A series of letters from people who are trying to disengage but don’t know how. There’s some really toxic addiction and abusive behavior described in some of the letters, so, know that going in.
Dear Captain Obvious,
My mom has always been on about how I look, but since I’ve turned 16 it seems to have gotten worse. She got me a fitbit that she makes me use (which I hate because it tells me I eat too many calories a day, even though it’s the recommended amount), made me diet with her, and constantly makes comments on how “I should go to the gym more,” even though I’m a perfectly healthy weight for my height. If i’m about to leave the house with no makeup on, she says “Oh why don’t you put a little foundation and mascara on before you go?” and is visibly embarrassed if she sees m in public wit none on. She also hates me wearing my glasses, as they “cover up my beautiful face” and will make more comments on them if I wear them outside the house instead of my contacts. My boobs aren’t very big, but my thighs are, so she’s always pushing me to wear push up bras and slimming clothes. It’s gotten to the point where I’m embarrassed to not be made up, am starting to obsess over my weight, and am just downright lacking in self-esteem. I’ve tried bringing it up before, but she either plays the victim or pretends like she never did any of that. Any advice on what I can do?
I’m only 16. I’m not a model.
Behind a cut for sexual coercion and general ickiness.
I’ve just spent weeks reading through your archives. I’ve learned so much and made lots of plans for how to better interact with parents, friends and colleagues. One of the subjects I read about a lot are difficult mothers and mothers in law.
My husband’s mom is emotionally abusive and very sad all the time. For a few years after marriage, I tried to tiptoe around her and keep the peace… Not that it ever prevented screaming fights or insults where I was mostly silently stunned and my husband resignedly grabbed his coat and we left. After we had some kids things got both better and worse. My mil LOVES our kids and the only times I’ve seen her smile is around them. However, the bad times were worse because now there’s more to fight about (The baby’s name is already on the birth certificate! Drop it! We’re not changing the name!) and also because I don’t want her to someday hurt my kids the way she does my husband.
A few years ago, we stopped having any contact after a particularly bad episode. Recently, my husband has stated talking about reconciliation. I’m hesitant. I can see about 100 negatives and only 2 or 3 positives.
I can see that the scripts and advice you’ve posted would work really well to help manage this relationship – if we go ahead with seeing her again. But, just the thought of it makes me so tired. It is stressful and exhausting before, during and after to interact with her. And even using your advice – it’s a lot of mental and emotional work, especially now that I’m worrying over my kids and my husband-keeping all five (5!) of them calm, quiet, and out of her rampaging danger zone. We live so far away, and the number of times we’ve flown and arrived tired and hungry and unpacked the suitcases and then packed up and left in tears before dinner…Well, it’s more than twice!
My husband is great, smart, easy -going, and a wonderful dad. He won’t reconcile without my support and help. So if I say no – it’s no. If I say yes, I have to go there WITH him to keep him steady and notice when the fighting has become too much and say, “it’s time to leave,” and drive away. I think he relies on me too much, but when I don’t want to see her, he won’t go.
She’s a lonely, sad woman who has driven away all of her family and friends. Is my exhaustion at the thought of having to “deal with her” a good enough reason to keep away?
Thank you for any advice you have.
P.S. If you have the magic combination of words that would convince her to see a therapist, I’d appreciate them.
Fulfilled and happy career gal, mom, and wife… Turned exhausted stressed-out shell by MIL
Hello and welcome to Awkwardland!
If your husband wants to try reconciling with his mom, I think it’s up to him to figure out a process that might work and to put supports in place for himself to make it possible, and I think that it’s okay for you to put the onus on him to do the work here.
It is the return of the Winter Pledge Drive here at Awkward Enterprises, where I rattle the tip jar and invite people to throw in a few $ if you like what we do here. You can contribute via PayPal, Dwolla, or (new!) cash.me/$CaptainAwkward. Your generous gifts help me keep the site going.
Now to today’s question, which involves some mentions of hoarding behaviors.
Edited to add additional follow-up from the Letter Writer below the jump.
Dear Captain Awkward,
First off, I want to let it be known that we are a family of Christians; I believe there is only one true God and that to be saved it must be through Jesus Christ. I have raised both my children “Paul” – 19 years old – and “Mary” – 24 years old – to be strong in faith and put their trust in God.
However, I fear for my daughter’s life. She recently confessed to me (this past summer) that she is seeing someone, let’s call him “Jim.” Jim is not who I want for my daughter and I worry that their incompatibilities and differences will lead to her being hurt.
One, his family is Catholic. We are a Baptist Christian family. I don’t believe in the teachings of Catholicism. Even worse, Jim is an atheist and does not believe in God and I feel that he will drag Mary down spiritually. This is the biggest thing that I am scared of, and while I have tried to tell Mary that she should break up with Jim for her own wellbeing, she will ignore me or pretend I didn’t say anything. It hurts me deeply that she would choose to ignore her own mother like this. She should know that God’s love is not to be taken lightly.
Secondly, We are a Chinese family and Jim is from an American family. I worry that the cultural compatibility will be an issue.
Three, Mary has a masters degree whereas Jim has only his bachelor’s. I feel that he will come to resent my daughter for having a higher education since he is the man in the relationship (and I have seen many relationships end because of this).
Four, I am scared that he will be a bad influence on Mary. He does not smoke or do drugs but according to Mary he does drink on occasion. Mary tells me she does not drink (she claims she does not see the point) but for how long until she gives into the temptation of drinking? What about peer pressure from hanging out with his family and his friends?
Five, I feel like Mary is settling in life and Jim is a result of that. Another example: She is in a marketing job and they are not paying her very well (only 40K and she has a masters degree). She says she loves it but I don’t think she does, I think she’s just trying to rebel against me. She doesn’t even listen to my suggestions that she move back home to Virginia (she lives in New York) to save on rent or so that I can help her grow.
Six, I am scared that Jim will pressure Mary to do sexual things. I have already warned her that her purity is an important gift from God, but I am so scared that she will ignore my pleas. And because Jim is a man, I am worried that he may rape her even if she says no.
Mary has always been very independent, but she is still young and not mature. I need help in making her realize that Jim is not a good person for her and that she will suffer in the long run as a result from being with him. If she does not break up with God, how can I help lead them back to God so that they can have a Christ-like relationship?
Can I say how much I love this LW’s original email subject line: “A Soap Opera Problem–families torn apart over money, demanding parents, undutiful daughters who are me, sons trying to bear the whole burden.” Yeah!!!!
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’d really appreciate your advice on a family problem. Dad grew up
privileged, then was mostly-disinherited and lost his job when I was a
kid. Instead of retrenching, he incurred debt. Mom demands luxuries,
cheats, and is an alcoholic prone to rages. Now Dad asks me and my
brother A for money constantly, always at crisis moments.
Dad always believes that his financial issues will be over soon.
Unfortunately there’s a company he has a part in being sold, meaning
he might get some money one day—there’s some basis in reality but not
enough. He refuses to sell his house, because he wouldn’t get enough
money, and claims to be always economising because he doesn’t go on
holidays though Mom does and he belongs to an elite gentlemen’s club.
A and I have precarious jobs in which we are paid in irregular lump
sums, so we have the money to give him. We both consider ourselves
lucky. The emotional toll of these emergency requests is huge. We also
cannot afford them. Over 5 years, between us we’ve given Dad over
I wrote to Dad saying his behaviour is disordered and deeply hurting
us. He refused to go to his bank with us, blamed A for not giving him
enough, and hardly seemed to have read my message. He’s past hearing.
Saying he’s a good father otherwise is asking Mrs Lincoln how she
enjoyed the play otherwise.
I tried cutting him off altogether years ago: it ended when my
siblings exerted pressure on me to do a family Christmas. I’m proud of
my siblings (A, B & C, all younger) for getting through our childhood,
but I’m the one who rocks the boat. A gives money to Dad without me
knowing, so as not to risk alienating me. A has a more optimistic view
of the situation. My sister B agrees with me mostly, but B and C are
more sheltered (by me and A). C is college age, still living with my
parents. He’s begun suffering from panic attacks. He plans to get out
of the house next year: I’ll help him.
I’m considering not going home this Christmas, but I know it’ll upset
my siblings and I want to see C as neither of us is great at
long-distance. If I do go I’d like a script for talking to A, and my
other siblings, about this, and to make a plan for us going forward,
in how we’re going to react to my parents and stick together. I’ve
asked A to promise me not to give money to my father without telling
me: so far he hasn’t promised. It would make me happy if I could get A
to agree on no more money given directly to my father.
Thank you so much.
–Saving Only Siblings