Ask Amy: For advice shopper, the answer is alienation
Dear Amy: My psychiatrist suggested I write to you because none of the professionals we've consulted have an answer.
I had two children with a selfish, emotionally abusive man. I divorced him at my psychologist’s suggestion so my children would not see and experience his awful behavior.
I had custody of the children. His few opportunities for visitation were lost due to his abuse. When the kids were older, he got visitation and spent most of the time trying to turn the kids against me.
My daughter was able to forgive him when she was an adult because he mellowed and she wanted to have some connection with him, despite his faults.
My son, however, caved to his pressure and has not had any contact with me in 20 years.
My daughter maintains a close relationship with her brother to this day.
My son is getting married. He evidently believes I might show up and make a scene, even though I have not been invited. (People often accuse others of things they are capable of doing themselves!) My ex won’t be in the same room with me.
My daughter is going to be in the wedding, but won't tell me about it.
I moved across the country to be with her and her kids.
I'm the good mom -- the extra good mom that did everything. (My daughter is a doctor.) My ex-husband is a bad man. He's made my son a bad man.
Why is my daughter participating in their family events, while I'm the one babysitting her kids?
Shouldn’t she stop enabling this hate campaign against me?
Dear Wondering: You seem to be advice-shopping, and I assume your psychiatrist is recommending that you ask my opinion because your practice is to reject the advice you’ve been given and go on the hunt for a different answer.
I assume you have researched “parental alienation,” and if so, you will see that your son’s attitude toward you might be the result of his father’s behavior. However, in my opinion, you are also practicing a form of this, in your attempt to force your daughter to align completely with you.
It should not be her job to advocate for you in such a challenging situation. She is doing what many children of toxic divorces do: she is adjusting her scuba mask and wading in, trying her hardest to get her own needs met without being figuratively dashed against the rocks by an angry parent.
You paint yourself as “the good mom” and your ex and son as “bad men,” and as long as you see the world in such absolutes, your daughter will be forced to behave this way. You should never expect a child to completely renounce a parent, because – for better or for worse – that parent is a part of them.
If you don’t want to babysit your grandchildren, don’t! But don’t use them as further ammunition in your ongoing war against your ex.
Dear Amy: My dad and his wife live in Texas. I live in Florida.
My father and stepmother, “Darcy,” have been married for 40 years.
Neither of them work, and they are always home together.
EVERY time I speak to my father, Darcy is in the background making comments and offering unwanted opinions regarding what we are trying to talk about.
My dad ignores it, but it is so irritating and disruptive that it makes me not want to talk to him.
– Frustrated Son
Dear Son: You should assume that when you and your father speak by phone, your conversation isn’t private, even if “Darcy” isn’t in the background, weighing in. If you want to communicate with your father uninterrupted, a weekly email exchange might work best.
It is genuinely challenging to talk to two people on the phone at the same time. You might want to start your calls by talking to Darcy and expressing an interest in her doings. Then you could ask, “Dad, could you step into the other room? I’d love to talk privately for a few minutes.”
Dear Amy: Thank you so much for your response to “Bay Area Stepmom Cook,” who refused to omit onions from her dishes, even though her stepdaughter’s husband had an aversion to them.
My mother-in-law respected my dislike/aversion to garlic. It was just like you said: Every time she thoughtfully left out the garlic (or served me separately), I honestly did feel loved.
Dear Garlucked: I’ve received a huge response to this question. Thank you.
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