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MSN Lifestyle agony aunt Dr Pam is well known in the media as a psychologist with strong views about many topics. As well as formerly hosting her own Sony award-winning radio programme, 'Dr. Pam's Heart to Heart' on Heart 106.2 and hosting her own programmes on LBC for four years, she's contributed as a guest/expert to hundreds of television and radio programmes years including GMTV, BBC Breakfast TV, Trisha and The Wright Stuff.
A former sex and relationship expert for the News of the World and The People, Dr Pam's written several books, including her brand new book Fabulous Foreplay: The Sex Doctor's Guide To Teasing & Pleasing Your Lover, as well as The Dating Survival Guide, The Break-up Survival Kit: Emotional Rescue for the Newly Single - and her No. 1 best-sellers Sensational Sex: A Revolutionary Guide to Sexual Pleasure & Fulfilment and Sinful Sex: The Uninhibited Guide To Erotic Pleasure. She writes a weekly magazine column as well as regularly contributing to the glossies.
Dr Pam has herself experienced divorce, but is now happily married for the second time, proving you can survive a break-up and move on with your life! Here on MSN, she will be giving Lifestyle readers unique full analysis and advice that isn't available anywhere else on the internet. Visit her column here every Friday where a new reader's problem will be answered each week.
Dear Dr Pam,
My husband and I have been married for nearly 40 years, we are both almost 60. We were "flower power" people and still have a happy, active and loving relationship.
We have two grown sons, one of whom is married with a 20-month-old little girl. Here is our problem. My son's wife is not allowing my husband and I to share in our granddaughter's life. In her 20 months of life we've seen her approximately 20 times, we have only babysat once.
As a recent example, last Saturday my son and his wife were taking our granddaughter to a local park to feed turtles etc. As we hadn't seen them since Christmas (barely two hours on Christmas day) I asked if we could come too. They live about an hour's drive away from us and our visits usually entail us driving out, playing with our granddaughter until she gets tired, and leaving after two hours. So to actually be somewhere else would have been quite a novelty.
Our son said that it would be fine but to phone his home that evening to find out what time. When I telephoned, he said that his wife wanted the outing to be just "family" so we could not go. We were welcome to come over to the house in the afternoon if we wanted to but I declined.
And so that's how it goes all of the time. Her mother looks after our grandchild two days a week but I am not allowed to. We have not been invited to any of our grandchild's playgroup activities, Christmas parties, outings etc.
Now my husband and other son are at the stage where they want to simply let my son go his own way. If he doesn't consider us family then what is the use of pursuing a relationship, they say. I of course am the mother and find that an almost impossible path, but I cannot continue the way we have been going, it is making me ill.
Do you have any suggestions that could ease our situation? I would be most grateful to you if you could assist us.
Dear "We don't see our granddaughter enough",
I can completely understand the heartache that this causes you. It's so difficult to fathom why your son's wife treats you and your husband so differently from her own parents when it comes to access to your granddaughter. I'd like to look at the potential cause for this state of affairs and then potential solutions.
Why Would Someone Put Such Distance Between Family Members?
It might seem an extraordinary idea but I often find the root of such physical and emotional "distance" - where someone is kept at arm's length - comes from one of two places. Either, for whatever reason, your daughter-in-law anxious in the company of people outside her immediate family - and so is very "insular" when it comes to get-togethers. Or ,she has some sort of insecurity and doesn't like what she sees as "sharing" her husband (your son) with anyone, including his parents. Either of these positions has the ultimate effect of meaning you don't see much of your granddaughter - or your son for that matter.
It may be that neither of these apply to her but usually in such cases, where there hasn't been a specific falling-out (and you don't mention any particular arguments), I've found that these two issues are the main culprit. If you, yourself, aren't anxious in other people's company that can be a hard emotional state to understand. But believe me being anxious around others is a fairly common social phobia! Or if you're not insecure about "sharing" your loved ones within the family circle that's also a hard emotional state to understand.
How Can You Try And Get Around This?
Whether or not these reasons apply to your son and his wife doesn't really matter, except for the fact that they may be thinking about what's behind this unhappy situation. The following tips will hopefully help whatever the reason for her behaviour.
1: No matter what, your son is married to this woman and he loves her. That's obvious because his behaviour has been shaped by her wishes. The worst thing you could possibly do is try and come between him and his wife - he will never forgive you and he'll always side with her. So you must always take the tack of being seen to want to make her feel comfortable. This means you'll have to swallow your pride and make the following look like they're for your son and his wife's benefit.
2: Please, for the sake of your future relationship with your son, his wife and your granddaughter, backtrack over you're feeling that you don't want to go their house anymore. Openly embrace seeing your granddaughter at their house and treat it as if it's the biggest treat in the world for you. If you act "huffy" or disgruntled about only seing her at their house, you give your daughter in-law an excuse not to have you over. Don't play into her hands! Remind yourself of this!
3: When at their house, be as pleasant and helpful as possible and keep out of the way as much as possible. I know this sounds terrible but right now you need to, in her eyes, earn your way back into their fold. Keep focused on the long-term goal of establishing a better relationship with them so you can see your granddaughter.
4: Also when at their house, make it as relaxed and chilled-out as possible. If she has any problems with anxiety over visitors this will definitely help.
5: Once you've re-established "goodwill" (and I realise I'm asking you to "dig deep" but it's for good reason!) and have visited over at their house a couple more times try this: think of an outing that would really benefit your son and his wife. Some place you could take all of them - and that they'd think "wow, this is a great idea!" You need to think long and hard about what sort of outing would benefit them as a little family and that you and your husband could come along and enjoy.
6: Obviously, you need to enlist your husband and other son in going along with these plans. Let them know how deeply you care about having contact with your granddaughter. Tell them you're not ready to write them off as part of the family and you want their support in your plans.
7: Once you showed them that you can be gracious about visiting them, once you've proven that your visits won't cause stress to your son's wife, and once you've shown that you respect their wishes as a family unit, hopefully they'll be more open to ever-increasing contact.
Finally, if all this fails, you should have a heart-to-heart with your son asking what on earth you could do to make things better between all of you. Even if all these efforts fail, I urge you not to criticise his wife to him - that could be the final nail on the coffin forever stopping you making progress. It sounds tough but eventually hopefully you'll have a happier relationship with them and the priceless joy of being in your granddaughter's life.
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