Dear Dr. G.,
My problem is my daughter. I raised her as a single parent along with my son. I gave them a decent life and have a good relationship with my son, as I did with my daughter until about 12 years ago. My daughter is now 30 years old and completely shuts me out of her life unless she wants something from me. I have tried and tried to have the relationship with her we once had but she never wants to make time for me. When it comes to her mother- in- law she shows the love I feel she should be showing me but all I get from her is "no, no, no." I have asked her many times to come over for BBQ or dinner and even take her to a show or something but always no. She blocks my granddaughter from contacting me and won’t even let me talk to her. I am so heartbroken and don’t know what to do other than to shut her out like she does me. My love for her makes it difficult, but I’m so tired of crying over someone that cannot show me anything but rejection.
A Heartbroken Mother
I am so sorry for your pain and your loss. Yes, you have experienced a major loss. There is nothing quite as painful as being rejected by a child who you raised and sacrificed for. It sounds like your parenting journey was particularly challenging as it always is for single parents. Good for you for having the courage and fortitude to raise two kids on your own. Believe me. I understand every last struggle a single mother faces.
It is very understandable that you are tired of the constant rejection from your daughter despite your repeated attempts to have a relationship with her. You mentioned that the mother-daughter relationship changed 12 years ago. Your daughter would have been 18 then. I wonder what happened then. I have both a set of questions for you and some suggestions. It is always important to understand what happened prior to trying to repair a relationship. Don't you agree?
My Questions To You:
1. What happened when your daughter turned 18? Did you get married? Did you disapprove of your daughter's life choices? Did she get involved in new relationship?
2. Were there areas of conflict with your daughter before she started cutting you off? If so, what were they?
3. How is your relationship with your daughter's husband/mother-in-law? Is that a source of tension?
4. Are you upset that your daughter is close with her mother-in-law? Keep in mind that this would be expected but is not healthy for you and your daughter.
Please think about these questions and answers and then consider my suggestions:
1. Contact your daughter and calmly tell her that you would like to understand what went wrong with the goal of moving the relationship forward and making it more harmonious.
2. Make it clear to your daughter that you would like to have a more adult type of relationship with her that is based on more than her contacting you only when she needs something. You want her to need you, not just what you can offer her materially (I presume).
3. If your daughter is resistant to clearing the decks and developing a revised and more finely tuned relationship then I suggest that you back off and give both her and yourself space. There is nothing healthy going on here as you yourself alluded to. On the other hand, if your daughter is open to working things out then go for it. That would be quite wonderful. Consider seeing a therapist with your daughter if you both feel that this would help.
Go forth slowly, carefully and with a well-intentioned heart. Remember that in this case patience is a virtue. I am rooting for you. Please get back to me and let me know how things proceed. Good Luck.
See more of my work on: http://drbarbaragreenberg.com/