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Jeffinohio's avatar

How can we overcome a controlling, manipulative grandmother, without hurting the child involved?

Asked by Jeffinohio (211points) September 22nd, 2010

I was in a serious relationship with a woman who has an 8 year old son. (His father had passed away.) Now, I’m a father of five from my first marriage, with my youngest already in college. I don’t think I was prepared to take on the responsibility of raising another child at first. She (rightly) felt I wasn’t involved enough with her son, and broke up with me two months ago. I completely understood, and really respected her decision as a mother.

I’ve since realized where I went wrong, and am now committed to helping her raise her son. The two of us still love one another and we want to try again. Enter my ex-girlfriend’s manipulative mother… who provides a lot of good to her grandson (love, after-school babysitting, monetary support, vacations, etc.), but always with strings attached. She says if we get back together, she will withdraw from the child’s life. My ex is understandably afraid that our getting back together will hurt her son. How do we handle this situation, without hurting the boy?

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14 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

I’m not sure I really understand what “committed to helping a girlfriend raise her son” means? Marriage?

The real choice for your girlfriend is her mother or you. As you don’t seem to be offering marriage, her mother has more of a dog in this hunt because you can always leave the relationship at will, but even if her mother gets mad at her, she would eventually come around because your girlfriend can – and should – control access to her child. Free after-school babysitting, monetary support, and vacations are all advantageous for your girlfriend—an 8 year old really could care less unless his mother tells him he should care.

Jeffinohio's avatar

“committed to helping a girlfriend raise her son”. What it means is that I’m going to accept this child as if it was mine. Marriage has been a conversation, but not recently. It is still a long term consideration, as both of us have achieved a connection, that neither have had before.

I get the dog in this hunt analogy, the relationship between the 2 of us had been rock solid, and not the reason. It was my inability to realize the level of priority towards her son.

If I had to marry her, I would, no hesitation. My belief is that her mother just sees me as just a “low life bartender”, with no values, no future, no nothing. This woman doesn’t even know me. She refuses to talk to/confront/other. She has used this child as a diversion to avoid even having to say hello to me.

BarnacleBill's avatar

…and your girlfriend is giving her permission to do this because of the possibility of withdrawal of free after school care, vacations and monetary support.

Does she really think that her mother is not dependent her relationship with her grandson as well? Involvement with her grandson has pretty much allowed her to continue to actively mother both her daughter and her grandson. It won’t be pretty, but your girlfriend needs to grow up and get over her dependence on her mother. If her mother threatens not taking care of him after school, that his grandmother’s choice. He can go to after school care with his friends. No one “needs” to go on vacation, especially an 8 year-old. There’s plenty of fun stuff to do without money, at home.

Grandma is not “making” your girlfriend to choose—she is choosing to choose.

Jeffinohio's avatar

I have flexibility in my schedule. I can account for after school care. The ex’s issue is that I haven’t formed the bond with her son that she expected. And I accept that.

I just need a chance to show her that I can, and want to, but my biggest challenge is gaining her faith that I can do that.

As most woman go, for that fact humans, we all need a certain sense of security. I get that. I can’t guarantee that or promise anything more than effort. With a singular focus I can do anything. I just need a chance. Bill, you have made very good points and I’d like to thank you for your responses.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Perhaps start with one day a week, to “give grandma a break”. Is there a sport that the boy is interested in that he doesn’t get a chance to do? Scouts or Indian Guides? “Boy time” activities are always good at that age.

Jeffinohio's avatar

He’s just scratching the surfaces of sports. Sadly, I coached baseball for 9 years, all ages, let alone played 3 levels, sounds good, of baseball over 13 years. She asked this past spring and summer, and I literally dropped the ball. I worked with him only once. I wasn’t ready to assume that responsibility, and had my concerns, but never thought once about it’s importance. Now I get it.

I like the give grandma a break day idea, but at this point, that’s not my call. Again, I’m left in a position to wait and hope, but it hasn’t gone without me in her ear. But at a point, I don’t or can’t alienate her. I can’t push, but can’t hang on a string either.

SuperMouse's avatar

If this grandma is able to cut the ties so easily with her grandson and daughter because of her distaste for you, then there really isn’t much there to begin with. If her way of engaging in a relationship with this boy is to wield her “love” for him as a weapon against her daughter the only place this is headed is disaster. However, helping the boy’s mother to understand this is a whole different issue. In my own experience with my children and the man who will be their step-father I have learned that you can try to protect this boy from being hurt, but there is really nothing you can do to keep him from the truth. Any attempt to do so is futile. It is not only futile, but when they do learn the truth, the person who tried to keep it from them becomes the bad guy for their dishonesty about the situation.

I write all that giving you the benefit of the doubt taking you at your word that you are a decent person with the best of intentions for being a part of this woman’s life and the life of her son. If this is not the case turn around and walk away, these two have enough dysfunction in their lives.

marinelife's avatar

All you can do is to be there. You can’t come between mother and daughter or mother and son.

Just keep showing up.

Trillian's avatar

“If I had to marry her, I would, no hesitation” Really? had to? I find this off the cuff phrase indicative of a prevailing attitude that is worrisome. Maybe the gramma senses an attiude or frame of mind in the same way and is rightly worried. I cannot help but feel that there is more to this then you are letting on. I apologize if this is not the case.

YARNLADY's avatar

Wow, I’m a grandma and I cannot imagine cutting ties with any of my grandkids just because I didn’t like their Mother’s choice in boyfriends. What a strange threat.

The relationship between you and their mother should have nothing to do with her, especially as tenuous as it is. Maybe she mistakenly thinks she is protecting the mother from you.

It sounds like you need to made a real commitment (marriage?) to this woman and her son, or leave them alone and stop this on again off again business. It is not a healthy situation for anyone.

Jeffinohio's avatar

Marinelife, I’m not forced to do anything, but I have a willingness if that’s what it takes, I love this woman with all my heart, and would do it, if that clears it up. Ultimately, if we came back together to make this work, Marriage is something that could be very possible.

And please understand, I would marry her because I love her, not to appease her mother.

Jeffinohio's avatar

@Trillian, I’m not sure how, or what other details I can provide. Although, there is some unpleasant family history involving the grandmother with regards to her one son and his family.

I appreciate the sentiment about feelings her mother may have towards me, but from day one, she has refused to speak to me, or learn who I am. How do I overcome that?

There was no need to apologize, sometimes tough love is what I may need too. I respect direct, insightful, responses. Just know my heart is true, my intentions are honorable, and I’m very aware of the mistakes i’ve made, but I might have missed a few. Thank you for your response.

Kardamom's avatar

Most of your problem stems from the fact that you got involved with a woman who has a child without thinking about all of the ramifications beforehand. It sounds like you didn’t take the child into consideration very much when you were with your girlfriend in the first place. Even if you say you have learned your lesson, a person’s family is not where you experiment with stuff like that. Grandma may very well be manipulative as you say, but it sounds like she sees you as someone who didn’t regard her daughter or her grandson very much. I’m not quite sure I understand why you want to get back together with her, knowing full well that you don’t particularly relish the idea of taking on the responsibility of rasing a child at this point in your life. It’s really awful to think that you want the girlfriend, but not the hassle of her child. It sounds like Grandma is trying to protect her grandchild from a man that comes and goes as he pleases and doesn’t think things through before he acts. If you are really serious about both the girlfriend and her son, and helping her to raise him, not just to pop in whenever you feel like it, then the two of you (girlfriend and you) should make a life plan. You should also take some parenting classes together and go in for some family counseling (secular or from your particular clergy) before you even get back together. It would be unfair to the child to simply “help” with his childraising while you are simply “dating” his mother. Either you want to be a real family with the girlfriend and her child or you don’t. Choosing someone who already has kids is a completely different situation (with profound implications) than dating someone who doesn’t. If you really love this woman and her child, you should ingratiate your self to Grandma by explaining to her exactly how you are going to man up or bow out.

YARNLADY's avatar

You also want to heed the age old advice “To see the future, look at her mother”.

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