My husband is 28 years older than I am. I very, rarely admit the exact number of years he is my senior. It is obvious when we are together that there is, in fact, an age difference however, the exact number of years is rarely spoken out loud. When we married almost 15 years ago, my adopted family was extremely outspoken about their disagreement. They went as far as to suggest my choice in spouse was directly linked to the abuse of my childhood proclaiming I had a “Daddy” complex. Some went so far as to label the union as “sick” threatening to disown me. Ironic considering many members of my “family” should have been disowned by me for not only the direct abuse but for knowing about the abuse and making me believe I was the problem. I was the reason our family was in constant distress.
Well, it wasn’t a leap for me to have considered this “Daddy complex” theory without prompting from my adopted family. However, the difference was I immediately went in for a tune-up with Shirley. Shirley was not my first counselor but she was the most effective. Shirley helped me to face my abuse, to understand it wasn’t my fault, and to set boundaries. She was an empowering voice of positive, objective energy. So, when I visited Shirley with my concerns we worked through them together. We concluded that the abuse by my adopted Father did not affect my choice in spouse. In fact, my choice in spouse was completely motivated by….wait for it…love.
I chose my husband because I knew he was an amazing Father. I had already witnessed how he was with his three extremely lucky children and two grandchildren. I knew he would be an amazing Father to our child (if we were lucky to have a child one day). I chose my husband because he was the kindest and most generous man I had ever met. I chose my husband because he was smart, he was funny and he was compassionate. I chose my husband because he saw me and he loved me.
When I married my husband I also married his family. The circumstances of our union were not ideal. He was still married albeit they were divorcing. His son was a business partner in the company I was employed in and his daughter blamed me (still does to this day) for her parents not celebrating another 30 years of martial bliss.
His son’s and their spouses immediately welcomed me. I was grateful and overwhelmed with their acceptance. I worked extremely hard at maintaining close relationships with his sons, their wives and their children. I spent money we did not have on elaborate trips to slow down the inevitable pace of these growing families so I (we) could be part of their lives. I sacrificed time we didn’t have to make time for the needs of these individuals. I plastered photos of my husband’s children and grandchildren throughout our house desperately hoping they would feel their place in our home. I was so eager to have a family that loved me I became blind to the obvious reality. The reality…I wanted to fit into his family and therefore, I was willing to buy their acceptance and love.
And when I really began to open my eyes I started to see what was really happening. I had been trying too hard.
Coincidentally, this awakening began as I transitioned from the company my husband’s son led and as I met my Hawaiian family. On the final day of 2017, at 4:50 pm, my husband’s son finally responded to my questions as to whether or not the buy-out and share sale was complete. He told me to sign the buy-out papers, take them to the office and leave them on his chair. After eighteen years of working for this company, eight of which as his business partner, this was not what I expected as a recognition of my contribution. Attempting to separate my professional relationship with that of what I thought was our personal relationship I was confident he would reach out and want to continue to be friends, to spend time together, to want me in his life. As I write this post it has been almost 9 months and he has yet to reach out to me offering an invitation to spend time together, as friends. The only invitation has been as the wife of his Father. His wife, the coupon holder for ancestry.com and my first call after speaking to my husband about my ancestry discovery, has also chosen not to reach out to me to get together. She has never been the easiest woman to be friends with but I have tried. I tried because it was important to my husband and his son.
My husband’s youngest son and his wife are connected to his mom. Despite the fact my husband’s “children” were grown when their parents divorced, sides were taken and seem to still stand. This son, and his two small children, lived with my husband and I during his own divorce and therefore, I made the assumptions we had a closer bond than I realize today. When he remarried, I did what I do. I offered gifts, trips and time to connect. Both of these individuals are highly connected on social media. Yet, as I have posted my journey neither have commented. Neither have outwardly spoken up claiming they too are part of my family. In fact, whenever we have spent time with them or their children (they now have a total of 4) they chose not to post anything on social media connecting us to them. This, however, is not their response to time spent with his Mother and her husband.
For so long I have felt hurt but I have been unable to place a name on what I was feeling. I have felt overlooked and perhaps dismissed but I have tried. I am an “all-in” kind of person. I love with my heart wide open. I am extremely loyal and if you are in my “family” I will protect you, I will care about you deeply and I will celebrate you. Now, if you hurt me or my family, I will fiercely remove you from my heart and my life. I am not proud of this reaction and I recognize the self-protective nature of this reaction but I have been hurt for so long by so many people I thought were my family.
Even though family may be defined and labeled through marriage, I am recognizing I am still that adopted child desperately seeking to fit in, to belong and to be accepted into a “family.” This realization has helped me to embrace, even more deeply, my connection with my family, with my Hawaiian family. They accept me, they claim me as part of their family proudly and they include me in ways I could have only dreamed about but never thought were possible.