Carolyn Hax

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
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By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dear Carolyn:

My significant other and I are both in our early 50s. We are very much in love. My future mother-in-law probably suffers from borderline personality disorder and my SO no longer wishes to relate to her.

I can understand why some may classify her as borderline. She didn't nurture her daughter. Instead, family life consisted of complaining, one way or another, that the responsibilities of raising her little daughter ruined her life. When she heard her daughter may have finally met her soul mate (me), her reaction was to complain that my SO was abandoning her.

My future father-in-law spent most of his career traveling and now has Alzheimer's. I have asked my SO to at least be civil and call her family once in a while. Her father may be in la-la land, but perhaps he has some lucid moments when a call from his daughter might be appreciated. But that means her mother will pick up the phone, and my SO is adamant about avoiding her and not feeling guilty about it, and does not need me to resurrect the issue.

Of course I did not have to walk in her shoes growing up, but I see her mother not as an evil witch, but as a pathetic and lonely 82-year-old woman. Any thoughts?

Compassionate Observer

Yes, Compassionate Observer. Please ask yourself: compassionate to whom?

You don't seem to doubt "Sarah" ("SO" is s-o dreary) -- you accept her account of her childhood as true. She was emotionally abused.

And since that's such a detached, clinical description of what your beloved lived through, let's imagine Sarah as a little girl. Now let's tell this little Sarah she's a complete waste of her mother's time.

You say this mother complained of ruin "one way or the other," so, to be accurate, let's also tell our little-girl Sarah that she . . . ruined Mother's figure . . . killed Mother's dreams . . . kept Mother from having any fun . . . cost money that Mother wanted to spend on herself . . . in other words, let's tell Sarah that her feelings, her dreams, her very presence, are worth less than even the most trivial things her mother had to sacrifice for her.

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