June 3, 2009 in Features

It’s natural to be torn; choose a side

Carolyn Hax
 

Dear Carolyn: After 13 years of marriage and several children, my son found a girlfriend and now the once loving couple is getting a divorce.

My son has distanced himself from us … while my daughter-in-law calls for support and encouragement. Son rarely takes our calls and makes no effort to visit, while soon-to-be-former- daughter-in-law actively seeks our company.

Solve this problem for us and we will write back and ask how we can accept the “other woman” into our home. People can be unhappy and get a divorce. Cheating is not acceptable. Is that the source of my problem? – F.

It’s certainly possible. No one likes being judged; adults chafe at being judged more than children do; and parental judgment stings more than judgment by strangers. That’s why parents who judge their adult children need to be particularly mindful of their power.

There may also be aggravating factors. If your son knows you’re right and feels guilty, then he could be unleashing on you the anger he feels at himself. Childish to the extreme, but common nevertheless.

If on the other hand your son knows your daughter-in-law isn’t the saint she’s making herself out to be, then he could be angry that you’re taking her side without question.

The latter is, admittedly, a stretch; it would take a noble soul to withhold dirt on his soon-to-be-ex, and noble souls don’t traffic in cheating and veiled threats.

It’s natural to be torn between the two – this is your baby after all – but it’s also destructive. Reaching out to him, yet still making bitter remarks about the quote-unquote-other- woman, only feeds into the atmosphere of tension and bile.

So figure out exactly which stand you’re prepared to take, and then take it, with full awareness of the possible consequences. It won’t be easy (“wrenching” is more like it); however, it’s your best chance at coming through this without regrets of your own.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.


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