Savage Love Letter of the Day: Mom's Boundless Boundary Issues

Comments

1
Perhaps DAMNED could introduce her mother to one of the best anthems performed by the gay acapella group The Flirtations.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gcjSjIg…
Or at least take something from the lyrics to respond to her mom.

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and the daughters of life's longing for itself
They come through you but they are not from you
And though they are with you they belong not to you

You can give them your love but not your thoughts
They have their own thoughts
They have their own thoughts

You can house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams

You can try to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you
You can strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you
2
For God's sake, DAMNED, lie to the woman! Please!
3
@1 lol that's Khalil gibran
4
DADT even if you're the only one doing it (i.e. Don't Tell!, even if she asks).

And set your phone to auto-lock after 5 minutes.

I want to yell "Move out!" but you're doing that and you were right to move back if it let you get thorough school and back on your feet.
5
DTMA.
6
@5: Well played.
7
Remember who paid for your college, and shut up until you move out.
8
If you have your own kids remember how not to do it. This is all your Mom knows and this is how she was taught to interact with her children. Stop the cycle. Good luck.
9
@1. Every shared house I lived in in the 70s had that poem by Gibran, as @3 pointed out, in poster form stuck on a wall somewhere.
10
@ #3 & #9.....Thanks to you both for clarifying. I'd intended to give credit to the original author at the time of my post.
11
@7 Nope. Sorry paying for college doesn't mean that one has to put up with slut-shaming nosiness. And if the offer to pay wasn't made in good faith that's a damn good reason to never see or speak to her Mom again.

Dan's right. You want to have your boundaries respected you need to enforce them.
12
Mom: "Where are you going at this time of night!?"
You: "Out to do 26-year-old things with my friends. Don't wait up."
Mom: "Who the hell is this you are texting like you are married to them? I've never even met this person!"
You: "You've never met a lot of my friends. When I start getting serious about someone, I'll bring them home to meet you and Dad. Meanwhile, please don't snoop on my phone. I would never do that to you."
Mom: "You know I only get on your case because I love you, and frankly I'm very worried about you. You flunked out of college. You fell in love and moved in with that crazy maniac - although we certainly tried to warn you. I thank God every day that you escaped alive. You smoke pot - that's dangerous, it's a gateway to heroin - I saw it on TV!!! You think you don't need your mother in your life any more, but let's face it, you don't make very good decisions on your own. You've done so much better since you moved back home. You've graduated, you got a good job. But now you're talking about moving out again, and I am going crazy worrying about what will happen to you!"
You: "Mom, I love you. You will always be in my life. But I'm not 12 anymore, I'm 26. My life is very different from yours at that age, but it's still a good life, and I'm going to be OK. That's not to say I won't screw up now and then - but those are my mistakes to make now, not yours. I'm an adult woman now, Mom, just like you. Let's respect that, and try to be friends."
13
It looks like the mother is not the only one with boundary issues. Why on earth would you tell her "it's someone I'm having casual sex with" instead of just "It's a friend"?
14
@13: Yeah, Projection doesn't only happen in the movie theater.
15
@13 My response exactly.
16
Maybe get a PIN number for your phone?
17
@13RE: a daughter does like to be able to be honest with her mother. It's not just about boundaries, it's about feeling like your mother can accept who you are.
Obviously this LWs mother can't and won't and so their friendship will be circumscribed from now on. And that can be sad for a young woman.
18
Non-answer deflections are your friend! "Where are you going?" "I'll be out late with friends, see you at breakfast!" Or "I've got my keys, so you can lock up", or "please save the other cryptic crossword to work with me tomorrow", or "I'll check texts on my way home if you need anything from the store." Anything that has the form of a response, and some loose relevance to going out, but especially if it touches some emotional chord (safety, caring, connection). While 100% non-fraught for you in your relationship with her, so adapt as appropriate. Bland and perky.

@13 I'm sure with a large dose of "so don't ask questions you don't want the answer to". Whether conscious or not.

Co-signing @8 if you want to have kids sometime, LW, or even if you never want kids but wobble on boundaries in partner or work relationships. Growing up with a boundary-less parent can really spin you around and it can take time to realize there's more left to examine. You sound like you're doing well at this! (you're aware this isn't normal mother behavior, which is a big thing)
19
Sounds like my mother, which is why I moved out at 17.

If you're moving out soon, DAMNED, this problem will resolve itself. But I do agree that both of you have issues about how adult children and parents relate to each other. Your mother is not recognising that you are an adult. If you didn't already have plans to move out, "offer to pay rent" would be my first suggestion, since that's what adults do. Your mother has it in her head that teenageres live at home, and therefore is still treating you like a teenager. "Stop acting like one" would be the next bit of advice -- by which I don't mean don't smoke weed and have casual sex, but put weed and sex into your own grown-up, none-of-my-mother's-business category of life experience. As Dan says, telling the truth doesn't require telling the whole truth. As an adult, you're entitled to your own private adult activities; do the both of you a favour and keep those private.
20
If you want to be treated like an adult act like one.
The first rule of Adulthood is that you pay your own fucking bills.
So far you are still stuck at 12 years old.
btw having sex is also an adult activity you don't seem to be ready for.
Who is going to pay for your abortion when you get knocked up?
Don't you dare have a baby….

21
I don't know where people got this idea that boundaries were something you presented to the boundaryless and negotiated with them about following. If anyone knows the name of the book, let me know so I can burn every copy and murder the author. When you talk to a boundaryless mother about how she obviously has to respect your boundaries, she looks at the new "rules" and starts figuring out how to get around them.

Boundaries are something you silently decide on and silently enforce. In this case, the boundaries might be:

Sex is not a topic of discussion. Whom you're sleeping with or anything else about them. That includes your mother's sex life also, past or present.

Money is not a topic of discussion. If there's money you want to pay your mother back for, or if you've agreed to contribute to the household bills, pay the money on time as any roommate in an adult situation would.

Weed is not a topic of discussion. Follow the household rules. If weed is not allowed in the house, then don't smoke weed in the house.

Private papers, phones, computers, etc. are out of her reach. You already know she'll snoop, so make it impossible for her to snoop. Treat her in regard to these items the way you would any untrustworthy stranger-- that is, you wouldn't tell the bum in a subway station "I'm going to loan you my phone, but don't peek!" You simply wouldn't let the bum have your phone.

For that matter, treat your mother in all respects like an untrustworthy stranger. You don't yell at the bum to give you more respect either. You don't pin your hopes on a stranger to approve of your lifestyle. You might have a friendly conversation with the stranger, and if the stranger was a roommate, you would certainly interact in a friendly normal way as befits roommates.

There's a secret benefit to all this. Right now you're understandably angry with your mother, but if you treat her with the sensible boundaries that people with fantastic mothers do, if you move out and become independent and normal, you'll drive her nuts.
22
It can be tricky with moms. My mother was like this. I moved out very young as a result. But it's confusing, and I'd bet that this has been going on MUCH longer (well into her childhood) and that is why she has trouble immediately lying. What interfering moms like this do is catch you in a lie (about something normal to lie to your parents about when you are young like dating or smoking pot), then they make you feel like a monster for lying. Like you are a sociopath or something who can't live in the real world. So you feel really guilty about normal white lies and basically always tell the truth which is not an easy way to go about through the world. The other thing is, these types of parents usually spy on their kids (looking at their phone for example) and they do a lot of "gotcha" type things. So you grow up knowing that most of the time, they are asking you who you were with / what you were doing because they already know and want to see if you will lie about it. So if they say "who is this man?" you assume that there is a good chance that Mom already knows (looked at messages) and you wonder, what is worse- tell a white lie and get shamed as a manipulative liar OR tell the truth and get shamed as a slut? Yes of course, any adult child with a healthy relationship with her parents will say "he's a friend" instead of "he's a man I'm having sex with", but this is not a healthy relationship.

LW- there is a middle ground. If you cannot get to the point that you can tell these sorts of white lies without feeling shame about it, then there are other alternatives to the blunt truth. You can look your mom in the eye and tell her that you are fine and that this is none of her business. It's easier to do this when you are not living under her roof. Be calm when you do it. "Mom, don't worry about me. I'm fine. But what I do in my personal life is none of your business. Please don't ask about it." You might want to save this approach for when you move out.

Also, parenting is a mixed bag. Mom might be flawed but with good intentions. They did help her with college and get her on her feet, and Mom might be worried that she can't trust her daughter not to go down the wrong path again (abusive relationship, no good job). Not that this justifies her boundary issues, just that she probably doesn't mean to be toxic. Dan's advice here is really good. Save a bit of money, LW, and keep your head down in the meantime. It will be over soon and you can move out.
23
One more thing. Assuming Mom's overbearing nosiness comes from concern/fear and not just some weirdo need to control, the LW could reassure her mom that she is OK and has learned from the past abusive relationship and that she promises that if she ever finds herself in a problematic relationship again, that she will reach out to her family for help. But until then, everything is fine and mom needs to step back. It's easy on the outside to say that parents should just let their kids go, but if you saw your kid spend years in her early twenties throwing her life away and being abused, then you were able to help her turn her life around, you might also have trouble letting go of the idea that you are the one to save/protect her. Maybe the two of them could have an honest chat about what they've both been through and how they've both grown?
25
from a poster who's sucked-through many a haystack - if life's not clicking along as you'd like and you're smoking a lot put the pot aside for a while. Might not matter, sometimes it does, best way to know is to give it six months or a year on the shelf and see how things are then.
26
WTF is wrong with this LW? She sounds like an entitled brat. No, slut-shaming isn't cool, but neither is flaunting your casual sex life and weed usage in front of your mom/landlord. LW may have made it through college, but she sure hasn't matured.

@24 has it right
27
All true and now it's time to move out and stop taking money from them. I presume you stay because you couldn't afford the apartment, or car, or cable TV you want and don't want to settle for what you can afford. Move out.

And the next time you forget your phone when you go to work, do without it for 8 hours and try to be more productive instead of asking your mom to run it over like your servant.
28
@26 WTF is wrong with this LW? She sounds like an entitled brat. No, slut-shaming isn't cool, but neither is flaunting your casual sex life and weed usage in front of your mom/landlord. LW may have made it through college, but she sure hasn't matured.

I basically wrote this exact same post yesterday, but apparently it got lost in the aether. LW, your Mom is doing what Moms do...being concerned for her daughter. Maybe a little too much to the extreme side (but we only have the word of an obviously immature girl about how much Mom was "freaking out".) Be glad that you have a parent who cares for you. Who paid for not one, but two rounds of college. Who undoubtably is paying room, board, insurance and who knows what else for you now.

Stop your bitching and moaning, get out and support yourself, and then you won't have to worry about any of this. 26 is still young, but I would be hoping to see a little more responsibility for your own actions by now, not just whining about how the world/your mother owes you more privacy.
29
In a perfect world, parents would guide children into adult life seamlessly. They'd be there to give structure and control when the kids are too young to make good decisions for themselves. Then they'd stand back so the kids could learn from their own not-life-threatening mistakes when they were teens. Then they'd enter into adult respectful relationships with their children by the time the kids were in their mid-20s. Children for their part would learn, grow, avoid abusive relationships, get through college and into satisfying well-paying careers while eschewing drugs that aren't good for them. That's hard to do when the imperfect parent-teachers aren't able to guide the imperfect children-students. Note that I'm not blaming all parents for all children's difficulties. It just comes out that way because the parents were there first. Nor should the children blame the parents, though it's easy to fall into that loop. As Genevieve says in 26, "slut shaming isn't cool but neither is flaunting your casual sex life."

DAMNED, here's what you've gotta do. Despite having an imperfect mother, go out and do all the things your mother should have taught you to do: Get a job. Support yourself. Enter into satisfying friendship relationships that make you happy. Enter into satisfying sexual relationships that make you happy. Don't take drugs or smoke dope if that's not working for you over the long term. Don't make the same mistake twice. Don't hope to prove to your mother that you're an adult by showing her that you're grown up enough to have sex. Clean up your own act. Move out. Don't blame your mother for anything even if deep down you think she deserves blame.
30
@5, Bravo!

Also, this mother and daughter sound like some kind of perpetual drama machine. I'm guessing dad spends a lot of time at the bar or the golf course.
31
Cocky @24: A very good point!
If DAMNED wants to make a point about her mother respecting her privacy, perhaps she should learn a script along the lines of "Mom, remember when I told you not to ask questions you don't really want the answer to? Now is one of those times." Instead of rubbing Mom's face in the fact that she's doing "adult" things Mom doesn't approve of.
Which is, absolutely, immature.
32
Man a lot of you guys are quite callous.

Look, at the end of the day, your mother cares about you. Now, clearly, like my mother, LW's mother does not know how to positively express those feelings, but that doesn't change the fact that LW's mother is simply worried about the welfare of her daughter.

When someone really cares about you, and that someone is, due to biological relation, not someone you can simply replace, you learn to work with the way they are programmed to care. And I say this as a son of a mother who is TEN times more overbearing than LW's.

So, first thing: Lock your private shit down. Fix your phone so texts from people aren't legible to anyone who happens to be in possession of your phone.

Accept that your mother is going to worry when it is 3 AM and you are not home. It does not matter that you are 26, mothers worry, it's their job, and that worry doesn't just turn off when you turn 18, or no longer qualify to be on their health insurance. And that's fine - no matter how old you are, the people who care about you are going to worry if you're not there when they think you should be. So get used to it - part of being a responsible adult is not making people worry about you unnecessarily. So if you're going to be out late, tell mom you're going to be out late. Or tell mom you're staying over at a friend's house, or going out of town, or whatever, and worst case come home early.

And, for fucks sake, if you live at your parent's home, DON'T LET THEM FIND OUT YOU SMOKE WEED! Millions of high school kids, for decades, have managed to smoke weed without their parents knowing about it. Surely at 26 LW can figure out how to do the same. Do your mother a favor and make the minimal effort to make her think you quit smoking so she'll stop asking you about it.

These are life skills. Whether it's living with her mother or her BFF roommate or her future husband, at some point LW is going to have to figure out that living with other people involves compromise and no cohabitation arrangement exists where everyone just does whatever the fuck they want without pissing off someone else.

When you live by yourself, do whatever you want... but when you get a roommate, you gotta stop ashing in the sink.
33
Or, short version:

LW's mother is annoying, but LW should give her mother the same level of consideration she has received, which, given her paid-for education and recent living arrangements, is not insignificant.

It is not unreasonable for LW to put forth some effort to work with her mother's annoying personal traits.
34
People that didn't grow up in toxic environments cannot understand the type of dynamic you and your mother have. Ignore all criticism you see here. Go this this subreddit...

https://www.reddit.com/r/raisedbynarciss…

Start reading and look for patterns that match your own experiences. Another good site to check out is The Invisible Scar.

Good luck, LW. Be prepared for a long, hard journey. You never learned what normal is. Getting and staying on your feet is going to take hard, steady work.
35
If you tell your Mom that a text was from someone you are casually fucking, aren't you the one with boundary issues?
36
@21 Just saw your comment; a much more thoughtful version of the sentiment I was trying to convey. You hit the nail on the head I think.
37
@34

Whoa. You are just assuming that the mother has a personality disorder, just like that? Maybe re-read the letter without that judgement in mind. The LW spent early 20s failing school, not gainfully employed, and in an abusive relationship. Now, she openly smokes pot even though she lives under her parents' roof. I think it's perfectly reasonable for a parent to disapprove of an adult child's drug/alcohol use, and a healthy adult child who lives at home (and there are reasons why healthy adult children would still live at home) would respect the parents and do it on the sly and not draw attention to it. As for the questioning about her personal life, yes that is out of line, but it's obviously from a place of concern - and a legitimate one too as the LW has, in the recent past, been victim in an abusive relationship. What mother wouldn't worry about that?

I agree that the relationship is going toxic and the mother is overbearing, but to jump to the conclusion that she has a personality disorder rather than just misguided actions grounded in totally normal feelings is just bizarre. It's all the rage to call everyone we don't like narcissists these days though. Apparently, narcissism is like genius and gluten sensitivity. Statistically, it's rather uncommon, yet everyone you know claims to either be one or to have been in a relationship with one.
38
My 27 yr old daughter tells me about her life. Not like a gf would, the minute details. We have a close relationship and her personal chats with me usually occur when she is having some issues going on. I don't see it's the end of the world that LW mentioned to her mother re a casual lover. Her mother's reaction seems a bit 1950ish, and so I do suggest to the LW to close down such sharing and to tell her mother that she is doing that.
I agree with EmmaLiz @23, mother may well be showing concern, especially if this abusive relationship the LW left, was very abusive.
LW, if you feel close enough to your mom that you'd like to have an intimacy into the future where you want to seek her guidance etc, then you just have to lay a few ground rules down to her. If she also wishes to have closeness with you, into the future, then she'll listen.

39
Nice post biggie @32. It is harder to navigate boundaries with sons, or maybe it's easier. They just let you know, as a mother, that none of their life is your business. Unless it's falling apart that is, then one gets to hear about it.
40
@37

Yup. Easy call. Red flags galore. Given what she wrote, it is 100% worthwhile for the LW to spend time investigating the long term effects of emotional abuse.
41
"Want your mother to respect your boundaries, DAMNED? Establish and enforce them." Thank you, Dan! This is exactly it.
42
36-smajor-- Thanks. Validation like that makes me think all those years of therapy were worth it.
43
How soon is soon (a week, a month)? Once out from under her parent's roof, the boundary issues should be resolved. DAMNED can choose the extent to which she interacts with her mother. DAMNED entered into an implicit contract with her parents when she agreed to move back in with them in exchange for having college paid by them. What did she expect when she became dependent on them? DAMNED was old enough to understand that everything comes with a price.

@34 How did you come up with DAMNED growing up in a toxic environment? DAMNED is talking about her current situation, not the environment in which she was raised.

@37 Brava

@40 emotional abuse by her ex (definitely)?
emotional abuse by her mother ????
44
I sounds to me like the abusive ex boyfriend is the second abusive relationship this reader has had in her life. Mommy Dearest is doing what so many abusers do. Time to sharpen the "getting away from abuse" skills again and do more than just set normal boundaries. Mom's behavior is not LOVE. And if this reader wants any healthy non-abusive relationships in years to come, she needs to examine her Mom and see the patterns so she can break them.
45
As the daughter of a mother who was absurdly intrusive, controlling, AND narcissistic, I'm not convinced the described behavior quite fits in the narcissism box (but there's a lot we don't know); still, I think it goes beyond reasonable, concerned mom. LW stated that mom demands the information and doesn't take no for an answer. My mother was one of those types. I wish I had learned sooner to shut up and start lying. Because she WAS a narcissist, everything I told her was eventually used against me. Maybe LW's mom is less toxic; I hope so. (My mother passed away a few years ago which has been a big boost to my emotional health, sad to say). But it is not a moment too soon for her to start setting boundaries and also, to start planning her escape. Getting out of her parents' house may require some austerity measures, but it will pay off in many other ways.
46
Boundaries aren't something other people have for you, they are something you have, and maintain.

So the problem here is not your mother's boundaries, but yours. Set them, and enforce them.

You don't have to answer questions that you don't want to. You don't have to tell your mother about your sex life or your drug use. You don't have to leave your phone around without password protection. You are not a child, and you don't have to act like one.

If you were staying with someone not your parents - a well off distant relative, say, who has some room and doesn't mind putting up a poor young person for a bit - you would repay their hospitality by being clean, by doing little errands and chores, and by providing a reasonable amount of companionship. You wouldn't be involving them in the details of your personal life.

You can deal with your parents on the same basis. But to establish that basis is not your parents' job, it's yours, because you are the person who wants it. Looks like your mother would be happy to have you stay a dependent child forever, so since you don't want that, it's up to you to change the dynamic.
47
@45

Totally. There are all sorts of reasons why someone with good intentions (capable of loving another person and honestly wanting what is best for them) will behave in unreasonable ways that are toxic, controlling, jealous, damaging, abusive, etc. And yes, a person who is suffering this behavior has every reason to protect themselves/ enforce boundaries/ get away, etc. Mom is unreasonable in this case and either creating or continuing a toxic relationship with her daughter. That doesn't mean that Mom has a personality disorder that renders her incapable of empathy or that causes her to make everything in the relationship about her own ego. I'm so sick of people calling one another narcissists or sociopaths or whatever. Most people are just damaged and traumatized and selfish, and they are interacting unskillfully with others who have a different kind of damage, trauma and selfishness. It's difficult (impossible?) to really understand one another's crap, so for most of us, the most healthy thing we can do is learn to deal with our own shit and protect ourselves from other people's shit- and that very frequently - and justly- involves getting the hell away from others. But to claim that the other person has a major issue like narcissism or some sort of psychopathy? The vast majority of the time, the person making the claim is taking the easy way out. It's not ME at all, and it's not THEIR very flawed human response- it's that they are BROKEN and 100% to blame for everything! Nonsense. Statistically, it's not even possible. The majority of the time, people act like jerks, like abusers, like control-freaks, etc, because they are human and flawed. Dump them, move out, move one, whatever it takes- fine- but don't handwave the whole situation by pretending they have a serious psychological disorder. That sort of thing is pretty damn rare.