How to deal with a parent who won't acknowledge my relationship?
June 6, 2011 2:03 PM   Subscribe

My mother refuses to meet my fiance. I welcome any advice on how to deal with this, and would especially like to hear from people who have similar personal experiences.

My partner and I are engaged after having lived together happily for a couple of years, and could get married at any time because neither of us is interested in having a wedding or anything beyond just signing papers at the courthouse. The only thing delaying this process is my mother, who has refused to meet my partner and does not acknowledge that we are even engaged.

When we speak on the phone, she never asks about my partner and generally acts as though he doesn’t exist, and only refers to him as “your boyfriend” when it is unavoidable. Throughout our relationship, we have lived anywhere from across the country to a three hour flight away from my parents, but we have never been able to arrange for a meeting of my parents and my partner. My mother has ignored invitations to come visit our home, and has also extended no invitations for my partner to come with me when I visit my parents’ home.

I’m uncomfortable with the idea of marrying my partner before he has met my parents, and I think my mother is using this fact to manipulate the situation – I think she feels like she can prevent the progress of my life and my relationship by controlling the circumstances of when they meet, and therefore, when we can get married.

My mother and I have had a complicated, strained relationship since I was a teenager (I am in my mid-20s). When we get along, we get along very well and are very similar, but when we disagree, it is major drama. My mother has always been overprotective of me, and continues to treat me like a child who is unable to make appropriate adult decisions. She is also very resentful about relationships due to a troubled relationship with my father, and I also believe she is socially isolated and emotionally troubled.

I feel conflicted about this because I am trying to be sympathetic to her perspective, but I am also very hurt when she refuses to acknowledge an important part of my life. I love my mom and try to understand her concerns, but this situation has put enormous strain and stress on me. I can only speculate about the stress she feels about this situation, because she is not an open communicator of her emotions.

My partner and I have tentatively talked about visiting my hometown this summer, for a vacation but also to see my parents. My parents’ house can’t accommodate both of us, so we would stay in a hotel. When I proposed this to my mother, she shut me down by saying she would not be open to seeing us, and said I was selfish for trying to put my own interests ahead of her comfort. She wants to see me and have me stay at their house, but my partner is not invited. I wanted to insist that we are both coming to visit whether she likes it or not, but I held my tongue and the discussion is currently unresolved. I’m really at a loss as to what to do.

I’m seeking advice on how to deal with any of this – has anyone else been in a similar situation? How can I best facilitate the meeting of my partner and my parents?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (76 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
It would really help to know what it is about your partner that your mother objects to. Is there something about him in particular that she doesn't like, or have similar problems arisen with your past relationships?
posted by milk white peacock at 2:06 PM on June 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Have you asked your mother why she doesn't want to meet your partner?
posted by pupstocks at 2:07 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I’m uncomfortable with the idea of marrying my partner before he has met my parents"

What does he think?
If your mother does not approve - and it sounds like she will not - what do you do? Drop the bf? Marry him? Put it off until she sees it your way?

If you want to marry him then do so. Don't let her spoil your life like this.
posted by episodic at 2:08 PM on June 6, 2011 [45 favorites]


There's nothing to be sympathetic about. Really, trying to be sympathetic to someone this far out of touch with reality will break your brain.

If she doesn't want to meet him, you can't make her. It doesn't matter how nice you are or how awesome you are as a person (and you sound pretty awesome.)

Frankly, I wouldn't put my partner in this situation and I have kept mine completely quarantined from the irrational and mentally ill people in my family who would happily treat him like shit.

I hope you're not avoiding a wedding just because of your mother. Think hard about whether it's something you would really want if it weren't for her extreme misbehavior.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:10 PM on June 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


What's the 3rd variable here? Are you gay? Is your partner of a different ethic background? Otherwise, this doesn't make sense.
posted by k8t at 2:11 PM on June 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


You appear to have avoided mentioning whether you are male or female. If this is a same sex relationship, that would open up a number of potential reasons for your mother's behavior.
posted by me3dia at 2:12 PM on June 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I’m uncomfortable with the idea of marrying my partner before he has met my parents, and I think my mother is using this fact to manipulate the situation – I think she feels like she can prevent the progress of my life and my relationship by controlling the circumstances of when they meet, and therefore, when we can get married.

Set a date, and tell your mom that you will be getting married on this date. If she wants to meet your fiancé before you get married, that's fine, but if she doesn't, that's on her. If she really only wants to avoid meeting him because she thinks that doing so will prevent you from getting married, then by making it clear you are getting married whether she meets him or not, you remove this impediment. You might actually have to tie the knot first before this becomes clear to her.

You need to decide which makes you more uncomfortable: marrying someone before they meet your parents, or letting your mom get in the way of marrying the person you love by acting like a petulant child.

Also, what about just meeting your father? Why are you letting your mother control everything?
posted by grouse at 2:14 PM on June 6, 2011 [29 favorites]


This is very odd behavior. Is there a reason, any reason? E.g. are you male, in a gay relationship? Does your mom think you're too young? Something religious going on? If you can figure it out, you need to address it. Otherwise, you probably need to call her out, maybe as follows:

"Mom, you know that S and I have been together for x years, and living together for y years. We are moving forward to the next phase of our lives, and have decided to get married. That means that he will be part of our family, and I a part of his. Obviously, I would like it if you and S met beforehand; he will be your son-in-law".
posted by kestrel251 at 2:14 PM on June 6, 2011


My mother has ignored invitations to come visit our home, and has also extended no invitations for my partner to come with me when I visit my parents’ home.

The next time your mother invites you to visit her, your response could be "Great, we'll book our flights and plan to be there!" In other words, assume that because you're getting married, you expect to be treated as a social unit, so any invitations issued to you are, of course, offers to both of you. I'm not generally in favor of this strategy, but here, your best bet is to put the onus on your mother to disinvite your fiance and explain why she's doing so. Right now, she's been able to create huge turmoil in your life without saying why or taking on any of the turmoil in her life. If she wants to create drama, that should be on her, and you should let your life run here as smoothly as it does with other people who act reasonably and welcome this happy new addition in to your life.
posted by decathecting at 2:15 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Trying to make people act the way YOU want them to act is not a good way to go about this. It is, in fact, what your mother is doing to you. Successfully.

It's patently clear what your mother wants. You don't have to like it one bit, but you need to respect it*. You need to decide for you what you want to do given the circumstances - which are that your mother does not want to meet your partner. Now that that's off the table, you can either get married in the manner of your choosing, or not. It no longer has anything to do with her.

*Because somebody has to start. Because this is how grown-ups act. Because the game is only fun for her until you stop playing.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:18 PM on June 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


I disagree with the people who say that if your partner is of the same sex or a different ethnicity that it makes sense or provides some sort of reason for the mother to behave so unreasonably. The proper reaction to someone opposing a gay or multiracial relationship is the same as the reaction to opposing the relationship for any other arbitrary reason.
posted by grouse at 2:19 PM on June 6, 2011 [38 favorites]


Your mother's comfort level should not dictate how you take vacations or whether you bring your partner to things. I married a guy my mother had never met before and she was huffy and pissed off about it and eventually got over it and maybe never forgave me, but that's really her deal to deal with. At some level I am not her partner, I am her child and if she's making unreasonable demands of me, the mature thing to do is let her know that they're unreaosnable, that I love her anyhow, but that my family is my chosen partner and while I'd like her to be happy for us and accepting of us, her lack of happiness or acceptance is not going to hold things up.

I'm sorry for you, it sucks when a parent acts like a brat, but honestly your mom is not getting on board for whatever reason and it's time for you to move on and be respectful but otherwise not let her hold you up. Be happy in your new life.
posted by jessamyn at 2:20 PM on June 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


she shut me down by saying she would not be open to seeing us, and said I was selfish for trying to put my own interests ahead of her comfort
this is pure manipulation, she is trying to use your good will against you

She wants to see me and have me stay at their house, but my partner is not invited

though she does have the right to say who is and isn't allowed into her home, this is insanely impolite, if you let her try to control your actions this way, she will continue it forever. Do not give in once to keep the peace, becuse she'll continue to do it again and again.

I would take your planned holiday, stay in a hotel, and instead of dealing with all the drama she is trying to create by excluding him from her house, put the meeting on neutral ground. Invite her out for a nice dinner at a fancy place she loves. Make it clear that this is the person who you intend to spend your life with, if she wants to see you, she has to meet him. Have your dinner, if she doesn't show up, then that gives you a really clear sign of where her priorities lie.

My difficult grandmother tried for years to split my parents up. and they stuck together and faced her as a team, and that awlways stuck me at the right thing to do.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:20 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I feel like either there is information missing about your boyfriend or your Mother is being completely irrational.
posted by smithsmith at 2:20 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


As others have said, I think you are going to have to go ahead and do it without her blessing. It's your life.

My parents’ house can’t accommodate both of us, so we would stay in a hotel. When I proposed this to my mother, she shut me down by saying she would not be open to seeing us, and said I was selfish for trying to put my own interests ahead of her comfort. She wants to see me and have me stay at their house, but my partner is not invited.

This makes no sense. You're staying in a hotel, not forcing her to host your fiance.

I was once in a live-in relationship (same-sex, in this case) with somebody whose mother pulled this sort of thing around the holidays by telling my partner: "There will be no 'we' in this house." My partner responded by saying, "Well, then, there will be no 'me' in this house" -- and that was that. We would still go to my partner's hometown to visit with other relatives. My partner's mother eventually stopped doing that, since trying to be controlling didn't yield the results she wanted.

I have also received directives from my father, who has still never been to any house I've owned (I'm in my 40s), telling me what restaurant to show up at to see him and adding: "You are to come alone." I didn't comply. He eventually stopped doing that, since trying to be controlling didn't yield the results he wanted.

I say go visit your hometown, stay in the hotel, offer to visit with her along with your chosen family (non-negotiably), and don't let her push you around.
posted by treblemaker at 2:23 PM on June 6, 2011 [30 favorites]


There is a story in my wife's family about a similar situation a generation ago -- male (white/Jewish) family member married African American female. Male's parents refused to meet his wife. He would come to visit, they would refuse to meet her, and he would refuse to enter their home without her and they would leave. This went on weekly for a year or two until the day when he showed up and said, "My wife is waiting in the car with your newborn grandson. Would you like to meet them?" They finally relented, and after some obvious awkwardness the story played out to a very happy ending -- this was almost 40 years ago, but you'd never know it happened by the way everyone gets along now.

We don't know what your mother's specific issues are with your bf or with allowing you to leave the nest as an adult, but I say you have given her every opportunity to meet this individual. It's her loss at this point, not yours (and certainly not for lack of effort on your part!) Live your own life, but leave the door open for her to meet him at some point.
posted by mosk at 2:23 PM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


grouse: "I disagree with the people who say that if your partner is of the same sex or a different ethnicity that it makes sense or provides some sort of reason for the mother to behave so unreasonably."

Nobody's saying that. There's a world of difference between "X explains Y" and "X justifies Y".
posted by mkultra at 2:23 PM on June 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


I wanted to insist that we are both coming to visit whether she likes it or not, but I held my tongue and the discussion is currently unresolved.

Next time, tell her the way it is going to be.

MeMail me for details on my past which will be most instructive, down to what to do, as given to me by another relative, who is a clinical professor of psychology and who gave me the secret on how to handle this situation.

You need not put up with this abuse.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:24 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Grouse: I didn't mean it would be A-OK for the mother to oppose the relationship if the fiance is of the same sex or a different ethnicity. I just meant that it gives the OP something to grab hold of and work from. S/he would at least know what the problem was and try to address it. The mother has false beliefs and terrible values, but GIVEN those as background, her behavior makes some kind of sense. (Compare copying the math problem wrong, but then reasoning correctly from that wrong starting point.)

Otherwise, she sounds just batshit crazy, and should be dealt with accordingly.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:24 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I’m uncomfortable with the idea of marrying my partner before he has met my parents"

No. You can be uncomfortable with the idea of marrying your partner before he's had a chance to meet your parents, but they have had AMPLE opportunity to do so and declined, repeatedly. At this point, what difference does it make if they meet him? What are you going to do if they hate him - not marry him?

I actually don't care if you're a gay couple, a biracial couple, or your mother is just a nutcase. Not her life, not her choice. Get married, get on with your life.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:24 PM on June 6, 2011 [20 favorites]


This is possibly partly due to cultural conditioning where you really don't want to move forward until your mother has met your boyfriend, I don't know, but if you want to be treated like an adult you need to act like one. Live your own life, make your own decisions, don't let your mother hold your plans hostage. It takes two to have a relationship. If she's not willing to acknowledge this extremely important part of your life, there is nothing you can do to get her to acknowledge it. There's no point to putting your life on hold waiting for that day.
posted by Kimberly at 2:25 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Since this is important to you, I recommend a hybrid approach between grouse's and 5_13 etc's. Set the date, declare your intention to marry on that date, whenever you want that to be. Then, go ahead on the planned vacation, stay in the hotel, say "This is the last chance you might have to meet Biff before we're married so please come out to dinner with both of us," and let her take it from there. If she digs in her heels at this point, so be it, but you did your level best. It might be that she just can't bring herself to do it, for whatever reason, and if that's the case then I totally agree you should move on with your life. It really sucks when you can't secure a parent's approval, so that does hurt, but you will have taken the highest possible ground and at that point you will know you did everything you could, and the refusal was all hers.
posted by Miko at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


i love my folks but i live my life and do things to my liking. you should do the same.

i see this with friends who have moved here, out west, and get major guilt trips from family in the midwest/back east, about living so far away. "when are you moving back to ...?" man, fuck that. it's your life, live it how you want. it doesn't mean you don't love your mom/dad/family, but you can't do things for them if it's not gonna make you as happy as you can be.
posted by rainperimeter at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's got to be some detail that you're leaving out. However, it's clear you have made your choice so it doesn't really matter one way or the other. But, here's the thing... you have to live your life and also, being a couple means standing up for your significant other in the face of people who will hurt him. Your mother has drawn her line in the sand. You can only respect that by not playing her game and not engaging. She has made her boundary clear and it's sad that she is rejecting you this way. However, if you let her play mind games then it will affect your relationship and that's just not the way to go.

Drop the issue. Entirely. She has pushed you out and doesn't care to change her mind. The person you partner with becomes the most important person in your life. Keep that in mind. You won't be able to tow this line with your mom any longer. I'm sorry she's being this way. If you want to stay in touch with her, you can just treat her like an adult and if she acts like a crazy person then you need to treat her like that as well.
posted by amanda at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just show up with your fiance.

Let your mother scream and yell. Let her be rude to your fiance. You've already chosen to spend the rest of your life with him. She hasn't accepted that. Sooner or later she'll have to though, and maybe it'll go well, or maybe there'll be lasting consequences for your relationship with her. You've already made your choice, and now all that's left is the yelling. Just get the ball rolling, you don't stand to benefit from putting it off any longer.
posted by renderthis at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


She's manipulating you and it's working. You seem to be holding out hope that one meeting between your partner and your mother will somehow fix things between you. It is entirely possible, and probable, that forcing your mother to meet your partner (and have to force her you will, she's made that very clear) will result in nothing but an unpleasant and awkward experience at best and an epic blowout at worst.

Marry your partner whenever you want. Tell your mother when that will be, tell her she's welcome to show up before, at the wedding, or not at all. Ball's in her court. Your life's your own.
posted by lydhre at 2:28 PM on June 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


A very dear friend of mine, who is about as sweet & harmless a person as you could imagine, ended up marrying her fiancee without the in-law's approval. This was an Othodox Jewish couple, with the groom's family recently come here from Russia by way of Israel. To say that getting the approval of the groom's family was "important" to them misses the opportunity to throw around phrases like "HUGE big deal" & "completely devastating." They off the marriage for years trying to secure it.

In the end, they got married anyway. It has been 15 years. They are still deeply happy together. His parents still create friction, but did step up enough to host the appropriate ceremonies for the wedding, and keep it sufficiently on the level that they are able to be included as grandparents.

Sometimes life doesn't go the way it should. You may never get your mother to cooperate. If this happens, you will eventually have to search your soul & decide which person matters more to you.

For what it's worth, I think the delay and the soul-searching caused by the prospective in-laws stubbonness really helped this couple determine how deeply committed they are to one another.
posted by Ys at 2:28 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't mean it would be A-OK for the mother to oppose the relationship if the fiance is of the same sex or a different ethnicity.

Yeah, I know none of you meant that. I'm sorry that the way I wrote my comment made it seem otherwise. My point is that, in most of the likely scenarios that explain the mother's behavior, her "reason" is irrelevant to how Anonymous should act. And I'm curious too, but I doubt it's something that the original poster needs to clarify to get the best advice.
posted by grouse at 2:29 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your mom doesn't own your town.

Get the hotel room, and calmly announce to your mom the dates that you'll be in town. Reiterate your willingness to mend fences, and your desire for a meeting.

Give her the opportunity to behave in accordance with minimum standards of human decency.

If she is not interested, then you don't need to go back, except on your terms- her actions have told you all that you need to know.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:30 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes don't let her hold you hostage. If she wants to control you to keep you more of a child, just announce your plans to move forward much as Miko described. "We are planning to get married on October 1. If you would like to meet him first, he'd be happy to visit you." (I would then be worried about how she escalates or otherwise tries to rattle your plans.)
posted by salvia at 2:34 PM on June 6, 2011


I’m uncomfortable with the idea of marrying my partner before he has met my parents

I'd suggest you get over your feeling of discomfort. If I were your bf I'd probably have gotten over my desire to meet your mother long ago. I would have concluded that she's nuts and that I should stay the hell away.

You want to have a relationship with your bf and with your mother. You are being forced to pick. My advice is to pick the person who isn't forcing you to make a choice between them.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:38 PM on June 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Mom needs therapy.

I am not a therapist but it sounds like she has some sort of avoidant personality disorder and your happy life is throwing the negative aspects of her own into sharp relief. She is stuck emotionally in some negative space and assumes by preventing you from moving forward, she can protect you. It's passive aggressive, very sad.

I had experiences with my own family not acknowledging my own relationship. The cause was different (they met her and I think felt she was unsuitable), but it was exacerbated by distance. 6 hours by plane does not allow for the kind of familiarity that can create trust and intimacy.

Your instinct to have her meet your partner is a good one. If there's a way to do that in a less pressured way, that may be a strategy that can get around the Mom barrier. "Hey, we're travelling in [month] and [month] and will be dropping into [home town]. We'd love to grab a coffee or lunch with you!" It's possible even with some time there will still be a wall, but I think you have to try and drop in and test the waters in person.

If travel is too difficult, then I think it's possible that you have to go a different route, and be more aggressive. "Mom, this is my partner who I love, and my need is to travel with them. If you refuse to even meet with me with my partner, then you are effectively blocking our relationship. If you choose to do that, expect me to cut off communication altogether. I think you need to seek help because your behavior indicates something psychologically wrong. I want us to be a family, but you are making it impossible for that to happen."

I am not a therapist, but I've been to a fair amount of therapy for my own relationships. It's possible some books on codependency would be helpful to you in thinking about this situation.
posted by artlung at 2:38 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


There might be some helpful insight for you in how to deal with a parent unsupportive of a wedding in the Grey's Anatomy episode, "White Wedding". I have no idea how similar the issue in that episode is to the exact particulars of your situation.
posted by andoatnp at 2:40 PM on June 6, 2011


Where's your dad in all this? Has he met your partner? If not, is he willing to?
posted by amarynth at 2:43 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Mom, if you have concerns, now is the time to let me know what they may be. Pretending my fiance — not boyfriend — fiance does not exist and that marriage is not rapidly approaching is not an effective fashion of expressing those concerns. 'Speak now or forever hold your peace' is a formality and a movie plot point, not an appropriate time to vent.

I will not be accommodating any visitation arrangements which split up my partner and I. Plans for one and not the other will not be attended.

Eventually, we may opt for children and traveling with them will not be easy. You may not see much of your grandchildren if you refuse to visit the home of my future husband. You will want to take that into consideration, as well as the years you may lose with them should you plan to later, grudgingly, change your mind. That will not be time you get back.

Mom, I love you, but this falls most definitely in the set of choices which belong to me. So ... is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
posted by adipocere at 2:44 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why you care about her feelings and why you are putting her needs before your own when she outright tells you she doesn't care about your feelings. Furthermore, you are putting the needs of someone you don't live with or see often before the needs of your partner.

Rethink your priorities and the solution here is easy.

(Btw. Your mom is a bully. And I have news for you... it's likely that most of the periods where you thought you had a good relationship with your mom were in actuality times you were giving in to her demands 100%. Am I right?

I strongly suggest that you re-examine your relationship with this person. It's not even that her love for you is conditional, but I fear that she is not mature enough or emotionally well enough to feel love for you the way you hope or imagine she does. While this may be painful to contemplate, it may also be the insight that will set you free from the bullying and the guilt.

There's something really hinky about the way she treats you. Likely she's not well. But whatever the cause of her behavior, please don't forget that she's an adult and can choose to get help or otherwise make improvements. She's an adult. You are not responsible for her choices, comfort, or well-being.

Good luck. And set a date already - Congratulations!!!)
posted by jbenben at 2:49 PM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


As everyone's noting, this is about her issues, not yours. When you're dealing with folks like that, you have to make your choices that will make you happy, and set your boundaries and invite them to meet you at where you set your boundaries or be left out.

mosk's comment, is a great example.

"Hi, I'm here with my spouse. Do you want to meet us?"
"I won't meet with him."
"Ok, we're leaving then. Catch you later!"

Etc. If she wants to participate in your life, she does so on terms that are ok with you, not on terms she sets for you. If she doesn't, well, then, that's not your fault.

Plan for your happiness with, or without her, and she can make the choice if she's going to be a part of it.
posted by yeloson at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I’m uncomfortable with the idea of marrying my partner before he has met my parents, and I think my mother is using this fact to manipulate the situation...

Then stop playing games with her.

Live your life. Be happy. Ignore those who attempt to prevent that, even if they're family.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


So when I got together with my now-husband, my parents were uninterested in meeting him. This was mainly because my husband is black and we are white and my mother is both crazy and racist. I didn't schedule my life around them, my husband and I attended family parties and whatnot, which my mother melodramatically refused to attend. Eventually they did meet up and to her amazement the world didn't end.

When I told her that we were getting married, she said, and I quote: "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME????" I laughed at her.

I told her that if she couldn't get it together enough to act like an adult, she didn't have to worry about seeing him anymore because she would never see either of us, or any resulting grandchildren, again. My husband and my parents are never going to be BFFs, but the drama is at a manageable level.
posted by crankylex at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think this question would get a lot more different answers if we knew exactly why she doesn't like him THAT MUCH when she hasn't met him. Sorry, but that is extremely important information to know here. Can you send that information to a mod?

My mother and I have had a complicated, strained relationship since I was a teenager (I am in my mid-20s). When we get along, we get along very well and are very similar, but when we disagree, it is major drama. My mother has always been overprotective of me, and continues to treat me like a child who is unable to make appropriate adult decisions. She is also very resentful about relationships due to a troubled relationship with my father, and I also believe she is socially isolated and emotionally troubled.


I've had somewhat similar problems-- my mother will always dislike anyone I date because they are Stealing Her Baby and this paragraph would pretty much describe us as well-- but hell, even mine would agree to meet the dudes. And she'll be polite to them, even though they could figure out she didn't like them.

What this is probably going to boil down to is what I call "the Persephone problem," i.e. you're just going to have to keep them in two separate worlds. Getting your mom to approve of the guy is probably not going to happen. Are you willing to marry him anyway if she refuses to meet him? Or does or doesn't meet him but hates him either way? Which one are you going to pick as first? Because unfortunately, in your case you are going to have to pick someone.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only thing delaying this process is my mother, who has refused to meet my partner and does not acknowledge that we are even engaged.

Life is short. Sometimes tragically so. And you're going to postpone marrying the man you love because your mom's being batshit insane?

Ask yourself what life would be like next year if your fiance were no longer with you, and you'd placed your mom's neuroses ahead of your love.
posted by cyndigo at 3:10 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


We went thru some of this when my daughter married her husband (who is a different race.)

My folks pitched a royal fit, threatened to disinherit my daughter, so on and so forth until I was THAT close to cutting them out of MY life.

What you have to do is live your life, make your choices, and go on. Eventually my parents even had them over for Christmas dinner which was a miracle on the scale of the Virgin birth.


(Unfortunately the marriage eventually went blooey but my folks, my daughter, and her children get along fairly well. And they even get along fine with the ex during the rare times they see him.)

So, live your life, she will either come around (if she has any sense at all ) or she won't. And if she won't, well, then that is her loss, right?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:18 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thank you so much for the advice and support, everyone. I am taking all your words into consideration.

To address some questions: we are a heterosexual couple, with no significant racial/ethnic/religious/cultural differences between our families. I have asked my mother why she won’t meet my partner, and she says it’s not because she doesn’t like him, but because she doesn’t feel comfortable and isn’t ready, but she will not explain beyond this. She refused to meet my last boyfriend, as well.
posted by cortex at 3:36 PM on June 6, 2011


"Love you, hope to see you again someday when you're ready to see both of us! Byeee!"

Seriously. Life is short.
posted by cyndigo at 3:39 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, basically it sounds as if she is mentally ill or emotionally troubled to the degree she needs help. This is way not normal at all.


Set your date, and let her deal.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2011 [20 favorites]


To address some questions: we are a heterosexual couple, with no significant racial/ethnic/religious/cultural differences between our families. I have asked my mother why she won’t meet my partner, and she says it’s not because she doesn’t like him, but because she doesn’t feel comfortable and isn’t ready, but she will not explain beyond this. She refused to meet my last boyfriend, as well.

In that case I think at this point I would cut my ties with that parent. You can't live in two countries, and even if your partner were a disaster, it's your life to live and to surround yourself with people who respect your decisions as an adult.

And I think you probably might want some therapy, because this whole thing is just really weird and probably needs more parsing than anyone can do on AskMe.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:52 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay then, she's not comfortable and ready to meet him. Are you comfortable and ready to marry him, though? If so, do that.
posted by mleigh at 3:52 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


At a certain point you're going to have to decide if, in the context of your relationship with her, you will identify yourself as "my mom's daughter" or "my own self." It's part of transitioning between a parent/child relationship and an adult/adult relationship. And in my opinion, dealing with this now will only help the relationship you have with your partner. Basically, mom can't call the shots any more -- but the only thing that will make her change is your own behavior and your own reaction to her.

You're an adult, you're in an adult relationship, and now you need to act like an adult. When you're really an adult, you'll know it because you won't need her approval as much as you seem to now.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:52 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has she seen pictures of him? Maybe that would help. Send her a good, old photo of the two of you together. Send a letter that expresses your deep disappointment that she is shutting you out of her life with this fear of hers. It is a rejection of you. And, again, I'm sorry but it sounds like she has a strange phobia or some sort of mental hang-up. That's so frustrating. It's almost easier when they're all, "I can't stand black/gay/foreign people!" Then you can just say STFU and move on.

But, still, you've been patient. Time to move on.
posted by amanda at 3:55 PM on June 6, 2011


You tell her you are sorry she is not ready to meet him, and that as you are going to marry him, he will be around when she changes her mind.

Vacation in your home town if you like, but do not agree to meet your mother without your fiance. You cannot force a visit on her, but she cannot keep you out of an entire city. Invite her to your wedding. In general, you shouldn't agree to meet with her (or your father) without your fiance, but you could try to occasionally suggest things.

It also matters what your fiance wants you to do.
posted by jeather at 3:57 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Then it's a shame we'll have to tell our kids someday why you didn't want to be part of their life. Don't contact me again until you have a schedule for meeting me and my future husband."
posted by anildash at 3:58 PM on June 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


I can only speculate about the stress she feels about this situation, because she is not an open communicator of her emotions.

This is stress your mom has created for herself. She could lose this stress by no longer being so petulant and controlling.

You're not going to solve your mother's problems by letting her manipulate you. If you're going to get married, it seems like you'd be more concerned that your mom's actions are very hurtful to your fiance. Being sympathetic to your mother shouldn't mean continued pain for your fiance.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:03 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your mother has made her choice. Now, it's your turn.

(I have a very strong suspicion she will keep pulling this kind of thing for exactly as long as you let her control you with it.)
posted by SMPA at 4:03 PM on June 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ironmouth: I'd be really interested in reading what your clinical psychology professor relative has to say about this. Any chance you can share within the limits of what you're comfortable with?

OP, you wrote: My mother has always been overprotective of me, and continues to treat me like a child who is unable to make appropriate adult decisions. She is also very resentful about relationships due to a troubled relationship with my father.

This says it all. She's not "comfortable" with you having a healthy relationship because maybe she never has, and she has a troubled/dysfunctional/unhealthy one with your dad. I'm thinking that you actually being successful in your life and in your relationships is very threatening to her. It happens: parents can be threatened by their children's success, which has nothing to do with the child, and everything to do with who that parent is as a person. I bet your mom is in a lot of pain, actually. How else could she be so cut off from her child in this way? I understand that her refusal to meet your partner is hurtful, but FWIW, it could be worse. She could say horrible things about him, threaten you if you don't leave him, etc. I know - one shouldn't get credit for NOT doing something; just trying to give another perspective.

One of my co-workers (male) married a woman who already had a child. His mother didn't like that she already had a child that my co-worker didn't help produce (something about not being related). He wouldn't stand for his mother's attitude. They got married anyway, they had another child, and his mother has still not met her grandkids. She also has mental health issues. It's sad, but what else could he have done?

This may sound weird, but your mom actually doesn't benefit from you trying to please her. You do your thing and get married, she has no choice but to accept it if she wants a relationship with you. Maybe it'll be enough to realize, "I should do something to improve my own life if I'm unhappy." By living your life, you're being a role model to her, in a way. We need people to challenge us in this way to examine what's going on with us. If you don't live your life, nothing changes for her, and you don't get to live your life. You really have nothing to lose. If she chooses not to change, that's HER decision. And what SMPA said. BTW, you may also find this book helpful.
posted by foxjacket at 4:06 PM on June 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


I agree, the reason she treats you like a child is that you aren't claiming adulthood in this specific situation, and possibly others. Time to make decisions, then tell her about them, not require her permission or approval to do things.
posted by Admira at 4:07 PM on June 6, 2011


: " I am trying to be sympathetic to her perspective"

What is her perspective? Seriously, what is she saying? Nothing, right? She refuses to even broach the subject! If she treats your life like something she refuses to acknowledge, go ahead and acquiesce to her wishes - get married, and she can fuck right off.
posted by notsnot at 4:07 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Obviously, proceed with getting married and carry on with your life.

If your wedding is the sort of thing that you invite people to, invite her.

Invite her to your picnics, get-togethers, barbecues, or whatever it is that you do. PUt it entirely in her court and let her be the one not to show up. Let her have to explain her behavior to other members of family and your friends.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:10 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


if you want to be treated like an adult you need to act like one. Live your own life, make your own decisions, don't let your mother hold your plans hostage.

Quoted for effing truth, man. If your mum won't do it, it's up to you step up and behave like a mature, normal person. Also, if I thought my partner was putting her mother before our relationship in any meaningful sense, I would be really, really sad.
posted by smoke at 4:40 PM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Permit me to save you some time, if you would.

Especially upon reading the followup, it's clear that your mom's position has nothing to do with you. Just not a damn thing. And it's not based in anything rational or real, and even if it were, that would be so opaque that there'd be no way around it.

And as it is, there's still no way around it.

It's been said many times that you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into, and here we are. If this is not a reaction to some specific quality of your partner but rather just the fact that your partner exists, the only thing that would make your mom happy is if your partner (whoever they are or will be) did not exist, was not in your life. Et cetera.

She's pretty clearly got some issues, some problems, if you will, and here is what she is doing: She is trying to make her problems your problems. By even trying to figure out what the hell her deal is - and I don't blame you for this at all, I rush to point out, because she's your mom and family is like that - you're playing into the mind games she's setting up. By having drama explosions, she is manipulating you. As long as it matters to you that your partner meet your mom, it will be a thing she can use to either control you or try to control you.

So here's what you do.

Write a letter. Tell her that respecting your basic humanity and agency are now conditions of contact with you, and if those conditions are unmet then she will not be a part of your life until they are. Explain that you would love very much for her to meet your partner and that you wish she could be as happy about the next big phase of your life as she is.

And then stick to it. Either she deals with you like an adult, or she doesn't. And if she doesn't, then don't have any dealings with her. I'm sorry that you're going through this, it sounds very unpleasant, but there really isn't any other way for this to go.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


Your mother has serious issues, which you can do nothing about. Live your life, and if she chooses to be part of it, great. In the meantime, get over your hangup about your mother meeting your boyfriend - that's just letting her into your head to fuck with your life, which I bet she has been doing for years now.
posted by Dasein at 5:24 PM on June 6, 2011


"Mom, I am an adult and I am in a loving relationship. I am now a "we" and your refusal to meet my partner means that I will no longer be able to see you."

And then actually act on it.

You can tell her this in person, via mail, email, phone, whatever.
posted by k8t at 5:32 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is nothing you can do to 'reason' with your mom. You've tried logic and she doesn't have a good reason for not wanting to meet your fiance.

If you want to be sneaky then take her out to dinner and have your partner "accidentally" show up.

If you want to deal with this like a well-adjusted adult you'll move forward with your life and your wedding plans and let your mom deal with her issues herself.

If you want your mom's crazy to rule your life then you'll keep procrastinating and continue to let this be an issue.

I'm with the group who says you should make your wedding plans, inform your parents of the time and date (with plenty of notice so they can't say they weren't prepared) and then go ahead and get married. The most important part of a wedding is the fact that you are getting married to the person you love, not who was or wasn't there.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:15 PM on June 6, 2011


Nthing "marry without your Mom's approval 'cause she's got her own issues that you can't fix".
posted by luckynerd at 6:49 PM on June 6, 2011


Get married. Send her pictures of you two married. Your mom doesn't sound happy and doesn't sound like she's capable of being happy for you. Move on with your life and be happy.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:31 PM on June 6, 2011


I’m uncomfortable with the idea of marrying my partner before he has met my parents,

You either get to be an adult, and make your own decisions or you get to do things with your parent's permission. If you aren't willing to do something your mother doesn't approve of, then you really aren't ready to get married. Time to choose.
posted by spaltavian at 8:12 PM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


N'thing "reader, I married him."
posted by kestrel251 at 9:44 PM on June 6, 2011


You're holding your partner hostage to your mother's craziness. Stop doing that and marry him already - this whole situation is so unfair on him it's ridiculous.
posted by hazyjane at 10:36 PM on June 6, 2011


You have to be OK with marrying him without him meeting your mom. Maybe she'll come around, maybe she won't, but if she knows she can manipulate you into not marrying somebody because she refuses to meet them then what incentive does she have to meet this guy?

Marry him, then worry about the introductions.
posted by biochemist at 10:44 PM on June 6, 2011


You are being forced to pick. My advice is to pick the person who isn't forcing you to make a choice between them.

This is sound advice in almost any set of circumstances.
posted by flabdablet at 10:59 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


A friend went through similar drama with her mom, who refused to give her blessing for her impending marriage, would not acknowledge how happy her daughter was with the fiance, and continually berated her for making supposedly crappy, selfish decisions. Friend put off the wedding in the hope that her mom would come around, but she didn't. Even now, a few years after they have settled into their marriage, she still cannot bring up her husband in conversation and her mom never asks about him. It's sad and breaks her heart.

You are being forced to pick. My advice is to pick the person who isn't forcing you to make a choice between them.

Yes, this. It's manipulative and unfair of your mom to make you choose between her and your fiance. It's also disappointing that she is behaving poorly and might possibly never come to acknowledge your fiance and your relationship. She's an adult and she's making her choice. Go make yours.

Set a date and extend an invitation, if you wish, but don't expect her to be there. Focus instead on surrounding yourself with loved ones who wish the two of you happiness.
posted by vespertine at 1:36 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your update reveals that your mom is practically handing control over to you. She does not want to be in the position of "blessing" it, who knows why. From my perspective, she wants you to carry on ... I predict once all the planning and aisle-walking is over, she will integrate. Keep inviting, keep it easy for her, and save her a special place for all events, but don't expect this one ritual meeting. Not happening, who knows why.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:56 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi, I am in a very similar position to you, and this question really struck a chord with me. In my case, my mother's religion is what causes her to hate my relationship. I've tried arguing, reasoning, sobbing and pleading, and what I've realised is that you can't convince someone out of their religious beliefs just by talking at them, no matter how hard you try. And religion as grounds for what my mother is doing is about as logical and understandable to me as your mother's reason (or lack thereof) must be to you. It has been infuriating.

Reading this thread has given me the courage to do what I have been mulling over for some time: I'm going to write to my mom and her that I don't want to fight or cry or dread the weekly phonecall I make to her anymore. Since that's all I get lately, I won't call. She knows my number, and I would love to hear from her when she wants to have a real relationship again. I hope you can gather similar inspiration from the wise words above.
posted by greenfelttip at 6:49 AM on June 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


How does your partner feel about all this?

The one you are going to marry - how does he feel that his life is paused, that he can't get married and start a family and be happy until your mother gives in?

How does he feel that his happiness and well being takes a backseat to your mother's wishes?

If that were me, I would be disconcerted. I would be wondering if I was sick, or hurt, or needful of your attention in any way, would you be there for me? Or would your mother be interfering and you would be cowed into indecisiveness? I would be worried that the person I chose to be my partner, the person I care for above all others, whom I would do anything for, doesn't reciprocate those feelings. And I would be very worried.

Think about your partner. Show him that his happiness and well being matter more to you than your mother's manipulation. Marry him, take him to your hometown, move on with your life, whether your mother approves or not. Go, be happy.

Good luck.
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:19 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


greenfelttip, congrats! I am reminded of the saying, "You cannot reason a man out of a position he did not reason himself into."

Anon, I encourage you to take this advice as well, and live your own life with your partner. Marriage is awesome!
posted by Xoder at 7:31 AM on June 7, 2011


My mother refused to meet my boyfriend--later fiance--ostensibly because he was separated (but not divorced) when we started dating. How long I let that make me feel like a slut! About a year later, I woke up to the fact that she had never been interested in meeting any of my boyfriends. (Oh, she'd reminisce about one or two boys I'd gone to dances with, but they were gay friends I went with just to go and have a good time, not because I was dating them. And she never believed me when I said they were gay.) Her reason for her lack of interest was generally, "It's not like you're going to marry him." Essentially, why waste her attention on someone who wouldn't be around for the long run? And I took this to be true and reasonable. It was all I knew from the time I started dating until well after I was out of college.

However, this time I had blindly upped the ante, because I was serious about this guy and I was 26, so the idea I might marry him was real. So she did what she could and refused to meet him or hear me talk about him. When I floated ideas to visit, or talked about my daily life, she would say "I don't want to talk about that." What eventually broke the impasse, sadly, was her inability to not be the center of attention or control over me. Because over the year we started dating, he met many of my other relatives and my mother began to hear about him from them. They would then naturally talk to her about him--because no one had told them she was denying his existence--and she didn't know anything about him or us. This embarrassed her a lot. She was used to controlling the information (gossip, updates, etc.) about me with her relatives and now I'd closed the loop without her.

In the end she denied ever having refused to meet him or talk about him. She simply asked me home for a holiday and when I said I wouldn't without boyfriend, she said, "Well of course he can come. I'd love to meet him. I don't know why you haven't introduced us yet." When I reminded her that she had refused, many times, to meet or talk about him, she told me I must have misunderstood.

So, to learn from my experience: One, your mom is *only* your mom. She's not your entire family. She shouldn't control your access to the rest of your family, with the goal of creating and maintaining a false reality about who you are. I recommend having honest open communication with whoever in your family you can, so that you don't feel more estranged and crazy than you already might. Two, your mother's being controlling BUT for a long period of our lives, we as children trust that control implicitly and it works out fine. It has a purpose (safety, love, inclusion, whatever). But now she's extending it unhealthily and neither she *nor you* have any context for another way of being. So that will be tough. Even if she or you fold on this issue, my guess is that there will be many other smaller issues where the same dynamic is at play and needs to be renegotiated. (Or, more likely, where you don't realize the dynamic is in play and fall into your old patterns and then kick yourself and .... oh wait, that's me.) Anyway, be prepared to bring a renewed sense of vigor to ALL your interactions with her. What she concedes about your relationship with your fiance, she may (unconsciously) seek to take back in other areas. Third, since she's not reasonable, be prepared for crazy-making about-faces, where she denies or blames you for the dynamic. Let other people know what she's doing. In my case I hid it for a long time and this only served to make her look reasonable and me look crazy and selfish. Talk calmly about her behavior with other people (fiance, dad, siblings, etc.) as things progress so that if she starts gaslighting or blaming you, other people around you, and you yourself, understand that she's the crazy one and not you.

I'm sorry you're going through this. Speaking up for yourself now, about this big thing, will make it easier to do again in the future.
posted by Yoshimi Battles at 7:54 AM on June 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think you're going to have to accept your mom the way she is, not the way you would like her to be. This may mean you have to give up your idea of your family of origin merging with the family you're making with your fiance. The important thing is not to betray yourself or your partner to try to pacify your unreasonable mother. You aren't going to change her or make her a reasonable person. She's stated her position over and over; time to learn to live with that. Make your life with your partner and don't let her control you any more.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:44 PM on June 7, 2011


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