DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year and a half. We’re both 32 years old. I live at home with my divorced mother. He lives alone two hours away. We make an effort to see each other every couple of weeks. I plan to move closer to him. I have a successful career and I don’t want to quit unless I have another job lined up. We want to wait until after marriage to live together. My family doesn’t quite approve of him because they feel he doesn’t meet their religious standards. I’m comfortable with how my boyfriend and I share our faith. We are loving and supportive. My boyfriend thinks my mother controls my life. He thinks she is too intrusive, and that I need to do something about it. My mother is old-fashioned. She distrusts my boyfriend who, she says, doesn’t visit often enough, and never told her what his intentions are. She worries that I will suffer the “same mistakes” she has made and that my boyfriend will tear me away from my family. I love my mother, but I realize she needs to let go. I worry that she will come between us, and that she will blame him for my much-needed independence.
Torn and in Love
DEAR TORN: The individuals on either side of this family drama want to use you to control the other, but they’re both trying to control you.
You need to figure out how you feel about your own life and choices. You will then have to convey, plainly and clearly, to your mother and your boyfriend where the boundaries are.
Then you must patrol these borders with the fortitude of a crossing guard, and nab anyone who violates your boundary.
At the age of 32, you still live with your mother. This choice keeps your life intimately entwined with hers. I agree with your boyfriend that the dynamic should change, mainly because it seems to be causing problems for you.
If you want to continue to live with her, you’ll have to tell her, “Mom, enough. You’ve already told me your thoughts about my boyfriend. I want you to know that I hear you, but your continued criticism is unwelcome. You’re not dating him — I am.”
To your boyfriend, you should say, “My family and I are a package deal. You could make my life easier by trying harder. Please don’t tell me how to relate to my mother. I’m already working on that. You need to concentrate on how you relate to her.”
DEAR AMY: I attended a birthday party for a friend’s mom a month ago. This is a fairly new friend, and I was delighted to be invited. I’d met his mom and family on a few other occasions and had really clicked with them. I looked long and hard for the perfect gift and card. I brought my gift to the party and placed it on the gift table. I saw the family load all of the gifts into a large shopping bag (my gift was in a tiny bag). It’s been almost four weeks and neither my friend nor his mother has mentioned the gift or the card. I expected that she would text me when she opened it. I don’t want to ask my friend if his mom liked my gift. I don’t want to ask his mom if she liked it, as I feel that it looks like I’m looking for a thank you. I just want to know that the gift didn’t get lost and that she actually received it. What’s a gift-giving gal to do?
Confused gift giver
DEAR CONFUSED: You are looking for a “thank you.” And you should receive one. Contact the mom. Tell her that you really enjoyed spending time with her on her birthday.
Then say, “This is embarrassing but I am worried that you might not have received my gift and card. Can you let me know?”
DEAR AMY: I agree with your advice to “Feeling Alone,” the woman whose father raped her. My wife revealed that her father molested her as a child. Her family showed little empathy. Family doesn’t have to be “biological.” Family can be those people who treat you as such. This woman is right to walk away from the “toxic” family members she described.
DEAR HUSBAND: The outpouring of support for “Feeling Alone” justifies my faith in humanity.