Saturday 29 November 2014

Dear Mary: Heartbreak as our son has cut himself off from us

Published 29/10/2012 | 06:00

He met a girl five years ago and distanced himself from us since then

Our son was part of our family until five years ago. He met a girl and moved in with her shortly afterwards. Prior to this, he had been living at home while attending college.

He quickly distanced himself from us. He visited home with his girlfriend a few times during their first year together, but said that he didn't like the way that she was treated by me.

I have tried at all times to make her feel welcome and couldn't understand why he should feel this way.

They came away for a weekend with us. The girlfriend said that she didn't get on well with her own mother and that it was important to her that she was liked by her boyfriend's mother. She spent Christmas with us as she didn't feel comfortable going home.

That was five years ago. Since then, we have had minimal contact. Some of his siblings tried to re-establish contact with him, but all attempts have failed except for one.

His older sister arranged that we would meet for a meal on Mother's Day. He came to the meal, much to everyone's delight. We chatted away. There was no tension and we had a lovely afternoon. But no follow-up.

He says that he will come back when he is ready and does not want any contact with any of us until then. Text messages aren't answered. No Christmas cards or birthday cards. My sister and brother-in-law have been in contact with him. He is well both physically and mentally, but does not speak about home.

I'm heartbroken. I think of him first thing every morning and last thing at night. I have learned to live with the pain, but wish that things were different. He has missed out on so much over the past five years -- 18th and 21st birthday celebrations, his siblings qualifying from college and lots more. He is the unseen guest at every table.

His dad and I have had many a long discussion, but we really don't know what to do. We do not know how to progress and are afraid that we will make a bad situation worse. Our son was just an ordinary lad growing up. Never caused any bother at all and loved his music and computer games. He has kept his friends since his school days.

I would very much appreciate some help and guidance.

Mary replies:

We spend a lot of time as parents preparing our children for when the time comes to leave home and strike out on their own. We work towards them becoming adults, and taking responsibility for themselves.

We also pass on our own set of values and hope that we have prepared them well for the world. You reared your son in the expectation that he would leave home, but he did that much more quickly than you had expected.

It seems to me that all was going well between you until the girl entered into his life. What was your reaction when he moved in with her after knowing her for such a short time? More than likely he was the first one in the family to live with a partner, and I wonder how that was received by you and your husband.

I appreciate that you did everything that you could to make her feel welcome, but did you like her?

Nowhere in your letter do you give any indication as to how you feel about her or what you think of her, and this may have had some bearing on her reaction to you.

As she doesn't have a good relationship with her own mother, she would be extra-sensitive as to what you felt about her. It would also be difficult for her to feel comfortable in an environment such as you describe -- a happy loving family. This may sound very strange, but people are comfortable with what they know, and so for her to be in a relaxed easy-going environment would be difficult.

She may then have interpreted this as just not liking you as a family, and told your son that she didn't want to be part of it, no matter how much you made her feel welcome. You may never know the full story and in any case everybody sees things from their own perspective, therefore her viewpoint will be quite different to yours.

You have done everything that you can to keep the lines of communication open, so when he eventually does return you will not have said or done anything that you regret. At 26, your son is oblivious to mortality and in some way probably feels that you and your husband will live if not forever, then for a very long time. And hopefully you will.

He doesn't realise how utterly devastated he would be if anything were to happen to either of you, because he is the centre of his own world right now and you are only on the periphery. If by any chance he, or his girlfriend, is reading this, he will be able to see how you really feel.

In the meantime, I really don't think there is anything else that you can do that you haven't already done. You seem to have given your son a really good upbringing, so you now have to trust that he will ultimately return.

Submit your letters to Mary anonymously at dearmary.ie.

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