DEAR CAROLYN: I have an autoimmune disorder that exhausts me. After a recent party at my boyfriend’s mom’s house, I heard that the mother and an aunt insist I came off “moody” and “mad.”
(1) I was freaking tired! And, (2) I faked it anyway. I played games, lit sparklers, ate/talked with the extended family.
Later in the evening this (typically intoxicated, always unbalanced) mother of his also told him she doesn’t like me. This was all news to me, because even though she’s fit for a straitjacket, we’ve always had a surprisingly good relationship.
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I’m supposed to be avoiding stress, and I don’t need this. I’ve never skipped a gathering of theirs, but now all I want to do is punch his mom in the face for being such an unprovoked jerk.
Oh, and BF and I are talking rings, so although he supports our spending less time with his mom’s family for a while, the odds of that working out in the next year are slim. Advice?
— Boxing Gloves Are On
DEAR BOXING GLOVES:
I’m concerned about your boyfriend passing along her remark about not liking you, though. If she is indeed “typically intoxicated,” then the compassionate move would have been for your boyfriend to write off his mom’s words as possible drunken spew. If she said it enough to prove she meant it, then the next step would be for him to address it with her privately, a la: “Mom, I’m not sure you understand what her illness means. It means she doesn’t really have energy for a big family party. It means that when she comes to all of them anyway, she’s doing it to be close to us. If only as a favor to me, please judge her by what she does give, and not by what you think she should.”
If (when) that failed, then it would be time for him to talk to you about it. And you to him, too; you don’t want to hit him over the head with your animosity toward his mom, but hiding it wouldn’t be right, either. You both need to know what comes with those rings you’re eyeing.
My advice is for you and your boyfriend to discuss and recommit to the idea of looking out for each other.
His looking out for you involves a few things. First, he defends you to his mom, along the lines I suggested. Second, he encourages you to skip the more taxing family events, and absorbs any flak. Third, he reports his mom’s negativities to you on a need-to-know basis only. Finally, he recognizes that unwarranted attacks on you mean his playing the middle is no longer an option.
Your looking out for him involves admitting you might have overreacted to an isolated incident, and forgiving the mother’s negativity.