Q. Two years ago, my mother got it into her head that I should give up my career in law and postpone my wedding in order to become a bureaucrat. I didn’t understand her fascination and made it clear that I wanted to make my own career decisions. Let’s just say she wore me down.
She stopped talking to me, refused to attend my wedding, and was rude to my fiance’s parents when they called to find out what was going on. I know it’s easy to say this, but I am absolutely sure I was subjected to emotional abuse. I was told I was an ungrateful child undeserving of any respect and love due to my refusal to follow her “motherly wisdom.” Her sister initially tried to help me, but backed off when my mom threatened to break off relations with her, as well. I did not want to lose my mom and disappoint her for the rest of my life, so I gave up my career, and I have postponed my wedding (indefinitely).
I’m now preparing for the tests to qualify as a civil servant. My mom, of course, is elated. She has moved in with me to help me prepare. I now often find myself inexplicably upset — with her, with myself, with everything. It’s a wave of rage that ebbs and flows but never goes away. I want to shake her hard and make her realize what she has done, but I am tired of fighting her. She has always maintained that what she’s doing is not selfish because she’s doing it for my benefit. I am starting to think I will just have to accept that logic before I drive myself mad with anger. What do you think I should do?
A. Sever relations with your mother, move her out, go back to the law, and marry your guy — if he’s still around. Oh, and get into therapy. Without getting into your mother’s need to control you (and intentionally or not ruin your life), the scenario you describe is quite nutty. If you’re old enough to be a lawyer and to marry, you’re old enough to make your own choices, and they should be choices that do not fill you with rage. Run, my dear, from your very toxic mother, and find a good therapist.
Q. My mother (who lives with us) claims she loves my children very much, but whenever she and I have a disagreement, she wants nothing to do with them. She chases them away or ignores them. As soon as we talk and things are smoothed over, she then returns to being very loving to them. What I would like to know is: What is that kind of love called?
A. To my knowledge, there is no psychiatric name attached to this kind of behavior. I, myself, would call it immature, narcissistic, and tiresome — and I’m not even sure it can be considered love. The rough equivalent in a marriage would be a couple who thrive on conflict and, in essence, get divorced several times a day. I am sorry that there is such commotion, and my hunch is that your mother will not change.