After an argument with his step-father, a 29-year old son slammed the door and left the house. He then began pulling away from his mother. Their communication, the mom says, "dwindled to a slow trickle of texts." One point her son made on one of those texts was that during the 20 years of being parented by his mother's new husband, the mother had never stood up for him with his stepfather. Now, the mom, who describes herself as a natural peacemaker, is "hurt and paralyzed with fear about how to handle this."
This is the plea for help as it appeared in Philip Galanes' Social Qs column: What to do if you're a mother caught between two important men in your life.
Galanes began by reframing the situation with the good news: The son loves his mother enough to lay out his feelings.
Then he looks at the world as the son, who was a young child when the stepfather moved into his life, might see it: The mother's constant peacemaking--that is, her searches for compromise--may have felt to the son like abandonment.
Galanes' advice to the mom is of a piece with much of his sound counsel: "Get out from between these two men."
How to do that? The mom should repair her relationship with her son by apologizing for making him feel unprotected. Then, since she cannot control the behavior of others (her husband or her son), she should seek counseling for the family of three to work on family dynamics.
painting: Diego Rivera