Dear Annie: I feel the need to provide a different view to the “Grieving Grandmothers” who wrote in saying their daughters-in-law keep their grandkids and sons away from them.
First, your son is a grown adult who can make choices for himself, so maybe start taking the blame off the daughter-in-law. Second, maybe reflect on yourself to see if there are reasons your son does not want to attend gatherings with you or have their children around you.
I’m sure my mother-in-law could write in saying all these things about me, but it is not the truth. My husband finds his mother and immediate family unhealthy and toxic. He prefers attending gatherings with my family and doesn’t trust his mother to be around our children.
We ended up in marriage counseling because the weight of trying to deal with all of it was affecting our marriage. It was our therapist, not me, who suggested to my husband that he create boundaries with his own mother. My husband always knew the dynamic was unhealthy, but it wasn’t until we were married that he felt he had a safe space to distance himself from his immediate family.
While it is easier to blame someone else, it may be worth looking inward to see what we are bringing to the problem.
— Family Scapegoat
Dear Family Scapegoat: Self-reflection is always a good thing. I’m glad that your husband was able to create boundaries with his mother, but try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because she is not perfect does not mean you don’t have to show her some respect and compassion.
Grandchildren intuitively love their grandparents, and anything that helps them get together, with the oversight of the parents, is a good thing. Boundaries set by the parents can promote harmony — provided they include entrances and exits for the grandparents.
Dear Annie: I resembled the woman who wrote to say that she was staying married for the sake of her son. My then-husband quit his job shortly after the birth of our fourth son, and it took me seven years to realize that honor, marriage, family and commitment mean partnership — not martyrdom.
I worked full time, went back to grad school to enhance my earning power and did nearly all of the housework while he remained unemployed. As time wore on, the environment grew toxic, as I was constantly angry and worried.
One night, I came home in tears at 10:30 p.m. because I had gone to the grocery store after night classes and could not afford to buy basic groceries. Somehow, I suddenly realized I was not being a good role model for our sons. I asked myself what advice I would have for a stranger in the same situation. I found an attorney. I gave my husband 60 days to land a job — any job, even part-time — or I would file for divorce.
After 30 days, I reminded him of my ultimatum and said that I was still serious. At 60 days, I said I was going to the lawyer today. He asked for counseling. I said it was too late.
I checked out as soon as the 60-day timer went off. Staying for the sake of the children is noble in thought, but not worth it for anyone involved.
— Been There, Got Out and Lived Happily Ever After
Dear Been There: You were really being taken advantage of, and your resolve is admirable. Sounds like your husband pushed as far as he could, figuring you would cave, but you did not. If you really are living happily ever after, more power to you.
If, on the other hand, you want to allow your husband back into your life, his willingness to enter counseling could be a healthy first step toward reconciliation. The good news is that the decisions about your future are up to you, and not anyone else, because of your strength of character.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.