Dear Ellie: My wife and I were young teenage sweethearts who had a baby at 17. My wife’s mother who was divorced (and bitter) was aware that my family had a very successful business. She tried to sue for custody and support of our daughter. My father and I challenged her and we won the right to raise her, with supervision. My girlfriend and I married as soon as possible.
To appease my mother-in-law, my family often took her with us on holidays. Somehow, stealthily, she had a strong influence on our child who’s now 24. My wife and I are now early-40s, and I’ve worked in the family business ever since I graduated from university.
Our daughter got married last year and the couple are both very greedy, always asking for more money and luxuries. We accepted the expense of a large wedding but were immediately presented with their “need” for a four-bedroom house, with a suite for my mother-in-law, who I’m certain is pushing for these requests.
We gave in but were clear that the newlyweds’ finances, except for a monthly allowance for our daughter and the couple’s costs for education toward jobs, were now up to them.
So far, our son-in-law has shown no interest in learning about economics/business etc. and is living off our daughter’s “household allowance.”
My wife went to speak privately with her and was yelled at and practically pushed out the door. We’re now estranged from them both, but she and her husband and my mother-in-law have made threats regarding a future court case.
I believe that the three of them will try to drain our resources with ongoing lawsuits that go nowhere, but attempt to wear us down. Any advice for this situation?
Talk to your lawyer. Learn what this group could actually achieve, i.e., their threats alone plus legal challenges will be exhausting, until there’s some resolution. Also, consider your will, very carefully.
Other than when you must respond, stay distanced. Or they’ll wear you down.
Use this time for protecting/strengthening your marriage and travelling, when possible (regarding the pandemic), maintaining closeness with friends, etc.
This dispiriting situation also calls for getting professional therapy for you and your wife. The anger and challenges that you both face, starting with your own daughter, are intentionally hurtful and hard to bear. Talking it out may help reassure you both that your teenage relationship and parenthood don’t make these current events your fault.
Each person in this matter has chosen their own actions.
Reader’s commentary regarding the column about sex being common in the lives of older people, “for as long as you want” (Feb. 19):
“The secret is out."
“I laugh each time I see the TV commercial in which the daughter’s talking to her mother, and her father struggles walking down stairs."
“Daughter encourages her parents to move. But Mother says they “love those stairs.” Then daughter realizes what actually occurred. Mother then asks, “More tea?”
“People are living longer, enjoying healthier lives. My mother is now older than everyone in her previous generation."
“Healthy sex is part of a healthy life.”
FEEDBACK: “I love the idea of sex as a senior BUT where on earth does one find a partner, as a widow? There are no dating sites for us. Think about it.”
Ellie: Go confidently to a dating website. When talking online with someone, mention your widowhood as a fact, not an impediment to meeting if there’s mutual interest.
FEEDBACK regarding the man’s “clinging mother” (Feb. 17):
Reader: “He mentions how often/much his mother wants information about his well-being. She’s probably bored and/or lonely.
“Maybe he could set up some project for her children to get involved with, e.g., getting to know their parents’ and/or grandparents’ history.
“Depending on the children’s ages, perhaps she could relate various experiences she had growing up, and her feelings/thoughts about different times in her life.
“She could expand on her family’s background/heritage, write a journal about her life… a project that would keep her busy. Or, can just tell her stories on FaceTime/Zoom or speakerphone.
“She could plan what she wants to say — a task to keep her busy — and the children would learn to appreciate her as a person."
“I wish I’d thought of that before I lost my mom. I missed out on knowing her as a person.”
Ellie’s tip of the day
Greed can destroy families. Keep your other supports close.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.