What would you do if you found out that the person you grew up calling daddy wasn’t your biological father? I stumbled upon this truth when I was nineteen years old, and, ten years later, I still feel a bit confused, when I think about it sometimes; but I have decided not to hold this betrayal of trust against either of my parents.
When I first found out, and was trying to cope with this new information, I kept thinking about how much they had done for me, and the sacrifices they’ve made. So after a considerable amount of reasoning, I figured it wasn’t that big a deal, because my adolescent years were rough on my family, and it’s a good thing I didn’t know then what I know now!
See, my dad adopted me when I was very young, and he was the one who helped to support me, and made me feel like I was his own flesh and blood, without exception. Even his kids from his first marriage have also treated me as one of them, so much so that the question of a different father never really occurred to me. It still hurt that I was the only one on the outside of this massive secret that everyone in my family knew about, but I could see past it. Their contribution to my life outweighed what this lie had taken from it.
I did try to find out more about the situation, why they decided on that course of action, and if they ever intended to tell me themselves, but I hit a dead end. This was because the best person to discuss all this with was my mom, and, when I tried to, I just saw the pain and discomfort she had with the topic, so I left it alone. I’ve been told that sweeping it under the rug like that isn’t very productive, especially when it comes to finding about my medical history when I have kids, but I figured that the information for the sake of knowing wasn’t worth making her rehash the experience.
So even though being lied to like that stirred confusing and uncomfortable emotions, for me, I could not reasonably see why I should hold a grudge against my parents, or even cut them out of my life, either of them. But I’ve heard of people ‘locking off’ their family for a lot less.
I have a friend who ‘locked off’ some of his family, because they took the side of his ex when he and his Mrs. were going through a rough patch a few years ago, and – no matter what any of his other friends or I say to him – he does not speak to them to this day. He says, “They were my family, even if they agreed that I was wrong, they should have come to me and said so, rather than encourage her to talk badly behind my back!”
And when you think about it, there isn’t much you can really say to argue with that. So even though I didn’t agree with him, I understood where he was coming from. I just could not ‘lock off’ with my family though. Even when one of my cousins, “borrowed” my identity and got my licence suspended, I forgave him after calling and cussing his a$ out for making me go through a load of hassle. I still interacted with him afterwards, as if nothing had happened.
Unlike my friend, in the case of my parents, it’s not like if I chose that course of action I’d just be locking off some second or third cousin, after all it’s my mom and dad who “betrayed” me. But what about the family members who hurt you so much that you have to ‘lock them off’?
Take the same cousin I mentioned, for example; that was just one incident, of a few, where he has done something to betray my trust. I’ve recently been through another situation with him where I was forced to re-evaluate my view of cutting family off, and ask myself, “Do you have to forgive your family just because they are your family?”
I think of myself as a bit of a family person, but when things happen in your family and you realise that your loyalty to them does not justify the risk of your future being messed up, you have every right to exclude them from your life – as they have done nothing to earn your loyalty, but share your family history, and, sometimes, sharing a bloodline just isn’t enough. Still, breaking ties with these people who have the title of cousin, or aunt, or uncle, is never easy.
The difficulty also comes in knowing when a family member has gone overboard with negative actions. This is because there are no real criteria for what boundaries you should or should not set, and everyone’s capacity to forgive is different.
Now, if your cousin only invited you to play in Tribe because their friends are not playing with them next year, or one of your cousins never talk to you in a party unless you go say “hello” to them, those are trivial matters that can easily be looked past, because in the grand scheme of things, these things don’t change the price of sugar, as the saying goes.
It’s when a family member betrays your trust, and you have to think, “NAH! I never thought X would have done that to me”, that you should always ask yourself whether there were any signs that this person would hurt you if given the opportunity. So for example, would you take a woman you have romantic interests in around an uncle who told you they would sleep with one of your other cousin’s girlfriend, if given the chance? Or would you leave your wallet or purse with a cousin who stole your aunt’s credit card? Probably not, right?
You might feel guilty for deciding to distance yourself after an incident like that, especially if there were no signs, but again you need to ask yourself, “Is this guilt justified?” If the incident is big enough, and the answer is no, then your conscience should be clear.
Just because you can choose your friends, and not your family, does not mean you are obligated to forgive and forget when your family betrays you; and though some of us would have more tolerance and willingness to sweep things under the rug, the only thing you can really do is to decide, for yourself, if their actions were acceptable – given the situation, and proceed from there.