Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 33 years. His parents disliked me from our first date. I have no idea why. I was only 16. We married two years later, and his parents didn’t come to the wedding and stopped speaking to my husband for the next 23 years. They missed knowing our oldest son. When our second child was born, I wanted him to have grandparents, so I called them the day we came home from the hospital. They stopped by for a visit, and things seemed to improve. Well, that truce lasted 10 years, and now my mother-in-law is not speaking to us again.
My in-laws spread terrible rumors about us. We live in a small town, and even the store clerks tell us the awful things my in-laws say. Annie, my son loves his grandparents and calls to talk to them, but they never pick up the phone. He leaves voicemail messages. They never call back.
What do I say to a 10-year-old to help him understand why his Grandma and Grandpa won’t speak to him? My hope is that they see this letter and realize they have a loving family who wants them in their lives. – Hurting Daughter-in-Law
Dear Hurting: We do not understand parents who deliberately stop contact with children and grandchildren who love them and want to be close. Even if your in-laws had some reason for excluding you, it is reprehensible that they think nothing of hurting the grandchildren in the process. Could your husband speak to his parents about this? Would they agree to joint counseling to work on whatever issues are bothering them?
If they refuse to address this and continue the silent treatment, we suggest telling your son that Grandma and Grandpa have difficulty dealing with others and that sometimes such people need to be left alone. Reassure him that it has nothing to do with him, and that you hope someday his grandparents will be able to cope better.