Carolyn Hax: A newlywed wonders what to make of Mom’s maneuvering for alone time

Carolyn Hax
Columnist June 2

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I got married about a year ago, at age 30. Before that, I lived with my parents for a few years in my 20s to save some money after school. This really helped us relate to each other better as adults, but it also made it very tough for them when I moved back out and later got married.

Even though she likes my husband a lot, Mom is always trying to maneuver ways to see me alone, excluding him. Is this normal?

By the way, it’s not like my husband and I are conjoined at the hip; I visit my parents by myself plenty of the time. I feel like Mom is uncomfortable relating to the married me and doesn’t enjoy my company unless I’m alone. Any thoughts?


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Virginia

Have you brought this out into the open with your mom? “I may be reading this wrong, but it appears to me that you’re always trying to maneuver ways to see me without Chuckles. Is there something you’re not telling me? Please don’t be afraid to tell me the truth.”

Then don’t react emotionally when she does. It might help if you think of any truth as a better outcome than, “Oh, no, everything’s fine,” which has almost zero productive worth when you’ve already witnessed an odd pattern in someone’s behavior. All you can say to that one is, “Okay, I’ll take you at your word, but if anything changes let me know” — and see if her way of dealing with you and your husband does in fact change.

If she does offer up a reason, then handling her answer gracefully will help with whatever follows.

The most likely answer is that she just misses your company, and your company is something that changes when a spouse is or isn’t around. A less-likely but still common answer is that she doesn’t like your husband or doesn’t like the way you are around him.

You and she are more likely to withstand the dropping of a bomb like that if you hold it together, thank her for her candor, say you need time to process the information, and then do just that.

For what it’s worth: It’s normal for family chemistry to change when spouses are present, so occasional solo visits make sense. If your mom just can’t abide him (or you with him), then it’s time to dig into why.

Dear Carolyn:

As an adult, is it ever okay to tell your parent you don’t like their significant other and/or that you think their significant other doesn’t treat them well? I feel like my dad is being taken advantage of by his girlfriend. He spends a lot of time and money and effort on her. She spends little of those things on him. But since I’m an adult, this has no bearing on my day-to-day life. And since my dad’s an adult, well, he gets to choose who he spends time with. I just hate watching it.

Anonymous

“So, how are things going with Girlfriend. Are you happy?” Then, you listen. Often people will find a way to tell you whether your concern would be welcome or seen as an imposition.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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