Marital Matters

Personal stories about marital matters and separation issues.

August 10, 2013

Warring Families

In warring families there is always someone who acts as the umpire, the peacemaker, and in Maggie's grown up family it is her youngest son. First he tried to patch up her marriage and reconcile her with his father; now he's trying to patch up a squabble she's having with her youngest daughter and in both cases the umpire gets slammed!

"My two other children are a lot older than the youngest two and keep out of family squabbles," explains Maggie, "but the youngest two are not only very close with each other but also with their father, my ex-husband."

"After his bumbling efforts to patch up my marriage caused more trouble than ever, my youngest son had always been careful to keep his continuing relationship with his father separate from his relationship with me," says Maggie. "Even when he slipped his father's name into his conversations with me, I always thought it was inadvertent, a slip of the tongue, part of something else he was talking about. I never suspected him of having an ulterior motive. I should have known better!"

"My youngest son's latest telephone call started off pleasantly - we chatted about what we had done since we last spoke and everything was happy and normal," says Maggie. "It was a lovely day, I was feeling better able to cope with my life after a lot of health problems, but in no way was I prepared for what came next."

"I was tolerant when he started talking about his sister, telling me she was going through a bad time, and suggesting I called her," explains Maggie, "but when he raised issues relating to his father's private life it occurred to me that my son may be up to his old peacemaking tricks - maybe with his father's collusion."

"By talking about his father to me my son was either deliberately or unconsciously doing his father's bidding," explains Maggie. "And, by talking about me to him, my son would be betraying my trust. My life is none of his father's business any more, nor his mine. We're divorced. My son knows this, so why would he bring these issues up unless he still holds out hope that his father and I will reunite?"

"As far as his sister is concerned," says Maggie, "she and I are perfectly capable of resolving our differences in our own time and we don't need his umpire skills to bring this about. Nevertheless, he persisted in telling me all about her problems, even though I really didn't want to hear about them."

"He told me that she's in therapy with her own daughter aged 11 - which, considering my daughter's bossy nature, didn't surprise me at all," explains Maggie. "And although it shouldn't have surprised me either, I must admit to being shocked to hear from him that she actually blames me for her troubles. He told me that by divorcing her father she felt that I had failed to give her a good 'motherly' role model."

"Hello? That's another way of saying I was a bad mother and totally invalidates my worth during the years I spent caring for her," sighs Maggie. "I brought up my children exactly how I wished I had been brought up myself, and if my 'mothering' wasn't good enough for her then she obviously has higher standards of 'mothering' than I do and good luck to her in achieving the impossible."

"I told my youngest son that his sister's problems are nothing to do with me - every parent goes through endless hassles with adolescent children - and if she's feeling old or hopelessly stuck in a loveless marriage with unruly kids and wants to blame me for her problems then she needs to get real and take responsibility."

"When I asked whether she had requested that he approach me for a reconciliation - to intercede on her behalf like an umpire - he denied it," explains Maggie. "He told me that he was doing this for her sake because he felt sorry for her."

"Thinking that he may he holding something back from me, deserving of my sympathy, I then enquired about her circumstances," says Maggie. "He told me that she was doing okay and going on an overseas holiday soon."

"Poor little rich girl!" sighs Maggie. "I wish I could have afforded therapy and overseas trips when she was putting me through hell a while ago. I couldn't believe that my son expected me to feel sorry for her, and believed - as he must have done - that I really was to blame for her troubles."

"It's bad enough when a person directly involved in a relationship with me blames me for all the relationship troubles - that's a first hand slap in the face," sighs Maggie, "but when a third party, related or not, blames me for all the troubles that's a second hand slap!"

"Had my son told me that my daughter's husband was abusing her, she had cancer, a low paying job that barely paid the bills, was living on bread and peanut butter and had nobody to turn to I would have been over to see her in a flash - as any mother would - shunned or not," says Maggie. "But understanding that she's enjoying herself, living high and doing fine coping with normal adolescent child problems means that my son had no reason to bring her into his conversation with me, and no right to make me feel guilty about the current lapse in our relationship."

"What I never wanted to think about - but now must - is the possibility that my son is not such an impartial umpire in family squabbles after all," says Maggie. "I didn't like his tone and the way he was behaving towards me - trying to control me, blame me and make me feel bad about myself."

"My adult children are free to do as they please - I don't own them," explains Maggie, "but if it pleases them to hurt me then a line needs to be drawn. I've drawn it with my youngest daughter, and I'll draw it with my youngest son, too."

"He may believe that in 'setting adult children free' I am avoiding responsibility or shirking some duty," says Maggie, "but I believe that my responsibilities and duties towards my children ended with their attainment of legal adulthood at the age of 18. I gave them a year's grace to get on their feet and then I asserted my rights - to do otherwise would have made me a doormat."

"If my youngest daughter cannot take responsibility for whatever mess she finds herself in - preferring to blame others for her problems - then it would appear that she is genetically more her father's daughter than mine and if I feel sorry for anyone it is her daughter, my grand-daughter, whom I miss more than I do her mother," says Maggie. "I wouldn't be surprised if the child complained to a teacher and my daughter was forced into therapy as a legal requirement. If she's having troubles with an 11-yr old then what will happen when the adolescent rebellion starts in earnest when her daughter hits 14?"

"My youngest son is not stupid and I don't believe he's got an axe to grind against me," says Maggie, "so why is he suddenly talking about his father and trying to promote a reconciliation between myself and his sister when she continues to blame me wholly for our current squabble and therefore remains unwilling to take responsibility for her actions?"

"I'm beginning to sound like the big bad wolf in my family, right?" sighs Maggie. "I just want to be left in peace for a while and will sort things out in my own time. I really don't want my son acting as some sort of umpire when there's no battle going on as far as I'm concerned."