DEAR CAROLYN: For decades my mother has ignored me and my children, or treated us unfairly in comparison to my siblings. Years of therapy have helped me understand this is not because I am a horrid person, and I work hard to be extremely kind and loving to my own family.
The problem is my mother constantly brags about how much she has done for us and how she has helped us in times of need, when this is far from accurate.
For example, after my recent major surgery she visited for 10 minutes, heated up a can of soup for me and left. Her story, however, has her staying for days slaving over my every need.
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She has given my siblings tens of thousands of dollars, but a one-time loan to me years ago, paid back with mandatory interest, is now claimed in her revisionist history to anyone in earshot, as a generous gift.
The list is endless. Do I have the right to set the record straight?
DEAR J.: The “right to,” yes, of course; that’s indisputable. What concerns me is whether there would be any point to it.
What you describe is someone either blind to who she really is, highly invested in being the hero in her every narrative — or, so poisonously, both. Notifying such people of their failings tends only to renew their motivation to tout their own heroics — and, of course, your wretchedness by comparison.
If that doesn’t sound like a rockin’ good time, or if you don’t think the catharsis or self-affirmation of speaking your truth will be worth it, then skip the record-straightening.
There’s a more productive alternative. Being around your mother is a choice, and therefore it’s something you can also choose not to do.
Had enough with her self-aggrandizing lies at your expense? Then stop being around to hear or hear about them. Magic.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a junior in college, and have a boyfriend whom I like spending time with very much, but can’t see things working out with him in the long run. Is it the responsible thing to do to break things off with him now, or is it better to see where things go and re-evaluate after graduation?
DEAR J.: Why the grim prognosis? Thanks.
He’s in the habit of taking out frustrations on other people, by picking fights and seething at the world when something doesn’t go his way. He also procrastinates to the point where he asks me to remind/nag him about things.
— J. again
DEAR J. AGAIN: Given how quickly these behaviors can wipe the “enjoy” out of spending time with someone, this question might answer itself.
In fact, the next question you need to ask: Why is this about breaking up in 2014, and not, say, tonight? You’ve identified significant things you don’t like about your boyfriend. That’s not only the most common outcome from dating, but also the general precursor to most “This isn’t working out … ” conversations.
Meanwhile, carrying this relationship to graduation with the full expectation of breaking up with him afterward reduces him to, essentially, your collegiate convenience. Surely you respect him, or just humans in general, more than that?
For what it’s worth, he’s immature. Way. It’s possible he will ripen into someone who recognizes his problems aren’t everyone else’s. But it’s also possible he’ll double down on his sense of entitlement, and escalate his “fights” and “seething” into the realm of emotional, verbal, even physical abuse.
People are who they are — not whom you hope they will become. Choose your exposure to them accordingly.