Dear Carolyn: By mutual agreement, my ex and I ended our six-year relationship last year. We’ve remained friendly because we recognize that we simply grew up and apart since we met in college but still enjoy the friendship our relationship was rooted in.
When we first broke up, my mom made many insulting implications about me and spent weeks trying to find the “real reason” we ended it, wildly guessing everything from money problems to my not-approved-by-her career.
In the last year, she has stayed in touch with my ex, sending him packages of homemade treats and other oddities just as she did when we were dating, despite his protests. She also seizes every opportunity to talk about him with me, despite my making it very clear that I am happily single and neither of us is harboring any hope for getting back together.
How can I get her to accept that I’ve moved on?
Free Agent: Better question, why are you still trying?
It’s one (pretty awful) thing to have your own mother side against you in a hail of insults over a mutual, amicable breakup.
But for her to be sending him care packages a full year after your relationship folded, likely to ensure there’s no mistaking her loyalties? That’s something else entirely, and it verges on the unhinged.
As always, though, it makes no sense to blame the unhinged for being their version of normal. Instead, your job is to decide whether your mother’s antics are acceptable to you and, if not, what consequences you’re willing to attach to them.
For example, you can’t make her stop sending care packages or start accepting your version of events, but you can choose not to indulge her when she “seizes every opportunity” to discuss him. You can instead say, “Mom, I won’t discuss Exie with you anymore” and then change the subject/end the call/leave the room every single time she chooses to test your boundary.
And — this one’s optional of course — since you’re still friends and since he receives these treats under protest, you can suggest to your ex that he start refusing these packages, unopened, from your mom. (Obviously, whether he chooses to is up to him.)
It’s a logistical move that actually applies well to the emotional task you have before you. To exercise your control over your own life, start refusing delivery of your mother’s unwanted intrusions.
She won’t take it well, I expect, both because you’ve never stopped her before and because she’s so overinvested. But your best chance that she’ll occupy a more appropriate place in your life is for you to find the strength to show her exactly where that place is, and to flatly, kindly deny her access to any territory beyond it. I hope for both of your sakes that she’s mindful enough of her own self-interest to respect the lines you draw.
Dear Carolyn: My friend and I agreed to work together to paint our kitchens. After we spent a weekend painting hers, she said she didn’t feel she should have to do mine since I had a husband to help me. I was stunned . . . and reminded her we had an agreement and I expected her to keep her word. She said she wasn’t going to do it, and I was left to tackle my kitchen by myself since my husband is frequently away for work.
I feel resentful and angry. She acts as though she has done nothing wrong. Am I overreacting? Talking to her about this just leaves me feeling angrier, and it is ruining our friendship. Your thoughts?
Friend or Not
Friend or Not: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful ex-friendship.
If it weren’t enough that she broke the agreement the nanosecond it stopped serving her, then her refusing to budge put it over the top.
As always when dealing with selfish people, the weekend it cost you to see her true colors (sorry) was time well spent.
Dear Carolyn: We have two kids. One has his life managed and now is around when we need help. The other son has many problems, drugs and alcohol, probably a mental illness, has stolen from us, accused us of everything — including adultery, stealing his money and abuse — and the name-calling was endless, gossiping to family and friends to ruin our reputations. Finally he texted that we should never attempt to speak to him again. It has been years and years of heartache for us.
Do we reward this man in our wills, totally drop him or just leave a token amount?
Anonymous: Or: (d) Leave money for him in a trust, with an expert trustee, for treatment of his illness and addictions and/or to be paid out contingent upon successful treatment.
Your lawyer might discourage this as too pricey or complicated — plus, your son’s “go away” text could obligate you to leave him alone — but your son is also ill. A trust could help remedy that without looking like a “reward.”