Update: Sister of “Questioning my Sister” Responds (Again)

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 again not from a LW, but from the subject of a letter. In this case, it’s the sister of “Questioning my Sister,” who thought her sister was giving bad advice to her teenage sons and wondered if she should offer a different POV to her nephews. Her sister, the mother of the teenage boys, read the letter posted here and shared her response to that with us a couple weeks ago, which a lot of us felt changed the tenor of the whole situation. She was a bit… pessimistic about love. She considered our comments and emailed me this week, saying: “I have taken your and commenters’ responses to heart, and I don’t want to have my kids grow up cynical. I am thinking of revising what I told them and wanted your (and maybe commenters’) thoughts on if this is right? Here’s what I’m thinking of saying:”

“When you love someone, you have a strong desire to be together — for them to feel about you the way you feel about them, to be close to them, to mean something to them. But you can’t control them. When you’re in love, you hope their free will will lead them to feeling about you the way you feel about them, and to being as close to you as you want to be to them. Heartbreak is when those dreams fall flat. And I think that means love is truly a leap of faith. You pray that this person you’ve embarked on a relationship with is the love of your life. But sometimes togetherness doesn’t last forever. Then, there’s a second leap of faith. You pray that maybe you were wrong, that you won’t always be in love with this person, because nobody wants to be in love with someone they can’t be with, or with someone who doesn’t feel the same way, or to want to mean something to someone who doesn’t see you that way. I was wrong to tell you to plan ahead for this. If you plan to prevent heartbreak, you’ll never get the magic. You just have to take these leaps of faith. For your father, the second leap of faith hasn’t come true yet. All I hope for you two is that the first leap of faith comes true, but if togetherness isn’t forever, that the second one comes true as well.”

I think there’s a much simpler way of saying what you want, and maybe there are important things to say that aren’t included here. I would probably say something like:

“I was wrong to tell you to plan for having a partner who will likely see you as disposable. I know I’m raising you to be wise men and have good judgment, and I trust that judgment to lead you to people whose presence in your lives will enrich yours in whatever relationship you may share together and in whatever form their love for you takes and shifts over time. It may be that sometimes for you that isn’t the case and someone turns out to be different than you thought, or they change, or feelings change. It may be that your feelings aren’t reciprocated in the same way or that someone stops loving you in the way you want them to love you. My hope for you is that you can embrace and enjoy love in whatever authentic way it’s offered to you, but also that if it isn’t offered at all or if it’s taken away or if you can’t accept it, that you take the opportunity to experience the depth of your strength, your capacity to heal, and the strength of the support system you’ve spent your life cultivating.”

Whatever you do say though, I’d leave their father totally out of it.


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. You do not have to parse exactly what you’re going to say to your kids, because whatever you believe, they will pick up on it. It doesn’t matter how carefully you craft the words.
    People’s reaction here was that you seemed cold, even sociopathic, because you found your ex’s heartbreak funny. THAT is what you need to address. Your OWN issues. You will plant seeds in your kids –for good or ill — no matter what you say; it’s what you BELIEVE and FEEL that matters. And if you FEEL that their father’s anguish is funny, if you feel that people are disposable, if you feel that women should take revenge on men — guess what?
    Your kids will absorb that.
    Instead of trying to make your kids believe a certain way, how ’bout starting with yourself? All of the pre-planning about how to handle romantic relationships — it’s not necessary. You’ll either fall in love, fall out of love, or neither. There isn’t any preparation that is going to change the level of hurt or disappointment or joy or happiness or whatever. Just LIVE! You don’t have to create “rules to live by.”

  2. Bittergaymark says:

    Eh… Honestly? Some people should just shut the fuck up. No — seriously. Who needs some endless word salad lecture on love from somebody incapable of it? Nobody! But especially NOT your kids.

    This is all about desperately trying to make yourself look better, isn’t it, LW? NEWSFLASH: You don’t.

    PS: Wendy is absolutely 100% right about leaving their father out of your endless pontifications on love. A subject you are most ill advised to speak on.

  3. I think one way of not having many relationships end in heartbreak is to not force relationships. By that, I mean I have had, I think most of us have had, relationships where we saw cracks — differences in wants and needs, in exactly how we wanted to live our lives, perhaps over a key value we or they would have to compromise — but we have optimistically looked past that crack, assuming/hoping that it would work out. One needs to be realistic and wide-eyed enough to see the big crack and accept it for what it is. If you try to force you and your SO past the crack, as if it wasn’t real, and just assume a permanent relationship, then you are courting heartbreak.

    Ideally, both partners recognize that a relationship isn’t going to work long-term, that the crack is just too wide and that neither is willing to step far into bridging it.

    Most of us will have broken up relationships, before we enter the one that truly works. These aren’t ‘failed’ relationships, if we are self-aware and willing to learn from them. They all teach us about ourselves and what we need, as well — if we are willing to accept the evidence, of our own personal short-comings (often inflexibility on one or more things) which will drive a partner away.
    Best advice: don’t marry if the relationship has serious unfixed cracks. Look for cracks. Many relationships have undiscovered major cracks, because of failure to explore enough about each other. Years back, Wendy published a list of important discussion topics with your SO, to review before you decide to marry. It’s a good list and includes a thing that many couples fail to seriously discuss until after marriage or see cracks, but assume they can finesse them. This is especially true if you aren’t living together when you consider marriage.

    One bit of advice for LW — you cannot prevent your sons from making bad decisions or from experiencing disappointment, pain, even heartbreak. They have to make their own mistakes and face the consequences. That’s how we learn. One of the things we learn is that we do recover from most mistakes and heartbreaks. Certainly there are very serious mistakes, like considering suicide and serious substance abuse, where a parent needs to actively intervene and provide professional help. What you are discussing is not one of those mistakes.

  4. CanadaGoose says:

    LW, say nothing more for now. Banging on about this in any way isn’t going to help and what you’re presumably doing is starting a conversation, so after your opening salvo, you’ll be back in unpracticed territory once your kids respond or ask a question. Don’t give this mess more air. Instead, just encourage them if they seem excited about some one they’re dating. If they have a break up, console not with ‘well, you knew this could happen’ but with “I’m sorry it didn’t work out honey but I’m sure you’ll meet someone great”. And if they ask why you say that when you were so negative before, you can say, “Well, I just wanted to protect you but I was a bit cynical. Love is a risk but there’s a reason people sing about it, and write about it, and create movies about it. Because when the fit is right, it’s magic. Just enjoy yourself along way, know you will bounce back if you need to and no matter what, know that I will always be here to cheer you on or give you a hug.”

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