Friday, January 14, 2011

Non-infertility-related advice sought

Should there be a different standard for acceptable behavior for family members than there is for friends?

My parents divorced when I was 9, and my father raised my sister and me. My mother visited us regularly but was never like a "real" mother to us. Among other things, my mother is not a truthful person, and she often broke promises to us when we were kids.

After having had a strained relationship with my mother for several years, we had grown into what I considered a good adult friendship.  In many ways, I don't look at her as a "mother," in the sense that I think of that word as meaning someone loving and nurturing who puts her child's interests before her own.  (My paternal grandmother filled that role for me when I was a child.)  But up until a couple of days ago, I thought of her as a friend, or the way you might your quirky-but-lovable, never-married aunt. . . . someone who shares your genetics and has been in your life a long time.

However, now something has happened which makes me wonder if I should continue any relationship with her at all.  She has been staying at our house for the past seven weeks, and two nights ago I caught her in a lie about something relatively trivial that happened in the house while I was at work. (So dumb: she left juice and chocolate milk where the dogs could get to it, after being warned repeatedly--and experiencing firsthand--that they can and will get into things left on the counter.  She tried to tell me the stains on the carpet were from dirt they had tracked in, when their true source was obvious, as the carpet was disclored purple and brown and wet down to the padding.  Plus, I found one of the dog-chewed plastic bottles in the trash.)

When I confronted her with her lie, she clung to it, to the point of being ridiculous because the truth was clear. She simply would not admit that she had lied to me.  She also later tacitly admitted to my husband that I what I knew to be the truth about the situation WAS the truth.

I got angry and told her that her lying to me was inexcusable and that I would not tolerate it (among other things), and I haven't spoken to her since. She was already planning to leave this morning (thank goodness) prior to our run-in.  At this point, I don't know when (or if) I will talk to, or see, her again.

If a friend who was a guest in my home had done something like this, the friendship would now be over. I simply would not tolerate having someone lie to my face, particularly in my own home.  Without honesty, how can there be any trust?  And without trust, there can be no true friendship.
Is there any reason why the outcome should be different because the "friend" happens to be the woman who gave birth to me?
Your thoughts?


  1. I really don't know what to tell you. It's a tough situation. Maybe some distance for awhile will help you figure things out. It sounds like there's a bigger issue here, like maybe some mental problems? I would say to run it by your therapist, she can probably give you some good insight.

  2. wow, tough situation. i think i wpuld not treat her any differently.

  3. Wait a sec. She'd been staying with you for SEVEN weeks?!!!?? That's really long time to have a house guest. I have a feeling that there's a back story that we're missing here. I'm surprised that something didn't happen before now!

    I can only take 3-5 days with family and/or friends.

    I can't tell you if you should ever talk to her again. I think you should be open to a sincere apology, if you'll get one.

    The hardest lesson we have to learn as adults is to accept our parents for who they are, warts and all. Whether or not you want to have her in your life is another story, best decided with your therapist.

    I wish you peace with this.

  4. In your situation, I wouldn't treat her any differently than I would treat a friend. What you do now depends on whether you want to maintain a relationship with her despite her obvious shortcomings/mistakes/shitty behavior.

    This is not the same as your situation but my mom has done some unforgivable things to me (imo of course) but I want a relationship with her. I know that she would deny everything or never speak to me again if I brought up those things, so I ignore them. I also try to protect myself from that type of thing ever happening in the future. In my situation I do treat her differently then I would treat a friend because she is my mom.

    Yours is a crappy situation. I'm sorry you have to deal with that and I hope you are able to find a resolution.

  5. I may be coming from an entirely different perspective here, but here's my two cents.

    For years, I struggled with what kind of relationship to have with my father. It eventually landed me in therapy. What I learned? There shouldn't be a higher standard of what's acceptable and what's not. Plus, there shouldn't be the fall back of...but he's/she's my (insert relative here).

    So nope, to me, if this is how you feel, this is how you feel. Perhaps not completely shut her out but put back up some distance. I would be disgusted by this, too!

  6. I too am navigating a difficult relationship with my mother - I wish you all the best.


  7. I have no real advice for you, but I can see that this is a really complicated situation and you and your mother have a lot of history together. I think perhaps telling how you feel may help, regardless of she responds. At least you can know that you did all that you could to achieve honesty in your relationship.
    good luck to you.

  8. The timing is perfect. She's leaving now so you have some time to cool off.

    I wouldn't sever the ties over this. Not because it's unimportant (it *is* important and your indignation is justified), but because you might regret it later on (with a cooler head) and find that mending it at a later stage would be much more difficult for you (as it would include some painful pride-pocketing).

    I would bring up the subject really soon, in the manner of a stern recapitulation, closure and focussing on the future. I would say something such as 'Hopefully this experience has taught us that lies -even petty lies- place an enormous strain on our relation. It's a shame that we haven't been able to enjoy the last part of your visit because of this. But I'm sure we will make up for it the next time we're together.'

    That way you don't play down the importance of the incident, you show that you are in control and let her know that you are willing to give her a second chance on your own terms. And you say so in a kind but dignified manner.

    If things don't work out, it will *not* be your fault and you will never wonder if you've been too strict.

    Good luck.

  9. In the end, when your mom has passed, you might regret not keeping some sort of contact.
    That being said, 7 weeks is a long time for even people who adore each other to co-habitate. Maybe it would be best to meet on neutral ground in the future and to limit time together. And give yourself some time away first.

  10. Seven weeks in the same house as your mother, wow. What a tough situation. I don't know that the same rules apply with family, it sounds like your mom has some unresolved issues that are her own. Lying to you about something somewhat trivial, odd. I don't know that I would ditch a friendship over that nor would I end my relationship with my mom. Tough call, S. You may want to continue to have a guarded relationship with more defined boundaries and the sad knowledge of her less than stellar honesty. Sorry.

  11. Gurlee, you are far more forgiving than I. If this were a friend instead of my mother, the friendship would be over, and I never would have had to post this. ;-)

    I think setting some firm boundaries is going to be the way to go. It will be difficult, as my mom is a "give-her-an-inch-she'll-take-a-mile" kind of person, but I think it is necessary.

    For starters. . . no more weeks-long visits! Two weeks max after this!


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