Counseling/Confused

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Question
Hello Kind Sir,
Thank you for giving me a chance to speak to you. My problem is not something I would describe as urgent, but it's been weighing on my mind a lot lately.

About 4 years ago my family and I moved from our city home to a suburb home about 20 minutes away ( by car) to be closer to my husbands work.
We have two sons aged 18 and 11 now.  When we moved, our older son continued to school in the city as he was old enough to commute. However our youngest son had to change schools.
This was hard on him as he had made a great friend in his city school. We spoke with the parents of this boy and through the years we have moved they have been helpful in keeping their friendship alive with us. Even though we are both busy families ( them more then us) it seemed we could get together with them once a month or at least once every two months.

This friend I speak of is very active. He is in hockey leagues and with two working parents he was also in day care and summer camps . As he got older it seemed harder to make plans to see him but still there was always some effort made.

This past summer things seemed normal, they enjoyed some a few sleep overs, we were invited up to their country house for overnight stays and things seemed fine. They never showed any signs of not wanting to see us or our boys no longer getting along.

The thing is though, I notice over the last year or two its really my family and my son who have to initiate the plans. It seems we do the calling and planning, we always seem to be the ones to do everything. Lately, they have not really been calling us back. We tried to make plans this past weekend with them and were told they had a super busy weekend due to hockey but they would call us back to let us know if we could get the boys together. They never called.

My husband does not think much of this. He seems to feel that they are just busy, always have a lot going on. Both parents working full time caring for a child and also caring for their elderly parents he can understand timing is sometimes not good for them but he does agree with me that if we never tried, he wonders how long it would take them to eventually reach out to us.

I guess I just feel confused and that things have grown very one sided.

They never seem to contact us , but then when we do get together they rave about how special our boys friendship is and how they love when their son is with my son and they are always happy to set up play dates or times we can get together. They apologize for their schedules and then usually they mention some up coming events or things they would like to include our son in.

However , that is when things change. We won't hear from them and often they don't follow through with the plans they make with our son or us.

I suppose this is why I am confused. On one hand they seem to like us and our kids get along well. But on the other hand they disappear and rarely put any effort in we feel like we are often being more of a burden to them then anything else.

I've brought this up to them in the past and they always did their best to re-assure me my fears are not the case at all but then still no effort is ever made.

I just wonder if you could help me make sense of this? Should I just stop trying which I know would hurt my son.

Answer
Hi Melissa - I can understand your confusion, for your friends' behavior is sending your family a double message: "We really care" / "No we don't." An implied question is: Do you trust the adults in the other family to tell you if they or their son have lost interest or have higher priorities? A related question is - Do you trust your own judgment in this situation? Another option is to separate the boys' friendship from your two families' friendships. Would you want to socialize if the boys didn't exist?

I suggest you [1] make it clear to your son you've offered to meet but the other family haven't agreed to do so; [2] encourage your son to stay in touch with his friend by phone and/or text; and [3] use the Serenity Prayer http://sfhelp.org/pop/prayers.htm, for you can't control the other adults' honesty, priorities, or behaviors.

Another option is to respectfully confront the adults in the other family and tell them of your confusion because of their double message to you. Do this to inform, not guilt-trip or blame. See this for examples:  http://sfhelp.org/cx/apps/double.htm

Finally, contemplate "The People in Our Lives":  http://sfhelp.org/gwc/help/inspirations07.htm

I wish you all clarity and peace - Pete
.

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Peter Gerlach, MSW

Expertise

I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.

Experience

I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

Organizations
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; SelfGrowth.com Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

Publications
# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at http://sfhelp.org These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

Education/Credentials
A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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