Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Mom and Marriage

Now that Donald's job is sorted out for the next few months, I have mental space to address the other things in my life that make me less than happy.

One of those things is my relationship with my mother. I know that she loves me and she knows that I love her. Our communication, and the communication throughout my immediate family, is sorely lacking. I don't think any of us know what the others really think of them. I think we often walk on eggshells and are missing out on some wonderful authenticity.

Since these conversations have not yet happened (I am planning them), what follows are my impressions, assumptions, and beliefs. I don't know yet whether most of them are accurate or not. This is what I know right now.

There are so many background stories that set the stage for my process to work through this next challenge. When I left for college, moving from the west coast to the Midwest, I took my first step towards true independence. My choice also led to a stressed relationship with my mom. I think she resented the fact that I left. I haven't returned and that resentment is part of our relationship now. It hurts.

My mom left my dad just after Christmas a few years ago, just after Donald and I got married. I look at our wedding pictures, my parents smiling and happy-seeming, now knowing that less than a year later their 30+ years of marriage would disintegrate before the eyes of their children, their neighbors, and their coworkers. No one really saw it coming.

My parents' relationship has evolved since then. For a while, you could cut the tension with a knife. Now, they seem to have found a way to coexist when they are in the same space. My mom lives in an apartment several hours away from their house where my dad lives. They just recently made a decision, together, to replace the stove top. I have no idea how they feel about each other or what their intentions are. I suspect that they do not know either.

Donald says "Why don't you just ASK them?" I shake my head. I want to and I don't want to. I'm still somewhat in a state of denial, even though I knew for years before any trouble seemed on the horizon that I had to tell my mom and my dad the same thing myself - my mom would not relay my news to my dad. I didn't ask why.

They are very private people. My parents lived together for years and years and my dad did not see that my mom was unhappy. My mom didn't say anything. No one outside their marriage, including their children, knew that they were "in trouble". My mom thought her job was to show that they were "successfully" married, not to show the cracks, never to ask for help, never to say "I need to talk". My dad didn't know that anything needed to be discussed.

I have some very strong opinions on this, which I'll be writing about soon. I believe that the survival of marriage is dependent upon the support structure that surrounds it. The people in that support structure have to be able and available to ask "How are you?" and truly want to hear the answer. The married couple has to figure out how to lean on the support structure AND maintain their loyalty and privacy. It is not easy.

It is hard for me because my mother seems to believe that Donald is less than worthy of me. His recent unemployment has colored her view of him. The fact that we haven't moved back to the west coast has made her bitter against him. When she believes she sees in me a wavering from my values, she blames him. My loyalty to Donald bristles in the face of her criticism and my protective sense increases.

When we talk on the phone, I only tell my mom the good things. I do not share the things that are hard about being married because I think she will only add them to her negative feelings about Donald. She is not able and available to ask "How are you?". It breaks my heart that she cannot be in my support structure, at least, not right now. I have to turn to others, friends and family members, people who I can trust not to gossip, people who I know love us and support us no matter what.

These people are rare. I have turned to my online blogging community to supplement the people I know in person. I will be sharing more about this struggle for me. The tears I shed yesterday are only the beginning of a vast well of frustration that has been building over many years. It's time to empty it, one tear at a time.


  1. Love your honesty here. It is very painful when we don't feel we have the support we need from family. You'll know when the time is right for asking your mom for support. I'm glad that you are able to safely share this here in the blogosphere.

  2. Daphne, don't be too hard on yourself. Not all families are cut out for authenticity. The kind of relationship you crave with your family would be wonderful and I hope you are able to achieve it, but it will take work. I wish you all the best.

  3. Daphne,

    What a moving post, filled with such longing, and pain. Know this struggle will make you stronger and wiser in your relationship with Donald, and your future children.

    I hope you get a chance to talk with her and understand.


  4. Hi Daphne!
    Hugs to you! I hate the thought of you crying! I hope that writing this out and getting support from here - your blog friends - will help you. What we go thru is always some lesson we need to learn - I wish we could see at the time of suffering what it is all about - unfortunately we get the hindsight thing and figure it out in the afterwards.

    Just speaking as a mom of older kids, I would encourage you to talk to her and open your heart. You might be amazed at the result!

  5. Jill - Thank you, it is painful not to have support. I am also glad to be able to share with all of you. Thanks for lending your voice of support.

    Shannon - I definitely intend to work on improving my family's relationships, as much as I have control over them. I would like to believe that every person is able to be authentic. It all comes down to what they choose, myself included.

    Angelia - I'm glad and sad that my post moved you. You are SO right about this struggle and its impact on my own marriage. I would like to understand my mom better. My intent is definitely not to shut her out. I will need more hugs to make sure that I keep the doors of opportunity open, thank you!

    suZen - The crying is sometimes helpful, but thank you for your sweet concern about me. Writing helps immensely. My blog friends (including you!) are definitely helping me. I have faith that this struggle will have a purpose. I agree, too, that talking is going to play a key role. Thank you for your encouragement.


I welcome and appreciate your comments!