Question: Dear Luise: My son and DIL insist that we see our granddaughters at family gatherings and events where my ex is also present. I simply can’t do that. I have asked that we have times with them when she is not present. I really don’t mind foregoing family gatherings and events, since they seem “watered down” to me. They refuse. They will not come to our home, which is 3 hours away, so we can see the girls. They have also refused to meet us at a destination half way between our diverse locations and they refuse to let us visit their home when my ex isn’t present. I’m attaching our email exchange on this subject. Where do we go from here? R.
Answer: Dear R.: If you have read my bio, you know that I am not a psychologist. All I can offer is the possibly of some distance from your conflict and the benefit of my life experience. So, please bear that in mind.
I have carefully read the email exchange you forwarded to me between you and your son, as well as what your DIL has written on the subject in defense of your son.
Very seldom is anything of this nature resolved through email; it is too unilateral. There are no facial expressions and no tone of voice or body language input to promote mutual understanding. Misinterpretations and assumptions that reinforce each person’s conviction that he/she is “right “can’t help but be rampant. Therefore, one-on-one sessions are the best venue…or arbitration involving a skilled counselor, if that breaks down.
That said, I don’t think any of this is about your time with your granddaughters; that’s just the battlefield where it’s being played out. More than likely it’s about supremacy and retaliation.
You can’t stand to be around your ex and that is something that’s getting in your way. You think your son should understand your brokenness and adapt. That’s about supremacy. Your son can’t forgive you for the conflict your divorce brought to his childhood and thinks you should understand his brokenness. That’s getting in his way and is fueling retaliation.
Both of the above are gross over-simplifications, of course, but they probably come pretty close to describing the basic dynamics. Also, some of what’s going on may be unconscious on one or both sides, to make matters more complex.
Bottom line: if peace is your mutual priority, you and your son need to agree to work through your present perceptions by addressing the past and moving through it. Blessings, Luise