QUESTION: Masters, I seek understanding and clarity in regard to my son and his wife. He is 46, and we have not spoken for over two years. I finally, after about 12 years of agony, confronted him about the pain I have experienced for many years due to his wife’s rejection and his descent into a mean personality change. He was continually criticizing me, and passing on to me cruel things his wife says about me. He says he does not care about my feelings, and that I should talk with his wife about it, but she ignores and rejects me. She has rejected all members of our family, and her family also. They both drink daily. I suffer with guilt and confusion about what to do, how I might help all of us. ~Marg Ann, USA

ANSWER: It is impossible to help someone if they don’t want to be helped or don’t think they need any help.  Your son and his wife are confident they don’t need anyone—neither your family nor her family. It started out with people commenting on their drinking and lifestyle and then later about their attitude. They chose to behave the way they do and don’t think anyone should comment upon their personal choices.

Once people assume responsibility for themselves, they do not like to have others attempt to make their decisions for them by telling them what to do or what they are doing wrong. This couple is leading the life in which they feel most comfortable. There is no law that states that just because you are related to a person by birth or marriage, they have an obligation to have any contact with you. Everything in life is governed by the individual’s freedom of choice.

Why do you feel guilty? Did you do anything to cause this rift? You are incapable of directing the thoughts and actions of others unless they consent. No matter how bad you feel about a situation, you are powerless—it is their path. Nothing you have done has caused their separatist actions. Stop trying to create a relationship where one does not exist.

You contribute to your own hurt feelings by accepting their insensitivity and nasty comments. If you just consider the source and let the comments roll off your back they will not sting. You have been letting the actions dig under your skin and fester. Look at the events that occur as a horrid drama portrayed by strangers intent on hurting each other, and make the decision not to take part. Help yourself by staying out of their chosen negativity.