Dear Carolyn: My parents have invited the entire family, mine and my siblings,’ to fly to their home to celebrate a major life event. Everyone is invited to stay at their house except my son – they plan to get a motel room for him. Their problem is, my son is gay. He is married, and plans to bring his husband along.
My husband and I love both men, and have a great relationship with both. I have told my folks we would all stay in a motel, but they insist they have room for everyone except my one child.
This is a sweet, thoughtful, loving, caring, emotionally stable young man. I can understand they have different ideas from mine, but how do I balance their needs with the needs of my son? I feel incredibly protective of him, but I don’t necessarily want to be “in your face” to my parents right now, either.
– Loving Mom of a Wonderful Son
A: Wow. What does your son think of the outcast treatment?
Carolyn: My son is a peacemaker. He would agree to any arrangement that made other people happy. Maybe that’s why I feel so protective of him – he doesn’t always protect himself. I get that he is an adult, and I don’t often involve myself in his concerns, but since these are my parents I feel this one is my battle.
– Loving Mom again
A: Then fight it.
Or don’t, knowing you’ve bought your familial peace at the expense of this generous son.
You simply can’t have both things you say you want here: You can’t protect your son from your parents’ cruelty and opt out of being “ ‘in your face’ to my parents right now.”
You can only choose to figure out what your values, conscience and sense of decency demand, and act accordingly – with the assurance that whatever consequences you set in motion with that choice are preferable to the ones you suffer when you do something you know isn’t right.
Stop blaming yourself
Dear Carolyn: My fiancé and his daughter are incredibly close. She is in her early 20s and still maintains the visitation schedule she had as a minor. She comes over three times per week.
I live at his house and can join them if I want to. If we all go somewhere, they take photos together that don’t include me. I told him last week that I feel humiliated when they do this because it says to me they want to remember the trip as if I hadn’t been there. He understood, but, my goodness, how hurtful is that behavior? In our early years together, saying anything about this subject would end in a vicious fight with me being called jealous, insecure, immature and threatened.
I went to a counselor years ago regarding my concerns that his daughter was actually his significant other. The counselor said that, in his opinion, their intense attachment would fade over time. Ten years later, this has not occurred.
Since graduating from college, she has not gotten a job or gone to graduate school and has never had a boyfriend.
I don’t think this is healthy for her or us.
When he is with his child, his face lights up. I feel the strain on all of us when we are together as they try to balance their desire to enjoy their time unreservedly and his self-correction that he has to make me feel included.
Since I am the one with the problem, should I move out and break off our engagement? Am I displaying ugly jealousy and competitiveness?
– Second Fiddle
A: Actually, they are the ones with the (much bigger) problem, but that’s neither here nor there, for your purposes.
When you are unhappy, and when the source of that unhappiness isn’t changing, words like “jealousy” and “competitiveness” just cloud the issue. This is your life. You are not married and you are not raising a minor child (right?). You do what you want with your life. If you want to leave, then leave.
I hope you do – and, on your way out, give counseling another shot. Ten years is a long time to spend toughing it out, blaming yourself, and watching your fiance’s face not light up around you.