I am a 64 year-old married women with a wonderful husband. We have been married for 45 years this summer. We have three sons, one of whom is married. Our youngest son is divorced but is getting along fine, our middle son is single and like most people has some problems but is working them out.
When our oldest son was married we were thrilled. We just thought his wife was the loveliest girl. As a matter of fact, before we had this family problem I had been saying to a friend how lucky we were to have such a lovely daughter-in-law. The only problem and I have to say it didn't bother my husband or myself but it did bother my in-laws was that the girl was Roman Catholic. They were very strong Orange Lodge people. We did ask our son if he was going to be changing religions. He said no. He asked if it bothered us. It did bother my husband but as he said to my son it was none of his business and that our son was an adult and had to make his own choices and that grandma and grandpa would just have to accept whatever decision he made.
My in-laws owned several homes and offered them a home in a lovely area for a very low rent. They even fixed the house up for them. We live quite a distance from them and when they came to visit they would always go to the girl's home to stay, very often she didn't come with my son for a visit but I understood this because she didn't get to see her mom very often.
One evening, the phone rang and my son said that they didn't want to have anything more to do with us. I was the one who answered the phone. I remember I just felt as if someone had kicked me in the chest. I couldn't understand what he was talking about. I keep pretty much to myself because I have a lot of hobbies and we weren't brought up in this area and most of the people seem to stay with the friends they have had since school days. My husband isn't a person to join things, which I accept.
My son accused me of some terrible things. For example saying that I had planned to sing at their wedding. My son had asked me to sing and I told him I thought I would be too emotional and would rather have someone else do it. I suggested a friend that I had sung with and he was a gentleman that my son had always liked. He thought that was a great idea and talked it over with his wife and she agreed. As it turned out this man got the times mixed up. I had sung with the organist many times and she said come on you know the song, you come and sing. The bride's mom said, "well you had better do something." I sang, and as every singer knows sometimes you are better than other times. Luckily this was a good time for me and I was so pleased because I wanted them to be happy with it. The gentlemen came and I went to my seat in the church. Afterwards the friends of the bride's mom came over and said that they wished the man hadn't come because they enjoyed me so much. I couldn't help but be happy. Oh, I must say this all took place twenty years ago. My husband did make the comment to me in private that the brides' mom didn't look happy when her friends were praising me. He said if looks could kill, I wouldn't be standing.
We went to the reception, which was lovely. We only had a few friends because it was a long trip and we haven't been in touch with a lot of our old friends. We were criticized for this. I have been accused of saying things that are so far fetched it is unbelievable. My husband and I had a long talk with our son and thought things were ok. His wife still didn't come to see us when they came up for a visit. I must add too that in all the time they have been married we have never been invited to their home for a meal. I just put it down to being tired. They did ask me to look after our grandson when they were having their second son. I thought things were great. I just feel so stupid. There really is too much to go into, other than my husband was talking to my son on the phone when our son's wife picked up the phone and said if your mother and your wife would keep her mouth shut in the family everything would be just fine. My husband was just furious and called her a name, which is really not like him. He hung up and my son phoned and said that he thought we had put a finish to his marriage. My husband, at this point, said "good." I have asked this girl to go to counseling with me but she won't go. Now our son will have nothing to do with us. It is as if he died.
My question pertains to the above. Do you think there is anything we could do to at least make our son see that I haven't said or done any of the things I have been accused of? Do we just forget him? Our other sons have tried to talk to him. His wife was the one who caused problems in the family. She phoned our other two sons and started saying things about me. They both hung up. They have moved and do not want us to know where they are living.
My husband says he doesn't care but really I don't believe this. He loves his sons very much. He is angry with him for believing the things that he has been told about me. My husband feels as do I that he lived with us long enough to know me better than that. I think it is best that we don't have anything to do with her.
Last Christmas we got her a Christmas present and found out that she left it in our door, my son came after her and retrieved it. We didn't know about this until recently. I really feel that there is something more wrong with her. I also feel that if it isn't me she picks on, it will be someone else. I really think only time will tell.
I found it interesting that your problem was sub-headed under addictions. I wondered whose addiction we might discuss: your addiction to your family hardly seems a problem; your son's addiction to his wife - well that's another thing.
But assuming he does have an addiction to her, can you "cure it"? No, people have to heal themselves. Are you the "big mouth" your daughter-in-law complained to your husband about? Do you have an addiction to making comments and to gossip? I hope not. What can you reasonably do?
First, you are reaching out to the wrong people for help. Your sons can not help. You need to reach out to your daughter-in-law's parents. Talk with them. Ask their help. Tell them that you are aware that you have somehow alienated their daughter without meaning to and ask for their help and advice. Ask if their priest could help with the problem and meet with him. Which brings me to the real issue.
In your entire story, the only time you and your son's in-laws have really interacted (and that for only a moment) was at the wedding. Your husband's comment to you about the mother's looks were really the beginning of the problem as you tell it. She was angry; did you go to her and reach out. Did you make it a point to introduce her to the few friends of yours who came to the wedding. Do you have Catholic friends, and did you have any of them at the wedding? Did you go up to the priest and thank him for performing the wedding? In other words, do you work to overcome your religious bias?
They're trying to make peace in Northern Ireland, maybe you should try doing the same here. Start by making a trip to see you daughter-in-law's family. Call and tell them you are going to be in their city and ask if they'd like to go out for dinner while you're there.
I guess you get the gist of my advice. Good luck, and may Jesus guide all of you toward the peace which He preached.
This question was answered by Kenneth A. Weene. Ken Weene is a graduate of The Institute For Advance Psychological Studies at Adelphi University is a licensed psychologist practicing on Long Island, New York. His orientation is holistic and eclectic. In addition to a variety of contributions to the professional literature, Dr. Weene has published a number of poems. Before entering private practice, he directed Children, Adolescent, and Family Services for The Counseling Service of The Long Island Council of Churches. Ken's central belief is that life is a gift to be experienced, enjoyed, and celebrated. He knows that this is sometimes difficult in the face of physical, emotional, and other forms of distress and sees his goal as helping people to find their inner peace and joy in the face of stress and anguish.
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