The guy I've been dating for a year now is everything I could have wished for. We met while I was going through a divorce, and he has been incredibly supportive. (He is also divorced and knew what I was experiencing.) The only problem is my mother. She's always making snide comments. For example, she recently said that she doesn't call me as much because I am "always" with my boyfriend. He and I do spend weekends together, but that is far from "all the time." My mom has a lot she's dealing with: She isn't happy with her job, she has a tumultuous relationship with my sister, and my brother is getting married next year. I've tried to be sensitive to all that. I've also told her that her comments bother me. After being married to a cheater, liar, and emotional abuser, I deserve better. So why can't Mom just be happy for me?
- J.W., 30, Pittsburgh
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The simple answer is: Because you're your mother's child and she's worried, and because her personality expresses worry with snide remarks. Why is she anxious? You know already: She has a lot on her plate. She may also be concerned that you and your boyfriend have both been recently divorced, which, in her mind, may not bode well for the future. Also - and I hate to say this - don't discount menopause. It can make a woman irritable for no reason at all.
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Of course you want your mom to be happy for you, but we don't always get what we want, and she has a right to her feelings. That doesn't mean she shouldn't be courteous and at least strive to also be compassionate and nonjudgmental. (Alas, no one's a saint.)
You're on the right track by having brought up the issue with her, but to stop the snide remarks, you're going to have to call her on them more than once. Say, "Mom, I know you want the best for me, but it bothers me when you say [whatever she's just said]." She may come back with, "You misunderstood me" or "You're being too sensitive." Don't get sucked into battles over who said what and with what intention. Just repeat what bothered you. This is a time-honored conflict-resolution technique for a reason: She can't argue with your feelings.
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One more thing: Your mom's own life may very well sort itself out in time. Things might get better for her at work. And the longer your relationship with this guy lasts, the less concerned she may be about it.
Your best bet is to accept that she isn't thrilled for you (right now), speak up when she says something you can't tolerate, and give her a chance to come around.
Karen Karbo is an award-winning writer and author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman. She's also a mom, a writing teacher, and a horse owner. Check out more advice from Karen.
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