All Things In-Law...

Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

In the last blog post I wrote about Janice and her son Peter. Janice was struggling with the changes in Peter’s behavior toward her. She was convinced that these changes were the result of Peter’s wife. She was sure her daughter-in-law set these changes in motion because she didn’t want him talking to her.

Is this really what is going on? It could be. This does happen. A daughter-in-law can set into motion such marital contention with his mother at the core that it is easier for him to pull completely away from his family just to make peace at home. However, sometimes what you see on the surface – his pulling away – is not about this at all, and it is important to recognize that there are other ways to interpret a son’s changes.

Behind the Scenes of His Actions

Here are a couple of more ways to think about your son’s actions

  • Your son may be pulling away because he is struggling within himself. He is feeling the need to move beyond where he is, trying to transition to the next level of manhood, and yet he feels you pulling him back. As much as he needs to move forward, and even wants to move forward, it is hard for him to do so, because of how close the two of you have been. He loves you, but he is trying to figure out a different way or different level of love for you – as a man, not as a boy. He can feel you are making it harder for him to move forward (albeit unintentionally) and this just adds to his struggle. As a result he may be short with you, irritated when you keep pressing, or even avoid your calls altogether.
  • Another reason may be that he has transitioned into a man more than you realize. He sees himself as a “grownup,” and he wants you to see him that way too – not as your child, but as a son who is a man. Setting boundaries, deciding where and how often he has contact with you, making decisions you are not happy with is not about you as much as it is about who he is now as a man. It is his way of letting you know things are different now. His priorities are not your priorities.

He sees his wife and children as his family. These are the people with whom he is focused and with whom he sees as his priority. It is not that you aren’t important, but your importance – your role in his life – is not at the top. His wife and children are at the top. He doesn’t love you less; he loves you differently. He wants you to see that his priorities have changed. He wants you to respect him and appreciate the man he has become.

It’s interesting because most moms want that too for their sons, and feel they have done their part in letting go; but it’s hard to let go, especially when there are so many levels to letting him go. This is the part in which you have control. His transition – the changes in his behavior – is where you have no control. When his transition happens it doesn’t feel good. You feel the loss of the son you’ve known. You feel the loss at such a deep level that it hurts more than you thought it ever could. And you now have to figure out a different way to relate to him – one that may feel more distant, but may be more respectful of where he is in his life.

As you can see, although it may feel as though your daughter-in-law is the cause for your son’s distant with you, it is important to look beyond the surface. Taking a heartfelt look at some of these other reasons – in this blog and the last – will help you with what may really be going on. Love your son, but do so in a way that lets him be the man he was meant to be – the one you dreamed he’d be – a man who loves his wife and children as much as your husband has loved his.

If you would like some help with the struggle you feel with your son, please email me –
I will be moving on to more the daughter-in-law’s side of things. My next blog post will be the husband’s role in the relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Again, it may not be what you think!

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