Question: Dear Luise: My son married a girl who he’d been friends with since age 10. I didn’t care for her during their growing up years; she never seemed like a true friend to anyone. She had a child with someone else at 19. My son has always remained in contact with her, so I saw her use people and sabotage friendships, but I didn’t think it would ever affect me. They were both single at 28 & 27 and decided to get married. I feel like she has always needed someone to take care of her and her daughter. She also has a promiscuous side that her family has not seen, but my son was well aware of it. She told him she couldn’t get pregnant and guess what? She got pregnant. So for the past 3 years I have been struggling with my relationship with her. I have been totally supportive with helping them out with the children financially, babysitting, etc., so I could have a good relationship with the girls. However, I have no respect for her as she talks behind my back to mutual friends, she lies to me, and shows no appreciation for anything that is done for the family. Her family is #1 when it comes to seeing the kids, holidays and birthdays. We get second best and are the most supportive. When I talk to my son about it he just feels caught in the middle so I back off and I feel our connection dwindling. I feel very unappreciated so I have stopped being so generous and available, but I struggle with how to maintain a relationship with my granddaughter. There is a double standard about what is expected of our family vs. her family and she holds a lot of things over my head. How do I resolve this within myself? It eats at me constantly and I know she revels in the disruption she causes. I also hold my son accountable so our relationship is strained. I’m grateful for my granddaughter and I try to focus on her as the priority. I would appreciate any advice. A.
Answer: Dear A. You wrote two things that impressed me. One was asking how to resolve the situation within your self and the other was holding your son accountable. It’s refreshing that you didn’t ask how you could change your daughter-in-law and that you didn’t put all of the blame on her.
The whole situation is how it is. Fair or unfair, that’s what you’re stuck with. Once adult children leave home and establish their own family units…they make the rules. Your way through it, as far as I can see, is for you to keep your own council with both your son and his wife and take whatever crumbs they throw in your direction. That’s the way to maintain a relationship with your granddaughters. If you can see your contributions as lovingly given and can move past your very realistically based sense that you are being used, so much the better. You can’t fake it, that’s unhealthy, but you can grow past resentment through experiencing honest gratitude that the girls are in your life.
Talk about your disappointment to a third party that you can trust. Don’t bottle it up. I’m not saying you should dwell on your pain to get agreement and sympathy; that would only expand it. I’m talking about expressing your feelings and releasing them. That’s the only way I know of to keep your heart open. You have a very important job with both girls as their role model. Blessings, Luise