Dear Annie: My son was married eight months ago and now lives on the other side of the country.
During their courtship, engagement and wedding, I did everything I could to be friends with his wife. I bought her a rehearsal dinner dress, which she approved of at first. I helped her dress for the dinner. I invited her to go shopping. I called. I texted. I reached out because I knew she would not be so inclined.
There were several things that happened with her parents and her during the wedding plans that were hurtful. The most hurtful was that their seating chart put my mother, my sister and me at the back of the room, while his father’s table and her parent’s table were in a place of honor.
The latest to occur was today, her birthday. I called first thing to wish her a happy birthday, but there was no answer. I left a very nice message. I also sent her a really cute card that my son said arrived yesterday. I received no text, at the very least, no acknowledgment and no thank you.
My question is this: Is straightening this out his responsibility? Shouldn’t he be upset that she ignores and disrespects his mother?
I am not overbearing, though I know that the above may sound like I was pushing myself on her. This all took place over several years. I really don’t call very often and try to be the opposite of what my own mother-in-law was. I eventually got divorced and she was probably one of the reasons.
Do I speak to my son and let him know that it is up to him to fix this? Do I tell him if his kids don’t have any relationship with me, then it’s because of him?
He is so grateful to this girl that he walks on eggshells. Right now, she is supporting him while he finishes school. She has made the comment that she is the breadwinner and he is the caregiver.
Meanwhile, I have mostly made peace with the situation and have decided that as long as my relationship with my son is good, that’s all that matters. The above questions stem from my mother prompting me to have it out, so to speak, with my son. My instinct is to just let all this go.
What should I do?
— Hurt Mother-in-law
Dear Hurt Mother-in-law: First, do not tell him that if his kids don’t have a relationship with you, it is because of him. That is putting all the blame on your son and taking no responsibility.
It sounds like your daughter-in-law is tough. The question you have to ask yourself is how to best navigate this. If your goal is to be close to your son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, maybe now is the time to pull back. Give them their space while letting them know that you would always love to see them.
It must be hard on your son to constantly we walking on eggshells in his marriage. Have compassion for him and keep being a kind and sweet mother.
All of the issues regarding the rehearsal dinner rein the past. Have a direct conversation with her and apologize if she felt that you were mean to her that night. Be direct and tell her that she is a part of your family now and you very much value family and love her.
I think your own instinct of letting it go will be far more useful than “having it out” with your son. Best of luck!
Dear Annie: Your advice to the woman whose sister did not want to quit smoking won’t work. Quietly looking into alternatives to quit smoking is like giving diets to an overweight friend. You lose the weight when YOU decide to, and you quit the smokes the same way.
As a formerly overweight smoker who lost the weight eight years ago, and quit smoking 25 years ago, I knew I needed to do these things long before I actually did them. The sister doesn’t need reminders to quit, information on how or scolding. She knows she should quit. All her sister can really do is ask her not to smoke in her presence.
This is one of those journeys each person starts on their own. The time for support is after the journey begins. Good luck to them both!
— Former Smoker
Dear Former Smoker: I am printing your letter for its personal experience and great points. With any addiction, the addict has to want to stop on their own. Once they make that commitment, you can offer a ton of support.
Dear Annie: I have a problem with my sister. We are both in are 60s and lost our younger brother to cancer several years ago. I was divorced at the time.
My sister set me up with her best friend, who had been divorced for several years. We ended up getting married and are very happy.
The problem is that my sister and my wife used to talk on a daily basis for hours. She would also talk to me once a week. But she no longer talks to me or my wife. I’ve texted, and I’ve called and left messages for her.
We have gone over to visit her, as she lives less than a mile away.
I love my sister and miss out on how close we used to be, and my wife is heartbroken. Help me get my sister back.
— Broken Brother
Dear Broken Brother: Let’s take your broken wing and repair it. The best way to do that is to tell your sister exactly what you told me — that you and your wife miss her.
Maybe she is feeling a little left out, so continue to include her in things. Also, encourage your wife to continue her friendship with your sister independently of you. She sounds like a kind sister who may be feeling a little torn — or jealous. On the one hand, she is happy for you that you found someone you love, but on the other hand, she probably misses her best friend.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to email@example.com.