Creating Hurtful Feelings

Question: Dear Luise: The last 18 months of my life have been like a nightmare.  After 42 years of marriage my husband divorced me.  The divorce was granted 7 months ago and he is now engaged to a woman 10 years younger than me. I am trying to restart my life.  I was lucky because I have a career and can support my self.  I have three children.  The divorce has been very difficult for them because my ex-husband and I were very good at making our marriage seem perfect, so it was a shock to them. My problem tonight is my 36 year old son. He and his 11 year old daughter have been visiting me for a week.  My home is still his home base.  His job requires him to travel. He is angry with me because I went out with a male friend tonight and left him and his 11 year-old daughter at home by themselves. He had spent the afternoon watching a football game at a sports bar. His daughter was supposed to go home Sunday but she became “homesick” while I was gone so he made arrangements to take her home tomorrow, one day early. Blaming me for every problem has become a recurring theme since his early twenties. Through counseling I am trying to understand my need to blame myself for my ex-husband’s and children’s problems and become the whipping post. My question is how do I assert myself and my freedom from blame without causing more hurtful feelings? R.

Answer: Dear R.: You probably can’t do it without causing more hurtful feelings. I’m pretty sure it is handy for your son to blame you and he’s not going to like it if you create boundaries. It sounds like the pattern is well established.

Why not let him know that his home base needs to change? It may be convenient for him since he travels a lot but it isn’t for you. Why would you want a houseguest (he’s not a dependent child) around whose major form of entertainment appears to be putting you down? And he seems to think watching his daughter is done from a sports bar. What’s wrong with that picture?

The choice you are faced with is whether to have him complaining and blaming you for no reason at all or whether to have him complaining and blaming you because you have found some self-respect and refuse to take further abuse. It is abuse, you know. You have enabled the continuation of it but/and when you have had enough, you can stop it.

There are people who thrive in the kind of environment you describe. It doesn’t sound to me like you are one of them Talk with your counselor about facing the music. It isn’t a “happily ever after” thing. You don’t draw a line and hold it without upsetting the apple cart. Your son isn’t going to like it. Your only comfort is that he doesn’t like what you are doing now, either.

It’s your home. It’s your peace of mind. It’s your life. You deserve so much better but no one else is going to give it to you. You need to give it you yourself. Blessings, Luise

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