Comments on this thread are closed as of 8/17. Thank you.
Hi Captain Awkward,
My mother and my boyfriend HATE each other. I know you’ve heard this all before, and until now I’ve learned to just deal with it. Until now.
My mother is my supporter, I am currently a 19 year old undergraduate, about half way done my B.A. My mother has supported me my whole life, she always babied me. I didn’t have to work, pay any bills, as long as I was in school and getting good grades all was okay. Then this summer my long distance boyfriend from France, who I’ve been dating for 1 year and a half decided to come visit for a few months in our house. This is where they started hating each other. This won’t change no matter what, she even kicked him out of our house just last week, because they argue about stupid pointless things. Even though it has only been a year and a half, I love my boyfriend more than anything in the world. I know I want my future to be with him, and its important to me that I start my future with him.
My mother began agreeing that she would support me as long as I am in school, but recently she’s changed her mind. Now, either I go live with my boyfriend in France for 1 year (firstly, I don’t speak french so University and working is not possible), and then support myself in University in my homecountry Canada, or I am unable to live with my boyfriend for another 3 years or so. My mother has made it clear that whether were in the same city or not, if she’s supporting me, I am not allowed to live with him, and even if I attend school and live with him, her support for everything is gone. I need your help, because my mom is not someone you can sit with and have a reasonable calm conversation. She is illogical, and for her, as long as she’s paying, she doesn’t care what I have to say unless I’m doing exactly what she says.
Here’s my issue. Do I stay in school and stay in long distance/ not live with my boyfriend and basically say whatever to my relationship? I don’t want to do this because he makes me so happy, and I want to be able to live with him, we’ve been trying for this for a year to transfer schools to be together. Or do I go to Paris and then go back to school in Canada and depend significantly on him, and loans from the government? Should I leave school all together, and work until I am stable and can pay for myself? This option is also hard for me, I don’t know if I could do it. I’ve never supported myself and I know absolutely nothing about it, how would I make ends meet with no savings, no money at all?
So, basically, “solve my entire life, my two most important relationships, and my economic future in a blog post, please?”
I cannot promise to do any of that, but maybe I can help you form a basis for making a good decision.
I don’t know your mom or your boyfriend or what these arguments were about or who was starting them. It is possible that your mom is being unreasonably controlling and trying to sabotage your relationship with a really good man, and that this is a story about how you fight for your autonomy & your right to choose who you love. It is also possible that your mom has a little bit of age, experience, & distance from the situation and sees something about him that you do not. Maybe your boyfriend is an argumentative tool who picks a lot of fights. Maybe she thinks he doesn’t treat you well or that you will be unhappy. Maybe this is a story about a concerned parent wanting you to complete your education and figure out who you are and what you want outside of the context of some guy, even if he is a good guy. Maybe this is “I love you, but I do not think you are ready.”
Using purse strings to control & compel the personal life of an adult someone who is not you is:
a) Doomed. Even if the controlled person outwardly conforms to the rules you lay down, your relationship with them is destroyed forever and they will never trust you again. This is what your mom is risking by making this ultimatum.
b) A point in favor of narrative #1.
I can relate. When I was 19-20, I was involved with a guy I’d been with about a year. My second year of college we were long-distance, with me in DC and him in New York. My mom did not really like him and definitely did not want me taking the bus up to New York to see him. It was fine if he visited, but she did not want me to be running around New York when I was supposed to be studying (quite expensively & at considerable financial sacrifice to her) in D.C. I visited him anyway, she found out, and she threatened to pull financial support. Into this story-stew, shake a giant shaker of slut-shaming, teen pregnancy fears, and Catholic guilt & judgment and stir it up reaaaaaaaaaal good.
1) I think she was wrong to use money & education as a bargaining tool to control my sexuality & romantic life and it damaged our relationship severely.
2) That guy was an awful boyfriend and she was completely right in her assessment of his character & whether he was worth my time.
I don’t think my mom reads this blog, but just in case:
YOU WERE RIGHT ABOUT GREG
HE TURNED INTO A CLINGY STALKER
HE WAS TERRIBLE IN BED
THE MEMORY OF HIM MAKES ME CRINGE
MY GRADES & COLLEGE EXPERIENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER IF I HADN’T GONE TO NEW YORK SO MUCH
Letter Writer, you are not me, your mom is not my mom, your dude is not that dude, but that’s been on my chest for a while and if we solve nothing else in this post, I appreciate the opportunity to say Happy Mother’s Day, 1993-present. To counterbalance, a family member met her current husband when she had just started college and “her whole life was ahead of her” and a lot of voices were telling her not to settle down just yet. She took the lumps & the judgment, did what she thought was right, and in return got the love of her life.
My mom’s mistake was to try to control when she could not persuade. And that is one of your mom’s mistakes here, too. (There are others. We’ll get to them). And this relationship & these questions are things that you might want to sort out, at length, with a mentor or counselor.
However badly designed, your mom has put some choices in front of you and issued you a test. That test is called, “Okay, How Badly Do You Want This Dude?”
It is but one essay question on a larger test that you were always going to have to take eventually. The bigger test is called “What Do You Want Of This One Life That You Get?”
With the caveat that I think your mom is wrong to try to control you in this way, I want to try to look at this test as a thing made up of things that you would have to figure out for yourself anyway.
- Where do I want to live?
- What do I want to do?
- Is this guy a person I can make a happy life with?
- How will I support myself?
Here is your terrifying/comforting thought for the day:
Even if we could answer all these questions “correctly” right now, today–
Even if we could make a pretty good guess at an optimum path that will make you the most happy in the long run–
The only way to really know is to choose something and see how it works out.
Terrifying: Mistakes carry real costs. Opportunity costs, sunk costs, relationships strained to a breaking point, and time that you will never get back. You got exactly what you wanted and then found out you wanted the wrong things.
Terrifying: Things are always in flux and many things are out of your hands. You can prepare very hard and make yourself a good candidate for a certain career….and still not get a job. You can swim in a lake and a
bacteria amoeba can swim up your nose and eat your brain from within. People get sick, die, leave you. Tornadoes. People who drive while texting. Men in expensive suits behind expensive doors making expensive decisions. A butterfly flaps its wings on the other side of the world and the envelope with your resume in it accidentally falls behind the file cabinet.
Comforting: These questions are asked and answered over and over again in the course of your life. The “right” answers will change because you will have changed.
Plenty of people have chosen the wrong partner, the wrong college major, the wrong place to live, the wrong roommates, the wrong paint color, the wrong career, the wrong pants for those shoes, etc. and lived to tell the tale and do better.
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7
Sylvia was eating from a pretty privileged fig tree. Certainly not everyone has the same crisis of “All the choices are awesome, how do I pick just one?” But your choices are not horrible, either. Keep going to school with full financial support of your mom and no need to take out student loans, on the condition that you do not share an address with this guy vs. Take a year off from school, live in Paris, make sure that this guy is really who you want to be with, at the cost of supporting yourself much sooner than you planned.
Here is a helpful process for me when making a big decision, developed from one part therapy, one part storytelling, and, weirdly, about four parts management consulting.
1. If I choose this, and everything goes really well and works out exactly how I want it to, what does that look like? What is the fantasy/best case scenario/perfect world version of this? Does that seem like a good goal to have in the first place?
2. If I choose this, and everything does not go well, what does the worst case scenario look like? What do I stand to lose? How likely is it to happen?
3. If the worst case scenario happened, what would I do? DO NOT SKIP STEP #3. STEP #3 IS WHERE POWER, RESILIENCE, CONFIDENCE LIVES.
4. What are the questions I still need to ask myself? What research do I need to do? Is there some way I can expand my information base to anticipate potential problems and set myself up better to succeed? Are the logistical issues (money, space, time, etc.) surmountable?
5. What is the real obstacle here – The risk, the cost, the thing I am not seeing? Where is my blind spot?
6. What would Old-Me tell me to do? On my deathbed, what will I regret NOT having done? This is the call to adventure
If we were to take your dilemma briefly through that process, here’s what it might look like. These are not meant to be comprehensive or even likely. This is just storytelling. What *could* happen?
The Dream: You move to France with your boyfriend. You find some kind of au pair or tutoring gig, your housing & visa situation works out, you spend the time that you would have spent on your schoolwork studying French and becoming fluent in it. Taking some time off from school gives you some more clarity and focus about what you do want to study if & when you go back. Gaining independence and distance from your mom helps you gain breathing space and confidence in your own abilities. You figure out how to apply for grants and loans and some way of supporting yourself and/or continuing your studies, leading to [vague future happiness]. You and your boyfriend are incredibly happy together, and you feel confident that this is the person for you. Or, maybe things don’t work out between you, but you are confident that you tried and know more about what you want from life & love.
The Nightmare: You burn your bridges with your mom, and then…..You hate France. You hate this guy. You hate croissants. You need to break up with him and come home and admit that you made a mistake, but your mom enacts your worst “I told you so” nightmare. Now you have no dude and no promise of college and no mom’s house to go to. So you stick it out in a bad relationship. Or you leave him and find yourself stranded. In France. Student loans and debt force you to stay in bad situations, bad jobs and curtail your freedom.
I’m not going to go through all of the questions – that’s between you and your journal and actual discussions with your boyfriend and your mom – but I do want to say two things:
-Being 19, not quite sure what you want to do with your life, and having no parental support or safety net describes A LOT of people’s circumstances. Couch surfing, roommates, a string of part-time jobs, thrift stores, furniture you find in alleys, rice & beans, work-study jobs, student loans, military service, scholarships, night school etc. – If you had to do it, you could do it.
-The “what am I going to do with my life?” question is not going away whatever you decide.
Team Debt-Free Degree
The Dream: You finish your degree. You figure out what you want to do when you grow up, or at least what you want to do next, or, at least a thing you can do for money while you figure the rest of it out. Because you have parental support and no student loans, you are able to take on many internships, volunteer opportunities, and interesting projects that you might not otherwise have had. You are also able to throw yourself into student activities and non-study related passions and friendships. You keep seeing your boyfriend- long distance when you can, visiting when you can. Maybe he manages to transfer to your school. Eventually, you find a way to be in the same place at the same time and start your lives together, and you feel confident about the health of something that can survive so much time and distance. Or, you break up, which is sad, but you meet someone else at the student newspaper or at your theater group and that person is also great. You leave college debt-free, having gotten the most you can out of your education and having tried out many interests.
The Bad Dream: You feel constantly torn between your boyfriend and your college life. You spend all your time Skyping and writing emails and fantasizing about the future at the expense of the now. You miss out on friendships, opportunities, and experiences because you are tied to the future and the distant. You wonder constantly if you are doing the right thing and should have made a different choice. Your relationship with your mom is full of controlling behavior and resentment. The conflict with your mom and distance from your boyfriend drag you down and affect your mental health, and you spend three years of your life feeling resentful, depressed, and torn.
Again, not going through all the questions here, but DO NOT SKIP STEP #3. Step #3 is where you have power & agency, always, no matter what happens. There is no shortcut for Step #3, and no one can do it for you – even if we listed 10-,000 helpful & exciting suggestions, Step #3 is not complete until YOU can articulate what YOU would do if things went wrong.
I am going to cheat and tell you about Step 5 (What is the real question or obstacle here?), as I see it reflected in your letter.
I do not think that you feel particularly invested in or confident in your studies and in your ability to take care of yourself away from your mom’s influence and protection. You cannot quite envision the future where you know how to take care of yourself. “I’ve never supported myself and I know absolutely nothing about it, how would I make ends meet with no savings, no money at all?”
Whether or not you stay or go, I think that is the question you must work on. You don’t have to solve it immediately – there is no shame in not being ready to leave the nest and in needing some time and help to figure this out, and college is a good time and place to do that. You are right exactly where you should be, so don’t use that as a stick to beat yourself up with.
I said earlier that being controlling isn’t the only mistake your mom potentially made here, and that we’d circle back. So here’s my (rhetorical!) question: How the hell did your mom raise a 19-year old with no confidence in her own abilities to take care of herself and no idea how jobs and money actually work?
Because one way I used to win arguments with my mom when she was judgmental or worried-in-a-way-that-basically-adds-up-to-judmental about my choices is, “Well, you either raised me to be able to handle this or you didn’t. I guess we’ll find out.” (She did).
It’s awesome to take care of your kids and provide for them and give them a safety net, but controlling parents can foster dependency pretty hard. If that’s what is going on here, it’s another argument for sorting this out with a counselor. However the problem originated, “but that’s how I was raised by my controlling mother” does not age well as a thing you say out loud to people who are not your therapist.
I’m not under the illusion that capitalism = freedom, or that having good skills and education automatically leads to a paying job, or that the ability to get and hold a job is a statement on a person’s value. We know too much to believe in that anymore, and you’re not stupid or naive to be anxious about this aspect of planning the future. But the ability to earn a living (or at least envision a future where you know how!) is a kind of freedom. It’s the freedom to say “Mom, I am sorry you feel that way, but this is the right choice for me.” It’s freedom from finding yourself in a foreign country dependent on some dude you even aren’t sure you like anymore.
Whatever you decide about France vs. school this year, work on building autonomy and confidence. Get a part-time job – ANY job – and earn a little money with your own sweat. Learn some concrete, practical skills that someone might pay you for at some point down the road. Those skills don’t have to be tied to any college major or degree. Fully half of my professional skill-set comes from managing and being a part of performing arts groups. Seek out counseling & advising through your school, if available.
Finally, if I do all the work of putting my choices through a detailed analysis, and I still don’t feel like I can decide, I add a 7th step. When that fails, I go to an 8th step. I know, they conflict directly with each other. Life is complicated.
7. In the absence of a clear right choice or best choice, which choice preserves the most options for me down the road?
8. I’d generally rather regret a mistake than stay stuck and afraid forever.
I wish you well, Letter Writer. This is an exciting journey that you are on, and these are big, hard questions that you are tackling in a brave and honest way.
292 thoughts on “#503: Education, love, money, family, foreign adventures & THE ENTIRE FUTURE OF EVERYTHING”
EXCEPT IN ONE OF THE ENDINGS IN SLIDING DOORS, SHE *DIES*. (In the other she finds true love and everything is great, all because of a relatively inconsequential moment. It’s a two-hour-long anxiety attack, basically.)
Hee. I recently re-saw SD, and found myself surprised how icky* it was. Because, let me tell you, I saw the thing like 3 times when it came out. It spoke to something deep in the then-me that needing speaking to.
*excepting how adorbs John Hanna is and how cute that bob was on Gwyneth.
Her live-in boyfriend is such a textbook gaslighter & weasel. Jeanne Trippelhorne’s character is portrayed as kind of the “crazy, controlling, jealous” girlfriend stereotype, but I root for her when she cuts through his bullshit and really feel for her when she hurts herself.
I was going to suggest Lola Rennt instead and then I remembered that in one she dies and in one he dies. (It’s ok, there’s more than two endings.)
No! She dies in the reality where she finds true love – she *survives* in the reality where she stays with the cheating Irishman (…and I’ve maybe seen this a few too many times…)
She survives in the one where she stays with the cheater, and then she kicks him to the curb and *finds the same true love* right before the credits roll. (I always liked the best friend best. “With Mars, your ruler, in the ascendancy, you will be wiped out in a freak napalming incident and Helen says bollocks to you. This guy’s very good.” … I may have seen it a few too many times also.)
She IS awesome – redeems the Irish in Sliding Doors. I was, however, always weirded out by John Hannah’s friend who was opening a restaurant, but seemed to spend all of his time socialising rather than, like, cooking.
Ha! I am also all about Anna. I have long borrowed the expression she used to describe Helen’s total drunkenness: “Put a wick in her mouth and she’d burn for a fortnight.”
You guys, I _loved_ this movie when it came out, but I was in college then, so maybe I should rewatch it? I remember it being awesome. And the bob was incredible.
If it helps, I still love it. And I would have many babies with John Hanna.
And let’s never forget that for as much as Sylvia Path is quoted as if she’s a life-choices hero, she offed herself in her oven at the age of 30.
“and then I chopped down that fucking fig tree. I showed it!”
not sure which of us you deemed unfunny. I don’t think Plath’s story is funny. I think it’s tragic. I’m just always unsure how to take it when she’s quoted (granted this is a somewhat darker quote than the ones I often see) and wonder if the quoter knows her eventual fate/choice. Maybe I am the one that doesn’t understand, but I wasn’t actually making a joke (although I did feel the next commenter was).
Assume that if I am quoting Sylvia Plath on my blog, I’ve read Sylvia Plath and know about her eventual end. Assume that EVERYBODY knows. Everybody knows because you cannot mention her without someone being like “Oh, she killed herself.” Because the one thing people know, way more than they know her work or anything about her, is “Hey, she killed herself.”
I think that is the perfect quote about what it is like to feel paralyzed by having too many choices. The advice is saying “Hey, it is ok to make a mistake and choose wrong.”
I also think that A Moveable Feast was a pretty great description of what it was like to live in Paris in the 20s. I think Nirvana spoke well of alienation. Does every mention of them need the postscript “Good song, but you know, he killed himself.”
I am glad that you were not making a joke. But I take issue with inserting her suicide into the discussion out of nowhere. Plath died of a terminal illness. Dammit if she didn’t totally fucking nail what it’s like to be an intelligent young woman the world is trying furiously to mold into some recognizable shape. I didn’t pull the quote out accidentally, and do not feel the need to qualify its use.
I assume nothing about people quoting other people on their blogs. The internet is rife with misquotes, quotes for reasons outside the author’s intent and quote du jour because it sounded cool or accurate or appropriate from the quoter’s perspective, regardless of other factors.
Let’s be really clear and accurate though: She didn’t die of a terminal illness. Death is not the inevitable endpoint of either depression or mis-medication. She made a choice, influenced by her mental illness/medication (again, depending how you vote). Terminal illnesses are by definition things that will inevitably end in your demise.
Yeah, D, no. That is an incredibly restrictive definition of “terminal illness” that excludes almost every disease that is commonly referred to as such. I know several people who have survived cancer. Even severe, invasive, late-stage cancer where people who loved them were pretty sure they were going to die. Does that make cancer “not a terminal illness” because some people don’t die from it? By your logic, it does. Go tell that to all the people whose loved ones have died from cancer that was terminal, see what they say.
When a depressed person commits suicide, the “choices” they make that lead to that are caused by the depression. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, they die from their depression. Saying otherwise is just one more example of the way our society delegitimizes mental illness.
(And the mis-medication thing is not an explanation, either. When a cancer patient is mis-medicated and that causes their death, you still say that they died from cancer, not from bad medication choices or whatever.)
Nope. Terminal whatever means that thing killed you. You don’t survive a terminal illness. SOME cancer is terminal, for sure. The ones that don’t kill you are by definition, non-terminal. (dying of the cancer I had would be incredibly rare and vanishingly unlikely, and thus it is NOT a terminal disease, although it was cancer) Dying of mis-medication would not be a cancer death, but a mis-medication death, even if the medication was intended to treat cancer. I’m not trying to deny people their pain due to the death of loved ones, but it’s only terminal if it is the direct cause of your death. “for all intents and purposes” might suit yours, but it isn’t an accurate way to interpret the meaning of “terminal”, so….yeah.
Plus, I’m really done with this discussion, because it’s clear “intents and purposes” are going to not cover/include mine, and so carry on.
But often it’s uncertain whether a disease is gonna cause someone’s death until it actually does, yes? And depression caused Plath’s death, therefore she died from depression.
Unless your only nitpick is with the word “terminal” itself, in which case, congratulations on missing the point.
Also, Captain, sorry for continuing the snippiness and continuing the thread of discussion– I will definitely shut up if you want this line of discussion ended.
Plath quote: “It sucks to feel like you’re forced to choose one thing to the exclusion of all others.”
You: “But she killed herself so let’s not listen to her.”
She killed herself, in part, BECAUSE she felt like she had to choose one thing to the exclusion of all others! The quote is brought up as “this is a sucky way to feel, let’s find an approach that avoids that dilemma.” So it’s not like she’s being quoted here as “a life choices hero”. She’s being quoted as an incredibly brilliant person who grew with society always telling her that she had to play a losing game, so she played it, and she lost. What we are all about here is helping future Sylvia Plaths SURVIVE that awful quandry of choice and move forward through life, recovering from mistakes and doing the work they love.
Thank you, staranise. I was trying to say something like this this morning, but I ended up deleting it cause I couldn’t quite figure out how to phrase it right. But you’ve said it beautifully.
I had a similar thought reading that, but Plath’s decision to.get out.of the fig tree by continually chopping at branch between the tree and herself is not the point of that passage or the reason it was referred here.
Let me count the ways this comment is not good.
1) The Plath quote is about being paralyzed & suffocated by choice and the fallacy that avoiding making a choice is a way to keep all of your options open. It’s something that has been influential for me when I am feeling paralyzed by a big decision and I thought the Letter Writer might appreciate it. How Plath is quoted on other websites is not really relevant.
2) Neither having a mental illness nor having the misfortune of having that mental illness be a terminal one invalidates a person’s ideas or work. You can talk about her work without talking about her suicide as if it is some kind of punchline, and this aspect of your comment was entirely out of bounds for this website.
I hope this was not directed me stepping in it again, because I was making that point too and I thought I was clear in doing so 😦 Maybe I just don’t belong here, which is too bad, because I really respect what you are doing,
Well– LW here is another life lesson 🙂 I should have read further down today to see if my apology was accepted–now I look a little paranoid! If I could figure out how to delete the post above and save a little face I would. But I can’t, I goofed, publicly, and all I can do is hold up my head, square my shoulders, and move forward. That is life. A series of decisions, small or large, good or bad, ridiculous or sublime. What shapes us as we grow from children to young adults to “grown ups” to the wiser-heads is how we handle the bumps and jiggles–especially the ones we can’t cover up with a delete, a slimming pant, or good tattoo.
Michelle, you belong here fine, but not every moderator comment is about you. Your response about Sylvia was on point and I 100% agree with it.
Clearly something is amiss how comment threading displays for you or how you are understanding it. Hang back for a bit until you figure it out, ok?
It’s a meaningful quote, but I think that knowing about Plath’s subsequent life makes it hard to read and see as useful advice. It’s not that mental illness invalidates her work, but that the suicide looms so large over it.
This entire site is advice from a person who has been severely depressed. Right now. Here. Me.
You are correct that all advice is caveat emptor. Caveat this. But don’t invalidate Plath’s description of her own experience (not advice, btw) with a LOL SUICIDE comment.
I think that this may be a conversation for a different thread–but there is “knowing” and “KNOWING.” Personally, not a huge Plath fan for various reasons, but if you invalidate the wisdom and literary impact of an artist or thinker because of a decision made in a single moment of a complicated and extraordinary life (which describes all of our lives), you will discount so many voices: Virginia Woolfe, Earnest Hemingway, Seneca, Anne Sexton . . . and those are just the ones who were successful. If you widen the pool, should people no longer feel touched by Kurt Cobain’s lyrics (if they did in the first place?)? If you studied the life of Sylvia Plath you may find the least interesting thing about her life, and the thing that should have the least impact on whether or not you consider her voice one you should heed is how she ended it.
You understand that The Bell Jar is a novel, yes?
One of the reasons that the suicide “looms so large over” Plath’s work is that so many people have kneejerk reactions that everything she wrote must be implicitly about suicide. In other words, your comment begs the question.
Not to mention… the novel is in very large part about suicide! Esther’s feeling of being trapped by her choices contributes to her greater sense of alienation from life, which leads to her attempt to kill herself *in the story*. Obviously, one does not have to be suicidal to identify with the feeling of paralysis that comes from the terror of making a bad choice, but it’s not as if the fig tree passage is a sunny vision of happiness that offers an ironic contrasts with the writer’s eventual fate. It’s a bad state of mind! She plainly knew about those! Suicide is not some kind of external factor overshadowing the text that Plath, in the moment of writing, is unaware of: the possibility that this kind of feeling could, in an extreme case, be very dangerous to the person feeling it is *right there in the text*. If a suicidally depressed person’s observations of painful mental states aren’t valid, one wonders what on earth they *would* be allowed to talk about?
It’s Captain Awkward, not Plath, who’s offering actual advice, which is about how to move BEYOND that feeling of paralysis before it threatens your life — whether literally, as happened to Esther, or by draining your life of pleasure and meaning.
Look. I think potential is the devil and often say exactly that. I think choice without direction is, as you say, paralysing and suffocating and have fought that demon my whole life. But if your depression trumps my experience, I simply wasn’t aware of that.
“Plenty of people have chosen the wrong partner, the wrong college major, the wrong place to live, the wrong roommates, the wrong paint color, the wrong career, the wrong pants for those shoes, etc. and lived to tell the tale and do better.” THIS is the sentence you wrote immediately before the Plath quote, which struck me because she did NOT live to tell the tale, nor do better. She succumbed to a combination of poor medical treatment, and severe depression (depending which of the various factors and versions you chose).
My best friend in college had a ton of mental/social/behavioral problems that put him at risk for suicide, but he survived college and even graduated, which is more than I can say for myself.
I learned most of what I know about being a person from him. He introduced me to Noam Chomsky and Firesign Theater and Orson Wells. He taught me that black people aren’t actually scary and you can just treat them the way you treat other people and it’s cool. He taught me to eat avocados and to express my opinions the way they are inside my head and not the way I think they might sound OK to other people, and to stop apologizing so goddamn much because it’s annoying and also fuck those assholes.
We had a falling out in 2002 and in 2003 he moved to South America and in 2009 he leapt from his balcony which happened to be plenty high up to kill him. I hadn’t spoken to him in over six years, but his father talked to him that day. He had been unhappy with his life for a while but seemed fine on the phone, apparently.
His dad and I have talked a lot since then about choice and what the hell it means in a situation like that. Did he have a choice? Did we?
I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that question. I know my friend would have hated all the stuff about “the illness chooses for you.” He didn’t think like that, and I agree with him. Still, I think it is the case that suicide is something that happens to you. Maybe people would say that’s irrational; those two things can’t both be true, but I believe it and I’m not sorry and also fuck those assholes.
As for the question of whether suicide invalidates the things you did and said because obviously you were bad at making life choices, I’m fortunate I don’t have to consider that one because one night when I had too much to drink and ate too many mushrooms I choked on my own vomit and my friend happened to be there and he saved my life at the last instant. You can’t erase that, thankfully.
Suicide is awful and you shouldn’t do it. But if you do it doesn’t mean you weren’t brilliant and your ideas and life and work weren’t important.
People with severe depression do not “choose” suicide, any more than someone with OCD “chooses” to wash their hands until they bleed, or someone with schizophrenia “chooses” to recoil in horror from the swarm of wasps that only they can see. Severe depression gets into your thoughts and decisions like a virus, wiping out good thoughts and replacing them with pain or emptiness. It hijacks your mental processes like HIV hijacks your immune system, and like HIV it can take over to such an extent that you end up dead. The whole problem is that your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are no longer your own.
I’ve been severely depressed. For me suicidal ideation is a symptom that comes and goes, and it’s sometimes kinda useful as a benchmark of how I’m doing at any time (at the moment, things are actually pretty good). I don’t decide to think those thoughts. They pop into my head, and there have been times when there has been nothing else in my head because they’ve been so overwhelming. I get very angry when the existence of suicidal thoughts and impulses is treated as a character flaw rather than the symptom of an illness. For me, depression is a chronic condition which waxes and wanes, and like I said at the moment I’m in relatively good shape. When things are worse, though, I’m no stupider, or more cowardly, or less moral than I am now. I’m just more ill.
“When things are worse, though, I’m no stupider, or more cowardly, or less moral than I am now. I’m just more ill.”
This is absolutely beautiful. Thanks.
Shit, she does? I totally blanked on that. Wtf, supposedly lighthearted relationship movie? >_<
Hello LW! As things turn out, I’m someone who was in a similar situation and made the wrong choice. And you know what? I got past it. It might have taken me a while, I spent some years on welfare, but during that time I realised what I want to do with my life and it’s nothing I would have thought of when I was 18/19 just out of high school, taking my first classes at university and still living at home. Now I’m back in education working towards that goal (and tbh it’s probably also more realistic than my first goal – originally I was majoring in Classical Studies and English with the intention of teaching, which might have just landed me with a really expensive piece of paper and no skills). No matter what you choose, if it’s the wrong choice it’s unlikely to literally be the end of the world (or even your world). It might be hard and painful and humiliating and humbling. You might regret it. But you can learn from it.
Obviously this is a huge choice, and you haven’t had to make many huge choices before. It’s terrifying, you don’t know how it’s going to work out. But there isn’t a scorecard for life. You don’t get marks off for not doing things in that perfect ideal order of high school, university, job, marriage, babies, or for leaving some of them out altogether and doing something your mother would be appalled at instead. Maybe you’ll realise you actually want to join an anarchic commune, live off the land, and have a relationship with two other awesome ladies. Maybe you’ll become a farmhand and live way out in the countryside where the internet isn’t very reliable and she can’t always get hold of you. Maybe you’ll have the best damn adventure of your life and it’s something you never even dreamed of.
This is what gets me about the idea that, say, it’s a mistake to get married when you’re young, or have a child in your teens, or whatever. Who cares? You learn from those experiences. You’re allowed to get a divorce. You’re allowed to take time away from education and career to get more flexible work instead so you can raise your kid. You’re allowed to have an abortion and carry on with your life without doing penance every day for something happening that wasn’t in your plans and dealing with it in the best way you could. And there’s sort of something freeing in that. Once you accept that you can’t always make the best choice, you realise that there isn’t really a best choice at all, there’s only the choices you make and the choices you don’t.
“Once you accept that you can’t always make the best choice, you realise that there isn’t really a best choice at all”
I think you made some great points here – and a lot of it is the viewpoint. I know my parents would have been very uncomfortable funding me to live with a significant other (their argument being if you’re not paying your own bills, you’re probably not yet in a place to live with someone) and it really helped me to remember that having someone financially support you as an adult is a privilege, not an entitlement.
Another twist on viewpoint: On the one hand, making financial/practical support of contingent on recipient’s doing what supporter wants = controlling. On the other hand, person refraining from supporting other person’s choices they don’t agree with = healthy boundaries.
This. I am not convinced that LW mother is so much controlling as drawing the line about how far her support of LW goes. If I understood the letter correctly, LW wants to abandon or put her studies on hold, so that she can go to France, where she can not continue her education and probably not work, to be with her long-distance boyfriend. I think any sane parent would freak out at this kind of news and the mother is justified in refusing to finance LW’s french sabbatical. Also, since the relationship between the mother and the boyfriend is so bad, the mother is not all that unreasonable to refuse to benefit the boyfriend financially, which would happen if LW and him lived together on her mother’s support.
I agree with you. Remember, this is being written from the 19-year old letter writer, so there is definitely a lens being applied.
I was in a similar situation when I was the LW’s age (minus the France party; my horrible boyfriend lived in the city, but wanted me to move in with him when I graduated high school), and my parents would have lost their mind if I said that was my plan.
LW’s mother should not have framed this as a “My Way or the Highway” where she tried to control LW’s decisions. But she had every right to draw a boundary between supporting LW while LW lives in her home and attends school, but not supporting LW if she chooses to live independently/with a boyfriend/wev.
Totally agree! By letting the boyfriend live in their home, LW’s mother is supporting the relationship in the most literal way possible. Not many parents would be OK with having a child’s boyfriend live with them for a few months. I doubt LW’s mother even lets her own friends/loved ones do that. So given the amount of bending backwards that’s already happening, it seems reasonable that eventually, LW’s mom would put down some hard limits.
One thing I think LW can learn from this situation is that it’s important to built inroads towards independance. In addition to her education, she can focus on part time jobs, internships,etc.–the stuff that will eventually let her know in her bones that she can make it on her own. Being “babied” is a two way street. She can earn a little bit of money on her own, save it or use it to pay small bills and begin the process of moving towards independance.
Also this. ^
My parents supported me very generously throughout my undergraduate degree, then let me live at home for another year, paying very minimal rent. However, when I decided to go back to university to do a postgraduate degree that was off my own back, with my own money.
The unspoken deal was 3 years at university (as it is the UK), then it was down to me. As soon as I moved into my own house, with a grown-up job, my finances became solely my business.
In essence, support lasted as long as I was in full-time education (something they value greatly). They didn’t want me to have to take a part-time job, as that would have time away from studies. So they funded me. Both them, and I, were quite content with the deal.
Financial support is a tricky beast. I was in a bad situation for a long time because my parents basically put forth the deal that they would take care of everything for me, give me money, food, no rent, etc. As long as I stayed home and cared for my disabled mother 24/7 and had no life outside of that. I agreed to it because I did love my mother, and the Outside World was a scary and uncertain place. And then I was constantly shamed for it by her. I would be told I had freedom to do certain things, but if I did them I was punished. (And not even outright ‘you did something wrong and this is the punishment’ but ‘Oh dear. When you went out with friends your sister* went into your room and your stuff got broken. By accident. But I guess since you weren’t around to prevent it from happening it’s just too bad, right? If you weren’t out having fun and neglecting me, your stuff would still be safe.’)
*she blamed all of her vandalism on other people so that for a long time I didn’t realize she was breaking it directly.
But at the same time, I knew a person who pretty much ruined their life because their parents supported their drug habits, knew they were supporting it, and justified it with “But love is unconditional. We can’t punish them for making choices we disagree with by withdrawing support.”
So I think clear communication is key, not changing the terms, not using it as blackmail. Not applying it to outside things. (“I paid for your school books, so you need to drive home tomorrow and wash my car, because I own you.”)
Oh, absolutely. There are enabler parents, there are controlling parents and probably a lot of parents who are trying to get it right but don’t always walk the line correctly. I think a lot of us would be more understanding of LW’s mum if she had sat her down and said she wasn’t really comfortable paying rent for her to live with a boyfriend – absolutely her decision, but mum just would not be willing to pay for it and she should make her plans on that basis.
And kudos to you for being able to speak about what happened to you and the dynamics behind it. It’s a hard one because having boundaries for financial support isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just becomes bad if you go about it a certain way.
“How will I deal with the worst case scenario?” is a question I ask myself a lot because of OCD/anxiety, but it’s surprising how freeing it can be to know you have a plan for the worst case scenario. I don’t recommend going all the way into “what will I do if there’s another French revolution and I have to go into hiding?” but it’s both a good exercise in considering your options and practice visualizing yourself dealing with it.
Oh, and OP? For the record I’ve always gone with “risky option!” and only regretted it once.
Well, it’s a spectrum, isn’t it? Anxiety sufferers do take it to extremes, but I’ve met people who have no “worst case scenario plans” for things like losing a job or illness – fairly major things. Somewhere in the middle is the ideal. 😉
I mention it specifically because that’s a level I often find myself at, at it’s definitely less than optimal most of the time.
My husband and I have plans for what we do if:
The Doctor invites into the TARDIS
We are invited by NASA to go into a long-term space mission
We win the lottery
How are wakes are supposed to be
What to do if we are on life support
What we DON’T have plans for are:
What happens if I never find a job
What happens if he gets forloughed from his risky line of work
What happens if he gets furloughed AND I don’t have a job
What happens if one of us gets permanently disabled
What we do in the even of a major natural or social disaster
We can’t. It’s too depressing to even think of ’cause it’s just a big-ole bad of “I have no goddamned idea”. Every time it pops into our head “We’re never going to pay off our student loans” we have to squash it, because there is nothing we can do to alter that situation. We can only keep doing what we’re doing and hope that something changes for the better instead of the worse.
I hope by “plan” for the Doctor inviting you into the tardis you mean “we already have our bags packed and a banana at hand.”
LW – I just want to point out that right now, you’re at a point in life where going abroad is a lot easier than it might be later on. During undergrad, I tried SO HARD to go, but everytime I thought I was finally doing it, something came up that prevented me from following through. And I’ll be honest, I regret missing out on the experience. My brother, on the other hand, was the happiest he’s ever been when he spent a year away from home.
Does your school offer any opportunities to go to France? Volunteer opportunities, internships, exchange programs? Maybe you can find some middle ground here. For your mom, you will be gaining experience/new skills/the language. For your boyfriend, you can see it was a “trial run” – you can try the living together thing (to some extent) while still having a kind of safety net with school or work.
In any case, I fully support the Captain’s advice of finding a job, make some money and gain experience. Do what it takes to become You As You Want To Be instead of You As Defined By Your Mom, but do it at your own pace. If you don’t feel like you can do a big jump into freedom, baby steps are absolutely okay.
This so much. I was in a similar relationship experience (US to UK), and was originally looking into a study abroad year when I found a uni that I liked better than the one I was at. So I ended up living two hours away from my partner at that time, and we had some nice times, but over the first year it became clear that we just didn’t work. And I was miserable, but by having figured out living arrangements on my own, it meant that when the relationship imploded, I didn’t have to deal with suddenly redoing everything about my life. I’m still in the UK, living with an awesome person I only met because my previous relationship failed, and I’m happier here than I was before I moved. So even if the dream scenario for any of your options doesn’t work out, you might get a different, even better, one.
More or less- we always have a suitcase ready (he’s a pilot, I just like having it in case I want to go pop off to somewhere). Mostly the plan is “Try really hard to convince the doctor to bring the other person, if he says “no” go anyway.
Yes, this is so true. It doesn’t even take that much after school to make living abroad harder. You get a pet or a kid or even just furniture you like and don’t want to get rid of, and suddenly there’s that many more obstacles to picking up and jetting off to the other side of the world.
A study or work abroad program sounds like a great compromise and an exciting opportunity.
The good news is that it you have a really good zombie plan, it will serve you well in the event of a natural disaster as long as you’ve followed through with having supplies on hand! So go ahead and pick up non-perishable foods, some bottles of water, and a first aid kit.
I have the same problem with planning for realistic stuff due to anxiety. The day I realized I could make a zombie apocalypse survivor game out of some of it was very liberating.
I did take the doomsday prepper quiz for lols though and rated relatively poorly (I only live for 2-4 months) because I don’t have any guns, despite having done the whole natural disaster thing. By that count I wouldn’t even have lived to see our sewerage come back! The quiz sort of fails to take into account that if almost no one has guns and your society is a little less paranoid about keeping ownership of those guns, you probably don’t really need guns quite as much.
To be honest, the fact that you’re so eloquently able to explain it shows that you’re clearly able to be fairly sensible and have a plan for the possible bad things that you can like illness. And you’re right – it is a privileged position to be able to have the recommended 6 months wages in the bank in case of job loss. Perhaps on the “to do once lottery is won” list?
Also OCD, and this approach was seriously, seriously comforting to me when I was living a horrible lifestyle where my savings consisted of my jar of change (there were 55 whole dollars in that jar! It could totally get me fed for ages!) and I was eating some dandelion salads to add green to my diet. (yucky, do not recommend)
I would plan what I would do if the worst happened whenever I started to freak out, and it would calm me down to know that even though I didn’t LIKE the plan, I could implement it. It wore me out much less than dodging thinking about it when ended up with me thinking about it all the time. As a reward for myself to diminish the painful likelihood of many of these disasters, I could plan a zombiepocalypse escape route when I was finished. (I already knew how to eat dandelion salads so I was a step ahead of everyone else!)
My dad who was born in the States in 1922 lived through the Great Depression. He told me about eating dandelion greens. However, he recommended cooking them a bit if possible. Treat them like turnip greens or radish greens and blanch them first and they are better.
He’s also the one who told me all about credit and interest(I miss getting proper interest on my bank accounts), paying off the credit card every month, saving money, etc.
Blanching, and also acid– a little red wine vinegar mutes the bitterness.
Age also matters; older, tougher greens of any sort do better with long braising.
Man, where were yall when I was eating these salads? I knew to avoid older greens, and I did use balsamic vinegar for taste, but I wish I’d known to cook them. I’d make a note for future use, but I’m hoping never to need to do that again.
I have serious anxiety about most everything, and this approach works wonders to help calm me down. The plan also cannot be “omg everything will be ruiiiiined!” It has to be a concrete thing with steps.
I am having an “am I pregnant?!?!” moment right now, for example. Which is not ideal. But thinking to myself “Okay, say I am, what will I do? What things in my environment will make this easier? What will make it more difficult and how can I neutralize or minimize the damage there?” makes me feel more zen about it. (I’m also an INTJ so this rational order-making is my jam and even the act of doing it is calming.)
Doing therapy last year left me with two very useful tools from my therapist in the form of two questions to ask myself:
“Where’s the evidence?” and “What happens next?” So “what happens next” if X terrible event I have been worrying myself to death about happens, but also “where’s the evidence” that it WILL happen (also, “where’s the evidence” that everyone at that party hated me and wanted me to go away for jerkbrain things). They’ve been really, really useful.
See, I discovered “where’s the evidence” about three years ago, but it sadly doesn’t work for me. The person who told me about it turned out to be a severe asshole, and the first time I asked myself that question was when I was questioning whether she hated me. No concrete “evidence,” but she did. So now, even though it’s probably one of the most useful anti-anxiety questions out there, it simply doesn’t work for me.
It always is good to have a Zombie Preparedness Plan, though.
Oh, LW. *hugs* This is not a fun situation to be in. I hope you can figure it all out.
I do want to add something to what CA has already said, though all of the captain’s advice was terrific.
You say that this summer, your boyfriend came to visit for a few *months* at your house. That is a really, really long time to have a houseguest, especially a houseguest that your mother presumably didn’t know very well before now. It’s not shocking that conflict arose out of that – I’d honestly be a little surprised if it hadn’t.
Your mother is not acting reasonable right now, but part of the reason for that may be that she was in a situation that became very uncomfortable for her. I don’t know your exact situation, but she may not be reacting to your boyfriend as a person as much as she’s reacting to the imposition on her personal space and her time with you while you’re not in school, especially if you don’t live at home while school is in session.
If that’s the case, I suspect that both she and your boyfriend will calm down once they’ve had a little space (and time) from the situation.
That was definitely something that made me rear back and go “wait, WHAT?” I mean, my parents have a hard time when my sister’s long-distance boyfriend comes for the weekend and doesn’t help with chores, and that’s just a couple of days. I don’t think it at ALL justifies the LW’s mom threatening to withdraw financial support – that is incredibly shitty and cruel – but man, that sounds like a situation guaranteed to make everybody on edge and prone to their worst behavior.
I had that thought, too. If I had a houseguest that I didn’t know well, and they were there for multiple months, it would probably drive me screaming ’round the bend. Now, I do like to think that I am self-aware enough to say, “No, two weeks [or whatever] is my limit” rather than picking fights and etc. But it might explain some of the tensions–and as you say, it might get better with space.
I have to say that I agree with this and I’m surprised it wasn’t addressed in the (very detailed!) original reply. It sounds like you guys are basically living together at your mom’s house. How does your mom feel about that? Does your guy contribute to the running of the house? Does he work? Does he pay a share of the mortgage, utilities, or food? How are you guys spending your time? Does he do his share of chores? If he doesn’t, I can understand why your mom might be upset and resort to withholding money (which she’s been shelling out to support your boyfriend).
Yes, I agree with this comment that the situation must have been very challenging for the mom, even if boyfriend was an angel and always hygenic and respectful toward her.
The situation and the Zillah’s comment reminded me how uncomfortable things got for my parents when my little brother had a serious girlfriend at 18 who started sleeping over some nights. Even though she lived in the same town and could go home, it was a big challenge for my folks to have her at the breakfast table and to overhear what one overhears sometimes when one’s family members have overnight guests. In general my folks were graceful, but there was one incident that ended with my dad yelling “I am not running a fornicatorium!!” This came even though the longest my folks spent with her and my bro was a week’s vacation that they were gracious enough to bring her on. And by the end of that week, boy howdy were they ready for a break from girlfriend.
So I wonder if there is another team that combines team France with team debt free uni and adds a bonus mascot of letting mom have some time to cool down and heal the relationship between her and LW. Maybe she will come around and be a little more flexible in supports of LW’s studies and relationship combining somehow.
Regardless, the cap’s advice is really sound. Self reliance and developing interests, passions, and skills are a great focus beyond the microcosm of the problem at hand.
“I am not running a fornicatorium!!”
That is my new favorite word.
Okay, so it’s not just me and my social anxiety that say that’s waaaay too long to have a houseguest who isn’t either family or found-family in dire straits. Or a foreign exchange student, I suppose.
I think, honestly, that most older folks, especially in the South, would consider someone doing that to be boorish, which is always a strike against in the “how comfortable am I with you dating my daughter.” It’s just entirely too imposing. Also, while the mother should be enough of a grown-up not to get into arguments over “stupid, pointless things,” I shudder at the thought of asking for people to put me up, and then getting involved in stupid arguments with the folks doing me a favor. If he’s having those arguments too (and if they’re really about stupid, pointless things that no one needs to be arguing over)…I don’t know, it just makes me squirm. Just doesn’t seem very courteous.
I don’t think the mother is being that unreasonable, I guess. I mean, finances=control is always kind of sucky, but unless I misread something, LW’s mother isn’t making LW chose between her boyfriend and financial support. She’s just saying that she won’t pay for LW to suspend her studies and go to France to live with a man that LW’s mother doesn’t like. And that…is totally reasonable to me. And to a point, even the bit about LW having to support herself in University when she comes back (because once you’ve moved to another country to live with a lover for a whole year, you kind of should be enough of a grown-up to pay most of your own bills).
” Should I leave school all together, and work until I am stable and can pay for myself? This option is also hard for me, I don’t know if I could do it. I’ve never supported myself and I know absolutely nothing about it, how would I make ends meet with no savings, no money at all?”
I’m not advocating leaving school here, but I do want to say–it *is* scary, LW. You’ll have to do it one day, and you will and you’ll be fine. You’ll start off knowing absolutely nothing about it, and you’ll learn. And right now, whatever else you decide to do in regards to mom/boyfriend/school, when the dust from that settles, you should go ahead and make yourself a financial gameplan. There’s lots of great books and websites that can help you. It doesn’t need to be detailed, just start slow and give yourself a map of what Financially Independent Life might look like. Because part of what makes the situation so scary is not knowing. Where you’re at, you can’t see what the path looks like a few months from now. Whatever decision you make, you’ll learn from it, and have good times and bad times. But having that little rough sketch in your head of what FIL looks like could help you to feel less scared the next time you have to make a decision. Best of luck.
1) Develop yourself. You’re only 19 and I know your boyfriend seems like the whole world, the whole future, but until you can figure out who YOU are you shouldn’t be giving up your life for anyone else (your mom, your boyfriend or your goldfish).
1a) Learn about money. Get a job, take on some of your own bills, start a savings account, save up for something tangible, hit the goal, spend that chunk, rinse, repeat. 1b) This is a dark thought, but if your mom drops dead and can’t finance your life anymore you’re up the creek and you don’t even have the shards of a piggy bank to paddle with.
2) About your mom and the money thing. It sucks but think of her as your employer – she chooses to pay for your whole life and expects certain things from you as a result.
3) Not being able to live together for 3 years: The world won’t come to a crashing halt if you have to wait to live with your boyfriend. Forever is a long time, what’s 3 years?
4) The boyfriend – You’ve been dating a year and a half. How long have you spent together, alone? Days? Weeks? Is it really a great idea to move in with someone with whom you’ve only been whilst on ‘vacation’? Life isn’t easy and the bubble you’ve likely been limited to, relationship-wise, may not have you making realistic expectations of cohabitation.
5) Which is really just part 1, again. There are some basic checklists you should consider before moving in with someone:
–Live alone for at least 6 months, preferably a year. Learn to manage time and money, take care of yourself, get a houseplant and don’t kill it.
–Save up enough money so when you’re living with someone, you have the option of an out. Nightmare scenario: Living with someone who has seen you naked when they want to see other people naked. Embarassing.
Good luck, and remember – Developing yourself comes before developing relationships. You don’t sound confident in your own abilities, yet. Give yourself time and space to grow and then, and only then, consider how to add your life to someone else’s.
THIS. I think that the LW has been seriously coddled by her mother, and as the Captain touched upon, that excuse is growing thinner with age. No, the mother should not be manipulating her with money, but the LW seems to think that she should be able to do whatever she wants and have someone else foot the bill.
When I took time off from my fancy, private, mostly-paid-for college to be with my long-distance BF, I saved the money to be able to pay rent, worked while I was there, and communicated with my parents about whether and how much they would pay for me to take classes. Before that, I paid for plane tickets.
In hindsight, I should have spent more time on my own before making these decisions–living on your own give you such a wonderful perspective on who you are and what you want when you aren’t organizing your life around someone else. And also how many different, awesome lives you could live if you could just untether yourself from this one thing or person you are sure that you need to go on living.
tl;dr: Fantasy Land is not a good place from which to make decisions. Get out there and see what life is like outside of the protective bubble before doing anything drastic.
An additional step in the decision process should be to consider whether there are any possible solutions other than the ones you have initially come up with. For instance, in this case, the letter writer seems to see her choices as either quitting school and moving to France, or keeping the relationship long-distance.
A third, compromise choice (which she brings up very briefly but seems to dismiss) would be to have the boyfriend move to the city her college is in, but they live separately. It has most of the benefits of either extreme: she gets her tuition paid, they’re no longer long-distance, she’s not stranded in a country with no language skills. Drawbacks: she doesn’t get to live with the boyfriend, she’s giving the mother some power over her (but then, if she’s considering staying long-distance and continuing to accept the tuition, she’s not automatically opposed to that).
Compromise isn’t necessarily the best choice, but sometimes figuring out when to accept most of what you want is a good life skill to learn.
Or maybe there could be creative options! Moving to France and seeing if LW’s university would be cool with letting her get some credits from a university in the area… potentially for French language studies… which she could apply in a bit of work while in France.
Dichotomous choices can be really rough- I hope it works out alright for LW.
Or they could live together in the city her college is in and they could together come up with a plan for supporting themselves financially there.
This will probably not be a popular answer here. I am the mother of a 20 year old college student. While I support him without sticking my nose in his business, if he did something that I felt was fundamentally horrible for him, I would probably not want to support him any more. If it’s my money, he has to conform to certain rules. If he wants to live his life any way he wants, he can support himself. Now, in my case the “rules” are on the order of “don’t be a mass murderer” and “don’t make babies you don’t want and can’t support”, so it hasn’t been too difficult. I liked the answer that the LW should figure out what is most important to her. And then follow her decisions, taking the consequences. But it is the parent’s right to chose to support or not support decisions made by the child. It is a two way street.
Well, you definitely have a point that being supported as an adult is not an entitlement, it’s a privilege. And no one should feel that their parents are obligated to open their chequebooks.
I know my parents would have been uncomfortable paying for me to live with a boyfriend in college – their argument being that I could make my own decisions, but they wouldn’t be comfortable subsidising it. And I absolutely respect that they have the right to have their own boundaries for spending their money.
My parents *were* uncomfortable with me living with my boyfriend in college. I paid tuition, but they paid my expenses. They didn’t make it a condition that I kick him out, and I created the polite fiction that he was one of two roommates (the other was female) with a “separate bedroom,” so we all limped by.
He was awful for me. The boyfriends I chose at 17 and 20 were both three-year horror shows. One was a judgmental control freak, and the other (the live-in) was a feckless stoner. And – maybe like the LW? – my first real, shocking, drag-out fight with my parents was because they didn’t like my first boyfriend. I was devastated that they hated him, and it damaged our trust. As a result, when I was living with the steals-my-rent-for-his-drugs pothead, I hid from them how bad things were. I was ashamed, and I didn’t want them to be right to think that I couldn’t take care of myself and make good decisions. And that was bad for *me* because no one could give me feedback on the abusive situation I was in.
After college (22), I moved back in with my parents to build a nest egg. I was with my third boyfriend by then, and he was a good guy, but my parents were uncomfortable that we were having unmarried sex. (Only at his house, but they were old-fashioned.) So I got my own apartment at 23. To be clear, they did not judge me or give me an ultimatum, but it was not kind or appropriate to offend them with my behavior when they were helping me out of kindness. Also, it was way past time for me to have sex under my own roof like an adult. My full independence helped them see me as a grownup, and they lost their sense of attachment to my life choices, as it were. 🙂
So, LW, it’s painful to feel the adults in your life think you don’t make good decisions and can’t support yourself. It’s painful to feel that way about yourself. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of; we have *all* made awful choices at times, and we grow into our ability to be self-supporting adults at different rates, depending on our temperment and experiences. I hope you can find a way to make the choices ahead of you without feeling trapped or forced into a one-way street. You might not be able to go back and re-make decisions, but you *always* can make new choices for yourself going forward. Good luck.
I agree. Plus, mom’s not saying “break up/cut off all relations/him or me.” She’s just saying she’s not going to finically support the two of them living together.
Most of the parents I know won’t pay for their kids to romantically live, either because it feels squelchy to them or because they – like my parents – think that if you’re old enough to be in a relationship that is that committed and serious, you’ll old enough to support yourself.
You’ve got to decide what you want to do and what you’re willing to sacrifice to get there. Maybe it’s two years of living apart from the boyfriend for hopefully a better future with him; maybe it’s declaring your freedom now and hoping he can support you while you figure out how to support yourself.
Either way, start learning how to manage your money and your finances as soon as you can! If nothing else, ask your mom for a monthly allowance so you can figure out how to allocate money for bills/groceries/necessities/extras.
I think that seems pretty reasonable. I mean, there’s a difference between “I respect that you are making your own choices; however, this is more than I feel comfortable supporting” and “It’s your boyfriend or your tuition fees!” It sounds like you are going with the former option, which is rooted in an expectation of mutual respect and using boundaries that are shields, not swords.
“Boundaries that are shields, not swords.” I love this turn of phrase.
I agree and respect a parent’s right to give or withdraw suppose. I also think it is incumbent on the parent to manage expectations before an agreement about support is made. “I will pay for tuition and room/board under the following conditions…if you choose to make choices outside of said conditions, I will only pay for tuition, or nothing at all, or whatever.” That’s a great contract, with informed consent.
Making arbitrary and reactive threats because of situations the parent doesn’t like smacks of manipulation to me. It exploits the child’s vulnerability as a dependent and sends the message that support is unstable and based on whims rather than solid and predictable principles.
To be fair, it is entirely likely that the mom never thought of how she would feel if the situation arose, depending on the daughter’s previous relationships, personality, or history. My parents had this discussion with my older brother, who is constantly in serious relationships, but I never date so they’ve never felt the need to discuss in detail with me.
Also, if there is serious dislike of this one boyfriend, it’s not unreasonable to go “I’m not going to stop you seeing him but I’m not going to support you living together.” Not wanting to support disliked people – I can understand that. (Pulling tuition unless LW breaks up with boyfriend is another thing altogether.)
I was an oldest child, and I often had that experience of rules/expectations coming up completely out of the blue. And honestly, I can’t really resent my parents that much for that. They didn’t/couldn’t think of everything.
Ah – thank you for that Rachelle! Being, and parenting oldest kids (I imagine it would be just as hard with onlies) can feel unpredictable and intense.
I am also an oldest child, and a girl, and while rules were seldom hard and fast, I definitely had the feeling that I softened my parents up for EVERYTHING my brother wanted to do. As a result of that, I’ve spent a lot more time talking to my oldest about what kinds of things we are hoping for her, and comparing notes with her about what she’s wanting to have happen. The second daughter is watching VERY intently.
You know, I agree with you.
I also think there’s a big difference between “HIM OR ME” and “I’ll pay for your on-campus dorm room but not for your off-campus apartment with Boyfriend.” The former is attempting to control someone else’s relationship; the latter is setting boundaries on where you’ll spend your own money. I think that it’s pretty terrible to try to control someone else’s relationships. And at the same time I think that I have got no business telling someone else how to spend their own money.
It is, of course, difficult to know where this particular situation falls on the spectrum.
(My parents made it clear that they would pay for a dorm room for me on campus while I was in school, but if I decided to live off-campus, or take time off from school [barring involuntary situations like medical issues], I was on my own. That always struck me as eminently fair.)
Yes, like – could she not stay in school, not live with her boyfriend, but he still moves to her city and they could visit more often? I’m not sure why the only options here are “move to France” and “he moves in with me”. There must be other places he could stay in her city.
LW, rather than a full-on transfer, could your boyfriend do an exchange program at your university? There are often scholarships available to help with the costs of exchanges. Similarly you may be able to go on exchange in France, although the language barrier may preclude this (do investigate as some univerisites apparently offer classes in English as well? Really not sure about this but what have you got to lose by checking it out.). Perhaps you could go on exchange to somewhere in England, and then you and your BF could do some weekend trips to meet up. An exchange could be a good way to spend some time together in the three years you’re studying, before you will have your degree and the two of you can move to be together.
I think that you have a lot more options that just “move to France to be with him” or “break up forever”.
“I’m not sure why the only options here are “move to France” and “he moves in with me”. There must be other places he could stay in her city.”
That was the gap I noticed too. And perhaps there’s a very good reason that there are no middle ground options, but it did surprise me to see that possibility go wholly unmentioned.
It seems like, in addition to doing some hard thinking about what she wants and what the best and worse case scenarios are–all excellent, by the way–there may also be some profit in brainstorming other options besides “live together here” or “live together in France.”
I have a comment that either got eaten/is in moderation wondering just that.
Could he transfer to a school in her city? Or move there and get a job if he’s not in school? Could they both do a year of study abroad in the same/nearby schools in another country?
I hate to sound cynical, but I kinda notice that “BF lives with LW” and “LW moves to France” are the two choices… that don’t require the BF to do a lot of work on his own to maintain the relationship. Maybe I’m seeing things that aren’t there, but if the BF is not suggesting a halfway measure that lets him stay in Canada without living on the LW’s mom’s generosity, I kinda side-eye him.
This worried me a lot, as did the fights with LW’s mom. While I appreciate that those could have been a no fault (or LW’s mom’s fault) situation, if BF is living at LW’s mom’s home for several months, particularly with this as his first time meeting her, I hope that he was an absolutely gracious guest and that he wasn’t picking any of these fights about “stupid, pointless things.”
I could be reading WAY too much into this, but it’s all reminding me quite a bit of the letter I wrote to an advice column when I was 19 and dating someone terrible who my mother hated. I was about to go away to school, and he wanted to move across the country with me…
I’m getting some off vibes myself, and I notice stuff like, “Then this summer my long distance boyfriend from France…. decided to come visit for a few months in our house.”
Now it might be that that’s just a somewhat infelicitous phrasing, but it strikes me as odd that it wasn’t “I invited him” or “my mom and I invited him,” especially when we’re talking about a multiple-month houseguest. Again–it could be just the phrasing, and he was invited and accepted the invitation and all was well. But it makes me wonder if maybe it isn’t ONLY the mom who isn’t making unilateral decisions that affect other people–and if that’s why middle ground options are not even mentioned as a possibility.
Oops, too many isn’t-s. Should be “makes me wonder if maybe it isn’t ONLY the mom who’s making unilateral decisions”
I actually wonder whether the LW lives on campus or commutes to school, because something about the way she talks about her mother kicking him out and avoids the middle ground options makes me think that her mother said that the BF can’t live with her *in her mother’s house where she lives*. Which, I think, would put an entirely different spin on the situation, because it wouldn’t really be about financial support at all, it would be about the mother not wanting BF living in her house.
I wondered about that…. and about the multi-month stay at Mom’s house. How much say did Mom have in that? I ask because my sister invited a guest to stay for two months and wheedled my parents into it, and four years later, guest is still here asking for multi-thousand dollar loans to pay her traffic tickets and my sister is paying her rent and we all basically hate her, but sister breaks down into tears and the silent treatment if we venture into the slightest critique.
And that’s not even a romantic attachment.
Ooooh, that’s a good point and one I hadn’t noticed. I was assuming they would be theoretically living in a different place. If that’s the case, yeah, I can definitely understand the mom drawing that line.
Yeaaah, I read it Badger Rose’s way too. “Wait, he invited himself to stay in this woman house for *months*, picked fights with her, and there’s no mention of him paying any kind of rent? And she tolerated this for months before she’d had enough but she’s the completely unreasonable one?” I mean, maybe it’s just phrasing and that’s not really what happened. But if it did, I don’t think I blame the mother for feeling she’s done all the paying for a roof over this man’s head that she’s willing to do. Why can’t the boyfriend move to the LW’s city, find his own place to live, and then the LW can just spend practically all her time there if she wants to — but with the knowledge she’s got a place of her own to go back to if this turns out to be not, after all, the love of her life? When I was a student there were plenty of couples who for all intents and purposes “lived together”, even though that wasn’t what was said on the tenancy agreement.
I think this is an eminently sensible answer, and I have to add, it definitely makes sense to me that the sort of things a parent might be comfortable supporting their children financially for could break down along “adult-thing” and “child-thing” lines, rather than just morally acceptable or morally unacceptable. Going to school seems more of a child-thing in my mind; children go to school, and even when adults to go school in order to get increasingly high-level degrees, the fact remains that you have to be a student BEFORE you can get the full-time grown-up jobs that your degree qualifies you for. Being in romantic relationships, especially serious ones where you are cohabiting, is squarely in the “adult” realm; children do not have romantic relationships; teenagers may date but generally do not live together.
The LW knows her own mother better than I do, obviously, but I think it may possibly benefit the LW to try and think if this really is entirely a case of her mother not being willing to support her cohabiting because she dislikes the boyfriend personally, or if there is something else in her mother’s values re: education, or the importance of boyfriends, or what it means to be an adult, etc., that they may be clashing on. I hope that sentence makes sense because I’m not sure how to elaborate without getting judgy-sounded; I was raised with a particular set of general values and priorities, plus I developed by own further ideas about these values and priorities, and they have me empathizing somewhat with the mom if only because trying to empathize with the LW’s priorities is taxing my imagination beyond what I have the energy for today. And so I will try to refrain from participating overmuch in this thread.
I have been the 19 year old making decisions that were wrong in the sense of being poor life choices, but right in the sense of gaining confidence though asserting myself and making the mistakes needed to learn how to make good decisions.
I am now a mother making considerable personal and financial sacrifices for my children’s current and future well-being. That’s part of the job description, and doesn’t mean I own my children’s future, but I can now feel the pain it caused my mom to think that all of her sacrifice and work were being wasted.
I would almost certainly do as my mom did when I dropped out of school.
She gave me one month to find a job and start paying part of the rent and utilities, get my own car insurance, and do half of the household chores. Essentially I went from ‘child’ status to ‘adult I love very much and will still invest a considerable amount of love, time, and money into.’
That was a reasonable and loving response to my assertion of autonomy over my own life. Basically she asked me to bear some of the adult responsibility for an adult decision that I made.
I would not do what she did when at 21 I got pregnant by a sweet guy I had been seeing for a couple of months, but didn’t love when we got really drunk and didn’t use a condom.
She demanded that I get an immediate abortion or get out. That was in fact the option I had been leaning toward, and part of the reason I was telling her was to get assurance that she would take me to the clinic and take care of me afterward. But I was so taken aback by her response that I refused. Which ended up being a gigantic mess, and I miscarried in the second trimester alone with no phone to call anyone after she moved out of our shared apartment.
There aren’t words enough to express how wrong that was, and we did not speak to each other until four years later when she apologized and started rebuilding our relationship.
Those are two drastically different responses, one reasonable and supportive of my growing into an adult, one fucked-up and wrong, but our feelings about them were the same.
Both times I was forced to deal with the consequences of my lack of judgement and experience. Both times I felt completely unprepared to do so. Both times I felt overwhelmed and abandoned.
Both times she felt terrified for my future. Both times she felt angry at my waste of opportunities. Both times she felt that she was drawing a line in the sand that while painful in the short-term would hep me in the long-term.
She was right the first time and wrong the second. But neither of us could have seen that at the time.
Drawing those kinds of boundaries is a huge part of good parenting. I often don’t know if I’m right or wrong until after I’ve seen the results.
My advice to the LW would be to believe that both of the people she loves love her back, and then to ignore what ever they want her to do for at least six months.
What do you want from your life? How would you accomplish it if neither your mother or your boyfriend were in the picture? Go do that. Six months of footing your own bills will not shackle you to debt forever, and six months of waiting will not damage a strong relationship. Consider making time for something frivolous and fun that is just yours and does not involve anyone you have intense feelings for.
Go take out some school loans/apply for grants/get a job, whatever you need to do to pay for one semester of school. Or one semester abroad. Or one semester of whatever else you would like to do. Once you have the experience of handling your own life and paying your own way, you will have the confidence to make big decisions.
Right now it sounds like you are trying to pick whether your mother or your boyfriend will be the center of your world, then you will plan your life around what they want.
Give yourself time to start making your own life, then figure out how you would like the people you love to fit into it.
It looks like your answer has actually been quite popular Mary! 🙂 And I tend to agree. Living with a boyfriend means you’re in a serious, committed, de facto relationship, which means you’ve made the decision to live like an adult. Adults don’t need financial support from parents.
I 95% agree, but I’d very slightly reword it to “…aren’t *entitled* to financial support from parents.” Sometimes realio trulio grown-up adults need financial help, and sometimes parents are able and willing to provide that help, and it doesn’t make anyone not an adult anymore.
The difference is that minor children are *entitled* to support from their families (of at least the room-board-and-necessities variety), whereas adult children aren’t and the parents can say no without being negligent. IMHO, anyway.
Thanks for catching that. A lot of people these days get caught by the trap, “Adults don’t need help, so if I can’t do this without help I’m an awful person” as opposed to, “Adults are generally responsible for looking after themselves, which sometimes includes asking for and/or accepting help from willing donors.”
A very important distinction.
Yeah, “my mom won’t pay my half of the rent so I can live with my boyfriend” is a mildly stupid thing to be annoyed by. I mean, yes, I grok the judgmentalism the mom is showing here, and being annoyed by *that,* but…well, I didn’t move in with my boyfriend until I was financially independent from my parents, BECAUSE I didn’t want to deal with shit like this. They were (predictably) very upset about it, but I just stood my ground quietly (too quietly maybe — we didn’t speak in voice communications for two months; we only emailed back and forth, because speaking on the phone was too fraught with emotion), and they eventually got past it. (I won’t say “got over it,” but it stopped being the center of Every Conversation.)
To beat my own drum a bit, what the Captain says about AUTONOMY and CONFIDENCE is vitally important. I think this is tied in a bit with the sexism inherent in our society – it’s much more okay for women to be dependent on someone else (parent, SO, spouse) than for men to be so, and as a result, sometimes women get into bad situations like the Worst-Case scenarios described above — stuck in a dead-end relationship (or, god forbid, an abusive one) because they either can’t or think they can’t support their own selves (or selves + children). Not good.
Yeah, my parents would not have supported this plan financially. And, at 19, I would not have blamed them. They might have helped out again if/when I came back, but that still means a year in France I’d have to support myself. Plus managing some medical stuff. I think if I had a kid this age in this situation, I would do the same.
If that desire not to support is backed by all kinds of other controlling behavior, if it’s part of a pattern of using money to control a kid, that’s a different issue. The issue becomes “if you want to make your own choices through adulthood, you must expect not to ever be supported by your mom.” But if this is the one time mama puts her boundaries in place and says “I won’t do this…” well, okay.
I guess I am a fuddy duddy, but I am with you on this, y’all. Parents are allowed to do what they think is right with their money.
(A cousin of mine bought a ticket and managed to get herself into college abroad, in part because of a dude. My aunt & uncle weren’t super-thrilled about this. But it worked out really well for her. She had to support herself, and she did.)
Yeah, I didn’t want to be unsympathetic, but this is kind of how I see it, too.
I feel bad for the LW, because this is not a fun situation to be in… but none of the things the mother is described as doing seem all that extreme to me. She doesn’t want the LW to live with her boyfriend on her dime, so she’s said she won’t support the LW if that happens.
At least that I could see, she hasn’t demanded that the LW break up with the boyfriend, or threatened to kick the LW out of the house. She hasn’t said that she will no longer love the LW if she moves in with the boyfriend, or that the LW will no longer be welcome at her house.
She’s just said that she will pay for the LW’s school costs as long as the LW is in school and not living with her boyfriend. There could be subtext that I’m missing, but this honestly doesn’t seem all that terrible and unreasonable to me.
Dear Mary, thanks for sharing. Your opinion is a) completely understandable and b) hardly an outlier among parents.
This is more for the Letter Writer and others who might have had this experience than a critique directed at Mary, but I think it’s good for parents of college students to hear this perspective.
Having conditions and boundaries around what support you will provide to an adult child is not controlling, as long as you communicate them clearly and maintain them consistently. You sound like a great mom.
Where it gets murky is when the reminders that support is conditional and can be removed at any time are constant. Someone who does you a favor but constantly reminds you that they didn’t have to and might not keep doing it and you better watch your step or else the favor will go away really dilutes the favor part of the favor.
The bargain I thought I was making with my parents was:
Parents will help with college tuition & housing costs and help me secure all available financial aid. In return, I will go to college, study hard, actually earn the degree on time, do my best to make sure I can support myself when I graduate, do my best to be a good citizen of this world and of the family and avoid major screw-ups. I held up this bargain.
The bargain they thought we were making was:
They would help with tuition, etc. In return, I would:
-Never struggle with *any* course or subject academically. Because there is no learning curve when you go from a rural public high school to Georgetown University, right? Because if you take an unexpectedly difficult class or try out a discipline outside your comfort zone or struggle a little with a different kind of learning than you are used to, you might get a not-A, which will taint your transcript forever and be used as a reason to question whether you deserve to be there at all.
-Never make a mistake or having anything bad happen to me. Bike stolen from a locked bike rack? Raped by a classmate? Uh-oh, might be time to pull me out of college because I am obviously too incompetent to be on my own.
-DEFINITELY never be diagnosed with a mental illness.
-Remain a virgin until marriage, go to weekly church services despite being an atheist, never gain weight or modify any part of my body in any way, and always be in my dorm room when they decided to call for an early morning bed check.
-The course of study you chose when you were 17 and applying to schools (early decision) MUST be followed WITHOUT deviation throughout you college career.* Courses you love and do well in are frivolous distractions from time you could spend bringing your grade in courses you hate and constantly struggle with up to an A.
I was grateful for the opportunity to go to college and have financial support of my parents. They did end up giving me a lot of freedom to choose my courses and my major and to study abroad. They did eventually sort of accept that among my peers at that school I was a pretty average student. They did not ever follow through on their many threats to pull me out of school if I did not behave.
And yet, I spent four years afraid to make any mistake. And since it is impossible to not make mistakes, during a time when I was learning to be a grownup (and grappling with PTSD from a rape and depression), I became afraid to communicate any weakness or struggle to my parents.
For some parents & children, “My $, my rules” is a way to provide structure and clarity and set important boundaries.
For me, since the rules were never stated explicitly and kept changing, “My $, my rules” meant “You could stop deserving this at any time.” I was covering a hefty chunk of the expenses through my own loans, working 20-30 hours/week during the school year and 40+ hours/week in the summers. I got merit scholarships in high school & kept my imperfect GPA up enough to maintain them WHILE working hours many of the “A” students were not working and also while performing music and holding leadership roles in student organizations. But I would spend the summers and breaks walking on eggshells and not knowing whether I would be “allowed” to go back.
At the time, I didn’t have the confidence in myself to break free, or even the idea that that was something that was possible. I had marketable skills and had been working at one job or another since I was 11, but that didn’t mean I was ready to go out and earn my living. I loved school and I knew I wanted that degree, so I did my best to follow the rules or appear to be following them. I was offered a choice – “My $, my rules” – and I made my choice. But to pretend that it wasn’t about control, or to paint it as an issue of my being ungrateful or “entitled”, or imply that I was worthless and incompetent because I was legitimately afraid of being homeless and kicked out of my family at 19 if I got a bad grade or dated the wrong boy….not cool. I don’t know what motivated my folks or why they thought that fear was the right way to motivate me or what their anxieties or actual perception of my abilities was – I was either the world’s smartest person who should get As or the world’s dumbest person who gets herself raped. They made a choice, too, and that choice had its consequences. It destroyed our relationship for more than a decade. It meant that I kept important things from them and did not trust them as people I could ask for help or share anything real about my life because I was afraid of them. I got a bachelor of science in foreign service. They got a daughter who ran as far away as she could and stayed there and who schedules visits back for no more than three days.
College students are not magically protected from the “real world” by virtue of being young. They are in the real world. This is always the real world, here, around you.
*And my sum remaining years on the planet, or else my college experience must be roundly considered a waste and declared so at every opportunity!
Yes, thank you for this.
I really respect the parents here, but I have seen so many parents use financial support or the promise thereof as a cudgel to punish their children for things that are not actually either wrong or within the child’s ability to avoid that the phrase “my money, my rules” puts my back up really fast.
That makes sense in that boundaries themselves aren’t necessarily a problem, but how you communicate them is essential. Conversely, my grandparents set the expectation that they would only fund their children through college so long as the children remained unmarried (arguing that once you get married, it’s time to assume financial responsibility for yourself). It made sense that they chose to stop funding their son once he got married (as pre-agreed) – I’d consider that very different from “I will stop funding if you don’t meet my vaguely defined views of perfection.”
Eh, even there there’s no hard-and-fast rule for what’s okay and what isn’t. Some people would consider “I will only pay for your education if you are in pre-med or medical school” totally reasonable; it gives me hives. YMMV.
Totally. Which is why setting out boundaries early is always good. I wouldn’t love it if someone said “medical school only”, but if they calmly spelled it out in advance – I mean, it’s their money and you can make your plans with the relevant information.
My parents had that stipulation, too. We also signed a family contract about what was expected in terms of grades, financing, repayment, and acceptable things to do with their money. My friends joke about it, but I loved it! Expectations were clear for everybody and we avoided any major issues by agreeing on what was acceptable long before they could be a problem.
“….boundaries themselves aren’t necessarily a problem, but how you communicate them is essential. ” AND “I will stop funding if you don’t meet my vaguely defined views of perfection.”
Both these statements hit so hard – thank you for this. (My FEELS! I have so many FEELINGSthoughts!)
My parents made it very clear from when I learned to read that if I didn’t get that A in x class that I wouldn’t get into y advanced class, and that because I didn’t know abc minor geographical facts to master this possible pop quiz, that I wouldn’t get into a good school and not have a good job and therefore ruin my life. I wasn’t allowed to fail, or make mistakes, or explore or play…any time I would start to enjoy something or show a knack for it, they would pounce and pounce hard to chart a sure-fire way that would lead to inevitable success (defined for them). For example, I loved building and taking my little brother’s electronic toys apart to figure out how they worked and would fix or put them back together – in my dad’s head “OOH! SHE WILL BECOME A SURGEON!” and immediately started talking to me about potential advanced medical school programs in universities that I should attend. When I was 6. Or, when I showed a knack for writing, they asked to see my personal journals so they could critique and correct them – later giving me assignments to write 2 entries a day for them to read…I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
Any deviation in any of these plans or exploring something they didn’t understand was met with punishment or complete emotional abandonment. The worst was when my dad would simply smile and say “its your life its your choice” and suddenly I would find myself pulled out of any social activities or school trips or classes I liked. I learned very quickly to hide what I really loved doing (but do it covertly) and not share or trust them to share how I felt or what I wanted.
While I’m grateful for my sense of discipline and drive and ambition – as well as being loan-free, and being able to attend a good school – there was a point in my adult life where I was tired of fighting them, tired of lying and living a double life, and tired of feeling like a shitty shitty person for not wanting / living up to whatever random grandiose plans they’d engineered for me.
All of this has very much damaged our relationship now. And as soon as I could, I did exercise “It’s your life, its your choice” by cutting them out of most of my life (if not completely). I’m financially stable, building a career and a life (oh wow – I DIDN’T completely fail at life forever!). And its taken me a long time (still is in fact) to come to terms with all of it.
I mean, there’s a huge difference between – using support (emotional / financial) as control and setting boundaries / laying down a good structure to encourage growth. Not saying that my situation completely applies to the LW, but it is important to determine where spectrum her situation lies.
My folks were much, much milder than what you describe, but I know the rest of this territory all too well.
Indeed – the thing about these letters is that we’re not always privy to the dynamics behind it, if that makes any sense. As another poster alluded to, I doubt anyone on here would disagree with a parent who told their child that if they continued doing drugs rather than attending class, they would stop financing their education. At the other extreme, no one should have to go through what you did – feeling constantly on edge – (and go you for getting through that!)
Yeah, this. I think it’s a good thing to consider when you are deciding which choice to make. What is your big picture like? Do you know yourself and your parent well enough to see that big picture?
That is really hard to do, even when you are quite a bit older than 19.
I guess what I didn’t say, and should have said to LW is:
You can make either of the decisions you outline above. You can make some other kind of decision. If how this will affect your relationship with your mom (and it doesn’t have to) is important to you, ask yourself:
Does your mom follow with the pattern Captain Awkward describes? Does she set standards that are unreasonable, and then change the rules? Is this a decision she is making because she thinks it’s her role to decide what is good for *you* and what *you* are capable of handling?
Does your mom generally make decisions you think are fair? Is this boundary a clear one? Do you trust her to do what she says she will do when she says she will do good things for you? Do you trust her to make the decision for *herself* and her values?
But LW isn’t writing about “how do I have a good relationship with my mom?” She’s asking “what do I do now that my mom has decided this thing for herself?” So in a way, the reason for mom’s refusal to support LW’s Paris plan is not really relevant. It’s what she decided… so now what?
Thank you for this. I had the promise of financial support while at university, too – until I suffered a breakdown and unidentified physical symptoms and had to take a Leave of Absence. Before deciding to take the LoA I checked in with my parents to make sure that I would still be supported if I took it (students on LoA in the UK are in a rubbish catch-22 where they neither qualify for benefits or student loans, and so parental support or savings are the *only* ways of surviving a LoA – without support I’d have had to just drop out, and I was (sort of) okay with that), but two months later, with me still deeply depressed, in pain, and having panic attacks every time I even thought about trying to explain to anyone that I wasn’t better yet and didn’t know *how* to get better, they started making noises about withdrawing support if I didn’t ‘keep them up to date’ more often. ‘Keeping them up to date’ to their satisfation seemed utterly impossible – their phone calls involved interrogations on exactly what I was trying medically, chastisment for not following their advice (it’s hard to get outside and do exercise when getting out of bed and having a shower is a monumental achievement), and insistance that there was nothing wrong with me really. (I wasn’t diagnosed with anything yet, and in any case they didn’t believe that depression was a real illness.)
It didn’t take too long before this escalated to the point where my dad told me that if I didn’t call more often, they would stop supporting me outright – and I knew that I couldn’t. So, I packed up and took a train to my long-distance boyfriend (who my parents disapproved of)’s parents’ house, dropped off the radar with everyone except for my Nan, and stayed with them for the rest of my leave. My boyfriend at the time wasn’t the greatest, and I managed to contribute to the household by taking over most of his and his sister (who had just started working)’s chores in between anxiety attacks and seizures.
Eventually we managed to reconcille, mostly, after my parents found out that I’d still been talking to my Nan and that being constantly interrogated about what I was doing about my health was the opposite of helping, but we still talk very seldom, and I don’t trust them to have any power over me any more, so I keep our relationship such that they can’t. I don’t visit their house alone, and even with a partner I don’t stay more than a few days, because I can’t drive (health issues still ongoing years later) and their house is in the middle of nowhere, so I can’t get myself about.
Parents who want to have conditions on their support need to outline what the conditions are, and also need to recognise when their support makes their child ineligable for other support. In addition, there are parents which tell their children not to take out loans because they’ll be supporting them through school – only to retroactively apply conditions after the deadlines for applying for loans are passed, leaving the child with no recourse but to drop out if they displease you. That is not on. Don’t do that thing – it’s an asshole move.
Yeah I really think it matters if people are properly consistently boundaried, and also partly it matters what their reasons are and how old you are. I was told at 16 that I would only be supported through a levels and a bit through uni (though parents couldn’t afford to support me in a big way), if I stopped believing I was a lesbian, in fact I was told I would be kicked out the house and they wouldn’t feed me. Even though it is ‘their money, their rules’ that wasn’t cool, it was bordering abusive. It meant was that I ended up homeless at 17, with no family support whatsoever (including no emotional support or contact) *whilst* somehow managing to achieve a levels and an undergraduate degree (working, loans, credit cards) and all the while my parents put the extra money they saved on not having to look after me into paying my sisters rent until she was 21, and told the whole family that the reason was that I was ‘mentally unstable’. Needless to say my sister has had a much easier life, doesn’t suffer with mental and physical health problems, has a job etc etc Even though I was over 16, it was their homophobia which motivated them to abandon their parental responsibilities way before the vast majority of young people in my country. I survived without them, and so they didn’t succeed in controlling me, but in my opinion they did the opposite of their role as parents. So, as a general parenting thing I don’t think ‘my money my rules’ is A* parenting, but there is a middle ground. For LW it seems (especially from my perspective in the queer community) that her choice is quite a privileged one, and fairly easy to deal with. Either way her life is not at risk and she will most likely have a roof over her head. It strikes me, as it has other people, though that the boyfriend has responsibilities in this: what is he willing to sacrifice? Because potentially LW is sacrificing a much easier life for herself, and that can have consequences down the line. Totally dealable consequences, most likely, but ones that could give her a massive headache and some potentially sleepless nights whilst she figures out how to support herself. What is he doing? Is he going to put in equal graft to make their living together viable?
Redshoe, I’m so sorry your parents did that to you. At 16 you were a minor. What your parents did was wrong, horrible, and abusive. They were legally required to support you until you at least graduate high school regardless of their bullshit opinions on your sexuality. However, your heartbreaking story is substantially different than LWs in that she is legally considered an adult and you were not.
Note that the age at which parental responsibility ends differs from country to country. In Scotland, for example, throwing your child out at age 16 would be legal. Shitty, but legal.
I’ve started writing and then deleted about half a dozen different comments related to this letter, because fuck, SO MANY FEELS.
Long and short of it is, I had a similar problem with unclear, constantly shifting rules around financial support from my parents during college, and it deeply damaged our relationship and undermined my ability to fully benefit from my college education. They weren’t even paying for much–I had a full-tuition scholarship and a partial scholarship that covered most of my rent, I just needed money for food/utilities/miscellaneous expenses. And they agreed to pay for that. But instead of any kind of sane regular allowance, my parents gave me money “as I needed it”, which meant I had to justify every expense and beg for money every time I ran out. I know now that some of the times this was because my parents didn’t have money to give me, but when I offered to take out student loans instead, they always told me I shouldn’t because they were giving me all the support I needed, and suggested that if I needed more I must be being careless with my money.
Eventually, I couldn’t deal with the unpredictability of the whole arrangement, and I went behind their backs and got student loans and credit cards and picked up as many hours of work as I could, and I limped through my last year and a half of my degree on my own. My debt from school is relatively small compared to that of some of my friends, but the terms on that debt are horrendous. I was ineligible for federally subsidized loans because my parents make too much, and the rates on my private loan are almost as bad as a credit card, because I had to get the loan without the benefit of good credit or a cosigner.
In retrospect, I wish I’d given up on my parents’ support even sooner than I did, because the stress I went through fighting them for/about money is basically all I remember of my junior year of college, and the financial support I did receive was not worth all of that. I also wish I had had the guts to defy them and go to other family members for a loan cosigner, because my cowardice there will ultimately cost me hundreds or thousands in extra interest by the time all is said and done.
I still feel like I can’t really complain, because boohoo, my parents didn’t pay 100% of my way through college. But it isn’t the money that really hurts, though that part definitely sucks. What kills me is that the way my parents handled the situation destroyed my ability to trust them. I’m utterly terrified of ending up in a place where I need their financial support again, because I know what I will end up paying for that support by giving up any sense of emotional stability. Right now I rely on them for health insurance and plane rides to visit them, and nothing else, but even that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think that there is anything I could do to make them take away my health care, but what if I’m wrong?
So yea, my parents had a right to make their own decisions regarding how they spent their money on me while I was in college. But their decisions sucked, and we all now get to live with the consequences.
This entire thread is an absolutely solid argument for decent state funding of higher education.
Indeed. If only our vaginas didn’t make our experiences invalid.
Sorry, I live in the US, in a state that used to be moderate, but is now an example of the worst kind of religious conservatism.
This is absolutely why higher education should be state supported.
It feels kind of awkward commenting here after the Captain has already more-or-less closed the thread, but I am feeling a little uncomfortable at this undercurrent of rugged individualism, especially since we are talking non-US here, and would like to offer a counterbalancing perspective from a European country.
Where I live, no, it is absolutely not the parent’s right to choose whether to support educational decisions made by adult children, no matter how “sensible” your decisions might be, or how much theirs might not be. You are responsible, by law, for your child’s primary education, and that includes a university degree (up to Master’s) of *their* choice. If you can afford it. (If you can’t, the state will spring in for you.) As a continuation of child support, your offspring are entitled to complete their education before standing on their own two feet. Of course, there are restrictions: If they take too long, or fail out of college or whatever they attempted (the rules make no difference between a college degree or apprenticeships etc.) you are absolved of any further responsibilities, and once they have some kind of official qualification for a job (even a burger-flipping certificate) you can’t be made to pay for a second one (so if they have change of heart and want to become a neurosurgeon after all, they can flip burgers to pay for it). But the state enforces this, and will even advance the money to your children and then get it back from you if you refuse to pay. So this is by no means universally the kind of “MY money, I decide” no-brainer that many commenters here presented it as!
I have a friend from high school who actually almost had to sic the state on her parents, because she decided to major in two languages, and they tried to take away her support to force her to study a science so she could make lots of money later. But I’m glad the law supported her in her choice, even if (now that we’re all approaching 30 and living resolutely on our own) her job doesn’t live up to her mom’s salary expectations!
Huh, I was wondering if there were cultural differences at play here. I’m also from a European country (quite possibly the same one, in fact – although I don’t know the laws about this in Germany), and for me it was absolutely clear that my parents would support me through university, no stipulations or conditions or whatever, because they were my parents and that was their job. I was reading all the stories about parents setting an ultimatum or refusing or so here going “wait, are my parents just really generous, what’s going on here?”
I want to go to there. (Well, my 16 year old self would have liked to go to there :-))
But that still means the child has to pursue an education, not that she is entitled to suspend it to live with her boyfriend.
I agree in general…. BUT. A major caveat for those of us in the USA is that government tuition assistance is based on the parent’s income, whether or not the parent pays for their kid’s school. So for an awful lot of us, if parents don’t help pay for school there’s basically no way to get an education.
Hey LW I definitely feel for you. I was in a somewhat similar situation about a year and a half ago. I was a junior in college and very much in love with my HS sweetheart, who lived about 3 hours away. My dad wasn’t paying my tuition or rent but he was buying my books, food, clothes, toiletries etc. So I was pretty dependent on him.
Well every weekend I drove or my bf drove so we could see each other. Every night we talked on the phone or skyped. This relationship mixed with my depression led to me definitely not enjoying college.
So I made a choice, not sure even now two years later if it was the right choice. Nevertheless I dropped out of school, it was difficult and painful like most hard decisions. Good luck LW I hope that whatever you choose you end up learning something and being happy.
“Should I leave school all together?”
Gosh, sorry, that was a knee-jerk cry of horror, not my actual advice.
Actually, I don’t have advice. I have questions. Here are my questions.
“Should I leave school all together?”
How easy would it be for you to get back in at a future date if you were paying the tuition on your own?
“My mother has made it clear that whether were in the same city or not, if she’s supporting me, I am not allowed to live with him.”
Is your mom opposed to you living with *any* guy while you’re in college, or just this guy?
“she even kicked him out of our house just last week”
So is this a period of time when emotions are running high? Do you think that your mom spoke in anger, or would she make good on her threat? (This is a sincere question, not a trick question, because I don’t know.)
” I want to be able to live with him, we’ve been trying for this for a year to transfer schools to be together.”
What sacrifices has your boyfriend offered to make in order to live with you while you go to school? Is he considering dropping out of his university? Has he considered relocating to Canada?
Have you met his family?
“I know I want my future to be with him, and its important to me that I start my future with him.”
Hypothetically speaking, now – just as a what-if – what do you think your life would look like if you’d never met this guy? If, say, you were single until 21 or so? What would you be doing? What opportunities would you be taking?
What kind of emotions does that question call up?
You don’t speak French? Don’t go and live in Paris. You’ll not only be putting college and your life on hold, you’ll also be exchanging financial dependence on your mom for financial dependence on your boyfriend. If you’re going to make a break from her, at least get some autonomy out of that deal.
I disagree with French fluency (the LW has since posted that she speaks/has studied some French) being a precondition. English is spoken widely in France. There is a large expat population in Paris. Moving, if nothing else, would give the letter writer an immersion experience and a chance to devote a year to learning French. Financial dependence is an issue, culture shock is an issue, isolation is an issue, language barrier is an issue, but moving to a foreign country in college to learn a language is not a terrible idea. It’s like, a whole Junior Year Thing for a reason.
Plus, if/when LW learns more French, she can put THAT on her CV/resume as well. French proficiency can very often turn out useful if you decide to come back to Canada for work. Not always, but it’s certainly really nice to have.
Ah shoot, that’s one more thing about this that just takes me back to post-high school. My friend had a guy she loved more than anything, that her mom hated. The day she turned 18, she married him. We thought it was daring and romantic at the time–the low-budget, put-together-by-friends wedding, and the keeping-her-mother-away that the bridal party did (I don’t know how that went down exactly, just that her mother was looking for her to stop the wedding and they gave her the run around?). And shortly after they married, he was deployed to Italy and she moved with him.
So a year in a country where she didn’t speak the language or know anyone but her husband. And then, as it turns out, years later we find out he really was a creep. Of the pervert-in-a-bad-way-and-now-in-jail kind of way.
Parents aren’t always reasonable, especially about their kids dating, but sometimes, man, they really know what they’re talking about.
If I underlined it, italicized it, circled it in red pen, stuck shiny gold stars all around it and got it engraved in a 50-foot stone monument, I could not possibly emphasize more the Captain’s advice about gaining financial autonomy. No matter what your relationships with your mother and boyfriend are like in the future, being able to support yourself will see you through most storms and, I think, make for a much healthier and more egalitarian relationship with both. Making steps in that direction will also give you a lot of information about both of them: are they supportive? What kinds of help do they offer? If they don’t support you, what’s the excuse?
Also, it sounds like you think you don’t have any job skills, but is that true? Are you good with people? If you’re not, are you at least earnest? Do you have a strong work ethic? Can you work hours other people aren’t necessarily willing to? Are you a fast learner? These are all points in your favor that you can put on applications and use in job interviews, and you don’t have to have had a job to know whether you have them. I’m sure you have plenty of skills like these that you haven’t thought about in those terms.
Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck LW. I hope everything works out for you.
Also, the LW is 19. Frankly, 19-year-olds aren’t expected to have many “job skills” in the first place, meaning that most people her age are working minimum wage jobs (or close to them), regardless of their apparent level of competence, and don’t have — nor are expected to have — college degrees. She may want to look for a part-time job to get some experience, and if she decides to stay in school, maybe an on-campus job (which are generally less stress and more accompanying to school commitments).
Here is a good [free] website to learn some skills for office positions: premium.docstoc.com/article/154782656/Online-Courses-for-Small-Businesses
Another site with a variety of free online courses:
Seriously. When I was 19, I didn’t have many “job skills,” and what I did have was a little oddly specialized. It’s not abnormal, and it is totally fixable.
Definitely finding a part-time job is a great idea, just from a looking-for-jobs-post-college measure; having work experience and a degree will make you look more hireable than the college degree alone!
Also LW, remember, you’re 19. 19-yr-olds are not really expected to have “job skills” per se, you’re really not behind most people your age in that department, don’t worry. You may want to look for a part-time job to start building some financial autonomy and introduce yourself to the working world**, either somewhere in town or on-campus if you decide to stay in school (these jobs are generally lower stress and are more accompanying to school commitments, final exams, etc).
Start learning about financial planning and budgeting as well. For many reasons, I had no one from which to learn about financial matters, just a series of “what NOT to do” lessons from family and friends…I imagine quite a few people can relate. There are plenty of resources to help you learn about proactive steps you can take to better your financial situation, a good place to start is “Debt-Free Forever” by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Once you have a better grasp about how to handle your finances, especially once you have an income, you’ll have a greater sense of independence and resiliency.
(**On a related note, I think everyone should have to work a minimum wage service job at least once in their life, I think society would be better off if everyone had that experience)
(Sorry about the double post, I wasn’t sure if the links were allowed so I had rewritten it :-p )
Am here sincerely inviting an advisory beating with sticks by those older and wiser, because I suck at this stuff.
But what’s screaming at me from this letter is that LW’s mom needs a conversation whether she wants to hear it or not — a “here is what we are actually doing here and let’s both be very aware of that” statement. I read the letter that LW-Mom is seriously irrational, but LW-Mom is playing “I’m going to say I told you so later” cards hard and fast; it might be good to lay down a card of the same things Captain Awkward just told us: “You are doing incalculable damage to OUR RELATIONSHIP by explicitly using money to control me, and that damage may or may not last a LOT longer than the relationship with this guy.”
Only maybe not said exactly like that.
The background here is that my relationship with my mom would also be better today if she hadn’t done/said X, with X being several things. I wish to God I’d pointed out to both of us what we were actually doing, which in my case would have been “Okay, you just accused me of being a potential child abuser because you disapproved of two pairs of consenting adults in your family watching porn together a decade ago. Is there some more sordid background here I need to be aware of and you need to unpack? Or shall we decide that my fiancee’s occasional porn consumption is not the hill you want my trust in you to die on?”
What’s being done by LW’s mother is a lot more blatant, so it’ll be a lot easier to talk about if age mellows her, but it’s a potentially uncomfortable situation for everyone if what’s happening here is not outlined.
Then again, maybe she knows exactly what she’s doing and doesn’t care. Which is also good information to have.
I have a little extra sympathy for the mother here, despite her possible missteps. My (older) brother fell in love with a lady online while he lived at home, and she moved in with him and my mom temporarily until she and my brother could get a place of their own. There were a lot of surprises for my mom in this scenario–she didn’t know how serious their relationship was, and she didn’t know they were going to move in together eventually (which is a horrifying sin to my family members). She was greatly uncomfortable with their physical closeness and requested that they not sleep in the same room, which they did not respect. Now, I don’t agree with my mother’s stance on cohabitation (“no”) and premarital sex (“NO”), but I also could see that the so-in-love couple was not particularly polite, respectful of her comfort, or appreciative of the house that was allowing them to gather themselves up for their life together. They were a bit young and inclined to think of her rules as pointless parental trying-to-keep-them-down, rather than as another human’s boundaries to respect. I don’t blame her for feeling hurt and betrayed, frankly.
My brother and SIL are now married and happy, and they see my mom often, but it is not a great relationship. My mom has never fully liked or trusted my SIL since those first awkward months, and my SIL can of course tell, so there are lots of tacit tensions that surface unexpectedly from time to time.
I bring this up, LW, because I think it might be worth getting to the bottom of these fights your boyfriend was having with your mom–putting yourself in her shoes, even if you don’t come to agree with her POV. I can’t make assumptions about your relationship with her or what her personality is like, whether she’s likely to pick fights or create fighty situations–which is possible. But from your letter it seems likely that you will have a lifelong relationship with your mom, and whether this boyfriend sticks around or not, you’re probably going to need to smooth some things over with her (“I see why you were upset;” “I understand your concerns,” etc.) *Especially* if the boyfriend stays in your life, although in that case he should be the one to make amends.
This is very thoughtful, very good advice from the Captain, and I really encourage you to sit down and work through the questions she laid out, because ultimately, you’re the one who has to make a decision and live with it.
But that said, and encouraging you to take a big giant grain of salt in reading advice from me, random internet stranger? Do not stop going to school and move to France.
If you love your boyfriend and want to be with him forever, that is wonderful. Seriously. But forever is a long time, and it doesn’t need to start now. I say this knowing that long distance relationships suck a lot of the time, and that obviously being together is much nicer than being an ocean and several time zones apart. But for me, here are some things that jumped out at me from your letter:
(1) You said that you and your boyfriend have spent a year trying to transfer schools to be together. I’m assuming that means that he was trying to transfer to where you are, or you were both going to go somewhere new together, since you also say that you can’t go to school in France because you don’t speak French? If yes, what is it about your Mom not wanting you to live with him made that plan no longer feasible? If you can still go ahead and be at the same school as your boyfriend without living together, that seems like the best of both worlds to me. If you could both afford to live together, it seems like you should both be able to find separate roommate/house-share situations that would allow you to be in the same place without living together. But if it was only going to work if he lived for free in the place (either her house, or your own apartment) that your Mom was paying for — well, I kind of get why she is not sold on that.
(2) Moving somewhere that you don’t speak the language to be with a significant other is, in my view, really not a good idea. I’m sure people have done this and had it be fine, but it leaves you very isolated and very vulnerable (not least of which because you won’t be able to work there, and won’t have any source of financial support except for your boyfriend). It also, beyond the safety thing, is likely to leave you kind of lonely. How many of your boyfriend’s friends speak English? How easy will it be for you to make your own, non-boyfriend-related friends? What will you do with your time while your boyfriend is (presumably) working or at school? I know Sex and the City devolved into meaningless consumerism at some point, but this is literally the plot of the final couple of episodes, which I thought were really well done — the main character moves to France to be with her boyfriend, but her visions of how fun it will be to spend all her time at cute cafes and art galleries in Paris are quickly replaced with the reality of not knowing or being able to talk to anyone, and her boyfriend leaving her alone for long periods of time while he worked, and her wandering around the city feeling sad because you can only look at so many paintings by yourself before you don’t really want to do that any more.
(3) I agree with the Captain that it is not good to use money to control other people. But I also think that parents who are subsidizing an adult child are entitled to make some (reasonable) ground rules about conditions for receiving their continued financial support. As the Captain says, we can’t really know whether this situation is your Mom being controlling and toxic or your Mom being justifiably worried about some red flags. But I don’t think “no living with your boyfriend while you’re in school, when I am paying for all of your expenses including said living environment” is necessarily an overreach. Even if your boyfriend is wonderful, and even if this relationship is great for you and doesn’t take away from your studying, she may have legitimate concerns (like, for example, what happens if you break up and are left with a lease that you–and thus your Mom–can’t afford on your own, something that has happened to several of my friends).
(4) This is making some assumptions, but the fact that your Mom was okay with your boyfriend coming to live in her house for several months makes me think that she was willing to give him a shot. There is zero chance my Mom would ever have let a guy she didn’t know, who I was dating, move into her place for an entire summer–and frankly, I never would have thought to ask. That doesn’t mean that no parents would be cool with this, or that your Mom shouldn’t have been, but it makes me think that this situation was not as simple as your Mom hearing the word boyfriend and shutting things down without giving the idea a chance.
(5) You don’t give much detail about the fights they’re having, but it sounds like they’re both actively participating in them. Unless your Mom is picking fights with your boyfriend and refusing to let him not engage, or saying really terrible, bigoted things, that makes me side-eye him a bit. He’s a guest for several months in your Mom’s home, and he’s arguing with her all the time? Without more information that makes clear that she is driving all of the fighting and he isn’t able to avoid it, I can see why she might not be a fan of this guy and willing to financially underwrite you moving in with him.
(6) As someone who just paid off a house-sized amount of student debt, and who has a lot of friends trapped in jobs they hate because they are still paying off their own student debt, a debt-free education is a serious gift. That does NOT mean that it is worth putting up with abusive, toxic behavior, and if you (or anyone else) needs to incur some debt to protect yourself or your mental health, absolutely you should. But if your relationship with your Mom is generally fine and the only condition on her financial support of you that you don’t like is that you can’t move in with your boyfriend while you’re in school, that sounds like a relatively good deal to me.
(7) As the Captain says, it sounds like it would be a great idea (no matter what you do about the boyfriend situation) for you to get a part-time job so that you can earn some money and get some experience. This is part of why the France thing gives me pause. It is also a good reason to stay in school now — the sooner you graduate, the sooner you will be able to access full-time jobs that require a degree, and to begin supporting yourself without your Mom’s help.
(8) This is not always a popular opinion, but 19 is young. That doesn’t mean that you are dumb or don’t know what you want or that your boyfriend isn’t the person you will be with forever. My best friends starting dating when they were 17 and still in high school, knew immediately that they had found their respective “one”, and have now been together 13 years and are married. BUT. For every story like that, there are more stories about people who loved who they were with at 19 but later discovered that was not their forever person. I am not saying that you are in the latter group. I don’t know, and have no interest in guessing, whether this relationship is going to be the one you are in the rest of your life. I do think, though, that it’s important at every age, and especially important when you’re young and have fewer data-points to compare to, to be cautious about making big, life-altering decisions based on another person. Obviously people who want to be partnered up will eventually need to do so, whether it be moving because your wife just got a great job on the other side of the country or reducing your hours at work to take care of the kids while trusting your partner to financially support the family. But uprooting your life–leaving school and giving up your financial support and moving away from everyone you know–for someone you have been only ever dated long-distance, at age 19, is something that makes me *extremely* nervous. Maybe it does not make you nervous. But I think back to the person I dated at 19, who I thought I would be with forever, who made a much smaller-scale life change for me, and I shudder… because then I felt trapped in the relationship when it started to go wrong, and it in hindsight it should have been obvious it would go wrong but I just couldn’t see it then, and if I had left school and moved to a foreign country for him it would have been an absolute disaster.
So I come at it from this perspective: long distance sucks, but it is two or three years, and then you will (a) not need your Mom’s financial support or a bucket of loans to finish school, (b) have a degree and be better placed to be financially independent from both your Mom and your partner, and (c) have several more years of data about your relationship and either be much more committed to one another or no longer be sure that this is the person for you. Take that for what it’s worth.
I was going to say the same thing, but you wrote it much better than I ever could have.
Simply as a practical suggestion, I would advise you to go visit your uni’s Career Services office. A lot of the time, they offer career counseling, and you can talk about your goals and learn how to present yourself on paper and in interviews so you can show that you DO have skills and you ARE good at things! Also, start reading up on basic personal finance stuff. LearnVest is a great online resource, while “Young, Fabulous, and Broke” by Suze Orman and “The Smart Cookies’ Guide to Making More Dough” are wonderful printed resources. I know this can be tough–I am personally a bit prone to the “Oh my God I can’t do anything and I am incompetent and will die in a gutter somewhere like Poe but less famous”, but the best cure for fear is preparedness, as far as I’ve seen. So do some research, and hopefully the confidence will follow.
Yes! And also, if you are thinking of leaving school with the plan of returning to it in the future, look into how possible that is and what constraints there might be. Will all of your credits survive/transfer to another school? Can you take a year off while maintaining student status (which can be important for things like health insurance)? If you leave for a year or two, do you have to reapply to the school and be accepted again? If you receive any financial support from school/government sources (scholarships, bursaries, tuition discounts, etc.), will those still be available to you when you return?
A website that has reaaaaaally helped me is Get Rich Slowly (http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/). A lot of the articles are about getting out of debt, but there are really great posts about budgeting basics (e.g. how to make a budget or to figure out how much money you need a week/a month).
This is a really difficult situation to be in, and I totally feel for you. I think that the Cap’n has given you about the best advice you could possibly get – not sure what to add to it, really. But I will say this.
Even if you decide to stay with your mum. Even if you continue receiving her financial help. I would still definitely start looking into some sort of part-time or seasonal work where you’re earning your own money. And not just because the extra little kick of independence will help you if your mum tries to use money as a leash again.
Within a year of me leaving university I was in SO MUCH of a better place than many of my friends who didn’t work Because I’d always had some sort of job while studying, I had 5 years of employment on my CV at the age of 21, a proven track record of being able to work in a variety of environments with a broad variety of people and of being able to juggle both study and work. Even though I was the one who had to drop out of uni for financial reasons, I was the first among my friends to get full time work.
It also did wonders for my self-confidence, and gave me a little extra independence while I was a student, and taught me that, actually, I can survive. I can scrub toilets and do unpleasant jobs if I need to and that is neither scary nor shameful after you’ve done it once. It also helps to spend a little more time with a wider variety of people – older people, young people who aren’t students, people who aren’t academically gifted – which working can be great for.
LW, as a former 19 year old with a boyfriend her mom hated, I do want to say that it might be worth having a long talk with your mom about what she dislikes about your boyfriend. She might be being completely unreasonable, but…I thought mine was being unreasonable, and wow was she actually totally right.
It’s also hard to say anything about the extended stay/fighting/BF getting kicked out scenario without details, but if your boyfriend was meeting your mom for the first time and staying in her home for months and he wasn’t on his absolute best behavior, that is a little red-flaggy.
Here’s something I’m a little confused about. Are the only two options (1) In France living with boyfriend and (2) Living in Canada with boyfriend in France?
LW says: “My mother has made it clear that whether were in the same city or not, if she’s supporting me, I am not allowed to live with him, and even if I attend school and live with him, her support for everything is gone. ”
What if LW and boyfriend look into transferring to either the same school or schools in the same city/nearby cities? They could live separately, as per LW’s mother’s request*, but not have to be quite so long distance. And they could both stay in school.
*Which isn’t to say LW shouldn’t take the Captain’s advice at gaining confidence and autonomy, because she should.
I’m also double-highlighting CA’s advice about becoming financially autonomous. The LW needs to be able to make her own money if she’s in France and/or if she stays in Canada.
I would be really afraid to go live in France without knowing the language and only knowing one other person there. LW, if you do that, you might want to invest in something like Rosetta Stone. If you go to France it’ll be much less scary. You should also look up other English speakers if you go there. It would be very bad for you if you stay in France for a while with no one to talk to but your boyfriend. That sort of social isolation can be literally the stuff nightmares are made of – and would probably do terrible things to your mother’s nerves. (If I had a kid who was with only one other person in a foreign country I would constantly be worrying about my child’s emotional state. Is she ok? Depressed? Lonely? Does she need help?)
I tend to go toward staying in college because to me college still equates with becoming financially independent. I don’t think you can reasonably make decisions that are in your own best interests until you can ensure that you have a reasonable lifestyle no matter what. That said, I *have* done incredibly risky and ill-advised things like marrying at 20, dropping out of school, moving without having a job to move to, etc. Although those were mistakes that delayed several aspects of my life by a decade, I still ended up happy, productive, and with friends and great relationships so, despite the pain and drama my decisions caused me *I’m still glad I made them.* I guess my point here is that you can make horrible decisions and it may still end up being ok – but you might not appreciate the ok-ness of it for quite some time. And, investing in yourself and your future happiness, no matter how that looks, is always the right decision. Your job isn’t to make your mom happy or your boyfriend happy. They are both adults and can care for themselves. Your job is to make sure YOU are stable, secure, and happy.
Good luck. 🙂
Practically, I just want to stress that if the LW chooses France, have a safety net. Have enough money for a plane ticket back in a bank account gathering interest and do not touch that money. I personally would not let my partner even know that money’s there, but if you do and he suggests that you spend it on anything else, even if it is to repair a car to get to a job, break up with him. I have been the person stranded in a foreign country where I did not speak the language and couldn’t get a job due to visa issues. I actually had the money to get out, but I let him know about it and then when “emergencies” happened, it was “Well thank God you’ve got savings.” I never saw that money again and eventually I had to call my parents, sobbing and homeless, in the middle of the night to ask them for money for a plane ticket back to Australia. IT SUCKED.
For my 2c? Go to college. Study your ass off and spend what time you aren’t studying working, Don’t spend the money you earn, put it away for your “France and freedom” fund. Study french. When you have enough money, go over for a visit. You will have some money and some degree of autonomy. If everything works out and you get a job and don’t hate it, then you can work out whether to stay.
I know you feel like you will absolutely die if you do not spend every moment with this dude right now. But if it’s a long-term relationship, and both of you commit to it and put in the necessary amount of work to make it work, a year in the scheme of things is not a big deal. And it’s a year that will put you in a much better position to make decisions.
Visa issues can prevent people from getting jobs. When I was in the EU, it was 20 years ago, but the hiring rule was “citizens first, then EU citizens, then everyone else who is even eligible to work”. And the unemployment is pretty high in France right now. LW will be the immigrant with no language skills, no degree… If her visa even allows work, she’ll be near the end of the list for who gets a job.
Definitely have the return ticket. Definitely have emergency money that is not for the partner to touch no matter what. Definitely do the research and try to have the job first, if you’re not travelling with an organization that is taking care of you.
Racism and stereotyping play into the kind of work that underskilled immigrants can get, unfortunately. So with some research you can find out the skills you can brush up on. If LW is a white lady, for instance, she will probably have a harder time getting a job working on a farm and an easier time getting a job as a nanny. So, now, LW could take a class or two or get a certification and brush up on random skills that people who hire foreign nannies like, like playing the piano or whatever. LW might also be able to work as an english teacher, so she could try for a certification in that before going overseas.
Basically, research and prepare, because citizenship and visa rules can screw you over in ways you didn’t even realize were possible. It’s bad enough looking for work in your own country when you’re young and unskilled.
Yeah, about that. LW, I’m sure you’re already doing this, but please PLEASE look very carefully into visa/residency before you make decisions. I know nothing about France and EU visas, nor Canadian ones if your dude is going to stay where you are. I’m wondering also how he’s there and if your mom kicking him out will invalidate his visa. Are you sponsoring him? Would he sponsor you? These are huge, important, legal things and can leave you in the lurch if anything happens. Good wishes, someone in that very lurch.
I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this has been noted. First, Jennifer’s answer was comprehensive and well-reasoned. Second, she, kindly I am sure, refrained from making this point (I am not so kind, because the world isn’t, either): Reading CC’s letter reveals a concern that the girl needs to address that is greater than choosing what a boy wants or what a parent wants–and it relates in part to what Jennifer DID point out, insofar as this girl appears to have limited survival skills at the age of 19.
Although I suppose it is good she has a blog to turn to offer her life advice, and mother’s can be controlling, and boyfriend’s enticing, adults have to be able to gather data, examine it, and reach logical conclusions. This young lady can’t even use proper grammar or spelling–she needs to stay in school for the very basic reason of she still communicates in a way that paints a picture of a very young, uneducated, and irresponsible person–not at all of a 19-year-old young lady in her second year of University, whose only job apparently is to study; one who is Canadian, with a French boyfriend for more than a year who has not seen fit to maybe take a French class. In Canada. Where there are a few places where people have been known to speak French.
CC, Jennifer’s advice to get a job is the best advice–get one, a part-time job. Study hard, learn to communicate well in written English, and consider taking French. Learn to take care of yourself, support yourself, and make your own decisions. Do that, and the rest will follow. If your boyfriend is “THE ONE,” he will continue to be so even when you can stand on your own 2 feet, take care of yourself, and choose to be with him because you want to be, not because he is part of an either/or scenario, Your mom may be “illogical” or she may have a clearer idea of just how grown-up you are emotionally and mentally, and well as physically, and if you are as adamant as the average 19-year-old woman in love (I’m 19, I can vote, drive, have baby, blah blah I do what I want), she is probably scared to death you are going to bring your grown up self home with a half-French baby, who you can’t support because you have no job experience, no skills, and no husband, because “The One,” has gone back to Le France.
The spelling seems pretty much fine, though the fact that every sentence is a run-on sentence is perhaps worrisome and worth a chat with her English professor (given the current state of grammar education in the US, I’m not surprised to see this problem north of the border either). But your larger point is valid — LW’s vibe is one of, shall we say, unformedness, totally understandable at her age, but it means her first job is to learn how to choose HERSELF, not mom vs. BF. Make the decisions that will long-term be best for her as an individual. Continuing some kind of education and working toward more financial autonomy seem like they would be those decisions, regardless of where geographically she may be. In other words, I think either course she could take could be framed either way, as an active or passive choice, and the big picture is that she needs to be aiming for the former. Don’t move to France solely so you can cuddle up with BF — move to France and take advantage of being there for YOU; study the language and find a tutoring gig to make $. Likewise don’t stay home and remain in the status quo of letting your mom keep doing absolutely everything for you — stay home and in school, get a part-time job and heck, take French (as others have noted, it’s Canada!). This is an awesome chance, LW, to start practicing standing on your own two feet regardless of what you decide.
Edited to Add This comment is for gmg, who joined in on Michelle’s initial comment.
Comments about a poster’s spelling, sentence structure, and grammar are out of bounds. Could you understand what she was talking about? Then it’s grammatical enough. Please apologize to the LW and refrain from more of this if you want to keep posting in this thread.
To the LW and everyone: Please accept my sincere apology. This is only my 2nd time posting and I was unaware of the rules. Let me assure you that my comments were not intended to be condescending to the LW. Quite the contrary–they were made to support the stay in school position and to point point out that there remains a lot of opportunity for growth. I truly regret that I communicated my concern and point in a manner inconsistent with the social contract.of this blog and for any insult to or hurt feelings experienced by LW. I do hope she make her decision based on what will be best for her in the long term.
Apologies, won’t happen again.
This young lady can’t even use proper grammar or spelling–she needs to stay in school for the very basic reason of she still communicates in a way that paints a picture of a very young, uneducated, and irresponsible person–not at all of a 19-year-old young lady in her second year of University, whose only job apparently is to study; one who is Canadian, with a French boyfriend for more than a year who has not seen fit to maybe take a French class. In Canada. Where there are a few places where people have been known to speak French.
WHOA THAT IS ONE CRAPTONNE OF NOT-NEEDED NASTINESS. I know you think you’re “keeping it real” or whatever more-erudite thing you’ve phrase it as that conceptualizes this as loving but disciplined reality? But OMG. Seriously. As I write this I can envision you replying in a way that’s, I don’t know, getting angry with me for implying that you’re not knowledgeable here. So I don’t know what to say to you, other than: not cool.
But to the LW? I have stuff to say.
Hi, Confused. I’m a counsellor who just spent the last year working at a BC university’s counselling department. My experiences in the world of postsecondary counselling have taught me that even tiny universities have resources set aside to help students figure out who they are and what they want out of life. Where I worked, a student could come to the counselling centre, get an appointment the same day during slack periods and within two weeks when things got heavy, like around finals. They could, free of charge, see a counsellor for as often and as long as they and the counsellor thought it was necessary. I had people coming to me because they didn’t know what to do with their lives; they needed to get out of a crappy living situation but didn’t know how; they’d just had a bad breakup and needed someone to talk to; they had a mental illness and needed treatment; and a lot of other reasons.
So to directly refute what I quoted in the comment above: YOU ARE 100% NORMAL FOR A 19-YEAR-OLD SECOND-YEAR UNIVERSITY STUDENT. (Even Canadian! I’ve had student clients go on exchange to France without speaking more than your typical Canadian cereal box French: “pour ouvrir, soulever la languette.”) You don’t actually sound especially immature or uneducated (IDEK, maybe Michelle has issues with how much you love commas?). You sound like you’ve learned all the tasks expected of you in school and family, but what you’re confronting now are the tasks no one has asked you to do yet because their main purpose is to help you, yourself. I mean, I think parents ought to teach their child to say, “Do I want to do this thing that would make Mom happy, or should I disobey her and do what I personally think is right?” but as a pragmatist, I totally sympathize with every parent in the world who didn’t. But this means you’re figuring this stuff out on your own. And then people come along and shame you for, like most other people who go straight from high school to university, flailing around and taking a while to get it right.
You are supposed to struggle this much because this stuff really is that hard. The fact that this is difficult does not signal that you’ve actually done something wrong.
It does impart a rather “Dear Prudence” tone that is rather…hostile ?
Seriously. It’s like the other commenter has never even heard of register – plenty of people write just fine in formal situations, but keep their language casual in casual interactions (like, say, most writing on the Internet).
Oh, man, can we not associate general life skills with spelling and grammar? There are brilliant people who write poorly, and people who can write well and still make Terrible Life Decisions. Assuming one based on the other is grade-A douchebaggery.
100% this. Grammar-shaming, like body-shaming, is not okay on this website.
I have posted an apology; however, I feel the need to reiterate that insulting or shaming the girl was not my intent. I’m not one of the people who l.pops a gasket over a spelling error or trolls Facebook looking for split infinitives to point out or deliver lessons on you’ve and your. Obviously, whatever my intent was, that is how it can across. I was trying to make the point that there is still a lot to learn and that working on her various skill.sets toward a goal of independence and self-reliance would be wise. I motivation was not hostile, nor I angry for being corrected by the moderator. I do think it is ironic that the insults and name calling leveled at me, which were clearly intendended to.shame.me.for my error appear to be perfectly acceptable, and not a form of bullying at all.
See, typos galore
I got your apologies – not trying to beat you up! Just making it very clear to others that this is not ok as a general mod note. APOLOGIES ACCEPTED. I hope you will stay, and no more apologizing is necessary.
On the French speaking note – children who grow up in Canada are generally required to take some French in elementary and high school, but not enough to become bilingual, or, you know, take university classes in French. Although Canada is officially bilingual, outside of Quebec and the government, most Canadians don’t really speak much French at all.
But on a personal note…I moved in with my girlfriend when I was 18, and I definitely feel now (I’m 25) that that was the wrong choice. I feel I missed out on meeting people on my own and entangled my life and decisions too much with my ex’s, too soon. And then I resented her for that (not actually her fault, I now realize) and we broke up, and though we were good friends for a while, are now not on speaking terms. I think some of that heartbreak could have been avoided had we waited until we were more settled in college life, had our own friend circles, and had better ideas of what we wanted from a relationship before we moved in together.
Based on that experience, I’d tell the LW to forge her own personal identity, separate from her mother and her boyfriend, before moving in. I think the Captain’s suggestions on this are bang on.
But – even though I made what I know think was not the best choice, my life is still awesome! I recovered from that breakup, met new people and developed new hobbies. I have great friends and a great boyfriend! So even if you make what end up feeling like the “wrong” choice, it’s not the end of the world. There will still be lots of awesome things in the future. Good luck!
I’m from a Franco-Albertan town where more than a few of the older generation don’t know English, took five years of advanced FLS classes, and still don’t speak French. Especially since half my education was in Parisian french, half was from non-Quebecois Canadian French, and to me, different French accents don’t even sound like the same language. (It’s a sensory processing disorder thing.) At the height of my proficiency, I was still out to sea as soon as I tried to have an actual conversation. “Studying a language” and “speaking that language” are pretty different things.
oooh, now I’m so very curious, as a fellow Albertan, who grew up near a Franco-Albertan town… 😉
Farm was near Rivière Qui Barre; accessed services in Morinville; ended up going to school in St. Albert. 🙂
I’m similarly concerned about LW moving in with a boyfriend at such a young age. Firstly: like Poppy said, at 19 you don’t know yourself fully, and intertwining your life with someone else’s at that age can stop you fleshing out your own identity (this happened to me at exactly the LW’s age – I only started getting my own much-needed identity back after it ended). Secondly: moving in with someone you are not 100% completely sure you WILL spend the rest of your life with (or a huge portion of it anyway) is risky. If you need to go your separate ways, it will be very hard, timely and expensive, and relationships have been known to drag out way longer than they should have because it was too inconvenient to split up, hence wasting valuable time and opportunity. To make such a commitment work would require an exceedingly mature 19 year old, and I’m not sure LW is it.
I partially disagree with this. I don’t think there is anything wrong with moving in with someone you aren’t 100% sure you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Yes, living together brings up extra complications during the break up, but adults should be able to navigate those complications. I also think there’s no way to get to know someone quite like living with them – I’d go as far as saying that living with someone makes it far easier to differentiate between “90% sure” from “100% sure.”
Which is not to say that LW should move in with her boyfriend. Just that you can responsibly live with someone that you aren’t “100% completely sure you WILL spend the rest of your life with.”
I am also wondering what the backstory is with the French boyfriend. How did they meet ? Did they date in real life for a period of time or was this a hot internet thing or a two weeks while she was a tourist in France thing or what ?
Speaking from experience – a long distance relationship can be super enticing, especially if you are living in a location with few options. BUT – all those letters and phone calls and whatnot do not equal interacting with this person in his/her peer-group and at large in the world. I entered a long term relationship with a man I had known from years before – and he had the funds so he made trips to visit me, across the country. Of course he was on his best behaviour. In hindsight: if he had been from the same city as me, I suppose that the grapevine would have rumbled about how he treated his former girlfriends (abusively) and showed me how me behaved towards his staff and so called friends (abusively). When I met different family members of his, no one spoke to me about how he behaved towards his ex-girlfriends but I wish that someone had spoken up. It would have saved me years of hurt and heartache. I wanted to believe that this person was dreamy – not dangerous.
“Secondly: moving in with someone you are not 100% completely sure you WILL spend the rest of your life with (or a huge portion of it anyway) is risky.”
Wait, what? Do they not have share houses where you are? People here move in every day with other people they’re 100% sure they will NOT spend the rest of their life with.
LW, that’s catastrophising. Moving in with your BF is not a permanent commitment. It can be just for a year, or just for two years. If it doesn’t last forever (which doesn’t mean the relationship failed, just that it wasn’t permanent) then you can move in with friends, or find an apartment on your own.
The more important thing is that you get some savings and a job. Those will make you much less vulnerable to staying in a bad situation.
I’m assuming that was restricted to romantic type moving in, but I still disagree for reasons everyone else has already said.
I like Hax’s take on cohabitation: you don’t need to be planning on Forever for romantic-type cohabitation to work; you just need to be both on the same page about it. If you’re both looking at Forever(Marriage), or Forever(Unmarried), or both looking at Temporary(As long as we can make it go for), then that’s great! But if one of you has your dial set to Forever(Marriage) and the other one has their dial set to Temporary(Until Something Better Comes Along), then you’re going to end up in trouble.
It always amuses me that, no matter what corner of the internet I find myself in, the rude condescending comments tearing apart OP’s grammar and spelling are themselves dreadful examples of the language.
The LW does seem rather inexperienced, but in what world does being mean-spirited at her help her in any way? *smh*
Critiquing a poster’s grammar or spelling is a bullying behavior that is not allowed on CaptainAwkward.com. Please apologize to the LW and do not do it again.
I’m not sure where you wanted this apology. This is the third place you remarked.And the second place.specifically requesting an apology. I posted st the other two place, bit I don’t mind doing it again
LW, I am very sorry for pointing out problems with your writing . You were likely upset when you wrote.And that affects is all. I did not mean to.embarrass you in any.way, but it is clear.o have dome.so. I hope you can forgive.well-intended, if misguided remarks. I am sincerely sorry for my insensitivity toward your feelings.
Best of luck in your decision.
Michelle, I’ve seen your apology three times so I don’t know why everyone keeps carrying on. Well done you for owning your mistake; that indicates a level of awesomeness that is often better than always being perfect to everyone. Keep on keeping on.
To the LW, as everyone here has pointed out you are faced with a very big decision. Only you can make it. If it were me (and it very nearly has been. There might have been a moment where I, er, skipped work for a week to go see an English guy I was super into. Bad, bad choice. Obviously I’m still alive and kicking, but that was not my finest hour for sure) I’d try to work something out with your boyfriend so you can still graduate debt free and also see him as often as possible. You don’t have to live with him immediately; after all, you’ve only been dating a year. I’d argue that the fig tree problem is a bit premature for you. Three years is not that long to wait, and it is my own personal opinion you and the boyfriend will be in a much better position if you stick it out for your degree. Long distance is rough, I know, but hey – if you can make it through that you can make it through anything, right? At any rate, best of luck in making this decision and you have the support of the best part of the internet, whatever your choice.
Michelle, the other comments were replies to *other* posters also participated in grammar snarking. Sorry if it wasn’t visible or confusing due to comment threading. Apology accepted, and I will edit the other moderator comments to include names so it is more specific. Thank you.
Taking the emotion out of it — you have a chance to get a college education debt free! Take it! Work on those life skills/financial skills/work skills while you’re in school – take advantage of the fact that you don’t actually have to work to earn money to take a part time job that’s interesting but pays less or an internship that pays little or nothing but gives you good experience. Visit boyfriend over the summer or have him visit you ELSEWHERE than your Mom’s house. Believe me — so many people would do anything to get a debt-free ride to college, whatever the strings attached. It opens up SO many opportunities. If things with the boyfriend are real, he will still be there after you graduate.
As a 42-year-old who is still paying off her student loans, and will be into retirement, I heartily second this.
Student debt is always a pain, but (to be a Canadian postsecondary education nerd) I do feel like it’s sometimes an overstated issue in a country where the median bachelor’s degree costs the same as a year of in-state tuition in the US (median domestic tuition is about $2,200-$7,100/year depending where you are), and student loan interest typically hovers in the 5-15% range and right now is 5.5%-8%. I’ve seen a lot of Canadian students lately be totally terrified of student loans that are actually manageable, because of public discourse about different economic realities in the USA.
Oh, that’s an important detail. My reflex is also to stick with the college and get the free degree, partly because of the free, and partly because of the loans. Good to know they are not as high there.
Although I still incline that way because it is a thousand times harder to go back for the degree than to finish the thing, if the pressures against you are external. In my experience. I did have to go back to finish, it was very hard, and I only had a class and an undergrad thesis to write. Being even five years out of joint with the other undergrads is super hard and jarring.
I am also one of those people who thinks everyone should live independently for a while, to learn about bank accounts and utilities and car insurance and paying taxes and that shit.
That said, you can do what you want and need to do…. You just get to deal with the consequences. Not the punishment, like a parent might mean by the word consequences, just the things that happen. You are the master of your own destiny, LW, and you can make your own choices.
The easiest path, the one that preserves your choices best, is probably the free degree, if your mental health will be intact at the end of it. You can look for other paths for the boyfriend — hopefully he is not wanting to mooch off you.
Oh, one other question. What do your friends think of your boyfriend? Do they love him, do they love the way you are around him? Obviously you can’t give your friends veto power but if your friends all kind of agree with you mom, or if they didn’t even meet him during that summer, that might be a sign that you are missing something important.
Wow, I’m sorry you had a hard time! I was about ten years older than the other undergrads when I went back to finish, though I looked young enough that no one noticed that without my telling them, and my returning-undergrad experience was great. I had some savings from working, roomed with a partner, started off with community college, got a few loans, and by the time I ran low on savings got merit scholarships. Now I are a Ph.D., and it wasn’t hard for me at all. For me it was exactly the right decision.
I share all the other concerns people have expressed in this thread about the specific dynamic and circumstances the LW’s talking about, but not this one! Leave school when you want, go back when you want. Work experience gained out of school can teach you what you want from school and make you really great at it when you do return.
A friend of mine even tried to extend his student line of credit to other, not-so-student related purchases, solely because it was a really, really good loan. I mean, not that you should do it. Just that taking on student loans can sometimes leave you with a respectable amount of financial freedom (especially in comparison to other types of loans that are available to young people… yeesh).
Possibly a slight detail, but how bad is it in the US? I’ve got friends who are looking at at least $60 000-$70 000 debt when they’re finished their Bachelor’s degree, and they’re understandably feeling pretty overwhelmed. I’m a fellow Albertan from oil country, as are most of my friends, so we know we can always find *some* sort of work (at least until the oil runs out/is heavily taxed/whatever), but there’s no real guarantees of a well paying job in one’s chosen field, and that makes that mountain of debt look pretty damn scary. If that’s considered not too bad, I’m morbidly curious about what bad actually looks like.
Average student loan debt for a bachelors seems to be variously quoted as around 27K. It’s going up, quickly, though, and most data is a year or two old. It’s higher at private schools than state schools, and much, much higher at for-profit schools.
Something like 10% of american students graduate with a bachelors with student debt over 50K, and 1-5% with debt over 100K, depending on which link I click.
A forbes survey of 750 2013 graduating students found the average total debt load at 35k (including credit cards and so on).
So your friends are on the high end, assuming a 1:1 exchange rate, but not complete outliers.
I think the interest rates are also a killing thing. My student line of credit is at 3% interest, but I have American friends whose student loans have the same credit rate as my Mastercard, which just gets absurd.
Being in debt for everything from your bachelor’s from tuition to living expenses can look pretty overwhelming–“I have to pay not only for this year, but last year too!” It’s why, if it feels overwhelming, asking for help is a really good plan. Once out of school, debt or credit counselling services are useful, but that’s a later-thing. After my third year at the University of Alberta I took my department’s internship program that got me a job in my field for a year that paid me $25k in salary, then helped me fine-tune my resume and grad school application. It stretched out my degree by a year, but was super-valuable, and I got hired back part-time by my internship site when I went back to school.
Going to your school’s career centre, counselling centre, academic advisors, student union advisors, and so on, is a really good idea, though it might take some frustrating bouncing between useless people before you find good resources. A lot of my friends studied English, History, and Classics, and if not for their university’s co-op work program, they wouldn’t even know where employment was to be found, much less have got a paid head start in galleries/archives/research projects/publishing companies before graduating.
How the hell did your mom raise a 19-year old with no confidence in her own abilities to take care of herself and no idea how jobs and money actually work?
THIS IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION HERE. YES.
To do a little self-linking, I’ve been raking over some mental compost for myself as regards how we think about education and jobs, with a kind of sum-up here. The big thing that I came out with was: society subscribes to this fallacy.
The fallacy is: If you make a comprehensive, detailed plan that describes your next several years, you will live a good life because you will make good long-term choices and ensure that you end up in a good place. If you do not make such a plan, you will not go anywhere because you will make bad choices that do not take you where you want to go.
This is a fallacy because you can make immediate choices not knowing if they’re going to work out and have it go fantastic; or, you can sabotage your entire five-year plan because you make it with a very limited vision or what you want or what you’re capable of.
There’s this thing called planned happenstance theory that’s something career counsellors are legitimately buying into: the idea that you don’t need a good five-year plan, but what you do need to do is to deliberately place yourself in resource/opportunity-rich situations, and cultivate the resilience needed to jump on chances when they arise, and to self-correct from your own mistakes. You need, when exploring one branch of the fig tree, to see just how viable it is to jump to another one. Because we have this idea of, “Always make good decisions or else you will fail and ruin your life and die poor and alone.” But no, sometimes the people who are dying poor and alone always did make good decisions, but life fucked them over; and people frequently recover from mistakes and live much richer lives than their five-year plans suggest.
Beside all this: I don’t yet have a way to talk about the incredible value of the experience of epic failure. Whenever I try, the unconverted look at me like I’ve just suggested they douse themselves in kerosene and take up welding. But it’s a combination of the research I’ve read and what I’ve seen and experienced that tells me that often the lessons people learn when their plans fall through or their lives fall apart that leads them to some of their most profound and satisfying accomplishments. Maybe somebody else knows what I’m talking about? Maybe this is less of a “how to plan [because failure is good]” topic than a “what to do once you’ve failed to mine the experience for things of value” topic, though.
thank you for the term “planned happenstance” because that is so how I’ve lived my life. People would always ask for my five-year plan, my next step, whatever, and I’d go, I have no idea. But as you say, I put myself in positions that gave me the most options and at 53 I’m pretty happy with how I’ve chosen to live my life thus far.
I do wonder how someone has gotten to that age and never worked and so on, and I think perhaps those of us with younger kids can all take that as a lesson that our kids need to take some responsibility for themselves. My daughter is 13 and I’m dealing with that sort of thing now.
I didn’t work until my 20s – my parents supported me through high school and university, and I went straight to the latter after the former. I think I could probably have benefited from a gap year and part time work, but it’s hardly unusual for parents who can afford to do so to support their children until they’re out of uni (at least in Australia). It might not be the best way to learn life skills, but it doesn’t make you a pitiable freak is what I’m saying…
I feel like the most valuable thing my upbringing gave me was a sense of my own capabilities. I know that it was HELLA uncomfortable for my parents to say, “It isn’t a guaranteed success, but we trust you and we think you can do it,” and wait until I was gone to say, “Oh my god she’s gonna get herself KILLED she’s just a BABY what are we DOING?” And when I capsized the boat or fell off the horse or lost the competition they could say, “I’m sorry. It sucks. These things happen; everyone makes mistakes. Here’s how to right the boat/let’s go catch the horse and finish the lesson/go congratulate the winners and thank the judges and we can go for ice cream.”
It takes a lot of courage and willingness to breathe through terror to let your kids go out and make their own mistakes, and scrape your kids up after a bad fall and not rationalize that if they’d only been [older/smarter/better prepared] then they wouldn’t be hurt right now. But we’re humans. We learn by fucking up. And I think really good parents model that you can go out, try something new, and then deal with the consequences if it doesn’t work.
woah– mentally bookmarking this for any possible future in which I find myself a parent!
” I don’t yet have a way to talk about the incredible value of the experience of epic failure. …often the lessons people learn when their plans fall through or their lives fall apart that leads them to some of their most profound and satisfying accomplishments.”
This has been really important to me, in conjunction with unlearning the blame and shame narrative that casts failure as deserved punishment for inherent worthlessness. The big lesson I’ve learned from the hardest situations is that I CAN get through some truly obnoxious stuff; human capacity for resilience is amazing. Failure isn’t the end of everything, so difficulty doesn’t mean everything’s impossible might as well give up. It’s been, for me, a powerful counter to a predisposition toward depression, anxiety, and rigid, helpless and self-sabotaging thinking. Not to put to fine a point on it, experiencing failure (AS failure, NOT as punishment) has been empowering.
I wish more people got opportunities to fail in relative safety — as kids or young adults, when we feel keenly, learn rapidly, and can be restrained from a lot of ‘learning experiences’ that would do disproprtionately large-scale or permanent harm . And I wish more people could work free from the blame, shame, punishment perspective so that failure can be a teacher rather than an abuser.
Most of the advice & perspective from CA seems to me to be sort of bound up with this idea (things going badly or even ‘complete failure’ is probably survivable and can lead to growth and enrichment depending how you handle it), but unspoken. Maybe it’s worth bringing it out, explicitly, and playing around with it –especially under Step 5, which I think is as important as Step 3.
Maybe as part of building autonomy and confidence in yourself –advice I DEFINITELY second — you investigate expanding your mental/emotional resiliency resources alongside expanding your practical/financial resources. They work well together, because expanding your practical resources through stuff like getting a job, starting to manage your own finances and so on, is full of stuff that can go wrong and be mentally and emotionally challenging. So you can practice on those things, choosing how you deal when things go how you hoped and when they don’t, and NOTICING that you are choosing, you are coping, you are (hopefully) coming through wiser and more aware.
Also under step 5, you might want to think about absolutism, the idea that there’s only one (or a few –usually 2 opposites, maybe with a ‘compromise’ in between) fixed ways anything can be, or turn out. Only a few choices and you’re stuck with them, things mostly just Are that Way and don’t change, or have gray areas or unknowns, or depend on perspective (often comes with a side order of thinking you, or someone, knows what’s true, and anybody who sees it differently Doesn’t Understand or Is Wrong or Bad). I see a fair amount of this in your letter — really striking examples include “this won’t change no matter what” about your mom’s attitude and your recognizing only two opposing choices in your situation (the Captain and others have already suggested a bunch of additional possibilities).
Anyway, I can’t tell whether the absolutist framing in your letter is just coming from your strong feelings about this situation, or whether you tend to see things in absolute terms generally (it’s a very common perspective for young people, and people raised in sheltering/controlling circumstances). Either way, this sort of perspective ISN’T the only way to think of things, it’s often unhelpful –can make stakes seem higher, hide alternative options, impair empathy with others’ different perspectives, and promote blame. So you might want to reflect a bit on whether, or how much, you rely on such a perspective, and whether you might like to change it. It CAN be altered, simply (though not *easily*, it’s a lot of work) by making a habit to mentally question absolute assertions, seek disconfirming evidence or different perspective, seek diverse and creative alternatives when presented with a seemingly either-or choice. It’s a lot of work to start the habit, but after you practice consistently for a while, it gets easier to notice both more alternatives in any situation, and then how your perspective influences how actually real-world capable, creative and resilient you can be.
I wish for you all the capability and resilience you need to create the life you want.
> Not to put to fine a point on it, experiencing failure (AS failure, NOT as punishment) has been empowering.
I’m a terrible perfectionist of the kind that would rather NOT try something than risk not being good at it. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had is to “Go and create something ugly today!” Not in the sense of deliberately creating ugly, but in the sense of “Give it your best, and if it turns out the results do not live up to your expectations, forgive yourself, realise that you still did learn something, if only another way how not to do it, and then try again.” It had has taken me some time, but I’m slowly starting to understand that this is a good way to approach not just dabbling in the arts and crafts, but life in general.
Dear Staranise –
If I could bottle your insights and take (and administer) measured doses when parts of life get overwhelming I totally would!
I’m 53 this year, I have a 19 year-old headed back to her 2nd year of state university, and a 15 year-old headed back into the hot-house that is American high school, and you have so clearly managed to to convey how I’ve tried to cope with them heading out into the world, all perfect and imperfect and babies and mentally 42 all at once.
Thank you. Thank you, thank you thankyouthankyou thank you very much.
all the love
I love this “planned happenstance” concept, thank you for giving my most recent “life plan” a name, heh. Frankly, all of my 5-year plans have ended up not working out for one reason or another anyway, and I’m a better person for it.
Re: epic failure.
Last year consisted of a series of events that brought the “Worst Overall Time Period of My Life” (which is saying something…it’s a sad thing to ~reminisce~ on your time being institutionalized) to “OMGWTF WHAT OTHER HORRIBLE THINGS DOES LIFE HAVE IN STORE FOR ME.”
After dealing with and more-or-less recovering from such a period, physically, mentally, and emotionally, I thought about what I really wanted out of my future, especially after having dealt with so much pain, drama, and catastrophe throughout my life as a whole. I weighed the pros and cons of some risks I had been wanting to take, particularly the Chance of Happiness versus the Risk of Failure versus the Risk of Doing Nothing Knowing that My Situation Won’t Spontaneously Change for the Better.
My story is nowhere near done so I can’t say whether or not I’ll be “successful” in reaching my goal, but sometimes persevering and taking risks is success enough.
Yes – this! I agree with you completely on the resilience building power of having everything go wrong yet managing to work it all out. Obviously some kinds of disasters screw you up forever (health problems especially), but the survivable stuff genuinely is character building.
The year my partner of 11 years (who I’d moved in with straight after home) walked out on me, just after I’d walked out on a terrible toxic job (job of evil bees?) was the year I discovered just how much I could do for myself. I kind of wish I’d learnt some of that stuff at 19.
LW – if you go to France you’ll learn French pretty quickly. You’ll work out how to get a job. If the guy turns out to suck, you’ll work out how to leave a bad relationship in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language very well and have no close friends. Learning how to survive that hard stuff will make the whole rest of your life easier.
But, having said that, it’s really, really jumping in the deep end. The Captain is right when she says you can start building your resilience at home, with part time work and financial skills. You can have a relationship with your dude without living with him, and you can also build some independence from your mother without moving to France. My (emotionally abusive) mother used to try to control me with money when I was your age, so wow do I sympathize with the urge to be free of that. If this is a theme of your relationship with her and not just a one off freak out around this guy, it’s *so worth* getting some financial independence. If you work this stuff out when you’re in your home country and surrounded by friends you’ll have some skills to take with you should you decide to take the leap and move to France in a few years time.
“I don’t yet have a way to talk about the incredible value of the experience of epic failure.”
It sounds to me like the first step most people learn in a self-defense or martial arts class. They learn to fall. They learn to fall without hurting themselves, and get back up from that fall. Without that skill, anything else they did in that class would only help them if they never, ever, fell. Which is impossible.
The theory of epic failure *does* makes sense. I’m not sure it would have before I: left a solid job I was way burned out on, spent 6 months working on a lovely but super flaky farm, came back to live with my parents, working part time with no idea what to do next, moved to a new town I expected to love but kinda hated, in order to start a school program that turned out to be wrong for me. Add the onset of a chronic illness that left me scared, in pain, and constantly fatigued, while I was already lost and lonely. It was a rough year.
I still feel stupid for making all those wrong decisions. Not quite sure how to work through that.
But I also get that I’m in a good place (new school/ career track, new city, lovely friends) now that I wouldn’t have gotten to if I had stayed stuck and not tried something, even the wrong something.
>> I don’t yet have a way to talk about the incredible value of the experience of epic failure
Heh – I am also a careers adviser, and I have a related problem: nobody will let me run a seminar in The Art of Positive Giving Up! I really wanted to run a seminar for our PhD students on “so you’re thinking of giving up – let’s get that out in the open, figure out whether you do want to give up, and if you do, figure out how to make that a positive decision for you rather then spending the next three years recovering from feeling like you’ve failed”. But it wasn’t on-message enough. Sadface!
LW, I think one of the other really powerful things you might get from talking to a career adviser is the understanding that this is not a crisis but a process. Not knowing what to do is how everyone faces a big decision: if it was obvious, it wouldn’t be a decision. There are lots of things you can do to help yourself make a decision you can look back on and feel confident about, and talking to a careers adviser is a good place to start. I promise this is totally the kind of thing we consider a normal question, and you won’t get glared at or told this isn’t a careers question or anything like that.
Wow. It’s too bad, because that is a seriously useful thing to learn. “Okay I am done with this.” is a feeling everyone will get to at some point, and it is good to know what that feels like, and good to know how to feel it sooner! Otherwise you learn it by finding out what “Okay, I was done with this ten miles/months/thousand dollars.” feels like.
Yeah – it’s a weird one because obviously we all know in theory that failure is an inevitable part of life, and as careers adviser we often see people post-failure either when they’ve picked themselves back up or when they’re in the process of picking themselves back up. But it’s really difficult to find an institutional space to say, “OK, you’re contemplating *thing that might be regarded as failure* – let’s talk about what that looks like”. Though I’m in a new role now, so maybe it’s time to look at it again!
I finished grad school in ’10, but, um, will you be my career counselor? Because this is a conversation I super-need to have.
O my gosh, this comment just totally made my week! I would love to, but I live in northern England, so you could definitely find someone closer to home!
Oh my god yeeesss. I hear so many people editorializing about students today who just don’t know how to buckle down and work through a little pain, but then when I actually sat down and talked to students I found a lot of them who were running themselves into the ground with unmanageable workloads they were adamant they had to carry because they knew that giving up was FAILURE and would RUIN THEIR LIVES.
I spent a lot of time mentally rehearsing, “The time has come here to bail. You have reached the point where you are entirely allowed to give the fuck up and do something else.” And giving workshops on how to combat perfectionism. Because no, I do not actually think “unwilling to put themselves through hell to achieve academic or career goals” is the problem of today’s youth. (Having the rewards that hard work is supposed to get them yanked away from them at the last minute, that’s a problem. But in that case I support the people who say, “Screw this, I’m getting my welding ticket.”)
I also could have totally used this seminar. I was basically forced to give up on my PhD and master out (personal issues, shitty advisor… long story), and it was traumatizing. Thankfully I had my therapist and some lovely friends to support me, but even so it would have been nice to have advice from someone who’d helped other people through it before. I turned in my master’s thesis in March and all these months later I’m still working on getting over the whole mess.
What if you called it “changing your mind” instead? Having just completed a Ph.D. program that included plenty of people who did leave partway through, I actually think that the “giving up” framing wouldn’t be much more popular with the students who need the seminar than it was with the administration, but it’s a really valuable concept.
I wish you’d been around when I was in graduate school, Mary. 17 years after dropping out at the “ABD” stage, I still feel a little bad about it.
Just putting a note to self here to return & read this later (and assorted links). I think this is worth expanding on at length in a future (guest?) post. ❤
😀 That might be fun? I’ve tromped over a lot of this ground just blathering away on my journal, but I’ve been thinking about how to clean the observations up and bundle them together for easier outside reading.
I am not sure I would call this epic failure, but your comment did make me think of something… the most life-changing and effective changes I’ve made in my life in the last while grew out of a moment where I thought my life had fallen apart. A few years ago (in fact, five years ago – wow, time flies) I realised that I was disabled and my disability was causing serious problems in my everyday life, and these problems were not just going to magically vanish one day. It was an utterly horrible realisation, because the problems were and are pretty debilitating and I’d really been counting on me finding the right way to attack them to make them go away. I spent a lot of time in the following weeks crying, because I didn’t know how I would ever be able to manage as I was and I felt like I’d suddenly gone from having a bright future with a clear trajectory to not knowing whether I could hold a full-time job. Not asking myself whether I’d be able to find one, but whether I was even capable of keeping one.
And then, you know. Life goes on. The world keeps turning, the sun still rises in the east. Eventually, I had to go “okay. I have these problems. They’re not going away. What now?”
Five years on, my disability is still there, my problems haven’t really changed… and yet I am so much happier than I was before that realisation and in so much better shape. I still don’t know if I can hold a full-time job (I’m just in the course of finishing my PhD, which I pretty much put part-time hours into while feeling exhausted the entire while) but now I feel like if it turns out I can’t, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll cope, I’ll figure something out – I have a few ideas already. And just, so many things about my life are better now than they were. I would never have guessed things would turn out this way when I realised holy shit, I’m disabled that day five years ago.
Admittedly, this is probably also in large part “being in denial about your disability: not actually good for you” but I think I’ll chalk some of the improvement up to the value of failure. 😉
Kaz, I know you through the disability activism community, and that’s been my experience too. It feels like a lot of us were just figuring out this huge set of emotional things in the same supportive space. 🙂 Because what accepting being a PWD did for me was radically change my ideas of success and requirements for a good life. When I began to feel solidarity and support for people who weren’t ever going to be able to achieve what society demanded of them, and joined in the fight to flip society the bird because its expectations were ableist and exploitative, my perspective changed a lot. I think it took away a lot of my shame at not being a good little widget in the machine, at not being easily exploitable by my capitalistic masters, because I got to fight for the right to dignity and respect no matter who I was.
Thank you so much for this. I’ve been absolutely stuck (thankfully not about anything so major) with making decisions lately because of the crippling fear that no matter what choice I make it’ll be the wrong one.
(E.g. Deciding whether or not to take a sick day when sure, I felt lousy, but I wasn’t unable to get out of bed and could have powered through despite the runny nose and hacking cough and headache that popped up every time I coughed… I mean that’s not like being _sick_ sick, just unwell, right?)
Especially love “Step #3 is where you have power & agency, always, no matter what happens.” THIS. SO MUCH THIS.
I can’t stand how many jobs pressure employees not to take sick days, whether it be “just” through work culture or because they won’t be able to pay rent if they don’t work. Going in and getting everyone else sick just means more lost productivity – and much worse if anyone has a compromised immune system. Grr, rarg, capitalism. It doesn’t even work in its own best interests, let alone in people’s.
I worked so many terrible jobs that didn’t have health insurance or vacation/sick time, so call in sick = can’t pay doctor to make me better. So for years I powered through it, and went in.
My current job is the awesome.
The first time I got sick I went in, because, duh. My boss got angry at me and told me to go home halfway through the day. The second time I forced myself to stay home but felt terrible about it the whole time.
Turns out, you recuperate so much faster when you rest and take care of yourself, it was a revelation.
That infamous brain-eating, lake-dwelling microbe (Naegleria fowleri) is an amoeba, not a type of bacteria. (At my uni’s newspaper I was the only copy editor with a science-y background, and it was always my fear that exactly this error would make it into print on one of the nights I wasn’t editing.)
Amoebas are actually more closely related to humans than bacteria, as we are both eukaryotes! (Eukaryotic cells contain nuclei and membrane-bound organelles.) Bacteria, on the other hand, are prokaryotes. The eukaryote/prokaryote distinction is one of the most fundamental divisions in the evolutionary tree.
I love this comment with the fierceness of 1000 Beyonces.
Science facts FTW.
yay for science fact-geeks. And for daring to pick the nits that exist, for quibble’s sake. (cue Braveheart-ish battle cry….ACCURACY!!!)
I love the original comment and your termage “fierceness of 1000 Beyonces.”
So much 😀
I saw this the other day and didn’t have time to fix it. Fixed!
I have so many questions about this situation: For example, you say that your boyfriend “decided to come visit for a few months in our house. This is where they started hating each other”. Was he invited? Because when you say he decided to come, it sounds like he just decided to show up on your mother’s doorstep, and she didn’t inivite him, and it’s not like he came for the weekend, he decided to stay for a few months!
However, he probably was invited. So my next questions are, is he working? Is he just hanging out at your house? Is your mother supporting him? Does he offer to pay for things? A third person where there were only two is adding a lot of expense. Is he paying rent? Is he doing chores, like laundry? Is he respecful to your mother, the person who owns the house he is staying in and who is supporting his girlfriend?
I can see so many ways that I would end up disliking a daughter’s boyfriend if he messed up on those fronts. And I can see why I would tell my daughter that I would not support her if she were living with this boyfriend: Because how do I know I’m not supporting him too? If I’m paying for the place where the boyfriend lives and paying for the food he eats, all of a sudden I’m supporting two people, not one. So I sympathize with the mother here.
But after writing out those questions, I realized it doesn’t matter! Even if he did everything perfectly, your mother is within her rights to attach strings to the money she gives you, and even if he was a wretched human being, you’re within your rights to want to move to France!, so Captain Awkward’s advice would still be good.
This is why she’s the advice columnist we all love.
You know what, LW, I think like France sounds like an awesome place to go… for a holiday. If you can pay for your own ticket.
What doesn’t sound like a good idea to me? Going to France, speaking only English, having no money and knowing only one person.
I lived in Argentina when I was twenty for a year. It was AWESOME. But what made it awesome was the fact I was supported. I went through a university exchange programme so they assisted me with things like finding a place to live, how to buy a cellphone, how to go to the dr, good things to do in the city etc. When I was mugged on holiday, they supported me through filing a police report. They helped me find an optometrist so I could replace my glasses (yeah, the chucklefucks even took my glasses, what the hell). Basically, even though I was in a foreign country without knowing many of the locals, I wasn’t alone.
Have you been overseas before? Away from your mum and your support system for any length of time? Because homesickness is seriously the most horrible thing ever. And it’s exacerbated by isolation. My instinct is, if you went to France you would be great for a month, and then you would be horribly, gutwrenchingly miserable.
I agree with the other commenters, LW. I think you need to get a job like, yesterday. Maybe once you’ve got some money saved you can start thinking about moving out of your mum’s and finding your own place – in your own city. Get some practice living independently in a familiar place before doing it in France. Look at the possibilities of your bf coming to live in Canada, if he’s in a position to do so.
If, after a year of living independentlyish (I’m not suggesting you cut your mum off, by all means let her keep paying for your education, but part-time work and loans/supplements can go a long way towards covering your rent) you and your bf are still all good and you have the money to go to France, maybe give it a go? But this is going from crawling to like, tight-rope walking over the grand canyon – it’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself!
Actually yes, this.
Moving to a foreign country where you’re fluent in the language, have an employment history and know how to manage your finances is REALLY REALLY HARD. Hell, moving to a foreign country where they speak the same language as you and you have all of the above is really hard. You’ll discover huge cultural differences in stuff you never even imagined there could be differences. You’ll be at an automatic disadvantage in getting work, especially in this economy. You’ll be isolated by physical distance from everyone you know. It can be a wonderful adventure and a worthwhile, memorable and right decision, but it is NEVER easy.
Add on not speaking the language, not having experience working or managing finances, and (possibly) not having experience of travelling without a support network, and the fact that you’ll be travelling abroad and potentially isolating yourself from the only support network you currently have, and you’ll be completely dependent on your BF for everything. Money, food, a place to live, company, emotional support, your friends will be his friends… you’ll have even less independence than you do now and fewer options for changing that.
I’m recoiling from your mum’s ultimatum because it’s a bad move on her part, but that doesn’t make the move-to-France option sound any less risky.
What if you tabled the decision for a year? Could your studies continue under that circumstance? Get some part-time work, start putting together savings, look at moving in with fellow students, study French in your spare time. Is there any reason you don’t think your BF would be willing to hold on for one year before you moved? If so, why do you think that is?
I’m very tired and all I know is my own story which is long so to be short as I can; The worst mistake my father made with me was to give me an ultimatum at 18 that he would pay for my college if I dumped my boyfriend (he has no ambition, blah). So I said fuck you and moved into an apartment with boyfriend, worked my ass off. The relationship lasted far past the expiration date. I really think there is this thing when you hook your boat young that makes it hard to see that it’s not going to work for the long haul, that thing is you are not fully formed and functional when you do this too young. It was not awful but it wasn’t optimum either, it was rebelling against the power play of my father that put it in motion. I saw it clearly within a few years but by then it was too late.
I am over 50 years old and I’ve had worse things happen since my youth. However, if there was one single decision I would go back and change, one I believe would have made a huge difference in my life? That would be resisting the desire to slap down my fathers power play and doing the logical thing. I wish I’d dumped the boyfriend and gone to college. If you are truly in love, if it’s solid, it will remain so despite the enormous growth you are going to experience in the next few years of college. So why must you make this choice to give up your education to live with the guy right now? Are you sure it’s because there is an “either or” situation? Or is it the grit of having your parent control your actions? If it’s the latter, please review the Captains response closely – decide what you truly want, leave rebellion and resentment out of your decision. She’s not even saying you have to dump him, just don’t live with him. It’s control yes, but it’s her money yes? And it’s the only way she knows to try to get you to do what she thinks is right, my father told me later that he was at wits end with me, I told him what he did was a mistake as I was not mature enough to be logical. He said he was sorry, he meant it.
damn, that wasn’t short at all…
did my last comment get caught in the spam filter?
Jeeez-o-petes. I sure with this blog was around when I was 19. ~ Jackie
LW, your letter made me itchy on the inside because there are things in there that feel awfully similar to what a 19-yr old Enthusiast would be thinking and worrying about.
Disclaimer: You know you, your boyfriend, and your mother. I really, really do not. I also have a lot of baggage and I could be reading a bunch of things into it that completely miss the mark. If I say something completely wrong, ignore it! I am making a lot of assumptions, and you know what they say about those…
Other commenters have made some excellent points and the Captain has given you some excellent advise, so I’ll restrict my comment to the stuff that I am wondering about.
I grew up with a controlling mother. I could write a novel about her methods of relating to other people, but it will suffice to say that she was manipulative at best and emotionally abusive at worst. As such, when I was 19, I had No. Goddamn. Idea. how to look after myself.
For the sake of brevity (I am not good at brevity), I’ll break my story into dot points:
-I met my boyfriend, and we dated.
-My mother was also controlling. I could see a friend once a week, from 9am – 4pm. If I asked for more than this, she made sure it wasn’t worth it for all the huffing and silent treatment and grumbling I would get. (For perspective: She would also insist on walking me to the bus stop, which was five houses down the street and around a corner. She did this until I moved out. At 21.)
-My mother FIRMLY believed that I should be married before I moved out.
-My mother also did not believe in giving a child freedom to grow their wings. I had to navigate getting a job and other similar life challenges while in her house, with no transport, no money, and her moodswings.
-Boyfriend, having all the freedom he wished, did not and could not understand why I didn’t ‘just tell her you’re doing what you want and move out!’ and we had a few arguments about it.
In a nutshell, LW, I had zero agency and I was trying to navigate life circumstances that adults with full agency over their lives struggle with. I hear echos of this in your letter – do you feel caught between two people who want opposite things? Do you also feel like there’s no room for what YOU want? Do you not even have the space to navigate what YOU want, because you’re too busy fretting about how to make the people you love happy?
These problems are much deeper than ‘Do I move to France, or not?’, because you can’t solve your other problems until you solve these. If I’m reading this right, maybe your real question isn’t ‘What is the best financial/romantic risk-to-outcome ratio?’, but more akin to ‘How the hell do I wrestle some control over my circumstances so I can at least try to make everyone happy instead of just being stressed out piggy in the middle?’
I will shorten that one, LW, to, ‘How the hell do I wrestle some control over my life?’
When this was my problem, we opted to not live together until we could support one another. A result of that was we moved in after we’d been together for seven years. It sucked, but now we have a house and stable income and furbabies. Being long distance, or even short distance but not living together, doesn’t necessarily mean saying ‘whatever’ to your relationship. I would like to point out, though: Is this rush to move in together something LW wants, something Boyfriend wants, or something you both want equally and will both actively work towards? This is an important distinction. If it’s mostly you, I believe you will know best how much of a risk you’re willing to take, and that might mean jumping in the deep end and going to France. If it’s both of you, waiting is a viable option and maybe he can move closer after that 1yr period you were going to spend in France and continue your relationship while getting your education and life skills.
If it’s mostly Boyfriend, LW, I feel like the onus is on him to make it work. Has he given you an ultimatum or is there an unspoken one floating about? ‘If you can’t move in with me, this relationship will have to end’ could just be his setting boundaries for what he can live with, but it can be manipulative too. If he’s setting this condition, and not making it as easy as possible for you to follow through if you wish to, and is willing to let you take huge risks in his favour without helping… is that the kind of person that is safe to be with? Is that the person you want in your life? The last thing you want is to move from the hands of one controlling person into the hands of another. Your goal is to get out of this with more agency than before, not less. There is no happy ending if one switches out their collar for one of another colour.
I think you should think about if the people you love are asking too much of you. Are they worth a life with in the long run, and giving as much as they are taking from you?
A final word, before I make everyone’s eyes glaze over:
Either way, moving to France or staying home, you will need those life skills. Even if you can’t decide yet, start getting these skills right now. Google ‘Simple Recipes’ and make a cook book for yourself. Make yourself a phone book with numbers to various banks and hospitals and lawyers. Look up how to write a resume, find a job with a salary in the paper and practise making a budget with that figure. Learn how to change lightbulbs and tyres! Learn how washing machines work and the best way to stack dishes. You will lose nothing by learning these now. Some of these things are really damn scary. (I still don’t know how to use a washing machine. Thankfully, my partner does.) Take it slow, but start. Right now.
TL;DR: This should be about what YOU want, and what YOU can do. The end goal is not ‘Mother and Boyfriend are both happy’, the end goal is ‘I am happy, and safe, and have the agency to make my life the way I wish it’. It is not necessarily your fault that you don’t have all the skills you need for this problem, but you are most capable of getting them, so go get them! And please, please, practise figuring out what YOU want, without the outside influence of what others want, and practise making decisions for yourself and only yourself. It is a skill I wish I had learned many, many years ago.
I am the LW. FIRST AND FOREMOST, THANK YOU SO MUCH CAPTAIN AWKWARD. Your post was amazing, I loved all the potential options and the questions that I had to think about (I’ve already started contemplating them on paper). Also, thanks to everyone for your opinions and thoughts on my question. I first want to mention that I didn’t write more information because when I read the “Ask A Question” it said to try to keep it to 450 words. I was also pretty upset about the situation as I had just argued with my mother because she was saying terrible things about my boyfriend at the time. 52 comments is a lot to respond to, so I’ll just add as much as I can think of for now.
My boyfriend was invited to my house and was accepted by my mother. The issues that arose was largely due to rules and terms not being in place before my boyfriend arrived. The french culture is very different from my culture, he was also raised in a different socioeconomic status. The language barrier also raised concern, my boyfriend is fluent but not bilingual and my mother speaks not a word of french. Sometimes my boyfriend would say things that my mom would take the wrong way and vise versa. She never really understood that he didn’t mean things a certain way, even when he would apologize for the misunderstanding (for example, he once got the words unfortunately and fortunately mixed up, which led to a potentially rude interpretation).
In terms of education, we have both tried transferring to no avail. Again, the Canadian and French education systems are completely different. This is slightly lengthy to describe so ill vaguely describe it, his school is a very difficult competitive school, where the grade PASS or FAIL is more important than the actual average. In Canada, the average matters a great deal for transferring. We are still trying to transfer for winter term 2014 and fall term 2014. For the person who left a quite rude comment, I would like to inform you that I am an educated, intelligent person. In Ontario it is mandatory to take French until grade 9. However, I was much more interested in Italian so I took those classes throughout high school. You would apparently be shocked to know what a lack of French speakers we have in Ontario. Furthermore, I have taken a BEGINNERS French class in my University, where I have learned some French. Unfortunately, it isn’t a high enough level to work or attend University in France. There is many possibilities for Graduate Degrees, not so much for Undergraduate Degrees. I also cannot stay at my current University if he transfers, due to the lack of French speaking schools in the area. The closest one is about 4 or 5 hours away.
For me there is a few considered options.
1) I go to my current school for first term (Fall term) and then try to transfer to a different school with my boyfriend. – If he gets accepted but I do not, he will attend either way and we will visit until I can try to transfer to again or to a closer school (while in the meantime still attending my current school). If I get accepted with him then yay!
2) I go to my current school for first term (Fall term) and then go to Paris second term, try to find a job & take French courses. Then continue my education in the Fall of 2015
My boyfriend has tried to do a lot to support me and accommodate my choices. He has paid for 4/6 flights we have taken to visit each other. He has practiced and improved his English to great extents. It’s true, he’s not perfect, we argue sometimes, we don’t always agree. But, he is the most accepting and caring person I’ve ever met, and I love him more than anything. If we are going to school together I want to live with him. All the locations possible for us to live together is between 4-5 and 24 hours away driving to visit anyone I know. For him, he can only visit his friends/relatives/anyone he knows through oversea flights. Why would we want to make all these sacrifices, give up parts of our education (credits we would potentially lose), live far from anyone we have previously known to live apart?
The conflict starts here, I dont disagree with my mothers right to choose what she would like to do with her money. I disagree with the way she goes about it. For the past 3 months (a month before my boyfriend even came to stay), she constantly changed her decision. First, the agreement was I go to Paris for a whole year, learn french, work, and then continue schooling the year after with my boyfriend (Yes, she initially agreed with this). However she believed I wouldn’t go back if I took off a year. I then tried to compromise by doing a little bit of each, I suggested school for first term, Paris for second term. She agreed very happily. She loved the idea. Then she said, no, I will only agree if you do online courses while in Paris/ transfer with your boyfriend second semester and completely 1 FULL year, if not I will not support you. I said Okay. It wasn’t until now that our agreement changed yet again (after she decided and continually inflicted that she doesn’t want us to be together and that she knows we wont be) that I will not be supported if we live together. This includes constant checking to see if we are even staying at each other’s houses overnight. If this occurs she has stated clearly that she will “cut off all support”.
Lastly I want to add that I was not defending my mom or writing good points about her, like the fact that it is her money. And yes she is my mother and I love her and she deserves the upmost respect. I did not state any of this because I found throughout the comments that you all tended to see my moms point of things, I was just playing devil’s avocate and showing you a different side to things, my boyfriends. Regardless of my choices and all that happens though, I love them both.
Hi LW – I think my comment is currently trapped in the spam filter, but as the daughter of an emotionally abusive mother who used to try to controll me with money when I was about 19 – you have all my sympathy! Your mum is not my mum, but around the time I was becoming independent she went absolutely crazy with regards to how she supported me, doing stuff like changing the ammount of money I had to live on every week and pretending it had always been that, or telling me if I didn’t come home every weekend I wouldn’t get any allowance (my parents lived in the country, university was in the city).
I say this just because lots of people assume that mothers want the best for their children, but this isn’t always true. While it is her money, the fact that she’s trying to controll you with it isn’t cool. Hopefully this is just an understandable mother-freakout about you growing up, and not a constant ongoing thing like I experienced. That’s actually kind of hard to tell when you’re 19 and haven’t lived any other way though, so really I can’t see building towards your independence one way or another as anything but a good thing.
I’m sorry you have to deal with this – it sounds like a very difficult choice. 😦
Thanks, LW! That helps clear a lot up. 🙂
It sounds like your mother is being very controlling. For me, saying, “I will not pay for you to live with your boyfriend” is okay. Saying, “You cannot stay at each other’s houses for a single night and I will be checking up on that” is very much not. There is a huge difference between living together and staying over at each other’s place sometimes.
It also doesn’t seem like something she can feasibly check up on – what, is she going to insist you use face time with an iphone and show her under your bed and your closet to make sure your boyfriend isn’t hiding there? – but that’s honestly not the point.
I personally think that it is difficult to leave school for a year and then go back, and despite your mother’s controlling ways, I would advise against transferring *just* to be with your boyfriend. It just seems like it could backfire even if the relationship with him is strong – I’ve known a few too many couples who relocated to be together and ended up with resentment issues because they didn’t like the place, even though that wasn’t really fair.
However, if there is a way for you to support yourself without winding up in a lot of debt (or if the debt is worth it), I think that it is time that you call your mother’s bluff. Start figuring out how you would move to France for a semester, finance it, and have something to do. Research transfer options and how to finance those. Give your mother some time to calm down, but then say, “Mom, this is my plan. If that doesn’t work out, this is my other plan. If you don’t want to finance that, that’s fine, but I need to know so I can pursue loans.”
Maybe she’ll stop posturing then.
I’ll wave a small “team daughter” flag here. It sounds like no matter what, it would VASTLY help your peace of mind to stop having to rely on business deals with a partner who constantly backs out of agreements, reneges on deals, and uses inappropriate high-stakes negotiating methods. Even if your mom is the best mom in the world (she may not be–mine’s pretty awesome, though even with her I reached a few points of I NEED TO BE FURTHER AWAY FROM YOU KTHX) she is also trying to make big decisions with uncertain outcomes, which means she’s not going to be as certain of how much power and money to give you as you really need her to be to be happy right now.
It sounds like you and your boyfriend have really seriously thought about your options and made really solid plans, any of which can work. Some of our comments, I think, assumed you were less responsible and adult than you seem to be (sorry!). Now it actually seems to me that what you’re struggling with isn’t basic competency at Adulting. Sounds like if life dropped you in a totally new situation, like even being a broke expat in Paris, you’d figure it out. This isn’t a 101 question, actually. It’s the senior seminar topic in Adulting, of being happy and feeling successful while you do it. “Yes, I can figure that out… but it will suck for a long time. Can we get from here to the part where I’m in a place, with people, doing things that I’m happy with, sometime before 2017?”
Don’t undersell yourself. You know a lot and you’re being really responsible here. So responsible I actually feel the urge to say: make sure you have fun! Make sure you get fun date time with your boyfriend, social time with your friends, hobbies you enjoy, everything like that. There’s this idea that serious adults and good students are grim and overstressed… except that when we actually examine the lives of really successful students, they make time for all those other things and that contributes to their success. So I hope you’re doing that.
Well, yes, that does clear things up a lot, the Captain evidently read your situation correctly, and your mother’s behaviour sounds extremely controlling and damaging. I’m sorry for guessing otherwise.
It is okay to choose to live apart to continue to get monies from your mom. Just saying. You can also figure out several plans that you could live with, depending on various levels of your mother’s financial involvement, and see what she likes best. But really, I’m saying, that it is a completely reasonable decision to choose to live nearby but apart in order to keep your mom’s financial support.
There’s also good reasons to live apart, that are not obvious to you, since you’re still in school and not doing the living alone on your own dime stuff yet. Those benefits are harder to explain but they are real, and may be real for your boyfriend too. If he’s moving here to be with you, he’ll need to establish his own life here outside of you. He can’t focus his entire life around you, and *not* living with you — but living in a dorm, or with other housemates — is a pretty good way of establishing a different life. If the two of you are going to make a life together, one of the two of you is going to end up half a world away from your family and your current friends and support system. Whichever direction the move happens, best to start building out the new life early. (This goes for you if you go to Paris — better if you go with a school program that lands you in a dorm or a host family or something than if you just live with him and he is your whole world.)
But back to your mom and negotiations. How would she check if you’re staying over night? I mean, the specifics here matter. So does the principle of the thing, but it’s not unheard of to not have a landline phone. Is she going to call you every day? Hire a private detective to follow you? Install motion detectors or webcams? At some point of ridiculosity, a person can reasonably stop feeling bad about taking countermeasures.
You can also say “I will agree to live apart, but I will not agree to be audited. We will sleep where we choose. If that is not acceptable to you, then Plan Living Apart is unfortunately not going to work, since we can’t afford it on our own.” You do get to negotiate here! It is your life, after all.
But really, it is completely respectable to suck it up for two years to keep getting a pile of money to finish your degree, especially if she’ll fund transfers or whatnot. It is also completely respectable to reject the strings that come with the money. It is *your* life.
It sounds like you’ve thought this through very well, and that your mom keeps changing the rules on you to force this to a head.
I deliberately did not (and do not) want to give you “What course of action should you pick?” advice.
The guy I was dating when I was 19 was not worth my time and would not have been worth any sacrifice of other opportunities on my part. But if I’d run off and married him and dropped out of college? We’d be divorced now, for sure, but I am a person who loves and is interested in education, and I would have found a way to complete mine somehow, someway. I do not think for a minute that making a mistake would have permanently derailed my life. It would have had some very painful consequence, to be sure, but it’s not like avoiding one mistake magically insulates you from pain in all aspects of your life.
As feminists, we sometimes get strongly and stridently invested in the narrative that romantic relationships are less important than everything else in life. We come by it honestly as a strong reaction to millennia of expectations that we *must* pair off, that we need men to support us, that we would make ourselves smaller or put our dreams on hold to prioritize men or romantic love, that our highest goal should be the care and feeding of some man. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a time when so many women have fought and dismantled that narrative. And there are times when “don’t throw your life away over some dude!” really is the best advice, and I cringe to think of the shapes I twisted myself into because I was obsessed with some guy. So we want to tell our younger selves what we know now. “You have so much potential! Just think of what you could be if you weren’t so wrapped up in Pierre here! Don’t throw it all away!”
But as a knee-jerk “You’re very young, you don’t know anything about anything, don’t be in love” response, it is also incredibly reductive and condescending. I mean, if you have all this potential as a young intelligent woman, you have it whether or not you happen to be in love with Francois. Fortunately, a successful romantic relationship is no longer the sole culturally approved and institutionally path for a woman’s life, but changing the expectations doesn’t meant that love or the desire for partnership (or ships!) was magicked away or that a romantic partner is automatically some trivial distraction.
Guillaume here doesn’t have to be THE ONE* for you to want to be with him. Loving someone and figuring out how to have an adult relationship that builds you up and makes everything feel possible is not a waste of your time, no matter how things work out. It’s okay if your reason for wanting to be with him is “He makes me feel good and adds happiness to my life” and isn’t tied to any kind of 5-year-plan for career success.
Right now, my career is kind of on autopilot – I’ve got some shit to figure out there, and I will figure it out in due time. But in the unlikely event my boyfriend came home tonight and said that his work was transferring him to Antarctica in a month, my answer would be “So when do we leave?” I carry my experience, my knowledge, and my potential for my own career/artistic achievement or fulfillment with me wherever I go**, so why not go where love is, too? If I got a sweet job elsewhere, he would follow me. Others might make a different choice, because their opportunity costs and options stack up differently.
Some romantic relationships rob your momentum, your energy, and your potential. There are enough horror stories out there that it pays to be skeptical when making major decisions that center your world & well-being around one person. But others lift you up and make all things feel possible. They are part of your support system on your way to becoming who you will be. There’s no law that says that education, work, love must happen in a particular order – unless you want to revive the old strictures on what young women can and must do in a new suit of clothes.
You owe it to yourself to learn to take care of yourself and develop autonomy and skills and confidence in your abilities and resilience. The conversations you need to have with him and with your mom are about how to best support and accomplish that. Are they your parters in this? Are they okay with you taking the time you need while you figure out what you want and how to even know what you want? Don’t let anyone make you feel small or guilty for being in love, or for not knowing exactly what you want at all times, or for being a work in progress.
*THE ONE = not actually a thing.
** = In fairness, feeling this way comes from having completed substantial education and would not be a given without those degrees under my belt.
I love this with the fierceness of a million Beyonces.
The important thing here is not to make the “right” decision. It is to begin to free yourself from the illusion that there IS a “right” decision, and to struggle within sight of the glorious reality that you are more than what other people think of your choices.
Thank you, Jennifer, for sitting on the urge to tell the LW to do any one particular thing. I’m doing the same thing–I think my opinion on the matter is way less important than the person whose life it is getting used to making her own choices.
1) I may be in the minority, but if it’s mom’s money, it is mom’s choice to spend whatever way she sees fit. Is it irritating that she is trying to use it to buy you out of a relationship? Yeah. Is it understandable that someone wouldn’t be inclined to fund someone else’s life when that person is making choices that they backer thinks are really really awful? Definitely, especially if her choices are also probably funding rent for some guy she fucking hates. She might be 100% in the wrong about hating him, but she is still in the right about how to spend her money, since it is hers. It sucks that she won’t pay your way, but as said in the original response, you’re gonna have to figure this out sooner or later. I honestly don’t think I’d hold it too much against her, but asking you not to do that when you are the one having to take out the student loans is probably asking too much.
2) If I was you’d, I’d fucking go to Paris, for reals. Long story short, I dated a guy for 2.5yrs, he lived in the UK, I spent 3 months there plus another scattered 7 weeks or so. I thought we’d get visa-married, I’d move there, and we’d either be happily ever after, or I’d just figure it out as it happened. What I figured out was that affection=/=respect, and things between us ended just before any real commitment was made, on a note that does not leave me ever really wanting to interact with him again. Looking back, were there a lot of things in that relationship I wasn’t seeing/was being an idiot about? Yup. Do I regret taking the rare opportunity to stretch my legs in a foreign country? Never. Do I still secretly wish we had visa married BEFORE the relationship imploded, so that I could have an extremely messy and awful and shitty and complicated breakup while also living in London? God yes, even though that sounds goddammed terrible. Spending a lot of time abroad was one of the best things I ever did, despite now having to remember who I was with when I did it every time I look back on it (which is often).
That said, you should probably get a job now and start saving. You are going to want to have several thousand dollars saved if you do this.
You and I were in similar boats, with reasonably money’d parents who care about us a great deal, which puts you and I in an unspeakably good place in many regards, one of which being the ability to fuck up very badly while maintaining a reasonable level of comfort. Your mom is not going to like what you do, but ask yourself: is she someone who, if you fall flat on your dumb face in Paris, “I told you so” or not, would let you spend a month moping in your bedroom at her house, then pick you back up and send you off to college with a condescending pat on the head? If yes: definitely do not pass up this opportunity. If no, still give it some thought. College will still be here, your mom will (hopefully) still be here, her money will (hopefully) still be here in a year or two if things don’t go well. And if not? Fuck it: like it or not, you’re a capable human being, and almost certainly able to get a job and scrape a life together, at least long enough to get college applications/student loan applications in order. Whether you think of yourself that way or not, I assure you: that is reality.
If you go to Paris, whether or not it “works” in the way where you get married and have your perfect dream life or whatever you envision, or you get there and get a taste of a different life and quickly realize that it is something you actually don’t want at all, I think you will make huge gains in both perspective and confidence. Even if your relationship fails and you come back in 6 months, you will still probably have learned as much about yourself as you possibly could over a 6 month period, and that is some valuable shit. That is what you need to stress to your mother when you tell her about moving, if you do this. Assure her that you are not blowing your life up, or dedicating your life to this guy, but that you want to know exactly what is out there before you sit down and blow tens of thousands of her dollars on an education which will be built around the almost-zero life experience you currently have. I honestly think that is a much bigger risk than dashing off to Paris for a year.
Whatever you do, I would absolutely not stress to your mother (or, honestly, yourself) that you are planning to spend the rest of your life with this guy. You are going to be with this guy for exactly as long as being with this guy is good for you, and no longer. Sure, hopefully that is forever (I guess?), but I do not recommend planning your life around that at this juncture. But you do seem to be in a good position to go for an adventure and gain a reasonable amount of independence, and moving to another country might do you a lot of good.
To totally validate what you said (and add a slightly different perspective) – I actually am living happily ever after with my visamarried husband, but now that we’re considering having babies, it’s really important to me to be able to come back to the US and be close to my mother. Having a college degree and the ability that either one of us can make a good living is really helpful for any possible future relocating if the two of you decide to leave France for any reason – even if things do work out between you.
“I’ve never supported myself and I know absolutely nothing about it, how would I make ends meet with no savings, no money at all?”
YES YES YES to this being the question.
With a related question about LW’s mother’s ultimatum: even if you ultimately decide that you don’t want to go to France with your boyfriend, this isn’t necessarily over. If she believes (rightly or wrongly) that you gave up your boyfriend because she held your education hostage, she will do that again over something else. Which doesn’t mean go to France. But it does mean don’t stay put to avoid conflict if what you really want is to go, because you can’t avoid that confrontation forever.
Back to the Captain’s central point: this is super super relevant to my life. I reached age 18 with very few life skills and no work skills. My parents gave me to understand that I was such a difficult child that they couldn’t teach me these things. (So I was supposed to learn them by osmosis?) [Later on, in adulthood, I got an Asperger’s diagnosis. While that is a point in favour of my having been a difficult child, I don’t think it lets them off the hook.]
I asked my mother this year about how she and my teachers kept failing me upward, not holding me back to master what I needed to learn and she said “I just didn’t think you would ever be able to live on your own or support yourself.” (Bear in mind, during that time period she did not believe I had a cognitive disorder or a mental illness. She thought I was just ‘difficult’.) So naturally I asked “So what were you planning to do about that?” And she said “Just keep going for as long as I could.”
Her plan was to keep supporting me forever, while never helping me get any of the skills I needed to be independent. And since I experienced her support as controlling me, keeping me dependent, and sabotaging my attempts to grow, I’d fight it. Which proved I was difficult and immature and couldn’t be trusted with independence.
My parents actually got angry with me for starting an emergency fund. Not proud of me for being responsible and self-reliant, but ANGRY for wasting THEIR money (n.b. I was on a disability pension by that stage, but they were supplementing that by paying my medical bills and helping with the rent) by saving it instead of relying on them in emergencies (note: if I needed their money for an emergency, this would be further proof I’m irresponsible and immature.)
When I told my mother I was giving a small monthly contribution to charity, my mother said “NO. You don’t give to charity on your income. You ARE charity.”
I’m still not independent. I’m working on it, but it’s massively hard. LW: don’t be like me. Get out sooner. Not to France if that’s not your best option, but by taking the Captain’s advice about gaining job and life skills now, not later.
Also going to echo upthread concerns about the exact situation of the few-months’-houseguest and the all-or-nothing binary decision posed.
One of my older relatives went to law school, at great expense, and then moved to the big city to work as a paralegal, at great expense, and then dropped it all to emigrate to the US to live with a man she met one evening and fell deeply in love with. They were married for 30+ years, so it was a happy ending– until he died suddenly, leaving all their debts and projects and mortgaged properties still waiting to be sold.
And she told us about her regrets, that she hadn’t finished her law degree, and that her previous “fun” job of managing her architect husband’s properties was now woefully inadequate to pay the bills, and now had to beg other people in the family for money to cover payments. It chilled me and my siblings because that love would have kept, it would have waited for her to finish her degree, and how much better would their financial situation have been– even before the husband had passed away, how much more could she have supported the household, how fewer would those debts have been– if she’d had that training.
So, I think– if you will indulge me this long, slightly tortured metaphor– you have to be the captain of your own ship. You might travel in convoy with another ship or ships for a time, and you might dock together or anchor at an island in your travels and see sights undreamed-of, and you might even let someone come aboard as your passenger while their ship is being repaired, or you might be a passenger for a time.
But you have to be your own captain, and you have to make sure that you have the knowledge and the training to navigate the waters you’re sailing on, and that you’re fully stocked with provisions and navigational equipment and capital for your voyage. Maybe your ship isn’t a yacht– maybe it’s a rowboat with hardtack and bottled water under the seats– but it’s YOUR ship. The other ship might change course, might be destroyed in a storm, or weigh anchor and disappear into the night. Maybe not– maybe you’ll have a glorious viking funeral at 92 after having traveled with that ship your whole life– but if you have your own ship and your own course, you’ll be able to weather those storms, to sigh in disappointment if you see that empty dock rather than be trapped on a deserted island, and to change course and destination and convoy when it suits you.
Utter East, I love that boat metaphor!
I’m surprised no one else (from what I read) suggested that boyfriend transfers to the LW’s school, LW lives in the dorm and just happens to spend most of her nights at boyfriend’s apartment. I mean, yes, it dodges most or all of the fundamental issues of identity and autonomy and important relationship dynamics, but it’s one solution.
I had a similar decision back when I was 19. I chose the independent route. That was fine for a bit. Then things didn’t work out (mainly my fault). I crawled back home in defeat. I was depressed and it took me awhile to get back on me feet. The important thing is I did get back on my feet.
If I could go back, I’ll admit I would do things differently. That being said, do I regret it? No, not at all. I learned that despite dropping out of school and being depressed, I was able to get a decent job and pay my way through college. Sure, now I have a few student loans but it was cool to see I could bounce back from a shitty situation. Life is fairly awesome for now.
So, do what you will regret least. Life goes on, just make sure that you are able to roll with the punches. Understand that moving to France can have some serious repercussions if things take a turn for a worse but that it is also possible to recover. Also understand that your 24 year old self will probably be completely different from your 19 year old self and the love of your life is probably not the love of your life. Whatever happens, do not develop a fear of failure.
How the hell did your mom raise a 19-year old with no confidence in her own abilities to take care of herself and no idea how jobs and money actually work?
Uh, possibly because children are human beings and not lumps of clay who turn out perfectly if only the Correct Parenting Techniques are applied? Because some people mature later than others? Because 19-year-olds can have anxiety disorders, be on the autism spectrum, or other things that mean they’re not striding boldly across the planet on their own at 19? Also, it is often the case that there is a father or other parent involved, such that any parenting failures do not fall100% on mom!
Yes, it is true that one reason kids may have minimal life skills at 19 is a controlling/domineering parent. It’s not the only reason. I don’t think suggesting to the LW that the problem is her mom (only)’s shitty parenting is productive or fair.
Your critiques are valid ones, and my point is not to sexistly blame this mom (or moms in general) every aspect of their child’s success or failure.
However, we have a specific mother and a daughter fighting over autonomy & economic security. The Letter Writer did not mention a dad or the autistic spectrum, and said specifically that she has no idea how one goes about earning a living.
Whether intentionally or not, the mom is framing the Letter Writer’s perceived lack of competence or confidence to make it on her own as a threat. Sure, go to France, do whatever you want. But you’ll be on your own. Are you sure that’s what you really want? You talk a big game, but are you sure you can make it out there in the big bad world? On your own?
If you’re the one being threatened in this way, I don’t think it’s ruining feminism to turn around say Really? You seem pretty sure that I am going to fail without your help. Do you have so little confidence in me as a person and in your own parenting skills?
I’d like to add another step you can mix in randomly with all the Captain’s:
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
Brainstorm a million different solutions and mix them together in a thousand ways. Research, question people, talk over possibilities with your friends. Your choices aren’t binary or permanent. Refuse to shut down solutions.
Can you figure out what, exactly, you need to do for your mom to maintain support until you finish college? Like, do you have to stop seeing bf or just not live with him? Could you be in the same city? Could you visit each other? If so, for how long? What are the parameters here? Figure out the minimum requirements and see if there are ways you can meet those. You’ve dated for over a year and somehow your mom is still helping you through school — so somehow you can probably work that out.
Can you come up with some temporary solutions to take the pressure off? Like he can stay with a friend while you sort things out with your mom?
Can boyfriend stay in your city but move to a different living situation? Roommate, housesitting, babysitting, dogsitting, live/work gardening, etc?
Does boyfriend have a job? Can he get one? Tutoring French? Some other job?
Can you apply for a semester in France, with dorm provided? (Then you’re still in school and not living with bf.)
Can you get a part-time job? (Like Captain suggested). What about paid internships? What about college credit for work that supports your major?
Can you get a live/work situation, like nannying? Would that help if you lived apart from your mom?
Can you save some money for visits to France on school breaks? Maybe stay in a hostel? Or at least tell your mom you’re staying in a hostel?
Can you take extra classes and finish school early?
Would learning French help? Will bf help you learn French?
Can you start reading websites on jobs, money management, long-distance relationships, living in France as a Canadian, etc?
Some religious organizations give interest free loans to people who share that religion. Can you look into that?
Would your mom be willing to keep paying school expenses if you paid for living expenses? Maybe she just doesn’t want to pay your bf’s room and board. What if you moved in with him and he paid for half and she paid the other half? Would that be okay?
Etc. etc. etc.
I think this is crucial to all sorts of Life Stuff. There are MANY roads, leading all sorts of directions, including at least a few heading where you think you want to be. And a lot that seem to lead there but take enticing turns just past the bit you can see, but often include a little drive-by of the choice you thought you wanted, just to confirm that you have had a more interesting or better ride.
People have often got such narrow ways of looking at issues, as if there are only a few outcomes or a few ways to get specific outcomes, when really it’s more a case of not enough knowledge, or imagination, to come up with the rest of the options.
Also, people tend to assume they understand what others have stated, without asking the really important detail questions (although I tend to find that my interest in detail and option and alternate isn’t always seen as a charming quality…*shrug* so the cookie crumbles….).
“Choices aren’t binary.” Great way to sum it up. Not one we’re well versed in, somehow. We seem to think either you can or you can’t x. Which is rarely actually entirely true.
Only children are permanent (sorry, even adoption won’t change that…), so exercise restraint there, but for all else, pretty much any choice can be unravelled or reworked or sold or traded or removed or painted over or left or…
Can I just point out that there is very little “door-driven” difference between her two lives? Most of what happens or doesn’t happen is a result of her own decisions, or is random chance that doesn’t relate directly to the train doors.
The *only* real result of the train doors is *when* she catches her bf cheating.
She either starts her own business or interviews with an international PR firm. (Both options are a result of losing her job, which happens before the train doors.)
She either dumps her bf now or later (she shouldn’t need to catch him cheating to realize he’s a jerk — he doesn’t pick up any slack when she loses her job, so she has to work two part-time jobs for a while. Dump him! Move in with Anna! You don’t need a sliding door to tell you that!).
She either cuts her hair or doesn’t. She gets pregnant and miscarriages in both. She keeps meeting James no matter what happens. Walking out in front of a car has nothing to do with the sliding doors. Sheez.
I would like to elaborate on one aspect of moving abroad, which was only touched on in the previous replies.
If you decide to move to France, you need to figure out EXACTLY which kind of a visa you will need for the (working/studying/something else) you will be doing, how you will obtain that visa, and what are the requirements you must fulfill to keep the visa valid. Do not overlook the last one!
Do not do anything that might run you afoul of the immigration authorities, as it might affect your chances of travelling to any European Union member state. For example, trying to “chain” multiple tourist visas by temporarily going back to Canada and then travelling to France again might land you in trouble. This website is a good starting place: http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/
Another thing that you need to figure out is how the move will affect your entitlement to social security benefits and your access to medical care. Will you be eligible for any assistance from Canada or conversely, will you be ineligible for benefits if you return to Canada after a prolonged sojourn abroad? If you, for example, work in France but lose your job, can you obtain any financial assistance from French social security? France has an extensive public health care system, but all services might not be accessible to non-EU nationals.
Yet another thing is taxation. If you work in France, will your earnings be taxed in France or in Canada? Where do you have to file tax returns? Does earning income abroad affect any benefits you receive or might, in future, be in need of?
I personally would advise against moving to a foreign country without having either a job or a studying place lined up. If you decide to be supported by your boyfriend even temporarily, then the stuff about social security is doubly important. Please figure out a safety net for yourself if, for one reason or another, you can’t or dont want to be dependent on your boyfriend any more.
I’m putting this out because a friend of mine recently moved from Finland to Germany to live together with her boyfriend. Even though both countries are members of the European Union, she said that figuring out the work permit, taxes and social security entitlement (she effectively lost all rights to Finnish social security) took a lot of effort and she had a definite impression that failing to sort this stuff out correctly could have serious repercussions.
I am approving this because it is helpful, but I would like this to be the last visa/work permit/legal advice in this thread since this is not the point and what the LW writer needs is an expert who has the specifics of her situation.
Synopsis: Couple in love ignores visa requirements, severely straining their bond.
Oh, I’m sorry, I hadn’t seen this when I posted about visas. Bad me, no biscuit.
It’s ok, I just don’t want this to become the visa-advice thread since we can’t really monitor the accuracy or quality of specific information.
I read (and skimmed the last few as i’m running on low) most of the comments and saw that nobody mentioned this: school isn’t for everyone…you don’t need a college education to be a successful adult or get a job…in fact most people are finding that even with their highly valuable degrees in useful things – a bachelors just doesn’t cut it…I’m currently working on my second degree (Bachelors of Veterinary Science) with people who will be younger when we graduate than i was when i got in…as domestic students they will have considerably less debt than i will (mine will be more than a mortgage in most states back home)…and you know what? there are people out there with no education who dropped out of high school who will make more money than me in jobs i never would have considered
what i am trying to say is what the Cap has also said – find Yourself…that is the only person who can tell you what your Bliss is…and when you find that – don’t let it go…follow your bliss to the ends of the earth and never look back…if your bliss is getting a degree in a field that you find fascinating and that you would be studying in your free time even if you weren’t paying gobs of money for it – do it…if your bliss is being an artist and you have to live hand to mouth working “jobs” so that you have more time for your passion – do that…if your bliss is a farm in the middle of nowhere, where you can’t see your neighbors and nobody cares what degree you have hanging on your wall – do that…if your bliss is moving to another country to soak up the new experiences and be with someone you love – do that
you can’t always do it all in one leap…it takes steps like getting a job so that you know you can support yourself if your bliss happens to not make a lot of money…it might take other steps that none of us have thought of…but only one person can really find out what it takes – and that is You
from a parent’s perspective…all of that is utterly terrifying…your mother has raised you from a cluster of cells stealing nutrients from her blood stream…she has seen you grow from a tiny slug form into a miniature humanoid tornado into a miniature human through teenagerhood and now you are blossoming into adulthood…but while for you all of these things seem forever ago and like you are so different and have changed so much…she only has to close her eyes to see you at 6 years old…you are her baby and the last thing she wants is for you to hurt…and sometimes that can cloud a parent’s judgement and make them do things that they probably shouldn’t…but parents are still human…from her bouncing back and forth on what is okay and what is not okay as far as you and your boyfriend and time in France, it sounds like a whole lot of fear and uncertainty…i can’t say what she fears for sure but it could be: fear of losing you forever, fear of you getting permanently damaged, fear of you losing yourself, fear of giant helmets falling from the sky and smashing you to death…not all fears are rational and she has a jerkbrain just like anyone else…so on the “crazy mother” front you might want to sit down and talk to her about why she keeps bouncing around and remember to approach it from a position of compassion (not that you sound like you don’t, but that it is often hard to remember compassion when one feels that someone is being unfair)
you have a tough decision ahead of you and your road doesn’t look easy…but as many a poster here has pointed out – life rarely is…you won’t know what decision was the right one (maybe ever) until you make it ^_^
i hope you follow your bliss and that it works out well for you
This article is very timely. I’m also dealing with some difficult decisions and an uncertain future, as a result of fallout from another difficult decision I made four years ago. The Captain’s decision process really resonates with me because I dealt with that horrible, horrible item 3 just a few weeks ago, and my entire family was confused and vaguely horrified at how quickly I bounded forward with the post-worst-case plan of action. So was my therapist.
But, I ask you, is it not better to leap right back into action? Mourning in my bed wasn’t doing any good, and another week or two of it wouldn’t have gotten me any closer to a stable future. Now I’m anxious and worried about the future, and apprehensive about my work and life skills, but at least I have a plan.
A couple of things come to mind.
1) If your mother is willing to cut off your allowance for this, she’s willing to cut off your allowance for other reasons, particularly if the threat of ‘do what I say or you’ll be out on the street without a penny’ works. (She might mean extremely well, but… it’s still a threat.) Consider any money you get from this point onward a bonus, but build your life around work/loans/scholarships so that you can meet ‘and you won’t get a single penny more’ with ‘that’s fine, I know how to pay my bills on my own.’ Make contingency plans of whose sofa you can stay on/who will store your things if everything goes south; check out cheap accommodation, speak to your university’s hardship person… if the worst never happens, you’ll be fine, but if it does, you’ll have an exit strategy, and you will cope with minimum disruption to your life.
2) If France is a real option, learn French. (Also, it will help you to communicate better with your boyfriend.) Learn about what will expect you to move to France (whether temporarily or permanently), find out visa requirements, work restrictions, universities, everything. You may decide to move now or later or never; you *can* control whether you’re stumbling into it unprepared or not. This step should not rely on any of your other decisions. Knowledge is power, being prepared means that whatever you decide, whatever happens, it is less likely to completely floor you and make you take bad decisions.
3) Who else is on Team You? You’re facing major upheavals whatever you do, and you will need sounding boards, shoulders to cry on, people to laugh with, and all of that. I find that anxiety gives me tunnel vision – opening up and exploring options with other people (whether friends, family, councelors) helps to see what else you can do. You’re not in an either-or situation (boyfriend or degree), but it might need some ingenuity to have both… or to decide, voluntarily, which of them is Not For You.
Best of luck!
OP – PLEASE make sure you can take care of yourself. It seems that you believe your options are to either have you mom take care of you, or have your boyfriend take care of you – i.e., paying all bills, fixing all broken things, etc. Either way you are still dependent on someone. Your mom is probably a great person, but she did you a real disservice with not raising you to be an adult in your own right. If you move to France with your boyfriend and he’s just too controlling, or something else bad happens, what happens if he doesn’t give you money to fly back home – and what happens if your mom is still mad and won’t send you the money either? Moving to France could be awesome, but it might not be – and you need to be prepared to take care of yourself if it is not.
Btw, I’ve been in a long distance relationship for 16 years. We’re about 7 hours by car away from each other, and this is certainly not typical – but it allowed me to finish a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and him to do the same. If you both are meant to be together, you can make it work, long distance or not.
I apologize if this is a repeat comment, I may have missed a similar comment in my quick skim.
I’d like to put the issue with your mother aside for a minute, and think about what’s best for both you and your boyfriend. I also think it imperative that you include your boyfriend in this decision making process.
If you decide on Paris, what will the logistics be? You would be taking a big leap of faith, changing your whole life, learning a new language and culture, having to make new friends, while he effectively gets a new roommate. There will be growing pains, how will you two deal with that? How will the finances work in that situation? Are you expected to cover your expenses 100% considering it may be hard to find a job right away? What are the expenses? I wouldn’t hesitate to bring up shared house chores, etc. You want the most information you can get before jumping in.
If you find a University to share, how will that work? will you live together and share expenses? Will you maintain separate housing?
If you decide to stay where you are and continue your free education, will he be supportive of that decision? Will he then be flexible about continuing the long-distance relationship, or will he call the whole thing off? I think the answer to this one will be very telling about what is going on in his head.
these are hard conversations, but if you two can work through the options together, I think you’ll be in a much better place to make the decision that is best for both of you.
Just so you don’t think I’m saying anything really different LW, I basically agree with everything the Captain tells you :-).. I’d like to add a couple things though, from personal experience.
One is that your mom is making a terrible mistake by taking such a strong stance against the boyfriend. When parents get so strident about it, basically they leave you no choice. You get put into a position to go with boyfriend (because most people do) and then you’re stuck. Which means that no matter how bad the situation develops, even no matter how downright abusive it may become, you stay because you don’t want your mom to find out. And you’re cut off from even peripheral means of support because you don’t want to risk someone telling her how badly off you are. Even if she’s meanwhile thought better of the “I told you so” approach, you don’t want to risk it. Your mistake takes on much bigger proportions than a regular dumb mistake like we all make. And it can take you decades to extricate yourself from a nightmare. And I’d like to emphasize that this is much worse when you’re dealing with a trans-national relationship. You may like the country and wish to stay but be totally dependent on Asshole for your visa/financials. You may hate the country but feel like you have no options to get yourself back home beside parental humiliation. You may love BF but loathe the country and not be able to convince him to get back to your home. No matter what, if anything goes wrong and you’re far away, if you’ve burned your bridges and can’t go back easily you’re in deep trouble. You’re essentially over-committed before you even find out whether it’s going to be such a good thing.
The other important point here is France. Sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? But it sounds like you’re a woman, which is a very bad deal there. Keep in mind that in UN statistics of female equality, France ranks 56 in the world (for 2011) in terms of economics. That’s right, 56th, behind Romania and Azerbaidjan and such glowing standards of feminism, while Canada and the US fight for first place. I can’t tell you how shocking it can be to suffer such a change, and what it means in practical life. We won’t even mention the appalling youth employment, even for people with advanced French degrees. So if you intend to make any money at all, you’d better make sure you have a job before leaving. And basically nanny is where it’s at for a young uneducated woman, but Americans aren’t so popular, generally the moneyed Parisian classes prefer someone from a 3rd-world country they can control better, and who won’t be running off with a boyfriend at every opportunity. Also, there’s been a severe tightening of visas since Sarkozy, and the current socialist president is explicitly keeping to that Front National take on immigration. Which means that should you want to stay you have only a single option: marriage. Which mandatorily includes living together, complete with surprise visits from the cops, interrogations of your neighbors about your sex life, and everything that implies (I speak from personal experience, even before it got that bad, don’t think your North American origins gives you much privileges).
So are you ready to marry this guy? Another interesting statistic: French kids stay home on average till they’re 28. No typo: twenty-eight. Many stay financially dependant on their parents way beyond that. That’s in part because youth unemployment is absolutely staggering, which won’t help you or him. But that means at the least weekly Sunday lunch with the in-laws, if not daily inspections of your housekeeping by MIL who lives downstairs, or having her turn you out of the bed by 8am if you’re living with them as could well happen (Paris is as bad as NY or Tokyo in terms of housing). My advice in summary: don’t ever marry a French person without meeting the inlaws first, and being certain that you’re cool with marrying them as well…
“The other important point here is France. Sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? But it sounds like you’re a woman, which is a very bad deal there. Keep in mind that in UN statistics of female equality, France ranks 56 in the world (for 2011) in terms of economics. That’s right, 56th, behind Romania and Azerbaidjan and such glowing standards of feminism, while Canada and the US fight for first place.”
Which UN statistics, exactly? Because according to the Gender Inequality Index (from the UN Development Programme’s 2011 Human Development Report, available here), Sweden and the Netherlands are the ones “fighting for first place” while Canada ranks 20th and the US… 47th. France is holding her own at 10th.
The 2013 Gender Inequality Index looks about the same:
Yeah, I’ve never picked up serious gender equality issues from my (albeit limited) experience with France. I have heard some unsettling things about homophobia in France, but that’s not really the topic here, and it’s also (unfortunately) not unusual.
I don’t have time to read all of the comments here, so I’m just going to agree with the captain about her final point.
Get a job.
Here are the reasons you should do this:
1. Working is hard, you have to learn to negotiate relationships that are different than friendships and teacher student relationships. You have to learn how to not make unwise statements to your supervisors and take some shit from some people. This is a skill you will develop by working.
2. Working is hard, you have to practice doing things you don’t want to do for a set amount of time and following rules that sound stupid. If you don’t practice this it will be way harder when you try to do it full time to make money for real life.
3. Working is awesome, you make money, you have a purpose besides just school and fun, it gives you an awesome sense of independence.
4. Working in college is awesome, there are lots of gigs at universities that can be “sit at this desk and do your homework gigs” and sometimes there are jobs that can pertain directly to your major. Universities have a plethora of part time gigs for students and it is a great way to get into working in an environment where people understand that you are also going to school.
5. Making money is awesome, especially when you don’t really need it and can just stick it into savings. It gives you independence and choice. Plus it is very satisfying.
6. Having a job makes it easier to get a job. If you work in college you will have more to bring to the table when you are interviewing for non college jobs. You’ll have some experience with work relationships that you can draw on for interviews, and people like that.
7. Not working to focus on school sounds great, until you realize that school doesn’t really prepare you for work. School is nothing like work. As someone in charge of hiring I will always prefer a candidate who has worked in some capacity over one who hasn’t. Even if the worker had slightly inferior grades. Companies want people with some work skills, they hate training people. Get the skills you can while you can do it in an easy supported environment.
I also recommend signing up with temp agencies over the summer and winter holidays, these can bring home good money if you get good at them, and they again are valuable practice at the 9 to 5 grind. That is if you can’t get an internship somewhere, which you should absolutely do.
I agree with all of this, and I especially agree about temp jobs.
Temp jobs are a great way to try a bunch of different companies and fine tune what you are looking for in a permanent or merely long term job. You get to see how a lot of different bosses do things, the good, the bad, and the OMG what were they THINKING! You learn to spot things about an office that are functional or disfunctional, and figure out what you can change, what you can’t change, and what you should just walk away from(or run!).
I loved temping because they were almost always really happy to see me. I was there to solve a problem they were having, whether the problem was a staffer on leave, or a pile of mystery papers to be organized and filed, or inventory, or whatever. They wanted me there.
I loved temping because I like learning new things, exploring and meeting new people.
Did I run into situations that I didn’t like? Yes, I did, but, I didn’t have to stay there forever. I could tough it out for the day, the week, or the three months and then move on. I learned a huge amount and I was much less sheltered after a while than I was when I started working. I was also more willing to make interviews for permanent positions two way. I knew there were things that would not work for me and I was looking out for them. I was no longer in a position where I felt I had to say yes to a position because the company wanted me. I could say no if I thought that it wouldn’t work.
I used temping as a way to get experience and a sense of what I was good at.
Great Big Huge bonus of temping:
People are relieved and happy to have someone there doing the job. As long as you try to do well, and don’t offend anyone, they will give you a good recommendation even if it wasn’t really your thing.
http://dresdencodak.com/2009/04/19/onald-creely/ for a more surreal argument about choices made and not made.
I feel like I just have to say one thing I learned re: decisions that are something vs. a relationship:
I do truly believe if it’s meant to be, it will be. You will survive a year of long distance. If you don’t, and break up, that will suck. But, if he’s “the one” you will find your way back to each other later when the timing is better.
I’ve skipped trips, a French course in Quebec (I still regret), I came home early from Brazil once for a guy, I didn’t pursue college in another province hard enough because of a guy. I’m not with any of them. I’m also not bilingual nor did I get my degree at Ryerson. Whatever – we live, we learn. BUT…
Fast forward to now: Three years ago I met a guy in a town I hated. I loved him. But, I moved to the big city and he broke up with me. I cried, begged. He said no, long distance isn’t for him, we’re young, go be a big girl in a big city and he’ll come visit sometimes and be my friend always.
I had boyfriends, he had girlfriends, I called him crying, he came up to visit sometimes, we did concerts together, sometimes we talked weekly sometimes a month would go by where we wouldn’t speak. I always wanted it but it wasn’t right for my life or his so I let it go. I didn’t stay in town I hated. I moved to the city and made a hell of a life for myself.
He’s now my boyfriend. We’re incredibly in love. We have three years of PATIENCE behind us. We did what we had to do, we lived our lives, and we found our way back to each other because one day we said “Oh, this can work? I’M IN.” Had we forced it back then I’d be living in a town I hated, he’d hate me cuz I’d be not a happy and therefore not the best me I could be, and we’d probably argue/break-up/ruin it anyway (who knows).
YOU are all you have at the end of the day. Guys come and go and come back or don’t. Make a decision for YOU at the end of the day. And, if you feel like you would be happy in France with a guy, LW then power to you. I’ve done it before, I don’t regret it, it just didn’t work out as planned. At least I tried and learned.
I totally agree with the Captain’s advice of “think not just about the best case scenario and how awesome it would be, but the worst case and whether it would be tolerable.” (it actually hearkens back to a book I’m re-reading right now, The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman, which everything in my life keeps reminding me of.)
Whatever choice you make, as long as you are alive, you still have room to make more choices. None of your options right now need to be the end of everything else. I can’t relate to the controlling-parent aspect of your situation because my parents have always been very supportive-yet-laissez-faire, but I am not too much older than you and do have some recent potentially-relevant relationship experience under my belt:
(for reference, I’m polyamorous, and have had multiple committed relationships at a time since I was sixteen; that is why the math works here.)
1. This month I am moving in with the person of my dreams and having a commitment ceremony a week later (and then both starting college next month, which we’re figuring out how to pay for almost entirely ourselves because both of our families are as broke as we are.) We’ve been together since we were 16 and 17, long-distance for all but a year of that (almost 4/5 of the relationship.) Although we both lived in the same country, finances were strained on both ends and we only ended up seeing each other 1-3 times a year in person. She moved to my town just over a year ago, but at the time (for reasons explained below) I wasn’t ready to move in with a romantic partner and give up part of the autonomy I’d come to savor, so she moved into a different house an hour and a half across town, to live with friends rather than strangers and because the rent was lower than most places. After about six months, we were both REALLY SICK OF LIVING AN HOUR AND A HALF APART and I was spending half my time over there anyway, but it took us this long to save up money for a security deposit etc. blah blah blah. However, I’m still incredibly glad I made the decision I did, because I’d had a very limited taste of being in a situation where I was neither dependent on anyone nor had anyone else dependent on me, and I *needed* that.
2. Here’s why: At the age of 18, I visited Current City from Hometown with my then-boyfriend (in part because I’d really wanted to travel that summer and he wigged about me traveling without him; yeah, that shoulda been a major red flag.) Long story short and irrelevant details omitted, we ended up moving here together. We burned through our savings while I looked for work and he didn’t due to his crippling insecurity, anxiety, and lack of life skills, and after months I ended up supporting him entirely working at a job I hated. After about six months of THAT, I finally got fed up, decided that I needed more independence, and told him I’d pay two more months of our share rent on the apartment and then he was on his own. I moved into a house with a couple of ladies I knew who were looking for a roommate, painted flowers on my walls, and didn’t have to worry about anyone’s finances but my own for months. When my current partner started talking about moving here, I made it clear that I’d be willing to support hir as a last-ditch option, and wouldn’t blame hir if hir disability made it impossible to find work, and I made that decision in full consciousness that it might actually come to pass and that I was comfortable with that eventuality.
My takeaway from my last couple years of relationship history is: It’s great to take risks and make mistakes. You get to know yourself better, faster, in many ways. I don’t wish I’d done anything differently because this way I became aware enough of my codependent tendencies in a drastic enough way that they’re not damaging my almost-marriage, and because of all the other things I learned from the crappy time. BUT my advice to anyone else going into a similar situation: if you have the option, have a safety net. If you can afford it, have separate bedrooms, even if you always sleep together. Make sure you’re each responsible for your own finances. Maintain separate bank accounts even if you also have a shared one. Try to avoid loaning each other money; if one of you needs help and the other is able to provide it, make sure it’s not going to come back as a point of manipulation later by making it clear there are no strings attached.
Best of luck, LW, whatever you decide!
I just wanted to say that I loved the title of this post, it was perfect ending with “& THE ENTIRE FUTURE OF EVERYTHING” it made me want to grab a towel!
LW- as to the “should I stay or should I go” I think it is ultimately something you’re going to have to decide for yourself. However, since I’ve been there, I’ve lived it, I made that decision, it might be helpful to hear my story. It is slightly long, so if you want to skip to the end, I’ll TLDR it.
Growing up, my parents had always said “If you get into college, we will find some way to pay for it”. This was my constant refrain, and the carrot to the “you’ll spend your life flipping burgers” stick. In fact, when I first went “I don’t know that I should go to school; I have no idea what I want to do or what I want to study” they opposed it fervently. When I got to college, at first everything was fine. I lived in the dorm, I did well in my classes, made friends, called my parents at biweekly intervals and basically enjoyed living in another state. They paid for my tuition, my room and board plan (though the gaps were for me to figure out- meal plan was only 10/ week) the insurance on my car, and a small stipend that covered some of my incidentals like textbooks. I had to get a part-time job to cover the rest.
However, I did get a boyfriend, and with that boyfriend came some tension. I did not feel the need to discuss my sex life, but they did rather assume that I was having intercourse. So the first condition of my continued financial support was out- if I was to get pregnant, they’d stop supporting me, but I was never to get an abortion. Fair enough, we were using birth control and it wasn’t something I was planning on happening.
Then Thanksgiving rolled around. I wished to go with my boyfriend to his family, and mentioned this a local family member, who had invited me. She called my parents, upset that I wasn’t coming. They called me and told me that I HAD to go with the family, or else they were cutting off my support. I ended up getting sick that day, and went to neither. I had to go to the clinic and send them a doctor’s note before they would believe me, despite not having a history of lying to them about anything.
Next came the car conditionals. I was given the car (a rather old Ford Escort that I loved to pieces) as a graduation gift, and they were paying the insurance but not maintenance or gas. On occasion, I would loan it to a trustworthy friend for emergencies or on the rare occasion I went out and needed a designated driver. They found out about it, and told me this has to stop immediately, or they were cutting me off.
After living in the dorm for awhile, I decided it really wasn’t for me. It kicked me out during breaks where I had to still be working in town, it didn’t have great internet, and it felt too confining to never leave campus. Bf and I decided to get an apartment together, which was cheaper than living at the dorm. I told parents about the new arrangement, and they said “NO. You move in with a boy, and we are cutting you off”. At this point, there had been too many conditionals that kept being added without prior notice. I ended up having a conversation that, while not going as delicately as I would like, did establish some rules between my folks and I:
1) My sex life was not their business. How I handled my body was not their business. If they didn’t want me to get an abortion, should the situation arise, they were to not threaten to withhold funds in the event of pregnancy in order to try and keep me from having sex.
2) If I decided to move in with my boyfriend, room and board was on me, though they would continue to fund tuition.
3) I was to take over the insurance on my vehicle, and they would quit bothering me about how I drove it.
4) They would no longer make up conditions for revoking tuition such as visiting family members. At the beginning of the next year, we would discuss what would be a “losing proposition” for their continued support. Each year would be negotiated.
This worked as a great compromise, considering neither side was happy at all. My parents wanted to be able to force me to do certain things, I was upset that the previous contract I had been operating under (you do well and go to college, we’ll pay for college) was apparently null and void.
This, however, was only half the story. The fallout:
My boyfriend ended up being, in colloquial terms, a dick. I do not say this lightly; I have good relationships with all other exes, but he ended up being a Darth boyfriend. I ended up moving back into the dorms after about a year, and I was stuck with the rent for the rest of college. This was not true love.
A year later, I switched to an expensive major (aviation) while my parents were going through some financial difficulty (my dad was fired for being an awful person that no one wanted to be around and drunk driving). Tuition dried up, and support became more and more sporadic and with less and less money. I switched majors, took out massive loans (my parents refused to fill out the FAFSA), and did eventually find love (though I’m not sure I believe in true love, but we are extremely happy together). I no longer had to worry about things like “Should I hide from my folks the fact that I am road tripping to the (local city) to go see NIN? or is that something that will lose me support?” I worked many hours, but figured out things like “what is a reasonable amount of money to set aside for groceries?” Basically, I figured out how to support myself, which made my parents have to convince instead of control and we worked out our new relationships towards one another.
To date: I have a lot of money in debt, when I would have less money if I had bowed to my parents wishes. However, my relationship with my mother is that of one between two adults instead of a mother and a child (nonexistent relationship with my father, different story). The guy I moved into was not my true love, but that experience did lead to me finding my true love later. And the independence I gained from supporting myself did make it much easier to renegotiate with my parents what our new roles were to be.
TLDR: If my experience is anywhere near the average, neither solution will be perfect or without regret. Your relationship with your mom is going to have to change. This relationship with your Frenchman will give you experience about later relationships, if this is the person you spend your life with or not. France will have awesome things about it, and sucky things. College will too. There is not going to be one “Grand mistake” or “grand solution” in what you choose to do. But, for my money, I’d go with the “don’t move in with boyfriend (debt sucks big floppy donkey dick) but make explicit with mother what continuing conditions of support are”.
So, it may be extremely controlling for Mom to suddenly spring a condition for finacial support on LW, but without additional information, I’m not really willing to say, “watch out, you could lose financial support at any time, any whim/your mom us super controlling!” She’s a controlling threat, and it’s only about not living with the boyfriend! She’s didn’t even make the condition breaking up with him! Behaving in a controlling manner in a few isolated instances doesn’t necessarily make a person a full-blown controlling person.
Granted, LW’s story about how she has been babied all her life and never asked to get even a part time or summer job points to Mom being at least a wee bit controlling. Not fosterring independence in one’s child goes hand in hand with an inadequate sense of boundaries. Which is why the part of the advice about taking steps to standing on ones own feet is so important.
LW, please don’t go from dependence on your mother for survival straight to dependence on your boyfriend for survival (in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, no less.) Work on you first.
Also, as a veteran of 2 long distance relationships, I’d advise that before you make life altering decisions to be with him, live your relationship in the same city, while not on vacation first. A year and a half in a long-distance relationship is not equivelent to a year and a half in a local relationship. It’s not even equivelent to 6 months local.
Hi LW back again! Thanks to all of you who gave me some credit for being an adult and seeing my situation in a more mature light. Time for some more information.
My father has never been in my life. My mom and my father were never together and my father hasn’t been in my life since I was a baby because he is a drug addict. I’ve recently come into contact with him through my cousin and my grandma in order to sort out a big issue: HOW would I live in France? My father was born in Italy, which makes me a First Generation Canadian. This gives me the opportunity to become a European Citizen, which I very much plan on doing. Since my father has never been there for me my whole life, he has finally agreed to sign and help me get my passport as soon as possible. This does help with my visa issue. I would also be able to work and live there without a visa.
In terms of school in Paris, i am unable to go to school unless I speak French. However, I know I enjoy Paris. I’ve spent a total time of 2.5 – 3 months in Paris in the last year and 1 month. If I do go to Paris, I have thought of learning intermediate French to begin, and then looking for a job. I know there is great job opportunities in places like The Hard Rock Cafe Paris and nanny jobs will be possible.
If / When Pierre (fake name, thanks to CaptainAwks) and I live together, it was established long ago that all utilities, rent, etc will be split equally. My moms issues have nothing to do with having to support him while we live together. The only person she would be supporting would be me. However, it is her money and her paying for my school thus far has been extremely generous of her.
My plan in the long run is going to firstly be going to school for my First Term (Fall). In that time I will be applying to transfer schools with my boyfriend, considering my options thoroughly, and seeing a Therapist for more help on what’s going on in my head. However, I do think that most of the comments are right. No matter what I choose it will be an experience and I don’t think I will regret it. I also feel like I am leaning towards the Paris option. For me, this would be the best way to figure out my life. My mother has never really given me the option to be independent. Even currently in looking for renting options for only first term, she is insisting that I relax while she figures it out. She is extremely reliable and I know she really cares but its hard to be independent, to figure out how to live when she helps me with every little thing. I am worried for accepting her ‘not living together’ deal because the more I agree to her constantly changing rules and regulations, the more hold she will have over me. What will stop her from making other rules on what we can/can’t do together? What she will/won’t pay for me to do? If she absolutely refuses WHILE I am in school, what would I even be able to do about it? Financials do have a part within my relationship, therefore it does still affect my boyfriend and I. I want to find out if him and I can work together without my mom’s influence or control on us.
For the possible situation that I hate Paris and won’t want to stay, I do have a credit card that I refuse to use unless of absolute emergencies that has a 1000$ limit on it,I think (I have not used it yet). I also know it would be possible to get a flight back from my mother if I pay her back for it.
If I do end up deciding to go to Paris/ transfer and live with my boyfriend, I do not plan on being dependent on him completely. I will pay for my school on my own through OSAP loans and may depend slightly on him to help with extra rent/ groceries or toiletry necessities. This isn’t because he isn’t willing to pay, he has made it more than clear that he is willing to pay for anything I need, I am doing this because I want to do this on my own. The satisfaction to know I succeeded on my own is good enough for me, and in the case of a break up (as I am considering all situations) I wont feel obligated to stay or feel guilty for being completely dependant on him, because I wont be. I also do not intend to go to Paris and never go back to my education. I only plan to go for 4-6 months. If at that time he can not come then I will begin attending school again.
Some final notes, Long distance is okay with Pierre. I no longer want to do it because it is very difficult for me to handle emotionally. Distance isn’t something I have dealt well with, which is why it is important to me that there is no long distance anymore. My mother is great when it comes to supporting me and being reliable, and taking care of me. She’s just great. However when it comes to manipulation, talking reasonable and calming, she lacks significantly. She has a huge issue with seeing any point of view but her own. In her mind, she is always right. She has never once apologized to me for anything hurtful she’s ever said. Until the past year I was almost incapable of apologizing after an argument until my boyfriend helped me to improve and fix that flaw. She will always be my mother though and I will always love her, I just don’t agree with her approach for communication.
To Spc. Agent Bluejay and others with similar posts, isn’t that a good reason to take such a huge step? If I don’t make this huge step to live with him and find out how compatible we are together, won’t I be wasting potentially many years of my life? I personally would rather take that big risk now then wait years in a relationship I think is meant to be and find out that its not what I want when I am ready to settle down. I also lived close to him in school where we spent quite a while as friends and visited each other frequently (almost every day).
Good luck to those going through similar situations. It is also interesting to hear the stories of those who did go through similar situations or just stories of your life in general – it gives me great perspective – you are all awesome! I appreciate your advice, support, warnings, all of your comments are helping to shape the decision I will eventually have to make!
Good luck Bella! You sound like you’re as reasonably prepared as you can be for a big adventure.
Being able to get an Italian passport makes a huge difference – it probably won’t be easy to find work, but at least you’ll be allowed to. I hope it works out for you and you have a great time!
You have some reassuring and some not reassuring info in here, both about your plans and also about your mother. Relax while she finds you an apartment? Oy.
At the same time, no, making a personal breakthrough with a boyfriend you love is not actually a good enough reason to move across the world to be with him. Boyfriends are helpful for personal breakthroughs but not reliable, and having had one doesn’t mean you’ll have more. Better off going to a therapist to learn how to apologize.
That said, you sound pretty set on going. I think you really love this guy and feel super trapped where you are right now, and Paris is both the awesome place you can escape to and…. Not a big deal somehow. You’ve been there before, it’s just a city. Emotionally speaking.
But living Is different from visiting and it will be very different when you have cut ties from your mom. You will probably feel terror and elation, both, and both are warranted.
So… Just get as much money in order as you can, while your mom is paying. Get your documentation out of your house now and into a secure location. Buy your return ticket in advance. And talk to a counselor or therapist through your school, to help you work out the Big Feels that will be coming. Your mom is not going to let you go easily, because that is giving up control.
When you’re on the fence about it, I am on Team Free College. But really, all of us here are on Team You. Let us know how it goes, okay?
It sounds like you have a great deal more figured out than your original letter suggested. In your original letter, you said you wouldn’t be able to go to school or work in France because you didn’t speak the language, leading me to wonder how you planned to live there other than dependence on your boyfriend. I still hope you’ll develop your independence more before moving in with him (and maybe that’s what you mean to do – I’m having a little trouble parsing the sequence in your plans,) but if you aren’t going to be utterly dependent on him, going to Paris sounds like dramatically less of a bad idea. Full disclosure: I had a friend who started dating a guy while working abroad, and when the job ended, she went to gradschool in that city in order to be with him. I didn’t learn until he hit her and she needed emergency funds to move out immediately that living in his home had been part of her budgetting. That’s where my fear for you being dependent on him comes from.
I will admit to being extremely debt averse, and school costs even more now than it did when I was a student (fellow Ontarian here) but you’re right: the personal cost of accepting your mother’s money is getting too high. This dynamic where she continually hampers your growth and an independent person needs to change somehow. I just hope it can be done without all of her support going down in flames. Good luck.
A possibly helpful suggestion and another comment. *g*
Possibly helpful: You could think about getting a TEFL qualification and seeking work as an English teacher while in Paris. Often these jobs don’t require you to speak the language (although France is more demanding than some other coun this regard). They also tend to give you a bit of a network of other English-speaking people, which can be helpful if you’re in a foreign country with not much of a support network and not much knowledge of the language.
If I don’t make this huge step to live with him and find out how compatible we are together, won’t I be wasting potentially many years of my life? I personally would rather take that big risk now then wait years in a relationship I think is meant to be and find out that its not what I want when I am ready to settle down.
It’s totally fine for you to want to live with your boyfriend, BUT:
* Whether you live with him now or not, you might find out several years down the line that the relationship is not what you want. That’s okay! Sometimes things change. Don’t think of living together as some kind ofproof that you are meant to be.
* However you spend the next few years, don’t think of your relationship as a kind of investment if it turns out it’s not as long-term as you expected. Obviously if you get stuck in an unhappy or abusive relationship, it’s sad if you spend a lot of years in that situations. But in other respects, the parts that are valuable in a relationship are not negated by that relationship ending.
I was with someone who seemed ‘meant to be’ from age 17-28. We did the long distance thing for long periods, including across countries. We also lived together for substantial periods. In the end we broke up, not because living together showed up problems, or because long distance caused problems, but because we had grown and changed and were no longer a good fit. I still sometimes feel sad that my one great love turned out not to be, but the time we spent together wasn’t wasted by any means.
Bella, sounds like you have a plan and it’s good. Just a thought, if you can swing it living on your own (even with a room mate) rather than moving in with the boyfriend might give you more autonomy/independence to find out more about you without the compromises and dependence of living with your boyfriend. I went from my parent’s to living with SO at 18, I never lived on my own until I was 30 years old. I grew so much and learned so much about myself being on my own I wanted to throw it out there to you.
Oh Bella, the more I hear about your mother, the more she reminds me of my parents. The bit on never having apologized ever for anything hurtful she has done? My parents are EXACTLY like that, and I also had to overcome it in my first relationship (and still have to be conscious of it now, so has not to fall back on old habits).
In my house, arguments are black and white, win or lose. One person is correct and smart and good, and the other is being careless, selfish, wrong, cruel, etc. Basically, there is no separation between “I did something mean/awful/selfish/etc” and “I am a mean/awful/selfish/etc person”. This is basically adhering to the fallacy “only bad people do bad things”, from which follows “if you did something bad, you are bad”, which is an incredibly common error in moral reasoning on all kinds of issues, even though most people do know better than that if you get them to slow down and think about it.
Add to this a few other stupid dysfunctional bits of psychology in my family. First, the belief that “good children don’t talk back”. This means that if you argue with my parents at all, but particularly if you do it in a blatantly critical, angry, or—god forbid–disrespectful way, you have already lost. You are wrong and they are right, discussion over. Second, my parents both have weird issues with their parents that make them super insecure about being labeled “bad parents”. Remember, if they admit to doing anything wrong, they are bad people. Therefore, if I disagree with them about how they choose to handle something with me or my siblings, I am both talking back AND accusing them of being bad parents, which is their greatest fear.
All of this means that the only way a fight between a parent and a child in my family is with the child apologizing and begging forgiveness for being bad. There can be no mutual admission of wrongdoing, no acknowledgement that maybe one person was right on the original issue but both people said mean/harsh things they regret, etc. If my parents ever do something that undeniably requires an apology (like the one time my father slapped me across the face, or when they both accused me of being a horrible ungrateful selfish daughter for not breaking up with my boyfriend), they simply deny that they had ever said/done the thing, and sometimes even accuse me of lying and making up what I was saying just to hurt them. Alternatively, they’d sometimes just accuse me of being crazy and/or imagining things.
The reason I wanted to bring up my experience at all is this: undoing the damage of having learned to interact with other humans in this fucked up way is hard. Like really hard. And it will take time. I started to realize how screwed up this all was in high school, didn’t have therapy until I was 19, and I STILL have to work on remembering not to resort to old habits when stressed… and I turn 25 next month. So it’s great that you already see this is an issue and that you’re working on it, but don’t expect it to disappear quickly. Be patient with yourself.
And then there is also this: having an adult relationship with another person that can’t apologize when they fuck up? That’s damn near impossible. Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for your actions… even when, in retrospect, you’re not proud of them. It is also hard, if not impossible, to trust someone who is so incapable of admitting fault that they’d rather pretend things that DEFINITELY HAPPENED… never happened, because then the “facts” can shift at any moment to protect that person’s ego. If your mother has really NEVER apologized to you, and is really incapable of this basic adult-ing skill… regardless of how much she loves you, your relationship may never be the mutually-respectful and trusting one you probably hope for.
Obviously, your mother is also capable of personal growth, and I’m not advocating that you give up on her or distance yourself from her because of this. But I would suggest having realistic expectations, which means acknowledging that she MAY not change, and that you may have to figure out what kind of relationship with her you can handle, given that she may always exhibit this particular bad behavior.
Again, YMMV, but for me, accepting both that my parents love me very much and want to be positive forces in my life, but also that our relationship will never be what I want it to be until they become people worthy of my trust… which is not in my power and may never happen…. that has been really hard. And frankly, I don’t have any answers for how to make it suck less. But I had to at least acknowledge it and accept the reality of it in order to start focusing on what WAS in my control… my own attitudes and behaviors.
I know all of this has been rather tangential to the particular issue you’re having at the moment, but this last part isn’t: you don’t need your mother’s approval or acknowledgement to be an adult. If you sit around waiting for it instead of getting on with things EVEN THOUGH she still treats you like a child, it will hold you back.
So I don’t know if you should go to France or not, or what you should do about school, but I do know this much: you need to get to a place where you can be your own person, and not see yourself solely through her eyes. That instinct is 100% correct. And putting physical distance between you two will definitely help that, but it isn’t the only way.
Best of luck hon, and sorry for being so longwinded. I hope whatever adventures you decide to go on turn out lovely.
I just want to say that this response from CA is one of the most thoughtful, beautiful, and well-written pieces of advice I’ve never read, and I so wish CA had been around when I was the LW’s age.
It appears to me one major point has been missed. (Admittedly, I haven’t read every single comment yet, so maybe in fact this has been mentioned.) Paying for college is not the trivial “just work as you go” deal it once was. You will be paying back loans for the rest of your working life. If you have children that choose to attend college and you choose to help them financially, you will still be paying for those loans right alongside your own children’s tuition. College loans are not forgiven through bankruptcy either- or at least not in the U.S.. Maybe Canada, I don’t know.
Having someone else pay for these few years of school is more than a big deal. It’s The Biggest Deal. College debt has become a terrible hungry monster that is rapidly dooming a whole generation of youth to financial slavery. If there is any way you can find a compromise, where you are not giving up this tremendous privilege, however frustrating your mom’s impositions and rules feel, I would strongly recommend that you find it. True love is beautiful. But I tell you what- as you begin to build your life with this man (or perhaps another person later on), you will be so much more comfortable, and be able to invest so much more of yourself into living meaningfully and happily, if you are not burdened with college debt.
Lastly- and kind of a P.S.- I agree fully with everyone about developing independence and confidence, both emotionally and financially. Ya know where I found my independence and confidence? College.
Tuitions are rising rapidly in Canada, but they are still not at a level of “pay for it for the rest of your working life” in most cases. She also has two years under her belt paid for already. Obviously, it’s still a large chunk of money, but even as a very debt averse person, I’d still it’s a huge change, but it’s do-able. Obviously, she needs to look carefully at what the long range financials will look like.
Bella, have you done this kind of financial planning? Maybe a consultation with a financial planner at a bank would be in order, especially since it sounds like your mother has shielded you from dealing with money for your whole life.
I’m on the verge of changing careers, and I definitely needed to read this today. Just wanted to say thank you Captain, for helping me solidify my decision.
Comments are closed.