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My mother has a strained relationship with her family, particularly her mother. As children, we only met my mother's side of the family on rare occasions and now that my siblings and I are grown, I don't believe my mother is in any kind of communication with her mother or brother. I don't really know much about why they don't get along but as far as I know it's not over some particular incident. I know some general points, but I'll keep them to myself unless it proves important for the sake of this question.

Anyway, I have never had any strongly negative experiences with my grandmother. My wife and I have not shut her out of our lives and she has met our children, although we do not live close to each other and don't really make a specific point to visit each other.

Since my grandmother now has somewhat of a relationship with us, she would like me to help her get in touch with my mother. I asked my mother whether it would be ok for me to share her phone number or address (presumably to send letters, etc. I don't think she would visit unannounced) with my grandmother and she told me not to do so. I intend to honor that, but I'm trying to figure out how to word the email to my grandmother politely. How can I communicate that my mother does not want me to share her contact information without making my grandmother upset at me for refusing her request?

  • Why would you be afraid of making my grandmother upset at me? If you communicate that your mother does not want to, that seems very unlikely. – Jan Doggen May 4 '18 at 11:07
  • @JanDoggen: Children that refuse to contact their parents commonly do so after the parent has proven to show extreme behavioral issues. I won't comment on the frequency of it, but emotional manipulation/offloading is a fairly common factor here. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the grandmother may take her discontent of not getting the contact information out on OP. Doubly so if getting that contact information is the main reason for her to be contacting OP. – Flater May 7 '18 at 8:03
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I'd start by asking if grandmother knows that mother has her contact information. If so, then I'd respond with "I understand you want to get together but that's not my place to give out contact information. I'm sorry but I can't get in the middle of this. If Mom wants to contact you, she will." If she does not, then I'd respond with, "I haven't asked her if I could give you her contact info, but if you'd like I can pass your contact information to her along with your desire to get into contact. After that, it's out of my hands." You can pass along requests like this and still stay out of the family drama. The important thing here is to ensure that each other WANTS you to give out their contact information. If they don't, then your answer, although unpleasant, is quite simple. "I'm sorry but they did not approve my giving you that."

Family squabbles can be long-running and, sadly, pretty vindictive. Mother may not want grandmother to get in contact with her for whatever reason. I'd only pass that information along after someone approves it.

If Grandma keeps asking, I'd tell her that "I've asked mother for permission to give you her contact information; as yet she has not approved it. I'm sorry but I will only give out someone's contact if they approve it - for anyone." Grandma may be mad at you, but if mother doesn't want grandma to call and you enable that, Mom will be mad at you. You can't win in a family squabble, so stay as far out as you can.

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I think you have to be truthful. You can tell her that, you respect your mother choice but if one day your mother wishes to reconnect with her family then you will be glad to give her her contact information. Forcing your mother in a relationship that she escaped for a very long time, might maybe also stain your relationship with your mother. So you have to make her understand that you cherish them both and and you do not want to lose any of them.

You can still tell your grandmother not to lose hope, and that you will continue to try convince your mother. Your grandmother put you in a pretty difficult situation but if you told her you would ask your mother for her consent she will surely understand if the answer is not positive.

  • OP should not engage himself in "I'll keep trying to convince her" just to soften the blow if that doesn't represent his intent. Complications (repeated check-ins, side-taking, unfounded hope and inevitable letdown) would arise. – Euchris May 4 '18 at 13:17
  • The OP does seem to want his mother and his grandmother relationship to get better and the grandmother will surely ask him again later because he is the only link she has left with her daughter. So for me it´s not really an engagement, it s more like telling her to be patient and to assure her that you understand that it is important for her and you will try again later.( When I say later I do not mean in a near future) – guillau4 May 4 '18 at 13:50
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    I don't see an explicit wish for that, but maybe then a more passive "Perhaps things will change in the future, but I can't speak for her." Even saying he'll definitely try again implies that he might not respect his mother's request if the grandmother is persistent enough. Just my two cents. – Euchris May 4 '18 at 14:09
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What hurts your grandmother is the fact that your mother doesn't want to be contacted. That's the hurtful thing. That you tell this to your grandmother is a tiny problem compared to that fact. So assuming that you are not lying to your grandmother, there will be some amount of hurt, small or large, but that is not your fault, and not something that you can avoid.

I would tell the grandmother the facts: That you talked to your mother, and she doesn't want to be contacted. That you gave the grandmother's contact information to the mother, so the mother can call whenever she changes her mind. And that the mother knows that you have the contact information, so she can contact the grandmother even if she throws the info away.

And I would add that you are quite willing to pass anything on to the mother, if the grandmother wants to convince her to allow contact. And remember, you haven't "refused any request". Your grandmother asked you to talk to your mother, and you did that. The result is not up to you. In the end, they are two adults, and they have to sort this out themselves.

  • I have indeed refused my grandmother's request. She didn't ask me to talk to my mother. She asked for my mother's phone number. – Daniel May 7 '18 at 11:03

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