Dear Annie: Free from expectations
Dear Annie: I used to love the holidays, but now I am dreading them. I have recently been divorced. My very large family is divided from politics. Because of that, my daughter has been excommunicated from the entire family. My daughter is grown and married but does not speak to me, even though I have been a loving, nurturing and caring mother. I just want to crawl into a hole and cover up. I need hope. — Sad
Dear Sad: The holiday season can bring to a boil any frustrations that have been simmering throughout the year. However, you don’t have to get burned. First, accept that the next month or so will be difficult. Don’t hope for family members to miraculously change their ways. Brace for the sting of not speaking with your daughter. Know that there will be some blue days. This isn’t about being pessimistic but realistic. Managing expectations can go a long way in making tough times more manageable.
Second, consider making this a season for experimentation. Take a trip somewhere new, if that appeals to you. Or if you normally travel a lot during the holidays, treat yourself to a “staycation.” Make up new traditions; whether or not they end up sticking is beside the point. The idea is to unburden yourself from what this time of year “should” be so that you can get the most out of whatever it is.
Dear Annie: I just read the letter from “Hurt Mother-in-Law” who’s done everything she could to have a friendly relationship with her daughter-in-law, to no avail. After reading the letter, I had to double-check that I hadn’t written it myself.
Though the difference was that I went much further than she did, and for much longer! My daughter-in-law comes from a very sick, dysfunctional family. Why did I expect her to be different than what she was raised with? And I did exactly what you suggested — pulled back and gave them space while making it known my love was constant and my support always available. Sadly, it took me five long years to figure out that was what I needed to do!
But I was there with a relaxed kindness when called upon. I always told my son I loved him and could see the tough spot he was in. Well, it worked. I lowered my expectations, and we all get along today. I’m glad you were there for this poor writer. Patience and tolerance have ruled the day. — Happier MIL
Dear Happier MIL: Bravo for navigating a sticky situation with poise and compassion. Thanks for letting us know that patience really can work in such cases.
Dear Annie: To any woman who is in love with a married man, I want to share some very important advice: Don’t go there. It only ends up with loneliness and heartbreak. You may think your situation is different. It is not. He may promise to leave his marriage, but he won’t. Friends will tell you that at the time, but you won’t heed their advice. When you raise your friends’ concerns with your lover, he will explain that your friends are just jealous.
Really listen to him. He’s very clever at playing with your emotions. Remember: If he cheats on his wife, he will cheat on you. And he did! — Older and Wiser
Dear Older: A resounding yes to this. I’m sorry that you had to learn this lesson the hard way. May someone reading this heed your advice and avoid the same pitfalls.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.