Agnes was distraught. She thought one of her sons and his wife hated her and didn’t want to see her any more. She was afraid they’d cut her off from her new grandchild. She didn’t know why they would want to estrange from her.
Were her son and his wife toxic adult children; was his wife alienating her son from her? How could Agnes tell?
- Agnes’ son and his wife were not harsh or cruel to her. They’d actually explained, numerous times, kindly, almost pleadingly, that they simply liked privacy. They were not bullying or abusive; no temper tantrums. They said they didn’t want her coming over unannounced. They’d call her at least month, maybe even more if she’d respect their privacy. They begged her not to bring dinner. She was a great cook but they liked cooking together by themselves. Of course they’d spend the big holidays with her, in rotation with her daughter-in-law’s family.
- They told Agnes they loved her and simply had different personalities and styles; they liked distance. She hadn’t done anything wrong and they were struggling with their guilt at not living their lives the way she wanted. Her daughter-in-law even said she’d call her “Nonna.” They felt guilty. Nevertheless, they had to live the way they were comfortable.
- Agnes remembered that her son had always been that way. He’d always seemed to want privacy and had distanced himself. She’d insisted the family do everything together; that was simply what families did. She’d spent a lot of his childhood dragging him back into the bosom of her family.
- They never asked for money or demanded her help on a whim. They weren’t using distance or cruelty to blackmail Agnes or to make her life miserable. They simply seemed to like more scheduling and planning ahead.
- They never used her grandchild as a hostage for demands. They never hovered to oversee Agnes playing with child. They even said they could see spending a day a month together or even leaving Agnes’ grandchild with her if Agnes gave them distance in other ways.
- They treated her daughter-in-law’s family the same way.
What was the problem?
Agnes’s other son and his wife were fine with Agnes’s being intimately involved in their lives. One of them called at least once a day. Unannounced, Agnes brought dinner to them at least once a week and spent all day Saturday with them. That was exactly the way she imagined, all her life, being a mother and grandmother. She was helper and caretaker. Agnes focused all her vast energy on her family; she’d even vacation with them if they let her.
That was the problem. The first son wasn’t smothered by Agnes’s attentions but the second was. He and his wife wanted more privacy and time for their nuclear family. They were not toxic adult children; her daughter-in-law wasn’t alienating her son from her. They simply didn’t wanted to be smothered by Agnes’ ever-present love.
The only thing Agnes had done wrong was not to see her son as an individual different from herself; with a different personality and style. And possessing free will. Her son and his wife were not toxic or bullying. They didn’t try to beat Agnes down with anger or manipulate her by guilt at not having been a good enough parent.
Reconciliation was relatively straightforward.
Agnes had a hard time accepting that they had different personalities and styles from her dream. She had a hard time thinking of them as independent and capable adults. This was not the life she’d planned so carefully.
But once Agnes finished weeping her guts out, once she realized it wasn’t about who was right or wrong, it was simply about personalities, Agnes started listening to their boundaries. Once she relented and talked to them calmly, her son and daughter-in-law also relented a little and welcomed her more than they’d originally said. But no vacations together.
Of course, the same applies to every gender combination.
Of course, there are many complications depending on your situation. The best way to learn how to take power in your life and to be the person you want to be is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:
- Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
- Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to create the life your spirit has always hungered for.
Since all tactics depend on the situation, call me at 1-877-8Bullies for expert counseling and coaching by phone or Skype.