Dear Thelma: My son and daughter-in-law are dead set against my daughter's relationship


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Dear Thelma,

I am a widow of nearly 10 years and have three grown-up kids. Two of them got married recently and have settled down whereas the younger girl is pursuing her postgraduate studies.

Both my daughters-in-law are professionals. I treat them like my own daughters, and my daughter is very close to them and really did not have much issue till late last year.

My daughter had been going out with A for many years but things did not work out well, and she fell for B who happens to be her school senior and also my daughter-in-law's brother.

My daughter-in-law turned very nasty and started badmouthing my daughter – and my son followed suit. What upset me was, whatever personal issues that my daughter shared with my daughter-in-law during her good times has been used against her in painting a bad picture of her character.

They broke ties with my daughter who happens to adore the brother very much. I am caught between both of them.

My daughter is very happy with B as she feels he is the ideal person for her. His parents have no issues with their relationship, and we are planning to have the wedding in two years' time.

Being a mother, I love all my kids equally but things have turned very nasty. My son hates the sight of my daughter as both our families live in a same area and we often bump into each other.

I never expected my daughter-in-law to completely change. I can't believe that someone that I hoped would take care of my family has become so nasty overnight. I just maintain a cordial relationship with both of them as I also have a granddaughter whom I adore. I don't want to rock the boat so much as I feel that I will lose my son as he seems to be accepting everything the wife says.

When I questioned why they are both unhappy with the relationship, the answers seem to be coming from my daughter-in-law who keeps saying their relationship is so disgusting and she will not accept them into her family.

B has also been barred from attending any of their family functions.

My son, in whom I had put all my hopes, just follows what the wife is saying. He is not being supportive of my daughter but instead blames her, saying that she lied to him as she did not confess earlier that she was dating B.

I tried reasoning with them, saying that both of them are adults and have every right to make their own decision but the answer I got from them was a big 'No'.

Any event that my daughter attends will not have the presence of my son and his wife. I feel very hurt and disappointed with what is taking place. What would you do if you were in my situation?

Sad Mum

Oh dear, I am so very sorry. Let me say immediately: you write like a sensible woman. So let’s see what may be happening.

As you point out, adults are allowed to date who they please. When a sibling, relative or friend dates a person we don’t like or disapprove of, we may say so once and then we respect their choice.

Sure, we may not hang around as much, but overall, we try to keep the relationship with the person we love and quietly avoid the partner we don’t.

Your daughter-in-law has no respect for others. She punishes those who don’t do exactly as she dictates. That is abusive.

In healthy relationships, adults have the manners and etiquette to socialise with people they are not particularly fond of. It’s a normal part of adulting.

Why doesn’t your son stand up for his sister? It may be that he is abusive too. Or he may be frightened of his wife. Abusers have a way of harassing and scaring their partners and kids, bullying them until they do exactly as they are told. So what is going on with him is unclear, except that he is a grown man who is OK with bullying his sister. That is not acceptable.

What can you do? You support your daughter. She has done nothing wrong and she is being targeted, smeared, harassed and isolated by her brother and his wife. Do the right thing and stand up for her.

Your daughter-in-law will scream and make threats. Your son will support her.

Can you fix this? Sadly, that is tricky. Abusive people have no morals. They don’t care who they hurt; all they want is power. This means that nice people like you are fighting an uneven battle. Sense does not work.

If you can get the family together and agree to stand firm, reminding this couple of the rules of common courtesy, you may get them to knock off the bullying.

However, be prepared that your daughter-in-law and son will punish you by telling your granddaughter that she may no longer talk to you.

It comes down to a choice. Me, I would do what is right and support your lovely daughter and her fiancé. If your son and daughter-in-law want to absent themselves, then I would comfort myself with these thoughts.

First, with abusive people, the drama never ends. You walk around on eggshells. Living without all that would make your lives a lot better.

Second, your son is stuck for now. He is identifying with the abuser. That may not last. Your daughter-in-law may go too far, allowing him to see her clearly. Or he may at some point get away and reassess what he got into.

Third, abusers control their family for a while but often lose them when the kids grow up. All that bullying and drama rankles.

So not only may your son come out of this, but when your granddaughter becomes a teen, she will wonder what you are like and will likely look for you.

So, should there be a blowup, please know that it may not be forever.

What you do next is a choice. Given this is a tricky and emotional issue, I think you would profit from having two or three sessions with a professional skilled in domestic violence and abuse. Talk through all the options.

Whatever you do, make sure you comfort your daughter right now. She is the target of awful bullies and she needs her mum.

Good luck, and know I’m thinking of you.

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Family conflict , in-laws , abuse


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