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Question #167: My mom disowned me on Christmas day.

I played hooky with Commander Logic yesterday, so no posts, sorry! If you’ve been wondering “Is Hot Doug’s still delicious? Is the movie adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy  a) enjoyable b) a clinic in the importance of lens choice and detail in production design c) a fucking masterpiece of acting in Gary Oldman’s performance? Is scotch delicious? Is reading fundamental?” Good news, everyone! The answer to all of these questions is “Yes.”

Continuing on the theme of “parents who throw tantrums” with a bit of leftover “the winter holidays are not shiny and wonderful for everyone,” today’s question is about a mom who disowned her adult daughter on Christmas day.

Dear Captain Awkward,

On Christmas day, my mother disowned me.

I recently moved into a sweeeet new place with my boyfriend of two and a half years. It was unanimously agreed by everyone that my Mum and little brother would spend Christmas at our place. I decorated the tree, hung up paper chains, bought a ton of food. Well, as soon as they got here, they started complaining: Our kettle doesn’t boil fast enough, our bathroom door doesn’t close easily enough, the door locks behind them when they go out to smoke, they wanted their Christmas presents NOW not on Christmas day.

Then, on Christmas day I *casually* mentioned something to my mother about BF and I’s future matrimony (because we’ve been together three years and we know we’re definitely getting married, we just haven’t worked out when) any my Mum begins lecturing me about how “there should always be some element of doubt in a proposal” and how “he should consider it an honour for you to marry him, not due course”. I admit, I got pretty angry. Apart from anything else, my mother has never been in a relationship for more than four years. She’s been married three times. I pointed out that the “let’s get married and then get to know each other” hadn’t been successful for her, and BF and I really enjoyed the fact that we aren’t afraid to talk about the future. She flipped and stormed out. She sat outside my apartment for the next five hours. I went and apologized to her after an hour but she said she hated being in the same building as me and refused to come back in or eat Christmas dinner. BF and I ate ours in silence then hid in our bedroom for the rest of the day.

When my mother finally came back in, she screamed at me and BF again, saying she was disgusted with me and disappointed with BF. She demanded I book her a ticket home as soon as possible. There weren’t any trains or coaches to where she lives until the 27th – which was when she was due to go home anyway, so I bought myself and BF tickets to his parents for the next day. When I told her this, she started yelling AGAIN, and told me I was making a huge mistake.

During the course of the next week, I got several text messages from my little brother telling me off for “upsetting mum” and “locking her out of the house on Christmas day” (which I definitely did not do). Well, we went to BF’s parents on boxing day, spent a no-drama week there, then came home. My mother had left all her Christmas presents and long, ranty note telling me that she now considers me to be an orphan. (Seriously.)

What do I do? When my Mum is good, she’s great; but when she’s bad she’s unbearable. BF (who comes from a normal, stable family) wants to have nothing to do with my family ever again, which to some extent I totally sympathise with. The problem is, that these two people are my only family. Until a few years ago, I’d never lived in the same place long enough to get the kind of friends who become your substitute family. Even though they are abusive and slightly insane, they’re all I’ve got. Should I try to rebuild this relationship or am I only hurting myself if I maintain contact?

Yours,

Girl who still maintains that you should know someone quite well before you marry them.

Dear Girl Who Sounds Pretty Level-Headed And Correct About How Marriage Probably Works,

I’m really sorry that happened to you. There are many, many layers of wrongness here.

First, let’s unpack the idea that the question “Should we get married?” must be a surprise to one of the participants and that the answer to that question should be suspenseful to the other in order for shit to be sufficiently “romantic.”  Here’s a short clinic in how to make sure I will not marry you:

  1. Ask me without having many discussions about it first. Surprise!
  2. Do that first thing in front of a lot of people so that I’m put on the spot. Surprise!  If there’s a Jumbotron involved, not only will I not marry you, I’m basically never talking to you again.
  3. Buy a big expensive sparkly thing (that I’m expected to go apeshit over and wear for the rest of my life) without consulting me about finances or whether I even want one in the first place. Surprise!
  4. Describe it as “popping the question.”

I may be in the minority here (evidenced by every romantic comedy or boring-white-people-in-a-house-competing-to-marry-other-boring-white-people show, ever), but those are my rules and I’m sticking to them. Even if she herself had a GREAT track record with matrimony I  think your mom is pretty wrong about how that should go down, period, and she’s definitely wrong about that for you in this specific instance.

Second, to be a guest in someone’s home and to constantly complain and nitpick everything is downright rude. And to *scream* at fellow adults?  Really?  I grew up in a “yelling house” and as a result have an extreme allergy to raised voices outside the context of defending immediate personal safety, calling for help, etc.  People who scream at me or each other are not invited into my life, period, and I will severely minimize contact with the ones who are already around. Lovers have been summarily dumped, jobs have been quit without two-week’s notice, and I have walked right out of buildings to get away from people who think they get to yell at me. It’s a giant, giant red flag that there is a basic lack of respect and the situation is or is about to become abusive.

Third, let’s talk about basic maturity and narcissism. Like the moms in the Case of What To Name The Baby or the Case of I Guess You Can Sleep On The Floor of the Sewing Room, But You Can’t Have Keys or Get Personal Phone Calls, your mom has decided to make something that is not about her (How you and your boyfriend will make your decision about getting married) and make it ALL about her. Didn’t you know that your personal romantic choices are a referendum on a) your mom’s entire life and b) how you feel about her?  Didn’t you know that she totally gets a say in how you make that decision and also about the quality of your teakettle and the locks on your doors?

Obviously, OBVIOUSLY, I cannot diagnose people’s mental conditions through the Internet, but I can direct you toward a book by Dr. Karyl McBride called “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” and tell you that a lot of the behaviors you describe tick some ticky boxes for me on this inventory.  If that list resonates with you, you may find the book extremely enlightening and useful in navigating your relationship with her.

The stuff you describe in your letter is part of why I am so invested in trying to help people learn to set boundaries and why I encourage people who may be in emotionally abusive situations to look strictly at behaviors (and how those behaviors affect you) vs. getting caught up in looking for reasons the person is acting that way. I don’t think anyone sets out to become an abuser, and I take it as a given that abusive people have survived some bad shit at the hands of other people and/or have diagnosable conditions that contribute to their behavior. Those reasons may be sad, but they are not a reason that you should have to put up with the behavior. You get to say “I’m sorry your feelings are hurt…” or “I’m sorry you went through all that…BUT that doesn’t mean you get to talk to me that way.

Someone who comes into your space as a guest and begins a constant barrage of complaining and criticism, someone who thinks that manners don’t apply to them, someone who screams at you, and someone who takes your (rational, normal, autonomous, adult) decisions as an excuse to throw a giant tantrum and kick you out of her life is completely out of line.  There is a red light flashing the words “NOT OKAY, NOT OKAY, NOT OKAY” behind all of these behaviors. You see, it, right?

I know that it’s so, so, so sad to think about being totally cut off from your mom (and probably your brother, who sounds like he was formed in her image). Even if you did have a big friend group it would be sad. It’s a very big deal and I want you to give yourself a lot of self love and forgiveness and permission to be really sad about it.

But honestly?  I think she did you a favor by severing ties. Trust me, she won’t keep them severed. She needs your attention and the hit of adrenaline and drama that comes from being engaged in the conflict too badly (which is why you are getting those texts from your brother – he’s getting an earful and passing it on to you).  But you probably have a small window without having to deal with her, and I kind of want you to write her a big letter and dump out all your feelings, and then seal that letter (and the feelings) up in a box for a little while so you can just enjoy the peace and quiet and love of your good dude and your awesome new space.

When people threaten to storm out and/or to never talk to you again? They never realize that they are giving you the sweet, sweet gift of their absence. What they want is your attention. They want to make a giant statement and force you to fight for the relationship. I’m a big fan of believing people when they break up with you and taking them exactly at their word. You can best thwart them and hold onto your own equilibrium by saying, “Well, that’s sad to hear, obviously, but if that’s what you need to do I understand” and then going on with your life, which you did when you took yourself off to your in-laws’s place and surrounded yourself with people who don’t scream at you. Those instincts  of yours for what is reasonable and how to take care of yourself are in great working order, I’m thinking.

A few closing thoughts:

  • I think your relationship with your mom will never be fully comfortable or ok, but that it may be possible over time for you to figure out how to make a safer space for yourself by setting and enforcing boundaries.
  • I think that if you do continue a relationship with her at some point in the future, it’s best to have very low expectations and to keep that relationship within very narrow parameters. No extended holiday visits for sure.
  • I don’t think it’s on you to “rebuild” anything right now, and whether you decide to in the future is something you do not have to worry about right now. Let things be demolished for a while.
  • I think your brother is part of the problem, and you don’t have to put up with his behavior either. Don’t let her triangulate and deploy him as her agent to pass on her messages. Tell him to leave off (as in “This is between Mum and me, so you and I are going to change the subject now,” and if he doesn’t stop, block his texts for a good while.)
  • I think if you have or can get access to a therapist, now might be a good time for that.
  • Your boyfriend is smart, and his instincts to protect you from people who are mean to you are correct. Marry his ass (when the time is right and you both decide). You don’t owe him never talking to your family again, obviously, but it’s great you can trust him to have your back when things go badly.

I’m so, so sorry you have to deal with this, and so, so glad that you have such a level head on your shoulders and a supportive partner by your side.

P.S. Pledge drive! Final Day! Thank you so much for reading, always, and for whatever support you can give. Let’s take it out with some NPR-style jazz flute.

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36 comments
  1. Claire said:

    When I was 26 years old, my mother disowned me for not writing her a nice enough thank-you note for a Christmas gift.

    It was one of the most painful things that ever happened to me, and one of the most relieving things that ever happened to me. It hurt, and still hurts, to know that she thinks so poorly of me (her letter was…poisonous, to say the least). Therapy helped me understand that hurt, and helped me to see that if someone is going to disown me over a late thank-you note? Fuck them.

    LW, I hope that you’re able to come to a resolution here, that you’re able to set boundaries and move forward in a healthy way, that you’re able to recognize your mother’s toxicity and know that it has very little to do with YOU and everything to do with her warped thinking.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for this perspective, seriously.

      It takes a lot of work and time to let go of what a parent-child relationship is supposed to be like and dealing with what is happening in a way that doesn’t make you feel like a walking open wound.

      • Stephanie said:

        And then when you think you’ve got it, it can still change.

        I’d gotten used to dealing with my dad as an acquaintance. And then his father died, which made him rethink his relationships. So then he started acting “dad” again. Which threw me off.

        People. Seriously.

  2. You know what’s even more delicious than scotch? FUCKEN RYE!

    • Jake said:

      So much more delicious.

  3. Hanna said:

    Aaarg. It really is nightmarish mother-daughter experiences week here on Captain Awkward! Sympathies, LW. Your mother doesn’t get to unilaterally decide what’s going on between you at the moment. Maybe in her head she’s disowned you and *has no daughter*, but in your head it can be more like “I’m not talking to my mom right now because she’s been behaving really badly”. You can enjoy the time off from her without needing to worry right now about how final that is. When you and bf do bilaterally deide to get married (weird idea, I know!) you are going to need strong boundaries in place with your mother to get through the whole wedding judge-a-thon.

    • JenniferP said:

      I very much like this framing of the situation. LW and mom are “on a break.”

    • Britt said:

      Definite agreement on this. Things may be untenable between you and Mom right now, LW, but you don’t have to let her making the grand pronouncement from on high that you are forevermore disown-ed determine your own internal framing of the situation. I had to do this with my father and it does still hurt immensely at times, but being able to frame it in my own terms helped a lot.

  4. I frequently pray (in an atheistic way, of course) for my parents to disown me, but the still haven’t done so. I agree with everything in your post except this:

    and probably your brother, who sounds like he was formed in her image

    I think you are assuming too much about the brother. It may be that he is not actually a narcissistic shittebagge like the mother, but rather is himself beaten down from abuse, and doesn’t know how to extricate himself, and is just trying to limit the rain of abuse falling on his own head.

    • JenniferP said:

      Oh, I’m positive that the brother is on the receiving end of some bullshit from mom. Whatever the reason, if he participated in the screaming, the constant nitpicking, and is now framing it all as “mean daughter locked mom out of the house” he’s not in the circle of trust right now.

  5. Yan said:

    LW, you are SO F’ING SANE about marriage it’s amazing, especially given what you were raised with as examples. GO you.

    And I was in the situation your boyfriend was in once. My SO decided not to deal with his parental units’ collective meltdown at all, but not in a healthy way — it was more of an ostrich, head-in-sand way, and when he stopped communicating with them, he stopped communicating with me. Don’t do that. Whatever you decide going forward, your BF has your back, so keep him filled in as you go. He sounds like a good partner.

  6. karinacinerina said:

    That book is, no joke, the most helpful “self help” book I have ever read. I cried through half of it and it made a huge difference in my adjusting to the fact that my mother is not a force for good in my life, and will never learn how to be. LW sounds very much like she has her head screwed on nice and tight, so as long as she doesn’t succumb to the “but she’s your MOTHER” crap that people dole out, all unknowing-like, she will be fine.
    I wish you all the best – the mother-daughter relationship is primal and difficult to create boundaries in, never mind shed altogether (if it comes to that), and I spent a lot of my life cultivating substitute mothers. Perhaps your probable future MIL will be a good substitute for when a girl just needs to be a daughter.

    • It’s really a scary thing when a narcissistic and/or sociopathic person gains the kind of power over another human being that a parent has over a child. Our society just accepts that that parental power is appropriate and inviolable, even in situations where the person wielding it clearly shouldn’t be, and so like you said, it can be very hard to set boundaries. So many people seem convinced that you HAVE to be in touch with your family and HAVE to accept their input in your life, even if that input is incredibly toxic.

      But you don’t. You didn’t choose your parents, and if they’re toxic, get them out of your life the same way you would anyone else. Parents may get more leeway than just any old friend, but if they feel the need to use (and abuse) that leeway, they’re being jerks. And being your parent doesn’t give them the right to be a jerk.

    • xenu01 said:

      Perhaps your probable future MIL will be a good substitute for when a girl just needs to be a daughter.

      I want to underline this!! My mother and I have some sort of relationship, but it’s definitely not one in which I feel free to be someone’s daughter. My MiL is amazing and treats me like one of her kids (she has, biologically, six).

      • So does my mother-in-law. I’m gratefully close to my mother, but now I have this other wonderful lady to love and be loved by.

  7. Rosie said:

    Dear Girl Who,
    You deserve unconditional love and respect from your mother. I’m genuinely sorry you didn’t get it.

  8. Katy said:

    My mother wouldn’t disown me because she craves the drama too much to risk me leaving, but other than that this sounds like the kind of meltdown she’s constantly having, along with the FEELINGSMAIL from hell, demands to know why I’m “shutting her out” by not answering her crazymail quickly enough, and “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! I LOVE YOU MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY!” to infinity. And then she makes my dad call me to bully me into apologizing to her.

    I’m using some advice from this site and others to establish some boundaries with her, which is hard because of the abuse I suffered every time I asserted myself as a child, but it’s going SLOW. She’ll learn how to behave like a human for a week, tops, then we have the same argument. And apparently I’m being selfish because she loves me and don’t I know she’s my mother? She used to be like this when I was younger and it stopped while I was in high school and most of college, but the last few months she’s been worse than I’ve ever seen her. It makes me regret agreeing to get married sometimes, just because the wedding’s driven her insane. Seriously considering eloping…

    • Ensign Perception said:

      Seriously, a Vegas chapel or a vacation that includes a stop at City Hall in NYC or San Francisco or something, sounds like a super-valid option here.

      And for the LW!

  9. Ensign Perception said:

    Oh my, LW, I am so sorry that your Christmas was so shitty. It honestly, honestly sounds like your mother was just raising her voice to you, criticizing, and escalating until you inevitably needed to defend yourself. Just so she could blow up on you. I’m also sorry that your brother seems to be siding with her for now. Yikes.

    But look on the bright side, you have an awesome place with a cool BF who has your best interests at heart. And doesn’t feel the need to spring MARRIAGE on you like it’s a birthday pinata or something.

    Tell your brother you won’t talk to him about your mother. And then enjoy the brief silence before she dramabombs all over you once again.

    • Yep. The Cap’n has said it many times before, but the whole cultural construct of the boyfriend springing the proposal on you out of nowhere (along with a $15,000 ring, depending on finances of course, but usually rather more than should ever be spent on jewelry for the given income bracket) is godawful. And probably a contributor to our massive divorce rate. Thinking and talking about your future and making decisions together is so alien to our mainstream culture; it’s bizarre and a little depressing.

      I love the Cap’n’s list of ways to make sure she’ll never marry you. And if I ever dated a woman who expected those romantic comedy gestures, she would be sorely disappointed. I will never buy a woman a diamond ring (too much blood on it), and fortunately I tend to date the kind of women who don’t want one.

      • Lyla D. said:

        Word.

        I was actually pleasantly surprised when I saw a romantic comedy (on the Hallmark Channel, if you can believe it) where a lady was appropriately freaked at the fact that her beau sprung the question on her in front of his parents, whom she’d just met, and proceeded to tell him off then break it off.

        Now, if only MORE media could embrace this outlook then maybe we’ll get a decline of SURPRISE! engagements presented in inappropriately spontaneous ways.

  10. Mama said:

    Oh LW. Im so sorry. You should be very proud of how maturely you have handled this, and how reasonable you are. You did not repeat the cycle your Mom started. You are a good person and none of this is your fault.

    Now, as the daughter of a mom who is not nearly this horrible, but definitely ticks about half those ticky-boxes (she is loving, but very, very much about herself at all times and very manipulative) I have to ask (and maybe LW needs to know, too):

    How does one go about getting therapy? It’s not a matter of money (at least for me) so your “how to get mental health care for cheap” isn’t really up my alley; it is more that finding a therapist is a terrifying system to navigate. I’d like a professional, not a student, and like many Ontarians, I don’t have a family doctor. I’m scared of getting sucked in to a scam or someone who has no idea what they’re doing, and the web is a tangle of sponsored sites.

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t know the Canadian health system (though I envy it from afar…I envy it).

      Does your workplace have an Employee Assistance Program? They might do referrals.

      I found my therapist by asking friends for recs, and, because he is TEH AWESOME, deeded him to others. At one point I think at least 4 people I know were going to him, and the overflow were going to someone else who shared office space with him.

      You have some awkward phone calling ahead of you I think.

      I’d start with:
      Friends. Email a couple of people. “I have a few things I’d like to talk over with a psychologist or social worker, does anyone know a good one?”
      Even if you have no “family doctor,” who is the last doctor you saw for any reason? OBGYN? Ask that person for a referral. (Doctors: Used to this question).
      If your workplace has an EAP hotline, check that out.
      Whenever you get any mental health people on the line (and they seem receptive), ask follow-up questions. They also may have a binder or a list with all sorts of helpful numbers.

      You may not click with the first person, but you can ask them for recommendations when you break up with them, and they’re trained not to make that weird.

      Other ideas, commenters?

      • I found two amazing therapists via Google Maps reviews. Seems like a potentially shaky means to rely on, but it was all I had at the time and it didn’t steer me wrong in those two cases.

      • If you’re affiliated with a university at all, ask the health center or the women’s center for referrals (even if you don’t identify as a woman, they should at least be able to point you in the right direction). I found my amazing therapist by doing an intake interview at my campus’s counseling center; the person who talked to me asked me if I had preferences for what kind of therapist I’d like, and I said that my only absolute requirement was that they be a feminist. They said “Got it” and printed out a list of four or five people for me to call, and I clicked with the first one.

      • Megan said:

        I found a multi-service clinic in my town whose mission I was totally on-board with, and they provide counseling in addition to medical services. Otherwise, I highly, highly recommend calling a community help line and asking for a referral. I’ve worked at a couple rape/DV crisis lines, and we always keep a list of counselors in the area who do a good job of working with those specific issues, as well as a list of counselors to never recommend to anyone, ever. I’m in the US, but if there’s a 211 or area mental health crisis line in Ontario, they should have a list like that.

        I also cannot stress enough that if your first counselor doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean that counseling isn’t going to work for you. I’ve had too many friends forgo needed counseling because the first person they worked with wasn’t a fit for them, and instead of talking about it or trying to find someone else, they just stopped going. It sucks and can be scary to advocate for yourself with a counselor, but any counselor who is any good knows they won’t click with everyone, and should be able to help you get hooked up with someone who will work for you.

      • stella said:

        I want to emphasize the point other commenters made about clicking with a therapist. Use either a phone call, or your first appointment, to interview the therapist: go with a list of questions, and they can range from credentials and experience with your particular issues, to methodology and approach, to the philosophy of the client-therapist relationship. You can probably google for lists of questions to use for therapist interviews.

        After your first session, sit down with a cup of tea, the checklist, and a journal, and check in with yourself about how you feel in relationship to this person, how you felt about their answers, whether you felt reasonably comfortable or could imagine feeling so (first therapy sessions are sort of inherently UNcomfortable), whether you liked the space, whether there was anything that particularly appealed to you, or made you uncomfortable, or intrigued you. It is 100% OK to decide that you just don’t quite click with this person, even if you cannot identify or articulate the reasons why. You might feel like you have to be a compliant “good girl” and respect the Authority Figure unless you have bona fide iron clad reasons why they are unacceptable. Ignore that feeling! Kill it till it is dead! Therapy is a relationship that involves very basic trust and safety issues. You get to veto anything that doesn’t seem to make the grade even if you can’t say why.

        A lot of people recommend that you plan up front to interview at least 3 or 5 therapists before deciding. (And it is perfectly ok to tell them all this in the first session.) This can help you resist the temptation to compliantly agree to enter therapy with the first person you talk to. It can also be super helpful, especially if you’ve never had any experience with therapy before, just to encounter a variety of people, styles, spaces, and approaches, to help you get a clue about what kind of things might matter to you.

    • Cady said:

      Ontario does not automatically equal Toronto, but you might find a few ideas at http://therapytoronto.ca/

    • Lis said:

      At the very least, you can make sure your prospective therapist is a member of a professional organization that makes sure he/she has appropriate training and will dump him/her if there’s proof of a serious ethical breach. Those include the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, The College of Psychologists of Ontario, and the Ontario Psychological Association.

  11. Copcher said:

    “I’m a big fan of believing people when they break up with you and taking them exactly at their word.”

    Total agreement on this. Especially when people are being unreasonable (but even when they aren’t), I think the best thing you can do is respond to what they say, not what you think they want you to figure out from the hints they might be giving you. If your mom really doesn’t want you in her life, it probably won’t feel great if you force her to accept you back. If she’s bluffing, she can reconnect with you. Which is not to say that it’s easy to just accept and let go, but it’s probably nicer for you than engaging with the drama again. And, like others suggested, framing it as “We’re not talking at the moment,” rather than as “I have no family anymore,” might make it a little easier.

  12. Lyla D. said:

    I feel for you, LW, because your story is a little reminiscent of my mother’s. Her mother was very controlling and somewhat emotionally abusive (something I think my mom only dared say aloud after my grandmother died).

    One of the times the manipulation/difficulty kicked up was during my parent’s engagement and wedding. Partially because my grandmother wasn’t entirely approving of my father (much like your beau, he was not inclined to put up with the bullshit), but I think a bigger part was due to the fact that the marriage meant a loosening of my grandmother’s control over my mom. You’re in an independent situation, and I do wonder if all of this (criticism of the home you have ON YOUR OWN, the potential marriage to a man who will probably have more say and stake in your life than your mother) isn’t somehow related to your mom’s loosening grip on things in addition to the lack of attention being focused on her.

    …Though the reasons probably don’t matter in the bigger scheme because, as the Captain says, the actions are what really speak. Mostly I just wanted to add to the ‘you’re not alone’ anecdotes to drive home the idea that, regardless of any motives your mother has, I think you’ve done a terrific job of maintaining your sane, sensible choices and I fully want to encourage you to keep up the good work. Getting away to be with the in-laws was a stroke of genius, as I’m sure anything you could have done at that point would have been the “wrong” thing to your mum, given the roll she was on. But that was a break that allowed you some peace. I’m in full support of taking any other ‘peace breaks’ you may need if your mother tries to re-establish contact.

  13. Lesley said:

    LW, I want to say something about your relationship with your boyfriend. At the end of your letter, you write “BF (who comes from a normal, stable family) wants to have nothing to do with my family ever again, which to some extent I totally sympathise with.”

    I want to caution you about this idea. There can exist an imbalance between partners about whose family is “normal” and whose is “insane.” Every family has problems. Having problems is normal. If his family doesn’t seem to have any problems, that’s just superficial.

    The reason point this out is not to poke holes in your very top-notch BF, but to prevent an emotional imbalance. I have seen many friends, a sister-in-law, and two of my own long-term relationships create a sense that Family A is “normal” while Family B is “insane.” This creates a sense that nothing Family B does is valuable or good or loving while everything Family A does must be good and wonderful and appreciated — even when Family A makes someone feel uncomfortable or pulls some weird shit.

    Your relationship with your mom will take time but for now it does not require your effort. In the meantime, don’t let anyone push you down for being the “product” of a “dysfunctional childhood.” We all struggle through relationships with our biological families and no one is immune. Parents secretly hate each other or abuse each other and siblings have unhealthy relationships even when the superficial interaction looks just fine. Some people just suffer less than others or hide it better.

  14. Crys said:

    “Didn’t you know that your personal romantic choices are a referendum on a) your mom’s entire life and b) how you feel about her?”

    HA add “theological opinions, political preferences, life philosophy and morality, college choices, life choices, career choices” after “personal romantic choices” and you have my mother down PAT! She literally told her friends in front of me that I had decided to have a “flirtation with atheism” just to annoy her.

    I also have a great guy in my life who really doesn’t want anything to do with her after witnessing some epic freakouts, but now we can get by with short episodes of mom time. He agrees to not stir the pot and is learning what trigger sentences to avoid a blow-out, I pay up later in sex and in sucessfully reducing the number of visits without her suspecting why, everyone wins and I don’t have to give either person up completely!

  15. Letter Writer said:

    I know it’s been a long time since I wrote this, but I read all of the responses pretty much as they happened, I just didn’t know what to say back to you all other than THANK YOU.

    Like the Cap’n and someone else said, reframing my mother’s ‘disowning’ as my ‘taking some time away from my badly behaving mother’ massively helped how I felt about what happened.

    Funnily enough, the split from my mother made me realise something else – that while BF is a wonderful, awesome, brilliant person, a big factor in our relationship was that my mother wanted grandchildren ASAP and the quickest way to achieve that for her would be to stay in a relationship with BF.

    So now he’s ex-BF (despite being one of the nicest, sweetest people in the known universe), which sucks in plenty of ways but we both think is the right thing to do for us right now.

    Maybe one day I’ll marry him – or someone else. If I do, it won’t be because they arranged a flash mob to propose.

    Thank you again everyone, for your kind comments and helpful thoughts.

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