“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.”
― Esther Perel
As often seems to happen during and after a major holiday, there has been a small flurry of estrangement activity and writing which, for the most is centered on reconciling with the person you are estranged from. Most recently, Mother’s Day has come and gone and a number of posts and articles appeared about how to reconcile with mom, with the occasional ” happy ending” story thrown in for good measure. For instance, have a look at this NY Times Daily News article, Estranged From My Mother No More; A Mother’s Day Remembrance.
Articles about reconciliation can be very reassuring for people who long for or are committed to potential reconciliation, but many people either don’t know if they want reconciliation, or are quite clear that they do not. It can be difficult enough to find anything written about estrangement, but it can be very frustrating and isolating when what is written has that reconciliation focus. As a reader wrote to me yesterday,
“I can’t ever imagine reconciling with my mother. In my heart I know it would not be healthy for me. But I can’t help but feel like I am the worst daughter in the world to know this. I could never say it out loud. I don’t want to reconcile.”
When I consider the many clients, research participants and reader’s stories I listen to, it becomes really clear to me that we need to make safe space for those who choose not to reconcile. If you don’t think that reconciliation is in the cards for you now, or in the future, that’s okay. If you don’t know if it is possible and feel unable to make a decision about reconciliation, that’s okay too. Some of us will not have a choice about whether reconciliation happens. It should be said for many of us, the decision to estrange completely was never ours, and neither is the choice to reconcile.
We need to take the reconciliation pressure off of ourselves and each other. We need to stop thinking that reconciliation is the only choice, the “happy ending”, the “best” choice or the task we should be most preoccupied with. Relationships are unique, as are the circumstances of estrangement. A one size fits all solution (reconciliation) is unlikely to fit or be appropriate for us all. While there are lots of good reasons to seek reconciliation, there are plenty legitimate reasons why not to. If reconciliation does not fit for you at this time, let that be okay.