Borderline mom

I am 26 years old and really angry at my mom. She calls me daily for emotional support, and I give it but get none back. If I talk about my problems, she cuts me off fast. She wants to have an affair with her married boss. She obsesses about this and everything else. (She used to make me clean the house till the paint was near gone.) She is one of those incredibly insecure people who never admits wrongdoing. For six months, I have demanded attention to my issues, and, if she cuts me off, I don’t listen to anything else. The last time we had a blowout, I was nasty. This gets respect from her, but it’s robotic, like she doesn’t really care. I’m worn down and sad, and I feel suicidal at times. What do you do when you can’t ditch the problem because the problem is your mother?

Ditch your ideal of how a mother should behave. Culturally, we expect mothers to be nurturing, supportive, affectionate and wise life guides. But in reality, mother is one of many roles accepted by women, some of whom are deeply wounded and have never confronted or healed their wounds. Often they are so focused on their emotional needs that they disrespect the work of mothering. So, if your mom never mothered you, it’s probably unfair (to yourself) to expect her to suddenly begin. She may not be capable. The pain of compulsive neediness may render her emotionally unconscious and unable to be selfless (a frequent requirement for good parenting).

In your description, your mom acts like a child, and you parent her. But in the last six months, you have matched her childishness. Why power-trip? In Christine Ann Lawson’s book Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship, she suggests three steps that provide love without rescuing. First, confirm separateness by using “I am” statements: “I am your daughter.” Second, create structure by using “I will”: “If you call me when you’re drunk, I will hang up the phone.” And third, clarify consequences by explaining what you won’t do: If your mother says, “I ran out of gas and had to walk three miles in the rain without an umbrella; nothing ever goes right for me,” don’t pity her. Instead say, “I won’t drive anywhere without checking my gas gauge and having at least a quarter-tank.”

By responding as an adult, rather than as a parent or child, you can restore equilibrium. But if the suicidal thoughts return, please seek professional psychotherapy. Your mom’s crazy-making behavior is not worth the loss of your life.

Last July, my boyfriend said he was not in love with me and felt we should end it. I got him to stay. In November, he tried to end it again. In January, he dumped me. Why did I hang on to a man who was not in love with me? Why do I miss him? He has moved on.

Love between two people does not always grow at the same pace, so it is normal to hope that his feelings eventually would match yours. But if you were trying to convince him to stay by “selling” him on how wonderful you are, be glad it’s over. Also consider the possibility that he is not able to love. He may have moved on, but that doesn’t mean his current relationship is better. If he is always seeking something new, he may simply be covering up his inability to feel or connect with someone. Your suffering will end when you release the past and the dreams of a future with him. Focus instead on the good things in life right now.

Meditation of the Week

Sociologist Tony Campolo notes, “We are caught up at a particular stage in our national ethos in which we’re not only materialistic, but worse than that; we’re becoming emotionally dead as people. We don’t sing, we don’t dance, we don’t even commit sin with much enthusiasm.” Is your passion still alive?