Hounddogblues asks: Long story: My dad died of cancer when I was 12, after a 3 year struggle, leaving just me and Mum. Mum has also had cancer since, and is in remission, and I had a long stint in hospital and a year out of Uni due to a kidney problem. That being said, this drama has brought me and Mum very close together. Whilst in my last year of Uni, I met my boyfriend, who is 7 years my senior. Mum didn’t really approve from day one (but no boy is ever good enough). I finally told her we were together, but within a week he had a breakdown and we argued. He left me with a mark on my neck after throwing my belongings (clothes) at me to pack and leave. I ran and made a fuss to my mum. A month later, he apologized and said he was seeking help through his Job in the army. I accepted that it was a breakdown and that he has totally changed. I’ve been back with him for 4 months, and he is perfect, better than ever. We want to get serious, but due to financial reasons I have had to move home. Mum does not know about our relationship, and I am scared to lose her or him. But if I don’t do something soon, I feel I’ll go mad myself. How do I break this to my mum without losing either of them? Getting help isn’t really an option as my mum refuses to see psychologists (I tried when she was grieving for dad). My boyfriend intends to speak to her alone and apologize, but she is stubborn and I know she won’t accept his apology.
Wow, this is a lot! Living through all that would even give this hound dog the blues, Hounddogblues!
I guess the first thing to say is that I really respect your boyfriend for seeking and getting help. So many people are torn between guilt, pride, and shame, and refuse to do that. But I do hope you’ve been able to give him a sort of ultimatum too, along the lines of “I love you and am so glad you’re back, but if you do that again I’ll leave you that second.” Your safety is my first concern.
But assuming that things are as good as you’re saying, then yes, you and your mother have some work to do.
You know, I love that you mention that, in her eyes, no man is ever good enough for you. Most parents feel that way (usually it’s the dads who say that about their daughters, but of course your mother has had to be your dad too, not by her choice), and that’s okay, as long as they grant you the right to make your own decisions as an adult.
But a mother’s very natural worries about her daughter are going to be increased by certain difficulties, and you’ve had FOUR! Losing your dad, your mom’s illness, your illness, and the horror she must have felt when you came to her injured… these are all really traumatic for a parent, as all of them gave her the same message: that she might not be able to protect her daughter, the most important thing in her life. Even your current financial situation probably gives her some fear.
So your job (and your boyfriend’s) is to do one simple thing: Convince her that you’re mature, strong, and most of all, safe! In order to do that, while I really respect his wanting to talk to her alone, I think you need to talk to her first. You see if he does it, the “message” she’ll get is that he’s the strong one and you’re not! And you want her to see you as strong enough to handle him!
So how to do that? Well I’m a big fan of restaurants (maybe partly because they hardly ever let me in, and so I completely fantasize about how wonderful they are). If you try to have a difficult talk at home, she’s able to walk away, shut her bedroom door, and see you as a child. But if you’re in a restaurant, you’re two adult women, having a serious adult talk. So I’d love it if you could take her to a restaurant (or other place where you two can have a great long talk). And first, talk about how you’re doing in other aspects of your life. Are you looking for a job? You could tell her about how that’s going. What do you now think was good and not-so-good about your university experience? Maybe you picked the wrong major? But everything you’re saying is to show her that you’re at a grown-up, thoughtful, intelligent place. Then tell her that you’ve been keeping something from her, but that you wouldn’t want to live with her without being completely open partners… and then tell her about your boyfriend’s work he’s done on himself, and how great he’s been since then.
Now of course, you say she’s very stubborn, but you will have been fantastic, and she’ll have to adjust to that fact! Still, she might refuse to let him in the house, or something like that. Okay, let her. Give her the respect of honoring what she needs to do. But then you can have him talk with her alone, and that will double the respect she’s being given. And if she’s still not fully accepting, then both you and he can take her out somewhere to convince her!
I’d love to hear how this goes, hounddogblues. It’s really a beautiful romantic story!
Oh, one other thing: when he meets alone with her, have him show up in his best army outfit. Women have had great trouble saying no to a man in uniform for centuries!!
All my best wishes to ya!