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Dating Maze #224 - Mom's Ultimatum
Dating Advice 224

Dating Maze #224 - Mom's Ultimatum

It's time for her to grow up and find herself.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have been dating a man for the past year. My mother has just announced that she is forcing me to break up with him or move out of her house. I am 20 and in college. The man I'm dating had a bad childhood and because of this, my mother says that his thinking is skewed. He has a leader personality and I have a gentle one. My mother says that he is causing me to think like him now and she needs me to get away from him.

My mother wants me to take a year off from him with no contact at all and finish college. I have always submitted to my mother because of my personality. I have always been unsure about life situations, and she seems to have all the answers, so I've made a habit of asking her. She also has a very "leader"-type personality.

The man I'm dating has told me that I have never chosen to think on my own, and I need to start doing that since I am an adult. Looking back, I see that I've had a hard time making decisions and feeling confident in my own choices. So now I've made a decision to think on my own, and my mother says that I have completely changed and I'm not anything like I used to be.

I have always had a very close relationship with my mom, best friends even, yet now she is forcing me to choose between this man and her. What should I do?


Dear Miriam,

It's hard to be forced to make a choice between your mother and a man. However, it seems to us that the best choice for you to make is a third one -- choosing to know yourself and to become more self-confident and assertive. This is a vital part of the growth process that is called separation/individuation. It involves learning to be your own person and not to be dependent upon a parent or someone else (even a spouse) to make decisions for you and to manage your life.

You have no way of knowing if the control and manipulation is being done with your welfare in mind.

You describe yourself as being unsure about life situations, and dependent upon your mother to think for you and to make your choices. This personality trait leaves you very vulnerable to being controlled or manipulated by someone who has a stronger personality. Because you are so unsure of yourself, you have no way of knowing if the control and manipulation is being done with your welfare in mind, or because the other person wants to promote his or her own agenda -- even though it really isn't good for you. Sometimes, it is a mixture of the two. For example, your mother probably gives you guidance with the best intentions. However, since you don't have a strong point of view, or aren't used to thinking for yourself, the advice she gives you and the choices she makes is skewed to reflect her point of view, rather than yours.

After reading your letter, we envisioned a few possible scenarios that explain why your mother wants you to break up with this man. She may be concerned that he is controlling or manipulating you, or that he is taking advantage of you somehow. She may be worried because she believes your personality makes you vulnerable to being controlled or manipulated, and may actually have seen certain things about your behavior with this man that cause her to believe he is controlling or manipulating you.

Another possibility is that your mother is threatened in some way by the recent changes in your mother-daughter relationship. Perhaps you aren't relying on her to make decisions for you as much as you did in the past, and it is hard for her to give up that role. Perhaps it is hard for her to see you becoming emotionally attached to someone other than her.

It is also possible that your mother sees certain qualities in this man that she doesn't like, or that make her worry about your being together for the long term. Even if she doesn't see specific behaviors that worry her, the fact that he comes from a difficult background would cause most parents concern. No matter how nice a person he may seem to be, any parent would want to know that he has addressed the issues that could interfere with his ability to be a good spouse and father. Many people overcome difficult upbringings and go on to be a stable, giving and loving spouse. However, we've often seen that people from difficult backgrounds who don't work through their "issues" can carry around baggage that adversely affect their marital relationship.

We don't know which of these scenarios accurately explains what is going on in your life. However, your mother isn't a villain, no matter what the real scenario is. She does care for you and is trying to do what she thinks is the best for you.

It's not a matter of ‘choosing' between your mother and this man. It's a matter of finding yourself.

In addition to finishing college, your focus right now should be on learning more about yourself -- who you are, what you want out of life, what values are important to you, your likes and dislikes, and what life journey you would like to take. It's not a matter of ‘choosing' between your mother and this man. It's a matter of finding yourself.

The best time to begin this voyage of self-discovery is right now. You are on the cusp of young adulthood -- this is the age that most young adults become their own person. Because you are so unsure of yourself, and accustomed to relying on your mother to direct your decision-making, we don't believe that you can embark on this journey of self-discovery without help. We recommend that you find a competent third party, a trained therapist, to help you go through the process of separating and individuating. Your college probably has an office of student services that can recommend professionals who can help you.

We suggest that you meet with a few of these people, rather than simply taking the first one who is recommended, to get a sense of who they are and if you can be comfortable working with them. It is important that the therapist be someone who encourages you to find your own voice.

You won't be able to take this vital journey without loosening some of the ties to your mother and to this man. We recommend that you take a dating hiatus, not because of your mother's ultimatum, but because he shouldn't be a major influence as you explore who you are. We know that it might be difficult to take a break from someone you care about, but it is a necessary investment in your future. We've seen too many people "wake up" later in life with the realization that they never really discovered who they were. And invariably, they wind up resenting their partner because of it. We'd rather you build a long-term relationship -- whether with this man or with someone else -- after you have a better sense of yourself.

It may be that your decision to get therapy will cause some repercussions at home as well. It may be hard for your mother to see the changes that you go through as you learn to be more independent. Hopefully, your therapist will be able to help you restructure your relationship with your mother, so that you can remain close, but in a different way.

We wish you the best of success,

Rosie & Sherry

January 27, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) I'm the one who wrote in, September 7, 2012 4:52 AM

I was the one who wrote in as Miriam. After reading the comments below...

I want to address a few things for anyone else looking at this advice and in the same situation. Looking back...over 5 years later, Rosie and Sherry were right on with their advice. It still applies for me today. The therapist is important to help people sort out their issues and help them to have healthy thinking. That is something to do alone to figure out yourself and not to do with a boyfriend who is already domineering. It's only something the individual can journey through. It was very important that I did not stay with this man who had a bad background and had not learned to fix it--it would have taken years and he had not even started or was even aware of his problems. He was definitely the controlling one who didn't want to loosen his grip on me (thus encouraging me to not listen to my mom ) and my mom was his competition. He didn't want me to listen to her but to think for myself, yet he wanted to think for me. Though my mom has had to learn to not make decisions for me and i have had to learn to not want her to make them, she was looking out for my best interest. She saved me from that relationship and anyone else in this situation remember if your family is a supportive one, and they have advice and concerns about the boyfriend you are with, listen to them and consider them. And follow Rosie and Sherry's advice, they know what they are talking about.

(11) Yolande, January 10, 2008 3:22 PM

Through others eye see you relationship.

I'm in the same situation exept it's my mom and her boyfriend is verry manipulating. She breaks up with him and then comes and move in with me because it's her place. I'm a student and can't afford to life some where else. I feel so sad and helpless sometime I feel like it would be better if I wasn't there then she could do what she wanted. Her boyfriend has also abused her physicaly. He also comes from a house where he was sort of abused. There is deffinitrly scars of his past reflecting on his relationships. My question is, why does people in an abusive relationship hide it and dont admitt it? Why stay or go back. I think if your boyfriend had a unhappy childhood don't compensate for his actions and don't be blind to the truth. If you love him get both of you help from a psychiatrist and be open minded. Your mom ony cares about you. Mabe go over sea and opare just to clear your mind. Sometimes looking at your relationship through others eyes may open yours.

(10) Laura, August 29, 2007 4:26 PM

Take Your Time

Very likely if it gets to be tug of war, boyfriend may try to get you pregnant. If he ever tries to have sex without protection, it means he doesn't truly love you and want what's best for you. Your job now is your education. Make something of yourself first before you worry about the guy. If he comes from a family with problems, he'll play them out with you just as you're playing out your "submitting" to your mother with him. Perhaps that's why you're attracted to him.

(9) Anonymous, March 15, 2007 3:49 PM


Move out of your mom's house and break up with your boyfriend. If your mother controls you to this extent, your boyfriend does too and your mom is probably right. You need to grow up first before you can decide on courtship and marriage. Please understand I do not mean this disrespectfully. If you can't stand up to your mom, you can't stand up to you boyfriend either. Please don't blame your "personality". Find out who you are and stop being afraid to be yourself! Don't worry about finances, HaShem will take care of you if you'll let Him, and NO, I'm not advocating being financially irresponsible. You have to make your own decisions, no one else can be blamed. This man may be wonderful, if he is, he will wait for you to come around.

(8) madhosh jamal, February 11, 2007 5:05 AM

Re yr reply to Ms Miriam regarding Mom's ultimatum

Even though I come from a very different (but allied) faith and a society and region totally different from yours, I couldnt help noticing the oneness of what is essentially good and wholesome about/for human welfare. Yr advice - i'm not a professional therapist/psychitarist/what-have-you - to Ms Miriam is pragmatic, down-to-earth and humane. Let's wish the young lady -and others like her- faith in herself and the Supreme Being. Being a parent I can see her mother's point of view but I can also see Miriam's and empathise with her.
May God bless you for helping people like her with sincere advice and may you be guided by Him in your endeavours.

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