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Author Topic: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!  (Read 26678 times)

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Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« on: April 24, 2012, 10:18:16 AM »
Ok - bear with me for the background to this one.

When I was just eighteen, my mom died in a car accident. Grieving and adrift, I decided it would be a good idea to quit school (community college, not high school) and move 3 hours to OtherCity to get an apartment with my long-distance boyfriend, whom I had only been together with for a few months. He was still living with his parents at the time, and the plan was that I would stay with them for a month or so while I got a job and then we would move out.

His parents were luckily much wiser than we were, and I ended up living with them and working for a year (BF was working as well). His parents sat us down after that point, and asked if we wanted to go back to school, in which case we could live with them until we finished. Not only did they encourage me to go back to school, they paid for my associate's degree as well. Once I had that degree and went on to a four-year college, they supported me in numerous ways, financial and emotional. BF and I got engaged, he graduated, and got a job.

Then... things fell apart. Fiance struggled with physical illness and was eventually diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder that needed significant medication to control. He lost his job, and for the three years after that, did not work at all. He spent most of his time either driving aimlessly around or playing video games. His parents paid all his bills and he seemed to have absolutely no problem spending their money, living in their home rent-free, and using me as a co-dependent emotional crutch. He either could not or would not do what was necessary to control his anxiety - I'm still not sure to this day which it was. I moved out of his parent's house when it became clear he would not or could not; I had lived with them for six years by this point. Eventually, after three years of deeply unhealthy relations between us (and eight years overall) I ended the rel@tionship. Ex-fiance spiraled out of control and handled it very, VERY badly.

The thing was, while I did not mourn losing him, I lost his parents as well. I love them as deeply as my own parents. It is no exaggeration to say that they made my future possible. I owe everything I am and everything I have to them. When Ex was out of control after our breakup, in an attempt to help him, his mother made clear that although she loved me and would miss me, her first priority was to her son and she could have no contact with me lest it look like she was choosing me over her biological son. I understood completely, and despite how wrenching it was for me to lose a mother a second time, I respected her wishes entirely.

Now, it's been over a year since this all happened and I have moved away to another city and am finishing my first year of graduate school. I have had absolutely no contact with Ex or his parents during this year. I hear from third parties that Ex is doing better, working and d@ting, but still living at home. Here's the thing - I want to contact his parents. I am not trying to re-initiate a rel@tionship with them, but I feel like in the chaos of my leaving, I never expressed my extreme gratitude for both the financial and the emotional gifts and support that his parents gave to me and it weighs heavily on me that I accepted all of this help from them and then disappeared without so much as a "thanks". I would never have gone to college at all, let alone be capable of fulfilling my dreams in graduate school, if it wasn't for them.

However, I'm not sure I can separate this desire to thank them from my very real and intense missing them, either. I miss her as much as I miss my own deceased mother, and I miss him as much as I would (theoretically) miss my own father. As far as Ex goes,  I do not miss him at all and in fact do not want any contact with him whatsoever. I wonder if this intense urge to say thank you is also partially motivated by my longing for them and I'd like objective opinions. So - thank you for making it this far, on to the questions:

A. Is is inappropriate for me to contact them at all? I would make very clear that I do not expect or need a response, and that I'm not trying to barge my way back into their lives, but maybe even with that caveat it's still not okay for me to contact them.

B. If it would be okay to contact them, how? I feel like a phone call would be inappropriate because it puts them on the spot - and plus, what if Ex answered the phone? Ex's mother is on Facebook, so I could send a message over FB, or I could send a letter or a card. What would put the least pressure on them and be the most appropriate?


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2012, 10:25:25 AM »
Wow. If I were you, oh my, I would certainly I imagine feel like you do, and ache to reach out to these people.

I think, a letter would be best.  Email or FB wouldn't be terrible either, but there is something lovely about a handwritten tangible expression of love and gratitude that at letter conveys, plus its something that can be discreetly tucked away and kept to treasure (and I just assume they loved you back as much as you loved them, so I assume they wold want to treasure it).


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2012, 10:41:04 AM »
What wonderful people. I can see why they are so special to you and I understand why you want to reach out to them.

I think a letter would be best. As you said, a phone call puts them on the spot and even on Facebook there is pressure for a quick response and it may feel as though you are pressuring for greater contact (become FB friends, following each other activities, etc). Tell them how much they meant to you, how your life is on a much better track because of their help and how you are doing. This approach puts no pressure and doesn't feel like "cheating behind their son's back", like FB might feel.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2012, 10:52:40 AM »
I echo the suggestion of a letter or a card.

It is a great way of reaching out that doesn't seem to demand some kind of response.

Plus, if your ex's parents are sentimental, what a wonderful tangible keepsake for them.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2012, 11:00:01 AM »
I agree that you should send a letter.  If you centre it around how much they helped with your education it seems perfectly natural that you should tell them that you're in graduate school and how you're getting on.

Edit to say I'm basing this on how my mum felt about my brother's ex and how a friend's mum felt about her brother's ex, although those relationships didn't end in the same way yours did they were both girls who the mums saw grow up and wanted to know how they were getting on.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2012, 11:07:01 AM »
I think a thank-you letter would be a gracious approach.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2012, 11:11:44 AM »
I think it's too soon to contact them. Some day it may be appropriate, just not yet. A year isn't all that long compared to how long you all were a part of each others lives. So for now respect their wishes for no contact. That's the best way to thank them and support their family. Maybe when you are done with grad school would be a better time to contact them thanking them.

I agree with you that a letter is best in that it doesn't put them on the spot. But if there is a risk that your ex might answer the phone, then there is a risk that he might come across your letter in the mail. So it's still not ideal.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2012, 11:41:30 AM »
My first thought was to send them a letter.
Second thought: no return address. That clearly says what you then don't have to say in the letter, that you expect no response.
Third thought: if you're worried that ex will somehow get the letter before the parents and open it, get a business address for either of the parents and send it there.

All you need say in the letter is that you regret that due to the circumstances of the breakup that you were never able to thank them properly for all that they had done for you. Go on to list those things and say what you told us, that you owe everything you are and everything you have to what they did for you. Give them a very brief update on what you're doing now and future plans. Then close out the letter.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2012, 11:47:31 AM »
A letter, definitely.  Not only is it more tangible, you will have more time to review it (write a draft first) and it allows them a measured reply (whereas facebook they might react "in the moment" with something they later regret).  It is also "friendly distance" and indicates you want contact but does not immediately require a "conversation" (whereas facebook, again, might lead to instant messaging, etc).  A card would be acceptable, but a letter allows you more length and creates a better impression overall.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2012, 12:07:51 PM »
For me, the fact that you would need to hide the contact from the ex makes me think that you shouldn't reach out to them.  His mom specifically said she couldn't have contact with you - I think you should respect that.  She shouldn't have to lie about it or hide the contact from her own son & it seems that sending it openly would cause her trouble. Maybe one day they will reach out to you, maybe when you graduate you can think about it again, but for now, I would hold off.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2012, 12:36:04 PM »
I believe a year is long enough for you to be able to send a letter.  The parents receiving and reading a letter is a far cry for having weekly or monthly contact with you. 

Send the letter addressed to Mr & Mrs with a typed address and for return, you can simply have an address line with city and state. 

You can state pretty much what you said here.  That you wanted them to know how much you appreciate their support, that you hope their son is doing better, that they enabled you to have the life you now live and you will always cherish your time with them.  And let them know you will not initiate any future contact, but they are always free to reach out to you should they ever need you in anyway.  And tell them that you hope that one day you can do as much for someone else that they've done for you.

These are truly selfless people.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2012, 12:43:53 PM »
These are truly selfless people.

They absolutely are, and that's why I'm very concerned that if I contact them, it needs to be sensitive to the situation. I absolutely do NOT want to make myself feel better at the expense of their peace of mind, KWIM?

I appreciate the responses so far! It's given me a lot to think about, particularly the following:

For me, the fact that you would need to hide the contact from the ex makes me think that you shouldn't reach out to them. 

I am honestly not sure if they would hide the contact from the ex. I don't really care if he knows that I sent something to his parents, but I have no idea if his parents would want him to know/not know. It all depends on his state of mind right now, which I have no way of finding out. If he's gotten his anxiety under control and is in a good place, then based on what I know of him, I don't think he would object to me having contact with his parents. (In fact, he said at one point during the break-up that he hoped I would stay in touch with his mom.)  I just don't want to have any contact with the ex whatsoever, I don't necessarily want to hide anything from him.

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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2012, 12:49:51 PM »
I would send a letter, thanking them.  I would go ahead and send it to the house but I'd leave off a return address on the outside envelop.  I might even type the address on the envelop, rather than hand write it so Ex doesn't make the connection, if he happens to see it.

Inside the letter, I would put my return address or other potential point of contact like an email address but I wouldn't specifically ask them to contact me.  If they feel ready to contact you, they have the information they need.  If they don't feel ready, they can file the information away for the future or ditch it all together.

And I would then add them to my Christmas card list for this year but not send another card if I got no reply.

What amazing people!
After cleaning out my Dad's house, I have this advice:  If you haven't used it in a year, throw it out!!!!.


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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2012, 12:59:28 PM »
These people stepped in and took you in as their daughter when you lost your mother.  What wonderful people.  I admit, I don't completely understand the gag order between you and them simply because of the breakup.  I could understand you moving out and can even understand why visits would also not be a good idea.  I think that maybe her reasoning was that he was so upset over the break up that she was worried for his health and safety and needed to ensure that her being in contact with you didn't spiral him out of control.

Anyway, there is nothing wrong with missing them, wanting to thank them, or contacting them.  It's been a year and your ex is doing better.  Mother's day is coming up.  I see nothing wrong with writing a letter and expressing your gratitude for all they've done for you.  I also don't see anything wrong with leaving a return address (if ex will go crazy, leave your name off the envelope).  You don't have to tell them to write you back or specifically not to.  Just don't mention it.  Maybe this will open the door for some reunification, maybe not.
 A letter or card will not (and least in my mind) put pressure on them to act.

Something like:

Dear Psuedo Mom and Dad,

It's been a year since I moved out and I think of you both often.  I feel compelled to write you to let you know how deeply grateful I am for all you've done for me.  You were my parents when I needed parents the most and I don't feel that I ever properly thanked you for that.  I am doing well now, in Graduate school, and I owe all of that to you.  This note can't possibly repay you for what you've done, but I do hope you know how happy I am for having you in my life.

Wishing you all the best,



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Re: Contacting Ex's parents - novel length!
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2012, 01:29:27 PM »
I would send a letter. However I would either disguise your handwriting on the envelope or have it printed on the computer so that Ex does not recognize your handwriting and intercept the letter. I would also use a different address as your return address - maybe your office or a friend's apartment building (with permission).

I would get as "mushy" and emotional in the letter as you want. Thank them from the bottom of your heart and tell them what you have been up to. Tell them about your new life, friends, hobbies, studies, etc. I am sure they think about you as much as you think about them and would be happy to hear from you.

Also - if you want to I think it would be okay to give them your email so they may contact you IF that is something you want to have happen. But I would put in the letter that contacting you is totally up to them.

I see no problem at all with reaching out to them. It is just a letter and if they don't want to talk to you they don't have to but I am sure it will give them a peace of mind to know you are okay.

Also I know pp said this already but I would not give them your living address or phone number - just email - only because you still don't know what mind your Ex is in and it could lead to issues. Also you don't want to put his parents in a bad situation of feeling like they must hide the letter because your address is in it.