She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to…Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
Hi. I've got an “Ask Erin”:
More than 50 years ago, my dad had a daughter, and her mom’s new husband adopted her. My dad later had three kids with my mum and no one talked about the other daughter — I didn't know she existed until a few years ago, when my grandmother made some sort of off-hand remark and I started asking questions.
So, this other daughter is in her 50s and has kids of her own. After her mom died, she was going through paperwork and found out about the adoption, and went looking for my dad.
Without contacting us or introducing herself — or even sending a Facebook message to us three letting us know who she is — she starts blowing up my dad’s FB feed up with nauseating posts about her “Daddy”: posting pics of herself saying she looks like him, posting that they talk all the time, etc.
This caught the entire family by surprise, wondering who this woman was.
My father casually mentioned her to me this past weekend, when I visited him for Father's Day (for the first time). He wasn't the best dad to us kids. I'd go on more, but it's not really necessary.
A few months ago, I posted a collage on Facebook for National Sibling Day and she commented "Hi” on the post (I had tagged my parents, so it must have shown up in her feed). Then on Father's Day, I posted a picture of myself with my dad and she made a comment, basically saying she was happy for my dad, but indicating how little I visit my father.
She still hasn't reached out to any of us. She hasn't taken into consideration our feelings. It's prompted awkward conversations with members of my family on my mom’s side, as well as with long time friends. I'm finding myself having to explain to them who this woman is, when I have no idea who she is, other than some woman my dad fathered and who was raised by her mom and step-dad.
I've never been close with my father — we've had issues all my life. He was not financially or emotionally supportive; he was never my “Daddy.” And now, after 33 years, I find myself reacting towards this woman in a very negative way.
I had wondered whatever happened to her a couple of times throughout the years, but now that the reality is here. I'm irritated by her creeping into my social media and the awkwardness I'm having to face when it comes to conversations about her. I'm pissed at her total disregard for our feelings. She could have approached this the right way; she’s not a kid.
With my dad’s health failing, do I sweep all these feelings towards this woman under the rug and just keep moving ahead? That’s what I’ve tried to do with the other disappointments, issues, and feelings I have regarding my dad.
Or would I be justified if I reached out to her to let her know exactly how much I have NOT appreciated the way in which she's hijacked my social media posts about my family, which seems to be constantly turning the conversation towards her?
I'd appreciate some insight as every one around me is too close to give non-biased opinions.
It’s easy to understand why your feelings about this half-sister you’ve never know would be complicated.
In the immediate, to help ease the tension in your own life, you could block her from seeing your posts. She won’t know that you’ve done it; your posts simply won’t show up in her feed anymore, even if you’ve tagged your dad. I think that might be worth doing so that it’s not an ongoing issue.
Let’s talk about her first.
When you separate her from your conflicted feelings about your dad, try to approach her with objective compassion. This must have been a big revelation for her as well, especially if she found out only recently. She is not taking your feelings in to consideration, but she is probably not doing so with any malice.
I think it’s totally OK for you to reach out to her and let her know that you have a complex relationship with your father and that you need some time to process this, and ask that she respect your boundaries on social media.
You may find that you want a relationship with her at some point, but you don’t need to decide that today.
With your father, he is who he is, and he was who he was. This long-lost daughter coming in to the picture will not change that. Many of us have to deal with accepting the parents we have.
I think that with his failing health, it may be best to appreciate the parts of him you can, and let go of the rest.
That being said, in order to process your feelings about him and your relationship, write a letter to him — let it be as angry, sad, disappointed as you want it to be.
Then set it aside for a couple of weeks and come back to it. If you want to re-write it, do so. This exercise has helped me immensely in resolving complicated relationships.
Whether or not you end up giving him some version of the letter, the process will benefit you, I promise.
If you have a question for me about family, sex, relationships, parenting, addiction, The Olympics, vintage wrapping paper, what to read this summer, or anything at all, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo