By: Nancy Spoolstra

Last weekend I saw the movie The Impossible with my husband and very pregnant daughter. The movie is about a family of 5 that miraculously survives the Indian Ocean tsunami intact … no family member perished. Most families were not nearly so fortunate. The movie is all about relationships. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house … at least among the movie-goers who were healthy enough to be in relationship with one or more other people. I left that theater wanting to hug each and every member of my family who is near and dear to me. And it forced me once again to examine the dichotomy of my family dynamics.

I can’t figure out if my attachment-affected mid-20’s daughter is unwilling or unable to “do relationships.”

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A therapist friend of mine who worked with my daughter for many years once told me that “No change will occur until the pain of change is less than the pain of no change.” It is clear to me that at this point, the pain of interacting with me or my husband (and the implied accountability, emotional demand and effort that would be needed, no matter how minimal) is greater than any benefit she perceives she would derive from the relationship. It is inconceivable to me that someone would choose loneliness, isolation and superficiality over the incredible joy (and yes, possible pain) of a deep relationship. But that’s the catch, isn’t it? Our kids are so afraid of the pain, they are willing to forgo the joy. My daughter’s living arrangements have recently changed, and although her emotional needs are apparently quite minimal, I think she might be struggling just a little … and she hasn’t made any “emotional deposits” in anyone else’s bank.  I gave and gave and gave for years, getting nothing in return, and I am out of give right now. I’m sorry for her, but I am hoping some day she learns that relationships go both ways.

My parents were good to this daughter, and last year my mom died after 3 months of hospice in my home. My daughter never called, never came over, and has never acknowledged my mom’s death to me at all. Who would she mourn if she were caught in that tsunami, and who would mourn her? Are relationships really that impossible? Or are they just not worth the work?

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