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stepmom
10-10-2008, 12:52 PM
Does anyone have any experience dealing with an adult child rejecting a parent? I've been on this forum for a long time, and hope you don't mind I've created a new username for this post. This is such a complicated story that I don't know where to begin, but suffice to say that DH and his daughter (only child) have been close her whole life--I mean really close. He has always loved her and been there for her and they have always been the best of friends. Whenever she's had any problem, they've spent hours on the phone talking it through--whether it was a work problem, a problem with her mother or a problem with her husband.

From our perspective, the problems began about 6 years ago when she was about 36 years old. She started having some problem with DH, and me also I think, and to this day we really don't know what it is. It started shortly after the birth of her son. She had a lot of criticism about a big job we were doing that was forcing us to not be as available as we had been before that. I love her but she is a self-centered person and to some degree expects the world to revolve around her. This big job went on for a couple of years, but we still got together a couple of times a month. She was very disapproving and critical, wanting us to give up the project, which was selfish and ridiculous. As the situation escalated with her being more and more distant and disapproving, we tried to get to the root of the problem and she refused to talk about it, but continued to express that she had problems with us or her Dad. She began to show her disapproval in ways such as not returning DH's calls. As he had never treated her with such disrespect and refused to allow himself to be treated that way, he reacted by no longer calling her (they are both quite stubborn). That was about a year ago.

Yesterday she told me she no longer has a relationship with her Dad (transplate that to say she doesn't want a relationship) but if I want to be "friends" and if I can handle that, then that would be fine because somehow I'm okay even though he isn't. I am sharing this with you because I'm just so upset about the whole situation and I don't know where to turn. I can see the pain it's causing DH, but what can he do? He can't very well go begging to her for some sort of love or approval. How do you deal with someone you love--particularly a child--that says I don't like you anymore and I'm not going to tell you why and I refuse to talk about it? It's like something out of a bad movie! I still think somehow I'm going to wake up and this nightmare will be over! It would be easier to deal with if he had actually done something to cause the rejection.

We've gone from seeing them several times a month, playing games, barbecuing, watching movies, laughing and playing and loving each other, to complete coldness and nothing. Her husband just goes with the flow, and what else can he do. I don't know the role he plays with contributing to the problem, but I don't think he's a big factor. He has benefited from this in that once she decided to reject her father, then she began to truly bond with her husband, creating an ally, and also he provided the emotional support that her Dad had been providing.

She has seemed terrified of any kind of confrontation or even discussion with her Dad up till now. A couple of years ago she talked to me on the phone a couple of times and said a lot of painful things. Nothing that actually helped us figure out what was going on, but more or less just irrational criticism and disapproval that didn't make a lot of sense. I told her today when it seemed she might vent again that I would no longer allow her to tell me things about her Dad, knowing I would share them with him. I told her it was too painful and unfair to all of us, and that if she had something to say about her Dad she was going to have to say it to him herself.

I do think others have played a role. DH and his daughter have always been so close, and I think others, including the ex-wife, are enjoying seeing their relationship split apart. But the bottom line is she cannot have forgotten how much he has loved her and helped her her whole life. I'm totally baffled by this. Of course the grandson complicates the issue immensely.

I realize this situation is probably far too complicated for you guys to be able to help much, but I needed to get it off my chest, and I also thought maybe someone else may have had some experience with this kind of rejection.
Anyone have any thoughts or experiences that might help me deal with this pain?

TKay
10-10-2008, 01:04 PM
First, let me say I am so sorry you are going through this. It must be so painful for you and dh. I would also like to say that I don't have adult children, so take my words in that context.

To me, it's always been the role of the parent to take the higher ground. Parents provide love whether they are pleased with what their children are doing or not. I am completely simplifying your situation, I know, and there is much more involved. But my first reaction was it's up to your dh to keep the door open. Dd may have said hurtful things, but I'd still try to include her in your lives. If you shut her out, things will never get better.

I don't know if that helps at all. I hope someone has more relatable experience to share. Good luck. Like I said, I feel for you and the pain you are going through.

Hoodone
10-10-2008, 01:42 PM
I actually do have experience in this area from an observers perspective. DH's sister rejected her parents (so, my in-laws) because of a controlling boyfriend. The boyfriend ended up killing my niece and himself when DH's sister tried to break off their relationship (the relationship between the abusive boyfriend and DH's sister, that is). Too horrible for words, I know. I'm not even sure what the message is telling you this other than to say I've observed a difficult situation involving parents and children.

I think the best you can do is decide if it is worth maintaining a relationship and if so, you do your best since you are "okay". Maybe over time the rift will heal? It probably won't heal if there is no contact at all. I'll think about it some more and see if I have any more thoughts.

TKay
10-10-2008, 01:49 PM
Oh my gosh, hoodone! What a tragic situation. I can't imagine something like that happening so near to me. :eek::(

hlao23
10-10-2008, 01:50 PM
So sorry you're going through this. I have a good friend that just started talking to his parents again after about 2 years. I don't think that there was anything in particular that pulled them apart. He just didn't call for a long time and then it somehow got to the point that he was embaressed to call because he hadn't in so long :confused: His parents did continue to call and leave messages throughout the time period. Not harping but they'd call and leave a message every month or so...even though he didn't answer nor return the calls.

I guess I would just say to keep whatever connection you can have. Any touchstone can help. I hope things work out for you.

ljt2r
10-10-2008, 01:53 PM
First, let me say I am so sorry you are going through this. It must be so painful for you and dh. I would also like to say that I don't have adult children, so take my words in that context.

To me, it's always been the role of the parent to take the higher ground. Parents provide love whether they are pleased with what their children are doing or not. I am completely simplifying your situation, I know, and there is much more involved. But my first reaction was it's up to your dh to keep the door open. Dd may have said hurtful things, but I'd still try to include her in your lives. If you shut her out, things will never get better.

I don't know if that helps at all. I hope someone has more relatable experience to share. Good luck. Like I said, I feel for you and the pain you are going through.

I agree with this. The way you have described their relationship, I think it will hurt more in the long run (for your DH I mean) to be completely estranged from her. Further, I know if it was my kid, even if I was mad and did not want to talk, I would want to know she was ok and finding love and support from others--i.e., you.

What does your DH want? Has he really bluntly and directly asked her to her face why she does not want a relationship with him?

I don't really have personal relatable experiences, but in my extended family, i.e., my parents and their sibs, and my grandparents, I have seen several instances of people not talking for very long times--and potentially forever. I think it is awful. However, like TKay I strongly distinguish between siblings (all of the examples in my family) and parents.

Has it occurred (i.e., is it possible) to you that maybe this is a way of her trying to eventually regain a relationship with her dad? If she truly does not want one I find it odd she would want to be friends with you--which indicates more to me than just polite relative, you know?

I am so sorry you are going through this. :(

stepmom
10-10-2008, 01:56 PM
Tkay, I agree with all that you said. And besides refusing to allow her to treat him disrespectfully by phone, we have behaved as normal as we could. We have not been invited to her home in a long time, but I've tried to compensate by inviting them to ours and they have come a couple of times. Otherwise, we've seen them when we pick up the grandson or drop him off, and made an effort to stay and visit so she doesn't feel it's only about seeing the grandson. When she has called for me and DH has answered the phone, he has tried to behave normally and have pleasant conversation with her but she makes it clear she doesn't want to chat with him. When he sees her he always hugs her, even when it's obvious she doesn't want to. He would also tell her he loves her whenever he hugged her goodbye, but he's been getting such a cold response in recent months that he has stopped doing that.

I feel that she keeps raising the bar, as though she's antagonizing him. It's as though she wants him to get angry with her. And yet she seems afraid of a confrontation. I can tell when we're around her that she's angry by the tenseness of her face and her tone. I've thought maybe the problem is that she thinks we love our grandson more than her--that somehow we made her feel less loved than he is--and so she's seeking proof of his love through rejection. Does that make any sense? I try to take comfort in the idea that if she just didn't care for her Dad she wouldn't be angry, she'd just be indifferent. But she's definitely angry. Maybe that's a good sign?

Editing to say I was writing and posting this without realizing others had replied. Your support is a comfort!

ljt2r
10-10-2008, 02:00 PM
So sorry you're going through this. I have a good friend that just started talking to his parents again after about 2 years. I don't think that there was anything in particular that pulled them apart. He just didn't call for a long time and then it somehow got to the point that he was embaressed to call because he hadn't in so long :confused: His parents did continue to call and leave messages throughout the time period. Not harping but they'd call and leave a message every month or so...even though he didn't answer nor return the calls.

I guess I would just say to keep whatever connection you can have. Any touchstone can help. I hope things work out for you.

I think this sort of thing is more common than people would expect, esp in families where people don't talk directly and bluntly a lot (i.e., my mom would never stand for it, she would be on doorstep demanding to know what was up). My grandma did not talk to any of her sisters for 20 yrs. Why? Well it started as far as we have figured bc she felt bad and irritated and resentful over feeling bad that she was not present to help take care of her mom at the end of her life--and it was probably more complicated still--but the point is we are relatively sure she regretted eventually, did not know how to fix it, and so never did. After she died--and I loved her a ton, she was wonderful in many ways--we started speaking to my dad's aunts again (we had not been "allowed" all those years, which was painful for my dad) and discovered they had NO IDEA why she had stopped speaking to them and were clearly still hurting over it. Such a waste.

I think my sibs and I pretty much have an unspoken pact that if any one sib starts going over to the dark side :p the other 3 will be there having a conniption. Especially because it has happened again in each of my parent's families (i.e., their sibs) also.

ljt2r
10-10-2008, 02:03 PM
Tkay, I agree with all that you said. And besides refusing to allow her to treat him disrespectfully by phone, we have behaved as normal as we could. We have not been invited to her home in a long time, but I've tried to compensate by inviting them to ours and they have come a couple of times. Otherwise, we've seen them when we pick up the grandson or drop him off, and made an effort to stay and visit so she doesn't feel it's only about seeing the grandson. When she has called for me and DH has answered the phone, he has tried to behave normally and have pleasant conversation with her but she makes it clear she doesn't want to chat with him. When he sees her he always hugs her, even when it's obvious she doesn't want to. He would also tell her he loves her whenever he hugged her goodbye, but he's been getting such a cold response in recent months that he has stopped doing that.

I feel that she keeps raising the bar, as though she's antagonizing him. It's as though she wants him to get angry with her. And yet she seems afraid of a confrontation. I can tell when we're around her that she's angry by the tenseness of her face and her tone. I've thought maybe the problem is that she thinks we love our grandson more than her--that somehow we made her feel less loved than he is--and so she's seeking proof of his love through rejection. Does that make any sense? I try to take comfort in the idea that if she just didn't care for her Dad she wouldn't be angry, she'd just be indifferent. But she's definitely angry. Maybe that's a good sign?

I think, as much as I can think anything without knowing all, you know?, that your DH really needs to firmly and bluntly have that confrontation. See my above post--the longer these things go on the worse they get. It is so obvious from your posts that he still loves her--and you gotta think she still loves him or A she wouldn't bother being angry and B she would not still be around, so even if that confrontation is painful I don't know what you have to lose.

stepmom
10-10-2008, 02:15 PM
I think, as much as I can think anything without knowing all, you know?, that your DH really needs to firmly and bluntly have that confrontation. See my above post--the longer these things go on the worse they get. It is so obvious from your posts that he still loves her--and you gotta think she still loves him or A she wouldn't bother being angry and B she would not still be around, so even if that confrontation is painful I don't know what you have to lose.
This is my feeling too and I guess I was seeking affirmation. DH is going through a difficult time on a variety of fronts--death of his father, retiring, stress, depression--that I think part of him feels like his daughter is being such a twit then to heck with her. But there's no question he loves her and this situation is contributing mightily to his stress and depression. A confrontation seems like the only answer. This current track we're on I think just leads to total separation.

Robyncz
10-10-2008, 02:17 PM
I don't know. It definitely does sound complicated. It certainly sounds like your step-daughter is angry at your husband. Is it possible that there's more to the story than you know? Could she have only recently learned why her parents split up and is she angry about it? (I know that as an adult, my mother has shared with me far more information about my father and their divorce than I ever wanted to know--all because she thought I should be able to handle it now that I'm an adult:rolleyes:)

Or, since you say it all started around the time her son was born, I wonder if she feels like she's no longer a priority and she's annoyed by that?

I think only your husband can deal with the situation, and he can really only deal with it directly by asking what has happened that changed everything.

Good luck!

ljt2r
10-10-2008, 02:23 PM
This is my feeling too and I guess I was seeking affirmation. DH is going through a difficult time on a variety of fronts--death of his father, retiring, stress, depression--that I think part of him feels like his daughter is being such a twit then to heck with her. But there's no question he loves her and this situation is contributing mightily to his stress and depression. A confrontation seems like the only answer. This current track we're on I think just leads to total separation.

Consider yourself strongly affirmed then. :) And you know, just because a father's love should remain an open door and just because he might bear the burden of the confrontation, does NOT mean he cannot ask her why she is acting like a twit, you know? Maybe it has never occurred to her how she is hurting and not supporting him. Maybe she needs it pointed out to her.

TKay
10-10-2008, 03:19 PM
Consider yourself strongly affirmed then. :) And you know, just because a father's love should remain an open door and just because he might bear the burden of the confrontation, does NOT mean he cannot ask her why she is acting like a twit, you know? Maybe it has never occurred to her how she is hurting and not supporting him. Maybe she needs it pointed out to her.

I will second this.

Your dh has so much going on right now. I completely understand his fatigue at dealing with it all and (on the surface anyway) preferring to just write her off until she straightens out (my words, not his). I totally get that. But I think that doing so will, like you said, only add to his stress. Maybe he can calmly have a one-on-one with her and say, you know, I'm going through a lot and I don't feel like I have you in my corner. Have I done something to offend you? Are you angry with me? Can we get back to the place we used to be? I miss you. Maybe rather than something that comes off like a confrontation (and not that that's what you were suggesting, ljt2r), he can broach the subject with an invitation for her to get stuff off her chest.

How old is the grandchild now? (If you said, I missed it.) Is she suffering from post-partum depression? Could that be part of the problem?

As posted above, there could be some seemed slight that happened that you or dh never realized. That could be festering until now, when in her mind it's become blown quite out of proportion.

stepmom
10-10-2008, 05:18 PM
I think having to create a synopsis of the last 6+ years, plus your very helpful reactions might be giving me some clarity in this.

When DH and I got together, DD was only about 14 years old, and she was terrified I would have a child that would knock her off the throne. There's no question when our grandson was born, I was really absorbed in being with him and loving him from the get go, especially since I never had children. It takes men a little longer usually--they don't care that much about newborns. Our problems began when our grandson was about 8 or 9 months old. In addition, we felt like she was finally maturing and growing up, and we began feeling like we could focus more on our own lives and problems. I'm now wondering if all this pain and ugliness has simply been caused by jealousy, and she's been acting out to get our attention, especially her Dad's, or take make him prove his love.

With our reaction to ultimately be more distant, doesn't that prove to her in a childish way that way don't love her? We make extra effort to see our grandson and babysit as often as possible, while steadily drifting away from her--not reacting to her coldness. Regardless that she's causing all of it, maybe that's what this is really all about.

It would be great if it's really that simply, and such a shame because so much damage has been done. It is childish for a person to think their mother or father loves your child more than they love you. But I'm sure it happens.

Bottom line DH still has to confront her one on one and try to reach her and reassure her. But he also needs to prepare himself for a painful experience if I'm wrong.

Big thanks to you all! I know it was a long post, and I really appreciate you taking the time to read it, think about it and reply.

stepmom
10-10-2008, 05:24 PM
Your dh has so much going on right now. I completely understand his fatigue at dealing with it all and (on the surface anyway) preferring to just write her off until she straightens out (my words, not his). I totally get that. But I think that doing so will, like you said, only add to his stress. Maybe he can calmly have a one-on-one with her and say, you know, I'm going through a lot and I don't feel like I have you in my corner. Have I done something to offend you? Are you angry with me? Can we get back to the place we used to be? I miss you. Maybe rather than something that comes off like a confrontation (and not that that's what you were suggesting, ljt2r), he can broach the subject with an invitation for her to get stuff off her chest.

How old is the grandchild now? (If you said, I missed it.) Is she suffering from post-partum depression? Could that be part of the problem?
Sorry TKay, I didn't answer your questions. Our grandson is 7 and in the beginning I wondered about post-partum but not now. As for appealing to her for a little empathy for what DH has been going through the last few years, and I hate to say this because I really do love her, his daughter is very self-centered and his never been very good at having empathy for others. If she sounds a little like a spoiled rotten brat, well.... but we all have our faults and she really is a good person otherwise and I love her very much.

Robyncz
10-10-2008, 05:40 PM
When DH and I got together, DD was only about 14 years old, and she was terrified I would have a child that would knock her off the throne.

Wow. As a child of divorce, I feel like that's a pretty unsympathetic assessment of a 14-year-old's natural reaction to significant family change.

I realize she's an adult now, and in theory she should be expected to put all that aside, but she's also still the child of the man you married--and in that sense, she'll always be a child. Perhaps she has some unresolved feelings from the time of the divorce? I don't want to make assumptions about her or her father, but if there was infidelity involved in the breakup of her parents--that could be a source of the anger. Or perhaps just having a child and feeling what she feels for him has made her question choices she believes her father made--whether or not her perception is accurate.

p.s. I think that one key word that keeps coming up again and again though is dangerous: confrontation. I don't see why your DH has to see talking to his daughter about what's going on as a confrontation. He'll probably have more success if he thinks of it as communicating or discussing rather than "confronting." In my opinion, it's more than the semantics; it's a whole different way of approaching someone.

stepmom
10-10-2008, 06:05 PM
Wow. As a child of divorce, I feel like that's a pretty unsympathetic assessment of a 14-year-old's natural reaction to significant family change.

I realize she's an adult now, and in theory she should be expected to put all that aside, but she's also still the child of the man you married--and in that sense, she'll always be a child. Perhaps she has some unresolved feelings from the time of the divorce? I don't want to make assumptions about her or her father, but if there was infidelity involved in the breakup of her parents--that could be a source of the anger. Or perhaps just having a child and feeling what she feels for him has made her question choices she believes her father made--whether or not her perception is accurate.

p.s. I think that one key word that keeps coming up again and again though is dangerous: confrontation. I don't see why your DH has to see talking to his daughter about what's going on as a confrontation. He'll probably have more success if he thinks of it as communicating or discussing rather than "confronting." In my opinion, it's more than the semantics; it's a whole different way of approaching someone.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean it to sound as callous as you may have taken it. There was no infidelity on DH's part. But I lived throught that time with her and it was extremely difficult for her. There's no question she felt her life was destroyed and she recalls her childhood as the worst time of her life. She was the total center of attention for her Mom, and was adored and spoiled by her Dad. As much as I love her, she is and always has been a queenie and I could say that to her face and she would agree, and be proud of it. And at the time she revealed to me how horrible it would be for me to have children, she was in college.

I agree with what you said about confrontation. I think the reason I used that word is because she has flat refused to discuss what the problem is. She has basically said that he must figure it out for himself. She did say to me yesterday though for the first time that she plans to talk to him, but I think that is to tell him she wants nothing more to do with him. I think she feels she's tried everything else, so now she'll go for complete rejection and see if she can get a response. Or maybe she really is done, I don't know.