Total denial

Joey Garcia

My boyfriend’s mother controls him and doesn’t like me. She says I talk and smile too much, so I can’t be trusted. She has health problems and was abused as a child. Every time my boyfriend talks about doing something different with his life—moving away, getting married to me—his mom manipulates him with her health issues. He is a perfect son, but she says he doesn’t care about her or love her. It breaks his heart. When she puts me down, he can’t defend me, or she throws a fit. It hurts. I have tried talking to her, but she ignores me. My boyfriend is also in total denial. He even talks baby talk to her sometimes, and since her divorce—when he was 4 (he’s 19 now)—she has called him the “man of the house.” He says she is one of his best friends. The weird thing is, they act like I’m the crazy one. Am I?

Yes, if you think he’s going to change. Your boyfriend and his mama blurred the lines of a healthy parent-child relationship a long time ago. When a divorced mother calls a male child “the man of the house,” she sends the message that he is her partner, not her child. In these relationships, the mother invests her son with her secrets and fears and relies on him to nurse her through the physical problems that are often the result of obesity or alcoholism. As her confidant and caretaker, her son takes pride in helping his mama and believes he is being good. But by rescuing her, he keeps her stuck and traps himself, too.

I dislike the current trend of parents saying that their minor children are their best friends. Can a 40-year-old really be the best friend of a 13-year-old? The qualities of friendship exist in a parent-child relationship, to be sure. But if a parent plans to remain in the role of an adult, mentor and guide, trying to be their child’s best friend is a distraction from their parental responsibilities. It would be more important for that parent to develop adult friendships and let their relationship with their child grow until that child is mature enough to move into the position of equality necessary between “best friends.”

If you continue dating your boyfriend, you will never be his best friend or even closest confidante. That space is filled. If you are willing to take a back seat to his mother for the rest of your life (since your boyfriend has talked about marrying you), continue in this relationship. But if you understand that marriage is about leaving your parents’ house (literally and figuratively) and bonding with your life partner, you will seek a love who is free to commit to you.

My girlfriend’s roommate always invites herself on our dates. She either has such a freakin’ pity party that my girlfriend asks her to join us, or she just asks where we’re going and comes along. I’ve told my girlfriend that I prefer just the two of us going out, but she shrugs it off. How can I get her to take me seriously?

Be direct but kind. When the roomie asks where you are headed, tell her. When she attempts join you, be clear: “[Your girlfriend’s name here] and I are going out alone tonight.” If your girlfriend protests, say: “I insist. I want some time alone with you.” If the roommate has drama, let her. She’s entitled to a response. But you don’t have to be so intimidated that you buckle. Finally, chat with your girlfriend about why she’s avoiding time alone with you.

Meditation of the week
“Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment. … What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you,” says author Eckhart Tolle. Which side are you on?

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