My mother remarried three more times. Her longest marriage lasted about five years.
Anyway, in her forties, my mom fell in love with a woman. Her new lover (Nicole), who moved in with us after only a few months, was also in her forties and gave up her cat for me (I’m allergic to cats). Nicole also had joint custody of her daughter (Kate) who is five years younger than I am. So, Kate also lived with us every other week. I was almost 16 back then, and I was disgusted by my mom’s new relationship. I think I made them live through hell with my rude behaviors and tantrums. But Nicole turned out to be the best thing that happened to us. She brought some discipline and positive change into our house. And she loved my mother deeply and turned her into a decent person. Together they started a successful catering business, and we became financially stable. It took me two years to realize that Nicole was in it for the long haul. Believe me, I seized every opportunity to test her patience and will, but she always showed me love and respect, even when I didn’t deserve any. She was my north star in high school. She empowered me to take the SATs and studied with me, read my college applications, and pushed me to applyto college. She also helped me get my driving license. My mother died in 2016 at age 50, and I believe the last nine years of her life were the happiest because of Nicole.
Now let’s get to the real problem. A couple of months ago, I tried to contact my half-sister from my biological father’s family. To my surprise, she was delighted to meet me. She knew my mother had died and it was my understanding that the family didn’t want anything to do with my mother and hence with me. But once she was out of the picture, they were willing to welcome me into the family because, like my sister put it, “after all, I’m still their blood.” I was invited to a couple of gatherings, and I felt really good about becoming a part of the family. I learned recently that they don’t approve of the presence of Nicole in my life. I still maintain a very close relationship with both Nicole and her daughter Kate who is in college now. I consider them to be my family, even though Nicole and my mom never married, and I know I will always have a place in Nicole’s home. I tried to explain all that to my biological sister, but for them Nicole is a lesbian that can’t be family.
Last week, my biological sister stopped by at my new apartment and was surprised to find Nicole helping me finish settling in. She told me later that no one from her family will be setting foot in my house, nor will I ever be invited to any family functions until I decide what I want. She told me they have nothing specifically against Nicole and they don’t even know her, but they don’t approve of homosexuality and they want me to start my life over with no traces from my or my mother’s past.
I really, really want to feel like a normal person for once — someone who is not shunned and rejected by one’s family. I keep thinking what if I become a parent one day. I don’t want my kids to grow up like I did, not knowing their extended family. I’d like them to have blood-related uncles, aunts, and cousins and to be accepted by everyone. But Nicole, even though not related to me by blood, was the one who accepted me when no one else did. She became a family for me and my mom when we had no one on our side. Choosing her will mean cutting all ties for once and all with this cruel tight-knit community that always rejected me. And I’m afraid that one day I will come to regret my decision. What do you think? — Wanting a Family
You would absolutely regret cutting out the only family you have for a bunch of bigots who don’t care about you. And make no mistake about it: Your biological family on your dad’s side does not care about you. If they did, they wouldn’t require you to give up all ties to your mother, to cut out the one person who’s loved you unconditionally since she entered your life, and to “start your life over with no traces of your past.” What a bunch of bull shit!
You may no longer be the disrespectful teenager you were when Nicole entered your life, but you still sound ungrateful for everything she’s contributed to your life if you’d even consider cutting ties with her in a painfully short-sighted effort to join a family who has such strict conditions for your inclusion. Family isn’t defined by blood and DNA. If it were, you would have known your half-siblings from the time you were born. Rather, family is defined by consistently showing up for each other. Family helps get you settled into a new home, brings you chicken soup when you’re sick and a bottle of champagne when you get a promotion. Family opens their homes to you and the person or people you love, regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, or political affiliation. Family cheers you on when you race to a finish line and mourns with you when you grieve a loss. A family provides for each other: love; care; warmth; guidance; patience; and understanding. By these definitions, Nicole has been more family to you than anyone else alive, while your “blood relatives” have been and done nothing familial toward you at all. You would be a fool to toss what you have with Nicole and Kate.
Furthermore, you seem to think your biological father was some innocent guy who was minding his own business when your slutty mom came and tricked him into leaving his family for her. He is completely, 100% responsible for his participating in the affair he had with your mother. Was your mother perfect? Of course not. She was wrong to pursue married men, but they were the ones who were committed to other women. THEY were the ones who chose to fuck over their families. And for all you know, your father’s marriage was already on the rocks when your mother came along. Men who are very happily married and satisfied don’t usually leave their spouses just because someone pretty gives them some attention. The narrative you believe because it’s the one you’ve always heard in your “tight-knit and somewhat conservative community” is wrong. The narrative that all these rich, married men were hoodwinked by your slutty, home-wrecking mother is so misogynistic and patronizing. Like those men didn’t have a choice! Like they didn’t know how much they were risking, how much they were hurting their wives and family, how much they were throwing away. They knew and they didn’t care and they did it anyway because they were far from perfect — maybe much further from perfect than your mother who was damned not only by a whole community, but by the son she did so much for.
And then came Nicole who saw past the reputation, who didn’t buy into some stupid narrative because she defied stupid narratives, too. Nicole also saw past all your teenage angst and bravado and loved you unconditionally as she, your mom, you, and Kate built a family together. You HAVE a family, you idiot. Don’t you see? And if you get married one day, Nicole will be prouder and happier than she could be if you were her biological child. If you have children one day, she will love them like grandchildren. And you and your spouse will blend your families and give your children a network of extended relatives, and it won’t matter who is blood-related and who isn’t. What will matter then is what matters now and what will matter forever: who the fuck shows up and who accepts you for exactly who you are, without conditions and without demands. You are so lucky to have that even despite losing both parents too young. Don’t throw away genuine family for a fake one. It would be one of the biggest mistakes you could ever make.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.