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What Should I Do Since My Son and His Fiancé Have Split Up Our Family?

Dear Newsweek,

My 36-year-old son has wealth and a gorgeous brick home. He and his partner each have a home office. They have been engaged for more than a year and have been dating for about two years. His daughter is seven years old, and she is black. I have the deepest love for her daughter Chloe, and our family is not in the least racist.

I once visited with his younger brother to look at their Christmas tree when I used to live about five minutes away. My son refused to let us in and turned both of us away. Since it was my first time, I didn’t give it much thought.

Even when I brought my brother, his uncle, along, we were never allowed inside when I dropped things off or just stopped by to say hello. I won’t visit there again because this has happened there so frequently. He has even specifically instructed me not to.

Since there was a significant breakdown in contact, I have now moved to a new home more than 45 minutes away. My youngest son and I now reside in my hometown after moving there.

I’m just curious as to how I can connect with and spend time with my future granddaughter. Her mother sent her to her parents’ house three hours away this summer. Even now, it’s only a 45-minute drive, but I never got to see her when I only lived five minutes away.

Is it better for me to be angry at my son or his fiance? They never visit me either, and I’m 62. We meet at restaurants close to their house. Spending quality time with my future granddaughter is all I really want.

They are discussing starting a family together. Am I going to get to see my own grandchild? Will he ever let me into his house? I simply don’t understand it. Thank you.

Betty, North Carolina

You Cannot Change Their Values And Preferences

Melissa Tran, LMFT, PMH-C, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a clinical instructor at Nova Southeastern University.

Dear Betty,

Your desire to welcome your son’s girlfriend and her daughter Chloe comes across as coming from the right place in your heart. It’s challenging to comprehend why your son is reacting in this way when you have so much love to give. Perhaps you are mourning the thought of how you had hoped your relationship with your son’s family and your grandparent life would be.

How did your son react when you expressed your worries and need for connection? Are you both focused on your dream or do you both have similar ideas about what that might look like in this stage of life? How has that been debated and thought through? You seem to speak different love languages. You mentioned that your son has made it clear that he does not want you to stop by. Your son seems to be establishing clear boundaries for his family. It’s possible that, despite the best of intentions, unexpectedly dropping by his house is against their wishes.

To discuss everyone’s expectations and how to respect boundaries, I would advise asking for a sit-down. You could seek family therapy if necessary to assist in facilitating these discussions. Spend that time hearing what he or she wants as well and accepting it. Investigate any racial dynamics that require attention. What I’m trying to say is that just because your family doesn’t identify as racist doesn’t mean that cultural considerations shouldn’t be taken into account.

In the end, you cannot alter their preferences and values. After that, you might think about seeking help from your friends, family, and/or a therapist to process your grief and move toward acceptance of a challenging circumstance.

Some people don’t like it when people arrive unexpectedly; call them first

Author and licensed marriage and family therapist Jane Hammerslough, LMFT, works in private practice. She is an American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Clinical Fellow.

Dear Betty,

Naturally, you are disappointed that you were not invited to visit your son and his fiancé’s home and worried that you might not get to see any future grandchildren or your son’s fiancé’s seven-year-old daughter. You seem to place a high value on being welcomed by family, wish to get along well with Chloe, and feel hurt when you try to visit but are turned away. It stands to reason that you would find this situation to be both perplexing and frustrating.

Who is to blame here? Who is his fiancée—your son? The quick response is neither. We cannot influence or change the actions of other people. Consider turning your attention inward instead. How have your attempts to get in touch with your son and his family failed to go as planned? And how has your actions—however well-intended—affected the current circumstance?

It might be necessary to be a little tougher on yourself for this. You obviously want to connect. Even though you might enjoy unannounced visits, not everyone does, especially if they are trying to do work from home. You might be able to better understand your son and his fiancé and foster more fruitful interactions if you take into account their needs and respect their boundaries by texting, emailing, or calling in advance. Even though you want to be close to Chloe, it might take some time and a deeper understanding of her mother before you can be close to her.

Finally, if they are willing to do so, it might be worthwhile to seek the assistance of a family therapist to help resolve some of these problems.


The “What Should I Do?” column in Newsweek offers readers professional advice. Please email us at life@newsweek.com if you have a personal problem. On relationships, families, friends, money, and employment, we can consult experts. Your story may also be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

Micheal Kurt

I earned a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport science from Oregon State University. He is an avid sports lover who enjoys tennis, football, and a variety of other activities. He is from Tucson, Arizona, and is a huge Cardinals supporter.

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