I’m 32, married and the mother of two young children. The more I love and nurture them, the more I realize what an awful mother I had.
She was self-absorbed, cold, interested only in her social life and appearance.
From earliest childhood, I was with babysitters or on my own a lot, even when she was home.
She hasn’t changed her old ways - still always attention-seeking - yet she does claim to love my kids, and that provides benefits for them and me.
She’ll buy them big items we can’t easily afford, pay for us to join her on vacations, foot the bill for a pricey pre-school (then bragged about it to her friends).
Naturally, the children think she’s great.
But when I recall her disinterest in me, and see that she’s still manipulative and self-serving, I worry that I’m accepting a deal from the devil.
Am I holding onto resentment from the past or making a mistake to accept her gifts now?
Yes, you are holding onto past resentment, and you may be making a mistake if you take the goodies without putting limits on their emotional cost.
This dilemma has brought back old feelings of abandonment.
Professional counselling will help you focus instead on what’s currently appropriate for you, and for your children’s relationship with her.
Something to consider: Pleasing your children and giving gifts to you too, may be the most turnaround that your mother can do.
So long as she isn’t making unacceptable demands in return, it’s possible for you to be watchful, but not closed off.
Think through each offer of her generosity. Set boundaries.
I’m married to a man who always puts himself first.
When I protest, he responds with patronizing comments about what a good wife I am, good mom, cook, etc.
He doesn’t understand that I’m not seeking adulation. I want to be considered equally in the relationship.
I grew up with narcissistic parents, and then lived with my spouse of 35 years.
I’ve urged him to think ahead about how his actions/words affect me.
His table manners are deplorable, he talks about himself constantly, and when he’s home he expects me to drop everything and fawn over him, etc.
When I express concerns he says maybe we should separate if he’s not “good enough.”
He’s offended many people, and our extended family relationships have been strained, due to his lack of filter on his speech.
He either comes across as arrogant and pushy, or sometimes he acts subservient and a pushover.
I don't want to separate.
I want a mature husband who’s willing to honour others and consider how he affects those around him.
It’s hard to get change-on-demand in a spouse’s behaviour, especially after 35 years of it going on without any negative impact on him.
But you can behave differently.
You can insist on marital counselling, on the condition you’ll otherwise spend more time outside the house with friends and family.
Also, walk away when he talks only about himself, and go alone to events where he’s likely to embarrass you and offend others.
If he still doesn’t get it, he doesn’t care enough to hold onto the marriage or doesn’t know how.
Say so. And get to a lawyer. Learn your rights.
Then explain to him what “maybe separate” means in terms of financial and social upheaval for HIM as well as you.
My husband collects items all over the house.
Everywhere is a mess. He admits it’s a problem and says he’ll sell things, but it takes time.
He won’t go to counselling, is unwilling to give anything up, and doesn’t want someone else to sell for him.
I cannot have family come over for dinner.
He’s 74, and we should be enjoying ourselves.
But I feel alone, so I go out sometimes with friends.
I don’t want to leave him. I was thinking about telling his family doctor.
At A Loss
Tell his doctor and discuss how to approach your husband through a mental health check, e.g. for anxiety.
Readers – To those who’ve faced this problem – defined as hoarding - please email back any resources you’ve found effective.
An online search will also reveal agencies that specialize in this very complex psychosocial behaviour disorder, which can include suspicions, depression, and distress.
For further ideas, see: hoardingcleanup.com/national_resources; and www.hoarders.org/f-c.html.
Tip of the day:
Watch that your past relationship with your mother doesn’t repeat with your kids and their grandmother.