Expert Advice Q&A: My Daughter-in-Law Keeps My Son from Me

Dear Lois Wyse:

My daughter-in-law enlisted my aid in wooing my son (I was sympathetic but remained neutral), and after marrying him has kept an extraordinarily tight reign on him. This precludes any normal relationship I might have been able to have with both of them. We've had many get-togethers but always, and only, on her terms. I've not seen them for four months (once it was three years), and their home is less than an hour's drive from mine. If he is in my area, she does not allow him to visit unless she is with him. I realize she can control him only if he lets her, but there are times when he has hugged me and said, "I'm sorry" without saying why. I can only guess. I do not try to influence either of them, do not ask them to do things for me (although I live alone) and am always friendly when we do get together.

Her parents live near me, and they see them. I do have a life apart from my children, but there is no substitute for my son's relationship with me. I do have another, more sensitive son and daughter-in-law, but they live out of the country and so I see them only once a year. As I grow older, the lack of support for me will become harder to accept, I'm sure. B.G.

Dear B.G.:

My heart goes out to any mother who feels cut off from a son she loves. But it does sound to me as if your son has replaced you with a wife who is kind of a mother figure. After all, your daughter-in-law recognized your influence when she asked you to intervene in their romance (not a usual request), and he's still listening at home. The problem for you is that it isn't your home. Obviously your daughter-in-law is in awe of your influence over your son (or whatever she perceives that to be), and she fears your being alone with him (is there something about her you would tell him?)

It might be a good idea for you to invite your daughter-in-law alone to come for a visit with you (have a specific need in mind -- shopping, going to a movie) and see if there's any hope for the two of you finding common ground without putting blame on her. Meanwhile, I think getting rid of your resentment by writing the kind of letter you did is much better than ignoring them or not treating them well when they finally come to call. So keep smiling whenever they ring the doorbell.

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