The Washington Post

Ask Amy: Adoptee runs interference for birth family

DEAR AMY: I am adopted. Unfortunately, my upbringing in my adoptive family was quite dysfunctional, involving verbal and emotional neglect and alcoholism. I forgave my parents for their transgressions many years ago. They are my parents and always will be.

Growing up, I felt the need to find my birth mother, and my adopted mother said she would support this effort. The problem arose when I actually found my birth mother and my biological siblings years ago. I know that my mother feels threatened, and there are several underlying psychological issues at play. I try to reassure her that she’ll always be my mother no matter what. But she can be mean and spiteful about my birth family, and she has said some truly hateful things directed at me and them.

I enjoy having my birth family in my life, but out of respect for my adoptive mother I chose never to talk of my birth family with her. My birth family has been present in my children’s lives for nearly 20 years, and my daughter views my birth mother as a grandmother.

My daughter is getting married and has invited my birth mother. My mother recently called my daughter, saying that my birth mother isn’t really her family. I want my daughter to have a beautiful wedding. I know that my mother would behave at the wedding, but I’m worried about her capacity to say hateful things to me and my daughter beforehand. Any advice? -- Frustrating Dysfunctional Family

DEAR FDF: Your choice to protect your adoptive mother from your relationship with your birth family over the years has had an unintended consequence: She continues to be threatened about a mature, ongoing relationship that she cannot control.

Tell your mother, “I know this is hard for you, but I really expect you to be kind and respectful. That would be a wonderful gift to your granddaughter.”

If your mother has something to say, hear her out. But listening doesn’t mean you have to do anything differently. This is your daughter’s wedding, and she gets to decide the guest list. She also gets to decide who is “family.” Your job is to back her up, and you’re doing this very well.

DEAR AMY: I asked my best friend out on a date. The problem is that in the four days since I asked him, neither one of us has mentioned it. I don’t know why he hasn’t brought this up, even though he was fine with this idea three days ago.

Does this mean he doesn’t want to go? How do I even say, “Hey, did you forget we’re going on a date ... if you even still want to?” And how do I ask him if we’re dating if he won’t even ask about the dinner we’re supposed to have? -- Feeling Awkward

DEAR AWKWARD: Normally, when one person asks another out on a date, the person asking follows up with a specific plan, venue, etc. This keeps the person accepting the invitation from driving around in circles on the night in question, wondering where to go.

The ball is very much in your court. And so, as the invitation issuer, it is your job to say, “Okay. I’ve got some ideas for dinner. Do you want to try that new Thai place? Would you like to meet there or should I pick you up?”

And do not ask him if you’re dating. Please. Relax. Dinner first, questions later.

DEAR AMY: “An American in Switzerland” had in-laws who would keep the bathroom door open while using it in her home. I would have told her to install a cheap door closer on her bathroom doors. It may be passive-aggressive, but one must resort to the subtle when “please” is met with derisive comments. -- Simple Fix

DEAR FIX: This is a device that would more or less force the door to swing closed. It’s definitely one solution. Thank you and the other readers who suggested it.

Write to Amy Dickinson at 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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