#343: My mum refuses to meet my new boyfriend.

Tiny Christmas Tree with Omar Little Finger Puppet

Looks like Omar comin’ early this year. 

Hi Captain,

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.

Thank you,

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.

45 comments
  1. As an expert on asshole intrusive delusional manipulative moms (mums?), I agree with the Captain that the only way to begin the process of extingushing her horrible behavior is to punish her for it. And for these fuckers, that punishment *has* to include withdrawing from them what they want: you in her presence with her manipulating you and making her the center of attention.

    For this reason, I strongly favor Plan #1 over Plan #2. She acted like a fucken asshole, and now she gets none of you. No negotiation, no cajolery, no nothing. If you go with Plan #2, then you invite negotation, cajolery, manipulation, histrionics, etc, by being in town for the holiday, and you potentially enmesh other family members in the drama (which will be rewarding to her).

    • Alphakitty said:

      Usually I envy other people’s expertise… Not this time!

    • TheOtherAlice said:

      Yep. I agree on Plan 1 over Plan 2. My mum has these big drama-fits too, and all I can say is ‘do not negotiate’. While you going home and staying with others may not feel like negotiating to you, it will to her. If you choose Plan 2, I would lay out before hand where you’re going, how long you’re spending with your mum and whether and how she’s meeting the partner. And then don’t budge. If there’s a sympathethic relative, maybe try recruiting them? You don’t have to create drama, a simple ‘mum seems to have some issues with my partner so we’re doing this and not that this year’ should work.

  2. Daisy said:

    Huh. I had a rather different take on this from the Captain. Hesitant to post this in case I’m being massively unfair, but *how* did LW’s mom find out the last boyfriend didn’t like her? Did LW tell her? And LW is just guessing about her mom’s reasons for not wanting to meet her new boyfriend. She hasn’t actually had that conversation.

    Also she says herself that she’s massively angry with her mom, and she wants to show her how unfair she’s being. I just get a very strong impression that LW is doing something to entangle the boyfriend into her mom issues, whether by talking to the boyfriend about the mother, to the mother about the boyfriend, or both, and that LW’s mom’s fears are not quite as out of the blue and unreasonable as they’re being presented here.

    I’m projecting here. I had huge issues with my mother when I was younger and went through a thing where I really needed validation from outside people that my mum’s behavior and the way she talked to me was genuinely Not Okay, because I didn’t get that from people inside my family (the unwritten rule in my family was that my parents were literally never wrong.)
    And although I didn’t repeat back the contents of the conversations to my mother, she did pick up that I was complaining about her to other people, and naturally took a strong dislike to the people I talked to, because, she told me while she sobbed, I was spending hours telling them that she was “the mother from hell.” (Happily, she doesn’t do the dramatic martyr thing any more and we get on really well these days.)

    Anyway. I don’t know that my advice would be different from the Captain’s even if I’m right about the similar dynamic to my own situation. Holidays apart from the family sounds like a good idea. Just, I guess, if there is any tendency on LW’s part to use the boyfriend as a shield or a weapon against her mom, to be aware she does that, take responsibility for it, and know both that it’s a temporary crutch till her own emotional boundaries get stronger, and that until she stops doing it good boyfriend-mother relations will be impossible.

    • Daisy said:

      Sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed LW is female, that’s another aspect of me projecting my own situation here!

    • tcheasdfjkl said:

      You know, I don’t agree at all that talking to one’s partner (or good friends) about one’s parents – including about negative aspects of one’s family interactions – is something to be avoided, or a last resort, or something that should justifiably make parents angry at those people. It’s true that seriously bad-mouthing one’s family to others in unfair ways is mean and unnecessary – and selectively recounting only bad things isn’t great either – but selectively recounting only good things is just as false and unnecessary and probably not a good thing. I think being open with one’s partner about one’s home life is perfectly normal and not to blame for problematic partner-parents relations – if that honesty makes one’s partner hate one’s parents, then either the partner is being unreasonable or it’s the parents who are to blame by doing problematic things in the first place.

      • zweisatz said:

        Yeah, I don’t get the point where it makes sense for the parent to dislike the person you were talking to about them. 1) It’s healthy to talk with people who are close to you about things that upset you. 2) If they don’t like the parent based on what you told them maybe it’s because your parents are not nice.
        Either way, why would anyone not want to see the new boyfriend because they disliked the old one? Massively manipulative.

        • tcheasdfjkl said:

          Yes, you just said what I was trying to say much more concisely and clearly. 😀

    • gaijinrei said:

      As I understood it, LW’s mum only found out that the last boyfriend didn’t like her after the breakup. We can only speculate as to how that information came out, but I don’t actually think that kind of reveal about a person who is no longer in your life is that unusual; it can come out as part of the “here is a long list of things about my ex that bugged me” catharsis.

  3. remi said:

    I think the visiting-his-parents plan sounds pretty good. If the LW really wants to make a point to her mother, this would be a way to do it — spend Christmas with the mother who is welcoming and friendly to her child’s new partner, rather than the mother who throws a fit and insists the new partner isn’t allowed to come because the last partner didn’t like her. There will be other Christmases to come, and if the LW’s mom learns something then you can spend those Christmases with her, at least some of them. If the LW’s mom does not learn something and is still throwing fits because she’s not the most popular girl in school, try another plan.

  4. tinyorc said:

    Also super in favour of Plan #1, and totally in agreement with the Captain that doing something entirely different for the holidays could be liberating in ways that don’t involve your mother (“See, the family didn’t collapse because I didn’t spend time with them at this completely arbitrary juncture!”) My family are super-OMG CHRISTMAS THE SACRED TIME THAT WE ARE A FAMILY TOGETHER and anyone who tries to deviate from that is inviting serious drama.

    LW, invite that drama. Invite that drama but keep yourself and your boyfriend aloof from it. Your mum is going to throw a shit fit no matter what you decide, because she is wrong and irrational and trying to manipulate you. There is definitely some deeper stuff going on here, deeper than “I have weird paranoia about any boyfriend you ever have liking me based on one negative experience.” Maybe you will find out what that stuff is one day, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll want to help her deal with it on that day in the distant future, but maybe you won’t and that is okay, because ultimately it is not your issue.

    Let her have her tantrum and let her see that her tantrum has absolutely no effect on you or your boyfriend (even though you will probably inevitably find it quite upsetting because she is your mother, but she doesn’t have to know that.) When she see that tantrums and manipulation are getting her nowhere, she may come to a place where she can be honest and talk about what is really bothering her. But until she is willing to do you that courtesy, you have absolutely no obligation to bring yourself or your boyfriend into her line of fire.

  5. Ugh. My mom didn’t want to even *talk* about my new boyfriend. Not when I told her I was seeing someone, not when I told her it was getting serious, not when I was leaving town to visit him. I brought him up, she changed the subject. She didn’t even acknowledge I had mentioned him before she started talking about something else. It got to the point where I was going to visit him, she was driving me into work so I could leave my car with her while I was out of town, and she asked me why I was traveling. Because she had *forgotten* I was going to visit him, that’s how hard she avoided the subject.

    So I went ahead and got engaged to him, and she exploded all over me like a shaken up can of totally irrational and unexpected fury on hot day when I told her. Among the gems of what she said to me were that I should have brought him home to meet her because that’s what people do before they get engaged to someone. To this day, five years later, she has yet to acknowledge how deeply fucked up that was. For our part, we moved 2000 miles away and will likely never move back.

    I realize this is more of a related story comment and less of a feedback comment. but I guess if there’s a takeaway that applies to the LW’s situation, it’s that i recommend scenario 1. After all that, I’d spend the whole visit furious and spoiling for a fight. Better to just find something that won’t make you miserable and do that.

  6. My question is why do you want to bring home your boyfriend who you’ve been with for less than a year to meet the family for the first time during the stressful Christmas season?

    Yes, you brought your EX boyfriend with you to Christmas every year, but he was a different person, now you’re with someone else who the family hasn’t met. Is it appropriate to bring him to the Christmas party? Does your family do a big thing or is it intimate and may it be awkward for him? Did they buy your ex gifts? what are they supposed to do for this guy they haven’t met? Was your Ex invited because he was sort of “Adopted” into the family after so much time?

    Mostly I’m thinking of how weird it is going to be, for HIM, are you going to have uncles asking what happened to whats-his-name? I don’t know your family, so I’m just suggesting that you think about it from that angle a bit. And maybe also think about your family’s relationship with your ex? Love?Hate?Torture? Because whatever it is it will still be around coloring their relationship with the new guy. Less than a year is not even long enough for my family to remember my new boyfriend’s name, or that I even HAVE a new boyfriend.

    That is not to say that I think your mom is in any way in the right, since you’re serious about this guy then she should definitely meet him and get over her stuff. But be careful about deciding that you are going to do Christmas a certain way just to keep your mom from “winning.” Depending on your family dynamic both you and your partner could end up losing, you lose a fun Christmas with family, and he loses a mutual good first impression with your family.

    You know your family best to gauge how awkward the new boyfriend at Christmas situation is going to be for you and him. If it were me I would decide based on whatever is going to be the most fun and drama free Christmas for both of us.

    • SadieBlake said:

      I kind of agree on this point. Bravely Facing The Most Awkward Christmas Ever award goes to the boyfriend I had met online… who took a nine-hour flight from another country visit me for a week in December, timing his visit so that he’d be back home just in time for holidays with his family… who then, due to a literal Blizzard Of The Century, was grounded on my side of the pond for Christmas. Luckily my folks are lovely and accommodating, and put together a last-minute stocking and couple of gifts for him… but I find myself wishing I had already established my own holiday rituals so that we could have just bunked off and done our own thing. It probably would have saved everyone – especially him! – some anxiety and probably embarrassment, and left us with some nice Holidays-On-Our-Own type memories.

      Also, it’s five years later and I am only just now looking forward to establishing new holiday-time practices with Mr.Blake. Because we moved halfway across the country. And I am super excited to do the holidays my way, and not be a slave to family traditions (such as We Must Decorate! and If You Love Them You Must Go Broke Buying Gifts! and Tree! There Must Be A Tree!).

      It is quite liberating. So there’s that to consider.

    • Britt said:

      I think that’s *entirely* subjective, and that a year for many people is quite a long time to be dating and not have a certain amount of overlap with family and with holidays/birthdays/etc. Obviously YMMV, every situation is different, but if I was with someone for close on a year and my family wouldn’t even entertain the notion of said partner joining us for holiday festivities, I’d be pretty livid.

      I do agree though that whatever the choice is, it should be made based on solely what will make the LW (and boyfriend) happy, not what mom’s opinion will be one way or another. If she’s determined to be unhappy or to not give your boyfriend a chance, odds are that nothing you do is going to change that either way anyway.

      (For what it’s worth, LW, the first thing I thought of is that perhaps your mom is attempting to make you choose between her and your boyfriend with the hopes that she’ll win and won’t “lose” you to another relationship. Just something to consider, I guess.)

      • Some couples get married in less than a year.

        • DWM said:

          Yup. I met my spouse’s parents on a Christmas Day at a movie – after we had been dating for only five weeks. We were married before the next Thanksgiving. It happens.

      • SadieBlake said:

        Whoops – sorry, Britt and everyone, you’re totally right. My agreement wasn’t with the “less than a year is too soon” part (Mr.Blake proposed after six months, so yeah…) but rather with the “new relationship status at major holiday, especially with family drama, might be really uncomfortable for boyfriend” part. Which is where the Foreign Stranded Boyfriend story comes in.

        In the end, only LW and LW’s new partner can decide what’s too soon, or too uncomfortable, or right. I meant to be more enthusiastic over pointing out that, especially if family drama is happening, We’ll Make Our Own Holiday Thankyouverymuch can be a very freeing and fun option.

        • Yeah I don’t think the time is quite as important as the timing. It is totally reasonable to introduce your partner to your family within a year. Just, is Christmas the ideal time? That’s going to depend on your family.

          (For me, it is for sure no. They take forever to process change. My Aunt tried to change the Christmas menu from ravioli and roast beef and there was a non zero amount of complaining. Oy. Trying to bring home a new partner during Christmas would be a straight line to a terrible Christmas for both of us. )

    • Elikit said:

      I tend to agree, Shinobi. She broke up with the ex “this year” and even if that happened on New Years Day, and she started dating the new boyfriend the very next day, that’s still just barely 9 months of dating. Why the rush to shoehorn him into the family.

      The first Christmas I spent with my ex’s family was hella awkward (like his sister gave my ex a scrapbook of his life that included a double digit number of pics of his ex, and zero of me, and then we all went on a roadtrip for a week! Whee!) and it wasn’t even the first time I met them.

      On the other hand, mum sounds controlling and with the rest of the family rallying around her to blame the LW for her ex not liking her mum, it sort of sounds like a bit of a sick system. I’d be leaning more towards hesitant rather than eager, to introduce a partner to that.

      And where is the boyfriend in the midst of all this drama? Does he even want to go? Because it sounds like it’d be an uphill battle for him with your family.

      • JenniferP said:

        What is this judgment about:

        How long the LW has been dating the new bf & when she started dating the new one?
        Bringing your partner home to meet your family being trying to “shoehorn” him into the family?

        The old boyfriend doesn’t count anymore. There is no “decent interval” where the LW must wear mourning. His behaviors/likes/dislikes are not transitive to the new situation. There is only new boyfriend.

        Everyone might have a different schedule when it feels right to introduce a new dating partner to their family, which depends on the family, the partner, their own feelings, and logistics. I met the Gentleman Caller’s family about 3 months in, because they were coming to town, and because he’s really close to them and was excited for us to meet each other. I’m taking him home at the end of next month to meet my folks, which will be right around the 8-9 month mark. I’m not really worried that my family will be confused and ask “But…where is Intern Paul? You were with him for so long!”

        If the LW is excited about the holidays and introducing her new dude, and trying to plan ahead to find a fare (we don’t know how far they have to travel, maybe this is her one trip home for a good while), I don’t think she’s breaking the social contract. People need to get over their whole “But X Holiday is ALWAYS celebrated exactly like this and any deviation is doing it wrong” thing anyway, especially when it comes to adult children.

        • I probably win at lack of “decent interval” when I started seeing my now-husband, but it would only have been a problem if family decided to make it a problem. They were welcoming and not jerks, so…no problem.

    • Grant said:

      Strangely, I had a similar situation with break-ups and Christmas.

      I broke up with my bf of a little over two years in February. I met an awesome guy in August. A few months later, he asks me what I’m doing for Christmas. (As he’s British, we’re in California, and he’s not the biggest fan of his family.) I tell him I’m going back to Alaska to have Christmas with my family. He responds, “Can I come?”

      Weirdly, I hadn’t even thought about inviting him. My ex and I always spent Christmas with our respective families (which lets be honest, after being together for three Christmases, that should have probably been a red flag right there). So I said, “Sure, let me make sure it’s fine.” (as he hadn’t met my family yet nor did they know I was even dating someone new at that point.)

      Of course it was fine, because my family is pretty laid back like that. He arrived late on a Saturday, and Sunday we had breakfast as usual, and told him that I was being forced to work at their shop that day, and he could come and work too, if he wanted. The other option was to go spend the day with my sister and her family (slightly awkward, but don’t have to work, so a bonus in my opinion), but he was a trooper and did the work thing for a few hours.

      The one Christmas we’ve spent with his parents was a bit less fun. Of the four we’ve been together, three have been in Alaska, and one in the UK. We’re planning on Alaska again, just because my family is so much more pleasant to be around.

      I honestly don’t see an issue with inviting people home for Christmas if they’re new to the family. That’s just me though. I know it’s a personal issue for everyone. Although it sounds like LW’s mother might be less open and welcoming than my family is…

    • Piemouth said:

      I tend to agree. It’s certainly true that Mum is acting like an idiot and it’s tempting to insist that she meet him so you “win”, but do you really want the grief that this is going to stir up? An easy way to avoid it would be to visit without the boyfriend. Can you really not stand to be apart for a few days?

      I’ll admit that my bias is to postpone introducing boyfriends to family because it just always feels awkard and difficult, but I would like to point out that you don’t have to do it if it would be easier not to.

      • Alphakitty said:

        Oh, no no no no no! You don’t reward mum’s power play by going alone, or you’re asking for more. My rule of thumb is that if there are two people who should be able to share a person’s time/attention/friendship, and they can’t because one of them is deliberately being difficult, the troublemaker is the one who loses out.

        • TheOtherAlice said:

          Yeah, I totally agree. This would have been a reasonable option right up until Mum made it all about choosing between them. Sadly, going alone = her winning in her eyes.

  7. Lilly said:

    This situation sounds very tough on the boyfriend. If I were in his position I don’t think I would want my first meeting with Partner’s Shunning Mum to be during the holidays when things tend to get quite tense anyway. I think I would ask my partner to try to sort things out and then I could meet Mum for a shorter time on neutral ground some other less fraught time. It would be horrible to be stuck for the holidays with Tense, Angry Family of Partner with no real means of escape.

    LW, that’s why I think the Capn’s first suggested plan is a very good one to get some space for you and your relationship and to let your Mum understand that she can’t win by trying to manipulate you. I think there are likely deeper issues going on here because it seems completely unreasonable for your Mum to decide that your new bf is somehow in some sort of Secret League of Hating Club with your ex-bf or that you somehow have a sort of aura of mother-hating boyfriendness around you.

    • Yeah, I actually agree with this. (But then again, I come from family that made it clear in my teen years that Boyfriends Are Not Welcome For The Holidays, Period, No Exceptions Even If You’re Engaged, and I really wouldn’t want to deal with the drama of bringing one then anyway.) Better to expose relatives who are guaranteed to hate your SO for short periods of time like one meal and then they can leave, rather than a week of being trapped by Christmas. Though if this drama is already blowing up in September, I guess that gives you a few months to attempt to get her used to the idea, so you could try a dinner before now and then.

      This secret mother hating club thing is reminding me of Scott Pilgrim and the League of Evil Exes. But let’s face it: there was probably some very good reasons here for her ex to not like her mother if her mother acts like this. My exes have been driven nuts by my family too, so it’s…just understandable when the crazy kicks in.

  8. elodierose said:

    I admit my advice would be a little different from the Captain’s.

    If I were LW I would not bring New Boy along when Mum has made it very clear she does not want him there. Whatever you think of her reasons, she has set a clear boundary, and I think she has the right to dictate who she welcomes into her home as a guest for the holidays, or even for a family dinner. Its her home, and she does get to decide that. If you bring him anyway, you’re violating a boundary she has given you.

    New Boy’s feelings should come into play here too, and they weren’t mentioned. In his shoes I imagine I would feel entirely uncomfortable attending a family gathering with at least one person who had asked I not attend. Maybe ask him what options he’s comfortable with too?

    Also consider that if this guy is going to be a serious part of your life, that you want to make sure you have a good chance of building a good relationship between him and your family down the line. That might mean picking your battles with this Christmas – not necessarily giving in to her, but just not inviting him out of spite, or trying to hurt her in return over it.

    Consider that the issues your mum is having with this might be better worked through without the pressure of such a time limit (ie, “be ok with this by Christmas or else you’re a bad person”) and that taking Christmas off the table as she has requested might open the door to your New Boy building a relationship with your mum and relatives more slowly. You’ll only know if this is the case by talking it through with your mum, listening to her side and not being too quick to dismiss her opinions or feelings.

    • Esti said:

      I think this is really solid advice. LW, I have no idea from your letter why your mom is saying no to bringing this guy home–it sounds like you haven’t directly talked to her about that and are guessing a bit–but even if it’s an incredibly unreasonable reason, I don’t think the solution is to bring the guy home anyway. Even if you stay at a hotel/with another family member, that’s going to create massive awkwardness (your poor boyfriend!) and will definitely start things off on the wrong foot between this guy and your family. If you want to spend Christmas with your boyfriend, then I think you should tell her that you two will be doing the holiday together and since he’s not welcome at her place, you won’t be able to come either.

      But if you haven’t already, I’d have a conversation with her about why she doesn’t want you to bring the new guy home. Maybe she really is being as ridiculous as “the last guy didn’t like me so no more boyfriends visiting for you!” But maybe it’s “when you brought Old Boyfriend home I felt like I didn’t get any time with just us, and now that there isn’t a set pattern of bringing New Boyfriend home, I was hoping we could have a year when we spent a bunch of time just the two of us.” Or maybe it’s “you never mentioned this new guy before you told me you wanted to bring him for Christmas, and I don’t want to meet him for the first time at a big holiday with all the family here for several days when I’m stressed out and already feel like too much is going on.” Or maybe she’s thinking–unfairly or not–“last time I welcomed one of your boyfriends into my home it turned out he said nasty things about me behind my back that you relayed to me after the breakup, and I’m feeling kind of hurt by that and don’t want to have another stranger in my home over the holidays who I’ll feel uncomfortable around even if I know he isn’t responsible for what the last boyfriend did.”

      I’m not saying any of those is definitely correct or reasonable or that you need to agree with them. Just that it’s probably worth a conversation about what her concerns are before you go with the scorched earth policy.

    • You’ll only know if this is the case by talking it through with your mum, listening to her side and not being too quick to dismiss her opinions or feelings.

      Based on the behavior already described, I consider it extraordinarily unlikely that the LW’s mom/mum is at all reachable by “talking it through”. People who exhibit behavior like that are almost always incapable of understanding any communication other than through an extreme filter that renders it down into something that supports their preconceived conceptual model of reality. They cannot be reasoned with, and the only way to influence their behavior is with reward and punishment.

  9. – go to Family Christmas alone, allow new boyfriend to meet your family in a normal, neutral, actually enjoyable situation (perhaps at you own place.)

    – go to boyfriend’s family for Christmas. Your gentlemen have families too, and it isn’t fun to ditch your own kinfolk to spend your holiday on eggshells, playing courtier for New Girlfriend’s Queen Mama Bee.

    fuck off to Marrakech with your lover and spend the holiday blessedly free of fuckery really, why not go somewhere else? If your Mother Expects Marriage and Children from you, she’ll have to get used to the fact that a third of your Christmases will be for your in-laws and a third for your own family – so she’ll have to get used to it. As well as valuing the time you spend all the more!

    Also since it sounds like you’re maybe from the UK/Europe, it seems like lots of nice pubs/restaurants are taking bookings for fancy Christmas dinners, so you won’t have to drag yourself around like a hungry Dickens martyr if you choose not to go at all.

  10. Grant said:

    The other half has issues with his mother saying really inappropriate things about our relationship. She has an issue with my weight for one, and she has made comments to him about my weight and his. Finally, he had to say, “Look, what you’re saying is not okay, and I don’t like it. If you want to be a part of my life, you need to stop saying these things. If you continue saying them, I will stop all communication with you.”

    To be honest, she’s gotten quite a bit better about things. It definitely worked for us. I don’t know if something like that would work for you. It sounds like you may be a bit closer with your family than my other half is with his, which is why he felt it was that easy to just say that. I’m a lot closer with mine, but they are also not quite as difficult, which is why we make the effort to see them at Christmas (although I’ve been trying to get them to come spend Christmas with me for ages, it’s just that as they are in retail, they are basically busy up until 3:00 pm on Christmas Eve, which doesn’t make a lot of time for travel around the holidays). We fly half way across the world to visit them, while we could easily just drive 30 minutes to see the in-laws.

    I agree with things above though, either just don’t go for a year (it won’t kill you) to show her that if she tells you things, then you’ll choose your bf over her, or do it anyway and let her get annoyed, or even do what my other half did and just say that you won’t put up with her behavior, and if she continues to behave that way you will stop seeing her (that way it puts a bit of the power in your court as you get to be the one that ends contact, not her telling you that you can’t come).

  11. Sarah in Tokyo said:

    Forgive me if this has been mentioned, as I’ve only skimmed the comments, but how exactly does declaring “I NEVER WANT TO MEET YOU NEVER EVER EVER” supposed to make someone not dislike you?

    • Oops, I missed your comment! But that was my immediate reaction as well.

    • jenfullmoon said:

      I guess she’s decided to declare war right off the bat, and “making him like her” is no longer an option?

  12. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, you’re not going to get your mom to see how manipulative and childish she’s being, because people like your Mom never think they are in the wrong. So take CA’s advice and set up some mile-high boundaries and start creating your own holiday plans. Whether single or partnered, they will serve you well.

  13. Sheelzebub said:

    Though I will say this–I’m not for first meetings to be over the holidays, anyway. They are too fraught. When I’m dating someone, we tend to spend the holidays with our own families and maybe call/text during the day to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Thanksgiving.” If things are serious (which doesn’t happen right away with me), he may drop by or I may drop by his family’s place during a holiday, but I take things very, very slowly. And if they meet my parents (again, it has to be serious), the first meeting is not during a holiday. It’s brief and casual.

    • Lucy said:

      Personally, that becomes a good point in favor of bringing people home during the holidays. When we’re expecting thirty-five guests (casual, you know, as opposed to last year’s fifty), and my mom is really letting her control freak flag fly and my dad is alternating between being passive-aggressive to my mom and shouting at me and my sister for no reason, my friends and significant others can see clearly what I have to deal with all the time, and they’re way more sympathetic and less likely to play devil’s advocate or do that whole “They’re your PARENTS, and they’re SO NICE!” thing when I complain about them.

  14. Man, you know what would really make me not like a person? Finding out that they refuse to ever meet me, on the off-chance that I won’t like them. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.

  15. I just want to challenge the “normally” part at the beginning, about how normally you go home for a few days and take your BF. That was the old normal, with the old BF. It seems like normal because you did it for years, but it was a temporary normal.

    If it were a permanent normal, you would be bringing your ex with you for a few days! He was the guy you did that normal with.

    Now you have a new guy, and that makes for a new normal. You were trying to squeeze him into the old normal, where you bring home whoever is wearing The Boyfriend hat at the time. Sometimes that works. In this case it doesn’t.

    Time to figure out a new thing to normally do for the holidays! Even if your mum comes around and says to bring him, it will be okay, you can still take this opportunity to make a new pattern in your life.

    I’m guessing that you squeezed your ex into your previous normal? Where you were single and normally went home for the holidays? Maybe in college or something? It’s totally a guess, though. I only make it in case I’m right that you had the idea of “Normally I go home for the holidays” when you were single. Then, once you got the boyfriend, you may have thought “since I go home, I should take my boyfriend”. New normal.

    It’s a burden sometimes to figure out a new normal, since we like our patterns even when they’re unhealthy. We know them. We are creatures of routine and tradition. But it’s also an opportunity to think about what patterns aren’t working for you, and develop new routines and traditions.

  16. I just want to play devil’s advocate here for LW’s mum. Seems like we’re all assuming the worst of her, without a great deal to go on. I certainly can’t argue with all the boundary setting and alternative plans advice – it’s all good. But I can kind of see how a person could get to that point:

    You’ve welcomed somebody into your home for seven years, and then suddenly found out they didn’t like you. Maybe you don’t know or understand why. You are hurt, feeling deceived, maybe shocked, maybe taking a hard look at your behaviour and slightly ashamed, maybe angry. You overreact. You say “I never want to meet any of your boyfriends again” much in the same way that in the midst of a hangover I may declare I never want to have a drink again. You say it because you don’t want to feel that way again.

    And yes it’s true that you can’t make everybody like you, but when the person in question is your daughter’s boyfriend then its natural to want them to like you – we want to get on with people in the lives of our loved ones because we want to love people who we love.

    Also wondering if your feeling LW that she blames you for ex not liking her is more that she feels hurt that she was the last to know and thinks maybe you should have told her. Though logically I can’t see how that would have gone well, but feelings aren’t always logical.

    So I don’t know – maybe I’ve painted her on the ‘angel’ side of a personality and she’s much closer to the manipulative devil that most people have assumed. But I think we can’t tell so much from the letter.

    I don’t have any better advice than was given other than to recommend an attempt at some communication – finding out what the issue is if mum will talk about it, maybe giving her some time to get over the “not being liked” hangover. Just wanted to offer a possible different perspective.

    • Oops – I also fell into trap of assuming LW was female. Sorry! Advice doesn’t change with gender though.

%d bloggers like this: