Setting boundaries for the sake of family
Dear Annie: My mom’s husband molested my sister more than 25 years ago. I was a teenager at the time, and because I lived with my dad, I didn’t know all that went on. I do know that the case went to court, thanks to my dad, who always stuck out his neck for us. (I’m glad I wasn’t living with my mom, because who knows what would have happened to me; my dad has since died.)
From what I heard at the time, my stepfather’s dad bailed him out of jail, and so he served a couple of years of probation. Even though this happened many years ago, I just can’t believe my mom is still married to this man. As a Christian, I forgive him, and my sister forgives him, too. But we just can’t be in his company any longer.
We went over for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, but it was very awkward. I have maybe seen him once after that in my mom’s presence. The older I get, the more I can’t understand how my mom can stay with him. My sister and I brought it up to her several years ago, and her false theory is that my sister made the whole thing up. I know in my heart she didn’t.
My mom and I were never very close. Throughout the years, sometimes we were kind of close here and there, but it was never consistent. I feel like I don’t belong to anyone in my family, besides my sister who, unfortunately, has a lot of problems. I love my mom, but I can’t respect her. My son doesn’t go over to my mom’s house; I don’t allow it because of what happened to my sister.
I’m trying to cut ties completely with my mom. I feel at fault, as I should have completely cut ties long ago. I don’t know why I didn’t. But as I’ve distanced myself more, she’ll try to come over to drop things off or find another excuse to see me. I’m getting weary. I try not to be rude, but how can I give her the hint that I’m devastated that she stayed with a man who hurt my sister? I love my mom, but I just can’t stomach this situation anymore. It makes me sick. Thank you for reading my letter. — Weary at Heart
Dear Weary at Heart: As hard as it is, you must be assertive with your mother. Your attempt to “give her the hint,” as you say, has failed, and she needs to know that you’re serious about these boundaries. If she continues to live in denial and to gaslight you and your sister, then she will no longer be a part of your family. This is undoubtedly a painful decision, but you seem to know that it is the right one, for the sake of your son, your family and your mental health.
You and your sister should both seek counseling so that you can have some professional support when processing this trauma. Sexual abuse causes lasting pain, and the alienation from one’s mother is no easier. Have grace for yourself and for each other, talk to a therapist and continue to pray — you two will be able to find peace again.
“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.