How should I respond to mom's latest crazy antics?
March 29, 2009 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Just found out mom got married to a guy a few days ago she was considering dating. I don't know how to respond. How should I deal with this new development?

You can see by my previous questions that I've had issues of the motherly type before. Previously, she was shacked up with some 27 year old loser on the coast and I didn't know if she was homeless or not.

Anyway, the abusive loser dumped her in January I believe and she had to move back home with friends and family. I haven't been talking to her much because I've worked with a psychologist to distance myself from her and her problems but I chat with her every couple of weeks lately.

A few days ago she called and we talked briefly about her starting to date this guy, who was in the same circle as my step dad (he passed away about three years ago), and who seemed like a decent enough guy. She told me she still had feelings for loserboy on the coast and that she wasn't attracted to this new guy at all, but that he had a good personality and was old-fashioned. He reminds her of my step dad (same age: mid-50's, same group of friends, same type of history).

Now today I called her to see how she is doing, if she took this new guy to dinner to meet some of her friends like she said she was going to, etc. and she told me she just got back from Reno last night and she was married to him.

Honestly, I am shocked. My husband and I were speechless for a long time. I really don't know how to react. I asked if she was happy and she said she didn't know how she felt right now and that she had to get used to it. My sister went with them and seems really excited and happy but my mom had already told me from the previous phone call that my sister was encouraging her to date this guy because he has a steady job, money, and a house.

I just don't know how to respond. I actually feel bad for this guy if he is decent because my entire family is one big ball of crazy and I don't think she loves this new guy. I also worry about my sister trying to take advantage of him. I don't live anywhere near any of my family and I've built my life away from them on the advice of psychologists and just for my own mental health so I'm not involved in any of their day to day lives.

I am going to meet them sometime soon for lunch (they live a state away but he comes up here for his job and she's gonna come with him). I don't know how to respond to this situation. Should I be supportive? Should I just keep my distance and be polite? I am just shocked right now and don't really know how to approach this situation.
posted by rainygrl716 to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Be supportive, but in a way that allows you to maintain your boundaries.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

There aren't many hard-and-fast rules I go by, but NO ONE in the early stages of a relationship wants to hear that they are doing something wrong/foolish and very few people can hear that sort of thing without getting very upset.

Offer your congratulations and best wishes, and then go back about your business. It doesn't seem like your mother is asking anything of you, so all you do is shake your head in wonderment and wait to see what happens.
posted by chudmonkey at 7:39 PM on March 29, 2009

I just don't know how to respond.

That's a completely valid response in and of itself. You don't know how to respond, so why should you?

If you want to be frank just say, "Wow. It's kinda disturbing that you guys got married so quick. I though only coked-up celebrities did that." Otherwise, wish them and prepare for it all to fall apart in the very near future.
posted by wfrgms at 7:44 PM on March 29, 2009

"Good luck with that, mom."
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:54 PM on March 29, 2009

Even if your mom's a loon, you make it sound like this guy has a reasonably sensible head on his shoulders. Maybe this really is what he wants. Of course, it may well still end up a complete catastrophe, but one he walked into with his eyes open. You might be able to trust his judgment, if not your mom's.

I agree with chudmonkey: just congratulate her and refuse to get involved.

I can only imagine how shocked you must feel. I'm sorry for your troubles.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:55 PM on March 29, 2009

Honestly I don't see how any advice is going to help. She's not going to hear you out, and then decide it was a foolish decision and annul the whole thing.

And if you remove helping her from the equation, you reacting in any sort of negative way is merely to vent, and just for your own benefit. I know its hard to believe, but being ambivalent about the situation is just fine. You don't *have* to inform her of how you feel. The world won't implode if you just react to it like any other news, with a simple "oh, that's interesting."

That being said, I don't mean to be condescending or insulting in any way. I'm just imagining myself in that situation, and imagining what I would need to hear to be (while not OK with the situation), ok.

Best of luck.
posted by aleahey at 7:56 PM on March 29, 2009

Well, I can relate, as my mother in law (in her seventies) married a man she met on the internet literally weeks after her third husband died of a brain tumor. I think they literally married a day or two after they met IRL for the first time.

The best thing is to wish them well and realize it is their life, not yours. They chose to do what they did-and hey, the guy is just as responsible as your mom-and who knows, it might actually work out. My mother in law is happy as far as I know-and that's all that really matters to me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:00 PM on March 29, 2009

"Isn't that terrific? Good luck"
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:03 PM on March 29, 2009

Detach, detach, detach! Have lunch, meet the guy, wish them luck, and go home. It might help to have another visit with the psychologist to help you maintain your boundaries. A big problem with having dysfunctional family members is that they consider their bizarre behavior normal, and it can cause a lot of cognitive dissonance trying to balance your view against theirs. So, I recommend that you allow yourself to be appalled, see your mom just to see her, and let her get on with it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:10 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sometimes people make choices that we disagree with. This will happen many, many times in your life. The correct thing to say when someone gets married is, "Congratulations".

Since you pointed us to your previous posts about your mom, I read them. Frankly, you've done all but cut her out of your life, and that doesn't lead to the kind of relationship where you can question any of her decisions in talks with her. And even if you had a close relationship, I don't see that your mom has asked for your advice.

If you want the "congratulations" to seem genuine, spend a moment to think about her life, from her perspective. In the past few years, she's lost her husband, her sister, a boyfriend, and basically you. Probably a marriage with a stable man who reminds her of her husband is not a bad thing. She is probably finding some measure of happiness and security with him. So, congratulate her on her good fortune, and let the rest of it go unsaid.
posted by Houstonian at 8:11 PM on March 29, 2009 [12 favorites]

What TheLightFantastic said.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 8:18 PM on March 29, 2009

I just don't know how to respond.
"I can't tell you how happy this makes me."

Because, well, I don't know myself....
posted by Floydd at 8:20 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't be rude or passive aggressive or do anything but be nice. The new husband sounds like a steady guy and he's a grown-up. You job is to not insert yourself into their life. Just be pleasant and warm. Don't overthink it or think of how it reflects on you or any of the worries you have about your mom. She's fine now. Let it be and breathe a sigh of relief.
posted by anniecat at 8:38 PM on March 29, 2009

I don't think you need to pretend to be unfazed, or even to endorse this as a good idea. Just saying "Gosh, what a surprise! Well, Mom, you know I want you to be happy, and I wish you and {sudden husband} the very best of luck" seems to bridge the gap between "HOLY SHIT" and "awwww".
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:47 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I don't know how to respond to this situation. Should I be supportive? Should I just keep my distance and be polite?"

Enjoy lunch. Be polite, and then keep your distance while reminding yourself that this isn't your problem.

You cut her out of your life when you were 18. Now, you're 24. Is it possible that you're overcompensating to make up for lost time?

You're an adult, married and living on your own, am I right? Your mother is almost certainly making a mistake, but she too is an adult and it is her mistake to make. Three of your last six questions have been about your mother. You need to live your life and let her live hers. That doesn't mean you have to be happy for her when she makes bad decisions, but you also don't have to try to change them. Her decisions are hers to make - mistakes included.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:04 PM on March 29, 2009

Best answer: Even if your mom's a loon, you make it sound like this guy has a reasonably sensible head on his shoulders.

I question this because, you know, he married her. Pretty much right out of the box. If I were you, in all honesty I would just say, "Congratulations, mom; I hope this will all work out for you," and move on to other topics. If she is going to get married more or less off the cuff, I woiuld not treat the situation with any more gravitas than she does.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:18 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a similar (although less dramatic) experience two years ago. My mother (a widow) was dating a man (a widower) for a couple of months and when we spoke about it on the phone she was unsure if the relationship had a future. Just a few weeks later she called to tell me that they were getting married, she was quitting her job and changing cities to be with him. I met my fake-dad and his three grown children for the first time outside the church on the day of the wedding. Despite the relationship progressing so quickly, two years later my mother had found real happiness with her husband. As for the man your mom married, I would say that he likely knows what he's getting into. After 50 years it doesn't suprise me that it is easier to recognize what they really want faster than you or I can. YMMV (well, clearly it has).
posted by saradarlin at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2009

Best answer: We must be long lost sisters. Without going into too much detail, I have dealt with a similar situation with my own mother. I have not YET been to therapy (but will be soon for this and many other things), I can say that this is definitely difficult and there is no easy answer. I have struggled between distancing myself and just letting her chose her own path, knowing that I am not responsible, and wanting to be the responsible family member and letting her know she's acting like a 17 year-old, while maintaining a relationship with my mom.

I have since chosen to grow some balls tell her I'm not supporting her, giving her money, etc. Although that was difficult, she's stopped asking for money and help and when she tells me she's moving to the opposite coast to move-in with a guy that she met on the internet and never met, then I just say that's great, I hope that works out for you. I'm not sure how I became the parent in the relationship, but at least I don't feel the guilt that I once felt. I hope this works out for you. I am still involved in my mother's life because she's my only mother afterall, but I am not quite so emotionally invested. Unfortunately, a lot of us don't get the mother that is our best friend and mentor. Sucks, but its a reality.

Good luck!
posted by getmetoSF at 6:56 PM on March 30, 2009

It's not obvious to me that this is a bad idea, actually. You say things were more stable when your stepfather was around, and this guy reminds her of him and might even have known her back in those days. So, hey, maybe this is all for the best.

I'd go to lunch with "a wedding gift," like a card or maybe a house plant, congratulate them, and welcome the guy into the family (such as it is). Then go back to your normal, happy life, and go see your therapist a few extra times, and enjoy your healthy and beautiful household, and be glad that their problems are not your problems while still mentally wishing them the best.
posted by salvia at 11:07 PM on March 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all for taking the time to respond. I know in my head that I need to let her be but sometimes my heart just won't let go.

It's a moot point either way. I never met the guy (though I did talk to him a few times) and it didn't last a month (not his choice, her choice, he was calling me and asking me how he could make it work because he was serious about this and I believe he is still in contact with my sister). I felt bad for the guy but it is honestly for the best. My mom is not stable right now. She isn't taking her meds and she is drinking a lot. I would say she was most likely in a manic phase when she married him given that I haven't heard her sound like that in years and I found out she wasn't taking her Lithium regularly.

Each time I struggle with myself and my interactions with my mom I do come away with new perspective and I have realized not to beat myself up for everything, so there is a positive side to this for me. I think I am getting stronger in regards to my mom and what boundaries need to be there.

Thank you all again for providing the perspective I needed.
posted by rainygrl716 at 4:20 PM on May 3, 2009

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