Question: My wife and I have a married son. Our son deals with anxiety disorder and depression and is under a doctor’s care for this problem. As part of his therapy he takes medications. Recently the medications were switched and he experienced serious withdrawal that left him suicidal. During this same time his wife became upset with him and indicated to him that she was going to take the two children and leave him. When we became aware of his situation we tried to contact him but were unable to reach him, becoming increasingly concerned for his well being we left for a six-hour trip to be with him. After several hours we were able to contact his wife and told her that we were in route to the city where they live and asked if she would see if she could contact our son and ask him to call us. She was able to reach him and he contacted us. He said that his medication was working and that he was okay. He apologized that we had gone to the trouble to make the trip to see him, but that it was best not to come at this time. He told us that his wife was very upset that we were coming and that our being there would not be good. We aborted our trip and returned home upset with ourselves that in our attempt to do the right thing we might have actually made things worse. Up to this point in their two-year marriage we have had a good relationship with our daughter-in-law, our son and the two children. We have visited with them on several occasions. Sometimes for an extended period of time and we talk often on the phone with them. Now we are concerned that this incident will change that relationship and are not sure if we should take some action our wait for our daughter-in-law to contact us. Because of our son’s health problems we worry a lot about his well-being and require a lot of “feedback” from him. If we go for too long without hearing from him we get anxious. This is very stressful for us. H.
Answer: Dear H.: This looks like it’s one of those “darned if you do/darned if you don’t” situations.
I think I would write a letter to both of them indicating your desire not to interfere along with your sincere wish to remain supportive.
Ask if it would be possible to get a monthly update. Since they are parents, they must both know how it feels to care deeply. Ask also if they would be willing to contact you in the event of an emergency. Otherwise, you are left in a very uncomfortable “no-man’s land”, forever wondering and anxious.
It’s true that it’s their business and if there’s been a strain on the marriage, they are probably working to heal the damage. And it’s also true that since they are adults and have a separate family unit, you need to respect that.
You can only hope that they, in turn, will respect your natural and normal interest and concern. Blessings, Luise