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Dealing with parental pressure

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  April 1, 2013 09:00 AM

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Q: Hi Meredith,

Long time reader, first time writer. My relationship issue involves dealing with a parent (in my case, a mom) who is so eager for her child (in my case, the daughter) to take her relationship to the next level (my case, get engaged). I know this is a problem for so many people, mainly females hearing this from their mothers, but I know guys who hear this from parents, too. And if it's not one life stage, it's another (When will you find a nice guy? When will you get engaged? When will you have children?).

My mom is a pretty level headed person but for my entire lifetime she's always been eager for me and my siblings to get to the next step, whatever that step is, and ultimately wants us to get married, have kids, a house in the suburbs. I've asked her to just be happy for us in the present stages of our lives, be interested in our lives outside of just our relationship status, and be thankful that she raised happy healthy and savvy kids with a great work ethic, etc. I've reminded her that it's not uncommon for people to get going on marriage and kids later in life these days (she married in her early 20s, I'm 31, in a committed relationship, living with my boyfriend of two years but no ring yet). I've told her she will be the first person I call when I am engaged. That my boyfriend and I are on the same page as far as timelines, and more.

I think you get the idea. My answers are never enough for her, and I'm so frustrated. I know this is such a common problem for so many people so I am wondering if you could share insight on this topic. I should note that my mom asked me to go to mother/daughter therapy with her a few years ago to try to figure out how we can communicate better, and we went several times. The therapist told us she'd never had a mother/daughter set of patients, and was touched that we cared so much about our relationship. I thought the sessions went well and that my mom realized how great we have it, and that she learned to accept that I will set my life at my own pace, and that all she can do is trust that she raised me to make the right decisions for myself, and that I will be just fine. Also ... that I will be my own definition of "fine" which might not be her definition.

What is your take on how to handle a parent who is so focused on their children's future plans that they don't take the time to enjoy the present and just take life as it comes? My friends and I want to know.

– My Mom Needs a Chill Pill, Cambridge


A: Three things: 1. Your mom might never understand that you're truly happy. 2. You kind of just have to be OK with that. 3. Getting defensive doesn't help anyone. It just prolongs that conversation.

Honestly, the best thing to do is to admit your insecurities -- to yourself and maybe to her. It's OK if you're crossing your fingers about an engagement. It's OK if you feel just a little bit weird about your timeline. You're allowed to shrug and admit that you don't have any answers.

Tell your mother that you want these things too and that you're hoping that everything works out. Then change the subject. Ask about her life (not passive-aggressively). Tell her something about your day. Control the conversation. Sometimes parents nag because they just don't know what else to talk about.

Just be honest and gracious. Honesty usually sets us free (and shuts other people up). I've learned that when I admit to myself that someone is hitting a nerve, that nerve feels a bit better. It's usually about me, not them.

Readers? Is this about her or her mother? What can we do to distract our parents from our personal lives? What do you tell your parents? Is she happy? Help.

– 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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