My son’s wife is ten years his senior, divorced once, and previously had serious relationships.
I tried hard not to be against his decision, expecting that she’d be mature, appreciative, and more involved with marriage and family life.
To the contrary, her controlling nature makes me want to put distance from my son though we used to be very close.
For his sake, I know I should try to accept her, but it’s much easier for me not to see her. What should I do?
So long as your son remains open to a relationship with you, do not give up that bond. He’s still your son, but he’s an adult who was free to choose.
Perhaps he likes her independence and her decisiveness (which you see as controls, but which he accepts).
Being of a different generation from you, he may be comfortable with her attitudes towards less family traditions and togetherness than you would’ve preferred.
But if there’s still regard and respect between you and your son, find new ways to be close. Perhaps meet for lunch occasionally, just you two, and/or discuss his work more, or the books he’s reading, or watch a sports event together.
When in your daughter-in-law’s company, ask about her work and her other interests. Don’t expect her to model the lifestyle you knew in your marriage or similar dealings with in-laws in your past.
You need to know her as she is, and also be respectful of their relationship. That’s what your son expects from you. Your rapport with him will only improve if you can overcome your doubts and critical attitude. It’s worth the effort.
Reader’s Commentary “As a child born out of wed-lock in 1959 to a 15-year-old mother, and father, 19, life always held some social embarrassment for my dear mother and myself.
“At age six, sitting in the back seat of a neighbour’s car going to church, I heard spoken, “that child is a ‘bad-tard’ and shouldn’t be allowed to go to church.”
“Later, I asked my grandmother/caregiver “what’s a bas-yard?” Her loving, tear-filled response was a hug and a treat.
“I often thought of my biological father but kept my secret.
“Unfortunately, I attended the same junior high and high school of his daughter. I watched as he picked her up after school practices while I walked five miles home. I retreated from school activities. But I strived to achieve a full, happy life.
“At 59, I learned that my biological father had Alzheimer’s and have considered that I, and his children, are now old enough to address my need for health records and family heritage.
“Back when I was born, there was no birth control. I harbour no anger or resentment and don’t feel I have to apologize for my existence. I see the result of this fortunate mistake in a positive light, as I have a loving family and good life. I’m only sad that I still feel the need to know and be known!
“My heart also breaks for my beautiful mother who lived with others’ disgust because of giving birth at 15. She worked so hard to care for me financially by herself, always trying to prove she was the wonderful person that she was.”
Ellie – How unfair it was to isolate and denigrate innocent children and their young teenage mothers who had no access to modern birth control methods, while the equally responsible young men were often (not always) unscathed.
FEEDBACK Regarding your words: “Divorce is never easy, almost always hard on children, but staying in a miserable or abusive marriage is equally difficult” (November 5):
“Not separating is also difficult for children. I was wishing for my parents to separate a decade before they did it. The years of acrimonious breakfast discussion, fear of one parent's explosions and pity/exasperation for the other parent's endurance, had formative and lasting effects on my life and attitudes, and those of my sister.
“What affects parents' well-being also affects the children. I believe a parent should ask: Is this a nurturing environment for me? For my children? And if not, change it. One reason among many: Modeling that one should put up with a toxic relationship is not good parenting.”
Ellie – Agreed. My approach is for parents to try to resolve their issues through counselling. If it doesn’t work, help the children understand and accept the new situation.
Tip of the day:
Bonds can break if you refuse to accept an adult child’s partner.