Dear Margo: Oh, How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth…

Margo Howard’s advice

Oh, How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth

Dear Margo: My son is intelligent, well educated and reasonably attractive. I raised him as a single mother and always put him first, ahead of a career and my social life. He married four years ago for the first time (in his early 40s). He married an intelligent, well-educated and reasonably attractive woman, not much younger than he, from a wealthy family (which we are not). They had a huge formal wedding with more guests than the Bush twin. They have good careers and settled in the New England city where I live, and they now have two adorable children.

The problem is that his wife is controlling, self-centered and status seeking. My son has always been totally clueless about women and is completely under her thumb. Her mother (who’s just like her) started planting little tidbits to create a division between my son and me. My daughter-in-law, in turn, started passing on these tidbits to my son. Result: He began treating me terribly and parroting things I knew were my daughter-in-law’s words. We’ve become more and more estranged.

She controls my son, as well as how and when I can see my grandchildren. I live 20 minutes away, but can only visit them in their lovely home when she has something to do; I can’t visit when she is there. He brings one child to visit me in my small apartment on the average of two hours every six to eight weeks. I don’t get to have a meal with them or spend a holiday with them.

I wasted my life raising my son to be the best he could be, and this is my reward. I expected that when he was successful and had a family, I would enjoy his success and his family. I guessed wrong. — Brokenhearted

Dear Broke: While your daughter-in-law and her mother sound like status-seeking witches, something is haywire with your son’s values that he would permit his mother to be marginalized. You seem aware of his failings, however, when you write that he is clueless about women. That he would go along with excluding you speaks poorly of his values and suggests that he is weak.

I would lay it on the line the next time you are alone, telling him how you feel, how he is being manipulated and how he needs to think for himself, especially about his own mother. If that fails, and I suspect it might, you will have to accept that this is how your only child turned out and begin, even at this late date, to make a life of your own. — Margo, regretfully

The Disappearing Friend

Dear Margo: A woman named “Cynthia” and I have been pals for more than 15 years. Within the past eight months, however, whenever I’ve tried to make a date to get together, she always has some excuse. Her mother-in-law is visiting, her dog has to go to the vet, her husband’s boss’s wife asked her to make cupcakes for a get-together, one kid’s teacher needs her to be room-mother for two weeks, and excuses I can no longer remember.

I’ve wracked my brain to see whether I could have said or done something to offend her, and I come up blank. I don’t think I’m being paranoid; I think she just doesn’t want to get together. Shall I say something? (I don’t know what it would be if I did.) — Lenore

Dear Len: It would seem that you and Cynthia are pals no more. While I think always being busy is kind of a shabby and certainly an indirect way to end a relationship, it may, for the faint of heart, be preferable to saying, “You know, Lenore, I seem to have outgrown you.” If I were in your position, I would stop asking her out. If you can manage it, you might feel better dropping her a note saying you miss the friendship, and if you’ve done anything, you’d appreciate knowing what it was. There really is nothing more to do in such a situation. I’m sorry for this bump in the road. — Margo, dejectedly

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

47 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  I can only imagine your heartache.  You did not say whether you and your son were close in terms of visits etc. before he was married but since you attribute this current estrangement to his wife I’m going to assume you had a fairly normal mother/adult son relationship.  Excluding you from holidays or visits to their home when your son’s wife is there is simply outrageous to me.  However, I have seen one of my sister’s children treat her similarly due to the influence of a toxic spouse so I know it happens.  All you can do is talk to your son candidly and calmly.   If that does not work, Margo is correct that you will have to forge ahead with your own life. 

    Letter#2:  Clearly you said or did something that has led your pal to avoid being with you and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to ask her if you have said or done something to offend her and apologize if you have.  That may or may not mend the friendship.  I am currently going through a *break-up* with a friend and I know how troubling and sad it can be and *moving on* is easier said than done.  But it is what it is.    

    • avatar Ariana says:

      I’m a little sceptical when people say: I can’t think of a single thing I did!
      Yes it could be true, but it could also be a difference in how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.

      Take an honest look at yourself first: Do you fall under good friend criteria? What’s going on in your friend’s life – are they going through changes of lifestyle or events that could have changed her opinion/interests? Do you talk about yourself all the time, instead of asking how your friend is? Do you try to 1-up the stories when you’re talking? Do you borrow stuff and never return it?

      Unfortunately, I find it’s often the people who aren’t aware of how others perceive them who say: Gosh, I can’t think of anything I did wrong!
      We had this happen in our communication seminars at work when practicing self-perception/foreign perception (Sorry don’t know the proper term in English). The ones that were generally considered to be annoying to the rest of the group were the ones who learned some valuable lessons about how others see their actions. Building up an awareness of how other’s perceive you is an important social skill. Too bad they don’t teach stuff like that in high school.

      • avatar mmht says:

        Ariana, I had a similar situation as the LW. I began noticing a difference in my friend’s behavior for me almost a year before our friendship ended. I asked her several times if there was something wrong and she kept on saying that I was crazy and making more out of something that isn’t there. We eventually ended up in a fight over something small and ridiculous. I just thought after a few weeks of being mad at each other we’d both apologize and that would be that. Instead, she sent me several things that were mine in the mail and then unfriended me on Facebook. I emailed her and asked her to please talk to me b/c I didn’t know what happened for us to get to this point she responded by telling me it was b/c I was “too selfish to realize what I did wrong.” I haven’t spoken to her since and I still have no idea why she acted the way she did. Needless to say, I totally understand when someone says “I have no idea what I could’ve done.”

        • avatar Dan Bingham says:

          I’m afraid the translation for phrases like ‘you’re too selfish to realize what you did wrong’ and ‘if you don’t know I’m not going to tell you’ is usually more along the lines of ‘I did/didn’t do something I’m ashamed of and I’d rather lose your friendship than admit to it’. Don’t beat yourself up, in all likelihood, you did nothing wrong at all.

          • avatar mmht says:

            Thanks Dan. The funny thing is, the fight was over something she promised to do for me, which she knew was going to be a present for someone else (and I paid her to do BTW), and 7 months later I still didn’t have it. It was pretty clear in her email (which was filled with A LOT of nasty things) that she was mad at me for something that had nothing to do with what we were fighting about, but honestly, I don’t know if SHE even knew why she was angry. The funny thing is, we had been friends for 18 years and I was willing to let what she said to me and the fact that she just took my money and never came through for me go, but I can’t let go how she decided to end the friendship. Seriously, 18 years and she felt that unfriending me on Facebook was a perfectly reasonable and logical way to end our friendship! Clearly I”m not still upset about this : )

    • avatar Pecan Pie says:

      I don’t think that LW2 had to have done anything wrong or that the friend is necessarily offended. I admit that I’ve been too stressed to spend time with certain friends the last 6 months even though I’ve been invited. Any extra scheduling commitments just seem overwhelming to me right now, and I’m upfront in saying it’s just too busy a time for me right now, but I can see how someone might think I’m blowing them off. I think before deciding that there’s some offense on someone’s part and asking what she did wrong, the LW should just ask her friend if there’s anything she can do for her to help her while she’s busy or if she just needs some space right now.

    • avatar Caramia says:

      A woman and I were good pals and she appeared to like being with me so when she started cancelling plans it was disappointing to me in more ways than one. One day she called my house four hours before something I’d asked her to with the excuse, “she didn’t feel like it.” What? She DIDN’T feel like it? I answered “Aww “Daisie” that’s the second time you’ve cancelled out.” She heard me and made some sorry excuse, so I told her, “Well, OK. The next time you want to go somewhere, you ask me.” She averred she would. But she never did.

      Because she mentioned this TV show that came on an hour and a half before our “plans” I think her reluctance was because in the past I’d been a basketball fan and to get a decent a game, I’d have to get there three hours earlier, but this wasn’t a basketball game, it was a dress rehearsal of the city’s annual play. OK fine, I’ll just go alone.

  2. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    LW1 – Many states now have Grandparents rights for visitation.  My Mom, many years ago (1997), won visitation with two grandchildren when my venemous sister declared she could no longer see the kids.  The judge even declared that because my Mom had no car, that my sister had to transport the kids to see her – they lived in another town at the time.  It does vary state by state but go to your nearest family court and find out what the laws are in your state. More and more, states are giving grandparents visitation rights, especially because there is no good reason to keep them from their grandkids in most cases.  I wish you good luck.

    LW2 – I agree with Katharine Gray

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      “Grandparents rights” is one of the reasons I chose never to have children. Those laws are so toxic and dangerous that they force parents to put their children at risk for no good reason.

      My father was a monster. He beat me bloody on a regular basis. No one knew that, of course, he was a smart and charming sociopath. And before you start making assumptions, he never drank a drop of alcohol. It made him violently ill. When The Boy and I got engaged, my father told me flat out that he would sue to get access to any kids we had because he couldn’t be sure that we would raise them “right”.

      We had already decided not to have children, but that clinched it. If I could have found a doctor to tie my tubes at that point, I would have done it in a cold minute.

      I know many couples that have cut off certain parents and grandparents. People who grow up with drunks, violent jerks, sex abusers, and addicts should have the absolute right to deny access to anyone they choose to. I’m sure that you would have called me “venomous” if I had done what your sister did, but then you don’t have to go through life with crooked fingers and scarred kidneys, either.

      You don’t know that the LW is an angel. Given the way she blithers on about her sacrifices and how hard her life has been, I would guess that her son was raised on a steady diet of guilt for the way he inconvenienced his mother.

      • avatar K Coldiron says:

        Amen on the last paragraph, Messy ONE.

        • avatar dcarpend says:

          My thought exactly. Add to that the fact that he was *finally* getting married in his early forties, and the fact that she just *knows* that he’s clueless about women, and I get the picture of an over-attached single mother who has turned her son into a substitute spouse, has scared away all previous girlfriends, and is spitting mad that he’s finally married, and married to a girl who refuses to take her crap.

          • avatar Lisa M says:

            That is exactly how my ex-husband and his mother behaved. She was so jealous when he finally got married she did everything she could to sabotage our marriage. When she visited she would sit in my chair at the dinner table and act like she was the head of the household, everything had to be to her taste and I was basically there to finance her and her son’s time together. The final straw was when she was visiting on our wedding anniversary and decided (even though she claimed to be the ultimate babysitter) that she didn’t want to take care of the baby that evening after all since she didn’t want to change a diaper if the need arose. We had to cancel our dinner reservations and went out for a drink when the the old witch finally fell asleep. When we returned she had moved our child from his bed to ours and was sleeping in his because the guest bed “wasn’t comfortable enough.” She then wanted to visit for the holidays and when I made her a reservation in a nice hotel she was so insulted that she called my mother to complain then canceled her trip. My ex went traveled to her home in another state instead of staying with his 4-year-old who cried “daddy don’t leave me on Christmas.” I divorced him soon after. He lives with his mom and refuses to see his child or pay child support. His psycho mom is proud of what a good son he is.

          • avatar K Coldiron says:

            Lisa, wow golly. You are well shut of that dysfunction.

      • avatar mmht says:

        Messy One, while I agree with you about the LW, I definitely think she’s not telling more to the story, I will say that Grandparents Rights are not easy to get. My parents had to fight for 2 years to get rights to my nephew. We all had to undergo family counseling, including my nephew’s father and step-mother (on their own, not with us). They had to explain why they were denying rights to the grandparents and my parents had to prove that their accusations were untrue. Now, each state might be different, but from my experience, its just like a parent fighting to get visitation of children.

        • avatar Brenda S says:

          For what mmht had to say about her parent’s fight to have visitation rights to see their grandchild, I kind of like what the court decided–the fact that everyone had to go through counseling.  I hope that everyone having to do it learned something from it and how to handle things better.  Sorry that they had to go to court and that it took such a long process.  For me, I got lucky.  My in-laws and parents have died.  My parents never learned to accept my adopted daughters.  My in-laws died before we adopted them.

      • avatar duranimal says:

        Messy, FWIW it’s doubtful your dad would have had any legal standing. The laws weren’t designed so that grandparents who have been denied access to their grandchild since birth can force a relationship despite both parents’ wishes. Most grandparent’s rights laws pertain to divorced couples, or cases where one parent is deceased and the custodial parent is denying his/her former in-laws access to the child, and they have to prove that the child has bonded with the grandparents and visitation is clearly in the child’s best interest. And some states have rules grandparent’s rights laws to be unconstitutional.

      • avatar luna midden says:

        Messy One-you might be VERY RIGHT on the LW-as I NORMALLY SAY on most dilemmas-THERE ARE AT LEAST 3 SIDES TO EVERY STORY/SIDE! In this case, We have the LW’s side or story, her son’s side, which is not even mentioned because ‘he is JUST SO EASILY MANIPULATED BY WOMEN’ (which, by the way LW Mom, where did he get THOSE TRAITS????), THE DARK SIDE!!!!! HIS WIFE AND MIL (too bad we can’t do bold.) and somewhere in all of this MESS… the truth! 

        And in this case, the TRUTH I suspect is entangled in a big mess of deceit of lies, etc.  The LW gives off that the DIL, MIL are snobs-because they are rich, etc. …. and do not accept her.. but, THEY ACCEPT HER SON! They did not care where HE CAME FROM, DID THEY? No! But, we will never know how the LW presented herself, whether she had a big chip on her shoulder that they had money, were well off, etc. Just her description of her DIL with the ‘REASONABLY ATTRACTIVE’ shows that she does not think this woman MEASURES UP TO her BELOVED SON! And as most of us know, BEAUTY IS NOT THE TOP QUALITY FOR MOST PEOPLE IN MEASURING ONE’S ‘GOOD QUALITIES’. BUT…


        While I was not physically abused by my mother, (my father died when I was 7 and my mother cut off EVERY RELATIVE WE HAD!) she emotionally and mentally abused me! I was a mess and barely able to function. To the outside world though, she was this SWEET, LOVING WOMAN, who GAVE UP HER LIFE to support me, and my younger troubled brother (who she probably helped be emtionally troubled), gave up any social life for herself, etc. etc. No one knew how we were treated behind closed doors, the guilt we were ‘treated’ to and because this was decades ago.. (about the age of LW’s son) this was a time where ‘others’ did not INTERFERE into other people’s business, therapy was not big, etc. 

        So, the question is LW should, if she ever came back to this column and WOULD WANT HELP (PROBABLY REALLY DOUBTFUL-My Mother would never ever think she had done ANYTHING WRONG!) WOULD to READ LW2’s LETTER!  and THINK! Better yet, ASK HER SON! She is making him out, like most mothers do, to be the ‘innocent’ victim… that this DIL and MIL have the ability to cast a spell over him…

        NO, LW.. you only get to see ONE CHILD, FOR 2 HOURS=while YOUR SON IS THERE!!!


        the FACTS seem to be –

        That you, LW , have either gotten on your DIL’s nerves or INSULTED HER SO MUCH.. that SHE REFUSES TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU!!!!
        Think about this LW-you called your DIL ‘reasonably attractive’ NICE, really nice… and INSULTIVE and truely SUPERFICIAL! 
        Next-the LW went on about the amount of guests at the wedding… What does that have to do with the relationship she now has with her son and DIL? ‘MORE GUESTS THEN A BUSH TWIN’? Listen, I know people WITHOUT MONEY who take out LOANS and invite 100S to a wedding, the INLAWS here do not sound like they needed to borrow, and if this is what they wanted to give their daughter and she and the LW’s son WANTED IT-THE LW SHOULD HAVE JUST SMILED AND MHOB!!!

        Again, we do not know what was said, but INCLUDED these 2 things, i have a slight suspicion, that REMARKS might have been said??  

        and LW, if you read it, or others that are in this position. YOUR DIL DOES NOT TRUST YOU, WHAT YOU SAY, YOUR  POISON TONGUE (PICK ONE OF THE THREE) to leave her children alone with you, unsupervised.. and OBVIOUSLY , YOUR SON AGREES… because he has not fought for you, nor has offered any apologies… lw SHOULD TALK TO HER SON AND ASK WHAT IS WRONG AND REALLY ASK WHAT IS WRONG!!     

  3. avatar mayma says:

    I guess Margo has to take LWs at face value, but something about letter #1 seems odd to me. My advice has two simple ingredients:
    1. Stop living for your son. It is not healthy, no matter what the outcome is of this current situation. Date! Get a hobby! Volunteer somewhere! Start an exercise program! Do something else!
    2. Make it a daily practice (a list if you have to) to see good things in both your daughter-in-law and her mother. You are stewing in negativity about them, which tends to be self-perpetuating (i.e., can only get worse). Instead of focusing on every slight, start focusing on her redeeming qualities and maybe even verbalize them to her (only if you can do it in a sincere way). Do you not hear the contempt for both your son and his wife in your letter? You think he’s too stupid to choose a life partner? Not exactly a vote of confidence there, mom. Confronting your son about the “witch” he has married is absolutely the wrong way to go; I sense too much guilt-tripping of both of them already. (He’s 100% responsible for his choices, by the way; she has not manipulated him into anything.) Even if nothing changes as a result of your new focus, at least you’ll be spared the ill feelings. Send love in her direction, with no strings attached. See what happens.

    In other words, which of the following attitudes do you think will HELP your relationship with them?
    * “But WHY can’t I come over for Thanksgiving? I’ve given you everything. Why does that status-conscious woman hate me so?”
    * “Oh, yeah, I’m going over to Friend’s house for a nice potluck. We’ll have a great time! But DIL is such a great cook! — I know you guys will have fun too. Gotta run!”

    Which person would YOU rather spend time with?

    • avatar toni says:

      I agree wholeheartedly! I bet lw1 has been criticizing d-i-l for a loooong time. She needs to get over what she thinks other people owe her and work on her own issues. Maybe when she becomes a happier more positive person the relationship will get better – but it will never happen while she sits around blaming everyone else.

    • avatar htimsr40 says:

      I agree. I would bet Big Money that the m-i-l in Letter 1 is the problem, not the family her son married into. He is happy to be away from her smothering and control, but she blames the family he married into for him coming to his senses and reducing the contact he and his family have with her. He probably has made a wise decision that makes his life happier and more comfortable … and Mommy Dearest does not like it.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        It’s always, always the DILs fault if Mom’s relationship with her son changes. It’s the Magic Vajayjay effect — something about her magical girly parts makes him completely unable to act for himself. He couldn’t possibly have decided for himself that he didn’t want to spend his whole life being Mom’s substitute husband, or that he wasn’t going to listen to her nasty cracks about his wife.

    • avatar Diane Shaw says:

      I, too, felt something was a bit “off” in LW1. Just the tone of her letter was odd. I mean, it’s like she builds up to tear down. Twice she says, in reference to son and D-I-L, they’re both “intelligent, well educated and reasonably attractive” and they had a lavish wedding and own a lovely house. But then she turns around by saying the D-I-L is controlling and self-centered and sonny boy is clueless about women. Huh? Perhaps the son is getting himself out from under the controlling thumb of his mother and “mama just don’t like it”.

    • avatar mmht says:

      I completely agree! Also, did you notice how she made a point of talking about how rich the d-i-l family was and how they have a gorgeous home and she only has a tiny apartment? She then ended it with that she thought that she was going to “share in his success.” I question if she hasn’t been hounding them for money, trying to lay on the guilt about everything she did for him, and that got the d-i-l turned against her.

      • avatar Verdi says:

        I suspect that the son probably married someone just like “dear old mom.” I’ve known a few men that married versions of their controlling mothers. Needless to say, it does not make for a peaceful relationship between MIL and DIL.

  4. avatar Ariana says:

    LW#2: Me, a friend of mine and his GF had that problem as well in reverse.  We were friendly with one of our previous professors and her husband. There were the occasional invites to dinner, or to meet in the city for a coffee.

    I knew this professor too, so I was often with them for these get-togethers. During getting to know each other better, we started noticing ‘weird’ behavior from the professor couple. She would tell wild urban legends as if they were facts and argued with you to the bitter with you that that really happened to the friend of a friend of hers. She would consistently cook really bad/unhealthy food. One time it was canned soup with a 1inch crust of crushed goldfish crackers, which she had burnt to a crisp in the oven while heating the soup. Then she pressed us for compliments and asked if we needed the recipe.

    At that point, we all started being ‘busy’ when she called, but she kept on for over a year, even after my friends moved into the next city. My two friends even got a passive-aggressive card complaining that even though they weren’t friends anymore, she wanted to say goodbye one last time.

    Perhaps it was shabby of us, but we were also stumped as to how to cut off contact with someone like that. “Sorry, you guys are really weird”. The point is, if someone is purposely giving you the cold shoulder, they want you to take the hint. Try to figure out yourself if there could have been a misunderstanding. If so, then apologize and see if that helps any.

    If you do feel compelled to send a note, make sure it’s not passive aggressive like the one above. Ask yourself what you really want as the outcome. Are you looking for personal growth to see if you can work on changing the behavior that caused her to drift away? Or are you in effect chasing after someone who doesn’t want to be friends with you?

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – This subject is one Margo has covered many times, as it is human nature.

    People grow and when they do, sometimes you grow closer to your friends, and other times you grow apart. There is always (IMO) a reason why we choose to sever relationships, the big sticking point is that we rarely feel comfortable being honest about why we chose to walk away.

    I am the queen of walking away from people. I’m not proud of that, but I am honest about it. It is an extremely hard life lesson, but one this letter writer should accept. Sometime people leave your life. The good news is sometimes they come back. The question always is and will always be…..will you accept them back in your life if they come back.

    Letter #1 – I have absolutely no sympathy for this letter writer. She sounds like an awful person. The mother-in-law is “controlling and self centered?” Take a look in the mirror letter writer. You “wasted your life” raising your son? What a disgusting thing to say! Upset because his new found wealth and success is not being share with you? What does that say about your moral compass? Not good.

    I get it, most people (and unfortunately most women) tend to blame the other woman when a male in their life chooses up sides. Whether it be a woman taking a husband by infidelity or a mom losing her son to a new wife. However, the fact that you are choosing to misplace your anger says more about you than the mom and daughter you are trashing.

    The ugly reality is that there may be a reason why your son doesn’t want you in his life more than you are, and it may have nothing to do with his wife and her mother. I would argue that he may be using them as a reason to avoid you instead of coming out and saying he wants to distance himself from you. And given what you have said, who would blame him?

    Any mother that utters the words “I wasted my life raising my child…..” is up there as the most disgusting thing a parent could ever say. And especially when she ends that comment by saying “and this is my reward?” Hmmmm…..not enough that you gave life I see……

  6. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I would definitely have a talk with him. Lay “the cards on the table” in a calm, reasonable manner. You do not deserve to be treated this way, and have every right to feel as you do. It is true (unfortunately – I learned this recently) that we *don’t* always reap what we sow. Sometimes good does not return to the good. I sure hope you can get this straightened out with your son, and that he will see the unfairness of it (especially as the grandchildren are concerned), that he will grow a spine and that you will get better treatment. One can only hope that by speaking up, your d-i-l *might* feel a bit guilty (her always being absent on the rare occasions you’re “permitted” to visit their home might indicate a bit of inner guilt at how she treats you). Best of wishes to you.

    L #2: I’d take Margo’s advice and be prepared to move on. Cherish what good times you and she had together. There are new friends awaiting.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Cindy, it seems to me more likely that he *has* grown a spine, and is finally standing up to a mother who thinks she should be the center of his world.

  7. avatar Skyblonde says:

    I agree with Belinda. You don’t raise children expecting a reward. My children owe me nothing-I chose to have them and I accepted the responsibility for that choice by raising them. When they grow up and move away and start their own families, I hope they will want to continue to include me in their lives, but they are not obligated to. Also, the lw says she has done nothing wrong, but a woman who always puts her son first-even when he’s 40-and then expects a reward for it sounds like a nightmare for a mother-in-law. I probably wouldn’t want a woman like that around me or my children either. When you marry, your spouse becomes your top priority-even above your parents.
    @Kate Olsen-in most cases, in order to win grandparents’ rights, the grandparents have to have an established relationship with the children, as it sounds like your mother did until your sister ended it. (At least, this is what our lawyer told us when my stepchildren’s birth father’s mother tried to get visitation.) This lw does not really have a relationship with her grandchildren.

  8. avatar wlaccma says:

    My in-laws never really liked me. They believed, wrongly, that I had stolen their only child and moved him away from them. He wanted to move on from his tiny home town and move up the corporate ladder which meant moving around. It was all my fault that he did not stay in the area and work at a gas station or local bank. The best part was I knocked myself out making sure they had time with us and the grandchildren. I wrote them a nice letter thanking them for raising their wonderful son and told them he is the successful and wonderful husband today due their great influence. Their response? I only had a stamp larger than the 25 cent stamp you needed at the time so I used it. They called (they never called–we had to call them and pay for the long distance call as they rambled on about relatives that meant nothing to either of us) to complain to their son that I had put too much postage on a letter and I was a money waster. They never mentioned the contents of the letter. They are both gone now but we still laugh about that.

  9. avatar K Coldiron says:

    I saw red flags all over LW1.

    –She raised him as a single mother and now he’s “clueless” about women.
    –She “wasted her life” raising him.
    –Her son gets married for the first time in his 40s.
    –There’s an awful lot of poor-me. Self-pity is sown in half the sentences.

    None of these things on its own is a big deal. (I don’t want to draw down wrath for the age of the son when first married – that could be for any number of decent reasons – I’m just calling it a little bit more evidence.) All together they tell me that LW is at least part of the problem. Maybe it really is all the DIL’s fault, and maybe it’s the son’s for being spineless, and maybe it’s something else about the dynamic that’s not here (DIL has a germ obsession and can’t stand people coming to the house, MIL said something innocuous 3 years ago that makes it hard for DIL to look her in the eye). But I think it’s likely that the LW has a share of this, maybe a large share, whether it started back in her son’s childhood or is a recent development.

    But I definitely think that more than anything else, LW is smarting from cut apron strings. That’s what this letter is screaming to me.

    • avatar Kathleen Hein says:

      That’s what I figure- maybe the DIL is part of the problem, but I doubt she is all of the problem. Until the LW takes a hard and honest look about what she could possibly have done to estrange herself from her DIL (Were the things the Son repeated from her TRUE, for instance?), then nothing is going to improve. Somehow, I have a feeling the LW has unreasonable expectations, anyway, and thought she’d share in their “Success” and “lovely home” not just as an occasional visitor! I hope she has a way to set money aside now, toward her retirement and future care.

  10. avatar flyonthewall says:

    LW#1 You sound so much like a relative of mine that it is scary. Her son married well before he was 4o, so I know you are not the relation I have in mind. My advice to you is to go get some therapy. In reading your letter several times, I keep coming to the same conclusion. You are reaping what you sowed. Your son is clueless about women. Why is that? Is it because you did not want him to become and independent adult and go off on his own? Why is it that he is just marrying in his early 40’s for the first time? Did you raise him to be a spoiled, self absorbed, the world revolves around me type? You do say in your letter that you put him first above your job and your career. My relative did that to her son. He wound up marrying a woman who was just as spoiled and self absorbed as himself and they raised two children, who in turn were just as spoiled and self absorbed. My relative couldn’t get near her grandchildren because they were just too wrapped up in themselves to care about her. Now about you and your situation, Brokenhearted. I could see your son marrying a shrew because of how it appears you raised him. Did you expect for him to be the man in your life for the rest of your life? I get that impression from your letter. Explain what you mean by “Did I waste my time trying to raise my son.” A good parent raises a child to be free and independent or in other words, fly from the nest. Please get into therapy and get your thinking straightened out and don’t do what my relative did and use toxic boyfriends for a son substitute. I don’t know if the relationship with your son can be saved, but you do have a chance at some sort of happiness if you learn to let go of your son and build a life of your own like Margo suggested.

    • avatar mayma says:

      Well, actually Margo recommended that she “lay it on the line,” while supporting the LW’s one-sided view of the in-laws as “witches” and the son as “weak,” “clueless” and “manipulated.” THAT is what this LW is going to lean on, believe me. She isn’t going to hear anybody says about how SHE needs to work on herself.

      • avatar flyonthewall says:

        I hear what you are saying, Mayma. Yes, I have been all through this with my relative. It was all her dil’s fault and dil’s dysfunctional family in her mind. She had the big confrontation and told son and dil just what she thought. Naturally, that didn’t go very well with her son and dil (especially since son blames his mother for his personality disorders and other assorted things) and they eventually ceased contact with her altogether after some tense, bitter feuding. Said relative refuses to get any therapy and bides her time with toxic men. Very sad, but she made her choices in life. I don’t expect much from lw, but I thought it was worth a shot to reach out and share.

  11. avatar judgingamy says:

    I agree something is off about LW1. I wish she would have given some specific examples about these “little tidbits” the DIL is telling her husband. And the, I’ve wasted my life raising my son and this is my reward? leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Also that she expected to benefit from his success is quite telling. I would be willing to bet LW brought up all the sacrifices she made repeatedly to him while he was growing up.

    While I am guessing LW has had a hand in her own problem, I will have to agree with her that *never* inviting her over for the holidays is really harsh. My husband doesn’t particularly like his mother but we still see her every so often and if were putting on a holiday meal, we’d invite her. Son and DIL seem cruel. The mother in question would have to be really, really bad to warrant that kind of treatment.

    I am guessing the LW is a rather unlikeable person, who raised an unlikeable son, who married an unlikeable woman- and the cycle will continue.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      What are the chances she doesn’t get invited for holidays because she insists on taking over the meal, or insults her DIL’s cooking, or tries to upstage the parents when it comes to gift-giving, or is snide to the DIL’s family?

      It is far from unknown for MILs to find out what “big present” the DIL is giving the grandchild, then buy the same thing and present it first. It is common for MILs to “help” by assuming that awful girl couldn’t possibly prepare a decent meal and “help” by bringing over enough food for an army.

      It is my experience that people are slow to cut off family, and generally there is a reason for it.

      • avatar judgingamy says:

        None of those offenses justify completely cutting out your mother, IMO. If I had a MIL who took over my meals, insulted my cooking, and ruined my present to my kid, yeah I’d be pissed. I’d also just remember to not share what gift I was giving in the future, ignore her when she bashes my cooking, and take the extra food into work. I wouldn’t ban her from my husband’s and child’s lives.

        • avatar dcarpend says:

          First of all, you don’t know whether it’s the DIL’s decision. It is just as likely that the LW’s son got sick of Mommy expecting him to make her the center of his life, and the guilt trips she laid for his daring to grow up, get married, and start his own family.

          Secondly, it depends on how bad she is and how ugly it makes the DIL’s holidays (or the son’s, or his children’s holidays.) I see no reason why the DIL should be sentenced to twenty years of being miserable on holidays so that her MIL can be happy. Why is it the DIL’s job to be unhappy?

          Third, I have no children, but if I had — we tried — my DH and I agreed that his mother would have only very limited contact with them, and NEVER be alone with them. Why? Because it took my husband massive therapy, antidepressants, and 8 years of no contact with her to cope with the severe depression her nasty head games had created. No way would we have allowed her to treat our children that way. Too, if the MIL can’t resist badmouthing the children’s mother to them, I think it’s destructive to have her around them.

          Fourth, her husband is a big boy. He could visit his mother alone. He could take her to lunch every few weeks. He could go over to her house for dinner. If he doesn’t do this much, the chances are it’s because he doesn’t want to. Many men use their wives as buffers between them and their mothers — he goes and “fixes the computer” or whatever, leaving his wife (and kids if there are any) to deal with his mother. When the wife stops playing buffer, and says “No, thanks, honey — you go see your mom if you want, but I’m staying home,” it’s astonishing how many men decide that visiting Mom is just not as attractive a prospect as it used to be. It is not the responsibility of a wife to expose herself to her MIL’s particular brand of nasty so that her husband can feel like a Good Son without having to spend one-on-one time with Mom.

          • avatar judgingamy says:

            Actually, I never said it was the DIL’s decision. YOU did, when you listed all the potential ways LW could have upset DIL. My original post blames both son and DIL. My second post was only in response to yours.

            That being said, chances are it *IS* DIL’s decision, as the son will visit his mother on his own with the kids, or let him come over when DIL isn’t home, which takes care of your fourth point.

            It’s possible that LW is a toxic person and DIL has tried everything and finally given up. It seems to be a higher likelihood that all three are to blame- the LW for being unpleasant, and the son and DIL each for failing to be the bigger person.

        • avatar dcarpend says:

          I would add, however, that before cut off, my DH tried telling his mother she needed to stop insulting us at every turn, and start treating us with respect. She was outraged at the very idea, but he gave her that chance.

          I would suggest that before she stops inviting MIL to Thanksgiving or whatever, the DIL try saying “I’m so sorry dinner isn’t up to your standards. I understand the Hilton has a wonderful Thanksgiving buffet; I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.” If MIL gets hustled to the door every time she’s a b!tch, there’s a chance she’ll learn to be polite. Just a chance, mind you.

  12. avatar dcarpend says:

    LW1, you seem to feel that your son owed it to you to be the center of your life forever. He did not. Children do not remain small forever, and adults center their lives around their spouses and children, not their mothers.

    You really shouldn’t have sacrificed everything to raise your son; perhaps keeping some sort of life of your own while also doing a good job raising him would have let you feel like you have a life without him. You can’t go back and fix that, but get this clear now: There’s not a 2 year old in the world who doesn’t want to be the center of his mother’s universe, and there’s not a 45 year old in the world who doesn’t resent the hell out of it.

    I suspect that the reason your son didn’t marry until his forties is that you made him your substitute spouse, and made it your job to scare away any “rivals.”

    It’s time to find a life that doesn’t derive its meaning from being “Mommy,” time to find friends, activities, take a class, do volunteer work. Perhaps move to a retirement community; they tend to have a lot of planned activities that aid in making friends.

    But the more you blame your DIL for the fact that your son no longer centers his wife around you, the more you will be cut out of their lives.

    One other note: Many women who have found the role of Mommy to be the only fulfilling thing in their lives try to take over their grandchildren. They want to be the ones to take the kids to see Santa, to take them trick-or-treating, to buy the Christmas dress or the first bike. There is no inherent right to be your grandchildren’s Mommy, and the more you try to take over the role, the more your DIL will rightly keep the children away from you.

  13. avatar shaihalud says:

    Something in LW1’s tone smacks of my mother. She, too, “wasted her life raising me” and wanted me to live at home until she died. To the point where, upon learning that I wasn’t going to move back to the city I grew up in to live with her after I was finished with school, she threw herself in front of a car.

    I’ll admit that my mother’s mental health issues are probably far greater than LW1’s, but if the attitude even begins to resemble that of my mother’s, this woman is exceedingly lucky that she is seeing her grandchildren at all, lest she develop attachments to them that are similar to the obviously unhealthy ones she’s formed with her son. What is most telling to me is not only her tone as many others have suggested, but how she is completely blameless in all of this and has never done anything wrong. No human is perfect and only delusional people think that others are the source of all of their problems.

  14. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – I would pay good money to hear the DIL’s side of the story. I bet it’s real interesting and fill in some details the LW “forgot” to mention.

    LW2  – All you need to realize is that Cynthia is too busy for your friendship. Real or imagined, she has other things to do. Let it go. It happens.

  15. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) Lay it out for your son, so that it’s crystal clear how much he’s hurt you. If he doesn’t straighten up, then you must fashion a new life for yourself. It’s sad, but true.

      LW2) Let Cynthia off the hook and move on. Understandably, you’re hurt. Yet for whatever reason, she apparently doesn’t want to be pals any more. You’ve done your best.

  16. avatar A R says:

    It may be just me, but when someone sends a clear message that they don’t want to hang out, let them be. You ought to know whether or not you “did something” to annoy her. If you don’t know, then you either didn’t do anything, or you are so clueless that you annoyed her beyond repair anyway.
    I’ve got a good buddy who annoys me occasionally as I do to him. Occasional annoyance is part of interacting with people. You feel it, you avoid the person for a few days/hours/weeks, and you get over it. Why? Because small annoyances go away. Big annoyances on the other hand can be dealbreakers, which by their very definition cause friendships to dissolve. If one of those happens, you can’t do much about it anyway because the offending action/belief/philosophy is usually an inherent part of you.
    I have a friend I liked during the five years we lived near each other, however when I moved I let the friendship dissolve. We enjoyed some years as neighbors, but I don’t want to keep the friendship beyond facebook. She didn’t do anything to me, I just tired of the friendship in real life.
    If she wanted to explain the issue to you, she would do so. Let her go.

  17. avatar nancy s says:

    Re LW 1: my niece is a generally lovely person, but she has resented and talked down her MIL from day one. The MIL wanted input into the music at the wedding–which meant she was obviously a controlling witch. She’s too possessive– but my niece sees her own parents literally five times the amount she sees her in-laws. She’s silly– well, it’s true she doesn’t have a law degree like my niece and nephew, but she’s quite intelligent. There honestly is no reason why my niece is so dismissive of her very nice MIL, and it breaks my heart when I see the way she treats her. Something to keep in mind when many of the responders here heap blame on the LW, assuming she must have done something terrible to warrant such treatment.