Dear Carolyn: I am 19 and have been with my boyfriend for three years. I love him immensely and he treats me extremely well; we intend to get married in a couple of years when I am out of college. The problem: my mother hates him and is not afraid to mention his faults in almost every conversation we have. I live at home, which makes it difficult to escape her critiques, and I find myself constantly having to defend him, and lying about things here and there to make him appear better, so as not to add ammunition.
I know my mother loves me and wants better for me, but she will not accept how serious our relationship is now. I feel I can't be too resistant because my parents are paying for college, but I don't want my mother thinking I'm not serious about my relationship, and I can't seem to get her to stop belittling him.
A: This is one of those chicken-or-the-boyfriend questions: Your mother's constant criticism makes you defensive, and your constant defensiveness invites criticism.
Hard to know where it starts, so I'll just pick a spot and start swinging:
It's always nice to make Mommy happy, but your wanting her to know your relationship is serious and did I mention that your relationship is serious -- only screams how badly you want to prove yourself to her. Because you want validation. Because you aren't sure of yourself.
And children who talk about committing their lives to someone else while clearly unsure of themselves tend to attract the opposite of parental validation.
As do children who lie about how wonderful their boyfriends are, to show how wonderful their boyfriends are. Please rethink this strategy, too.
Meanwhile, as you and your mom keep pushing your views on each other, you're both pushing your own opinions further from reality. This guy isn't all good, and he isn't all bad. But when people need so badly to prove they're right about something -- when their egos depend on it -- they tend to start willfully ignoring anything bad (or in your mom's case, anything good) that would weaken their case. Another strategy you want to rethink.
Instead, try this one: "Thanks, Mom, I'll give that some thought."
Listen without your defenses. Love without a blueprint. Let yourself see where the whole thing goes, because the truth always speaks for itself.
Dear Carolyn: I just got an e-mail from an ex with whom I've remained good friends. He gave me his new cell number, but then told me I should e-mail instead of calling because he doesn't want his new wife to get upset. (He lives across the country and they had a quick courtship, so I've never met this woman.) I know he's just trying to be considerate of her feelings. But man ... do I feel sleazy.
A: With good reason. He put you in an ugly position.
Of course, he put himself in an uglier one by marrying someone with whom he can't -- or won't -- be honest.
But that doesn't mean your only choices are to help him lie or lose a friend. You can use your position as old, faraway friend to float the idea, by e-mail, that he grow up and face up to his wife.
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