Dear Barb – Setting New Boundaries Will Take Patience

Dear Barb:

I am 28 years old and have a successful career, my own place, and a great boyfriend. My problem is my mother. She calls daily to see what I’m doing and when she visits she criticizes my housekeeping, cooking, even my boyfriend.

My boyfriend says I should tell her how I feel, but I don’t want to get into a fight with her. When mom gets angry she makes everyone’s life miserable. My dad and sisters have all learned that the best way to keep the peace is to just go along with mom. Now that I’m living on my own I really don’t want to do that anymore, but I don’t know how to stop it without causing problems between me and my mom. Do you have any suggestions?

Joanne

Hi, Joanne. Great question and an all-too-familiar scenario. One of the hardest things for a mother to do is to allow her children to live their own lives. You can’t change your mom but there are ways you can help her to let go.

I agree with your boyfriend that you need to talk to your mom and explain how you feel. Tell her that you are capable of managing your own life. Give her credit for raising you to be a responsible, capable person.

You need to decide which areas of your life you want to share with your mom. When she crosses that line, point out nicely that you would rather not discuss these things with her. She may feel hurt initially, but eventually she will come to realize that you can still have a close loving relationship without knowing every single detail of each other’s lives.

You can speed this process along by not seeking your mother’s approval. Studies have shown that individuals who seek internal approval, rather than external approval, are happier and less prone to depression.

Prepare yourself for your mother’s visits and try to appreciate the fact that she really does care and her intention is only to make things easier for you. Try not to be defensive. Your mother has lived longer than you and I’m sure she has some good advice to offer. When you are with your mother, try to pay attention to your physical reactions to her words. If you feel your body tensing up, try to change the subject to something more positive and lighthearted.

This may be a challenging feat, but if you are consistent your mother will definitely get the hint and your visits will be more pleasant and enjoyable.

Hope I was helpful. Good luck, Joanne.

Email your questions to voice@voicemagazine.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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