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My mom and my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  July 14, 2010 09:05 AM

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This letter writer told me to come up with a fake name for her ex. I have named him Anderson after Anderson Cooper.

Chat at 1.

Q: Six months ago I broke up with a guy I'd been dating on and off for about eight years, since high school. In many ways it was not a healthy relationship, and as much as I had trouble finally breaking it off with Anderson, my mother, who lives in the Midwest, just can't seem to let go.

Anderson comes from a background very different than my own. None of his family members have a college degree, so when we were preparing to graduate high school, his parents were unsure how to proceed. My mother has always been a very kind-hearted and generous person, especially when she sees someone who can benefit from her help. As a result, Anderson became quickly interconnected with my family who "financially adopted" him during his college years. I'm not sure the total amount of money they gave to help him through six years of school, but I know they co-signed at least one of his student loans.

My mother has grown increasingly attached to Anderson over the years. I understand that he may have to maintain some sort of communication with my parents due to the financial aid, but my mother continues to be in regular contact with him like nothing has changed. And this is not new. When we had a split in college, my mother talked to Anderson over the phone often and assured him he would always be a part of our family no matter what. And Anderson is acting like he wants to maintain their relationship as well. This year on Mother's Day, he called my mother to catch up.

As of this month, I am finally settled into a new apartment and moving forward with my life, friends, and career. I've never felt more healthy, independent, and self-confident. However, lately, when I talk about anything happening in my life to my mother, it seems like she's not listening. She'll change the subject, say she has to let me go, or act hypercritical. I feel like she's not on my side. I hear from the rest of my family that my mother is constantly worried about Anderson's well-being. In the last six months, my mother has never once asked about my own emotional well-being.

I want to have a good relationship with my mother, but am getting increasingly frustrated and discouraged by her negative attitude towards my life choices. I've asked her to please not bring up Anderson, yet she can't seem to accept this break up. Help!

– Tired of sharing my ex-boyfriend with my mother, Somerville

A: TOSMEWMM, your mother loves underdogs. You, my friend, are not an underdog, at least not in her eyes. You're the one who had the supportive family. You're the one with the money. You're the one who ended the eight-year relationship. And now you're the one moving forward with your life. Your whole "healthy, independent, and self-confident" thing isn't winning you any points with your mom.

You could reach out to your ex and ask for some space (he has his own family, after all), but I wouldn't do that. I'd simply show some vulnerability to your mom. No matter how independent and awesome you are, you're still coping with the end of an eight-year relationship. You need some support. You need a parent. She made a choice to make Anderson a part of the family, and for that reason, he won't go away. But she has to learn to balance both relationships.

Have you had a real discussion with your mom about why you initiated this split? It's not necessarily any of her business, but explaining your choices could help. You didn't tell us why the relationship with Anderson wasn't healthy for you. Perhaps you should tell her. You should also tell her what you need from her. Really, she may not know.

Also learn to accept that this is going to be complicated and unpleasant no matter what. By signing loans and "adopting" Anderson, your mother basically married you off. Your split with this ex is going to feel like a divorce. He'll always be around in some way. I'm sorry that wasn't up to you.

When you talk to your mom, go easy on her. It sounds like her heart is in the right place. She just needs a reminder that we're all underdogs, even her brilliant, self-confident daughter.

Readers? Should she address this with her mom or confront the ex? Will Anderson ever go away? Is it her mother's duty to ditch the ex now that her daughter isn't with him anymore? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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