We are the parents of a 37-year-old married daughter with three preschool children. She and her family live in our neighbouring country.
She met her husband online while she was in college there. He’s 12 years older, and while courting her, he was going through a devastating divorce.
His child from that marriage was but weeks old when his wife filed for divorce, which eventually bankrupted him.
We weren’t thrilled with this situation for our daughter, but kept it to ourselves, although she "knew."
He’s a very hard working, responsible man, however very narcissistic, in our opinion. He is and has been very cold towards us, although they live in a house we paid for, and we’ve been very supportive in every way.
Our daughter, with whom we were very close before the marriage, is lost to us.
She’s gradually become a mirror image of her husband. She began cutting us out of her life and personal sharing almost as soon as she met him.
She has a medical background yet has embraced anti- vaccination to the extreme and this has morphed into many other conspiracy theories.
We’ve told her we don't believe in any of it but have not gone to great lengths to try and change her mind.
Yet, she’s taken it as a personal affront that we won’t go down the same road and seems to have written us off.
There’s some communication but zero closeness.
What to do? We already worked with a family therapist who’s declared us to be kind, loving parents, and concluded that the issue isn't with us but with her and her husband.
Parental/grandparent alienation is deeply hurtful, and it’s often very hard to understand how or why it happened.
A look at the cold facts may help:
She’s your only child, with no siblings for her to bounce things off regarding “issues” she has with Mom or Dad.
There’s only her husband, 12 years older than her, who’s distant from you.
He’s a hard-worker, busy, narcissistic (even undiagnosed it often translates to someone believing s/he’s “always right”).
Your daughter’s a professional woman with three very young kids. Also, very busy. Meanwhile, she’s found strong support among anti-vaccination adherents. That’s her choice and obviously his too.
Even your minor disagreement put her off. She’s under strong influences from her husband and her/his belief system of conspiracy theories which have a strong following in some places.
You may be surprised at my advice: If you want to try to re-connect with your daughter, tell her that you’re sorry that you disagreed with her.
Say that you respect that they are the parents and will make their own choices for raising their children.
By doing that, you take away the opportunity that they had, to disengage from you.
There’s still hope here for a relationship of sorts with her through communication, so long as you show interest only, and don’t challenge her. Or he will likely cut you off completely.
Meanwhile, build slowly toward having chats with your daughter that are relatively relaxed and supportive, even if brief.
If you can talk together when she’s relaxed, perhaps while she’s out walking, you can catch up on what’s happening in her life, without any judgement.
When travel is permitted again - and this may not be wise until you’ve had the anti-COVID-19 vaccine that they won’t take - then, make every effort to visit so you can see your grandchildren.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman suddenly widowed at 46, without children, and struggling to accept the loneliness (October 9):
Reader – “I became a widow in my early-50s and a friend gave me these three advice rules which helped me and has been a lifesaver to many others:
“1) You MUST accept every invitation, and do this without thinking.
“2) You MUST pay your own way; good friends may like to treat the first time... okay. Set this rule before you go out.
“3) You MUST entertain, push yourself to invite guests out to an event or to dinner (small number, socially distanced) at your home, etc. Tell the invitees that you could use moral support or help in this endeavor.
“Very simple rules, but I’m sure you can see the value of them. “Must “is the important word. Thinking about it leads to you saying “No” and staying home alone.”
Tip of the day:
Apologize for a past disagreement while communication is still possible, to try to avoid total estrangement.