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Estrangement

Just not interested

(44 Posts)
Madgran77 Fri 14-Jun-19 18:33:09

I wonder if anyone has experienced estrangement which they feel has basically been caused by the fact that one party quite simply has no real interest in building a relationship? There have been references on threads on this site, to SiLs/DiLs not actually being interested in joining the family of their spouse or even in building any sort of relationship.

In that position, how long does the other party try to break down barriers or is it better to just give up and walk away, despite a son or daughter being involved, and the potential risk of losing contact with them as well?

Urmstongran Fri 14-Jun-19 18:50:26

Maybe just accept it quietly without making a fuss. Things can change. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

sodapop Fri 14-Jun-19 19:01:45

Urmstongran is right don't make a big issue out of this but don't give up. Small steps may help achieve your goal.

March Fri 14-Jun-19 19:12:38

Personally, I think all this 'Joining the family' is abit Mafia style.
Wanting them to behave or act a way to be accepted is setting up to fail. They are a family and they have lots of other family members.
There's introverts and extroverts too.

Miss matched expectations are the reason there's no many hurt feelings. Just go with the flow smile

Smileless2012 Fri 14-Jun-19 19:35:12

I don't agree that joining a family is necessarily a bit Mafia style. Yes, if the family you're joining expects you to conform to their ways but other wise no.

When 2 people get married, there is a joining of sorts of both families. In addition to p's you have p's.i.l., in addition to brothers and sisters you have b's.i.l and s's.i.l.

If one party isn't interested in a relationship with their partners' family, that in itself isn't insurmountable but it's a different thing all together if they want to take it a step further and interfere in the relationship their partner has with their own family, by either insisting they sever contact, or making life at home so unbearable that they capitulate and walk away from their family.

Our experience of estrangement wasn't like that at all Madgran. We genuinely loved our ES's wife and believed she felt the same way. She would tell me she loved me and wished I'd been her mum!!!

We've learned that the only way of dealing with estrangement is to walk away. The alternative took us to the brink of a physical and emotional breakdown.

Madgran77 Fri 14-Jun-19 20:21:56

March - Miss matched expectations are the reason there's no many hurt feelings. Just go with the flow

And if there is no "flow"? I wasn't asking about hurt feelings ! I was asking if anyone has experienced a complete lack of interest?

The point being that lack of interest could so easily slip into causing problems for a partner when they want to see their own family! So arrangements to meet are scuppered by "a bad day" or "emergency at home" or whatever ….. and there is then a wariness not to put pressure on an AC, because of fear of pushing them towards estrangement to "keep the peace".

Scentia Fri 14-Jun-19 20:31:33

I think you just have to accept that you are not a person they would choose to spend time with, there is nothing wrong in that. My DiL is polite to me but I don’t expect anything more than that, she chose my son not the rest of his family. I don’t make any issue to my son that it is obvious his partner isn’t keen on us, she has every right to like who she wants to. My SiL seems to like us but he just might be better at faking it, who knows and who really cares. Don’t rock any boats as she may really tell you what she thinks, and nobody needs that in their lives.

janeainsworth Fri 14-Jun-19 20:38:19

March I agree. When I got married it never occurred to me that I was ‘joining’ MrA’s family, or he mine.
I thought we were just ourselves.
In nearly 50 years, we’ve never had any conflict or problems with either family.

Starlady Fri 14-Jun-19 20:47:44

IMO, sometimes you (general) have to accept that there just isn't going to be much of a MIL/DIL relationship and just enjoy time spend w/ DS and the GC. Hopefully, DIL is polite and cordial when she does see you. All that is required, in return, I think, is that you be polite and cordial back. A few overtures to be friendlier/closer are fine, IMO, but more than that could be seen as "pushy" or an informal kind of "harassment."

If DIL tried to keep DS and/or the GC from seeing you just b/c she's not interested, IMO, that's wrong. But there, DS needs to stand up for his and/or the kids relationship w/ you if it's important enough to him. Unfortunately, family relations aren't a big deal to some guys, so they might not.

I realize that if DS and family live far from his parents, and traveling is required to see each other, then her lack of interest is likely to affect how much DS and the GC see you, even if that's not DIL's intention.

Also, I realize that everything I'm saying could apply to a DD and SIL, too. And that sometimes these things change over time. In fact, my own SIL didn't seem that interested in DH and me in the early days. He was polite and cordial - and maybe even sometimes friendly - but as DH would say, back then, he maintained "minimal involvement" w/ us. Over time, though, he and DH discovered interests in common, we found his political views are closer to ours than his own parents, etc. and somehow, a closer relationship developed, especially between him and DH. Who knew?

So I think in some cases, it's just a matter of time. But I know that's not true w/ everyone.

Starlady Fri 14-Jun-19 20:51:50

Just want to add, Iv known DILs who started out w/ a negative bias towards PILs, in general. They knew beforehand they were going to keep PILs at arm's length for fear of their interfering in the marriage, childrearing, etc. By the same token, Iv know MILs who started out w/ a negative attitude towards DILs, for fear a DIL would keep DS away.

March Fri 14-Jun-19 22:07:01

Sorry Madgran I don't understand.
Do you mean a partner stopping their spouse seeing their family? Or their spouse just not wanting to do things with their in-laws?

I went to visit my MIL with and without DH and visa versa.

Couldn't they just go on their own?

March Fri 14-Jun-19 22:11:47

Sorry I ment, we both went to visit or he went on his own and visa versa.

FarNorth Fri 14-Jun-19 22:18:00

So arrangements to meet are scuppered by "a bad day" or "emergency at home" or whatever

Do you mean arrangements to meet your AC, or to meet both of them? and DGC?

rosecarmel Fri 14-Jun-19 23:00:00

Madgran77, it sounds like you've grown tired of standing there with your arm extended showing someone the open door and have become disinterested in holding that position-

Perhaps by now the fact that the door is open is understood and you are free to leave it at that and get on with other things-

You didn't indicate if they show up for gatherings or they dont- But if they don't I'd always extend the invite to your daughter or son - I would do that because that's who I am, and it is my responsibility- If they don't come it's their decision, and their responsibility to decline-

One would need a time machine to know if letting go of your position at the door would lead to estrangement- But I don't think that you can be estranged from someone you never formed a relationship to begin with-

Perhaps you could?

crazyH Fri 14-Jun-19 23:13:17

We (grandparents) have to make best of a bad situation, for the sake of the grandchildren. Grit our teeth, bite our tongue, walk on eggshells, swallow our pride, eat humble pie ....I have done all this and more just to see my little girls (by my older antagonistic son). No problem at all seeing the other 4.
Don't walk away, although in some circumstances that's the best and only thing to do.
Madgran is talking in riddles, in the best possible way

Madgran77 Sat 15-Jun-19 10:36:05

Hello all sort if I seemed to be talking in riddles. Was feeling low last night and pondering! Very busy today so wil come back again to this when more time . ...appreciate the replies

Glammy57 Sat 15-Jun-19 12:18:58

Scentia and Janeainsworth, I totally agree. My late mother-in-law was a sweet, kind woman who welcomed me into the family. My husband is one of nine children (devout Catholics). He left home at the age of nineteen to see the world and get away from his conservative, religious family. It took many years for his father and some of his siblings to accept me. Fortunately, my family has adored Mr. G from the first meeting. I keep in touch with two of my sisters-in-law on a regular basis. The others always receive a Christmas card/ brief email. Mr G’s family live thousands of miles away, so physical contact is limited. Also, Mr G feels far more comfortable with my family as they are more accepting of “different”! My ex son-in-law has always been warm towards me and I try to maintain this. Mr G has taken eight years to be cordial following our daughter’s unhappy marriage. I refuse to harbour a grudge as I know how emotionally damaging it can be!

Madgran77 Sat 15-Jun-19 18:48:02

Back again. Thanks for all the replies, giving food for thought.

Scentia "I think you just have to accept that you are not a person they would choose to spend time with, there is nothing wrong in that." - Yes, you are right, I have accepted that

Starlady "IMO, sometimes you (general) have to accept that there just isn't going to be much of a MIL/DIL relationship and just enjoy time spend w/ DS and the GC." - Yup, agree with that too

March "Do you mean a partner stopping their spouse seeing their family? Or their spouse just not wanting to do things with their in-laws?" - not interested in doing things with in-laws! Which is fine until when their spouse arranges to see their parents, and ominously regularly there will be a last minute problem which stops them coming. I am well aware that in the end spouse has to deal with that as they see fiot; it is their life and their relationship. . However quite rightly the partner will be the priority and if the problem is last minute illness/emergency of some sort etc etc then inevitably that will take priority and over time, when that happens regularly then contact with parents get less and less. So be it but it is a shame

RoseCarmel "it sounds like you've grown tired of standing there with your arm extended showing someone the open door and have become disinterested in holding that position- - I think you could be right!

RoseCarmel "One would need a time machine to know if letting go of your position at the door would lead to estrangement- But I don't think that you can be estranged from someone you never formed a relationship to begin with- - I meant the potential for "accidental" estrangement or at the very least, never or rarely seeing ones parents...see above.

Anyway, as I said previously, was feeling low last night and not much point really. Thanks for your comments everyone.

Starlady Sat 15-Jun-19 20:01:16

You're very welcome, Madgran. And thanks for taking time to answer us individually.

You say this is about DIL not wanting to spend time w/ her ILs /you and DH, etc. But it does seem that she often keeps DS away from you, too. It could be coincidence that there so often seems to be a last minute emergency or whatever. But if it has happened 3 times or more, I admit, I would be suspicious that she's making sure it happens, especially if those times were close together. So really, it is, after all, about her trying to stop DS from seeing his FOO (family of origin). Or maybe he doesn't want to come to certain events and doesn't have the heart to tell you.

" I meant the potential for "accidental" estrangement or at the very least, never or rarely seeing ones parents...see above. "

Let me see if I understand this ^^. I think you're concerned that if you stop inviting DS, you and he will end up being estranged. And, by extension, you'll end up being estranged from the GC. Have I got that right?

I know you said there's "not much point" in even discussing this, but Iv been thinking... If Iv got it right , then, hmmm... If you keep in touch in other ways - Skype, etc. - then his not coming to events or for visits won't really cause an estrangement. If you don't keep in touch that way, would it be worth starting?

If Skyping, etc. won't work out, then continuing to invite him to this/that would be a way of keeping the lines of communication open. You'd invite him, knowing he will probably renege, but, at least, you'd be talking w/ each other.

Whether videochats, etc. will work out or not, another option, I think, would be to let him know that you realize it's often hard for him to go through w/ plans w/ you, so you're going to stop asking. But that he should know the door is always open and that he should let you know if he ever truly free to see you and DH, etc. That could be hard to say w/o sounding confrontational, I know. So I would think it over carefully before I said it.

Maybe someone else can come up w/ a better wording or a better idea.

Madgran77 Sat 15-Jun-19 20:09:10

Starlady The whole family is invited. DIL frequently has something else on (fine, if that is her preference, although I feel sad that it is not otherwise, but so be it). Son accepts, ...then last minute events stop him coming. It is definitely not him not having the heart to tell me; if he cant come when invited he just says, and that is fine. I just think that as the "events" that stop him coming are increasing, the likely outcome is hardly seeing him. And he has to decide what to do about that in the end. Just makes me sad and I don't get why it has to be a problem really! Thanks for thinking about my meanderings, much appreciated

OutsideDave Fri 12-Jul-19 00:48:26

I suppose it depends on the sorts of reasons he can’t come last minute. Do they have kids? Like many of my peers having children essentially forces all of my plans to be tentative. Kids get sick. Pets get loose. Work emergencies take place. Does he still call you to talk? I know it’s frustrating to be told someone will attend but then they fail to show (my PGma and Aunt we’re notorious for this, they weren’t much endeared to anyone in the family for this habit). I’d assume he’ll say yes and not come. Then be pleasantly surprised if he does show up.

Starlady Fri 12-Jul-19 01:03:52

"I’d assume he’ll say yes and not come. Then be pleasantly surprised if he does show up."

This^^^^. Totally agree.

But if you'd really rather not bother inviting him anymore, IMO, you won't be "causing" an estrangement. It's already there, even if he doesn't really want it to be.

So many "emergencies!" Yes, it really does sound suspicious. But, IMO, DS will reach out to you and DH if/whenever he's ready to take a stand for his own wishes.

BradfordLass72 Sat 13-Jul-19 01:40:20

Madgran77 I could be wrong but what I think you are really worried about is potential manipulation which you see as bad for your son.

I can quite see how this would cause anxiety. But you seem to have a good relationship with him, so why not have a quiet talk, just the two of you and tell him you fear he will eventually stop visiting.

He is probably trying to juggle everything: keep his wife happy and yet not hurt you either.

If you know for sure he will never completely cut himself off from you, you will relax a little.

It's hard for a son with a demanding wife, a full life and the desire to please everyone smile

Starlady Sat 13-Jul-19 06:32:17

But I always wonder when I hear stories like this - does DS realize that there is always an "emergency" just when he is supposed to visit his parents? Does he think it's just coincidence or does he suspect it's manipulation? Can a DIL really come up w/ that many emergencies or are some of them real? Is there anything DS could do to put a stop to this pattern w/o hurting his marriage?

Ginny42 Sat 13-Jul-19 07:07:32

I had to re-read some of the OP's posts to check whether she could be my sister! She has this exact situation with her DS. Her DiL only very rarely comes to family events, there's always an emergency with her family.

Yesterday my DSis gave a family party and when I asked was DiL coming, she said, 'I don't know, but do I ever know?' She didn't come, but DS and adult sons did. This has been 24 years of this treatment, so it's not going to change now. Her DS has always visited most weeks and without fail on birthdays and special days. Credit to him. A very pleasant man and fun to be with. Such a shame that she won't visit his family.

This kind of behaviour puts the DS or DD in a very difficult position, and it takes great strength of character and a strong family bond to want to continue to have a relationship in spite of a spouse not wishing to visit.

Smileless2012 Sat 13-Jul-19 10:17:53

I couldn't agree more Ginny. It does take a strong character to not allow a disinterested partner to have a negative affect on their relationship with their parents and wider family.

Sadly, even with a strong family bond these ties can be and are broken.

In our case to begin with, our ES was more than a little skeptical of his wife's 'reasons' for opting out of family gatherings. Eventually he went from seeing us on his own to cutting us out all together.

Why having a relationship with his own parents and allowing them to be GP's to their GC was a threat to his marriage, heaven knows, but I suppose it must have been.

notanan2 Sat 13-Jul-19 10:21:51

We have this in our family but I dont consider it "estrangement". Estrangement is active and they are just passive towards us. They make small talk if we happen to be in the same place at the same time but they just have no interest in us.

We used to try, we gave up. Thats not the same as the "cutting off" in estrangement. We dont upset them, they just have no feelings towards us.

We've let it go.

Madgran77 Sun 14-Jul-19 11:13:28

notanan I agree what you describe is not estrangement. I think it has the potential to be the cause of it though over time and in particular circumstances.

I used to try , I have now given up and it makes me feel sad sometimes that that is the position. Longer term not sure of the wider impact bit just have to wait and see

Smileless yes, exactly!!

notanan2 Sun 14-Jul-19 13:04:27

I think it has the potential to drift into losing contact completely, which still isnt "estrangement". Contact isnt "banned" it just doesnt happen IYKWIM

Madgran77 Sun 14-Jul-19 18:58:24

Notanan I see what you mean. But I also think that the drifting can become more a decision to cut off because if there is a deliberate effort to reduce contact by various means and those efforts are "successful" then there is motivation to take it to the next level, creating further "issues" or whatever, eventually resulting in reasons to estrange. Potentially a slippery slope and difficult to deal with/face/accept.

Namsnanny Sun 14-Jul-19 21:12:40

For what its worth Madgran, I see it as a passive aggressive deliberate action (to show no interest I mean).
Especially if as you suspect that more and more incidents of 'surprise' events stop your son in his tracks.

I think for someone to not 'try' to have a civil relationship with someone as important as the parent of your loved one is a controlling act.
Its bound to have an impact on the partners relationship. Both with their parents and the partner.

Madgran77 Sun 14-Jul-19 22:56:04

Namsnanny Thankyou. You understand the nuances

Peonyrose Wed 24-Jul-19 06:25:12

Madgran, it must be so hurtful that your Dil, despite being invited, doesn't show up. However, your son does, much to his credit. It perhaps shows that he has accepted the fact that his wife doesn't want to mix and accepts it. Perhaps she is very accepting about him seeing you, just doesn't like mixing and it's not just with you, I am not in your position, but I would always keep inviting, not make any comments when she doesn't come, you know your son must love you very much as he so spends time with you.
It is usually our expectation of others that cause us grief.

Starlady Fri 26-Jul-19 07:49:46

IMO, Peony's post is spot on. It's possible that DIL is a little introverted or just not into widening her circle of friends and relatives. Chances are, it has nothing to do w/ you personally, Madgran.

I get the idea that simply slipping away can become a CO after a while. But it could also mean that DIL is leaving the door open, if only b/c she might see MIL at larger family events and doesn't want things to be awkward.

Madgran77 Fri 26-Jul-19 20:21:21

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for taking the time to make them. My DIL is not introverted! She has never been interested in our family really since she and our son got together. We have always been friendly, welcoming and helpful when asked, if we can. To be honest I think that our fairly accepting and tolerant approach now means that she feels she can bother even less, and is taking the regular childcare etc for granted..therefore she is making even less effort than she used to, and that wasn't much. I actually dont feel animosity, just sadness because I thought we would have happy family times altogether, maybe be friends and have nice little outings and so on. But she doesn't want that so so be it. So now my only concern is to ensure that estrangement or very low contact doesn't happen with my son, particularly as the children grow up and childcare is no longer needed. Ofcourse it is for my son to make decisions on that within his relationship and Ginny42 comments about how hard that is are very pertinent!! Anyway, I will continue to invite everyone, accept that invitations to them wont happen, family outings and so on aren't going to happen, be helpful with childcare when I can, whilst it is needed and generally try to get rid of the sadness in having to accept that things are different to what we thought they were.

Peonyrose Fri 26-Jul-19 20:53:56

Mad gran, think of all the positives,you see your son and grandchildren, just not your Dil. So many people on this site don't see theirs. Every family has their problems, some air them, others keep it private.

paddyann Fri 26-Jul-19 22:21:04

Try to look at this a different way .I love my MIL have always visited with OH and the children.Now she's older and widowed sometimes I dont go..I send OH on his own.Not because I dont want to see her but because if she visits us he beggers off to do stuff with his pals and I entertain her and sometimes..just sometimes she'd like to spend quality time with her son.If I send him the 45 miles to see her he'll take her for lunch or fix things in her house or just sit and chat .HE's your son ,she doesn't have to be joined at the hip with him .If he wants to spend time with you arrange it a time just for you and him

Madgran77 Sat 27-Jul-19 07:01:04

I am well aware that many on this site dont see their family. I have expressed that awareness I think, and that we are lucky having time with our GC. My original post asked if anyone else had experienced this particular scenario and if it had caused estrangement. I have done all the things suggested over helpful posts and I think been clear that in the end it is their choice/my dils choice/my sons choice etc. I do arrange times to see my son; I dont think they should be joined at the hip; I said originally those meetings /visits with son/family or whatever frequently get cancelled because of "emergencies" or whatever ...in the end, as that seems to be happening increasingly which was partly why I felt down when I posted originally, my son has to decide what to do about that! I know that in the end I have to get over the sadness and in the end what will be will be as my son and dil will do as they see fit which is their right. I really do appreciate the thoughtful replies. A few posters have described similar scenarios so at least I know others have experienced similar, and have to deal with an on going fear of the potential end outcome. Thanks again

Peonyrose Sat 27-Jul-19 07:23:43

Made gran, so sorry if the way I worded my previous post offended, it was not meant to, I am totally sympathetic to your position as explained in my previous post. I was hamfistingly trying to say that you see him and grandchildren now even if it's not often, no one knows how things will end up with our families, they can change in an instant. If your Dil has an ulterior motive to alienate, your son will make his own mind up and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Hopefully that bond you have will keep him visiting. One of my children seems to think that four short visits of a couple of hours a year is enough and I have had to accept it, because if I said anything it would be taken as criticism.

Madgran77 Sat 27-Jul-19 08:53:19

Paeonyrose you didnt offend me, I do appreciate your thoughtful responses. Yes I have to accept the reality, and I suppose I am going through a process of getting there ...and yes saying anything isn't an option really is it when in this position...so we dont! 😏

Smileless2012 Sat 27-Jul-19 12:52:03

A difficult, frustrating and hurtful situation to be in Madgransad. I don't understand why some can't see that relationships are a two way street, and that in order to receive you need to be prepared to give a little.

Of course it's great that you see your son and GC but having in the background that fear that eventually this could be affected if your d.i.l. doesn't want to engage, becomes a permanent cloud on an otherwise sunny horizon.

We did experience our ES's wife gradually withdrawing prior to our estrangement, and as she did so, so did our son.

There's no point in my telling you not to worry, because you will and as a regular contributor too, and supporter of those of us who have no contact with an AC and GC, it goes without saying that you appreciate the time you get to spend with your son and GC.

Might it be an idea to not be quite so available every time you're asked to provide child care? That may help your d.i.l. to see the importance of a reciprocal relationship.

Madgran77 Sat 27-Jul-19 17:28:47

Smileless thankyou. I have made myself rather less available for childcare...a while ago ....the reciprocal arrangement does not seem to have dawned yet!! I try to keep a balance as we do enjoy our GC ...just wish it was balanced with some other time together too! Ah well confused

Starlady Sun 28-Jul-19 14:08:58

Just a random thought - I know that, as the GC get older, there will be less need for childcare, as you say, Madgran, but as they become more independent, there may be fewer "emergencies" DIL can come up with - and more chance of the kids telling DS the truth if she is lying or exaggerating. So contact w/ him might actually increase as time goes on. Maybe not. Just a thought, as I said.

Madgran77 Sun 28-Jul-19 17:37:12

Starlady yes you may be right.