Don’t get caught in a meddler’s web

alienated adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

There’s an old saying: What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.

In raising our five children, my funny husband recited an altered version: What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to conceive! He infused humor into the trials and tribulations of parenting. We never imagined estrangement, but here we are. The saying still fits.

Another spider saying comes from parents with estranged or alienated adult children whose extended family gets involved—sometimes for malicious reasons. They say that meddlers weave a “web” of deceit.

After hearing their stories, I feel the term is appropriate.

A Finely tuned trap

Spiders tighten and tune individual web strands like guitar strings so that other spiders and prey can be easily distinguished. Spiders are adept at attracting the prey they want. Some lure the unsuspecting with sweetly scented silk. A finely tuned web provides varying feedback from individual insect types, so the spider knows just how to snag the unsuspecting. Plus, spiders are adept at positioning their trap, and know just when to weave it.

Of course, I’m not writing about spiders. This is about meddlers and others who interfere. They say they want to help, but sometimes spin a web of deceit.

One mother of an estranged adult son said her husband’s brother called to say her son was having a baby. This man is still in contact with the estranged adult son.

“This might be the perfect time to reconcile,” he told the mother, who was mortified to hear from him about her first grandchild. He advised the parents to get in touch. But when they did, their son called it harassment.

“My husband’s brother has meddled in the past,” says this mother. “Always with bad results.”
Other parents with estranged or alienated adult children tell similar stories. Unfortunately, just as spiders are adept at spinning webs for malicious purpose, people can be just as cunning.

Many parents of estranged adults have come to accept the reasons their son or daughter makes contact and then disappears again. For you, it may be a third party who lures you back into the web of emotional pain just when you’re moving forward in your life. Learn to trust your gut instincts. “I knew it was wrong to listen,” says this mother, who wishes she’d have trusted herself.

Tempting trap

On early fall mornings, spider webs are a lovely sight. Pearls of dew. Rainbow prisms in the light. The sheer magnificence of the intricate engineering is wonderful to behold.
Meddlers can be just as adept. Often, they have had lifetimes to perfect their weaving. They know just when to call and what words to say to take advantage of your vulnerability.

A change of perspective

alienated adult childrenNext time someone wants to help you reconcile or calls with news about the son or daughter who doesn’t want you in his/her life, be wary. Pause and reflect. It may be that this individual truly does want to help. Not everyone who meddles is purposely manipulative or hurtful. Some people just don’t understand estrangement.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s often a wise course of action to try and gain information rather than be the one to talk. If you’re feeling ill at ease about a meddler for any reason, stay quiet and ask questions.

Depending on the circumstances, you could:

  • Ask them why they’re getting involved.
  • Change the subject.
  • Thank them for wanting to help, but explain that it’s not something they can fix.
  • Explain that you’re letting a little time go by right now.
  • Tell them you’re doing research or seeking counseling before taking any further action.
  • Ask them not to interfere.

If these suggestions are not helpful, consider the situation more closely. If interference is common, you’ll have time to reflect. Be honest and write out your thoughts. Then answer these questions:

  • Does this person truly want to help me?
  • Can this person really help?
  • Do I have misgivings about this person? And if so, could taking his or her advice hurt more than help with regard to the estrangement?
  • Has this individual steered me wrong in the past?
  • Does what this person says seem too good to be true?
  • Is this person attempting to make me feel guilty?
  • Have I heard my words to this person come back to me, only altered (even ever so slightly) in a way that made me feel uncomfortable?

Your answers can help you detect potential or actual manipulation so you can steer clear of the web.

In order to move forward in their own lives (whether hoping to reconcile or not), parents who are estranged or alienated from adult children must gather their strength, choose support wisely, and view their circumstances with clarity.

If you don’t already have my book, Done With The Crying, consider getting it. The examples and exercises in the book can help.

Estranged or alienated adult children can have effects on the family overall. I’m doing research to learn more about these effects. You can help. Please consider filling in my survey. If you have other children who have been hurt by a sibling or step-sibling’s estrangement, the survey works for them as well (if they’re over the age of 18). Consider asking them to complete the survey, too. Here’s the link.

Too busy right now, or need a quick way to refer someone to the survey? You can find this one, as well as a few others, on a page all their own: RejectedParents.NET/surveys

Related reading:

Spiders tune in

Adult children who reject parents: Why do they make contact now?


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9 thoughts on “Don’t get caught in a meddler’s web

  1. [email protected]

    My sister is my meddler. Although I realize she means well, I wish she’d back off and mind her own business. I do not foresee anything good coming out of her participation in my family matters. Thank you for creating this site. And thank you for your book. It definitely has a profound way of grounding me.

  2. rparents Post author

    [email protected],

    Thank you so much for writing. I hope you’re able to help your sister to see the light in this. Maybe she will back off, as you say.

    I’m so very glad you found the book grounding for you! Thank you for participating here, too! Your comment will help another!

    Sheri McGregor

  3. Tyrsi-Rose

    My perceptions change, sometimes from hour to hour, when it comes to other people. I’m at that age where I perceive “everyone” as watching their grandchildren on the weekends or being invited to their adult child’s home for a quick dinner. I can be my worse enemy when it comes to that web of deception ie: self-deception. If i’m asked if I heard from my son, I feel they are meddling. If they don’t ask, I feel as if they aren’t asking because they don’t know how I will respond. I can only admit to being uncomfortable. I have your book on order from Amazon! :). and am very grateful to have found this heartfelt site for all of us!!

  4. SunSeeker

    I have a sister who is doing the same thing. She says she talks with my son and daughter because she loves me and wants to show love to them but I am blamed and she ends up the conduit for their feelings. They won’t talk to me no matter what I do. I’ve had enough of this treatment. I don’t need to hear suggestions from my sister who doesn’t know the whole history. I believe she means well but she is very hurtful and not apologetic at all.

    I think she is behaving this way because she if afraid. If my good children (25 years old and 28 years old) could do this to me, what will stop her millennial son from doing the same thing to her. I think she has to pin all responsibility on me, reasoning I must have provoked them, to protect herself from the possibility that her son will make the same choice.

    There is no guarantee and I think that terrifies some people.

  5. BeeHere4Me

    This article rings true for me. It describes my ex SIL’s role exactly. She claims to mean well, but her actions tell a different story. She was all for making amends to restore civility for the benefit of my son. But once she realized that I was onto her scheme to receive a larger portion of her mother’s estate, the plan to restore civility came to a screeching halt. With the help of her sister, my privacy was violated, and a smear campaign was designed to get rid of me. All under the guise of protecting her brother of course. The estrangement serves her greed perfectly. I am blocked and silenced, which insures that no one will be the wiser.

  6. Ophelia

    My in-laws meddled and when it all blew up, they washed their hands of the situation, saying its between us and our son…conveniently their support vanished when my son had a baby, they wanted to see the baby, so traded supporting us for seeing our grandson their great grandson. My son admitted to his father that he was using the baby to get them back in his camp. Now our once close relationship with my in laws is over and we are virtually estranged from them too…its been a living hell!!! All because of our ungrateful, selfish son!!

  7. Wepawee

    My son made friends with the crazy, hot-headed, gun-toting neighbor up the road from us, we have an easement on the road. My son made sure this guy was plenty angry at us before he left with his wife. I know they are still in touch. I have to drive by this guy every day whenever I come or go. He always seems to be outside, gives me dirty looks and tries to intimidate me. I never know what this guy his wife and family are up to. To make matters worse, my sister likes to talk to him, my brother in law says hi, my own mother laughs and makes jokes. Even my other daughter. They know that this guy has interfeared with our relationship with our son, and has caused our family a great deal of pain. I really hate my life. But the good news is we bought a new house far away from this jerk wad. We have turned the old place (2 houses one that my sisters rents from me) into rentals, so he does not get the satisfaction of running us out of our own property, but we did make a very nice upgrade. We now live in a super nice house, great neighborhood, new schools, shopping. Nice neighbors but I am wary to get close to anyone, dont want to have to tell them about my older son and daughter who wont speak with us. I tell my youngest that she is now and only child, we do not talk about the other two unless one of us is hurnting and needs to .

  8. MovingProcessing

    My husbands family is extremely dysfunctional. Since our daughter estranged us it has caused us to re-evaluate all our relationships. As we have done this we have changed our role, we have literally helped every member of my husbands family save one brother who stays remote from everyone.
    My husband is the only successful sibling of 6. They are all jealous and resentful of us. They malign and gossip behind our backs and boy howdy has this situation made them feel better about themselves. My family was extremely dysfunctional too however I do not have as many relatives or contact with them. But the few I have are also twisted.
    We are making it clear the bank is closed, we are done being used.
    One Sister in law got involved early on and caused the biggest upset with our estranged daughter. In the past she has aligned herself with my step son and our DIL. She has gossiped with DIL who caused semi estrangements and kept gks away from us. Our gd from step son has reestablished a relationship with us and is the only one we have contact with( of 8 gks, ) and seen in in 2.5 years. The rest are much younger of varying ages. Thanks for reading the jumbled scattered post. Reeling from trying to gain our equilibrium back. We had 3 major surgeries over these past estrangement years, are retiring in September and selling/packing up and moving from the SE back to the NW. Our destination has changed 2 times since being estranged. This has challenged our marriage and all relationships. Surviving this has not been for the faint hearted. Thanks again!


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