Can't Stand Son's Wife

Q: My 35-year-old son is married to a 27-year-old girl. She had a child when they got married, and then they had two together. She went on to have another child while they were separated. She has a lot of instability in her life; she has left with the kids 5 times in 6 years. My spouse and I have done a lot financially to help. We have bought three homes for this girl, one of which she never lived in. Each time she leaves, she comes back and my son lets her. She has not worked more than 6 months in the 6 years. She will be going to jail for about six months for theft from one of the jobs. Before she went to court, my son had finally had enough and filed for divorce. Two days before she was to be sentenced, she took an overdose of pills with her kids at home. Now my son feels sorry for her and has stopped the divorce. They live very close to us, and I cannot take another minute of this mess. My nerves are shot. I cannot stand this girl; she is a constant liar, cheat and a thief. How can I still be there for my son and grandchildren without her in my life? I need help with this one! -- Ken, 78

Dr. Susan: It's totally understandable that your nerves are shot. The situation your son has gotten himself (and you) into is intolerable. What you need to do is stop enabling this whole sick situation by bailing them all out repeatedly. Perhaps your daughter-in-law isn't capable of learning, and maybe your son is having a hard time growing up. But you CAN learn. The truth is, this has become way too complicated for a simple answer. Perhaps a lawyer would be useful in helping your son figure out his rights. Perhaps he could go for custody. Certainly she's not doing a good job as a mother. Perhaps he should have his own head examined (seriously) for taking her back every time she pulls some manipulative move. Rescuing her is not his job, even if he could manage it. Limit your own interactions with her. And tell your son he needs to stop crying to you. Pull back, hard, and maybe he'll step up and do whatever's best for his kids.

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