Ask Amy: Cultural Divide Leads to Family Estrangement
Can an insult to a culture ever be forgiven?
Dear Amy: My eldest daughter got married five years ago. Neither I nor my husband were consulted about the wedding and were shocked when she told us she was getting married.
My husband refused to go to the wedding and has not spoken to her since.
I’m in the middle of all this upset, so I now rarely have contact with her.
I understand why he was so angry, as family and weddings are very important in his culture. He is unable to forget the disrespect she showed us both.
This has caused so many arguments that I’ve considered leaving him. I’m ashamed to admit I sometimes wish he was just … gone.
I feel like running away.
Can you offer any advice for me?
Dear A: It is ironic that family and weddings are revered in your husband’s culture, and yet he has decided to sever a relationship with his own child. That’s the opposite of reverence.
Your husband may have renounced his own fatherhood, but he doesn’t have the right to remove your daughter from your life.
Currently, the family geometry is a straight line: Your husband on a point at one end, your daughter at the other, and you in the middle.
Maybe you can manipulate this into a triangle. You are on an axis with your daughter. Communicate with her along that axis as much as you want to.
You are on an axis with your husband, communicating along that axis.
The axis between your daughter and your husband exists and is open, in case either wants to try to close it.
You have a right to have a relationship with your own daughter, on whatever terms you and she set.
I understand that if you have this relationship openly, your husband could make your life tough, and if that is the case you will have to make a challenging decision about your own marriage.
A therapist, clergy, or an elder from your husband’s native culture might be able to mediate this between the two of you – or simply talk some sense into him.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
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