Q: How can we keep up a relationship with our son when his wife severed all contact with us several years ago? We've asked them many times to tell us how we've wronged them so we can make amends, but there has been no response.
Jim: My heart goes out to you. It does sound like this situation was triggered by some sort of offense, whether real or imagined. It could have been something you said or did. It might be a problem with your daughter-in-law. It may be nothing more than an unfortunate misunderstanding. The important thing is to keep your hearts open and communicate your love as best you're able.
Our counselors suggest three things you can do to preserve peace and sanity on your end and keep your conscience clear:
-- Honor the boundaries your son and his wife have set, no matter how harsh or unreasonable. If they've asked you not to call, don't call. If you violate these boundaries, you'll only end up validating their negative image of you.
-- Guard your own heart. It would be easy to fall into depression and anxiety or to beat yourself up and blame yourself for what has happened. Don't fall into that trap. Don't become bitter, and don't believe lies about your own worthiness as a person. Do whatever it takes to stay emotionally healthy and keep yourself psychologically safe in spite of the circumstances.
-- If the situation allows for it -- you know best if it does -- send your son and his wife a card with a brief message expressing your love and goodwill a couple of times a year, perhaps on birthdays and at Christmas. It's a small thing, but it will let them know that your hearts are still open toward them.
Our counseling staff would be happy to provide a one-time free consultation if you'd like; call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: I'm in my early twenties, living in my parents' home. I've had several relationships over the past few years, but my mom and dad haven't thought much of any of them. I want to honor my parents, but I also need to live my own life. How should I respond to my parents' negative feelings about the people I've been dating?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: To some extent, your present conflicts have less to do with the nature of your romantic interests than with the complexities of your living situation.
You didn't mention whether you're working full-time or attending college. In either case, you may want to begin working on a plan to become more independent and self-sufficient. A measure of financial independence can be surprisingly empowering and liberating.
Once out from under your parents' roof, you'll find it easier to sort out the family dynamics that have been frustrating your relationships with members of the opposite sex. You're wise, of course, to take your mom and dad's desires into account, and you certainly don't want to abandon the values they've worked so hard to instill in you during your growing-up years. At the same time, someone your age must learn how to think, choose and act independently. Living on your own will help you achieve the distance and perspective you need in order to do that.
When and if you find yourself involved in another romantic relationship, I'd urge you to move forward with caution and discernment. Give your parents' perspective the careful consideration it deserves. But take time to listen to the counsel of wise friends and advisers as well.
Focus on the Family offers a great resource and community for those wishing to live a purposeful single life and prepare well for marriage; see Boundless.org.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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