Distant son hurting mom


Distant son hurting mom


your avatar   Joni, 57-year-old woman

I am a 57-year-old mom. I have been married for 20 years to a single dad, whose twin boys I adopted. We are Christians. We are not perfect, and have battled issues, but I feel like God is always with us.

My question is this: I recently lost my brother, a 64-year-old man who had a bad drinking problem. He shot himself in the head, and everyone was shocked. Neither of my sons live close by. My husband works offshore, and was out when this happened. He is gone a month at a time. The son who is furthest away called two to three times a day, asking if I was OK. I was very comforted by his calls. The other son only lives an hour and a half away, and has not called. He texted me the morning of the memorial, to say he couldn't get out of classes, as he goes to college. It was only three weeks before that he had married, and went out of the country for a one-week honeymoon.

I have been hurt so much by his non-actions. He married a girl who lied to him, for a year and a half, and didn't tell him that she had a five-year-old daughter! When he would come see me, he would vent about her for two to three hours. Then two months after breaking up with her - after finding out about all her lies - he brought her to see us, and to tell us that they are getting married. We were shocked!

I don't know what to do. I fear he is drinking socially, and she does too. I fear though, that it is a lot of social drinking, and it has even affected his college grades. It is really hard for me to accept her, knowing that she lied like she did! She never told him the truth, he found out by accident from someone else. And now he is avoiding us completely. What do I do? Please help.


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Joni my dear,

Your sadness is understandable. Not only have you lost your brother to suicide, but you feel as if one of your two sons doesn't love you anymore, and has betrayed the family and its values for this young woman you strongly disapprove of.

Clearly, you are a Christian. The Bible has the answer for you. There is the story of the prodigal son. And Jesus' message was that of unconditional love. In our crazy culture, unconditional love is confused with ignoring and excusing people's actions. That is not so.

This girl lied. She drinks, and has led him to drink. It is OK for you to disapprove of what she does. It is OK for you to disapprove of his actions, too. At the same time, I can see why he is staying away from home. Suppose I was a teenager with the habit of making a mess everywhere in my parents' home. My mother tries to get me to correct my behavior, and to tidy after myself. She is right - I am at fault - but all the same, my reaction will be to stay out of her way. If I can, I'll spend time anywhere but at home, because I feel that she is nagging me.

My guess is that he feels something like that. When he talks with you, he may very well pick up that you disapprove of his (now) wife, and of his lifestyle. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, he has committed himself to her. So, he is in a difficult position: having to take sides between mother and wife - and he has just married her, so she is guaranteed to win, for now.

If you are right about her, then the marriage won't last. For now, all you can do is to make sure he knows that you love him, regardless. As far as you can, do your best to accept the young woman, and love her little daughter, who is an innocent caught up in other people's problems. Accept her as your granddaughter, and in fact that's the best way of trying to make friends with your daughter-in-law. If the young woman ever becomes friends with you, you could be the good influence, and lead her to decency. She is just as likely to grow and change as any of us. That's what life is about.

However, none of this is going to happen if they feel judged and found wanting. You can stick to your principles and refuse to accept behavior that's contrary to them, but without making them feel judged and rejected, and from a position of love for all. The first practical step may be to send a lovely Christmas present to the little girl, with an invitation that she is welcome to spend time with you.

With love,


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com

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