Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In-Law Week, Day 2: And A Man Shall Leave His Mother...?

[Ed. Note: Tazi has had a large influx of letters from men complaining about their mothers and wives complaining about their in-laws. I have decided to make this "In-Law Week" in an effort to let Tazi make the world a better place!].

Dear Tazi:

I have always been kind of a Mamma's Boy, but that is because my father left when I was a very young child, so it has always been mother and me. The first time I left home was to go away to graduate school, which I did several years after receiving my undergraduate degree. I say "first" because I moved home once after that due to a poor economy and student loans. I have since moved out (over my mother's objections) and have a nice home of my own a few miles from my mother's - far enough that I can see her, but not so far that she would have to stay over when she comes to visit.

"I learned a lot watching television!"

I recently had a milestone birthday and have decided that it is time to take the next step with my girlfriend of two years. I plan on asking her to marry me this Valentine's Day! Of course, I told my mother this...and her reaction was far less than what I had hoped.

Mother got very upset when I told her I wanted to marry "Samantha" and went off on a litany about why she is all wrong for me. Everything from "Samantha is a stripper name! No good will ever come of a woman named Samantha!" to "she is beneath you financially; she is a GOLDDIGGER!". Tazi, Have an advanced degree in Chemical Engineering. I don't want to sound like I am bragging, but there are not a lot of people who are above me financially, except for CEO's who have basically sold themselves to their corporations. I pointed this out to Mother, and she told me I was ignoring her argument. When I further pointed out that Samantha is not only a faithful church-going woman and a Eucharistic minister but a woman I met shortly after graduating, when I had no job, no money, and lived with my Mom, Mother retorted that Samantha "saw the potential" of who I could be and staked her claim early.

Tazi, Mother has never made a single disparaging comment about Samantha in the past so I was quite surprised to hear her arguments against my marrying her. I asked Mother if she thought I was replacing her and she went off on a crying jag, saying that she had her suspicions that I was looking for an excuse to push her out of my life, and that I had just confirmed them. I tried to calm her, but Mother said that if I hadn't been planning to cut ties with her why would I even suggest that was the reason for her upset.

I am considering asking Samantha her feelings about building an in-law apartment onto my house so Mother could live with us, but I am afraid that she would only say yes to please me...I know I am only considering it to please Mother. It took me almost 30 years to permanently leave my mother's home an exert myself as a man. I have no desire to go back to what was. I just can't. What should I do?

Mamma's Boy But Samantha's Man

Dear Mamma's Boy But Samantha's Man:

The last paragraph of your letter is quite revealing. You say that it took you "almost 30 years" to leave your mother's home and exert yourself as a man. It sounds to me that your mother has held a great deal of control over you and how you lead your life - right down to where you bought your house. I am going to guess that you had some kind of counseling in the past to help you to break free of your mother's unhealthy grip; either way, I am going to suggest that to you now. You may want to meet with a pre-marital counselor now, and have Samantha join you after you get engaged. A counselor will be able to help you develop ways to deal (and sometimes cope) with a demanding parent who does not wish to be put second for anyone. According to the Book of Ephesians (5:31) "...a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. The two will become one." Regardless of your religious views, this is common sense and the very basis upon which marriage is based!

It is possible that your mother's poor experience with marriage has tainted her against it and she feels she is trying to save you from the heartache that it brought her. I suggest that you have a sit-down talk with your mother on neutral ground - say, a local coffee shop where she is less likely to make a scene. Explain to her that you love her and will always be there for her, and that her reaction to your wanting to marry Samantha has deeply hurt you, but not changed your mind. Tell her you would like to know where this fury is coming from before it drives a wedge between the relationship you have with her and that she has with Samantha. Do not give her the upper hand because she will grab it and use it to manipulate you. If your mother starts to get emotional tel her that you will continue the conversation when she has regained her composure. Give her a few minutes and if she gets worse be a gentleman and escort her to the ladies room to handle herself in private. Do this once. If she starts a second time, tell her that you cannot talk with her when she is like this and that things will have to be continued another time.

At some point, you will have to get across to your mother that just because you are getting married you will not be abandoning her. Continue to assist her in ways you always have, or pick up the pace if you have not been assisting her with lawn care, car care, and other things that older women of a certain generation generally do not enjoy doing. Meet with your Mom once a week for coffee or lunch to have some "mother-son time". Draw your own boundaries, and make your mother aware that they are there and are not to be crossed. Do not even add "except in case of an emergency" because you will then discover just how little can constitute an "emergency". If your mother is truly in a panic, she will call regardless of boundaries; if you give her an emergency out she will call because she "ran out of creamer for her coffee and can't possibly drink it black because that will aggravate her ulcer, which will send her to the emergency room"...you get the picture, right?


P.S. Did you see yesterday's letter from someone with a similar issue? --T.K.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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