Dear Dr. Meg,
I read your blog, Why Children (of all ages) Need Grandparents. It brings tears to my eyes, and I’d like to reach out to you for advice, or perhaps you’ve addressed this in a former blog?
My two sons and I have had a close relationship as a family unit, with extended family and our church friends all throughout their childhood. When my oldest son married six months after meeting his now wife, we welcomed her into the family. He explained there were issues from her childhood that we needed to be patient with and help her, which I understood and reached out to help in every way. He was in the Army and they lived in other cities which were 13 hours away from me. After they were married for two years, they moved home with me for 4 months and brought their new baby. My daughter-in-law’s brother tagged along since he had no job and was on “vacation” from where they are from in Canada. During that time, we all seemed to get along with no major issues.
About four years into their marriage, we were planning for me to move closer to them to help out with the children. They now have three. At that time is when everything changed. My daughter-in-law expressed disrespect blatantly and degrading, first toward my younger son’s girlfriend, then my younger son, and finally towards me. My older son shared that she pointed out things about me that needed to change and that she had been complaining to him about me. My first response was to defend myself and make it all better.
As many times as I’ve tried over the years since this outbreak, she has used attack words via email and text, as well as vacillating in superficial kindness. I have apologized (whether I needed to or not) and suggested we all go to family counseling. I am willing to do whatever it takes to mend our relationship but she creates ways to keep us apart. She told me not to call her children, “your children”, but to call them by name. My older son has withdrawn from the entire family and all of hi childhood friends. Sometimes he reaches out to his brother by phone, but his brother rarely calls him because he is not pleased with my older son for allowing the behavior of his wife toward me to continue.
I am not allowed to have direct communication with my older son unless his wife is present, including by email copy and no direct texting. I am treated like “the other woman”. I am not welcome in their home. I am not allowed to mail gifts or even see my grandchildren. This is what prompted me to write to you after reading your article. The best I know to do is pray through this spiritual battle. I am a Christian and Christ Jesus is Lord of my Life. My oldest son and his wife, who are not communicating with me, are also professing Christians. I know my son was a faithful follower of Christ before his marriage. I am heartbroken.
If you have any encouragement to share, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you kindly.
A Grieving Grandma
Dear Grieving Grandma,
Your daughter-in-law sounds like a classic spouse abuser. Spouses, who abuse, isolate their families and turn their spouses and children against family and friends. The problem for you is not really as much your daughter-in-law as your son. He needs to stand up to her and make her quit acting like a spoiled adolescent. Honestly, you took his family in for months and even allowed her brother to live with you and now she is acting this badly! Shame on her.
Your best bet for making any headway with your son’s family is to do a few things. First, for the time being, try to focus on your relationship with your son. Send him emails or call him and just chat. If you can work on forging a stronger relationship with him, eventually he may confide in you about the trouble he’s having with his wife (and I guarantee he’s having trouble.) Your daughter-in-law isn’t just making your life hard; she’s making others’ lives hard too. Your son will need someone there to help him when he realizes that he is suffering to. Over time, hopefully you can convince him to put his foot down with her behavior. She is bullying you and others and she will continue to bully until someone finally says enough! Your son needs to get there. My hunch is, once he does, you’ll get to see your grandchildren again.
The other hope is your younger son. I understand his anger towards his brother and I do not blame him, but cutting contact does not resolve anything. If he, too, is willing to reach out to his brother and help him see what’s happening, that’s the better for everyone.
I want to encourage you. I have seen this situation before where an abusive wife cuts grandparents and friends away from the family and finally gives up. Once that happens, grandparents reunite with their grandchildren again. Your grandchildren are still young and although it is terribly hard being cut off from them now, I highly doubt that this situation is permanent.
Finally, consistently pray. I know that you are so keep it up. God hears the prayers of grieving grandmothers.