Dear Annie: Our 39-year-old son is married with three children. Ever since he got married, he has been dealing with overbearing and intrusive in-laws.
My son and daughter-in-law were house hunting a few years ago, and there was a home going up for auction they wanted to check out. They mentioned it in her parents’ company. Before the auction took place, her father, “Steve,” had purchased the home for them to live in. They might not have purchased the house after seeing it, as it was termite-infested, had no working fireplaces and had a roof that needed replacing. They used the money they made selling their previous home for upgrades for this home. Steve would not allow them to secure a loan for the home to pay him back, so the house remains in his name.
Our son has a job with which he can support his family, a great head on his shoulders to make great family decisions and good credit, so he can get loans at the bank on his own without any help. His wife goes along with whatever her parents say or want her to do. It is causing strife in our son’s marriage, plus it’s putting strain on our relationship with our daughter-in-law, and on some occasions, we have not been allowed to visit. My husband and I support a loving family relationship, and when asked for advice on family matters, we give it. But we do not interfere to her parents’ degree, because neither of us was raised that way.
The issue now is that our son’s job is relocating him to a different state. His employer will allow him time to visit his new job location and look for housing. My son secured a Realtor in the area to start the house-hunting process. My daughter-in-law started looking online at homes in this city. She found a home that she liked online and told my son she wanted it because it had all the right amenities. He insisted that they wait till they could look at the houses in person and find one that really met all their needs (e.g., a good school district for the children).
Our son notified us today that Steve purchased the home our daughter-in-law found online, sight unseen, for them to live in. This behavior is not allowing our son to be a husband, partner in decision-making and father to his children. Steve grants all of his daughter’s wishes. We want to support our son because we know he is hurting. What advice would you recommend we give him in this troubling time? — Concerned Parents
Dear Concerned: Wow. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor a couple of times while reading your letter. I can’t imagine what Steve’s financial situation must be like, to give away houses like candy. But I digress.
You’re right that this Daddy-to-the-rescue dynamic is not conducive to a healthy marriage. But from the sound of it, your son hasn’t expressed any of these frustrations to his wife. That lack of communication is even more toxic than intrusive in-laws. Marriage counseling would offer him a safe space to express his feelings to his wife. And given that she’s grown up thinking her dad’s behavior is normal, it might take an objective third party to help her see that it’s not.