DEAR AMY: When you tell someone, “Please, give me time to get myself strong before you ask for support,” and they don’t listen, what options are there? My mom is a piece of work. We are all grieving from my dad’s sudden death in the summer. I am too overwhelmed with executor responsibilities, my six kids, husband and job to take care of her. One brother lives with her. I get the usual guilt for not talking with her but she’s been emotionally abusive to me my entire life, so her guilt is beyond “normal.” I told her to stop calling for support because I have no support to give her. I need to heal myself before I can help her. She called to tell me she loves me. She was in total tears until I asked if this was a suicide call. Then she stopped. Other than ignoring her calls completely (I only answer 20 percent of them, anyway) and deleting the messages immediately so I don’t hear the guilt, what can I do? I am trying to teach my kids it’s OK to not answer her calls. I am in counseling to heal from the loss of my dad. Mom just isn’t respecting my boundaries. Maybe I’ll tell her we’ll only use snail mail from now on. — Lost in Yonkers
DEAR LOST: I have to assume that there is a lot more that you aren’t saying here, because on the face of it, your response to your mother seems unkind. You put your own grief ahead of hers, and then blame her for trying to manipulate you into giving her some attention. Grief is very isolating; people who are grieving feel very alone. You are obviously completely overwhelmed. You are right that you need to regain your footing before you can be much help to your mother. But bringing up suicide as a way to manipulate her shows poor judgment on your part.
Counseling is a great idea. I hope you will discuss strategies to maintain respectful boundaries without being hurtful.
DEAR AMY: A woman I used to work with is a mentor and friend. We’ve known each other for over a decade. We no longer work in the same company, and so about four times a year, we make plans to see each other, usually at a restaurant or at my home. Often others are also included in our plans. More than half the time we make plans, this friend cancels — usually the day of; sometimes two hours prior to the event. I have been driving to where we were supposed to meet and gotten a text from her, canceling plans. The reasons are always about obligations to others that cropped up at the last minute. Today’s cancellation came four hours before she was supposed to be at my house. I had baked some treats, bought wine I know she likes, cleaned the house and arranged to take comp time to be home in time for her because she doesn’t like to drive after dark. Do I suck it up, realize this is her MO and not take it personally that she doesn’t see this as a priority? Or do I tell her how this makes me feel?
— Dissed in Denver
DEAR DISSED: The choice between sucking it up and seething with resentment and telling someone how you feel seems like a no-brainer. Some of your friend’s rudeness toward you might be related to your hesitance to react honestly regarding her habitual canceling on you at the last minute with a non-emergency.
Let’s say she sends a text saying, “Sorry I can’t make it; I’m taking my neighbor’s dog to the groomer at the last minute.” You can reply, saying, “This is extremely frustrating. When you do this I feel like getting together is a low priority for you.”
Unreliability is the enemy of friendship. A natural consequence to her behavior would be you choosing not to make hard and fast plans with her.
DEAR AMY: “Switzerland” was upset every time her sister bad-mouthed their mother. I understand this emotional toll. When my parents divorced, Dad would say nasty things about Mom. When he wouldn’t stop I mailed a letter explaining how his words upset me. I promised to hang up or leave every time he made negative comments about Mom. Many hang ups and walk outs later, Dad finally stopped. “Switzerland” should hang up or leave when bad-mouthing first starts. — Marilyn
DEAR MARILYN: Great advice.