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#50 Son wants us to shun his ex-wife / Mother taught and rewards blame and spite

DEAR ABBY: My son is going through separation and divorce. It’s not a friendly one.

He is now serving in the military overseas. His wife and two children are here in the United States and live close to my husband and me. She allows us to see our grandkids whenever we want. However, since the divorce, she’s fallen on hard times—economically and emotionally—it kills us to know she’s suffering the consequences of her decision to break up the marriage.

The issue, Abby, is loyalty to our son. He is very upset by what she did, bringing the children back to the states and destroying his military career. He is bitter and adamant that our relationship with his ex-wife come to a halt. He says when he returns home, she is not welcome in our house. The children won’t be an issue, as they have joint custody.

I love both my son and daughter-in-law. I feel terribly that our relationship with her must end. What would you do in our shoes? HURTING IN HUNSTVILLE, TEXAS

DEAR HURTING: I’d remind my son that his almost ex-wife is still the mother of your grandchildren, and that whom you invite into your home is your decision, not his. This is not his choice to make. For the sake of the children, do not burn any bridges. —Abby.

Gabby's Reply


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Gabby’s Reply:

Hi Hurting: What you’re coming up against is something you were supposed to have handled even before your son was born. He is in fact mirroring you and your addiction to abuse, blaming, spite, and manipulation. You are experiencing the effects of years of your leadership-communication model. That you have reached out is commendable.

What’s missing is the truth from each of them, and from you. From her you need to hear what she did to destroy her marriage. From him you need to hear what he did to destroy his marriage. No one but him chose his wife and "destroyed" his military career. In other words, if I were him, I’d have to be willing to tell the story from the point of view of what I did to drive my wife out of my life. Instead, you have trained him to lie. Worse yet, you are passing on to others, the lie; "She divorced me." That you didn’t see/catch this lie and nip it in the bud reveals that you agree that she divorced him. On paper and legally she did. However, he’s going to have to tell the truth someday, about how he manipulated her into initiating the divorce so that he gets to look like the good guy. Who taught him to blame? Who failed to teach him how to select a supportive partner? I assure you he had many indicators of what was in store for him up front during the first and second dates.

I’d be willing to bet that you stuffed some thoughts about them and the relationship at the very beginning also. Whatever thought, whatever intuition, or sense, you had, that you did not verbalize to everyone, became the unconscious hex on the marriage. They were counting on your wisdom to guide them as they learned how to communicate an upset. It’s for certain you didn’t tell them—

There will be no sanctuary for blamers in this house. Call me the first time you have a communication that doesn’t end mutually satisfying. I’ll not be party to accumulated blames and make-wrongs. I don’t want to hear, "She’s divorcing me." That would mean you hid some things from me, that you deceived me. Your relationship is either magnificent or one of you is on the phone to me.

While it may appear ". . . the issue . . . is loyalty . . ." that thought hides another truth.

You ask What would you do in our shoes? I have no reality that you, not you and your husband, will do what it will take to bring about a transformation. Your use of the word "our" reveals your resistance to accepting responsibility for creating and cleaning up the mess. You created the problem and only you can disappear it.

Re: ". . . it kills us to know she’s suffering the consequences of her decision to break up the marriage." For certain she's suffering but the source is not her decision to divorce. There's something underneath that. Notice the con that you're running on both? You've conned her into conning you into rewarding her for trashing your son. You've conned him into actually thinking that you can be conned into not seeing her after he manipulated her into trashing him.*

If you keep communicating as you have been, with your leadership-communication skills, you will predictably teach your grandchildren how to blame. One or two conversations with you is all it takes for the blame-pattern to be imprinted—that’s how powerful you are. Although you and your husband have mastered relationship survival skills neither of you have learned what it takes to support other’s relationships. This is yours, not your husband’s bad. You are missing certain fundamental (supportive) communication skills. If your intention is to have and effect harmony in your life you need to engage the services of a therapist, counselor, or communication-skills coach, and handle the stuff you should have when your son was young and, before he was born. Most of it is stuff you should have completed before you got married. Part of why you won’t go all out to heal yourself is your fear that no one in your family would play with you if you chose to be powerful—ergo, my sense is that you will opt for more abuse, and more of the same, ad infinitum.

Show this letter to everyone. Gabby

* The answer: Neither of you are welcome here (do not call, visit, or write) until I hear from each of you that you have individually completed 25 hours of therapy/counseling/coaching (I'll pay 50% for both of you). You both, separately, need to be able to tell me, from the beginning, step-by-step, interaction-by-interaction, how you destroyed your relationship. I will not be relating or interacting with the one who refuses to comply with my estrangement ultimatum. I must insist upon this condition, otherwise I would be supporting you in teaching your children how to communicate irresponsibly.  I will do the same amount of counseling with the intention of getting to the source of how I, using my leadership-communication skills, manifested this result.

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 2/5/15)

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