Originally Published: July 8, 2017 6:04 a.m.
Dear Annie: I was married to a man for 15 years and grew very close to his parents. I developed a particularly close relationship with his mom. After my husband and I divorced, I remained close to her, which I was happy to do, especially because she is my son’s grandmother.
My son and I continued to have a close relationship with my mother-in-law until five years ago. She had sent my son $50 for a birthday, and my son, being a teenager, took his time sending her a thank-you note for the money. He eventually did send her a thank-you card (within a month of receiving the money), but not before she had contacted us to ask whether he had received the money.
Ever since, she has stopped all communications completely with both of us, despite my repeated attempts to stay in touch. She has moved to another state and does not use a computer, so I have relied on sending cards on her birthday and other holidays.
I accepted her behavior as her way of communicating to us how disappointed she was in my son’s lack of immediate appreciation. However, my son recently got married, and her lack of communication was once again brought to the forefront of my mind, and I was hurt, mostly for my son. Weddings are all about family and love. It would have been nice if she could have acknowledged this very special occasion.
At this point, I am not expecting any kind of reconciliation. However, if she happens to see herself in this letter, I hope she knows she is missed. — Wishing Things Could Be Different
Dear Wishing: Your mother-in-law made Kilimanjaro out of a molehill. A teenager’s taking a month to send a thank-you is no reason to disown him. She could have simply done what many other frustrated grandparents have done in her situation: stopped sending gifts. Her over-the-top reaction suggests a deeper unhappiness in her life.
The kind, sweet mother-in-law whom you grew to love might no longer be available, for reasons you may never know, but that’s OK. We can’t control others’ behavior. We can only control our responses to it. You’ve responded with grace — continuing to reach out to her on birthdays and holidays — and I commend you for that.
Dear Annie: I’d like to suggest a compromise for “No Mess, Please,” the woman who doesn’t want to vacation with her long-term boyfriend’s messy son and family: They could get separate living quarters. They could get condos in the same building or adjacent cottages or cabins, etc. It’s a great solution that — though possibly costing a little more — wouldn’t put “No Mess” in the “mean girlfriend” role, and it would allow everyone to be comfortable in filth or tidiness, as the case may be.
I have vacationed with friends before and found it to be a great solution. Another huge benefit is that after getting together and having fun with everyone, I still have the downtime I need. Hope this helps. — A Reader in Roanoke
Dear A Reader in Roanoke: If this is something “No Mess” and her boyfriend can afford, then I think it’s a great solution. A little space can go a long way toward helping people better appreciate the time they spend together.
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