I’m trying to make plans for Christmas. Normally I visit my family for a few days, and bring my boyfriend with me. But this year I split up with my boyfriend of 7 years and have been seeing someone new, who my family haven’t met yet.
After my ex and I split up, my mum found out that he didn’t like her at all. Because of this, she’s refusing to let me come and stay at Christmas if I bring the new boyfriend, even though he’s not remotely in the wrong. She doesn’t want to meet him in case he also doesn’t like her, I guess – her and the rest of the family also blame me for the ex not liking her, despite her doing some fairly horrible things in front of him.
What should I do? I’m tempted to not go at all, but I’d rather somehow show my mum how unfair she’s being. I feel like saying “your second husband was abusive to me, and I didn’t hold it against the third husband – you would have thought it was very unfair if I had, right?” but I think that’ll just make her angry.
I could really do with a script or a plan for how to deal with this, I’m lost.
Stuck In the Middle
Wow, Stuck in the Middle, she’s really NEVER going to meet your boyfriend, just in case he doesn’t like her? And she thinks that his liking of her is somehow under your control, or that this new chap is somehow colluding with the ex to conspire not to like her, or that the dislike of her is somehow transitive between your various boyfriends so that this one must pay for the sins of the last one?
I am beginning to see your ex-boyfriend’s point re: Your Mum.
Because she is being as manipulative as fuck. She is trying to put you in the middle, but you don’t have to stay stuck there. So here’s a catch-all script for when she says ridiculous things like that. “Well, mom, he’s looking forward to meeting you, and I’ll just let him decide whether he likes you himself. I’m the one who you should worry about – this ultimatum is ridiculous. I really want to celebrate Christmas with you, but I need my partner to be welcome wherever I am welcome. Please reconsider.”
Or “Wow, mom. Yes, New Dude and Ex formed a We Hate You club. They have a weekly meeting, and have written a special We Hate You song. Or, no, that is not what happened, so howabout you tell me what’s really bothering you about the idea of meeting my new boyfriend and we’ll work this whole thing out?“
Ask her directly to make it right, give her a chance to undo the situation and save face. Then don’t contact her for a while. Let her stew.
In addition, I will offer you two possible plans. Note, these are Have A Happy Holiday With Least Amount of Stress plans, not Make Your Mum See What A Git She’s Being plans. Your mom wants to have a weird fight about whether old boyfriend liked her, whether that was your fault, whether new boyfriend will like her, whether you can control that, and whether she can control you by making you prove that you love her more than new boyfriend by coming home without him and dancing to her tune. She also wants you to think about this crap between now and Boxing Day. So the way I see it, any way you can avoid that fight and playing her silly reindeer games, you win.
Possible Plan #1: You said it: You’re tempted to not go home at all. Give into that temptation! You don’t have to go home for the holidays. Any holidays. It’s a choice. So take this nice new boyfriend of yours and/or your nice friends and make your own holiday plans that sound nice to you. Go see/meet his family. Go on holiday together. Celebrate in the manner of your choosing. Don’t just do it because your mom is being a pain, do it because it’s liberating to figure out your own way of celebrating and it can reset all the expectations about how things are “supposed” to be.
In the meantime, do not talk about the holidays at all with your family. You don’t want to have a discussion or give the impression that it’s up for negotiation. Keep everything light and vague (“We’re still figuring out what we’re going to do”, etc.) until you do have an actual plan. Present that plan as briefly as possible. “We’re going to do x, but of course I’ll call you on the day.“
A follow-up script you will likely need: “Mum, it’s not a NEGOTIATION, you told me not to bring him home so I’m not bringing him home. We’ll talk about this in the New Year, but right now my plans are firm.“
She’s going to throw some kind of shit-fit about it because that’s how she rolls. Those shit-fits are survivable.
Possible Plan #2: If he even wants to go at this point, take your boyfriend home for the holidays anyway. Combine making your life easier with respecting your mom’s right to choose her own house-guests and stay with another relative or in a hotel. Introduce him to relatives as you please, because it’s not fair that the threat of her disapproval and tantrum should cut you off from your kin and she’s not the only one with a say. When your mom gets upset (she will get upset), say “You asked me not to bring him home, but that’s not actually your decision to make, since I’m also related to these people and can celebrate Christmas with them if I want to. It’s not actually about you at all, which is why I decided to stay with Aunt _____ this year. Merry Christmas!“
It’s hard to walk the line of “If he’s not invited, then I’m not welcome either,” but you have to be prepared for that. You cannot let your family be shitty to your partner and expect him to just roll with it. So be prepared to leave if things get mean.
If I sound cranky, it’s because I am. The end of summer is TOO EARLY for end-of-year holiday guilt-trips. Letter Writer, it sounds like your mom is the reason she can’t have nice things, and you don’t have to cater to her whims about this.