My question concerns my 23-year-old son, Will, who lives with my husband and me. He is our third child of four. Two and a half years ago, Will quit college and enlisted in the Navy. He intends to become a SEAL. He has not gone to the Navy due to COVID-19.
Will, in my opinion, holds anger and bitterness toward me because he believes his father works six days per week because I work part-time. Will targets me with rudeness and insensitivity. He has told me he doesn’t like me or love me, while having a good, but (in my opinion) codependent relationship with his dad. My husband tries to stay out of the strife between our son and me.
This disrespect toward me from Will has been going on since Will was 16 years old. My husband and I were separated for eight months (due to my husband’s verbal abuse that was fueled by Will and his lies concerning my discipline of him while he was out of control sexually, etc. in high school) and I filed for divorce because my husband was beyond belligerent to me for four years. We were both receiving individual wonderful Christian counsel from our amazing Gospel-centered pastor. We reunited after I saw changes in my husband’s words and actions toward me, and after my husband’s father died and my husband’s childhood wounds lessened and practically disappeared. He is still in counseling and it has helped him tremendously.
My husband will not confront our son’s mistreatment of me. Will is unceasingly negative toward me and curses at me. He lives in his flesh. He targets me. Our oldest son and daughter confront Will, and I feel I’m betraying my husband for telling them and asking for help.
I believe Will is angry, bitter, and resentful toward his workaholic father, who made every one of his high school football and lacrosse games, but continues to work 57 hours a week for our whole married life of 40 years, while I raised four children. I adored being a mom and made mistakes.
How do I stop Will from projecting his hurt onto me, as his mother? I’m an easy target because I’m home. My husband realizes Will is a hurt person who’s hurting me, but if I tell my husband Will is taking his anger out on me, but is really mad at his absence, I feel that it will stir up more anger toward me. Since our two oldest, a daughter and son, have been confronting Will recently, Will is silent, or critical of me—passive-aggressive. I agree a triangle of my husband, Will, and me is not good, but I cannot stop Will on my own, and Will knows my husband will not ask him to leave our home.
I feel confused about cleaning up dishes, etc. from Will while he abuses me. I feel I am enabling him to abuse me and my heart hurts. Will is in a serious relationship with his girlfriend. I accept that while he’s in sexual sin, he and I will not get along. My husband has not confronted Will’s sexual sin and neither have I, since he answers to God and isn’t listening to him.
I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, sisters, brother, and all our other adult children. I admire my husband in many ways and relay it to him, but he is not protecting me from abuse from our son, Will.
What can I do?
A Mother and Wife
Dear Mother and Wife,
Your husband should definitely be protecting you, and your son should as well.
But your son holds anger and bitterness toward you, and your husband has a painful past and is a workaholic. They need your love. What you can do is be more gentle, nurture them, forgive them, and work to understand them better.
It could perhaps be a lack of love and gentleness that caused your husband’s belligerence and your son to seek out the comfort of another girl. This doesn’t mean you’re to blame, not in the least! It does mean that you have the power to bring harmony back to your family. Let me explain.
First I would like to point to a fundamental truth: In relationships, women lead and men are at our mercy. So as leaders in this realm, we have greater responsibility. This is not equal, but I think it is fair when you consider the divinely bestowed talents men and women possess.
Women are naturally more relationship-oriented, they understand the subtleties much better.
However, women have pursued advantages outside the home, and thus learned the skills needed to operate there, and a great deal of our feminine wisdom has collectively been lost. The result is strained family relations. My hope is that we as women can rediscover this wisdom, heal our families, and thus create again a world with more moral, thriving people.
In the same way that women naturally try to understand our children, it is also important that we understand and appreciate how men are different from us.
I’ve been watching some standup comedy recently, particularly sketches where men talk about marriage, and from their jokes I can tell that men are very aware of how different women are, and that they live in awe of their wives and a bit in fear of their feelings.
“I’m my wife’s best friend. I know because she told me so,” one said.
Another said he didn’t grocery shop anymore because he never got the right things. In his last attempt, he bought paper towels; when he got home, his wife demanded to know why he bought the wrong brand. Doesn’t he know what brand of paper towels they use? No. And not only that, he doesn’t even know where the paper towels are kept in the house. If the roll on the counter runs out, he uses his T-shirt.
A third comedian vividly still recalled shoe-shopping with his new wife more than 20 years ago. She had so many choices: pumps, flats, sandals, booties, clogs, stilettos, kitten heels, and something called espadrilles. He was overwhelmed by the complexity. As a man, all he knew was, if you have a flat, you need a pump. Then he asked the men in the audience if they knew what color periwinkle was … none seemed to know, but of course the women did.
He joked that men only have two shoe options—black and brown, and even that’s too much. They need to ask their wife which one they should wear with a given outfit.
This points to a truth: Men really rely on women, and of course not only for matters of dress but also for matters of utmost importance in life.
The book “Fascinating Womanhood for the Timeless Woman,” by Dixie Andelin Forsyth, says this about the profound importance of femininity:
“Women are the gatekeepers of Civilization.
“Masculine, moral men are wonderful. We need them. They are physically stronger than we are. They are courageous and perform dangerous tasks, and they provide a model of true masculinity for our children.
“Without feminine women to temper and gentle them, men would be more war-like and aggressive than they naturally are. It is in their nature to be more aggressive. … They have a greater sex drive, more competitive natures, and their masculine ambition sometimes leads them into trouble with other men. They are born this way and we should not judge them for this fact alone. Overcoming their basic nature is often challenging, and they need our womanly help to do this.
“When men are at their best, they are protectors, builders and organizers of civilization, while we are the gatekeepers. But they are vulnerable where we are strong. They need us.
“Men become more uncivilized when women become are either absent, corrupt or immoral. This is when we forget our feminine nature; we forget what fulfills our lives and gives it true enduring meaning. When women fall, men and families are doomed. Nations cannot stand for long without strong families. And in any civilization, where women are largely corrupt, God help the men.”
Clearly you are committed to being a good, moral woman and have tried to keep your family close to God, but it’s the case that many well-meaning women are critical of their husbands and try to change them. You say your husband has wounds from his past; if you have not actively focused on building him up, helping him heal these wounds, you may be unknowingly rubbing salt in them.
One example I heard recently from a marriage coach was a situation where a woman was raised in a family where accomplishments were praised, so she grew up to become a doctor. Her husband’s esteem was dealt many blows as a child, and he needed her support. She was completely oblivious to this, and their relationship took a downward spiral. Once this wife was able to see the source of her husband’s pain and understand how she contributed to it, she was able to help heal the relationship.
Here’s another situation that came up in a woman’s forum I’m on: A husband had difficulty keeping track of time while getting ready in the morning, he asked his wife to help him. Her reaction was, “I’m not his mother, he should be responsible for himself.” No wonder she was having trouble. As women, we actually do need to mother our husbands a bit—but we needn’t think of it as mothering. We can anticipate their needs and, where we see them struggling, quietly supplement where we can. These little things make a big difference to men.
You should forgive your son for his transgressions. Why? Consider the immensity of divine love. All humans sin. Some sins are perhaps irredeemable, but I don’t think this is the case here. As a mother, you know your children will make mistakes. When they are little, the mistakes are small and you lovingly correct them and teach them how to do better. Now your boy is grown and his mistake is bigger, but God has seen people make much worse mistakes and forgiven them.
Another thing to consider, your marriage was on the rocks at a tough time in his development. So could it be the case that your shortcomings left him vulnerable: Was it emerging physical urges combined with a lack of stability in the home that caused him to seek refuge elsewhere? Perhaps he felt betrayed because you told him to wait until marriage but marriage to his teenage self looked pretty ugly. I’m not saying this is the case, but I’m just trying to imagine what his experience might have been like. And then on top of this, you come down hard on him—at a time when he really needs your support.
For young men, negativity toward their bodies, particularly as regards intimacy can be very, very hurtful. On the whole, boys don’t process emotional pain well, and they really do need a mother’s help.
And another perspective, perhaps Will is your gift son—you have three other happy, well-adjusted children, so you are clearly a good mother. But perhaps he was given to you, with all his shortcomings, to give you a chance to grow in love and help you come closer to the divine.
Sometimes living in sin is the catalyst for a noble and purposeful life later on. Consider the story of Nicki Cruz, a vicious gang leader who turned to faith with the persistent help of a dedicated pastor. The pastor heard a calling, left his church in a small Pennsylvania town to come to New York City, where he risked his life to put love into Cruz’s heart.
After Cruz discovered the love of Jesus, he devoted his life to helping others, eventually founding his own ministry.
When Cruz talked about what drove him to the streets, one of the main reasons was that his mother told him she didn’t love him. I think this is significant.
As a final thought about forgiveness, remember the story of Jesus saving the adulteress from being stoned? Yes, she was guilty, but in my understanding, Jesus was showing us that mercy and forgiveness in the face of sin is important; this gives people a chance to know divine grace.
We are all in the process of strengthening and growing our character. And truly, with the state of society today, there’s a great deal of temptation. So I would focus on loving and forgiving your son, and with your love, helping him to a more upright path.
Consider also that lust is generally more of a challenge for men than for women, while I think for women it’s much more difficult to control our emotions and our tongues.
Truly I think a mother’s love is rather close to divine love. And certainly the world would not work without it. Its strength often takes new mothers by surprise. It’s one thing children can always count on, and it protects them from all manner of cruelties in the world. Because of it, women willingly and repeatedly do selfless, amazing, and heroic acts. We also know from some unfortunate studies in orphanages that without love, children die despite having food and shelter. A mother’s love also keeps alive in a child’s heart a small flame that later comes to be fueled by love and reverence for the divine. So let us not underestimate its importance.
Again, the lack of a mother’s love is why Nicki Cruz ended up the way he did.
I was recently reading the book “Strong Mothers, Strong Sons” by Dr. Meg Meeker, and in it, she gave an example of a mother at her wits’ end with her wild teenage son. It turns out he was reacting to her attitude toward him. When she changed herself, he calmed down. I can see a similar dynamic with my own 5-year-old son (my gift son). If he and I don’t have some calm time together during the first part of the day, he ends up off the rails, doing naughty things to get my attention.
Gentleness Is Womanly Strength
Gentleness is what I consider true feminine power. This is almost the inverse of empowerment in the social or political sense; it’s the divinely bestowed quality that makes the feminine an indispensable complement to the masculine. In the realm of family, gentleness gives a woman tremendous power. A gentle woman is not buffeted by her emotions; she is not critical, nor does she nag.
A woman’s gentleness is a balm for the souls of husbands and children and earns us their love and respect.
Being gentle works miracles in the family. It makes you become calm, strong, and radiant; thus many conflicts simply disappear or are quickly resolved.
Being gentle does require great patience and forbearance and is certainly not easy. My children are young, but I can say from experience that they are so much happier, calmer, and cooperative when I approach them gently, with softness and kindness. I know this because I’ve not always been the most patient, kind mother, so I’ve seen both sides.
Do you have a family or relationship question for our advice columnist, Dear June? Send it to DearJune@EpochTimes.com or Attn: Dear June, The Epoch Times, 5 Penn Plaza, 8th Fl. New York, NY, 10001