Lifelines: Shona Manson on family diversity

If you are affected by any of the issues in Lifelines and require further advice, contact

GAY REVELATION

I am a 60-year-old mother of three wonderful grown-up sons. All have good jobs and the eldest and youngest are married with children. Our middle son has had a few girlfriends here and there, then recently he announced at a family meal that he was gay and his ‘flatmate’ is, in fact, his partner.

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We have known this young man for three years and have always liked him, but now, to think of the two of them together in that way, has left my husband and I not knowing what to say or do. We are also worried they might want to get married – worse still, in the church.

It is obvious that you are wrestling with your love for your son while questioning if you can accept his sexuality. Maybe you would find it helpful to think broadly about what it is all your sons have done to make you the proud parents you describe? It sounds as though they have been well brought up and all have the ability to form and maintain positive and loving relationships, alongside having made good career choices. All this is still true for your middle son; the only difference being that he is in a same-sex relationship.

It is likely your son has known he is gay for a long time and has wondered how to tell you, worrying how you might respond. He is still the son 
you were proud of and can continue 
to make you proud if you let him.

MONSTER-IN-LAW

I’m at my wits end with my newly acquired mother-in-law. I recently married my second husband, and he and his two children have moved in with me and my three children. He was widowed five years ago, and his mother has never really got over it. She seems to see me as ‘the evil new woman’ who has taken her son and grandchildren away – they used to stay in the same street but are now ten miles away, in the next village.

My husband lets it go over his head but I can’t take the constant snide remarks. I’m worried it will end up coming between us a family.

Other people’s families can be challenging – their norms and idiosyncrasies can seem totally alien to someone looking in from outside. I also wonder if your mother-in-law is still grieving the loss of not only her daughter-in-law but of the family life she had visualised for them. It sounds as though she has played a significant role in the family over the last five years, and so could be feeling slightly redundant and not needed now.

Taking time to step back from the situation and trying to appreciate the other’s perspective can be useful in helping us find ways of changing the dynamic in a relationship. Can you find a way of making an ally of this woman? Helping her to find her place in the new family situation will hopefully, over time, reduce her anxieties about where she fits in and allow her to keep enjoying the supportive grandmother role she has probably loved so much.

Shona Manson is a mediator with Family Mediation Scotland

If you are affected by any of the issues in Lifelines and require further advice, contact

Relationships Scotland (www.relationships-scotland.org.uk)