I am embarrassed to even be asking this of you. But I am even more embarrassed to ask anyone I know. So, here goes. I am well into my fifties, fairly successful and I have a loving wife and a couple of great children. What I do not have is a healthy relationship with my mother. Every time we talk, whether on the phone or in person, I am eight years old again, a little boy fighting for my life against her controlling, manipulative ways. Believe me, I do not expect any miracles. But do you have anything that can help?
Dear Mamma’s Boy,
Do I have anything that can help? Well, how about a miracle? At least it’ll seem like one if you do as I tell you. You have to “blow up” you relationship with your mother. Sounds sort of violent. It isn’t. But it’s what you’ll need to do if you expect to have an adult relationship with your mom.
“Blowing up” the relationship means obliterating the relationship as you’ve known it, and then creating a new relationship on your terms. That means her expectations for your education and career, her fears for your health and safety, and her judgments of your buddies, girlfriends, or life choices are no longer relevant.
Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t love your mom or show her respect. By all means, let her talk and share her concerns with you. If she’s a loving grandma, honor the relationship she has with your kids.
It’s not about changing your mother. It’s about changing the way you respond to what she says, what she does, and what you think she’s thinking. It’s time to stop arguing and trying to change her. It’s time to stop cowering, as you might have seen your dad do for all those years.
This entire process is about you growing up and silencing the little boy in you. It’s about separating from your mom and realizing that you are now a man, a man who no longer requires mothering—perhaps a stronger man than your old man was.
But it’s also about letting your mom know if there are topics that you’re no longer interested in discussing with her. And it’s about ending conversations when your mother becomes inappropriate, abusive or disrespects your repeated requests.
You’re a man now. You’re not a trapped, powerless little boy who may have had to tolerate the intolerable as a kid. You have free will and the ability to define your relationships as you see fit. And that includes the relationship you have with your mom.
From this point on, you decide what you and your family does with your mom. You decide what an acceptable conversation is with your mom. You decide how you will care for your aging mom. Along the way, keep asking for help to make sure you’re not slipping back into the little boy. This may not be easy, but when you succeed, I’m telling you, it’ll be just behind the parting of the Red Sea on the big list of miracles.
All kidding aside, you can make this happen. And you know what? It won’t be a miracle. It’ll just be you being the man you’ve always wanted to be.
Now that that’s done, take a look at your marriage and see how the relationship with your mother has kept you from being the man your wife needs you to be in your marriage. Time to stop being the little boy there, too!