Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: My adult daughter refuses to talk to me

The reader's adult daughter calls her a lousy mother. Should she cut her out the will?


Dear Virginia,

I have two adult daughters and after my estranged husband died three years ago, the elder one has simply stopped talking to me. She says I was always a lousy mother, and she never wants to speak to me again. I've tried sending presents, cards, letters, apologies, but nothing works. Her teenage children still speak to me, thank goodness, but I'm at my wits end. I'm thinking of making a will that means she doesn't get anything, but might she be able to contest it? I'm so upset and angry.


Yours sincerely,



Virginia says...

It must extremely difficult not to take your daughter's fury personally, particularly as it's directed at you! But I suspect that, like many people after a death, your daughter simply has uncontrollable feelings of irrational anger, which she has turned on you. Though they may be feelings that aren't totally irrational – who knows, she might feel you weren't too hot as a mum – I imagine the intensity is entirely informed by your ex's death.

You don't say how old she was when you and her father broke up, but she may have a lot of unresolved feelings about the separation as well, and, who knows, may have been led by her father to believe that it was all entirely your fault. Remember that fathers and daughters can have peculiarly intense emotional relationships. Again, I don't know who looked after your children after you broke up, but perhaps she blamed you, at some level, for driving her beloved father away.

I would continue to send cards, apologies, flowers, birthday greetings and so on. There may come a time when she has a change of heart, and it's worth keeping the channels open so she's got a way back to you. Also, it's no bad thing to keep up the squeaky-clean good mum image. Try to be a loving, forgiving mum now, if only to confuse her about whether you were actually good or "lousy" as she claims.

As far as the will goes, I can quite understand why you don't want her to receive a penny. But I think that you ought to divide your estate equally between the two girls. But I've never been in this situation, so it's easy for me to say. I think that to differentiate between the two could cause terrible problems for the siblings' relationship in the future and you don't want to leave a legacy of hatred and jealousy behind you. Nor do you want your daughter to be able to say, after you've died: "You see, I was right! She was a lousy mother! She cut me out of her will."

If you can't bear to do this, you could leave half your estate divided between her children, of course. Or what about leaving the half for her in trust for the children so she has to leave it to her children when she dies and can't squander it – only use the income from it? If you wrote a witnessed letter to accompany the will, explaining your reasons, it'd be very difficult for her to contest it.

Virginia Ironside's book, No! I Don't Need Reading Glasses is out now (Quercus £14.99)

Readers say...

Stop apologising

Stop the presents, apologies, etc to Hostile Daughter; they clearly don't work and only confirm to her that she has been right all along. Try to maintain the best possible relationship with her children without ever referring to your poor relationship with their mother; they know it anyway. Who knows, maybe their mother will come along in their wake one day. As for the will, either share everything between Loving Daughter and the children of Hostile Daughter, or if LD also has children, leave everything to your grandchildren. It is unlikely to be contested.

Stephen Breuer, by email

What have you done?

There's a missing part of your story and that's what your daughter's dispute with you is about. You tell us you've done all you feel you need to do to put things right and now you've moved on to punishment. The only question you ask is will your punishment be water-tight.

It's still a puzzle what has caused your daughter to stop talking to you, but one suspects that she is probably right. I wish her well.

Sally Eva, by email

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

We've been married 10 years now, but after my husband was unfaithful five years ago I've never wanted sex with him again. We've settled down to quite a happy modus vivendi – we have a seven-year-old son – and we're very companionable and happy in a way. The problem is that I've started to wonder if I wasn't a bit hard on him – and I do rather long to start our sex life again. But I'm terrified that if I suggest it it'll rock the happy balance we've got now. Should I risk broaching the subject?

Yours sincerely,


What would you advise Briony to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice