Tell Me About It: My mother thinks my older boyfriend is wrong for me
She doesn’t like him because he says he will never get married and have children, and he made this clear to me from the start
Tue, Apr 1, 2014, Irish Times – Kathryn Holmquist
Q My boyfriend and I are totally in love and share everything in common, from our careers to our hobbies and tastes. He’s my soul mate, and life is good. We moved in together a year ago and have a good lifestyle, but due to his work he has moved to London. I’ve been travelling there at weekends, which can be exhausting. He wants me to move to London and realistically I could find work there.
My problem is that my mother disapproves and after a few arguments, an icy silence has descended where we used to be so close, so I think she’s afraid of me leaving her. She says that, because my boyfriend is 15 years older (I’m in my late 20s), I should leave more time before I make a commitment. The real reason she doesn’t like him is that he says he will never get married and have children and made this clear to me from the start. She says this is selfish and I’ll regret it later. I wish I had never shared this with her.
My parents split when I was small, and my mother blames herself. She says I’m looking for a father figure, which is ridiculous . If my mother weren’t pushing the marriage and babies issue, I wouldn’t be thinking about it. Who knows what will happen? We could change our minds about children one day. How do I reconcile with her while also getting her to butt out of my life?
A You and your mother need to sit down and talk – really communicate. You are an adult with a right to make adult choices. Your mother is concerned about you, which is natural. She’s worried that the man you are with is much older and doesn’t want marriage and children. It’s equally valid that you have a right to your own choices.
“Both mother and daughter have valid points and are not listening to each other,” says psychotherapist Trish Murphy. “What you don’t want in this conversation is each person going into it determined to be right. Both are right, and both are wrong. They need to actually listen to each other as opposed to half-listening and trying to prove their points. The skill is to put time aside so you can listen to one another.”
Listen respectfully to your mother until she has said everything she needs to say and feels both heard and understood. Likewise, you need her to stay quiet and listen to your point of view until you have got everything off your chest. In this way, you will both be showing mutual respect as adults who care about one another.
It may be difficult to hear your mother’s fear that you may regret losing out on marriage and children. Your mother, meanwhile, needs to accept that she cannot plan and run your life.
This is a milestone for you as an adult. How you handle this with your mother will affect how you sort out further conflicts with people you are close to in all your future relationships, says Murphy.
Your boyfriend, to his credit, has been very clear about his future plans. You say that you could change your minds, but that’s irrelevant. Adult decisions are made based on current realities and always have consequences. How will you feel when you are 40, unmarried and without children, yet in a relationship? Will you be happy?
When we are in love, we tend to think all the best things about our beloved and may fool ourselves into thinking we can persuade them into becoming who we secretly want them to be. This can be positive when we support someone into fulfilling their potential. On the dark side, we can live in a delusion that our hero will eventually come around to our own point of view, even when – like you – we’re not sure what that is.
You don’t need marriage and children to have a loving relationship. But while predicting the future is a mistake, acknowledging the potential consequences of our decisions is common sense.