Advice for a Meddling Mother

By Fran Marmor | February 27th, 2017

Knowing the boundaries once children are grown

DEAR FRAN, Must I stop being a mother now that my son is married? I used to be very close to him, but these days, I can almost not stand being around him and my daughter-in-law, because she is so condescending and mean to him. I think she’s downright abusive. My son used to be strong and happy, but now I think he’s like a battered man. He is always afraid of making her mad. She is so controlling – I’ve never seen anything like it. My husband tells me to just mind my own business since no one is actually getting physically hurt. He fears we’ll lose our son if we meddle. But I think my daughter-in-law is abusive, and I don’t think we should ignore it just because he’s a man. I bet if this was our daughter my husband would do something. I’ve dropped hints to my son, telling him that he seems unhappy, but he tells me he’s fine. I want to have a serious talk with him and share my concerns, but my husband is adamant that I shouldn’t. So my question to you is, do I stop acting like his mother because he’s an adult and just watch this abuse? – Myrna

DEAR MYRNA, You will never stop being his mother. Your love and compassion for him are apparent and beautiful. However, you have to show your concern differently now that he is an adult. Your son is making the choice to be in this relationship, and the best thing you can do is love him and be as kind to his wife as you can be. My adult clients often tell me how much they wish their parents would just accept their choices even if they don’t understand or agree with them. I think your son is telling you this is what he needs, since he is telling you he “is fine.” Parenting is so difficult, and sometimes restraint is the hardest part. It may help you enjoy your time with him again if you occasionally see him without your daughter-in-law around, but that can be tricky, and you’ll have to do it in a way that isn’t obvious or hurtful to her. Hopefully one day they will have a healthier marital relationship. It’s possible. But regardless, you have been there, loving your son his entire life, and I would bet that is what he continues to need now. Please be gentle with your husband. I would imagine this is difficult for him also. You deserve each other’s support during this very challenging phase of parenting. – Fran

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