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Alienated grandparents - Dilemma about possible reconciliation

Started by MarinaRae, January 23, 2021, 03:52:06 PM

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I haven't posted here for awhile, but am really needing some wise wisdom and maybe a chance to vent a little. 

TL;DR Summary - Youngest son and DIL are keeping us from seeing the grandkids because we did something awful. They are suggesting a reconciliation, but on their terms. We're ready to set boundaries but afraid of the consequences. How to proceed? 

Sorry this may be long, but I am having a really difficult dilemma right now. As I have posted before my DDIL (difficult daughter-in-law) is very troubled. I am 100% sure she is a toxic narcissist. I have done a lot of research and spoken to my therapist at length about our history. DIL's behavior checks all the boxes for this personality disorder. She has been very controlling and sometimes verbally abusive towards me for the past 12 years, while doing all the usual blame, shame, gaslighting, love-bombing, hoovering, projection and discard. At times she can act very sweet and has given me beautiful gifts. She is ALWAYS kind and caring in front of other people, but behind the scenes it's a different story. You never know what will set her off. We have never interfered in their marriage, even though we have seen signs of emotional abuse from her towards our son. We have cycled through all  the phases with her/them more than once but this is the first time grandchildren have been used as pawns. Right now we are in the discard phase and it's a tough spot to be in, but really no more difficult than the other phases of catering to her, walking on eggshells and trying to be an intermediary between them and the rest of our family. It's all been hard. Currently, we haven't seen our grandchildren since late August. Once again we have done something so egregious as to require isolation from them (in her mind). My son and DDIL are doing the usual carrot and stick tactic trying to get us to fall back in line, apologize to her (yet again) and admit we're terrible people. Most communication has been via group text. 

There's a lot of history over the past decade but it is a cycle of abuse that I am no longer willing to be a part of. This relationship has given me extreme anxiety and PTSD and I'm ready for it to end. However, I would like to see my grandchildren under some circumstances if at all possible. I'm not sure it is, but I haven't given up hope in that regard. It makes me very angry that they are doing this to their kids, especially the oldest granddaughter (almost 4) who was used to spending a lot of time with us. 

The (most recent) story - early September my husband and I were keeping our other 2 grandchildren for a few days. We had only seen them twice all year as they live out of state and because of covid. We quarantined in advance, as did they. (There is a history of drama and jealousy between our sons and their wives, primarily because of DDIL and her antics.) The first night we had the grandkids out of the blue DDIL sends a group text announcing she and our younger son and kids will be over next day for a BBQ (which we had not planned) to see the kids. Older son lets us know he does not want DDIL around his children when he's not there and why did they even know kids were there? He doesn't trust her. Now he's mad at us. We proceed to get in an argument. Older son is now fighting with my husband and husband and I are also fighting about it. What a mess. I text younger son and DDIL to let them know it won't work out, we're not feeling up to it and let's get together another time. That's all it took. She proceeded to blow up my phone with calls and then sends me a very hateful text filled with accusations and profanity when I didn't answer. I didn't respond to the text. It sure put a damper on the time with the grandkids, which I think was her intention. Here we go again.

Three weeks go by and I text my son asking how they are doing and say that we'd like to see the kids. SHE responds with another nasty text about how disrespectful we are to reach out to son and not include her, that we don't want a relationship with her, she's not welcome at our house and blah, blah, blah. Blame and shame. Ugh. (They have been invited to our home MANY times but they rarely come.) We ask again to see the kids a few more times (to both of them) and they completely ignore us. After a few tries I give up on asking. 

More time passes and now they text us to suggest a phone call to attempt a reconciliation. Weeks go by before this takes place, but we finally do. Very early on it was apparent the main reason for the call was for us to tell them why we had cancelled them coming over - blame it on older son we assume. We said it was a personal thing between us (fighting) and we didn't want to talk about it. The phone call went south within minutes and she ended the call with "I'm DONE!" and screaming F*** yous to both my husband and me. Well, that's not OK. My son sounded completely defeated. We weren't surprised at the outcome. She unfriended me on Facebook right away. (Oh well.) Halloween came and went, my grandson's 1st birthday came and went. We sent treats and gifts in the mail. No acknowledgment. Christmas came and went. I have all their gifts sitting in a corner in my house. It's just sad. 

Right before Christmas she texts again now suggesting we have a meeting with a mediator. We agreed but said it needed to be a professional counselor. Weeks go by and she says it can only be done by Zoom due to covid, which she is unwilling to do (we were fine with Zoom). Now she suggests her sister mediate who she claims can be unbiased. Against my better judgment, I reluctantly agreed to her sister. If we insist on a professional it will be a year before I see my grandkids, if ever. Her sister has always been nice to us, but I don't know if she can truly be unbiased. Her whole family is part of the problem. A part of me thinks of it as an opportunity for them to see her as I do, but that's not really realistic I guess.  

At this point, I am supposed to reach out to her sister. I have not. I am so torn about it all. My husband didn't want to do it in the first place. He only agreed because he misses our grandkids. He has said he can't guarantee he won't go off on DDIL if we have a meeting. In fact I think he's spoiling for it now. I don't see this ending well. DDIL can present as a calm, caring individual in front of others. In my experience if there's even a hint of criticism she is known to fly into a rage. My husband has only experienced this directly on the one phone call. Usually it's just been directed towards me but then he has had to deal with the fallout. My husband is sick and tired of her crap and how she has treated me. Angry at our son for allowing it. Our son is completely trauma-bonded and will defend her as the poor victim with his dying breath and cast us as the bad guys. Her family are all enablers and flying monkeys. Bottom line - she is a big bully and I'm ashamed to say I've been quite traumatized by her. I'm done being the target of her abuse. For the first time I am really ready to set boundaries and stick with them, but it might be at the cost of seeing my grandchildren for the foreseeable future. 

I have considered just sending them an email - kind, caring, but being clear about what we want (a civil relationship and to see the kids) and what we will and will not tolerate. How honest should I be? I want to tell her she needs professional help. I'm afraid that if I try to do that in a mediation in front of her sister my position will not be clear or I won't be able to get to it before things deteriorate or I'll lose my nerve. I have to figure out how to deal with this because it is taking up way too much of my emotional energy and head space. All my efforts at distracting myself with projects or focusing on other things (as suggested in this forum) haven't really worked because this feels so unresolved. I don't know which way to turn. 

I am so darn tired of all the drama, but she thrives on it. It's so bizarre. I'm so tired.   

Any advice is greatly appreciated.


Dear M., I have read your post several times and I have no suggestion except to let it go, move on with your life, and hope your grandchildren seek you out when they become adults. You did your best raising your son and get to have a life now that your biological role is complete and he is an adult. Many hugs.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Hello, I'm so sorry you're going through this terrible mess.

Having her sister as the mediator is not promising at all, but I agree with you that it's better than waiting for a professional.

In my experience with someone as volatile as your daughter in law, using the upcoming mediation session as intended will, sadly, blow up in your face. When I've taken part in a 'let's hash things out' meeting with someone who is quick to anger, saying anything at all is a trigger. They never realize it but they've set you up for failure, they don't want you to do your part of the hashing it out because that would make them angry. They don't want to hear what is bothering you and they don't want to solve anything.

It's so frustrating but you're likely never going to be able to say your piece to them, not if you want to see your grandchildren. She won't be able to handle criticism, not now, not ever. I'm not sure exactly how they want us to behave in such a meeting but the only way I know how to get through it is to go in with the mindset of "Thank you for setting up this meeting, I want to hear what you have to say.  I want to do what it takes to heal our relationship. We want to move forward."

So, just smile, listen to them talk about the past, but do not bring up anything from the past that's bothered you!!! That last part is so important with these people. I know it's not fair, at all. This is the only way I've ever left one of these meetings with all my fingers and toes.

As for your other son I'd say to keep your relationships totally separate. If you have one sons kids over, don't even mention it to the other. If the other wants to make plans when you have the others kids over, push it off for another time and say "tomorrow isn't good for us, what do you think about Thursday or Friday evening?"

At the meeting, keep the focus off of seeing your grandchildren, they both know that you want to see them. Heaven knows she will use it against you if you do mention the kids.

I don't think I addressed everything you wrote and I'm sorry for that, not very good at this stuff! Take care


Quote from: luise.volta on January 23, 2021, 07:10:00 PMDear M., I have read your post several times and I have no suggestion except to let it go, move on with your life, and hope your grandchildren seek you out when they become adults. You did your best raising your son and get to have a life now that your biological role is complete and he is an adult. Many hugs.
Thank you Luise. I am becoming resigned to this reality. I really don't see this situation getting better so I probably just needed to hear that. Although I know my post was long, there is so much more and most of it is pretty horrible. When I read it back to myself (and other posts I've written) I realize just how much I have allowed. I do know that we raised our sons in a fun, caring and loving home, so my job in that regard is done. I have always accepted they would move on in their lives and choose partners that might not be perfect, but this really is beyond anything I ever imagined. Every decision I've made regarding this relationship has been based on fear, rather than love. Time for acceptance and some self-love. 


Oh M, I am so sorry that you are in this situation!  How did you stand it for so long?  I went to counseling with my DIL and it turned out horribly.  She was already in counseling so we just used her counselor.  It turned out to be two against one.  The counselor made me acknowledge how difficult it was for my DIL to share her feelings and never once was I asked about how I felt.  That visit did do one thing for me.  It made me so mad that I swore I would not put up with any more of my DIL's antics.  It has turned out that once my DS was not required to stand up for his spouse he had the time to assess her behavior for himself.  As I stepped out of the picture the two of them no longer had to present a united front against a common enemy (me) and my DS is finally coming to his senses.  Talk about messed "DIL" has now decided that she is really a man.  Who would have figured?

Anyway my DS and I are finally getting to know each other as adults and it is working out pretty well.  Don't give up all hope, just spend your time doing things that make you happy.  Enjoy your life and anytime that your brain starts to spiral into the abyss of hopelessness remind yourself of all you have that is wonderful.  Kiss your DH and the two of you plan something you both enjoy.  Your DS has his own lessons to learn and now life is his teacher, not you.

Your mind is a garden your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.
Author unknown


Dear M, I relate very much to your story and if I hadn't set boundaries early, I would be living the almost identical situation.  Setting boundaries cost me a relationship with my grandkids, but it had become intolerable to go on trying to make it work otherwise. It was obvious there was no pleasing or appeasing DIL.  My heart goes out to you.  

If you can still maintain some kind of relationship with your son (even if it's an occasional phone call or lunch), I would do it so that he knows you are there for him when he needs it.  Being married to a narcissist is very much like being in a cult.  The narcissist isolates the person from any outside support in order to control and manipulate.  If it's impossible to maintain any contact with your son going forward, then I would at least let him know you love him and your door is always open to him in the future.  I'm hoping one day my son will find a way for me to have a relationship with the grandkids, but sadly he is pretty resigned to the status quo.  He's tried, but there was hell to pay for it.  I'm doing the best I can moving on with my life.  It's a huge loss.