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Author Topic: Need advice - mom & the man I'm dating
garammasala
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Hello Scarleteen readers,

Iím a 22 year old college girl living with my parents. I am an only child. A couple years back, I started dating a 28 year old graduate student (Keoni) who was my former instructor for a summer class I took several years ago. While we have our own little hiccups and problems here and there, we generally have a satisfying, understanding, and romantic relationship with each other. Iím writing to you, however, because my mother does not approve of us and does not want us to continue dating.

It didnít start off that way, although she already didnít think much of him when she found out that heís not only a gamer, but also wasnít majoring in a field that she felt would lead to much job security or viable skills after graduation, i.e. engineering or computer science; Keoni is a PhD candidate in political science. When she finally met him in person, she liked him even less because of his disheveled appearance; she also felt that he didnít have a face that looked trustworthy to her because he didnít maintain good eye contact with the person he speaks with at the moment.

Seeing how she felt about him already, I selectively did not tell her certain things about him that I knew she would further frown upon, i.e. his recreational drug use with marijuana, the number of partners heís had before me, and the dirty room he lives in. My mother did make clear to me, however, that she did not want us being sexually active with each other while we were dating because she is not ok with us, (me in particular) having premarital sex. What she didnít know was that I was already sexually active with a previous partner I ended up leaving due to relationship problems years ago before meeting Keoni. I had read Heather's S.E.X. book, and I went through the sexual readiness checklist; having checked off most of the list with confidence, I felt I was personally ready to be sexually active and had the means to take care of myself in case something happens, e.g. emergency contraceptives, condoms, getting tested, etc. Needless to say, Keoni and I had sex multiple times anyway, and we both took care of the issues that came up without trouble.

Keoni and I had our disagreements and fights now and then, but we would generally try to resolve our problems via communication with each other in person and/or over the Internet. There were a couple times, however, that we had big fights. The first was when I had forgotten my flash drive in school, and needed it to do my homework. It was already late, and I had called Keoni to see if he could walk with me onto campus to retrieve it, as it was already getting quite dark and I didnít feel safe being alone on campus. He had been working on a project that week and had overexerted himself to the point of fatigue. Initially, he agreed anyway, but when I got to campus and called him again, he had fallen asleep and did not answer my calls. I ended up having to run quickly onto campus to get my flash drive and walk all the way home alone. I was extremely upset, and when my mother found out about it, she became suspicious that Keoni was not as great as I thought he was.

The second big blow up occurred over a similar situation. Everyday after class, Keoni would wait for me at the school campus library to walk me home. My classroom was in a building that was isolated from the rest of the other buildings on campus, and during the summer when the sun set late, I had no problem walking out alone from my classroom to meet him in the library to go home together. However, summer was turning into fall and winter, and with that, the days became shorter and darker quicker. Again, I didnít feel safe coming out alone (I often left the class late because of asking my instructor questions about the lecture that day), and had requested that Keoni wait for me outside of the classroomís building instead. I guess when I asked him, I was still upset about a previous incident in which I wasnít amused at a joke he pulled on me earlier, and didnít come off as clearly and respectful as I should have; as a result, he got upset and stubbornly refused to wait closer to me. The distance between the library and the classroom is roughly a five minuteís walk. When I asked him why, he said there was no Internet connection in front of my classroomís building and heíd be bored waiting for me. We ended up arguing, and eventually it got to the point where he brought up what appeared to be resentment of me depending on him so much; he asked me what I would do if he was not there, and I replied that I would get my mother. In response, he then asked what I needed him for, and I answered that perhaps I didnít need him after all. By that time I was incredibly shocked, hurt, and angry. The next day when I got out of my class, I looked about me in hopes that heíd be there waiting in front of my classroom despite everything, but he wasnít. I ended up walking home in the dark from school all alone. My mother saw me come home upset, and she asked me whatís wrong. Overwhelmed with hurt and anger, I broke down and between hacked sobs, I told her what happened. Furious, my mother decided that I break up with him because despite me having placed my trust and hopes that heíd be there for me when I needed him most in him, he behaved selfishly at my expense.

I ended up cutting off contact from him for three weeks. I was miserable, and I felt bad because I didnít communicate with him what I was going through. Iíd think back to all the good times we had before, and I missed him. Keoni was having a rough time, too. Heíd send me e-mails, one of them in which he ended telling me that I didnít love myself and because of that, I could never appreciate anything he does or how he tries to show he loves me. Keoni later admitted that he sent that e-mail by mistake because he was getting frustrated and sad over my silent treatment. Eventually, we ended up getting back together in hopes of reconciling with each other by admitting what we did wrong and how we can improve ourselves so we can better resolve future blowups.

That was back in October. Now, fast forward to the present; Keoni and I are still together, and my mother doesnít quite know, but she suspects that we might have gotten back together. Keoni and I still see each other and keep in touch by phone and over the Internet, but weíre more discreet about spending time together. He brings over flowers and small gifts during the holidays in hopes to win over my mother again and to hopefully show that he is sorry for how he acted and that he would like a second chance. We are essentially sneaking around behind her back because we know my mother would not be happy to discover us together. Sheís still livid over the last big blowup and thinks that Keoni doesnít deserve a second chance because of what he did to me; if she had to shoot him with a shotgun to keep him away from me, sheíd do it. My mother is fiercely protective of me, and it tears me apart because of all the secrets I have and canít tell her. Just today, she heard my phone ringing and picked it up to see Keoniís number showing up. She was so upset she nearly threw my phone on the floor in her desire to break it so he canít call me anymore. In her mind, there is no possibility of reconciliation; anything positive that he may try to do is seen as an attempt to woo me back so that he can mistreat me again, and she wonít have that.

Iím coming to you now, because Iím overwhelmed and flustered. I donít know what to do. I think the easiest solution is that Keoni and I no longer see each other, but Keoni wants to see if there are alternatives, with us breaking up as the last resort.

Your response is appreciated.

Posts: 9 | From: United States of America | Registered: Jan 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Captain Girl
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I think that decisions on whether or not to stay with your boyfriend would be much easier and all around better if you were thinking about yourself first, your boyfriend second, and your mother not at all. The way that she's trying to involve herself in your decisions here is making it hard for you to determine which decisions are best for you.

Ultimately, I don't know if you should keep dating Keoni or not. But I wonder if things would look any clearer to you if you were making decisions in your own apartment, or in a living situation that you shared with friends. Not your mom's house. Not Keoni's house. Some place where you can decide whether and when to invite them in.

Are you graduated or close to it? To what extent do you need financial help from your parents at this point? Do you have a job, or can you find one, that pays enough that you could support yourself reasonably well? If you live near a university, you are coming up on summer sublet season, and this is the time of year when students try to sort out their living situations for September.

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garammasala
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I'll be graduating next Saturday after finals. I don't have a job, and have been discouraged from finding one throughout my college career so I could better focus on my studies (I supplemented with short-term volunteer work and non-paid internship positions). The next several months after graduation will be rather intense, as I will be doing a non-paid full time (8.5 hours/day Mondays to Fridays) post-baccalaureate clinical internship at several sites (it's part of the program I'm in, so it's not on my own accord), some farther than others, as well as studying for my registry exam coming up in November. The whole ordeal is not friendly to the idea of finding a job that will pay the rent, considering how at this time I can't work full time during the day and night, much less find a place to live on my own. As a result, I am currently depending on my parents for food, shelter, and amenities. Because I have my plate so full right now, I may choose to put off living on my own until later -- maybe a few years down the line when I get my license and have a better chance of getting a higher paying job.

I can understand respecting and living with my mother's restrictions because I choose to live in her house, but at the same time, it bothers me to have my privacy invaded and be told how to run my own love life. Of course, I understand her sentiment; I have grown up sheltered, and she doesn't want me to get hurt because I haven't had much experience in dating; at the same time, she wants me to find someone she can approve of. Should I take a breather with Keoni because of all the unnecessary drama our relationship is creating, or is there a way around this that I can end up with everyone happy?

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Captain Girl
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I hate to badmouth people's parents, but if your mom's concern is that you may not be judging well because you haven't dated much, her strategy (trying to substitute her judgment for yours) is counterproductive. However, as a mother (and as someone who tried that speech on my own mother once), I do not recommend putting this forward as an argument in support of her allowing you to mind your own business. It Will Not Go Well.

From here, it looks like the problem is that there too many people trying to exert authority. Your mom wants you to do what she says. Keoni wants you to overrule your mom. You want to do what you want (as soon as you figure out what that is). I'm in favor of moving out because it gives you room to refuse authority, and (hopefully) adds credibility when you tell your mother that you are an adult, and you will be making your own choices.

So you're talking about your relationship, and I'm throwing out all this stuff about adulthood. I'm doing that because I think the two things are highly related. I think you are in a situation where you need either to break things off with your boyfriend (because of the gigantic drama it causes in your living situation), or to take steps to claim your own adulthood.

Neither of those things will make everyone happy. I'm sorry.

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garammasala
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Hello again, it's me. Heather, if you are out there and can spare a moment and a second opinion, I will be forever grateful. I'm at my wit's end with this problem. I appreciate Captain Girl's advice on moving out, but unfortunately, I don't have the means to be ready to do that yet. Instead, I would value thoughts on how I can cope in the meantime.

I just got out of one of my mother's many lectures on my relationship with Keoni again, and I just about want to scream. My mother just won't let up on verbally bashing this guy, and every time she goes off on him, I feel totally awful. In her eyes, he's a failure; he's 30 something years old and still in school with no job, no car, and no house. That translates to lazy, selfish, and someone who seeks the easy way out in life and cuts corners. Never mind that he already has a Masters in Economics and is now finishing up his dissertation for a PhD in world politics, has several job prospects lined up after graduation that would nicely take care of him, has no need for a car because he can get around nicely by bus, and is still currently renting but has enough to move out to a place worth buying when the opportunity presents itself. This woman can't be reasoned to, does not want to be reasoned to, and all I can do is listen and try my best to understand while knowing in the back of my mind that I would not be granted the same reciprocity in open-mindedness.

My mother grew up abused by my maternal grandmother in all its colors--physically, mentally, psychologically. And this was during the turbulent era of the Cultural Revolution. When she married my father, she was leaving alone with his family to the US; his sisters looked down on her and considered her to be someone looking to use my father to get into the States so she can then dump him to find another man. My father, believing this to be true, decided that the best way to keep mom from straying was to control her life, essentially--have tight reign on her time, her money, and even her interests. To this day, she exists solely to serve him and outside of her work, she has no friends, no outdoor activities, and no allowance to freely spend her money on things she likes.

Granted, she means well. I am, after all, her only child; she told me what field to go into for college, what language to learn early on, among other things--all of which served me well. I grew up incredibly sheltered and even now, I'm on a tight leash under her roof (7pm curfew, no going to bars, night clubs; only allowed to go out once a week provided that I call and say who I'm with, for how long, doing what).

Obviously, I need to leave this toxic situation. But until then, how do I cope? How do I manage? I love this guy to death; we've been through so much together, a lot of which Mom doesn't know about because she is so opposed to the things I do with him, i.e. premarital sex, but also: he's my partner in crime when no one else wants to do anything fun with me, he's my shoulder to cry on when mom lashes out at me during her manic episodes, he helps me with my scholarships and job interviews, and provides me with the voice of calm and reason when I'm unable to provide such to myself. We have talked seriously about living together and getting married in the very near future. What's really sad is that Keoni's side of the family absolutely loves me and is totally ok with the idea of premarital sex because they know that Keoni and I are practicing safe sex practices in a safe, secure, nurturing and loving environment and we have a strong relationship that we have built together over the years. Keoni has a close friend who came from an eerily similar situation like mine; she ended up cutting off contact with her family and is very happy where she is now. I love my mother and all, but because of her inability to be open-minded and tolerant of how I want to live my life, I have seriously considered many times of doing the same thing.

Whew. That was a load to get off my chest. Thanks for taking the time to read all of this. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts soon.

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Heather
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Happy to help as I can, and I'm so sorry you're in this spot.

Can you give me an idea of what you feel like your realistic options are for now, and in the near future?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me ē Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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garammasala
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Hi Heather,

Thanks for replying back so promptly. I feel like my most realistic options for now is to grin and bear it, so to speak; I plan to move out as early as late November/early December of this year after I've gotten school out of the way, and I would like to live with my partner. I'm still debating how to tell my mother that I'm moving out on my own without her trying to exert control over that as well.

I have a potentially well paying job lined up for me right now, which is great because I plan to start working full time once I get this school stuff out of the way. Once I start generating income to pay rent and put aside for a future down payment, I'll be as good as ever. It's just putting up with being on a short leash right now, and figuring out how to tell her that I'm moving out to live on my own now that I'm having problems with.

Yesterday she had a sort of mental breakdown because I got out late from the hospital that I'm doing my internship at, and my phone died halfway through the day, so the entire time that I was on my way home via the bus, I had no means of communication and she had no way of reaching me. When I got home, she was in tears because she had thought I turned off the phone to spite her and that I went out to have dinner with Keoni without letting her know. She seems to be very afraid of "losing" me to the "loser scum of the earth" that he is and was ready to hunt him down with a gun and pump him full of lead for trying to take me away from her. Hearing that of course got me a tad bit worried about what would happen if I left her only a note saying that I have found a place of my own and am now living with Keoni. My gut tells me not to tell her I'm living with him, but she would find out soon enough regardless.

So as it stands, I'm still living at home right now with all intentions to move out by the end of this year at the latest; and until then, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts/tips/suggestions/advice on how I can deal with any future blow ups from mom trying to deter me from seeing my partner again, and the safest way to tell her I'm ready to move out on my own when the time comes.

Thanks so much for your time. Hope to hear from you soon.

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Heather
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Thanks for filling me in more.

So, I want to first say that I have some concerns about the intimate relationship you're in, and where you might be taking it myself, though I'm guessing they're not the same as your mother's concerns. However, I'm not sure how you could even evaluate it well in your current environment/situation, and I'm also feeling like your life at home is the real crisis here, and the first order of business. It seems to me like you need to find some way of sorting that out or managing it before you can probably deal with anything else at all.

I'm guessing this is probably unlikely, but I don't suppose there is any chance your mother might consider some family therapy with you? Like I said, that sounds unlikely, but I want to check, rather than making assumptions.

What about extended family or family friends? Is there anyone in your immediate circles who is aware of this behavior on your mother's part, and who might be of help mediating between you at all? (Or heck, getting her into some of her own therapy, something it sounds like she could really use)?

I also want to make sure that the violence you seem to be expressing she feels isn't something you are seriously concerned about. has she outright threatened violence? If so, do you have any impression it is something to take seriously, beyond the impact those threats is obviously having and going to have on your emotional well-being?

Also, is there anywhere else you can live temporarily without having to worry about rent? With friends or other family? If not that, are there at least places you can stay sometimes, or go when she blows up for a night?

Has she ever met your partner's family?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me ē Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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garammasala
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Hi Heather,

Thank you for being prompt as always and thorough as ever. Hope youíre having a great weekend.

Mom has never met Keoniís family in person, although I have met his mother when she came to visit him once with her sister very early in our relationship. The most Mom has ever seen of his mother was from a picture we took from our meeting. His father didnít visit because he was still nursing a back surgery at home. Keoniís parents are planning to visit again next spring for Keoniís graduation.

Mom knows she has a problem, but she denies having a ďconditionĒ like mental instability or depression. When I was a freshman in high school, she tried to kill herself by inhaling carbon monoxide from burning coal in a closed room. These manic episodes of yelling at me come and go, and itís hard to predict when the next one will occur. Maybe a lot of it has to do from her background and her inability to process and release emotions in a healthy way; I think sheís also dealing with menopause and possible hormone imbalance from a hysterectomy a few years back. In her defense, she does try to manage her anger issues better, but when sheís angry, she just lets it rip. We have not undergone family therapy together, and Iím not sure we will in the future. Momís a little skeptical of Western medical practices and believes she just has to take care of herself inside first according to Chinese herbal medicine practices so that everything is in balance.

I donít have any extended family or family friends, not unless Keoni is considered one. I have, however, identified a nearby church and homeless shelter I can go to if I am indeed kicked out of the house and for whatever reason I canít go to Keoniís place. My father is aware of my motherís behavior, but he doesnít do anything about it. My girlfriend is aware of it, too, but sheís in an even worse family situation than I am. My partner has been the only confidante who truly cares about my situation and has been there for me time and time again when things got bad. He trusts me, and more than once has offered his place to run to and spend the night at if I ever ran away or was kicked out when mom went nuts.

As for the violence I feel she expresses, I can never be sure if she means it or not; I usually err on the side of caution and assume she is very much capable of the violence she threatens. I can also admit that it does a number on my emotional state, as Iím always paralyzed with fear for a good while after every time. Iíve seen her break glass, our ceramic rice bowls, throw stuff and slam doors in her tantrums; when I was younger, I saw her once drink herself to the point of vomiting. I was once almost truly kicked out one Thanksgiving because I had woken up late that morning and didnít help her carry in the turkey she brought home because I was still half asleep, groggy, and had just wanted to get back into bed. She yelled at me for being ungrateful, selfish and disrespectful for not helping her when she worked so hard to carry the bird back home from work. After getting me cornered into my bedroom, she threw suitcases at me and told me to start packing. I was so shaken I didnít know what to do, and sat huddled under my desk for nearly the entire day until she later came back and apologized.

But again, like I said earlier, these storms come and go; more often than not there are periods of peace in the household. Itís just I can never tell when the next apocalypse will begin, or what will trigger it. And that is why I want to run away. Iím tired of walking on eggshells around her, and I want to go out and live without so many constraints on me. I know it wonít be easy; I canít just up and leave because I canít stand the madness anymore. In the midst of finishing this internship up and studying for my board examinations, Iím looking for an affordable place to rent and trying to figure out the best way to say goodbye to Mom, while also trying to figure out how to deal with any potential blow ups in the next two months.

Captain Girl suggested that I move out on my own first for the sake of finding myself first before adding anyone else in my life. I can see where sheís coming from, and I respect her thoughts; however, I am personally choosing to move out and live with Keoni for a number of reasons, among them being that because this would be my first time moving out, I would greatly appreciate having someone I trust and am comfortable with who has the experience of living on his own for a while to make my own transition easier. I realize I am in a vulnerable position, but Iím not sure how else better to go about doing this. I greatly appreciate your insights on this matter and for taking the time to understand my position. Hope to hear from you soon.

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Heather
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One of the reasons I said what I did about your plans with Keoni and your plans to move is that my feeling was that right now, what seems most important is for you to get out of your current environment however you can, so long as it's relatively safe. In other words, I think you and I are on the same page with this.

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's history and your history with all of this. One thing I might suggest is that she does see whoever her healthcare provider is for Chinese medicine and is very honest with them about this history and her current mental health. For sure, it's a different system, but it's not like that system of medicine doesn't acknowledge mental health issues as real and important and something often in need of treatment. If that's never been suggested by whoever she's seeing for that healthcare before, my guess is it's not about that system of healthcare, but about her not disclosing any of this.

Have you ever sought out any counseling or support groups for yourself? If not, I think that's something that could very much help you cope, and also help you start to do some healing. You don't need me to tell you that it sounds like you have grown up in a very unhealthy environment. These are things most of us will tend to need help processing and healing from, and to do that, we'll usually also need qualified help. Leaving those environments is important, but that's really just a first step. Just leaving isn't likely to be all that we need.

Honestly, I'm pretty concerned for everyone's safety here, so, like CaptainGirl also suggested, if it is at all possible -- and maybe we need to do some brainstorming together -- I think getting out ASAP would really be best for you. same goes for getting some kind of help/support for your mother. If we can think of anything at all that could get her to some help, I think she clearly very much needs it, for your sake but also for her own.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me ē Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kylia
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I have nothing to add for advice, as Heather already does such a great job at it. However, I can tell you that you're not the only one with a mother like that. I love her to death, and she too has been abused all her life, something that definitely does not make it easy, but I know how it feels like to wait for your mom to blow up at you again and the mental toll it takes on you. So I really have to admire your strength for being able to 'stand' it for so long and I really, sincerely hope that you will be able to move out and start your own life as soon as possible.

I myself have done the same last year when I was 17 and I can assure you that it really does feel like a weight's been lifted off of your shoulders. Communication might improve, but most importantly, it will be on your accord.

I really wish you the best and that you can soon get the peace and quiet you deserve.

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