My sisters are both comfortably retired and spend money freely, eating out and buying things for their houses, and one even just bought a $200K villa. When my mom (not their natural mom) passed away last year, all the money was split three ways. My mom never treated them any differently than me. I am incredibly hurt, and my son wants nothing to do with family. I can’t make excuses for their behavior and want to know how to confront them.
I feel I am living a false life when I go shopping or out to eat with them. Even when my best friend’s daughter overdosed, they made a beautiful floral wreath arrangement for her. For my son, not even a card or a baked lasagna.
What is up?? I really want to know. Now I’m invited to a housewarming party for my sister’s new villa and am expected to bring HER a gift? She has babysat for my son’s baby twice for a couple hours so he can go on job interviews, but it still seems like they could have done more. — Disappointed in Sisters
I’m very sorry for the tragic loss of your son’s fiancée and the mother of your grandbaby. I can imagine it’s a shock and that you must feel overwhelmed with concern for your son over how he will emotionally, physically, and financially navigate this new landscape as a suddenly-single parent of a baby with, what sounds like, very limited resources. Your feelings of frustration and anger are normal parts of the grieving process, and while I understand the temptation to direct those feelings at your sisters, whom you feel haven’t stepped up enough to help, I hope you resist such temptation.
The truth is, your sisters may be struggling with their own limitations, especially in making sense of the way your son’s fiancée died; suicide is one of those tragedies that can especially trigger people’s limitations of empathy. If your sisters didn’t have a relationship with your son because he’d been avoiding them for years, that may further exacerbate the lack of empathy. It doesn’t make their seeming lack of concern less hurtful, but this may be more a case of their just not having the emotional tools to lend the support you think they should.
Rather than calculate all the ways your sisters owe you/your son, including an inheritance from your mom – the woman who raised them as their own for most of their lives, I encourage you to use your words and communicate with them about your hurt feelings. Remember, this isn’t about your sister’s villa, or the gifts you’ve given their grandchildren; this is about your feeling that they haven’t adequately recognized a time in your life when you need them to show up. Here’s a sample script:
“This has been such a tragic time for my son, and as his mom, I am so worried and sad for him. Any support he gets from my friends and family is, by extension, support for me as I share in his burden of grief, caring for his baby, and picking up the pieces after losing his fiancée so unexpectedly. He is heartbroken and I am heartbroken for him. Because the heartbreak is eased by acts of love and support from others, I wish we were getting more of that from you. While I appreciate the babysitting you’ve done, I’ve felt you could have offered more support, considering your relationship with me. Maybe you aren’t sure what is needed, in which case I wish you’d ask. Or maybe there’s another reason you have withheld the kind of support we’re getting from others in the community, in which case, I wish you’d explain. I’m feeling hurt, in addition to the pain I’m feeling for my son, and I need my sisters’ support.”
If, after sharing your feelings with them, you continue to feel unsatisfied with the level of their support, take a break from them. You absolutely do not need to go to a housewarming party or any other family event where you’d be expected to celebrate when you’re feeling so emotionally-strained. It would be better to create distance between you and those who are disappointing you than to have heated confrontations you might later regret.
Now my boyfriend gets upset with me because I don’t try hard enough with his son. I have tried to explain to him that my problem is not with his son; it is with him for allowing his son to say what he did to me and to treat me the way he does. My boyfriend and I never get alone time, ever. All I have asked for is an hour or two a month. I do not believe I am being unreasonable about that, but my boyfriend says I am wrong to ask for that because his son has no one but him. Yet his son has a grandmother, uncles, cousins, friends from school — enough that he can be with one of them for an hour or two a month.
I recently bought a sign that is the word “Love.” I asked my boyfriend to put our names on it and hang it above the bed. He put our names plus his son’s name on it. Am I wrong to feel like he should not have put his son’s name on it? It feels weird to have his name on a sign that says love. If it said “Family,” then put his name right in the middle, but not a love sign. He says I just have a problem with his son and I should get over it, but I don’t feel like that’s true. My problem is with his not understanding that WE are in a relationship and what I’m asking for is very minimal. Am I wrong or being selfish? — Not Relishing This
Let me ask you something: Do you love your boyfriend’s son? You’ve been with your boyfriend for three years. It sounds like you live together, so you live with his son, too. You say you “accept” the son… but do you love him? If not, I think it’s time for you to move on. You need to do more than merely accept your partner’s child – a person you live with and have made a home and, essentially, a family with. If you don’t by now, I don’t think you ever will and it’s not fair to any of you for you to continue the charade of being a family.
If you DO love your boyfriend’s son, for God’s sake, quit being so petty!! I mean, you’re a grown woman and you’re complaining about relish? About a “Love” sign over your bed? This is all so petty and juvenile and not even the 11-year-old’s fault, and yet, in your own words, you have “quit trying with him.” You’ve quit making any effort with a child because you don’t like the way he treats you? Has it occurred to you that he doesn’t like the way you treat him? Maybe he treats you like you’re “a nobody” because you treat him like someone you merely accept but don’t actually love. When you love a child, you don’t quit making an effort with him when he acts like an asshole. All kids act like assholes sometimes. It’s one way they get the attention of the adults they’re desperate for attention from.
Again, I think if you don’t love him, it’s time to be honest with yourself about that and move on. He and your boyfriend are a packaged deal and you can’t make a family with them without love for both. If you do love him, grow up, quit being petty about stupid shit, and hire a damn babysitter one evening every month so you and your boyfriend can go out on a date and get some much-needed alone time together. If your boyfriend refuses to go out with you, take that as a sign he’s avoiding being alone with you for a reason, and move on already.