January 16, 2008
Are you estranged from a family member? Here, modified according to your needs* and circumstances, and expressed in your own words and style, is the gist of offering a “Here I Stand” challenge:
“Here I stand, my son, despite our painful history, desiring to be a loving parent and grandparent to you and to your children. Given the opportunity of inclusion, I will work hard at correcting my past ills. If you choose to see me I will not:
- Speak ill of anyone, not immediate or distant family, not of people from past relationships, or anyone newly incorporated into your life.
- Be shaming, demanding, or accusatory.
- Make unreasonable requests of you, or want anything from you that you are not willing to offer.
- Be impatient with you, but will rather seek to be affirming, kind, and light-hearted. I will regard a relationship with you and your children as a treasured gift.
“My continued desire to be included in your life and family is not an attempt to manipulate you, but rather to minimize future regret. You, an adult, get to choose the level of my involvement with you, and, while I am powerless over your decisions, I hope you will decide in favor of gradual, and then complete, reconciliation with me.”
* This letter is geared for a parent estranged from an adult son and grandchildren
January 12, 2008
“I would like to reconcile with my son (30). He has children of whom I am very fond. Some years ago his mother and I were divorced after many years and my relationship with my son immediately thereafter seemed fine. A year after the divorce I met a woman and we married a year later. It appears that he does not want to be disloyal to his mother and does not accept my wife as my “primary relative.” He withholds the pleasure of my grandchildren from me. I have tried to reconcile. Are there some basic guidelines I can follow? (Letter shortened)
Your son apparently fails to see that loyalty to a father and accepting a father’s new wife does not necessitate disloyalty to his mother. He would, were he planning for the healthiest long-term outcomes for his children, regard embracing you, your new wife, and his mother, as absolutely essential.
His confusion expressed toward you, I’d suggest lies embedded in unresolved issues with his mother. If he can’t appropriately define himself with her, relating to your “new” family will cause him much discomfort. Issue your son a “here I stand” challenge. I will write more about this tomorrow.
January 2, 2008
“Regarding abusive behavior you write: ‘Resist using reason with the perpetrator of such behavior – you will not, using reason, convince a perpetrator to stop abusive behavior. The only way to stop it is to radically shift your response to it. While you cooperate with what you do not want the behavior will not cease.’ So how is one supposed to ‘radically shift’ their response to an abuser? The abuser in my household is my youngest son (21). He often treats both my husband and me very badly, he shouts and snaps at us, or does not speak to us. I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m going through menopause right now and often I’m very emotional. His behavior can put me in tears. It’s all weighing heavily on me.”
Now that he is an adult, perhaps it is time for him to move out. He can then continue his unpleasant behavior with whomever he chooses to live. I wonder how long other people will tolerate his behavior? You, having completed his parenting, are not compelled to accommodate someone who treats you poorly. Many 21-year-olds live independently of their parents’ home and do so with great success. This, dear reader, would constitute a “radical shift” on your part.
October 4, 2007
“I am married and have three teenage sons. We are compatible, except in one area that threatens everything. I don’t drink at all and don’t like social situations where there is too much drinking or being around drunk people. He enjoys a ‘party’ or having a few beers a couple of times a week. Very often a ‘few beers’ ends up being a ‘few beers’ too many. When he has had too much to drink he often becomes argumentative and critical of me, and sometimes verbally abusive. I have tried to reason with him but nothing much changes. People say I should just accept it because there is so much else going for the marriage. He is a good provider and father and he is caring except for those occasions when drink is involved. But I am thinking perhaps I should leave the marriage, as the situation is never going to be amicably resolved. I am also concerned how the breakup of the marriage would affect my sons, but increasingly I feel I am in a trap that I don’t know how to get out of.” (Edited)
Your staying (in the marriage) or going (getting divorced) will impact your teenagers. Finding your voice, whether you stay or go, will have the greatest, lasting impact upon your sons. A voice-less mother, someone who resists challenging what causes herself and her family discomfort, might be more damaging than a father who has too many beers.
August 28, 2006
Our loving son (23) got married two years ago and invited only my husband and me from his family. This was very hurtful. He has refused contact with his family whom he believes don’t understand his Christian faith. They live with his in-laws and his wife’s stepfather is the pastor. My husband has just recently undergone serious surgery. Our daughters went to visit him to tell them about his father’s illness. They stayed in the car outside their home to give him the message. Email contact is curt and brief. I emailed my son begging him for support as I miss him so much. The response was that the support I must get is from God. For a year we have respected his wishes but hope he will soon share his life with his family at this is difficult time. (Letter edited)
While your son is an adult and free to disconnect from his family, the disconnection is unlikely to serve him enduringly well. He is demonstrating cult-like behavior, whether he belongs to one or not. Except in rare circumstances, where a member of a family has been a victim of violence or sexually aberrant behavior, there are no helpful reasons to sever family ties. Your son is unlikely to find lasting emotional peace while being cutoff from his family.