Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My daughter and son-in- law have had problems for years. He is an
alcoholic who has been in recovery on and off. He has never brought in
a reliable income, so she has been the primary breadwinner to support
them and their daughter. They relocated to be near his family, which
first was great but I think the pressures of living up to everyone’s
expectations took their toll. He lost two jobs, fell off the wagon, and
now they have separated. First he lived with his parents, and then
moved to halfway house where they carefully monitor his recovery.
Here’s the question: My daughter is secure in our support and love for
her. I think her husband does not know that we care about him too,
and that we are rooting for the family to stay together. Is it okay if I
call my son-in- law to give him emotional support during his recovery?
He’s a good guy and I think she will be happier with him than single.
Mother In Law
Dear Mother In Law:
I’d caution you from just picking up the phone and dialing, certainly
from doing so without a serious and explicit conversation with your
daughter. There are so many things you may not know, because
children always shield their parents from so much of the worst of their
adult lives. I’d start by asking her what she wants, and what her worst
fears are about his returning home prematurely. Do your best to listen
and not defend him. If you think she’s off base in her assumptions or
perceptions, try to ask her questions instead of just telling her what to
do. That’s hard, especially for a worried mom.
If you do speak to the husband, ask what he sees as the obstacles, not
just to moving back home but also to a long and stable marriage. Let
him have as much airtime as he needs, and tell him you love him no
matter what the outcome. Try not to get more involved unless your
daughter asks you to, and don’t repeat what he said to you. Also, you
don’t say how old your granddaughter is. I’d advise doubling down on
phone or Skype time with her, because I’m sure all these changes are
very confusing and she may need someone to talk to other than angry
mom or absent dad.