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Wedding Woes

How start on the road to amends.

Dear Prudence,

I was a very angry teen. My parents were wealthy but morally bankrupt. My father got sole custody of me after my mother hit and killed a man with her car while on drugs. My impression of my stepmother at the time was that she was young and “the enemy.” I was horrible to her, even when she raised me after my father’s death. She didn’t have to keep me, and I know she didn’t like me, but I would have been dead without her. I was forced into therapy three times a week and given private tutors when I struggled in school. We had dinner at 7 every night, usually in silence. I haven’t seen her since I was 20, when she invited me to Christmas and I said something cruel and hurtful in response.

I am 30 now, and the therapy has finally brought some empathy into my self-absorbed head. I really regret how I treated my stepmother. Whether she loved me or not, she acted like a parent more than my own mother ever had. Raising me was a thankless and difficult task that she didn’t have to do. For years she fought to keep me from falling into my family history of drugs and depression. I don’t think I could have done the same thing in her place (one of the reasons I will never have children). I want to thank her, but I’m afraid to. She’s moved on with her life and has a new marriage and new kids. I don’t want to bring up old ghosts. I think my dad may have abused her. I know I did—cursed her, threw things, and was generally a nightmare. I knew better, but I was so angry that I just wanted to hurt someone. She was the only one there. There is no excuse for that. Should I reach out? Or would I be hurting her more?

—Too Late to Say Thank You

Re: How start on the road to amends.

  • Write her a letter/email. Tell her all the things you said here and anything things you want her to know. Then leave it up to her to reach out if she wants to. 

    She might understand and be open to you making amends. She might not. But she’ll never know you appreciated what she did if you don’t tell her. 
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I think a letter would be a good call here. I know I would want to know if I was the step-mother. 

  • Write the letter. Everyone likes to be told thank you and that their hard work is appreciated.
  • Write the letter.   Send it to her.   She may reach out or may not but if she's like how you described she's going to appreciate it and it may help. 
  • Write a sincere letter. Most important in the letter OWN YOUR SHIT.  Don't make excuses. Don't try to justify what you did. Don't blame others.  Own it. 

    After you send the letter, back off and let stepmom make the next move. 

  • I agree that a letter is the way to go. It gives stepmom the chance to gather her thoughts and feelings and decide how to respond, rather than putting her on the spot with an unexpected phone call or visit. 

    Make sure you apologize to your stepmom for your past behavior and accept responsibility. Thank her for keeping you from going off the rails like others in your family had. Even if she doesn't want to see you or keep in touch, she may still be glad to know that she ultimately had a positive effect on your life.
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