Dear Captain Awkward,
I have a slightly complicated situation that I don’t know how to talk (or better yet, avoid talking) about with my parents.
Recently, I’ve met a guy and had a couple dates with him. We hit it off and would like to continue seeing each other. Fortunately, he has his own place; unfortunately, I still live with my parents (yay poorly paying retail jobs), and my mother in particular feels like she needs to know everything going on in my life. It’s impossible for me to just say that I’ll be home late from work, or going out in the evening on my day off without her wanting to know exactly why and where I’m going. I’d be willing to tell her that I’m going on a date, except:
I have a wonderful boyfriend of several years that the parents have met and like. Sadly we live in different countries and only manage to see each other about once or twice a year. This is not a cheating letter! We have an open d/s relationship in which we both are switches, and we’ve both encouraged each other to find other people to play with, although neither of us has taken advantage of it until now. My boyfriend has known about this play partner since I met him, is aware of the play dates, and finds it sweet and very hot.
So if I tell my mom that I’m going on a date, she’ll be wanting to know if I’ve broken up with boyfriend, or think I’m cheating on him, and I don’t really feel comfortable trying to explain an open relationship or that it’s strictly a kink thing to her. (Even more complicated to explain since it’s not sex, either.) >.< Using generic excuses or saying I have work only works for certain times of day, and will no doubt be discovered at some point by calling work when I’m not there. I can’t even say that I’m going out with friends because … well I don’t have any local ones. I don’t really want to get too tangled up in maintaining a lie – this isn’t something I’m ashamed of or feel a strong need to hide, but I really don’t feel comfortable trying to explain it to my MOM.
I guess basically I need some help putting together scripts to either try and explain this or politely tell her it’s none of her beeswax without provoking a tantrum. She has no real sense of privacy, and when I’ve asked her to not do things I find invasive before (like ignoring my closed bedroom door/refusing to knock, or going through my trash) she’s acted offended that it bothers me and then hurt because ‘I never tell her anything’, so I don’t really see a way to set up strong boundaries that isn’t going to result in disaster and endless fights, which I’d love to avoid.
I know people want to be open and honest in all of their relationships, but you get to hold certain things close to the vest if you want to, especially with nosy/judgy parents who go through your trash and can’t knock before entering your room.
Obviously honesty is usually both the best AND easiest course. Do you think that if she knew about the dates it would affect your ability to live at home? If the answer is “no,” then why not just level with her? I sense that your mom is a Highly Difficult Person (because: tantrums) and one way to defuse the HDP is by answering their questions with great forthrightness as if it’s no big deal, i.e. “I have a date. Before you ask, boyfriend and I are still together, but we’re also trying a thing out where we date other people.”
She’ll probably have a lot to say about that, to which you say “Thanks for your input, Mom, but this is something boyfriend and I are working out together. You asked me where I am going and I want to be truthful” and then let her screech if she wants to. Throwing tantrums has worked so far to keep you cowed and/or to keep you from presenting her with information that she won’t like. But what if she learned that you are now totally unfazed by tantrums? And that you don’t tie yourself in knots trying to figure out how to break news to her? Would she still throw them as much? “I’m okay if you are unhappy with my choices” is a pretty powerful message to convey if you want to be treated like an adult.”You said you wanted to know about my life, so, now you do!” If she gets upset, ask her, “Mom, where is this coming from? What are you really worried about?” Then listen to her and remember that “Thanks, I’ll think about what you said” is a good way to end conversations in a neutral way. You have nothing to apologize for, so try not apologizing for it.
Now, if you think that she might kick you out of the house or make things truly unlive-able, It is okay to refer to this date-person as a friend if that’s the easiest explanation that gets you out the door when you need to go and keeps a roof over your head while you need to stay. And it is okay to put out a general “I’ve been feeling a little lonely so I’m trying to meet new local friends” story to seed the ground if you need to. It’s not false, it’s just not all the way true about what kind of friends you’ve been meeting.
Your mom thinks she wants to know everything about you, but she doesn’t. Some people really set themselves up to be lied to by having a history of very unreasonable reactions to other people’s boundaries and privacy. So this is a strategy for anyone who is feeling stifled/stalked/over-monitored at home and like you don’t want to negotiate every time you leave the house. My older brother was the master of this when we were growing up with parents-who-go-through-the-trash, but I wasn’t so bad myself. The main thing is to be out of the house a lot as your basic default.
1) If you are able, take up biking. “Where are you going?” “For a bike ride.” Bike to and from your friend/date’s house.
2) Learn to love the library. “Where are you going?” “The library.” Most times, actually go to the library. Check out lots of library books and bring them home and read them. Books!
3) Or the public pool, if there’s one nearby. Or the gym. Or extra shifts at work (extra money to move out with!). Or the local coffee shop.
4) Join a Meetup or take a class, somewhere you will meet lots of new people. Mind-expanding and plausible!
5) Make one friend your mom likes. I don’t know if my brother was actually “at Ted’s” every waking moment for his teenage and college years, but it was a good enough explanation for my parents.
6) Make your friend into friends, plural. “I’m meeting some friends.”
7) Don’t ask, inform on your way out the door or by text message when you’ve already gone. “Hey mom, I’m going for a bike ride and then I’m going to meet some friends. I’ll call you if I’m going to be later than 10:00″ then GO GO GO. Wait, you said you live with your parents, plural. Try telling your DAD when you are on your way out the door if he’s the one who asks fewer questions.
8) Schedule regular quality time with your folks so they don’t feel neglected. It’s a little easier to let go if Sunday dinner is a sacred routine with their child.
9) Practice giving out less information. When you grow up with over-protective or controlling parents, especially ones that wield the “Weeeeeeee’ll see” to delay giving permission but avoid not giving permission so that you’ll be set up to try to “earn” going to the party all week, when you make requests it tends to sound like this:
“Can I sleep over at Susie’s house tomorrow after school and yes her parents will be home and I’ve already checked and they have fruit in the house for healthy snacks and her mom is going to pick us up after school and drive me home the next day after swim practice and you literally have to do zero work or thinking about this and she has already pre-selected three age-appropriate movies and I already finished all my chores and my homework and next week’s homework and yes I have clean pajamas and my swimsuit will have plenty of time to dry and I have ziploc bags just in case so please please please can I go?”
Then you grow up and and hopefully along the way some kind person in your life tells you “Wow, you don’t have to justify ANYTHING that much to me, what’s going on with that?” and you unlearn the habit.
My dear Letter Writer, it is your task to unlearn this habit even without the benefit of moving away. You’re not asking permission from your mom when you go out, you’re letting her know, considerately, so she won’t worry about you and can plan her own life accordingly. “Mom, I’m going to Susie’s house after work tomorrow, I should be home by 11, so don’t factor me in for dinner.”
10. Give it time. It won’t change overnight.
Once you’ve adjusted the routine and the expectations about how often you’ll be around, the other trick is to actually do what you said you’d be doing 90+% of the time. Be out of the house, living your life, doing cool stuff, not at home with your mom, and not being a lying liar. Keep your phone charged, but get in a habit of not picking up right away (vs. texting or calling back in a few minutes), i.e. “I turn the ringer off when I’m at work and sometimes forget to turn it back on.” Call if you’ll be late. Get back to her promptly.
The other 10% of the time, have your fun.
I realize I just gave people a template for lying more successfully, which is a shady thing to do if you come from a normal, happy, healthy family. Please use your powers for good! I guess you’ll have to trust me that some people are just paranoid in an unreasonable way and use it to tromp all over the people in their lives. In my opinion, those people are asking to be a) told really uncomfortable truths, bluntly or b) lied to if that’s what protects your safety and sanity.
You have an opportunity here to renegotiate your relationship with your parents a bit, where hopefully you won’t have to ask permission if you are going to be Not Home. You want to let them know when you won’t be around and how late you’ll be so that they can plan things, like meals, and you want to be out of the house more so you can be more social/make friends/give them some privacy because you want to be considerate and form an adult relationship with them. And that’s a script you can use with your mom. “I’m so grateful for your support and the opportunity to save up money for my own place, but in the day to day I’m happier when I can have a little space and be more social with people my own age. I don’t want to worry you, but I also could do without the interrogations whenever I want to go out. It makes me feel like a child, and that makes me react like a child, instead of having the close adult relationship I’d like to have with you. What is it that you’re worried about? What can I say to reassure you?”
I am rooting for the honest conversation, but know that I don’t judge you if it has to go a different way for now. You don’t need to make yourself homeless or submit yourself to a ton of slut-shaming and concern-trolling for the principle of honesty if you are dealing with someone really unreasonable.