Dear Dr. Archer,
Our son is 21 and has been dating the same girl more on than off for five years. From the beginning we were informed her parents, who moved here to Texas from Boston three years earlier, were a very GOOD christian family.
From the beginning the girl and mother have been overly pushy and manipulative. It's their way or no way. An example: While he was in high school, we took our son's cell phone away as punishment. His girlfriend's mother bought him one, and he used it until we found and destroyed it.
Once I went to pick him up from class one night, because he was grounded and couldn't drive. Well, this girl and her mother were in the parking lot, literally hiding behind newspapers in their car. They then bent over in the seat to hide because he wasn’t supposed to be seeing her as part of his punishment.
When we have holidays, my son and his girlfriend always manage to spend less time with our family than hers. Every time we ask her to go to church with us, she usually has an excuse, coming with us maybe three times in the past five years. She's Catholic and we're Baptist, but they do not belong to a church in Texas.
His brothers and I have talked to our son about it. He continually takes up for them, even when they pull stunts. Oh, and by the way, the whole family, including the girlfriend, calls him a retard!
They tease him about the way he walks and stutters, too. He has mild Cerebral Palsy and is very, very shy. He is very handsome with killer blue eyes, and they only know about the CP because he has told them.
They moved into an apartment together in March. The urgency to move was a lie to him because she told him everything was so bad at home with her parents. However, they're either at her parents' home or the parents are at their apartment almost every night since the move.
We bought them a house warming gift and have tried to help. Her parents helped their daughter move, but when it came time to get my son's things, neither the girl nor her parents had anything to do with it. I could go on and on.
We also have a 22 year old daughter and an 18 year old son who is about to graduate. Sunday was his baccalaureate, and our children were told about it in advance.
On Mother's Day we were eating out, including the girlfriend, and she started talking about going to Six Flags because they bought season passes, and her parents were going the same day as graduation.
She told us she didn't go to her own graduation, and I told her I didn't care, and that our son needed to go. I let him know that we were all there for him for his graduation.
In the end, he did not attend his brother's graduation. He went to Six Flags. We've all been very upset, especially his brother. Despite the age difference, they've always been very close.
We have tried to let things slide, and to back off this girl for our son's sake. We've given and given while getting nothing in return. We also found out yesterday that he is taking five vacation days to go to Missouri with her and..... you guessed it...... her family!
I think they're atheists. Horrible to say, I know, but I think they're on the wrong side! We have bitten our tongues and tried so hard, but we feel we're losing our son.
Yes, he's 21 and an adult, but it hurts deep down in all of us. Any ideas before we lose him completely?
I know this hurts, Pam, and I can tell you are absolutely devastated by the actions of your son, his girlfriend and her parents. However, if you do not want to lose him completely, stop trying to control him NOW. Drop it. Drop ALL of it.
Let bygones be bygones. You cannot change what has happened, but you can carve a different path starting now which could stop this power struggle, which you are losing big time. This may not be what you want to hear, but it's what you need to do if you don't want to push him completely out of your lives.
The harder you push him, talk badly about his girlfriend and her family and try to control his actions, the more he's going to fight back for his independence. For him to make the clearest decisions, you need to stop pushing.
That said, make sure he knows you all love him unconditionally and the door is always open to him. And then, back off and let him live his life.
I can understand your frustration and anger at the stunts the mother and daughter pulled when he was in high school. I would have been extremely bothered too. However, all of that is in the past, so like I said, drop it. It's done.
Stay in your son's life, do your best to enjoy the girlfriend, as I'm sure she has good qualities that you're not seeing because you don't approve. I doubt the family is atheist, but again, even if they are it's not your affair. You've taught your son morals; trust him to make the right decisions.
The reason they spend more time at her parents' house than yours is probably because they're providing happy, positive visits, and based on your letter, your visits are finding fault and making demands. Stop, and make all future visits pleasant. Get along with the girlfriend and trust in your son.
You are very smart to want to change things here and now, Pam, because one day this girl could very well be your daughter-in-law and the mother of your grandchildren.
Make the relationship loving and positive today, because she evidently makes your son happy, plus it ensures a more loving and positive future. I truly wish you all the best.