Doctor Love: Not the Mama

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

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Dear Doctor Love,
I am a grown woman, married with three teen kids, and I am very happy with one exception—I don’t feel any deep emotional connection to my mother. I didn’t grow up with her due to my parent's divorce when I was a baby. I didn’t even meet until I was fourteen, and I’ve not seen her since I was twenty, except on social media. There, her need to shower affection on me publicly has become an almost daily occurrence, and it has become overwhelming and difficult. I dread seeing her comment on something I say online.
I tried in the past to make her understand that if she could treat me as an adult friend, then we would be able to communicate much easier. If she enjoyed my friendship instead of always pushing the mother/daughter relationship, I would not feel so cornered, but when I try to tell her this, she always heaps guilt on me. I give in and apologize, and she goes back to asking more from me than I can comfortably give.
I don’t feel as though I can cut her out of my life, but it is very uncomfortable for me when she constantly proclaims how much she loves me because I know she wants to hear it back from me. How do I make her stop without reducing her to tears and making me feel like a terrible person?
/s/Not the Mama

Dear Not the Mama,
If your mother were a toxic person, it would be much easier just to cut ties with her and let it all be over. She is not a toxic person; she doesn’t seem to want to hurt you, nor does she appear to have committed an evil against you in the past. You simply don’t feel the way she does about your relationship. So how do you deal with her desperate need to be your “mother”?
You could try explaining again, just as you have here, that you would like to have an adult friend relationship with her without the constant push for declarations of familial love. If she is not able to accept it, limit what she can see on your social media page.
Before you burn bridges though, try to love the parts of her that are good. Is she kind? Is she feeling guilty at the loss of time spent with you when you were a child?
There will be a time when she is not there to bother you. Will you be content with the way you treat her after she is gone?

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