A Perverse Confidante

Direct Answers – Column for the week of July 15, 2002

Dad passed away years ago and Mom lives alone. She is still young and healthy, yet she always plays the victim. I am in my 30s and divorced.
Our relationship has always been based on a maternal dictatorship. Even as an adult daughter I cannot approach my mother because her idea of advice is an order. Since she makes life miserable, I withhold my personal life from her to the point of lying.

I met a wonderful man who lives out of town, and we have been cultivating a terrifically close relationship. Mom met him once, but only to the point of saying hello. Because I find sneaking around emotionally draining, I phoned Mom and confessed.

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The reaction to this news was exactly as expected. Mom called me a tramp, a useless stupid person, and a terrible daughter not worthy of living. She suggested I get an operation on my eyes so I could see this man as the bum that he is.
Neither my friends nor I see what she is implying. He is well-versed, well- educated, with a great job and strong morals. Mom said if I continue with this man she is writing me out of her will. Our conversation ended with her hanging up after telling me to have a nice life.

Because I know deep down she means well, I am torn by her reaction. I feel guilty for hurting her, yet I am hesitant to put my life on hold because she does not approve of a man based on a 30 second conversation. Why do I feel like I am a terrible daughter? Her reaction puts a damper on an extremely exciting and happy time in my life. I am faced with a choice between two people I love dearly. Am I being selfish?

Irene

Irene, you feel like a terrible daughter because your mother trained you to feel that way. Your news didn’t hurt her. She lashed out because she doesn’t want you to have an independent life.
This man must make an excellent first impression because in 30 seconds your mother realized he would never tolerate her abuse. She also recognized he would never allow a woman he loved to be treated the way your mother treats you.
Everyone with a satisfying life makes one important discovery. There is a direction and flow to life, and that direction is toward growth, realization, and fulfillment. Without those things it is not possible to be happy.

In the Greek myth of the Procrustean bed, people too short were painfully stretched until they fit the bed, while those too long had excess parts cut off. Your mother wants you to lie on her Procrustean bed. It’s time to ask yourself, What is the true nature of maternal love?

Wayne & Tamara

Out Of Tune

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I was married for 19 years before my recent divorce. I met a lovely man, a really lovely person. We dated twice, but unfortunately there is no chemistry there for me. I don’t feel sexually attracted to him, so there is no reason to continue seeing him.

Since I am so new to the dating world, I am out of practice in kindly discontinuing seeing someone. Can you suggest the kindest way to say goodbye that will minimize hurting this lovely man’s feelings?

Daryn

Daryn, not every piece of music moves every person. Not everyone likes Shakespeare, and we don’t all have the same favorite color. This man may have a beautiful melody, but it is for someone else’s ears.

Be sweet, nice and complimentary to his personality, but be absolutely sure to let him know the relationship is not going to go where he wants. Don’t go anywhere near “let’s be friends.” He will feel you are leaving an opening for him eventually. That’s cruel. Clear is less hurtful than nice, for both parties.

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