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Recent Letter to the ElderWisdomCircle™

FAMILY: My Dysfunctional Family is Ruining my Relationship
Letter #: 387478
Category: Dating/Relationship

Original Letter

Hello, my name is Nicole, I'm 19, and my family is incredibly dysfunctional. My biggest problem, is that I live with my grandparents, who have both turned 78, (I'm 19) and they treat me like I'm a delinquent, when I'm basically a textbook definition good kid, I have a job, I go to community college, I have a 3.9 GPA, I'm vice president of the drama club. I hardly ever party or drink and I never do drugs, they have no basis or grounds to treat me this way, and yet, they ruined my date tonight. 

But, lets backtrack a tad. My parents are divorced, have been since my freshman year of high school. My dad, recently put his house up for sale, where I used to live, my mom, lives about 15 minutes north, with my brother, (aged 14) and when the house went up for sale, she took in my sister, (aged 17) she has a two bedroom house, so my sister essentially doesnt have a room. But they are making it work. However, since I am an adult, I was sent to live here, because I don't really 'depend' on them all too much.

I have been dating a man named Ben for about two months now, but we've known each other almost 5 years. we're best friends, but as I stated above, I was out with Ben tonight and my grandparents called me, in the middle of my date, and demanded I come home early. I got mad and hung up on them, because they always do this. and Ben was fearful that because of what I did, my grandparents wouldn't let him see me anymore. It isn't fair for Ben to put up with this, he didn't sign up for it when he asked me to be his girlfriend. I should have to deal with it, so do you think I should break up with Ben, are my family issues too much? 

Elder Response

First let me thank you for your patience while waiting for a response from us. Your letter and what you are going through is important. I can appreciate how unfair your situation must feel as well. I have more comments and concerns, so please read on.

Now I would like you to sit quietly and re-evaluate your present situation. Some of what is going on in your family cannot be changed, correct, Nicole? Yet clearly the unfairness or even mistreatment seems to linger on in your mind and hurts you. I bet you may be feeling abandoned somewhat by your parents? Sounds like there is some unresolved issues, of hurt and anger, lingering inside. Maybe not.

But if it is,  you need to find a healthy way to learn how to cope with all that you are enduring, and how to get to a better place mentally and emotionally. To do that, I would suggest you seek out a therapist you can confide  in  who can help you through this maze of family dysfunction. Perhaps when its the right time you could invite either your parents one or both at a time, then your grandparents. That way it won't seem like you are up against all these authority figures and they learn how to deal with your goals and issues. How does that sound, Nicole?

Now about your grandparents. They may be concerned for your safety and well being given this world and that you are at the age of dating, with issues around sex, unplanned pregnancy etc. Who knows what they are worried or concerned about. Maybe they really don't even know you yet, nor your boyfriend.

From how you described what happened when you were out with Ben, it sure seemed they were being authoritarian, or parental. From what you mentioned, they didn't seem to offer you why or what their concerns were that they wanted you to come home early. Instead of respecting their wishes,  even though it sure seemed irrational, what do you think it said to them when you hung up on them? Clearly you were upset. But what did that leave them thinking?

So from what I can tell, they are not against Ben are they? But they may think that controlling you more, you wont end up doing the wrong thing in their eyes. Try really hard to learn how the "other side" may be thinking or feeling, even when you are certain they are wrong and you are right. Again, Nicole, you are learning so many lessons here. Trust me, being misunderstood or being under someone else's authority, like a boss, are lessons we all have to learn and accept.

Not sure why you cannot live with your father, but for now, you are under the roof and rules of your grandparents. Ask them what is it that they want to know about you, what do  they expect from you as well. Start a conversation, when you are not mad, to learn how to negotiate, yet be respectful whenever they make rules or demands on  you. Let them get to know Ben in their home for a while first. He seems to be a great guy, to me. See how that goes.

Let us know how things are going. But clearly you may have issues that are still brewing inside, rightly so, that need to be addressed. Seeing a therapist who is on your  side to offer you healthy ways to cope, forgive and resolve your issues will be helpful for your mental and emotional health.

Nicole, I will be here, cheering you forward. Remember to learn these hard lessons well, or you'll just keep repeating these lessons and it will only get harder on you. Respect your grandparents and help them learn how you would like to be communicated. This is doable. Write us again, anytime. I hope you and your grandparents can learn to appreciate each other more.

Best Regards,



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