ASK CAROLINE: What makes my girls hate one another?

If you have a problem, email Caroline at Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally

If you have a problem, email Caroline at Caroline is open to reading all letters, but she regrets that she can’t answer every one.

We’re terrified for our daughter’s safety 

Q    My three adult daughters are at loggerheads and I don’t know how to make the peace between them. When my daughters were 11 and 15, I was separated from my controlling husband. Four years later, I married again and had two beautiful stepdaughters. They became very close to me. All three are now in their 40s and 50s. They were always good friends until my trio split up recently. Last year, during the pandemic restrictions, my two eldest daughters didn’t include my youngest daughter in a get-together. My youngest daughter was furious, accusing them of not consulting her when making decisions. It boiled over for several months and finally settled down in time for my birthday. It was rekindled by an unheard conversation. Although the two oldest have made arrangements to travel, the youngest has heard of the plans and is now upset. She sent an angry text to my middle child, which left her in shock. She seems to feel that she should have been invited, but the middle one doesn’t have children and the holiday was to be for grown-ups. This isn’t the first family dispute my youngest has had to be involved with. Her husband and she had a long-running dispute with their dad. They have since reconciled. I don’t want there to be bad feeling over Christmas and I’m wondering whether to demand that my youngest makes amends and says sorry to her sisters.


The row, which had been simmering for several months has finally erupted. 

    It is so sad when families fall out – and often it is because of a communication failure. Even so, I wouldn’t advise demanding that your youngest apologise. Many people don’t like saying sorry – even if they’re in the wrong – and trying to force them can make them dig their heels in harder. You can help the situation by doing something different. In your younger daughter’s text (an extract of which you included in your longer letter) there is anger, yes, and perhaps a sense of entitlement – but there is also a lot of hurt. She feels excluded from her sisters’ plans and, while that wasn’t the intention, they made assumptions because of her different family commitments. But not being asked is the problem, even if their sister’s response is disproportionate. Anger or anger can often mask anxiety. Your youngest daughter’s volatility could have its roots in childhood. Your first husband may have been controlling. Perhaps she feels insecure because of her unhappiness as a child. She doesn’t want to be excluded, but she does not like it. Ask her about how she feels. Listen without interrupting, then say that you understand that she is upset, but that it’s sad she and her sisters have fallen out. Seek out a solution. Also tell your other daughters that you know their sister overreacted but that they need to talk – and remind each other of how well they got on before. If the rift can’t be healed, suggest family therapy with or


 She’s dropped me after years of friendship 

Q    Following the end of her marriage, one long-term friend of mine has left me. She confided to me that she had an affair, and was unhappy about the treatment she received by her husband. She understood, and I suggested it could be better for them all, as well as their children. If she took a clean break Instead of risking being caught. The affair was eventually discovered. And they’re right there in the middle. an acrimonious divorce. She says no to meeting up if I propose. But I was upset to hear that she had been meeting mutual friends – she told them that her new relationship began after her marriage split. Although I wouldn’t betray her confidence, I was dropped from her world.


   Unfortunately, her reaction is down to guilt. She clearly feels terrible about having left her husband – even if she had every reason to do so. I suspect that her husband is piling on the guilt too – which doesn’t help. It is common for someone to confide in a friend and then feel ashamed or embarrassed. But that doesn’t make it any less painful. Those years of friendship do mean a lot to her – she is having difficulty with her own feelings at the moment and you remind her of what she perceives to be her ’bad’ behaviour. You can send her an email or a text to let them know that you miss her. Let her know that you are understanding now just like you were then. Tell her that you are trustworthy. You might be able to meet up with her and have a conversation. If not, then perhaps time is the only healer – along with the support of other friends.