Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: thanking the stepmother.
Nicole: I absolutely think you should write her a long and honest letter.
Sit on it for a bit, have your therapist read it, there’s no rush, but I think it would be really good for both of you.
Danny: having a therapist read it is a great idea
that’s where I come down too — it’s possible that she doesn’t want to hear from you, but with a letter she can decide whether or not to open it, read it, respond, etc
Nicole: If this woman put up with you at your worst, I am pretty sure she will be open to an apology, if she opens it. But yes, prepare yourself to never hear back and to have the act of SENDING the letter be your closure.
Don’t rely on her forgiveness or acknowledgement for that.
It’s not on her.
Danny: i think it would be wise to open with that, maybe?
Nicole: Yes! “You do not need to respond, this is something I have to do for myself to make amends.”
Danny: something like “i understand if you don’t respond/have feelings about this, please know i’m not asking you to forgive me, i just want to express both my gratitude and my sincere regret for how i treated you as a teenager”
that makes it clear right off the bat you’re not asking her for anything
Nicole: I think this is excellent
And I am so impressed w the LW for doing the work of rethinking her whole life
Danny: i think so too, and i think she might actually feel really moved and relieved and get a certain degree of healing if she were to learn that all her hard work eventually paid off
yes, that’s really hard
and just given the context of your upbringing — you think your dad probably abused her, your mom’s death, your family legacy of depression
Nicole: So much
Danny: i’m really impressed that you’re doing so well now and you’re able to think carefully about how you want to treat people and don’t just continue lashing out like you did when you were a kid
Danny: and i do hope you can extend some of that grace towards yourself as a kid; yes, the way you treated her was cruel and you don’t want to act that way anymore, but you were also a teenager in a lot of pain and without a lot of models besides your stepmother
which doesn’t mean your behavior was okay at the time
Nicole: There’s so much unspoken work that brought her to this place.
Danny: for some reason i read this OP as male
Nicole: Oh, interesting! There’s nothing to indicate that’s not the case.
Danny: but no matter the gender my advice would be the same here
Danny: i think i made a gendered assumption about the kind of lashing-out
throwing things, etc
but teenage girls can definitely throw things!
Nicole: Sure can!
But honestly, this letter makes me so hopeful about the future.
Danny: me too
Nicole: I wish that these terrible things had not happened, the losses and the cruelties, but owning your role is everything and I feel confident the LW’s apology will not be full of weasel words.
Bc there are NONE here
Danny: yes! this sounds like SUCH a thoughtful and self-searching apology
this letter seems very honest and like you’re able to acknowledge fully the harm you caused without trying to minimize or excuse it
and that kind of apology is really powerful and can be healing
Nicole: I think it could be life changing for the recipient.
As well as our sender.
I wish them both all the happiness and luck.
Danny: me too
i just hope you keep doing and being well, letter writer
i’m really happy that your life now is so much more peaceful than it was then