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Annie’s Mailbox: Keep apologizing or stay estranged

Tue., June 22, 2010

Dear Annie: My son and his family have been estranged from us for six years. We discovered the reason was that his wife was spreading vicious lies. When I caught her in one particular lie, she left a message saying, “To us you are dead.” I assume my son believed her lies, because he does not contact us at all.

I have tried to mend the relationship, but every time there seems to be a little headway, she comes up with something new. I know she wants an apology from me. I would do that, but I’m sure she will use it as proof that her lies were true.

I love my son, and not seeing the grandkids is hurting my husband and me terribly. I pray daily for a miracle that will bring us together again. – Brokenhearted

Dear Broken: Some spouses (and it is primarily wives) are so insecure that they need to control every aspect of the marriage, and that requires alienating the in-laws. It borders on emotional abuse. It also requires a partner who doesn’t recognize what’s happening or lacks the spine to take a stand.

You cannot change your daughter-in-law’s personality, and you apparently cannot convince your son that she is a liar. He also may be unwilling to rock the boat at home by questioning her. Your choice is to remain estranged or to apologize repeatedly. An apology does not have to be an admission of guilt. Tell your daughter-in-law you are truly sorry for upsetting her, and make sure you say it in front of your son. We know it sticks in your craw, but it may be the only way to have any kind of relationship.

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