Q. My brother and I are both in our late 30s. After years of strife and our mother’s refusal to respect any of our stated boundaries, in early 2020 (after several pointless therapy sessions with her), we made the decision to go “no contact.”
We told her in therapy and in writing that we were no longer going to have a relationship, along with the specific reasons why.
Coincidentally, both of us were also moving to new homes and we told her that we would not give her our new addresses. She ignored that, hired a lawyer and a private investigator, got our addresses, and had things delivered to our homes.
She had a famous “specialist” in estranged families reach out to us. She had her lawyer contact us. She sent e-mails and physical mail to both of our workplaces. We did not respond.
Finally, she had a family friend, “Laura,” contact me.
Laura is very nice. About 15 years ago, she let me stay at her home in Europe. Her e-mail basically stated that our mother is devastated by the estrangement, family will always be family, no one is perfect, etc. etc.
There was nothing indicating that our mother has made any adjustments or that a renewed relationship would be anything other than the constant turmoil of the past.
None of this is Laura’s fault. I don’t want to be a jerk. Do I have any obligation to respond?
I’m concerned that my mother would interpret any response as a sign that her persistence is “working.”
A. When parents write to me about estrangement, they frequently state that they have no idea why an estrangement has occurred, and yet — your mother does know the reason, because you have told her.
She has designated her amiable friend to be her representative, because all of her more outrageous and aggressive attempts have failed. She is now “using” her friend, which is another boundary she has crossed — with her friend and with you.
“Laura” has stated a number of truisms: Family will always be family, no one is perfect, etc. etc. There is nothing in the message to indicate that your mother is making a move toward change.
You are not obligated to reply. If you do reply, I suggest that you respond: “I received your e-mail. I am reminded again of your kindness when I was traveling in Europe all those years ago. Thank you again for your hospitality. Otherwise, I hope you are well.” That’s it.
If she contacts you again as your mother’s representative without any specific indications regarding change, then you can further make your point by ignoring it.
Q. My fiance “Benjamin” and I have been together for four years. We planned and then replanned our wedding because of the pandemic. It has been rescheduled two times now.
Before rescheduling again, we realized we have officially had it. Everything about this big event — the constant concerns about our family members and guests, the details and checklists, and especially the expense — seems ridiculous to us now.
We had a heart-to-heart and have decided to get married quickly and quietly, canceling the celebration.
We are going to disappoint a lot of people. Frankly, we’re a little freaked out about that.
Words of courage, please?
A. I commend you for anchoring your plans now to your important intention, which is to get married.
Go to the courthouse next weekend — if that is what you want to do. You could notify local immediate family to witness and have lunch afterward (if you want).
One caution: Don’t post your news on social media until you notify all of your wedding guests about your ultimate change of plans — perhaps accompanied by a photo of your little ceremony.
These guests should be the first to know. Word your notification carefully and lovingly, thank people for hanging in there through the ups and downs of your planning, invite people to call you if they have questions, and move on with your married life.
Q. Your recent response to “Yikes” really made me smile — especially this sentence: “Barroom epiphanies can be extremely powerful, but the point of enlightenment is not to waste time beating up on yourself, but to take the insight and the wisdom forward...”
”Barroom epiphanies!” Where’d you get that phrase?
A. I’ve had my share of barroom epiphanies. The point is not to waste these moments of insight, even after you sober up.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.