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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience:  Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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Customer Question

help. both my husband and my almost 30 year old son are driving me nuts. I already know it is all my fault. I have enabled both of them both and let myself be used and emotionally abused. (Never physically.) a million people have already told me I need to cut the umbilical cord between me and my son. I would like to do so without a permanent estrangement, though I guess I have to realize that that may not be possible. I know of absolutely NO ONE with a situation like mine. Maybe a pro with lots of experience in this filed can tell me what the hell is going on here. I am American, white, of Irish descent, married for 40 years to a Mexican man who I met while I was a college student on a Mexico program. He is from an educated family who lived in a nice house when I met him, in fact, his house and neighborhood in Mexico was much nicer than the house and neighborhood I came from in the US. My dad was a firefighter. My parents had 9 kids and resources were scarce, but we all got good educations. I worked hard in a long civil service career and managed to save up a good retirement nest egg. In addition I own a very nice home in the US in which I have plenty of equity. I have that place rented out and collect 700 dollars a month over the amount of my mortgage. I have acquired nice things along the way, however, looking around me I can tell you that just about all of it I acquired as a gift or bought used. I have a long complicated story to tell, but I will confine myself to the immediate situation which is this: my husband and I live in a rented house on Lake Chapala where we retired. Our son lives in the city nearby. We went on vacation and invited our son to stay in our nice lake house and invite his friends and have a great time. To my surprise he accepted. First time he has been to this house even though we have had it for 6 months. Well, not that he is not grateful, he says, but he spent the worst time of his life here these past few days. He was extremely uncomfortable having his Mexican and Spanish friends see what his parents have in the way of material things, and every comment about our fancy electronic ignition gas stove and our leather couches and this nice house on the lake made him feel criticized and judged. He thinks Americans who move to Mexico are evil, and he lumps me right in there. Because there are poor people all around us, that means we caused it somehow. If he were in charge of the world, this situation would not exist. He is the only person I have ever met with this kind of attitude, and it is long standing. I have a million other stories spanning three decades. What the hell is wrong with him and what can I do?

Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question.

Dr. L :

I am going to give it to your straight since you are educated, compassionate, reasonable and loving individual (by way of what you wrote). Your son is acting like a brat. He ought to look at his successful parents and say...wow this is what hard work, an education, and a healthy outlook on life get you. Instead...he finds fault with your choices, with your diligence at working and saving money, and your generosity in opening your home to him and his friends.

Dr. L :

Did you do anything wrong...no. Did you do things right...yes.

Dr. L :

He has adopted this attitude because he has. You are not responsible for what your adult son thinks and does. That ended a long time ago. Your job was to prepare your son for life, not to protect him from life. You did your job. That he turned out differently then you wanted...that's life. That he now thumbs his nose at your lifestyle...that's him disrespecting you and your business and you can tell him to take his attitude the heck out of your home and come back when he is more respectful to you. Stop putting up with his crap.

Dr. L :

Stop bending over backwards trying to accomodate and please this kid. You have worked hard...enjoy life...and he should absolutely want you to enjoy your life!!!

Dr. L :

Your son needs an attitude adjustment. You did not create the poverty that exists in the world or any of the other maladies that threaten peace. In fact, you attempted to remedy that situation by being a tax paying citizen!

Dr. L :

I say this kid needs to apologize to you. And...if he is unwilling to do so that you tell him point blank that if he does not your relationship with him will suffer. It's time he practices respect for his parents. You are NOT to blame for the evils in the world. You simply don't have that kind of power!

Dr. L :

Please don't allow your son to erode all the good intentions you put into raising him. As an adult, he has to be responsible for his behavior. And it's high time you hold him accountable for being a 30 year old adult. No more kid gloves mom. No more allowing him and his nasty attitude to take advantage of your good heart.

Dr. L :

It may be hard to cut that cord...but you need it so that you don't continually see yourself at fault for his negativity. He needs to own it!

Dr. L :

I await your reply.

Customer:

your reply is appreciated, yet nothing I did not already know. I guess what I need is some tools to deal with this. some actual strategies. There is so much more to the story. I am in way deep and just dont know how to talk to him without it ending up with me in emotional shreds and him angrier than ever. My son is very intelligent, and a master manipulator and arguer. He overpowers me every time. he has said over and over how I should never have married a man so different from me, that it made life so very hard for him---not Mexican enough for the Mexicans and not American enough for the Americans. Then he hammers us for having moved around for my job, so he was unable to put down roots. I got an opportunity to go overseas when he was 18, and re refused to go with us. There was a period of about 4 months when I had no idea where he was and how to contact him. He calls that abandonment! I still hear about that issue every once in a while! He wants us all to live together, yet he has nothing but disrespect for his father, who had several periods of unemployment whenever I got a promotion and transfer to a new city. Some of his criticisms in this regard are founded, but I am just so sick of having it thrown in my face all the time. His sister (2 years younger) does not speak to him and has not for years. She also lives in Mexico in a city 4 hours away. He believes his sister is unjustified shutting him out, and tells me that I should demand that she visit our city and stay at the house where he sleeps, that I enable her to avoid him and it is not right. Son moved to Mexico a few years before we did, thinking he wanted to identify more with his Mexican side than the American side, but he found the extended family not welcoming, and now hates all their guts, just like he hates the guts of most of my family. The guy has everything going for him. I felt as parents that we attempted to give him every advantage, yet he sees it all as terrible. He asks me every once in a while if I think HE is crazy, and I just dont answer the question. He went through a dark period when he talked about suicide, and that is the hook that keeps me hooked. I am scared to death because I know it does happen. A cousin of mine killed herself. My son does not do drugs except weed, has a thriving martial arts gym which we helped him start with money and a home infrastructure--meals, laundry done, house provided. This was to be for one year, and now we are past the second year. I divide my time between son´s place and the lake house with my husband, who is another whole story .. . . anyway, I am a mess and I really need some help with handling this situation at the nuts and bolts level. I have read a million self help books and I am still baffled. My son has this idea that he and my husband and I should all live together, son choosing the place and the lifestyle, but obviously we would be the source of money. The kind of place he is talking about-- a half acre near enough to the city for him to get to work on his bike or the metro--- is unreachable in his lifetime. He is full of contradictions but is a master at deflecting the conversation when the contradictions are pointed out. I always said he should be a lawyer because he is such a skilled arguer. I know you are right, I have to tell him point blank that he needs to respect us, but I genuinely fear the explosion that will follow. I know there will be a rift that may last a long time. The other day we were talking about my mom who died at 69, and he said he started thinking he may only have 9 years left with me. I wanted to tell him he´d better treat me a little better in the time left, but I knew it would start a row. I mostly try to keep my mouth shut but sometimes I just lose it and lash out at him. He always gets the better of me though. I used to think maybe he was bipolar. He takes offense at every little thing people say, sometimes way off the wall stuff. This has gotten long, and believe me there is a hundred times more I could say. I just need coaching to do what I know I need to do. Thank you for letting me dump this on you.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I understand that this is a complex issue of long-standing. It is very difficult to understand why your son wants all of you to live together when he has little respect for you, for his father, for his extended family and, to some degree, his own self.

Dr. L :

The threat of suicide is something you must let go of. Suicide is a choice. And as difficult as that is to accept...if someone suicides he or she was not driven to it by anyone. Again, it is a choice.

Dr. L :

You absolutely must not let this dictate how you will be in the world..how you will relate to your son...what choices you will or will not make.

Dr. L :

You have no power to make him suicide or to stop him from attempting suicide. Only he has this power. Please do not get taken in by this kind of manipulation.

Dr. L :

So you asked for strategies:

Dr. L :

1. Take control of your life. Stop allowing your son to make decisions for you...to threaten you..to manipulate you.

Dr. L :

2. Stop allowing your son to disrespect you. You say you don't want to start a row, but that just ends up in you being taken advantage of and disrespected. Say NO. I will no longer allow you to talk to me that way. Then walk away. Walk away. Your son treats you badly because you allow it. Stand up to this disrespect.

Dr. L :

3. Set limits. Why do you spend so much time at your son's house? (you wrote that you split your time between son and lake house). The consequence of disrespect should be that you spend less time with him...that you focus your life on positive endeavors and positive people!

Dr. L :

4. Get yourself out of the past. You did the very best as a parent. If you son has difficulties with some of the decisions that were made while he was a child (moving, etc.) then he needs to deal with this and stop beating you up about it. He can see a psychologist to work through these things. For your part, when he talks about his "terrible, ugly, no good" childhood, tell him that as an adult cleaning up his past is up to him and that you did the very best as a parent with the skills and knowledge you had.

Dr. L :

5. Read: Parenting with Love and Logic by Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay.

Dr. L :

See their website: www.loveandlogic.com check out the parent tips

Dr. L :

While this applies to younger children...your son is acting like a child.

Dr. L :

And it would be beneficial for you to learn a few tips from this parenting philosophy.

Dr. L :

You have not indicated that you have been in therapy. I am going to suggest that you consider seeing a therapist so that you can separate yourself from your son's control.

Dr. L :

Yes...I do believe that coaching would be a good strategy. While a therapist could act as your coach..you might also consider hiring a life coach. Either could help you set healthier boundaries with your son and give you the support and encouragement you need to make this life change.

Customer:

Thanks again. Yes I have been in therapy a couple of times. Family therapy and individual. I plan to look for a therapist this week. Writing this out online has helped and your direct answers are what I needed. thanks

Dr. L :

You are very welcome.

Dr. L :

I do believe that therapy will be helpful as having someone to support your feelings, help you work through the issues, and provide on-going coaching is going to keep you on track.

Dr. L :

It's so easy as a parent to find fault with our parenting decisions and to have regrets about particular decisions. The truth of the matter is that none of us was given Parenting 101 and kids don't come with a manual. You must say to yourself with all honesty that you were the very best parent you were given the inadequate roadmap you received in your own experience as a child and how you applied your own life skills, knowledge, and competencies to the task of parenting. If you son finds fault with your parenting, it is up to him to do the work of healing his childhood wounds. That is not your work...but his. Your work is to let go of your own regrets and to be at peace with this part of your life experience.

Dr. L :

I wis

Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience: Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
Dr. L and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

sorry I cut you off there.

Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.
No problem...

I was wishing you good luck and hoping that starting therapy proves successful!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

looked at the website for parenting and found very practical advice, bough two of their books for my Kindle.

Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.
Very good! I'm so glad you took the time to look at the website. I have recommended this material for many, many years. It is easy to use...and extremely effective!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi again. Dr. L.

 

I would like a followup exchange with you, and of course will be submitting payment for same.

 

First, I need to tell you that I have received emails from this site in 3 languages so far, besides English, asking if I would like to ask another question. I tell you this so that perhaps you can let the administrators of the site know that this is going on. The four messages came one after the other, in English, then German, then Spanish and then what I believe was Korean or Japanese.

 

Now to the matter at hand. I have been reading the Love and Logic books over the last few days, and am getting many good tips for handling my problem, however, I will tell you that I am not yet ready to face the situation. I really need someone to coach me through it and give me some specific words to use with my son in these specific circumstances. I have at the same time been seeking a counselor here in the area so that I can do this in-person. I have some requirements for that person-- he or she must speak both Spanish and English and be familiar with the cultures of USA and Mexico because of the nature of this family. Most everything that any trained counselor can tell me applies, but there are some things that can only be understood by someone familiar with the two cultures and the subcultures that have developed through the mixing of the two. I found just the right person here, a Mexican woman who is also a naturalized US citizen, who took her psychology degree at the U of Guadalajara and did a specialty in Palo Alto, CA. The problem is that she is currently in the US doing further training and will not return until June. She is uncomfortable doing any counseling through email. I asked her to recommend someone else and I continue to search, but in the meantime, I would like to continue to address this with you, even if I have to rehash with another counselor later.

 

Okay, here goes. You may want to have a map nearby for reference. You asked me why I spend so much time at my son´s house. It´s a long story. I hope I can tell it without boring you with too much detail. I feel I have to give you the background.

 

My husband and I returned to the US from overseas in 2006, moving to San Diego, CA. That is the city where both my kids were born, by the way. At this time, my son was living in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, which is about 90 miles south of San Diego. My husband has relatives in Ensenada, and he and I had lived there for a few years before we had kids. Our son at that time was working in bars in the tourist section of the town, which catered to American tourists. Most of the other waiters were Mexicans who had been deported from the US, or American criminals on the run. Our son has no criminal record and was there out of choice, and nobody who knew he was born in the US could understand why.

 

My son does not drink alcohol. He tried in high school and decided very early that it was not for him. He still went to parties and became popular as a designated driver. To this day he complains that people always give him pressure to have a drink. Anyway, he despised this bar environment with the drinking and the cigarette smoke and the obnoxious American tourists. He has been in sports all his life. We had him in soccer and swimming and karate and many years he played hockey while we lived for 10 years in my hometown in Washington state. In junior high he took wrestling, and then got into grappling and kickboxing. The guy is in superb physical shape.

 

When he went to Ensenada he asked around about kickboxing and was told the best place in town was at a gym run by a local guy ¨Jose¨ who then and currently holds the world title for kickboxing in his weight class. My son joined the gym and became a very good competitor in MMA-- mixed martial arts. Jose also rented our son an apartment nearby. All our son did for a couple years was work in the bar and go to the gym.

 

When he decided that he wanted to go to college again and take physical ed, we began to provide financial support so he could quit his job. He did great in school and became relatively pleasant to be around. We both were still working in San Diego, and we visited him every other weekend or so.

 

Around 2008 I think, son decided he would like to move to Guadalajara, where my husband was born and where most of his relatives still live. We as a family had visited Guadalajara many times over the years and our son knows all of his aunts, uncles and cousins. Son asked his dad to ask one of his relatives to take him in for a short time until he could find a job, get into school and get settled on his own. Now, over the years we had taken in various of their children for periods of time, so we felt comfortable asking for this favor. We told them we did not expect them to coddle him, but just help him out for a short time and get him on his way.

 

One of our nephews, Juan, who had stayed in our home in the US for weeks in the past when he needed a hand, had told our son he would have a job lined up for him, no problem, and that son could stay at his place, no problem . . . . when son arrived in Guadalajara, Juan was not there to pick him up as promised. Instead another girl cousin Andrea, same age as our son, who had spent a summer at our house as a guest when she was 13, had been dispatched to pick him up, which she did very resentfully. Juan´s offers were withdrawn, sorry about that. ..... no reason given.

 

So from the US we got on the phone and had to plead with one of my husband's sisters, whose son Luis had also stayed with us for several weeks in the past when he was running from trouble, to take our son in. He stayed with them a few days, they gave him a job at one of the family's many restaurant/bars and rented one of their many family-owned apartments to him.

 

For a while, all was well. Son was happily employed and trying to do a great job, getting along fine with his cousin Luis, making friends, looking into getting back into school, wanting to get his degree.

 

Son came down with scabies, and if you know anything about that infestation, it can literally drive a person crazy. He would call me at night because he could not sleep. These critters are most active at night when the host person is trying to be at rest. He had been to a doctor but the problem was not correctly diagnosed and the treatment was not helping. He told me that his cousin Luis would not give him time off to go to the doctor.

 

I got on a plane and went to visit my son. He was still working every day. Part of his job was to pick up pots of food everyday at one of the restaurants and deliver it to several others, and while at each restaurant he had to check on restrooms, inventory supplies and check the previous day's accounts. I accompanied him on his rounds for the week I was there. I also went with him to another doctor, a dermatologist, and got him the right medicines which eventually took care of the scabies.

 

During the week that I was there with my son, his cousin Luis was on vacation at the beach. I was with my son when Luis called him on the phone and accused him of goofing off instead of having done his rounds at all the restaurants, as some employee had alleged and told Luis. My son told Luis that was not true. I was witness that my son had indeed appeared at all the places he was supposed to, and that he had not taken time off the job at all to entertain me, but Luis did not believe him. I was tempted to jump in and vouch for my son, but I resisted this temptation. I realized this would do more harm than good. I just let him handle it. Eventually the two guys agreed to part company. I never asked Luis what the other side of the story was. I know my son is no angel, but I was witness to certain elements of the story, and I firmly believe that my son was given the shaft. I believe that Luis may have found my son to be a rival for attention of some of the female patrons at the restaurant. And many family relationships were damaged in the wake. Lots of things swept under the rug. Now that we live in Guadalajara, we have seen Luis at several family events, and he no longer looks me in the eye. We used to be buds when he was a kid. anyway . . . .

 

So, my son was out of a job and still had rent to pay, and so he hustled up and got himself into a college to learn business, and got back into going to the gym, which he had not done since he had arrived in Guadalajara about a year before. We agreed to support him financially in this. He did well in his courses and loved the material, and learned a lot.

 

Our daughter, who was living with us in San Diego, had met a Mexican guy who lives in Mexico and was on a vacation trip to San Diego. They started a long distance phone relationship while she was in college in SD. Each traveled to visit with each other several times. The boyfriend was in our home several times. He is an electronic engineer with a good job and we liked him very much. Eventually she moved to his hometown and got enrolled in a university there to finish her studies.

 

So with both of our kids now living in Mexico, although in different cities, it was a no-brainer for us to decide to retire there. I threw myself a big retirement bash in San Diego in August of 2010. Both of my kids flew up and attended, and despite my fears that the two of them would have an altercation like so many many many other times, they behaved civilly toward each other, posed for pictures and everything. My dearest brother, who had been my son´s good buddy forever, but had had a falling out with him a few years ago, was also there. Much to my surprise and relief and joy, my son and my brother had conversations and seemed to have patched up whatever problems they had.

 

My daughter and her boyfriend secretly got married on the morning of my party, and told us about it the next day. She and I had been sort-of planning a wedding for months. I feel sure that she did it this way in large part because she did not want to have to involve her brother in a wedding. Anyway . . . . .

 

So my husband and I decided to rent out our house in San Diego and go live in Guadalajara and help our son start his own gym. We agreed to let him live with us for one year, provide for all his needs as he got started, and we loaned him money rent a place and equip it. His dad did a lot of work at the gym, and I took care of the house, the meals, the laundry for him and his friend/roommate/fellow MMA practitioner. Lots of the time things were great as far as family relationships. He showed appreciation for our help, but eventually he and his dad had their altercations and I as usual tried to be the referee . . . . I know this is all pathetic and dysfunctional, but when you are in the middle of the hurricane it is hard to find your way out without getting battered. And here I stay stuck.

 

So the gym is going great. Son has done well, and is proud of his success, and thanks me often for my help. Son works very hard for many hours-- opens in the morning 8 am, does three classes, closes for middday, opens up again at 4 pm and closes at 11 pm. I got breakfast ready at 7, sometimes served lunch to them if they did not stay at the gym to clean and sleep, and then had dinner ready when they came home at 11:30 or midnight. The quantity of food and laundry involved here would blow your mind. Dad also continued to do maintenance and improvements at the gym.

 

The year was up in February of 2012, and my husband said let´s go. With my husband´s sister and her husband, who are godparents of our daughter, we rented a house on the shore of Lake Chapala. (We have since moved to our own place nearby.) When our son found out, he had a tantrum. He and my husband had many fights. I had many futile arguments with son as well as husband. I struggle to appease them both. I have been trying to gradually wean my son from my services. Things have been up and down all this time, some peaceful periods and some blowups.

 

For the last several months I have spent 2 or 3 days a week at my son´s. I hired a lady to come clean one day a week, while I get all the laundry done and stock their fridge with food, and cook up some easy to heat up meals for them to do by themselves. I get lots of appreciation, but I also get complaints that I am not there enough, that he needs my support, and the good food, that when he eats out it costs him more and he is not as well nourished and he frequently gets stomach problems, which is all true. He had a cow about me having a cleaning lady because he does not like strangers in the house, and because it is shameful to exploit poor Mexicans and perpetuate a corrupt system, and besides he and his buddy will do the chores. Their idea of clean, at the house at least, is disgusting. The gym, however, is clean because he has a couple of students there doing cleaning because they can´t afford to pay for their gym memberships. How this is different from me hiring a housecleaner, who I pay twice the amount she asked for and give tons of stuff to (like my sewing machine), I do not know.

 

By the way, the house he lives in is rented under my husband´s name, and we are on the hook for the rent. My son and his roommate were living there for free until about 6 months ago when we agreed that they were doing well enough to start paying rent. Also, a lot of our stuff is stored at that house. The boys pay me rent, but in reality, what they give me does not even begin to cover the food they consume. Yes, things are way out of balance here.

 

I am going to take a recess here and let you chew on all this before continuing. I am in deep, and want to get out of this jam.

 

I know that my son will walk away from ME, storm off and not talk, which I would be okay with, except I don´t want to let him walk away from the rent he needs to pay on the house he lives in, as well as the damage that was caused by him and his dogs that will have to be repaired before vacating. The lease will expire this coming September. I want to tell him that he has to take care of those responsibilities, that he cannot just storm out and be gone.

 

I look forward to your input. To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.
Hello,
I will talk to JustAnswer about all those messages you are getting from them about additional questions. I am sorry about this. As an Expert, these are things we are not involved with, but can most certainly bring to their attention.

Thank you for filling in the blanks about your life and your relationship with your son and husband. I agree that you are in deep...there are numerous entanglements that are going to take time and patience to untie. Life with children is messy...and many times decisions are made out of necessity, and not because they are the best choices.

So...your son seems to have set extremely high expectations of his parents. He wants your personal time. He wants your food & cooking. He wants your cleaning. He wants your housing. He wants your laundry services. He wants your money. He wants your ability to be responsible and responsive. He wants. He wants. He wants.

In addition...he saddles you with his friend/partner so that you have 2 boys expecting the unexpectable from you and your husband!! And then you have your son's pets!!

But...what does he NEED! Can you name one thing he truly needs?

I can't think of one thing. Everything he expects from you falls in the category of: a want.

We all have wants. Sometimes those wants are fulfilled...sometimes not. Your son has confused want and need. In addition, he is unwilling to be 100% responsible for himself.

I encourage you to think about these two categories: wants vs needs. And, I would like you to make a list of these things as they pertain to the expectations your son has laid on you and your husband.

Let's chat after you do this.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

will do. thank you again. you know how to snap things into focus.

Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.
You are very welcome.
I look forward to chatting with you more...
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I would guess you will be taking time off on the weekend . . . .?

Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.
I will be here over the weekend.
Will be online from time to time...you can check to see if I am online by opening up this chat and it will indicate if I am available.

I will get an automatic notice when you log on and will look for you as well.

Thanks!

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I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

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