Damaged relationship

citykitty21April 25, 2008

My son proposed to his girlfriend of several years recently, and she accepted. He gave her a ring and it was a wonderful time. Since then, her dysfunctional family has made their lives miserable. Her parents are divorced and remarried, and much baggage(hate) is still carried by her mother. Mom doesn't want the dad and step-mom at the wedding, and the step-dad has even said that my son was not good enough for her, and I'm thinking this is because my son is not affluent enough by their standards.

Our family loves his fiance, and she has already been a part of our family from the beginning of their relationship. That statement about our son absolutely crushed him, and us as well. He is a person of high character, and all who know him love him.

His fiance has a good relationship with both me and my husband, and the few times we have been around her dad's family (who love our son) there have been no problems. Only met the mother and step-dad once...at their home the day of college graduation. Everything then was amiable.

My son says that the wedding and all the details are up to the bride, and I agree. I'm afraid that there will be a huge confrontation and he will tell the mom and step-dad where to get off. I hate to see them start their life together with this anvil around their necks.

Is there anything (besides just being supportive and loving) that I can do? Has anyone ever heard of such a situation? I'm sure this isn't the first one. Thanks for anyone's thoughts.

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This is not your business. It is impossible for you to fix the bride's family. Any attempts to meddle are likely to backfire on you with the bride. She's not going to want you to interfere, criticize, or correct her family, and will find fault with you if you insist on butting in. Has she asked specifically for your advice? This is different than her and your son complaining to you about them. Griping about her parents is not the same as asking for advice. If the bride has not asked specifically for advice, STAY OUT OF IT. It will blow up in your face.

Even if she asks for advice, be careful; this is one of those areas where angels fear to tred. Don't get between a young woman and her mother/parents. Yikes!

If your fears come true and the bride's family act out at the wedding and your son does tell them off, stay far, far away from it. Your first instinct may be to rush to his defense. This would be a mistake. It sounds like a big blow out is going to happen in that family eventually, and you do not want to be dragged down the vortex with the other set of parents. It's very easy to become collateral damage in these situations.

What it all boils down to is eventually the bride is going to have to choose her husband or her family. When you have opinionated, pushy, rude parents that's usually the outcome. If she chooses her parents, your son will eventually divorce her, and the problem is resolved. If she chooses her husband, her family will find themselves cut off, and the problem will be resolved. Probably they will waffle and struggle for a while before the choice becomes clear.

Don't do ANYTHING that will cause this hurting and frustrated young woman to whip around and say to your son, "Well, your parents aren't so perfect. In fact, if your mother hadn't ___, my family would never have ___." In these difficult emotional situations, logic and fairness don't have to rule. Don't give her a reason to divert the coming frustrations and anger onto you.

Yes, be supportive and loving--but also be DETACHED from the problems. Express your confidence they will solve the problem and direct them to a third party objective counsellor.

You love and admire your son, you love and admire your future DIL, don't sacrifice your relationships with them to set straight people you've only met once. This doesn't involve you, and you don't want it to. Don't get seduced into the fray.

Think of it this way: by staying aloof from the problem, they will have a sanctuary from the IL problem. The IL problem will invade their relationship with the IL, it will be present in their own home, it may be the only place the young couple will be able to find a bit of respite from the struggle is in your company. Be the sanctuary where they don't have to talk about the IL, don't have to think about them, don't have to deal with them.

And never, never, never say anything unkind about her parents. Even if she agrees with you, she will resent you for saying it. And don't 'confide' in your son, it will get back to her and be worse, she will resent you for 'colluding' with her husband behind her back. Just learn to say, "How unfortunate. I'm sure you will all get it worked out."

This really isn't your business, and if you involve yourself, even just a little, you are playing with fire.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 9:08AM
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Wow. Thank you for your words of wisdom! You have given me some good advice. I tend to be a 'fixer' and probably would have jumped in with both feet if I hadn't found this forum and some good advice from such as you.

It still pains me to think that someone said my son was not 'good enough'. I will let them deal with that and just confirm the fact that he is loved and valued.

Bless you for having insight into problems such as these. I'm new to the IL scene, and all I want for them is a happy and fulfilling life together. I'll bite my tongue and just 'be there' for both of them, and hopefully that refuge that you spoke about will be one where they feel free to vist, relax, and enjoy with us. Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 9:27AM
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I understand about being stung when people criticize your kids. My husband's ex-wife, who is losing the struggle against mental illness, on her last decent into psychosis, left a message on our phone that referred to my kids as the 'stepbrats'. My kids are much older than her kids and very, very nice to them. One problem our family does not have is the kids getting along.

I can't tell you how angry I am at hearing that. She doesn't even know my kids. In two or three months she will call from some psych hospital and want to talk to her bio-kids and I'll answer the phone and I am really, really, REALLY tempted to tell her off. Who the hull does she think she is? This effed up woman who endangered her newborn daughter's life and caused her son to be taken into protective custody 6 times and left him with some severe emotional issues, SHE's going to call my kids 'stepbrats'?!!!!!


I promise I'll resist the temptation to tell her off, if you promise not ever to criticize your DIL's parents. However, that doesn't mean you can't say to your son, "I'm sorry her stepdad said that; you are a person of high character and everyone who knows you loves you."

In fact, come to think of it, it's something we might all tell our kids, even if they aren't under attack by troglodytes.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 9:51AM
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It's a promise!!! I'm so glad I found this forum, and someone with wisdom answered! Life is tooooo short to be unkind, and everyone is fighting some kind of battle.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 10:03AM
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Good gosh, it must be wonderful to be perfect.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 7:23PM
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"and the step-dad has even said that my son was not good enough for her"

I gotta tell you tell you, I'm pretty sure most men don't think the man their daughter marries is good enough for her. There will almost always be a little "you could do more perfect" sentiment regardless of how good of a catch your son is. My mom, for example, never verbally voice her opinion, but I could tell she never really thought any of the guys I dated were good enough for me. In a way, it was an esteem builder and showed a certain sort of love that I deserved perfection.

I would let your your son know that the FIL comment really probably isn't as personal as he or you may think. Don't try to guess or assume it's because he's not affluent enough... that can only cause more hard feelings, resentment and open up another bag of worms. Try to tell him to write it off as an overprotective father who will never think anyone is good enough for his little princess.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 12:27AM
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The difference here is, the DIL doesn't even have a good relationship with the SF. Very distant. Mom is still carring a BIG grudge (even hatred) toward D and SM, to the point that they haven't even spoken and will not be in the same room. I witnessed the animosity at an event, where the DIL was talking to D and family and M and SD walked right by as if strangers. I couldn' believe it.
So, considering the source of the comment helps all concerned. I hurt mostly for DIL and the strain this has on her. I agree with you, carla35...no boy is good enough for Daddy's little girl. We have a daughter too, and I know her Dad feels that way!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 8:39AM
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fuzzywuzzy, I don't understand your post:

"Posted by fuzzywuzzy (My Page) on Fri, Apr 25, 08 at 19:23
Good gosh, it must be wonderful to be perfect."

Citykitty is not making any claims at all of being perfect. It's kind of a mean comment that seems to come from nowhere in in the middle of a very civil, interesting discussion. Do you care to explain what you mean?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 10:46AM
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Thanks, magicgran. I didn't understand that either! I'm glad I found 'friends' here on this forum, because this is a situation that is difficult to discuss with friends or family members. I needed advice and to vent a little. Thanks for all your reponses.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 2:37PM
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My comment was not for the OP, but rather the "preacher."

It's interesting how some people come here to preach; I wonder what in their history leads them to believe that they can preach to others.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 6:46PM
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Good luck with the wedding, you have had some good advice, wouldn't consider it preaching.

I am sure you son is just as good as mine !!!!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 8:22PM
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Huh??? Isn't telling other people their preaching or acting like they're sanctimonious rather hypocritical and sanctimonious in itself?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 9:30PM
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Forms...ignore fuzzywuzzy's snotty post. Flick away the sting because we need you on this forum, and I for one do NOT want you to hold back a single word! I love your posts and will watch for them! I truly appreciated your response. There is such wisdom in your words, and I am thankful that you took the time to share your thoughts. They are a gift. I liked your response so much that I am downloading it, and I imagine citykitty will as well, as I am guessing that she may want to reread these words in the years to come. I also thought your response on another post dated April 17 on the estrangement forum was extraordinary! Your words have the capacity to bring about healing in the midst of the pain that relationships with others can bring. At times, we can become stuck because we can only see it through our own limited perspective, and our desire to be right. And yet, things can change by learning to look at it from another perspective, we had not really considered or pursued. It is like looking through a kaleidoscope; with a slight turn, the whole picture changes. So often, I think the same applies to life, and especially relationships with other people. We get so caught up in our viewpoint, and being right, and yet we can be so off base. And if we could just practice looking at various situations from various viewpoints, it could bring about a better perspective. So often, we do not come to this on our own. It is through the wise words of someone else, that can bring healing and peace and forgiveness. You have been that wise voice. Thank you.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 7:38AM
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forms, I agree with bnicebkind.....your words are valuable. I really didn't have someone to talk with about this issue, and your insight is appreciated. Thank you.

I supposed others out there have their own baggage. Keep helping!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 10:51AM
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I agree, too. I like forms's posts, especially that one! I read it with great care, because my son's girlfriend's parents have a difficult divorce, too, so very possibly I will be in the same situation as citykitty. I am grateful for your excellent advice, forms.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 10:32PM
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My opinion is the same.. stay out of it.

In my husband's family, EVERYONE gets involved in each other's lives and there's so much conflict going on. This one won't talk to this one, that one won't talk to that one, etc. My husband always says "Why can't my family be more like yours?"

In my family, we mind our own business unless we are asked for help/advice, etc. We all have our own problems to deal with and don't need "medling" family members to make it worse.

Sounds like your DIL's mom needs therapy in order to move on with her life. You'd think she would put aside her anger towards her ex for her daughter's special day!

If a blow out is meant to happen, it will whether you involve yourself or not, so it's best, IMO, to just be there for support for both your son and DIL. The best thing you can do is LISTEN.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 1:07PM
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Dear 'forms' and other sweet contributors,

You gave me such excellent advice on the DIL and the dysfunctional family situation on this forum, I just had to let you know: a party was given for a family member of DIL and my son (and incidentally my daughter as well) was there. Many of the future MIL's friends and neighbors were there, and they were all goggling over the engagement announcement, saying (winthin earshot of SD) how wonderful he was and how lucky they were to have a future SIL like him. I think the SD is now eating crow.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 9:08AM
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