My wife and I have been happily married 40 years. Our adult son is married to an ambitious, smart, very pretty, hard working woman. We have always been close with our son. The woman's family is lovely and welcoming toward us. She is indifferent, except when she is correcting or criticizing my wife. My wife is charming and funny, albeit strong minded, as is the daughter-in-law. I am more politic, but do have opinions. All of us are professionals. I bite my tongue more than I would like to in order not to make conflicts or make my son unhappy. I don't know how we can break through to the daughter-in-law. When we make inquiries about her work, she acts as though it is a state secret. They ask that we consult with them about our visits as they live in another major city. When we visit, we realize that they have work, but we are capable of taking care of ourselves with museums and such. I appreciate that there need to be boundaries, but I am concerned that these are becoming unapproachable borders. Help!
As the post title says, boundaries go both ways. As our children get older and bring new people into the family, we often have to readjust to new personalities and new ways of doing things. It may be that your daughter-in-law is insecure and that manifests itself as criticism, especially toward your wife. Daughter-in-laws often feel that they have a lot to live up to in their mothers-in-law.
That being said, you and your wife need to have boundaries as well and one of those boundaries should involve what kind of language (i.e. criticism) is acceptable in your relationship. If positive productive criticism is part of your lives, so be it. But if that criticism is a one way street, it needs to be addressed.
Given the tension that appears to be present in your relationship with you daughter-in-law, it's not surprising that the boundaries they've set about visiting are starting to feel like razor wire. That being said, asking you to consult them before visiting is a reasonable boundary UNLESS it starts impacting your ability to communicate with your son (though I will add here that marriage changes the dynamics of all family relationships so you may have to decide where you're willing to compromise).
OK, but back to the indifference and criticism. My suggestion is that you talk to your son. You frame your feelings in "when she does XYZ, it makes your mom and I feel XYZ." Stress how important it is to you that the lines of communication remain open. Reinforce the idea that you want them both to be part of your lives, but also that you need to make sure that everyone is being treated respectfully. You may suggest a get-together where you can talk (calmly and maturely) about issues that have arisen on both sides. If everyone can work together, you might be able to uncover the source of your daughter-in-law's behavior and take action on improving your relationship with her.
If either your son or his wife seem resistant to hearing your feelings, there may be a deeper issue. In that case, you might need to seek out a family counselor who can work with you and your wife (and possibly your son and his wife) on resolving those issues. But it sounds like you have a good relationship with your son and I expect he will be willing to work with you if you can lay out some parameters without letting too much anger or frustration seep into the conversation.
I hope this helps. The key here is mutual respect.
I very recently became a Godmother to an amazing baby girl who already has my Husband (her Godfather) wrapped around her little bitty pinky, I'll refer to her as "A" from now on. We are over the moon to have been chosen as A's Godparents, but becoming Godparents has introduced a challenge we never saw coming. My Mother has decided that she wants to not only meet A, whose Parents don't much care for her, she wants A to call her Nana (aka, Grandmother).
Now, there is a precedent in my family of more or less adopting nonrelated Grandchildren under certain circumstances. After my Uncle married my Aunt, her Nieces' circumstances took a dramatic turn for the worse and it looked like my Uncle and Aunt might have had to adopt her. This unfortunate period in her life lasted long enough that my Grandparents sort of adopted her as their Grandchild and she calls them Grandmommy and Granddaddy to this day many years later. However, A's circumstances could not be more opposite. A has wonderful biological Grandparents, her Parents are stable/loving and everything else you could want for her.
As I previously mentioned, A's Parents don't much care for my Mother and have said point blank they don't want my Mother making A call her Nana or any other form of Grandmother. I am 100% onboard with their wishes as is my Husband. The only person not on board, is my Mother.
My Mother and I have a somewhat rocky relationship as it is and when I tried to broach this topic the first time she dissolved into tears, demanded to know why I was denying her a Granddaughter, and said a slew of other things not worth repeating. When it comes right down to it, I will adhere to A's Parents wishes without fail as I feel A is more important in this situation than my Mother's disappointment. What I need advice on is how to approach this with my Mother again to make A's Parents wishes clear, as well as my commitment to honoring them, without the conversation resulting in tears and shouting again.
Cornered by a Manipulator
I'm sorry that you're having to go through this. Agreeing to be godparents to little A is a big responsibility and an honor. Your friends clearly see you and your husband as the kind of people they would want their daughter raised by if anything ever happened to them. Good job and what a joy for you!
Now, regarding your mother. The truth of the matter is that this isn't about her. Or even about you, really. This is about A and A's parents, who are making an important decision about their child's future. It is wonderful that they are thinking hard about who should be responsible for A if they weren't around, and I know that the decision to name godparents also gives you a special relationship with A. That relationship does not extend to your mother. A is not part of your family. You and your husband will have a wonderful, joyful tie to A her whole life, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with your mother, regardless of anything else that may have happened in the past. This situation is unique.
Kudos to you for realizing that you need to abide by A's parents wishes 100%. Now comes the hard part. Setting boundaries with your mother. When your mother breaks down into tears and calls you every name in the book because she doesn't get her way, she is being manipulative and emotionally abusive. That kind of behavior does not make a strong relationship. If you want to be close with your mother, or even maintain the status quo, you'll need to have strong boundaries and stick to them. Tell your mother, KINDLY, that these are A's parents wishes and you will be following those wishes to the letter. Let her know that you love her and you see that she's upset by this news, but that the subject is non-negotiable and you won't be discussing it further. Period.
Sound harsh? I know it does. And I don't mean to sound patronizing when I say this, but you have to treat you mother's behavior like you would a child - be clear and be consistent. You can apply this lesson to any other area of your relationship with your mother because this kind of behavior is inappropriate. Believe me, from one who has had to work hard on boundaries in my life, the exercise may seem hard, but it's totally worth it. Again, I'm not advocating being mean to your mother. But you need to draw a line in the sand about this issue and be willing to stick to it. And if you use this approach with other tough interactions with your mom, she'll start to understand what you are and are not wiling to put up with in your relationship with her.
I hope this helps, and I wish you luck. Please let me know if you need any further advice.
I recently opened up a college saving's account for our 2 year old son and emailed all three sets (yes, divorce) of grandparents his college savings account info and let them know that if they ever wanted to give to his 529 account in lieu of a birthday or Christmas gift to feel free. They could even claim it on their taxes!
I put no pressure to do so, just let them know. My in-laws pulled my husband aside and let him know how rude they thought my email was.
I didn't think it was rude. My mom has since given 529 money instead of gifts and thinks it's a great idea.
Do you think it was rude?
Dear Fantastic Mother!
NO, I unequivocally DO NOT think it was rude :)
I’m sorry that happened to you. In this day and age, saving for college is the mark of responsible parenting and it’s a shame that your in-laws took offense. That being said, I’d suggest two things. 1) Either you or your husband let them know that you did not intend to offend them, but that your child’s education is important to you and you wanted to give them another option for meaningful giving. And 2) own your decision and your communication. You can’t always keep people from taking offense at the things you do and say, but in this case, I don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong. Bravo to you and your husband for being proactive about your children’s education. Give your in-laws lots of love and it’ll blow over before you know.
I cosigned for my grandson to get a motorcycle. He would not leave me alone until I signed. I finally broke and signed the paper. He paid for it until recently but then he stopped because I wouldn't give him a free place to live and he's mad at me. He took the motorcycle to Arizona and left it. He will not go get it or pay for it. The finance company wants me to pay for it. My name is not on the title. Am I going to have to pay for this while he gets to keep the motorcycle?
Your grandson seems to be suffering from a serious feeling of entitlement. It’s unfortunate that you co-signed because it does make you liable for the payments.
I’m really sorry this is happening to you. Co-signing a loan for a family member is always a calculated risk and I’m sorry that your grandson isn’t living up to his end of the bargain. It’s shameful.
I am a 27 year old male that married a woman 10 years older than me. She is a good woman that has had a hard life. She was abused by her step dad when little and by several of her ex boyfriends. I love her so much and can't think about my life with out her. She has three kids 1 girl 2 boys. The oldest two are close to my age 22 and 20. We have been together since I was 21. I love her kids as my own and would do anything for them. I want kids of my own and she said OK but she has to have her tubes untied to have my kid. As the years passed I couldn't save enough money to have the operation done. I still want kids and she said that she wouldn't have any if she was 38. She’s 38 now and now she has a grandson and has told me if I wanted kids still I need to leave her and find someone else. I love this woman with all my heart and can't imagine life without her but I still want kids of my own. What can I do or what should I do?
I think you’re going to have to do some serious soul searching. The bottom line is that you can’t have a child with this woman if she’s not willing and it sounds like she’s not. Whether it’s her age or simply that she’s at a very different stage in her life, she has to be onboard. So you’re going to have to make a tough decision. If you love her and want to be with her, you’re going to have to accept that having your own biological children isn’t in the cards (at least with your current wife). Luckily, she has three kids and a grandchild so your desire to be a parent (and being a grandparent can be even better) is still a go. Being there for her kids is definitely an important thing.
It sounds like you’ve known for some time that having kids was contingent on her age, on having an operation, etc. So maybe the opportunity has passed. And now you’ve got to come to terms with what that means for your life. It’s unfortunate because it’s a big life decision and it probably feels like its been taken out of your hands. So what I’d like to offer is some perspective. What if she’d never been able to have your child? What if she’d had the operation and then hadn’t been able to get pregnant? (these things do happen). Would you still want to be with her?
If the answer is yes, than I would suggest talking with her openly about how you feel and then trying to accept the new direction of your life. It’s important to be honest about how you’re feeling, but if you find that you’re having a hard time dealing with your feelings, find a counselor to talk to.
If having a child of your own is the most important thing, then you know what your decision has to be.
I was sexually and physically abused by my stepfather starting at the age of 8. My mother was aware of most of it especially the physical abuse. I'm 47. My mother tells me to get over the past and that it has no bearing on today. Why does she not understand? Feeling small all over again.
I’m sorry that this happened to you and I’m even more sorry that your mother has not only been aware of it but continues to ignore the impact it’s had on your life. Sexual and physical abuse have long lasting effects on the victim including sleep disturbances and nightmares, PTSD, depression and a laundry list of other complications. It’s 100% normal for you to still be dealing with the abuse and its impact on your life so please believe me when I say that yes, it absolutely does bear on today.
I can’t begin to imagine what’s going on in your mother’s life that makes her look at the abuse as irrelevant, but I’m really more concerned with you. Have you been in counseling? There are a lot of support groups for abuse survivors and there are great counselors out there who can help you work on overcoming the abuse you’ve suffered. Many states offer several free counseling sessions for sexual abuse survivors regardless of how long ago it happened or whether it was ever reported. RAINN has an excellent hotline (both phone and online) with advocates who can help you find resources in your area.
Your mother is wrong. You are entitled to your feelings about the abuse. It should never have happened. It was not your fault. And you are not alone. There are a lot of people out there who want to help you and be there for you, even if your mother isn’t. Look to them for strength when you need it and give yourself credit for every step you’ve taken in your life to move forward. You are a survivor and you are amazing.
I'm having the weirdest issue. I've been with my girlfriend about 7 months, and I get along great with her family. But her family talks about her to me and I'm getting a bit scared. Her step-father does it the most, he basically warns me about her. Tells me if I decided to break it off he understands why because guys never stick around. He's also her landlord and tells me how nasty the house is when I'm not around, and how filthy she is on a regular basis. He tells me he's feels I should know what's really going on, and not to move into her place and leave my own. And it seems he genuinely is looking out for me, other family members also comment about similar things. I fell in love with her from the day I met her, and even though she lives 8 hrs away I was willing to move. But her family warning me is a tough pill to swallow and I'm literally scared at this point. What do I do? Nobody ever sticks around and this is why. If I tell her I run the risk of being hated by her family.
feel really sorry for this girl. Her family is sabotaging her relationship with you. It doesn’t really matter if what they say is “true”, because it’s really an issue of perspective. Whatever issues they have with her, and as much as they may like you, its really pretty rotten of them to be bringing this to you in this manner. If she was a serial killer or a drug addict, then maybe it might be good for you to know that ahead of time. But not a neat freak? I can think of many worse qualities. And maybe with you, she’ll tidy up. Maybe she’s never had much motivation to do so before.
Either way, this decision is really yours and I suggest you consider it very carefully. On the one hand, you may move in with a slob and decide that’s not the life you want…there are no guarantees no matter what you do. On the other hand, if you bend to this pressure, you may lose the girl of your dreams. Is it worth it? Whatever you decide, you're the one who will have to live with the decision so make sure it's you who's deciding, not them.
PS, maybe nobody ever sticks around because her family runs them off. Consider that.
My 35 year old married step-daughter is constantly calling her father and asking for money. She isn't working, has no car, abandoned her children and is living with some guy and his parents. Her father (my hubby) can't seem to refuse her and is always running to Western Union to send money. I'm fed up. How can I get him to stop sending our hard-earned money to her when she isn't even trying to help herself?
Dear Fed Up,
You probably can’t get him to stop. What you can work on though is establishing boundaries. His behavior isn’t terribly unusual. He enables her and she takes full advantage. The problem is that she won’t learn to be responsible and self-sufficient if you aren’t able to establish some boundaries. Parents sometimes find it impossible to stop giving help. They fear the worst…she will die without my help or how can I abandon my own child like this? But the truth is that all his financial support is doing is allowing her to continue making poor decisions. Children of any age learn to feel capable based on how their parents treat them. If your husband can show her that he feels she is capable of taking care of herself, maybe she will be.
What I would suggest for you is to read a book on co-dependency. It’ll help you understand how your husband is feeling and may give you ideas about how you can help him see that his “help” isn’t really that helpful. If your husband is willing, I would also suggest seeing a counselor to work on this issue. Whatever is causing him to have this co-dependent relationship with his daughter needs addressing so they can both be more healthy and have a healthier relationship.
I feel like I am being taken advantage of by my husband and stepdaughter.
My stepdaughter is in school full-time in the evenings and graduates in April. She is 23 years old and recently divorced with a 3 year old son which I babysit while she is in school. We pay for all of her and her child's living expenses. So we are on a very tight budget.
She has started another long distance relationship with an ex-boyfriend from high school. She spends a majority of her time on the phone w/him. She drops off her child early at my house so she can spend extra time talking to him on the phone before going to class. And comes back late so she can continue talking w/him after class.
She starts internship on the 26th on top of her classes. Which means I would have to babysit full time. For six months I told her to enroll him in child care, but refuses to do it. I've told my husband my concerns and says he will talk with her. No results. When he has talked to her in front of me, it's only to ask what she has been doing and that's it.
I feel my only recourse is to give up on my two online businesses that I have been building and go back out in the workforce. I already have submitted my resume and applications to a couple of places. This is something I don't really want to do, but what other choices do I have?
You do have another choice and its all about boundaries. It’s unreasonable for a 23 year old full-time student with a three-year old son to spend all her free time courting a new boyfriend. She has responsibilities. And while she may be going through a tough time given her recent divorce and her single-parenthood, you and your husband appear to have been more than accommodating to her.
So here’s what you need to do. You need to set your boundaries. Figure out what you are able to do to support her. What hours can you babysit without having to give up your own career? How much financial support does she actually need? And then you need to enforce those boundaries. She doesn’t get to drop him off early and pick him up late. She needs to be working with your schedule as much as you are working with hers. If the cost of childcare is an issue, I can assure you that there is a lot of financial assistance for single mothers out there.
The bottom line is that this is your life too and she’s not learning anything about being a responsible parent by delegating her parental responsibilities to you. I know you want to support her and your husband may not be good at establishing boundaries with her either but its something you both need to learn to do and to do together.
I have a ton of empathy for her (and for you and your husband). Having been divorced, a single mother and gone back to school, I know exactly how hard it is and there were certainly days when I was pushed to my limits. But life is about making choices and priorities. Her child is her priority. Her school is her priority. You can’t make her choices for her. But allowing her to take your support for granted is not only unhealthy for you and for her, but will affect your relationship with her in the long-run.
Stay calm and be kind but assertive.
I need some advice. I'm lesbian and very open with my family but whenever I bring my girlfriend home my dad always gives us dirty looks...what do I do?
Have you had a talk with your dad about his looks? My feeling is that he’s not super comfortable about something...maybe that you’re a lesbian or maybe your partner or maybe your hairstyle…who knows. But when you’re with your family, you shouldn’t have to endure dirty looks. It’s very passive aggressive behavior and the best way to combat passive aggressiveness is with directness. You say you’re very open with your family but are they open with you about how they feel? Have you and your dad had a conversation about how he feels about your sexual orientation? What is your relationship with your dad like?
So, here’s the bottom line. I would find it sort of crazy to have to have a conversation with my dad about my choice in sexual partner….however, I understand that people don’t always react well to things that are “different” (sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious differences, etc). Having an honest and loving conversation with your dad about his looks and how they make you feel is probably your best bet at getting them to go away. On the one hand, he may not even realize you’re noticing them or that he’s making them in the first place. On the other hand, he may tell you some things that you’d rather not hear. And you’ll have to listen to them and try not to get defensive. And you’ll have to set boundaries about how you expect to be treated by your family. Parents have us over a barrel sometimes…we only get the ones we’re dealt and sometimes they’re stubborn. But its worth talking and working with your father so that you and your girlfriend can feel welcome and comfortable around your family.
Don't be shy! Say what's on your mind and get a good dose of perspective in return.