Ask Amy: Stepfather tries to pave the way for forgiveness

February 21, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have a 20-year-old stepdaughter who lives with me and her mother.

My stepdaughter and her biological father had an altercation that occurred about four years ago. Since that time she has cut off all communication with him, even though he lives in the area. She has refused to respond to his letters and gifts during these years. This past Christmas he didn’t send her a gift for the first time.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, her father has never apologized for his role in the altercation. He may not have the emotional maturity to do this. My stepdaughter has refused to consider suggestions by her therapist and my wife to communicate with her father. I am saddened and frustrated that she has cut this man out of her life after he spent much time and financial support in raising her. I think that a reconciliation would help her open her heart to everyone in her life, including herself.

She is very bright scholastically and has excelled in college. Can you recommend a book on forgiveness that might be suitable for her? -- Tom

DEAR TOM: There are many, many books about forgiveness, and every one I have ever read says: Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. Forgiveness equates with freedom from the shackles of anger and resentment.

You don’t mention what role you might be able to play in this reconciliation, beyond your compassionate concern about it. You might contact her father to suggest he acknowledge his role in this estrangement. This would give his daughter an opportunity to exercise forgiveness and would give him the opportunity to ask for it.

Your stepdaughter should read, “Dare to Forgive: The Power of Letting Go and Moving On,” by Edward M. Hallowell (2006, HCI). This engaging book offers powerful testimony on the importance of forgiveness.

DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been together for three months, and we are basically inseparable and crazy about each other. Both of us have had long-term serious relationships in the past, but I’ve never felt this way before. I can safely say I am in love with him.

I would never tell him I loved him after only three months; it seems way too soon for that. Even though the words are constantly on the tip of my tongue, I know it could put a damper on our relationship if I told him I loved him so soon. He may not feel the same way yet, and he may feel pressured to say things he doesn’t mean, or I might just freak him out.

What if several months or even a whole year goes by before my boyfriend loves me back, or chooses to tell me he loves me? I’m a very expressive person and have a hard time keeping my feelings in. The “L word” is going to come out of my mouth sooner or later; how long should I hold out? -- Worried

DEAR WORRIED: I don’t think it’s too early in your relationship to feel you are in love, but I agree with your instincts to be careful how you label your feelings at this point.

You can convey your happiness and joy in an open-ended way, and let him express his feelings to you without pressuring or prompting him too much.

It’s great that you are so expressive. But volubility isn’t necessarily the standard for everyone.

Please don’t worry about what might be verbalized several months from now. If you blurt out the “L word,” then own it honestly. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

DEAR AMY: I was saddened by the letter from “Angry,” who couldn’t understand why her kids were so forgiving of their father who had abandoned them.

My sister and I were abandoned by our father as well. Rejection is very hard to overcome. When rejected, we unknowingly seek out the rejecter and try to make him like us (look! we are lovable).

If this mother realizes they are operating out of hurt, it will not make her feel so slighted. -- Rejected No Longer

DEAR REJECTED: I understand the tug of children trying desperately to know their father.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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