You’ve seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of Care for the Caregiver: Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster, help the casts on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and the hit show Braxton Family Values manage the stressors of life. Now it’s your turn to engage with her about real life issues. Girl, we’re grown. Let’s talk about it.
Q: How do I overcome my dislike for my daughter’s husband, and overcome my depression in seeing my daughter fall prey to a controlling SOB? My daughter always defends his actions, and whenever I say anything, she flies into a rage.
My son-in-law is not very nice to my daughter. He uses passive-aggressive actions and words to demean and control her. He had a 9-year-old daughter when they married 10 years ago, but he does not want any more children. She has always wanted children. He says she is a stepmother to his daughter and that’s that. My daughter has been a wonderful stepmother, better than her real mother.
He thinks his daughter’s needs come before his wife’s. His daughter will walk into a room and never acknowledge her stepmother — not even with eye contact. Her father never says a word.
There is too much to tell in this message, but I tell my daughter that I will always have her back and that I will always be there for her. I only talk to my only child about once a month and actually see her even less. She has to sneak over to visit me. I’m 75 years old and live alone. I need help. I’m sinking fast. Thank you for your help.
“Whatever you need, have an honest conversation and ask for what you need.”
A: I clearly perceive your anger and frustration. I also hear the insight that you have at 75 years old and your love for your daughter.
As harsh as this may sound, your daughter and her husband are not your issue. Your daughter may indeed be married to a “controlling SOB” but that is her husband of 10 years. She has accepted her stepdaughter and been a wonderful stepmother. This is her family, and she apparently loves her husband enough to defend him.
This does not mean that she does not love you or hear your concerns. Rather, she has made a choice of how she wants to live her life. You may never understand or agree with her choice, but she is an adult. You may also never like your daughter’s husband but hopefully you will get to a point of accepting your daughter’s choice.
The real issue is that you long for a close relationship with your daughter. It is unclear when you say, “I’m sinking fast,” whether you’re referring to your emotional or physical health. Regardless, you appear to need some assistance.
I would suggest you call your daughter and tell her you need to sit down and speak with her about issues that regard you. It is important that she knows the conversation is not about her or her husband. Otherwise, she is likely to ignore what you have to say. You should not mention him or how you think he is treating your daughter.
Be very clear on what you need and desire from your daughter at this time in your life. Do you need her to go to the doctor with you? Do you need help taking care of your home and household responsibilities? Or do you just need for her to check up on you by calling and visiting frequently? Whatever you need, have an honest conversation and ask for what you need. Let her know your fears and concerns about aging and your life. Also, assess your support system for help and look for community opportunities to engage in activities with other people your age. Remember, growing old is a privilege that everyone does not get!