A letter writer is happy in her new marriage but broken hearted at the same time.
Our elder has some suggestions on getting her son to talk.
It feels very odd to reach out for advice on this matter. The history of my situation is this: I was in an abusive marriage for about 20 years. I raised two sons: one from a prior marriage and one from the 20-year marriage. After the divorce, I continued to live with my younger son and it was tumultuous. He seemed to not want to talk to me and we didn’t really develop a relationship similar to the relationship I had with my older son (they are 10 years apart in age), which is open and loving.
After 10 years, I started dating and suddenly met a nice man and remarried (this happened four years ago). At the time I met my new husband I was working full time, making a house payment, taking care of the house, and cooking for my younger son who was still living with me. My younger son had developed a great career and was making good money. We reached an agreement that he would continue to live in the house and take over payments. He ultimately was able to take over the mortgage in his own name and using his own credit. This house has gained value and was I think a very generous gift to him.
I have to add here that he was reluctant to meet the new husband and our previously terse conversations became even more so. My new husband travels for work and he encouraged me to retire a bit early and travel with him. The travel involves being out of the country for several months at a stretch. I was lucky enough to find an online job that allows me to continue to use my expertise, travel and earn a bit of cash. I was able to leave an incredibly stressful job. I advised both of my sons that this new husband’s love gave me a new lease on life and much happiness. My older son was and is very happy for me.
Now, my younger son has simply stopped talking to me. No texts, letters or emails either. I do not know what to do. I feel an inner duality being extremely happy in my new marriage and broken hearted regarding what has happened to my son. I went to my MD and she prescribed and antidepressant which is somewhat helpful in blunting the pain and persistent thoughts. But I wake every night around 2am and stay awake, praying for the safety for my kids, and for relationships to mend. Would you have any thoughts regarding this situation?
Elder Folk replies
As a mother myself, my heart goes out to you. After years of a strained relationship, your younger son recently made the decision to stop talking to you entirely. Naturally, you find this distressing. Not just because he is your son and you love him and miss him, but because without communication, there is no possibility of healing whatever hurt there is between the two of you. Assuming you even know what that hurt is or what caused it.
You can’t fix what you don’t know, so the first question you have to ask yourself is: why is my son so angry? And the second question is: Is he angry at the world or just at me?
Has your son distanced himself from the rest of the family? Or just from you? Does he still speak to his older brother? To his father? Do you know what caused your relationship with him to be so “tumultuous” when you and he lived together after your divorce?
Your son may have feelings about your divorce from his father that are unexpressed and unresolved. If he has a good relationship with his father, he may resent your characterization of your marriage to him as “abusive” and may also resent your happiness with your new husband. He may not be comfortable addressing whatever conflict he has with you directly and has chosen to deal with it by withdrawing instead.
In general, women are more comfortable talking things out than men are. When faced with a problem, men often prefer to withdraw and to try to work things out alone in their own heads. They’re more private about their feelings/emotions and getting them to open up and talk about them can be very challenging.
So what can you do?
Just because your son’s not talking to you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in touch by sending him birthday and holiday cards and photos of your travels. You also might want to consider texting your son and saying, “Let’s find common ground to resolve our conflicts. I love you, son. And I miss you. Let’s talk. I will listen.” Even if he doesn’t respond, you will have opened the door and let him know that you are willing to hear him out about what’s troubling him.
If your son does respond to this text and agrees to talk to you, bite your tongue and listen to what he has to say with an open heart and mind—even if what he says seems inaccurate or unfair. Remember that his feelings are his feelings and that his emotions are real even if they’re not factual.
Something else you can do is see a therapist. It could be helpful for you to talk about your abusive marriage and its impact on your son and your relationship with him with someone who is objective and able to offer you deeper insights than I can in a letter. Taking anti-depressants may help blunt the pain you are feeling, but the rift between you and your son cannot be treated with pills.
You have done an outstanding job of rebuilding your life after very tough times. You had to work hard for this, which shows your courage and resilience. If you try reaching out to your son and he doesn’t respond, there is nothing more you can do right now, except try to come to terms with his choice, take care of yourself, live a full life, and continue to be a loving mother to your older son and a loving wife to your new husband.
I hope this helps. Remember, we are always here if you feel you’d like to talk more about this.