My parents recently met my husband for the first time. It was strange and sad for my father to ask me in my backyard (which he’d never seen before either), “When did you get married?” but that’s what happens when you go no contact and your life keeps going on in the meantime.
I No Longer Speak to My Parents, and I Am Better Off
Family is important to me, but today I can choose to have a family that doesn’t include my parents.
I believe, too much probably, in second, third, fourth, gaziollionth…chances, especially after some time has passed. In the case of my parents, I’d had no contact with them with nearly eight months. I wasn’t going to apologize for that because I chose to do it for both myself and my children, but I offered the olive branch in inviting them to their grandchildren’s birthday party.
Later, my husband told me his observations, ones I wouldn’t have been able to see. “It’s obvious your father loves your mother a lot.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It was pouring rain, and he went out in it to pull the car closer and then brought an umbrella to the door to lead your mother to the car.”
It made me realize something about my parent’s marriage that I’d never paid attention to: sometimes love is quiet.
My parents have been married for 37 years, and those have not been easy years. My father’s parents didn’t approve of their marriage. It is my understanding that they didn’t attend the wedding, and neither did any of the people they suggested to be invited. I have no memory of ever meeting them, but I did.
Researchers at Emory University surveyed more than 3,000 currently or previously married people about various aspects of their weddings and marriages in general. While large lavish weddings correlated with higher rates of divorce later on, sometimes that wasn’t the case. Sometimes a large well-attended wedding was indicative of community support.
It can take a village to raise a child, and it also seems like it can take a village to keep a marriage together. My parents’ marriage never had a village, especially after they moved out of state before I was born.
My father also ended up traveling for a living. He spent maybe 70–80% of my childhood on the road. My mother has always recounted the story that whenever I saw an airplane, I’d point at it and say, “Daddy!”
To recap: my parents didn’t have much community support for their marriage, my mother was often alone while my father traveled, and then they raised one drug addict (me).
My mother made a lot of mistakes raising my sister and me mostly on her own. She was very isolated due to her own disease. She never seemed to be able to keep friends for very long, and she rarely let her friends into our lives. She has an untreated mental illness that she will likely never seek treatment for, and she handled raising me and my sister poorly: she was often self-centered, violent, and abusive.
Now that my father works from home and my mother has never had a career, they are around each other often, and maybe they do quietly love each other all of these years later.
My mother’s birthday was a few weeks ago. I mentioned it to my husband.
“You should send her a text message,” he told me.
“Because she birthed you.”
“But I have no contact with her.”
“You can still just text her, ‘Happy birthday.’ It’s not a big deal.”
I scoffed at the idea.
What was the point of “no contact” if I was going to then text her to wish her a happy birthday?
I kept thinking about it though, and when her birthday came, I mentioned it to my husband again.
“It’s her birthday today.”
“Are you going to text her?” he asked.
“I don’t know…what would it even say?”
“Something simple. You don’t have to ask anything. You can just say, ‘Happy birthday from us. Hope you have a wonderful day.’”
I didn’t want to. I still have a lot of resentment against my mother and the rest of my family. They’ve said and done some terrible things over the years, including my own sister telling me she was sorry my own children have me for a mother.
Regardless, I can only take care of my side of the street. Forgiveness is for me, not for the other person.
If I’m seething in resentment, the old adage explains it best, “Resentment is like drinking poison hoping the other person will die.”
I have not been the best daughter. Some commenters have pointed out the selfishness in my decisions, and they’re right. I have been selfish. At the time, I felt that selfishness was necessary because it was what I most needed, and I have to take care of myself.
I did text my mother happy birthday. She replied with a simple, “Thanks.” My father’s birthday is in a few days, and I’ll do the same for him.
But I don’t have to keep living by decisions I made yesterday. I can try, little by little, to do things a little differently.