Ask Ellie: Mother can’t pick sides in adult sons’ rift

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: My two married sons don’t get along and it’s breaking my heart. They’re 31 and 36. Both have young children. The older son lives near me, but only visits briefly at the open door (with two kids in school, he’s trying to protect me from COVID).

The younger son lives 300 miles away. He and I have talked irregularly on the phone as he’s always “busy.” As a youngster, he’d follow his big brother around and pushed to excel at the same sports to hang out with him. My older son sometimes seemed annoyed that “the kid” had earned lots of attention. But now, the bigger problem is that their wives don’t like each other. They’re different in upbringing, but both women have decent core values. Also, they’re equally strong-minded and voice their opinions without hesitation or filters.

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Together, their behaviour differs like chalk and cheese. Before the pandemic, when we gathered as a family, when one started cleaning up, the other would start to bake and make a mess (but great cookies).

Resentments and distancing built up with neither husband dealing with it. I sometimes feel like I’ve lost both my sons since they allow their wives to keep our family divided.

What can I do to re-unite my sons?

Lonely Mom

Every mother who reads your letter will feel sad for you, but there are more losses to others here:

1) Young cousins who don’t get to see each other and grow up with the support of loving uncles and aunts. 2) The absence of a strong family structure that gives children and teens confidence through different age stages. Yet your role is limited. You can’t choose sides. But you can/must show unbiased leadership by ignoring negative comments made about the other brother or wife. Instead, try to link the children through a joint virtual chat, game, whatever. Talk to each of them asking what they’re learning, what programs they watch, what songs they like (have a sing-a-long with them), etc. When they show interest in their cousins, their parents may also see the “others” in a more positive light.

Stay hopeful.

Dear Readers: Ever wonder what’s the best way to convey your feelings to a loved one… as in, sending flowers, or as the song goes, “just calling to say I Love You?”

Well, times have changed, again. Text is the love message of choice. Simple and instant, easily repeated. Never mind that it carries no warmth or beauty unless the sender’s a poet.

According to MemesBams.com, a site self-described as “dedicated to helping couple’s relationships improve through better communication,” a study was conducted from last September 1/20 to October 5/20 of 2,730 English-speaking website visitors involved in a committed relationship, grouped into male and female respondents.

Findings: 53% of men/women report receiving amorous messages from their partner. 51% of men/women who aren’t receiving, wish they were. Text was the most common mode of communication for those receiving amorous messages from their partner. 86% of women, and 79% of men respectively. It was also the most desired. What about saying it in person? That was second choice for communicating love messages - 47% of women, and 38% of men rated it as preferred. Letters/Cards? In today’s digital age, only 9% of men/women surveyed send them to their significant other. And love messages by email aren’t that common nor very desired either.

My advice? Express love in person whenever possible, also by support/respect/trust. And text.

Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 21. My girlfriend thinks I don’t love her because I don’t get worried when she cries, but I’ve learned to expect heavy tears every few weeks.

She’ll start saying that I don’t really love her. If I say I do love her, she cries harder and says she doesn’t believe me. I don’t know how long I can keep saying the same thing without breaking off. What should I do?

Too Many Tears

Listen. Ask what she needs for her to believe you. If she keeps crying every few weeks, ask her if she’s sad about other things too?

If she says yes, tell her you’ll go with her to discuss it with someone she trusts, maybe her doctor. If she doesn’t want you to accompany her, then suggest she goes alone. Or that she discuss it with her mother or her best friend. If nothing changes, she’s the one effectively ending it.

Ellie’s tip of the day

The wise parent is a leader by example regarding adult children’s disputes, not a referee.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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