WITH ANGEL DONNETTE ROBERTSON
My mother often makes jokes at my husband’s expense – about his job, his political views, his relationship with our children, his hobbies. She doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just her way. After our last visit with her, however, my husband decided that until I speak with my mother and convince her to quit the jokes, he won’t attend any family gathering. He is forcing me to choose between him and my mother. Why can’t he just ignore her as he has done for years?
Actually, the one making you choose between the two is your mother. She is the one forcing you into that uncomfortable position between her and your husband. Apparently, your husband has just finally decided to demand the respect that he deserves. He is setting a healthy boundary for himself.
Why is peace with your mother more important than respect for your husband?
No one deserves constant criticism. Few of us can withstand the wear on our self-esteem. Sticks and stones break our bones and, yes, words will actually hurt us. Why do you not want to protect your husband, your partner in life?
And your children are watching these interactions as well. What are they learning about their grandmother? Their father? You? What will they accept later because of what they see now?
I know confronting our parents and drawing boundaries is difficult and scary, even as adults. We can still feel very much like kids. But I think you know that your mother is in the wrong, not your husband.
This is your relationship and your responsibility. You should speak to your mother and explain that either she treats your husband with respect or he does not attend family gatherings. In fact, you might even consider withdrawing from those gatherings yourself, a sign of solidarity with your husband, a sign of you protecting your marriage.
Show your husband, your children and your mother that respect for each other and oneself is preferable to a silent but hostile peace.
My daughter’s biological father willingly terminated his parental rights, so that my husband could adopt her. The biological father’s family had infrequent contact with my daughter before the termination and no contact in the last three years. Now, the aunts have messaged me, asking for the opportunity to build a relationship with my daughter. My first instinct is to say “no,” but is this the best answer for my daughter?
You, as the loving and involved parent, are in the best position to decide what is best for your daughter.
Of course, you should examine your objections for any unfair prejudices or unfounded assumptions: are you still hurt by the actions of your daughter’s biological father? Is that hurt being transferred onto his family? How well do you know the family? Are they generally good, caring people in a bad situation?
Or is the abandonment of your daughter typical behavior that might be repeated? Are you reacting in part from fear that your daughter might like her biological father’s family “better” than you or your husband? Will the involvement of his family instigate drama with the biological father?
Your daughter will eventually reach an age where she may want to contact her biological family herself. When she discovers you blocked the family’s earlier attempts, she could resent you for that choice. I do not believe that should necessarily affect your decision. It is better that you protect her when she is young and work through resentment later, if you feel that she needs that protection. But you will want her to know you carefully considered your decision.
If you do allow contact, keep the process slow and give your daughter as much control as her age allows. Letters and emails are easier to monitor. And until trust is built, you should be present for any visits. If the family is not willing to accept your boundaries, then you have the answer to your question.
Angel Donnette Robertson is not a professional counselor, but she has a lifelong appreciation for the beauty and complications of relationships.
Have a relationship question for Angel? Contact her through her blog here.
She will select reader questions to answer, along with questions she finds, in upcoming issues of Inside Columbia’s Prime.