Estranged son

 

Estranged son

QUESTION:

your avatar   Jan, 64-year-old woman

I am a 64-year-old married woman 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 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 that it was none of his business. He was an adult and had to make his own choices. Other family members 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 my son and when they came to visit they would always go to his wife’s family home to stay. Very often she didn't come with my son for a visit but I understood this because she wanted to see her mom. 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.

One evening, the phone rang and my son said that he didn't want to have anything more to do with us. I was the one who answered the phone. I remember feeling as if someone had kicked me in the chest. I couldn't understand what he was talking about. My son accused me of some terrible things. For example, he had asked me to sing at his wedding 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, a gentleman my son had always liked. He thought it 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. 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. My husband did make the comment to me in private, however, that the bride's mom didn't look happy when her friends were praising me. He said if looks could kill, I wouldn't be standing.

There really is too much to go into. I just feel so stupid. My husband was talking to my son on the phone when his wife picked up the other line and said that if I would keep my mouth shut in the family everything would be just fine. My husband was 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 an end 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. Last Christmas we got her a Christmas present and found out that she left it on our doorstep. My son came after her and retrieved it. 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.

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. Now my son and has wife have moved and do not want us to know where they are living. My husband says he doesn't care but I really don't believe it. He loves his sons very much. He is angry with him for believing the things that has been told about me. My husband feels as I do, 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. Now our son will have nothing to do with us. It is as if he died.

ANSWER:

    Kenneth A. Weene, Ph.D.

Dear Jan,

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.

Ken Weene

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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