Friday, February 28, 2014

Part I: What If You Don't Like Your Son's Fiancee

     We were out to dinner the other night with some close friends of ours. They have three children, and one of them, their oldest son, recently got engaged to be married. The young woman is someone the son -- I'll call him Taylor -- has known since first grade, and they've been going out together since high school.

     I've also known Taylor since he was in first grade, maybe even before that, although I've only met his fiancee a couple of times. Taylor has always been a popular kid with lots of friends. He wasn't a brilliant student; but he went to college and now has a good job, though it's not an easy one and he does work odd hours. His fiancee is more quiet. She has a couple of close friends, but not a wide network of friends. And while she is very pretty, she doesn't open up to other people very easily.

     The problem is that she hasn't opened up very much to Taylor's mother. I kind of knew it already; but that's what most of our dinner conversation was about. The girl tends to be kind of formal in social situations; she rarely contributes much to a conversation; and for whatever reason she and Taylor's mother have never quite made a good connection. They've never had a heart-to-heart. If anything, the mother and the fiancee seem a little wary of each other.

     The girl is perhaps overly protective of Taylor, almost as though she's sometimes ordering him around. Taylor is very solicitous of her. She always seems to get her way. And yet, when the two of them are off in another room, or watching TV together, they seem very close. They talk in whispers; they laugh; they cuddle. They are obviously very much in love, and seem very well suited to each other.

     Last year the young couple moved away from home, and now they live several hundred miles away. Too far to simply drive over for the weekend. So the latest? Taylor's mother wants to take a quick flight to spend a long weekend visiting them. Her husband wouldn't go; he's still working; and besides, the mother wanted to make this a special trip of her own.

     All this all seemed fine, until Taylor's mother actually made her plane reservations. Then she heard from her son. Maybe it wasn't such as good idea to visit after all, he told her.

     Taylor and his fiancee were busy at work, he explained, and they couldn't afford to take any extra days off. They wanted to make a visit home at some point; and then they would need vacation time for their honeymoon; and they were carefully saving up their vacation days. Also, they were busy looking for a new apartment, since their year-long lease is running out. What would Taylor's mother do if she came for three days, and both the kids were working, or looking at apartments?

     Taylor's mother told us she's sure this sudden change of mind has come from the fiancee, and while she's trying to understand the situation -- and still trying to decide whether or not to make the trip -- it hasn't given her any more warm and fuzzy feelings about her son's fiancee

     Don't get me wrong. The title overstates the situation. Taylor's mom likes the girl okay, and she does think she's a good match for her son. But this would be the first of her children to get married; and maybe she thinks he's a little young to take this step anyway. She definitely feels more like she's losing a son rather than gaining a daughter-in-law.

     Does this situation sound familiar to anyone? Her husband did voice the opinion that she should make the trip; he offered to go with her if it would make her more comfortable, but she said no, she wanted this for herself. And the unspoken question was: why should the girl be able to prevent the mother from visiting her son, or even make her feel awkward about it? What I thought, but did not say, was:  for crying out loud, couldn't the kid take one day off to please his poor mom?

     But then, I'm not a mom, so I don't know about these things. I thought the problems with our kids ended the day they went off to college! But that is obviously not true, as will be explained in Part II, upcoming sometime in March.



Anonymous said...

She needs to cancel the trip and wait to be properly invited when the time comes and it WILL come.
This is the beginning of the phase in your friend's life when she needs to learn to let go of her son. They have expressed to her that it is not a good time to visit. She should not take this personally.

They are establishing their lives together as a couple. Your friend's time will come. They will want her in their lives, but she also needs to respect their boundaries.

I know. I have experienced this exact scenario. Let go, relax, take care of yourself. Don't worry; your son still loves you... that's what I would say to your friend.

Lee said...

One of the most challenging times in a mother's life is when she realizes that she's not the center of her child's universe anymore. And even after we realize that, we struggle through feelings of being left out as we try define and accept our new role. In your friend's case, she's pinning her new role on the fiance, but if it wasn't the fiance, it probably would have been someone or something else.

As for the trip: If she still wants to go, I'd let my son know I would do everything I could to be independent during my stay. I'd stay in a hotel, rent my own car, entertain myself during the day and be happy to have dinner with them in the evenings. I'd also offer to cook those dinners, if they were comfortable giving me a house key and letting me do my thing in the kitchen. As you said, they're young and working hard and the idea of having a sleepover house guest may be overwhelming to them.

Stephen Hayes said...

This young couple is obviously cautioning the mother about making the trip right now, and the mother should postpone the trip until a better time. I fear control issues are going on where this mother is concerned.

Olga said...

I am inclined to think that it may really be a bad time for the youngsters to entertain, but the solution above (hotel, car rental, no demands for taking time off) should be discussed. If that doesn't relieve the couples' objection, I would worry a little more.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the mother may be forcing herself on them. If someone says "No, not right now" it means just that - no need to read into it. Maybe her son and fiancé are simply trying to become more independent and set up their own lives as a couple.

My daughter and I are also very quiet and introverted. I realize it is difficult for others to be around a quiet person because they don't know what they are thinking all the time. I've been accused of many things because of being a quiet person - just because of the other person's insecurity.

My mother-in-law misunderstood me in the beginning as well. When I started opening up she realized my "quietness" was out of respect for her (it may be cultural). Now she says that she and I are closer than her own two daughters are to her.

I hope the mother has patience, I think it will be just fine.

Friko said...

I was thinking exactly the opposite to you. Leave them be, mum, he’s a big boy and is starting life with his wife-to-be. She’s trying to keep her chick close and seems to want to pull the girl into her world.

Funny that, I am a mum and have had a similar situation. My two have been married for a while and now they volunteer to come for visits.

I still never interfere and never make plans to invade them unless they invite me.

Susan Maccarelli said...

Yep, I think mom needs to wait until they invite her or she will just drive them away. If the wife to be has him under her thumb, mom will just make things worse trying to force the issue. He'll come around in time. Boys love their mommies.

Tom Sightings said...

I'm getting the drift of the advice, which I will pass on if I get the chance and if the moment seems right, which it may not since it's a pretty sensitive issue. (More likely I can talk to the guy; but he may not have much influence in this situation.)

At least they don't have the problems of another family B told me about. Catholic Italian family. Son met a girl in college, from a conservative Jewish family. B's friend, the Italian mother, doesn't like it much. But apparently the girl's family is dead set against. Go figure ... you'd think this stuff was from 50 or 80 years ago; but it still goes on.

Tabor said...

I think she needs to back off and not read anything into this. The early times of newly weds are important and having an in-law can be a stress since they want to make sure the visit is perfect. The girl may be a little insecure, she may have not had a close relationship with her own mother, or it may be just what they said...a busy time. Tell mom to be patient!

DJan said...

Interesting post, and very interesting comments as well. It's true that Mom is pushing a little too hard to be part of their early life, and I too think she should wait until she's invited. I can almost hear the conversations that led the son to finally make the call and ask her not to come right now. What a relief it would most likely be for the couple when she says she's not coming right now.

Anonymous said...

OMG. If I were the girl and the mother-in-law came over, it would be her last. Don't be surprised if the newly weds move further and further away. And rent a studio making it impossible for the MIL to come over at all.
The mother should respect their wishes NOW or regret it for the rest of her life. Esp if the couple have children. Tell the MIL to get a life. her son is a man now.
Get lost mommy. I don't care if you rent a room, a car and a butler. This is 'their time' now. Stay home with your own husband.

Anonymous said...

I would go crazy if my MIL came to stay with us for a few days.

Jeanette said...

Daughters-in-law can be very sensitive. I am fortunate to have a good relationship with mine but I don't expect to have 'heart-to-heart' talks nor an overly close relationship with her. That may come with time -- but I'm taking it slowly.
It's tough to realize that my son has a wife who rightfully has a place in his heart. I do try to have some one-on-one time with my son when opportunity presents itself -- and this reinforces our mother-son relationship.

rosaria williams said...

She needs to let the couple be. She can stay in touch, but can't force the situation. They have fallen in love with each other, not with the extended family.

Douglas said...

It appears to me that Mom is worried that she is losing control of her son. That she views the son's fiance' as a "usurper." Perhaps (and you'd know better than I) that the mom is a bit of a dominant one. No choice the son made in his future wife would suit her. I could be wrong. I also do not think you could provide any advice to any party involved that would be listened to or appreciated. Stay out of it; nod sagely and smile when the subject comes up but do not offer advice... let it play out.

Bob Lowry said...

I agree completely with the majority opinion: mom must back off or she risks damaging the relationship moving forward. The couple needs their own space and time away from any parental interference (from either side of the family. Forcing a visit or voicing disappointment would not be a wise decision.

Mac n' Janet said...

She needs to let go, let them have this time for themselves. It sounds to me like the fiance feels threatened by the Mom--maybe for good reason. I wasn't close to my Mother-in-law when I first married (we were very young 18 and 19), but in time she became my best friend and I loved her dearly. She had no daughters and my husband tells me that I became the daughter she never had. So given time maybe your friend's wife will develop a good relationship.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the camp of 'let go'. It took me years to realize my kids have their own lives to live...and so do grand kids. One of my granddaughters is gay. She has a steady girlfriend ( they live together) and we ( her mom, me sisters, dad and granddad) have all been supportive of her choice. It's her life for goodness sake.

Anonymous said...

Let the son have his own life, I have been married to a man who was the oldest of many kids his dad was a yahoo, drunk and womanizer thought to have married and fathered other kids other than his legal wife..She would not let go, he left to Colorado and I married in another state for many years we did not live close then when we came back to this area, a big river the Columbia separated us and we really did not see her, but since my hubs was the oldest she thought she could intrude, I got a unlisted phone number quickly and did not go over there at all..We were fine, that woman lived to almost 87 and let us know about her illnesses and lack of money(could have lived well if her yahoo sons did not drain her social security, ssi from her younger son and her social security which went to the moon after her first husband died) after she passed I really knew how much she wanted my hubs to be in her was not wonderful at all, but I managed to live quite well with the hubs 40 years soon, because he put me first and our only second, he knew his Mom was suffering with a yahoo man she held onto for whatever reason, her kids suffered terribly there is not one who wanted him to ever return to her and could not imagine why she stood by him, ridiculous as one was to say but only one other sibling is married longer than us and she had a terrible relationship with her mother as her Mom only really like the yahoo boys and my hubs cause he was the oldest and most responsible go freaking figure, our only is single and would never marry anyone not like her father but would live miles and miles from her mother in law if she ever got married, enough said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

A few things: first of all, they are not even married yet right? So don't poison the daughter-in-law relationship when you have not even got your son married. Also, why is the mother not bringing her husband? can't he take a day off, both stay at hotel, their interaction is limited to two dinners or whatever?

I think the mother is right to be concerned about her kid. But go easy, take your husband and stay in a hotel. They don't want to be having the white glove test for cleanliness, etc., maybe from the mother-in-law, who's a good person maybe but a bit nosy? Also, the mother and would-be daughter-in-law seem cut from different cloth of personalities, don't try to force a friendship. My mother-in-law (God rest her soul) was very easy going. So that's my view!

Hauola said...

Trust and closeness in relationships takes time to evolve, and build and strengthen. With the onset of life moving at warp speed, especially the technology-driven aspects, it is best to step back, breathe deeply and be patient in the initial welcoming and exploration stages of how an adult childs' spouse-to-be seeks their own personal level of comfort within the family. I would suggest meeting in the middle. It would not be an imposition on anyone's turf, and everyone is included (husband of Taylor's mother too) and it is an opportunity to have fun and build memories.

Anonymous said...

As a daughter-in-law myself who has often been blamed for things that were, in fact, my husband's ideas, I say Mom needs to re-think things. Perhaps her son is trying to tell her to back off. If she is already giving off the "I have a problem with you" vibes to her future daughter-in-law, they are going to have problems for years.

Barb said...

It sounds an awfully lot like mom is trying to jump into a relationship not hers. Here's the litmus test-imagine she (or you) are newly married again-both working, perhaps going to school, with little free time and no money. And then mother in law (or Mother) announces shes coming for three days. Enough said?

Son seems to have made it clear that they do plan to spend time together and he is budgeting to come home. Is she willing to not have him come home so that he can take time off to spend with her now?

This couple are building a life together-THEIR live. This young man is a college graduate, not a child. While I appreciate what mom thinks about maturity level, she does not get to decide any more. And the fact that she is seemingly DETERMINED to travel alone is a huge red flag for me. She wants to corner the fiancee-I would bet dollars to donuts. Or take the son off and talk about the fiancee-equally disturbing.

You certainly know this gal and are a better judge, but based on what you've shared here....she has the control issue, not the fiancee. I say that as a mother of a young woman who has often had relationships I question. The relationships though, are hers.

Anonymous said...

This was posted so long ago that I figure the mom has made her decision and either stayed home or gone.

I would say GO, but stay in a hotel. Invite the kids to dinner at a restaurant. Check out the city on your own. Don't expect to be entertained by two very busy young people. Show the couple that you can come and go without interfering with their daily routines. And then, keep it that way for the rest of your lifetime.

Signed the MIL of 13 years.