I feel unappreciated by my rude son and his wife
Tell Me About It: I have processed the feelings of exclusion, and accepted the situation – to a point
'I have never been invited to their home and am seldom asked out for coffee or lunch or an event.'
I am the mother of two married sons. I get on quite well with both of them and also my daughters-in-law. I have always supported them. The eldest son is living at a distance and I meet up with him and his wife from time to time. The younger son and his wife lived in my home for two years and got married from my home.
They have been living in their new home for almost two years now. Both are artists and my son still works from a studio space in my home while my daughter-in-law also works from here one day a week.
I see them regularly and I continue to support them. However, I have never been invited to their home and am seldom asked out for coffee or lunch or an event, although they live 15 miles away.
I was surprised at the extent of the hurt I felt but I have processed the feelings of exclusion, and accepted the situation – to a point. I spoke once to my son about the way I felt but he got angry and suggested that I should drop in when passing as the situation probably wouldn’t change.
I am reluctant to just drop in when I feel that I am not welcome by my daughter-in-law. I am divorced and quite independent but feel a distance growing with my son that I cannot seem to prevent. Is this normal or is accepting the situation as a one-way relationship the only way forward?
You say you get on well with your daughters-in-law and then say you feel unwelcome by one of them – the ambiguity here is causing confusion and leading to both hope and despair and you can end up feeling stuck.
It sounds by the tone of your letter that it is your son who has been rude and ungrateful and I’m wondering if you are avoiding this reality. In some ways, the roles that both you and your son are occupying sound like those of parent and teenager and this is not appropriate to adults as the resentment that ensures can last a lifetime.
Are you continuing to support your son and daughter-in-law because they are artists and are struggling with their income? If this is the case, perhaps at some stage the couple need to deal with this reality and find a way of supplementing their income – this is a reality all adults face and it might offer them opportunities for self-development and new options in their lives. The difficulty for you is that if there is to be change, it is likely to be initiated by you and will cause upset and the possibility of the couple blocking you from their lives for a while. Again this is similar to the silent treatment that teenagers can dole out when they are not getting their own way but parents insist on sticking to their word as it benefits the teen in the long run.
If you continue to supply studio space to your son and daughter-in-law then a business arrangement needs to be hammered out. You get caught between being a parent and a landlord and it seems that nothing gets said out of fear that you will be rejected. There is a real possibility that this can happen but not to take on this challenge is to infantilise your son and silence your parental voice. Resentment is becoming the core aspect of your relationship and both of you expect the other person to do something about it.
There is a saying that “resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die” and the truth of this is that when we are beset by resentment, we cannot see clearly and we get stuck in a pattern that seems to go on and on. As you appear to be the most aware person in this situation, it is up to you to take action: ask for a meeting with your son (his wife may be asked for the next meeting) and tell him that you are concerned about how things are working out. Ask him what he thinks are the issues between you and the effects these are having on all concerned.
Always keep the bigger picture in mind during the conversation – that you both want what is best for all of you and the family. Do not jump to solutions but agree to have another conversation that might include your daughter-in-law and perhaps your older son when he is home next. Most importantly, be convinced that this situation will change and do not go back to your old pattern of becoming silent and fearful. There is a lot to gain for everyone in learning how to negotiate difficulties and there is no rush in coming to a conclusion but it is imperative that you are determined that change will happen. You are in charge of your house and your life and now is the time to assert that responsibility.