Update: “Sick to my Stomach” Responds

updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now.
Today we hear from “Sick to my Stomach” whose three 20-something daughters won’t talk to her anymore since she got engaged in May to a man they don’t like, following their mother’s 10-year relationship with a different man who was an alcoholic and then their mom’s drinking binge, binge dating, and a DUI. The mom’s update below:

I read your advice and all the comments, and they make a lot of sense. Just to clarify: My three daughters are not speaking to me; my family meeting was with my three girls, my parents, and my two brothers. (My parents and brothers speak to me and they’re helping me to resolve this issue with my girls.) As far as what happened in my ten-year relationship with the alcoholic and why I finally left: He just was drunk a lot and he put his hand on my one daughter. They had been through a lot, and that’s why I left. But after I did leave him, I was secretly dating him and my girls found out and that was also bad…

So then I met Hal when the Corona hit, and he speaks his mind. My girls were eavesdropping on conversations I was having with him and he said some stuff and got mad, but he did apologize. Then when we got engaged and they never congratulated me – they just sent me nasty texts about it. So, of course, Hal had to text them a couple days later, and he told them that they treat me deplorably and that I had nothing to do with the engagement. He said “Don’t be mad at your mother. Family forgives family.” But they never responded to that either, so that’s really all he did in 18 months. He was always nice to them and asked them questions about their lives and work, and they just brushed him off. I am just lost, like I really don’t know what to do. Life is too short to be having these issues. Hal feels like he’s suffering for the problems that my girls had in the past with my other relationship. I emailed all three of them last week and poured my heart out to them, telling them I want a relationship with them and that I want to be in their lives, but no one has responded.

I think you need to re-read my advice to you. Nothing you’ve said in your update changes my mind that you’ve shown, and probably continue to show, really questionable judgment, at least when it comes to relationships. You dated a raging alcoholic for ten years while your daughters were younger and needed your attention, and you broke up with him only after he “put a hand on your daughter” (whatever that means) but then continued to date him in secret. Then you yourself started binge-drinking, dated lots of random guys, and got a DUI. Then, when “Corona hit,” you found a new boyfriend who “speaks his mind” in such a way that he had to apologize for things he said to you. And then just a couple days after you got engaged, he texted your daughters to chew them out for not congratulating you on your engagement. You say that “of course” he had to do that.

Look, normal, healthy people don’t do this. There’s no “of course” here. It’s pretty fucked up to reach out to the daughters of the woman you have JUST asked to marry you to criticize them. What he should have done was ask you how he might ingratiate himself to make them comfortable with him, especially considering the trauma they’ve been through in the past few years when it comes to your relationships. He literally did the opposite of that. And that you think his behavior was an “of course” situation further confirms that your judgment is, frankly, impaired.

Like, who is this guy to tell your daughters, whom he barely knows, what they should forgive? Who is this guy to tell them they are acting deplorably after everything they’ve been through with you (an alcoholic stepdad-like figure who was in their lives for ten years while they were still kids, at least one physical altercation with him, your lying about breaking up with him, your binge-drinking, your DUI, etc.—-it’s a lot!). It’s understandable that they might not embrace the new guy with wide-open arms, especially considering that what they do know about him includes his “saying some stuff” to you that warranted an apology. What was it that he said that he needed to apologize for? Something tells me it wasn’t nothing – that it was likely something that would give three young woman who have watched their mother repeatedly make bad relationship decisions some concern that her pattern was continuing with him.

Honestly, I will simply repeat to you what I said before: If you go forward in marrying Hal, you have to accept that you may potentially sever a relationship with your daughters for good. There’s a reason they are not accepting him. He thinks that reason has everything to do with your past relationship and nothing to do with him. I believe it’s probably a combination of all of the above with a good dose of your daughters simply being fed up with YOU and watching you continue to make bad decisions. They are entitled to the boundaries they are setting. Don’t keep pushing those boundaries or you risk pushing them away forever. Respect that you have given them reason for their boundaries, and if you need help understanding why (it sounds like you do), please seek the guidance of a good therapist. It’s not just your relationship with your daughters that’s on the line here, and if you can’t see that, then even more reason to get some help.


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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  1. Bittergaymark says:

    Wendy nailed it. NEWSFLASH: Your daughters won’t come around anytime soon. They are not going to magicially embrace you and this loathsome new man you insist on forcing into their lives. More — they shouldn’t.

    1. golfer.gal says:

      I think you actually know exactly what you need to do, you just don’t want to do it. But in the (unlikely) event you genuinely don’t, I’ll tell you: break up with Hal, start therapy, get into Al Anon or another recovery program, commit to a full year of single sobriety, and THEN try to make amends with your daughters starting with a heartfelt apology and taking complete responsibility.

      I noticed in your last paragraph you talk a whole lot about yourself and what you want. YOU want a relationship, YOU want to be in their lives. You need to spend some time thinking about your daughters, what THEY want, and what is best for them. Your prior husband either physically beat or sexually assaulted one of your daughters. And you chose him over that daughter and your other two. Jesus christ. You have a lot to apologize for. The reality is it is genuinely in their best interest to not have you in their lives at this point. You’ve jumped in too soon with yet another man who has anger and boundary issues. So, if you refuse to make changes in your own life, give them the gift of the space and distance they need. Acknowledge that you are not a healthy presence in their lives, and stop selfishly trying to force relationships that actively do all three of them harm because it’s what YOU want. They didn’t respond to your latest email because it was incredibly selfish (and frankly cruel) of you to send it. You’re not offering anything other than more hurt and abuse. Stop it.

  2. What’s so great about Hal? What’s the rush to marry him? You actually are better off not having a man in your life and working with a therapist. Given your history, If I was your daughter, I’d tilt strongly in the direction of assuming that mom just made another hasty bad decision. What you do say about Hal just confirms that.

  3. Wow, you really are a piece of work. You’ve taken absolutely no responsibility for this situation. You seem to think that your children, who have been through enough with you, owe you and you owe nothing to your children.

    Did Hal actually apologize or did he say something along the lines of “Well, I like to tell it as it is and I’m sorry if you got offended or upset.” Because that is not an apology. I’m also not seeing any apology from you. You stayed for 10 years, you went back. You started drinking. You got the DUI. You didn’t put Hal in his place when he talked badly about your kids. You didn’t tell Hal to leave your daughters alone. You clearly have never put them first. You put your foot down once when the truth was too fucking obvious to hide it any longer.

    Go and live your life, but know that your daughters are going to protect themselves and they are going to protect themselves from YOU.

    1. It would probably be too little too late now, but I was also thinking that at some point, a genuine apology from Mom would have gone a long way. “I know I’ve put you through a lot, that I made poor decisions that made your lives harder, that I failed to put your needs above my own, and I’m deeply sorry for that and I am going to do what I can now to make it up to you.” Hal says “family forgives family,” but when there isn’t even an apology and asking for forgiveness, it’s not hard to understand why the three daughters have set the boundaries that they have.

      1. The LW should read this book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” by the therapist Lori Gottlieb. It’s literally about therapy, which the LW should get if she’s not already. One of her clients’ stories she follows in the book is about a lady who was married to an alcoholic asshole and is now estranged from her kids.

    2. anonymousse says:

      Yeah, agreeing that it’s really, really hard to forgive a parent when they refuse to accept responsibility OR apologize for anything they ever did to hurt their kids, which in this case, sounds like a lot.

    3. allathian says:

      Yeah. The LW’s daughters deserve better. They’re certainly entitled to going completely NC with their mom. Don’t expect to see them at the wedding, or ever again, if you do marry Hal.

  4. “Family forgives family.” “Life is too short to be having those issues.”

    No. Forgiveness comes when there has been a proper apology, a real self-reflection, understanding of what caused the hurt, real change so that the same events won’t happen again and that the same mistakes won’t be made. Nobody has to forgive just because “it’s family.” Family members don’t get a free pass to hurt each other with no consequences.

    Life is too short to spend it with people who hurt you, or who brought people in your life that hurt you. I wish for your daughters to surround themselves with people who love, respect and support them, who bring them happiness, and who they can trust. If you can’t be that person, then, yeah, life is too short for your daughters to waste it getting hurt by you, over and over again.

  5. anonymousse says:

    If “put his hand on” your daughter means what I think it means, and then you kept dating him IN SECRET and that was all before you went on a drinking and dating binge in front of the three of them… I’m not surprised they don’t talk to you and don’t accept Hal (who, have they ever even met?) and then you think it’s fine and normal and good even that he then confronted your daughters when they weren’t happy you’re getting married to another loser?

    You need to seriously look in the mirror and re-examine your life choices. I hope and pray everyday that I don’t push my kids away inadvertently, and here you are barreling through their boundaries, behaving wildly inappropriately and you still somehow think you’re the victim here?

    Boo fucking hoo. You’ve damaged your relationship with each of your daughters beyond repair, and are probably going to properly sever it after this post. Get a grip. Your grown kids and having a relationship with them are more important than a warm body with a dick.

  6. “So, of course Hal had to text them a couple days later and told them that they treat me deplorably and that I had nothing to do with the engagement. ”

    How can you have nothing to do with your own engagement? If Hal is that controlling…

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      That line baffled me, too…

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