A bit of backstory: last spring, Fiancée and I (both US citizens) returned to the US from Europe, where I had been working and she was going to school. My parents offered to let me stay with them while I looked for a job, and Fiancée went to stay with her mom several states away.
My mother has decided that Fiancée is a directionless gold-digger with no career prospects (Fiancée is a former professional ballerina who is now working on a degree in rehabilitative physiotherapy), and has also accused her of giving me an STD (apropos of nothing). Obviously, this makes the topic of Fiancée somewhere I’d prefer not to go, since it turns into a stream of baseless accusations (and then veiled threats if I try to refute them).
Now that I’m employed again (yay!), I am moving into my own place again. Having gone to university Far Away and worked for five years somewhere Even Further Away, most of Team Me isn’t accessible to help with the move, so my parents are helping me out. The problem is that my mom feels that if Fiancée moves in with me, this proves that Fiancée is a leech for not helping with the move. I get my mom’s point– it’s obnoxious to have someone reap the benefits of your hard work. My extended family, who I’d thought of as Team Me, agrees with her (and helpfully relayed to her that we’d had a conversation! Because the concept of a private conversation is lost on them, and now).
After some silent treatment after hearing from my extended family, my mom decided to offer to talk. Given her past behavior, I do not believe this will be a productive conversation– she is the master of derailing, belittling, gaslighting (‘I never said/did that! You’re clearly delusional/making things up!’ or ‘you just have a skewed perception’). But now if I outright refuse to engage, I’m 100% the bad guy, not just with her but with my extended family (‘I tried to talk, and she just ignored me!’).
How on earth do I navigate this drama bomb minefield with a minimum of stress and family awfulness?
-Want to Quit Drama Llama Farming
Dear Llama Farmer,
Your mom has set up a false dilemma – helping (or not) with one particular move doesn’t “prove” shit. Since she is manipulative, I wouldn’t try to have a boundary-setting conversation, I would tune her and her chorus of family members out unless they say something directly to you at which point your script is “That proves exactly nothing. If you want to help me move, then help me move, and I will be grateful! If you don’t, then don’t, and I will be fine. You don’t like Fiancée – I hear you loud and clear, and while I would like it a lot if you accepted her, my relationship choices don’t hinge on your acceptance. ‘Fiancée’ is hereby a ‘If you have nothing nice to say, silence is golden’ topic where you and I are concerned.”
You follow that up with lots of “Lovely weather we’re having” and “How nice of you to ask about the mundane details of my job, let me tell you all of them” and “How is that thing you are doing going?” subject changes. Reasons are for reasonable people. People like your mom who deal in power plays only understand power. You can sometimes reset the relationship with a difficult parent by making your presence and attention contingent on their good behavior, i.e. “If you are cool, I will spend time with you. If you are not, I will not. What will not happen is you spinning me up about your completely invented ‘problems’ with my life.”
I know not everyone can afford to hire professional movers, but if you can, it will be the best money you spend all year both in terms of making your move easy and in terms of cutting off ‘halp’ from your parents. Your mom’s issues, I suspect, are really homophobia* and control issues poorly masked as ridiculous ‘proven’ reasons your particular Fiancée is ‘objectively’ not right for you. It sounds like she would raise objections to literally any person you brought home. If you didn’t bring anyone home, she would raise issues about your singleness.
Can’t imagine why you’ve stayed away from home all these years, it sounds so fun and comforting there.[/sarcasm]
*”But we don’t know what gender the LW is!” derails will be deleted. Abusive family dynamics know no gender, but the parental dance of “I am fine with you being gay, it’s just a coincidence that I disapprove of all of your partners for completely coincidental reasons!” is a thing that queer kids have to carry and it is worth mentioning.