Dear Carolyn: I have been in a manipulative, one-sided relationship my entire adult life. I tried to get past a lot of the problems in the quest of keeping my family whole. I am basically strong, self-supportive financially and pretty content with myself. I can stay in the house, we are basically civil, but it's not healthy.
But now my only child treats me with the same disrespect and attempts the same manipulation practices and I am just sick of it. We are still close, but I am sad about the disregard and disrespect. I just want it to stop. What do I do?
I have said I will go one day.
— Haven't Yet
Haven't Yet: You must acknowledge that your child is more of a victim than you are, warranting intervention, due in part to choices you made. The family you kept "whole" set unhealthy examples that your child is now living by.
So find a skilled therapist and go, by yourself, to figure out how to manage the consequences of this extremely unhealthy home environment.
For you, it's basic: to keep doing the important things anyone has to do in the face of manipulation and disrespect. Know yourself, know your limits and hold to these calmly.
For your child — and for your relationship with your child — it's about learning what avenues are still available to you for breaking this unhealthy emotional mold.
And also please pardon me for using you as an example to others: People in similar predicaments have to weigh the potential impact of divorce on a family, yes, but also the costs of leaving that household intact.
Dear Carolyn: I recently traveled over 2,000 miles to visit my 45-year-old son. He was promoted to a very responsible managerial position six months ago and is doing well.
About eight years ago, the love of his life unexpectedly broke their engagement and his heart. Although he has subsequently dated, he has not pursued a serious relationship.
When I inquired about female companionship, he informed me in a very angry tone that his job requires so much interpersonal interaction that he only wants to be alone on weekends. He also said he felt "pressured" to visit relatives on vacations, which he resents. It's not only me but his dad that's the problem, according to him.
His anger hurt my feelings because I asked if the recent weekend visit interfered with any other plans and was told "no." I only visit him once/twice a year. I am usually the one who initiates contact, so I am thinking of giving him the space he wants and waiting for him to contact me in the future.
Is this the best idea or should I encourage him to seek counseling, which I doubt he will do?
L.: You don't have to give him "space" in the amount of contact if you give him enough in the content.
Translation: Apologize for butting in, then stop butting in.
I wish he'd just asked for that instead of getting defensive, but, still, his anger was clear enough.
He has been an adult now for most of his life. You'll never stop being his mother, but you can do wonders for your relationship if you stop treating him like a kid.