Friday, January 15, 2010


I accompanied Donald to his job away from home this week, which was a real treat for me and for him. While the visit itself was full of learning more about our possible future home, I learned so much more from a conversation we had in the car on the way there.

At the dinner table sometime last week, something about materialism came up and Donald launched into how my mom is so anti-materialistic. All I could do was shoot him a look and change the subject, which his parents may or may not have noticed. I was mortified and embarrassed and a little hurt. One of the things we learned during our pre-marital counseling was that I'm responsible for handling my family and he's responsible for handling his. I felt like that rule had been a bit forgotten.

I didn't bring it up until our car ride a few days later. I didn't want to address him about it at the dinner table in front of his parents. I started by reminding him of the event and expressing that I thought he shouldn't bring up my mom in a negative light like that, especially when he didn't have first-hand information. I reminded him of the pre-marital counseling. I was calm and asked Donald not to talk about my mom like that anymore.

He resisted a bit, understanding my perspective and also wanting to be able to express his own frustration about the choices my mom has made. I felt stuck in the middle of them, trying to defend my mom and being angry that she didn't simply accept Donald, and feeling protective of Donald. Then, it dawned on me.

With a quivering voice, I changed the direction of the conversation slightly. This was actually about me. I explained that I am ashamed that my mom cannot embrace Donald into her family the way his parents have included me. I am embarassed that my mom cannot support our marriage the way Donald's family has. I see the disparity between the way our families have accepted us as a married couple.

Donald immediately understood my perspective. He didn't want me to feel ashamed; I am not responsible for my mom's actions. At the same time, I want so badly to give him a wonderful family-in-law and I'm not completely able to do that. I think my mom will come around and luckily the rest of my family is wonderfully accepting, in their own understated way, even my dad.

So Donald and I are both more connected about this now. I don't really have any action items on this; it may just take time for my mom to sort out her life enough that she can see what is most important. It may be that she never stops judging. Donald and I know, at least, that we are on the same page together, and that we will come up with ways to respond to her judging attitude in ways that open the door for conversation and also stay in alignment with our own values.

We also know that now is the time to practice, before children become yet another thing that potentially incurs disapproval. To think that I spent so much of my childhood seeking my parents approval and had it, and now, when I have stopped seeking that so much, I don't have it from my mother anymore, at least not in everything that matters to me.

I just wish it weren't quite so painful.


  1. I'm reposting a comment from Newlywed Kate (

    "Wow, Daphne.. what a tough moment. It's hard to turn the magnifying glass on yourself like that, but it's so awesome that you immediately recognized the change and were able to identify it. Really makes me feel.. powerful when I get those moments of insight. And my kudos to Donald for responding so well - give him lots of praise and happy!

    I also hope that your mom comes around. I'm sure you recognize that that's totally on her and not a reflection of your worth, but I felt like putting that in writing."

    I responded: "Kate, thank you so much! It is powerful when we can find ways to take control of and responsibility for those things we can influence. I'm very lucky to have such an understanding and supportive husband.

    I hope my mom comes around too. I know that I need to take an active role in our relationship. I also know that she probably needs a certain amount of space to grow and develop herself so that she can make some choices about how she wants to be, the same way I have. You are so wonderful to remind me that I am worthy with or without her approval, thank you!"

  2. I'm reposting a comment from The Liumberjackswife (

    "Hello . . . this is my first time visiting! Marriage is tough enough, but adding in family/in-law drama makes it so much . . . trickier. :(
    Sometimes I tell my husband we should move to Alaska. :)"

    I responded: "Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for your comment! Marriage can be tough and you're right, having family situations that aren't supportive does make it difficult. I just checked out your blog - the post about your in-laws and Facebook had me cracking up. I'll look forward to hearing more from you!"

  3. I'm reposting a comment from Wilma (

    "Daphne, congratulations! You got to see 'what is so', you champ!
    And of course there is a lot more 'what is so' to unearth with your mother and how you relate to all that.
    Painful? Yes, it hurts when you see what is possible and when you see how people do not go for it and choose limited options. However you can also indulge in pain, so forgive and move on, do not feed your pain body.
    I love how you gain clarity, it is beautiful to see, xxo Wilma"

    I responded: "Wilma, thank you so much! It's amazing how much my progress comes in line with your blog! There will be a lot more to unearth with my mom, you're so right. I'm proud to say that I did not wallow in my pain. I moved on and had a very good weekend. I'm preparing for my next conversation with her. Thank you so much for accompanying me on this journey."

  4. I'm reposting a comment from Peggy (

    "HI Daphne,

    Family dynamics can be like walking through land mines, right? Believe me when I say your mom misses out because she's too busy judging...she's caught up in an ego game....I watch my daughter struggle with the same issue only it's her dad that does a lot of the disapproving. I just went to Ireland to meet her fiance...someone her father claims is a loser...and he's never met him. In fact, her fiance is engaging, sweet, kind, funny, and good for my daughter.

    It took courage for you and Donald to have that conversation...your mother's judgment is not a reflection of you but a projection of her own self.

    All my best.
    Peggy "

    I responded: "Peggy, they really can. I'm sorry you're witnessing a similar situation in your family - I'm sure it's pretty common, which is too bad. Donald encourages me to have courage. Remembering that I don't have control over what my mom does or thinks actually helps me let go a lot. We just have to decide how to handle it on our end. I'll definitely keep you posted. Thanks so much for commenting."


I welcome and appreciate your comments!