Advice from Amy: Space from a Needy Mother
Finding the balance between feeling loved and feeling smothered
Dear Amy: I am a 26-year-old married woman who is struggling to tell my needy mother to back off!
My husband (of three years) and I love to waste a weekend or two a month just being alone together, without the chaos of friends or family.
My mom calls me every weekend and asks me to come over. On top of that, she texts me at least once a day telling me how much she loves me, using my childhood nickname.
My mom has always controlled my life. She had me when she was 19 and has mentioned that she “lived through me” when I was growing up.
My parents have been married for 26 years and I have four younger siblings. What does she need from me? I am struggling to take control of my life.
My husband tells me to stand up for myself, but I don’t want to explode on my mom when she is simply seeking affection. If it makes her happy, shouldn’t I just suck it up? I am going insane.
When we see them, she’ll call me later that day and say she didn’t have enough time with me and that she can’t wait to hang out again.
Her clingy behavior increases after we spend time together.
I wouldn’t dare tell her that it annoys my husband, but it does put some stress on my marriage.
I just want to be alone with my husband for now and for everyone to just get the heck out of our way.
How do you suggest I/we handle this? I’m afraid that when I finally say something it won’t be very nice, and our relationship will become awkward.
— About to Explode
Dear About to Explode: One surefire way to avoid an explosion is to be brave enough to draw some reasonable and respectful boundaries, now. It’s OK for things to be “awkward” for a little while, because both you and she will need time to adjust to your new parameters.
And so, instead of telling your mom to back off, you should sit with her, look into her eyes, and say to her, “Mom, I need you to take two steps back. I’m feeling smothered, and I don’t like it. Your attention is overwhelming, and it is threatening my relationship with you. I feel very stressed and torn.”
Your mother may become emotional and defensive. That’s OK; you should trust that she will learn how to adjust to this necessary transition into your adulthood.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson