This Week in Family
(The Voorhes / portraits by Alyssa Schukar / Associated Press)
A woman gets a message from a stranger claiming to be her long-lost half sibling. She assumes that it’s a scam—until more messages start to flood her inbox, all from people claiming to be her half siblings from a single sperm donor. The donor, it turns out, was a fertility doctor named Donald Cline, who had been treating patients in the 1980s. What his patients didn’t know then, and what their children would only find out decades later, was that the doctor had artificially inseminated dozens of women in Indianapolis with his own sperm.
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In this week’s installment of The Friendship Files, two women who are co-pastors of a Lutheran church in California talk about the joys and struggles of their work—and how it’s more fun with a co-worker you can call a friend. Their talents and personalities are matched: One is an extrovert, the other an introvert; one prefers scripted sermons, while the other is more comfortable keeping her sermons flexible. Their partnership brings out the best in both of them. And the cherry on top? Their shared love of Froyo.
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We’re always looking for friends who would be a good fit for this series—friends who met in an interesting way, who have gone through an unusual experience together, or whose story illuminates a particular facet of modern friendship. If you or someone you know fits the bill, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, or reply to this newsletter directly.
Why do teenage boys have more free time than girls their age? It turns out that mothers and fathers, who are often engaged in a gendered division of labor, pass those habits down to their children: Mothers are more likely to shop or cook with their daughters, while fathers might encourage more leisurely activities with their sons. The good news is that when children see their parents acting against the status quo, they’re more likely to form their own, more egalitarian habits.
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The trope of the politically tense Thanksgiving dinner might actually be a myth—recent data show that fewer than four in 10 American families are politically divided. But for those who do have to confront a family member whose opinions rub them the wrong way, the recently published book I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) could offer some insights about how to listen and learn, without giving up one’s own deeply held values.
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This week marked the 50th anniversary of a children’s-book classic: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. According to its publisher, someone buys a copy of the whimsical board book every 30 seconds. Its colorful illustrations and educational but not preachy lessons have been a common thread for generations of children since 1969.
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Every Monday, the psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb answers readers’ questions about life’s trials and tribulations, big or small, in The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” column.
This week, Zooey is worried that her friend’s relationship with a much older, married professor at their university is emotionally manipulative and abusive. Her friend has cut off ties with anyone who’s tried to intervene. It’s hard to watch this relationship from afar, but would it be worse to jeopardize the few support systems she does have?
Lori’s advice: While the signs of an abusive relationship are particularly clear in the friend’s case, Zooey herself might be in a manipulative relationship as well. It’s likely that her friend knows something is wrong, but keeps telling Zooey that saying anything would betray their trust and friendship. The first step is to recognize that there are two types of compassion: idiot compassion, which keeps you from talking about hard truths, and wise compassion, which means speaking the truth from a place of love.
You have several options. One is to suggest that you accompany your friend to a therapy session. You can explain that you think it would help her most if the therapist heard another person’s perspective on what was going on … Another option is to tell your friend that your anxiety over her well-being is too much for you to handle if she’s not getting the appropriate help; that you find it upsetting to see her with bruises on her body; and that you might need to wait until things change before you can hang out again, as much as you’ll miss her during that time.
Send Lori your questions at email@example.com.