Reader Misses The Daughter-in-Law That Got Away writes,
My son dated a girl for 4 1/2 years highschool/college. She became a part of the family, going on trips with us, spending holidays, hanging out at the house and attending our son's athletic events. After highschool, they attended different colleges 50 miles apart, but saw each other frequently until they broke up their sophomore years in college. I was very fond of her, but always thought that I maintained a healthy distance, after all... they were young.
I was in hope that they would reconcile someday. But, she met someone soon after. She became engaged and married recently. Now it is final. I'm so sad because I miss her like a family member and because I am not really sure that my son is really over her.
In fact he has said that he continues to struggle with their break up -- whatever that means. He is sorry they broke up? He is sorry how he treated her/how they treated each other? The circumstances of the breakup? I have no idea.
I know that this was HIS relationship, but I had a relationship with her too. I asked him if it would be alright if I sent her a note to wish her happiness and tell her that I thought fondly of her. I would NEVER think of mentioning our son. He became VERY upset with me and told me to NOT contact her. He was so angry and told me that I needed to just stop mentioning her (I don't mention her, unless he brings her up).
This hurt me very much. I told him that I wouldn't contact her. I won't -- his/my relationship is more important. But, I still want to. I don't know why, but I need this for some kind of closure. I told another friend of mine (who had a similar relationship) about this and she said to me that she understood. She said, "I understand. It's like she died, isn't it?" It is.
I am glad you wrote in. You are in danger of sabotaging your relationship with your son, not to mention, your feelings need to be explored on a deep level. I know you were very attached to this girl, but she has moved on. This was not your relationship. Read this and this to see how other moms who get overly involved in their kids' lives and relationship are in danger of irrevocably harming their relationships with their children.
I am assuming you don't have a daughter. Your relationship with your son's ex-girlfriend took on the flavor of a mother-daughter relationship, and it was very precious to you. I would imagine that you didn't have an ideal relationship with your own mom, because you were so invested in this mother-daughter-esque relationship. Or maybe your mom passed away. Either way, I doubt that you have this strong connection with another woman, because otherwise you would let this girl go.
I believe that you visualized this girl filling a role in your life, even better than a real daughter (or maybe you do have a daughter, in which case you likely experienced this), with whom you likely would have had conflict, particularly around the teen years. In contrast to a teenage girl with her own mom, a teenage girl is usually on her best behavior with her boyfriend's mom. The mother-in-law struggles often come with older women, or after engagement or marriage.
You must take a step back and realize what your focus on this woman is doing to your son. You are openly allying with this girl, a girl you wouldn't even have met without your son, instead of supporting your son through his breakup and his sadness when his ex meets someone else. Even if you only sigh when her name comes up, and even if you agree not to contact her, your son still understands that he broke your heart by ending this relationship, and that makes you seem more allied with her than with him. Your son is asking you to respect his boundaries and you mentioned contacting the girl (which would be extremely awkward and weird for her, by the way), which upset him and likely made him doubt whose side you are on.
You know nothing about the intimate relationship between your son and this girl. For all you know, she dumped him coldly after sleeping with his best friend. You THINK you know what happened, but if your son really told you every single detail of his relationship or breakup, he would be a very rare (and overly dependent) young man.
You say your relationship with him is more important so you won't contact her, but you continue to mourn her and to wonder if they should have ended up together. It is no wonder he can't get over her and that he is struggling with their breakup. He knows he devastated you by not marrying this girl. That must be incredibly difficult and guilt-inducing for him, and is clouding his judgment and his knowledge of what he really felt about her in the first place. In fact, you may be messing up his shot at a happy marriage later on, because it is doubtful that any girl, including a wife, will measure up to this girl in your eyes.
Please, realize how inappropriate it would be for you to contact this girl, which it sounds like you are stopping yourself from doing. Imagine how bizarre you would think it was if this girl's mother sent your son a letter saying she wishes her daughter would have married him and not her now-spouse. That is as inappropriate as you continuing to carry a torch for this girl.
I think that you have a yearning for closeness with a daughter figure; there may be other ways for you to get this, like closer relationships with nieces or, one day, possibly your son's wife, if he marries. You may want to tutor or mentor kids or teenagers, or develop relationships with young people in other ways. The one thing you cannot do is continue to guilt trip and upset your son by mentioning or even quietly obsessing over his now-married highschool ex-girlfriend. You are here to support your son. Your relationship with her is non-existent. You are her ex-boyfriend's mom. She has a new mother-in-law to worry about.
If you continue to struggle with this, I think that therapy, focusing on what this girl meant to you and what void she filled in your life, would be useful. You can grieve for the loss of this girl in your life, and then hopefully you can move forward. I hope you take this in the spirit of tough love that I mean it. Good luck to you and thanks for writing in. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Really, You Need To Work This Stuff Out Before You Get Overinvested In His Next Girlfriend Too.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.