I used to self-harm. Once, I punched myself hard enough to get a black eye. My mother thought my boyfriend hit me. She disapproves of him. He’s unemployed and got in a drunken fistfight in her house. He is also artistic and strange. My mother is practical and traditional (she says I should marry for money). My boyfriend and I took a break to get ourselves in order, but we’re so dependent, it was hard to mend. I went to therapy and got my self-harm under control. He learned how to take care of himself. A year ago, we got back together. I never told my mother. Last night, she sent a text: “I haven’t heard or seen you. You must be back with that guy!” I said: “I am seeing him and tired of keeping it a secret. I know you don’t approve, but I am happy. Also, the last two times I came by, you were with your boyfriend.” She hasn’t responded.
Are you savoring her silence? If your mom dislikes your boyfriend and her comments about him make you unhappy, not having to listen to her complaints should delight you. If it doesn’t, maybe you don’t really trust that your guy is right for you. Dating him could be a way to rebel against your mom. If so, that’s très traditional. The definition of traditional is something that has remained unchanged for centuries. Picking a guy according to a parent’s fears is an ancient story line. Ditch it. Choose a partner based on self-knowledge, shared values, communication, ease of resolving conflicts, trustworthiness, friendship and attraction.
I want you to know that it broke my heart to read that you have engaged in self-abuse. I am deeply grateful that you have discovered another way to live. Thank you for going to therapy and for employing the courage necessary to shed the lies that demanded self-harm. Now, apply your creative energy toward reducing stress and anxiety. Refuse to tolerate any chaotic behavior from your boyfriend. No more fistfights, drunkenness or irresponsibility. If he’s strange, well, we all are, honey. Some of us just wear that quality a little closer to the surface. But a few people are so desperate to be seen as special, that their behavior is severely awkward or deeply disturbing. If that’s the case, therapy is recommended.
One last thing: Why haven’t you shifted into an adult relationship with your mother? Even if she treats you like a child, you must do the emotional and psychological work necessary to respond to her as a mature adult. If you want her to mind her own business, treat yourself like a woman capable of navigating this world alone but able to ask for help when necessary. Otherwise, the power imbalance in your relationship with your mother will always create more harm than good.
What do you do about a friend who lies? There is everything from exaggerations to flat-out fat nasties. I am sick of it and the attention she gets. Should I stop hanging out with her completely or just tell her off when I know she is lying?
Don’t do anything. At least not until your actions are motivated by compassion, not revenge. When your motivation is compassion, you may feel nervous confronting her but can trust that doing so is an act of love. In that conversation you will not blame, accuse or project. You will state the facts and own your feelings. When motivation is revenge, there is a need to be right and prove that the other person is wrong. Remember, too, that being a truth teller is no guarantee that your friend will appreciate you. It’s OK to move on. You deserve trustworthy companions.
“Do not allow yourself to be imprisoned by any affection. Keep your solitude. The day, if it ever comes, when you are given true affection there will be no opposition between interior solitude and friendship, quite the reverse. It is even by this infallible sign that you will recognize it,” said the Jewish mystic Simone Weil. How do you measure love?