FloJane in Vancouver writes:
I have been alienated from my oldest daughter for about a year now. It’s a long story, but to break it down, we were sharing my apartment. I was only living in it half the time, and she had it full time. I was living the rest of the time with my partner, about 7 hours away. My partner was going through a difficult time emotionally, so I brought him back to my place. While I was at work, my daughter and her boyfriend had an altercation with my partner. Her boyfriend started throwing punches, and my partner defended himself. I came home to a total mess. My daughter called the police, and I ended up dealing with a year of legal hassles. It was truly awful. I felt caught in between. My youngest daughter pulled away from me significantly, which really broke my heart. Both of my daughters are now living with their father full time, instead of being with me half of the time. There are other factors – such as that their dad has money, and I am an artist, living on a really marginal income. My head tells me that I should be able to reconcile with my oldest daughter, but my heart is reluctant to get hurt again. She has said some really terrible things to me. I know I am a good person – less than perfect, of course, but loving. I am at a complete loss as to what to do. Can you see any loving resolution?
In order to reconcile with your daughter, you are going to have to risk getting hurt. It does not look like this is going to be a quick or easy road to healing, so brace yourself for some rejection. If you keep trying, eventually the two of you will work things through.
The whole situation is a mess, and there is good reason for you to feel like you are in the middle of things. You are. But, one of the biggest reasons for the estrangement between you and your daughter(s) is that your daughter feels betrayed and abandoned by you. She felt that you immediately believed him and took his side, once again putting him above and before her. She also believes that your partner more than just defended himself. These concepts are particularly painful to her, and further exacerbated by the fact that she has never been exactly thrilled by your relationship.
Your daughter said some disrespectful and painful things to you, and even though her delivery was meant to hurt you, it doesn’t change the fact that she was sharing her honest opinions. When she does start talking with you again, the two of you need to discuss some of the things she said. Even though the memory of her words can still cut you like a knife, do what you can to put your feelings aside, so that you can focus on hers. If you put yourself in her shoes, you won’t like it – but you will be able to understand why she said some of the things she said. You don’t have to agree with her, nor do you have to defend yourself or your choices, but your daughter needs validation. If you want to heal this relationship, give it to her. “I’m sorry I made you feel…” can start to bridge the gap in your relationship.
Your girls chose to live with their father because it made sense to them. Things aren’t perfect over there at dad’s house, but they feel safe there, and they know where they stand. I know you love your daughters and wouldn’t do anything to intentionally hurt them, but sometimes they simply felt like they were in the way when they were living with you. When the fight happened, it was the last straw for your older daughter, and your younger chose to follow her lead.
This family rift is painful for all of you, and it could take a couple more years to heal. Mending the relationship with your older daughter is going to be trial and error process, because she still has a lot of pain and anger inside. But, if you can keep trying, eventually you will get through.