Dear Carolyn: I am at my wits' end with family drama. I will spare you the very long and ugly details and start with the most recent heartache.
My husband's daughter from a previous marriage invited our son and his wife and 2-year-old to spend the weekend with them since they were going to be in town for a wedding. His wife accepted. My husband has been estranged from this daughter for over two years. She lives down the street from my husband and me.
When my son and his family arrived, they went to lunch with my husband and stayed through the evening with us. It was a lovely time. Our little granddaughter even went into "her room" and told her dad she wanted to sleep in her bed. It was cruel to see her cry when she had to leave and go to my stepdaughter's house.
My husband is furious. His feelings are crushed and he is angry they would subject her to such nonsense. My husband feels they have been disloyal to him by staying with his estranged daughter.
I have expressed to my son how I felt about his staying with his half-sister. Not because of her so much as how wrong it feels to me not to stay with us. After we are dead and gone, he will have time to stay with his half-sister.
My first thought was to leave town before they got here so I could avoid the whole ordeal. Now, my husband and I have hurt feelings, plenty of tears to go around and lost sleep over this.
Heartbreak seems to follow wherever my stepdaughter is concerned. I don't want to alienate my daughter-in-law because she will cut my granddaughter out of my life. How can I manage to keep the peace and not "betray" my husband in the process?
Carolyn says: Your argument, recapped: It's your stepdaughter's fault that she wants to spend time with her brother. Except the part that's your daughter-in-law's fault for saying yes.
Maybe you won't like it in those words, but that's what you're saying — and it's impressive that you're able to present this without attributing any drama to the man who was "crushed" and "angry" and suffering "tears … and lost sleep" at the "ordeal" of witnessing the "cruel" and "disloyal" "nonsense" of a child "subject[ed] to" ...
A planned visit to her aunt's house. After spending an entire day with you two.
Drama, thy name is Grandpa.
I can understand your powerful incentive not to see this; even thinking it opens you to accusations of betrayal from your wounded husband, no doubt. And more tears and sleepless nights and garment rending and whatever other tactics he uses to keep you emotionally at his service.
But the longer you remain faithful spokesbot for your husband — or for Stockholm syndrome — and declare with a straight face that your son can't sleep at his sister's house until you're dead (you really said that!), the more soul rebuilding you'll need when you see the view I've got from here: that you've been devoured by your husband's narcissistic fantasy world.
Even if I'm way off, your family dynamic is still way off. Please find a well-recommended family therapist and go. Just you. Unspool those "very long and ugly details."
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org.