Question: Dear Luise: What can I do about my 24 year-old son? His father and I separated 3 years ago. It has not been pleasant, or easy, but I have worked hard to keep us as a family, (his younger sister, myself and him). We have taken vacations spent time together. He even lived at home for 6 months after the separation. He has a young lady in his life that he has lived with for the past 2 years. He has always been very temperamental and prone to outbursts. In the past he lashed out at me a great deal, but then there were times all was just fine. He was here 2 months ago for my birthday and everything seemed fine. Prior to that everything also seemed fine. Since his visit we exchanged some quick and cute text messages with him saying, “I love you”, and I spoke to him by phone a few times. In the past couple of week I started to sense something was wrong. With no explanation he has stopped all communication with me and refuses to answer my e-mails and phone messages asking what is going on. His father has told him to call me but he refuses. He is with the National Guard and went away for 3 weeks without saying good-bye and did not call when he returned. His sister does have an idea about what is wrong but she refuses to discuss it with me. Now I am angry and frustrated with her for not giving me a clue as to what to do. In fact, she has gone to visit him since this whole thing started (it has been going on for over a month). Today is Thanksgiving and he has not called and has still not e-mailed me. I am trying very hard not to bring this up with my daughter because she gets very angry and tells me not to drag her into the middle of this. But I do not even know what this is. I have never experienced such cruel and hurtful behavior towards me without even a word as to why. What can I do? Should I expect my daughter to tell me what is happening (she is 17 and also very temperamental)? Both children have grown up believing they can be disrespectful to their mother; my husband was verbally abusive and emotionally neglectful. I am concerned about my son’s mental health. In fact, I have always been concerned about this. He has abusive tendencies like his father and does not like people really. He has shown negative behavior towards everyone in the family, but never anything this extreme. I am so hurt and I am at a loss as to what to do. A.
Answer: Dear A.: It would be wise not to put your daughter in the middle. Any triangulation will accelerate and further confuse the issue.
Your son is “of age” and is developing into an adult…seeking his own preferences and following his own genetic path. More times than we would wish, parents are not included in that process. His on-again, off-again behavior probably reflects his mixed feelings and preferences.
You can’t do anything. That feels awful, I know, but it’s his process and he will resolve it in his own way and in his own time frame. All you can do is love him from afar and get out of the way. You don’t have to agree with him just don’t engage with him in a dispute over his opinions and conduct. I have been through something similar with my eldest son, and it goes against every feeling a mother has. Respecting his process, when it doesn’t make any sense to you and hurts you deeply, is a very tough thing to pull off. It feels like a strange and foreign way to express love…but that’s what it is all about. Blessings, Luise