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Ask Rene: Do I Have To Be Friendly With My Half-Siblings?

Hi Rene:

My father has a total of eight children but only two, my sister and I, are with my mother. I have grown up with my younger sister but the siblings from my father I don’t know.

Recently I moved to the state they live in and sort of have started to spend more time with them. I also have discovered I don’t like them very much! I don’t want to continue to have a relationship because it is not my fault our father had children with so many women. Also I don’t view them as “real” siblings because we didn’t grow up together. I have no interest in a relationship with them because I feel like I shouldn’t have to deal with the mistakes that other people made. Is this wrong? Anyone been through the same issue?


Donna in Delaware


Hey Donna:

Well I can honestly say this is the first time a letter like this has crossed my desk. It does not, however, mean it’s the first time it’s happened or that you are unique in what you are feeling. So here’s what I would do if I were you.

DON’T FORCE A RELATIONSHIP: I think the first thing you should do is push out of your head, the idea that just because you share a father means you are family. These folks, for all intents and purposes, are strangers. You are an adult and as such, can choose the people with whom you want to associate. You don’t know them and the part you do know, you don’t like. So don’t force it. And don’t feel bad.

CLOSE THE DOOR, BUT DON’T LOCK IT: There is a way to distance yourself without being obnoxious. Just give them, as Buff would say, a “firm case of the leave-‘em-alones”. When they invite you over for a game of “O and R” (observe and ridicule) or some other pastime you don’t want to participate in, politely decline. The reason I say close the door but don’t lock it is because there might be a time when you need information from them, medical or otherwise. We’re learning more and more about the role genetics play in illness and they may be able to unlock some of that information. But promise me, after years of perfunctory communication, you won’t knock on their door looking for a kidney, okay?

TALK TO YOUR FATHER: Donna, this is actually where I would start because you sound a little bitter. I can’t say that I blame you; while we know what your dad was DOING, the question is what was he THINKING? Sounds like it’s time for the proverbial, “Come to Jesus” talk with pops. Ask pointed questions and wait for a response. Was he cheating on your mother? Why DID he have so many kids with other women?  Just know that he may choose not to answer and that’s his  choice. But I would hope, for the sake of helping you work through some issues, he would come clean on some of this.

Good luck!

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  1. Kelly M

    January 19, 2012 at 7:04 am

    I think it is wrong. By your own admittance in your note you list three reasons why you don’t want to have a relationship. All of which are related to your “Father’s Mistakes.” As Rene suggested you don’t have to be buddy buddy, but don’t lock the door. They could end up be no different than a good neighbor of a close co-worker if you would just let go of the negative implications of your blood connection.

    There is a large age gap between me and my two half siblings. We were very close, then kind of moved apart, but in the last 5 years became even closer. It’s become a true blessing, and because we let the relationship develop itself. Nothing forced, no expectations, and no assumptions. I don;’t know what I’d do without them now.

  2. PiecesOfEight

    January 19, 2012 at 7:51 am

    After my father died, me and my much older half sister made an ardent go at building a relationship. We talked 2 times a month, spent 2 months at our Dads house cleaning it out after he died and exchanged gifts twice.
    But it was not meant to be.
    Shes southern, Im a northern girl.
    Shes 20 yrs older.
    I love Gangsta rap at times, shes stuck on sad folk singing like Judy Collins.
    Ive dated hunters, shes a PETA supporter.

    So there just wasnt much we had in common that we could build on….

    Do you have anything you could build on?
    Anything in common?
    If not, as Rene said, close the door but dont lock it.
    If you do have something to build on then do it,
    Hate to be blunt but you never know if you’ll need a kidney one day…

  3. pattyrowland

    January 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

    agree 100% w/the close the door but don’t lock it scenario…you are an adult and you can make decisions without having to worry about other people’s feelings…it does sound like maybe some talking or even therapy may be in order…after 1 or both you may feel that you want to get to know the other part of your family…you may end up being close or not at all but as an adult, that’s your decision…no need too feel bad!!!!

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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