My son and daughter-in-law are estranged. Help!

Happy Monday!

Can I say happy Monday? Friday is the day we usually give thanks for (TGIF), but Monday? Yes, we can give thanks every day for each day, every day, every moment is a gift from God. Thank you God for today.

Thank you too to everyone out in blog world for spreading the word about a new way of seeing David’s sin with Bathsheba. A few readers continued to stumble over the fact that Bathsheba was bathing in a place David could see. My NIV Bible says David was walking around on the roof of his palace (when, by the way, he should have been off fighting with the rest of his soldiers).

I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine that the King’s palace was the tallest building in the area and from his roof David spotted Bathsheba bathing. She may have been in her own bathroom doing what she always did, never dreaming that someone was watching her.

However , the scriptures never name Bathsheba as a co-conspirator in this sin so whatever she was doing and where, she never intended to catch David’s eye. Nathan, the prophet, accused David and David alone.

In fact, the writer of 2 Samuel identifies Bathsheba as Uriah’s wife even after Uriah was dead and David married Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15). Also in Christ’s genealogy, Matthew named David as the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife. Solomon was born after the first child David and Bathsheba conceived, died. I believe Matthew’s report was God’s continued way of vindicating Bathsheba. Their child Solomon, was His blessing baby for what she endured.

Before we get into this week’s question, a big thank you to everyone who has given me ideas on my new book, What Every Woman Needs to Know….and teach her daughter. I’ve got a great start and am looking forward to digging into it some more but feel free to continue to shoot me your thoughts.

One more piece of news. My wonderful assistant, Donna, has figured out a way to archive our old newsletters. So if you’ve missed an issue or two and would like to read some, go to

Today’s Question: My husband and I are estranged from our son and daughter-in-law. We live a distance from them and have to travel to visit with them and to see our grandchildren. My daughter-in-law was married previously and had one child by that marriage. When she and my son were pregnant with our first grandchild, we made arrangements to travel down to visit. During that visit there were some misunderstandings and accusations which left us very confused and hurt. It’s a long complicated mess and we finally agreed together to see a Christian counselor from their church. The counselor said that we should expect about 4 group meetings before a complete resolution could be expected.

Meeting #1 went better for us than expected. The counselor agreed that we had responded in a reasonable manner to each of the events that my daughter-in-law had listed as her complaints against us except one incident where our daughter-in-law felt we accused her parents of deliberately trying to interfere with our visit with our new step-grandson.

Her parents are nice people and they would never deliberately hurt us. What they did do was done from a good heart, but the result of what they did was that we didn’t get to spend much time with our grandson and for that we were grieved. But since then, our daughter-in-law has had a very negative view of us and so we thought that talking through this specific issue with the counselor present was critical in order to heal and move forward in a healthy way.

After we came down for our second session, the counselor called and said she decided to keep my daughter-in-law out of the session. Her reasons were that our daughter-in-law was pregnant and she was afraid that she or I might say something to upset my daughter-in-law. She encouraged us to spend time bonding together but not have a joint session. I objected. I felt this was absolutely wrong to exclude our daughter-in-law since it was she who held this inaccurate picture of us and we had traveled down with the expectation that this issue was going to be addressed together. I asked the counselor if it was my son or daughter-in-law who was the source of this decision. The counselor assured us that it was her decision and she gave us her word.

I couldn’t argue with her but I refused to have a session without my daughter-in-law present. We left and went home. Later on our son told us that it was our daughter-in-law who decided not to go to the session because she felt stressed and feared she might lose the baby. (Our daughter-in-law is extremely healthy).

I believe the counselor screwed up and now she is a part of the problem and our son and daughter-in-law remain estranged to this day. I have begged the counselor to set things straight with them to no avail. She has avoided the fact that she deliberately lied to us. When I confronted her with it, she pitted our son against us. When we became angry and upset with her actions, she told our son and daughter-in-law that we need counseling and they need protection from us.

My question is this: Are we justified in telling them that we would not continue with this counselor? We cannot trust her judgment and that she waited to tell us until we traveled all the way down there about the change in plans. Our son and daughter-in-law continue to insist that it is her or nothing. We would prefer to just sit with down with them for one hour to discuss what we believe to be the crux of the matter.

Now that I’m a new grandma, I put myself in your shoes and my heart grieves for you. If I could help it, I would not let anything keep me from building a relationship with my new grandchildren. Misunderstandings and hurts occur in every relationship and sometimes they are difficult to work through. However, I fear you’ve missed the forest through the trees. You’re asking me whether or not you are justified in telling your son and daughter-in-law that you refuse to meet with their counselor. Perhaps you are but I don’t think that is the best question to ask in this situation.

I don’t know why the counselor did what she did or said what she said. She might have been caught by the confidentiality factor and could not disclose to you that your daughter-in-law didn’t want to meet. Or, the counselor may have had her own reservations even before your daughter-in-law expressed her feelings. But from what you said, during your first meeting with her you felt that she was fair and objective. I probably would have given her the benefit of the doubt and tried her again for a second meeting, or at least gone in alone with her (even though your daughter in law wasn’t present) in order to continue building rapport with her so she could get to know your heart.

Right now she has the ear of your son and daughter-in-law and has the most influence over them. I’m concerned that your stand on refusing to meet alone with her for your second meeting cost you dearly. You forfeited an opportunity for the counselor to get to know you better where she could have advocated for you with your daughter-in-law. In addition, because you went right home, you lost the opportunity to love on your grandkids and spend time with your son and daughter-in-law which may have helped the healing process move forward.

One of the things I am learning (believe me the hard way) is that being right isn’t always the most important thing. You might be factually correct in all you say but I believe you’re missing the boat in your approach. Your focus seems to be in getting the counselor to own and confess her mistake but in the process have continued to be alienated from your family. At the end of it all what do you want the most, – – to be proved right or to be reconciled?

Here are a couple of things I would suggest. I’d recommend going for a visit if they will allow and talk with the counselor by yourself to see if you can straighten things out and have a better understanding between you and your husband and the counselor. You’ve used pretty strong language concerning your feelings about the counselor in your e-mail and I would encourage you to soften your words if your goal is to be heard. When someone feels cornered or attacked, it is less likely that they will hear you, and that IS the goal isn’t it? There are confidentiality issues with the counselor and she is not at liberty to disclose everything she knows to you. That may upset you but it is how it is.

If that doesn’t work or isn’t possible, I’d encourage you to invite her boss, the pastor to be a part of it. Your goal here is not to prove who’s wrong and who’s right but to work toward understanding, forgiveness, peace, healing and reconciliation if possible. The Bible tells us that “if possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all people.” (Romans 12:23). I certainly know that it isn’t always possible, but since this is your son and you want a relationship with him and your grandchildren, you may have to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek more than a few times. Paul reminds us not to pay back evil for evil but instead, overcome evil with good. Confess your own wrong doing in this situation without demanding that the counselor or your daughter-in-law do so. That doesn’t give them license to walk all over you but it does send a clear message that you are willing to look at your own sins instead of pointing a finger at theirs. That kind of humility and gentleness of heart often pulls down the strongholds of defensiveness that may keep them unwilling to talk about ways they have hurt and sinned against you.

There are no easy answers here but I’m afraid if you want things to be different, change will have to start with you. God will help you but I want you to remember one very important thing. Being right is often a lonely place to be. Jesus tells us that being loving is the more desirable goal.

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  1. Anonymous on August 17, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Having had our own difficulties with in-laws that have been very hurtful, I appreciate the advice given here by Leslie.
    I pray this family can work through their difficulties and create healthier relationships moving forward.

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