Wedding Woes

"Mom, I can't be your sounding board. Stop with the memes, please."

Dear Prudence,

I need some advice on how to help my mom… while also not helping my mom. She has recently become very vocal with me, particularly online, about some marital troubles she’s having with my dad after 30-plus years of marriage. Mostly, I think she isn’t feeling seen by my dad, feels neglected and distant from him, related to some arguments about big decisions concerning retirement, etc. I don’t think they would ever divorce at this point (immigrant family and they don’t have much of a support system in the U.S.—my mom relies on my dad entirely financially) The way my mom has been expressing these problems to me makes me uncomfortable—she’ll send quotes via social media (think empowering woman quotes about a woman not chasing a man who doesn’t love her… Pinterest-style).

I don’t really feel like I can be the person to hear about my parents’ marital problems. I don’t know how to help, and honestly don’t want to be the person TO help, and I REALLY would like to stop receiving canned quotes related to how my parents don’t love each other anymore. I’m an adult; I wish I could be there for my mom in this regard, but I just can’t. I love my dad. I know he is oblivious and my mom’s problems with him are rooted in reality, but I have a lot of trouble providing advice or even just LISTENING to her feelings about him. It makes me very anxious and upset. How can I help my mom, while also not being her main soundboard for these types of feelings?

—Not Taking Sides

Re: "Mom, I can't be your sounding board. Stop with the memes, please."

  • Options
    Block her on social media.  If you're uncomfortable with that, hell lie..."I'm taking a social media break, mom, so you won't be able to send me things".  Then, the real conversation has to happen and you have to draw a line with your mother that you are not the "friend" for support for this issue.

    I had to talk to my mother about doing this with me (it didn't seem to get this bad as LW is describing).  I just said, "Look, he's my father.  Your and his relationship is not my business and you can't share these things with me."  It took a little bit of push back and forth, b/c she tried to martyr herself up about it a few times.  I stayed firm and explained the boundary each time.  She tried to make it that she couldn't talk to me about dad's declining health.  I said, "That's not what I said.  I said you couldn't talk to me about your and dad's marriage.  If his health is declining, that's different and I think we can both recognize that."  The last years of his life, probably the last 5, it was no longer an issue for me in my mom and my relationship (IDK what went on with her about it).
  • Options
    The LW needs to set boundaries with their mom, though I realize that is easier said than done.

    They should also recommend couples counseling, but I know that can go over like a lead balloon for a lot of people.

    While I was dating him, my ex-b/f's dad left the mother.  They'd been married for 25 years and she was a wreck.  But then she started confiding in her son about all the marital problems they'd had over the years.  Including the early years of their marriage, that his dad would leave her home alone all weekend while he partied and had affairs.

    My ex did NOT want to hear all that and I always thought she was a shitty person to subject him to it.  I know she was in a bad place, but still.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • Options
    Tbh this is my mom. I have to put boundaries on the conversations often. 

    Probably not great one of my most poignant earlier memories in childhood is my mom asking me (I was probably 7) if she should divorce my dad and then her throwing their wedding photo in the trash. Ma’am, I am not your therapist (as she literally told me the other day “I need a therapist but right now you’re my therapist.” Ma’am, respectfully but no. 

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