Ask Amy: My daughter-in-law is so cold to me, and it hurts my son

Dear Amy: I am troubled. I have been giving — really extending — the benefit of the doubt to “Jan,” my daughter-in-law, for some time. I see my son and Jan a couple of times a year, when I visit their city. I get a hotel room willingly and without question. I am friendly and supportive, I compliment her sincerely, and I find positive, noncontroversial things to talk about.

She just doesn’t seem to like me — or my visits — and it clearly hurts and upsets my son. She is openly impatient with him and absolutely cold to me. I can do nothing right. It would be nice if we could be friends, but if that’s too much, I would be okay with being simply polite.

I am bewildered and hurt for my son. I know that he is courteous and welcoming to her parents. I don’t know what I have done, if anything. Should I ask if I’ve offended her somehow?

I don’t want to cause a kerfuffle for my son, but I think that maybe I trigger difficulty between them for reasons I’m unsure of. This is not improving with time. (It’s been four years now.) I can no longer pretend that I don’t notice, and I am wondering what you think I should do.

Mom: You have done your best to basically put your head down and endure this, politely — hoping, no doubt, that “Jan’s” attitude toward you would change as time went on and she discovered that you are a benign, low-impact presence in her family’s life.

You don’t seem to have asked your son what challenges he and his wife are facing. She could struggle with extreme anxiety, depression or another mental or physical health challenge that neither of them has chosen to disclose to you.

So I would start with your son. Ask him, “Are there things I could or should do to make things easier for you and Jan when I visit?”

Based on how your son answers, you could open up and share your own questions, concerns and challenges. Based on the vibe during your next visit, I suggest speaking with Jan privately, asking her a version of the questions you’ve asked your son. Tell her that you don’t want to burden either of them, but that you are worried that she seems stressed when she sees you.

In short, nudge the door open and give her space to walk through.

Dear Amy: I’ve lived in my home for five years. There is a very large tree in the backyard. At this time of year, the leaves obviously fall to the ground in both my yard and my neighbor’s yard. My neighbors have asked me to give them money to clean the leaves from their yard. We are both homeowners, and in my opinion, homeowners sign up for the responsibility of maintaining our home and yard when we buy the home.

My neighbors on the other side of my house have leaves that fall into my yard, and I would never assume it is their responsibility to clean the leaves that fall onto my property. I am at a loss because this is not the first time my neighbors have asked about this. In previous years, I have said “no,” and yet they keep asking. I don’t want to start a precedent of giving them money every year, but I don’t want to be argumentative.

Leave: Please remember that anyone can ask anything. Asking can be very easy. “No” can require a flash of courage and sometimes a bit of finesse.

You are not responsible for the leaves that have fallen in your neighbor’s yard. (Double check your local laws and statutes.) And now, after five years of saying “no,” in my opinion, you no longer need to respond at all. There is no need to respond again. Let your “no” precedent remain, like that last stubborn oak leaf clinging to its branch.

Dear Amy: Your response to “First-time Grandparents” was inadequate, to say the least. Their daughter-in-law’s parents had behaved abusively toward them, by berating them publicly.

Their son and daughter-in-law need to confront her parents about their inappropriate behavior and strongly suggest an apology to the injured parties. To do less is just asking for the wound to fester.

Upset: You make a good point, but because these other in-laws were so volatile and explosive, I worried that confronting them might make matters worse.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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