Mom says dump the boyfriend or leave home!

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Cary’s classic column from THURSDAY, JUN 25, 2009

We got caught making out and now my mom’s all like you have to break up with him if you want to keep living here

Dear Cary,

My name is V and I’m 18 years old. I have a boyfriend and he’s 18 years old too, but the situation here is that my family has never liked my boyfriend. Me and my boyfriend have been going out for 10 months, and he has always been a good boyfriend to me. The reason my family doesn’t like him is because of the way he talks all ghetto like.

My mom says that he has me threatened and that I’m scared of him, but she is saying things without knowing that my boyfriend actually respects me. He has never hit me or yelled at me, and if he did, I would tell him to watch it, and he’d be like, I’m sorry, babe. Besides that, Friday was his graduation, and after his graduation I went to his house to celebrate. While at his house, I called my mom and let her know I was going to be at his house, and she said it’s OK, she’ll go pick me up.

After a while being at his house, he was getting hot and turned on, so we told everyone we were going to the store, and as we went out the door, he pulled me into the basement and we went in there. We were alone, and let me tell you, I already lost my virginity before that with him, but we weren’t really doing anything besides making out and I did a striptease for him. After a while we heard people looking for us, and his aunt saw when I was slipping my dress back on and started to yell at me and told me to get out of her house. By the way, my mom didn’t know anything about me not being a virgin. So as I was putting my heels on, his aunt told my mom how she found us. My mom was upset, very, very upset after that day.

She hadn’t said anything to me up until yesterday, when she told me to sit down in the living room and started talking, and her rules were:

Break up with your boyfriend and you can live at my house under my rules and keep your studies at the university, or
Leave the house. If you’re not willing to leave your boyfriend, then go live with him and lose your studies.

And honestly I don’t know what to do. I need help because I love my boyfriend to death and he’s willing to help me out if I go live with him. As a matter of fact, he’s been looking for jobs already, and he talked to his aunt, and she said it is all right with her if I go with them, but I’ll have to get a job, and that’s OK with me.

My problem in deciding between one or the other is that my family has always been everything, but for some reason I have felt like they have been turning their back on me and they don’t want to listen to me. My mom is mad at me. She says she’s disappointed in me, and I’m afraid that if I stay here at my house that she’s going to keep on bringing this situation up, because my mom tries to control my life all the time. She says if I live under her roof, I do what she tells me to do. I have no opinion and no say in anything, and I am tired of them deciding for me.

I have already made a decision to leave my house and learn to be an independent woman on my own, and go live with my boyfriend and just make my life already. I am conscious that it is not going to be easy, but I just want to be with my boyfriend. To tell you the truth, I want for my family to at least get along with my boyfriend. That way I won’t have to leave. I really do not want to leave my house because of my little sister. She told me last night crying that she doesn’t want me to leave because she can’t sleep without me being in the room with her. I know I did things wrong, but in my opinion my mom is taking things way too far.

All I’m looking for is for someone to tell me their opinion on my situation and to help me out. I am really seeking some help.




Dear Confused,

I think you should stay at home for now until things can get sorted out. Ask your mom for some time. Promise to stop seeing your boyfriend for two weeks or a month while you sort things out. That will give her time to cool down.

Then tell your boyfriend the only way you can still keep seeing him is if he will go, on his own, to talk to your mom. He’s got to apologize and impress her that he is a gentle and honest man. He’s got to humble himself before her. But he’s got to be honest with her, too. He can’t snow her. If she senses that he’s trying to deceive her, or charm her, or sweet-talk her, she will become hardened to him. It’s got to be genuine. He’s got to say that he likes you very much, enough that he is willing to make some sacrifices in order to continue seeing you.

Now, you can’t get this all done in one conversation with your mom. So just tell her that for now, you want to stay at home and you’re having a “moratorium” on the boyfriend.

Here is the important thing: You have to have some flexibility and patience. When families suddenly break apart over something like this, it hurts everyone. It hurts you, it hurts your mom, and it hurts your sister.

So you need to use conflict resolution. If you can slowly resolve the conflicts, maybe this can be worked out to everyone’s benefit.

There are a lot of emotions involved. Your mom is trying to protect you, and you are trying to grow and be your own person. That naturally creates conflict. You have to learn to do some negotiating with your mom.

In negotiating with your mom, you have to have some things to offer her. What do you have to offer? Make a list of all the things you have to offer her if you stay at home: You can help take care of your sister. Staying at home will make your sister happy. You can clean and cook at home. You can be with your mom and keep her company. And you can stay in school so you can get a good job.

Your mom doesn’t really want you to leave. She wants you to stay in school. She wants you to stay at home. But she is trying to be a good mom. And she is trying to feel like she has some power over what goes on. So give her some power. Give her what she wants. But do that in a way that gives you some rights, too.

Now, after your boyfriend talks to your mom, you will want to see what she says. If you want to keep seeing your boyfriend, you don’t want to have to do it in secret. So you’ll have to figure that one out. If he can’t be persuasive, maybe his aunt will have to come talk to your mom as well. And if you’re going to keep seeing him, there will have to be some limits. Your mom won’t want him going into your room, and she won’t want you sleeping at his house or spending the night somewhere. You can guarantee she won’t want that. But if he approaches her on his own, and apologizes for what happened, and impresses on her that he truly cares for you and wants what’s best for you, she might agree to let you keep seeing each other.

You have this on your side: She doesn’t really want you to leave. She wants to keep her family together, but she wants some control and some respect. So this situation can be worked out. It doesn’t have to end in bitterness.

And don’t forget your little sister. You can “lobby” your little sister: Tell her that you very much want to stay at home, and that you just have to work things out with your mom. Don’t necessarily try to get her to take sides, but just be honest with her. In a pinch, she can tell your mom that she, too, really wants you to stay.

The most important thing at this crucial point, whatever happens, is this: Stay close to your mom and to your sister. Stay in school until you have a useful skill and you know how to get a job and support yourself. And don’t count on your boyfriend. I’m sure he’s great, but things do change. At 18, a year is like a lifetime. Things could change.

So the best solution is for you to try to negotiate something with your mom where you can live at home. You’ll have to give up some things, but so will she. She’s angry right now and being overly rigid. Show her you can compromise, and maybe she will accept your solution.

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My parents refuse to meet my boyfriend


Dear reader,

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Dear Cary,

I am 30 years old and have been with my wonderful boyfriend for over a year. I really think he is the love of my life, we get along greatly, and we have projects for a life together, although everything for now is limited to words and dreams, because we haven’t the financial opportunity to marry, buy or rent a house yet (we both live with our parents).

All is well, apart from one thing: my parents. They absolutely do not actively get in the way of this relationship, but they refuse to meet him; just once, we went together to the theatre to see a show in which my brother acted (because my brother specifically invited my BF too), and for all the evening they didn’t exchange one single word with him. The reason behind this attitude is that – gasp! – he is ALREADY my THIRD serious boyfriend, and they are, and I quote, “tired of meeting and grow fond of guys that are destined to be dumped anyway” (because the two previous relationships were both ended by me).

I find this very offensive for many reasons: first of all, the previous relationship were ended because I was not happy and both the previous boyfriends brought lots of problems in my life, so I don’t understand how a parent would cast this up at their daughter instead of being happy for her to have ended an unhappy relationship; should I have endured fake and rotten relationships just for saving the face?

It’s not that I enjoyed ending those two previous relationships, nor I have done it light-heartedly. Secondly, they are making me feel like a whore, like having had two serious relationships in ten years (they were both long stories) equals to sleep with a different man every week. And finally, they said that they never wanted to meet any future partners, neither mine nor my brother’s, but I found out that my mother had my brother’s last girlfriend at home.

I guess the different treatment is because my brother was always dumped by his former GFs (so he is a “victim”), while I am the shameless meneater. My boyfriend is a very good-spirited person, and he says this situation doesn’t bother him at all, he says that my parents have all the rights of taking their time, and he regularly brings me vegetables from his garden to present my parents with; I wish I could have his same optimist and positive attitude about this situation, but I can’t, because I feel bad for him and I feel like I was a criminal of some sort.

My BF’s parents, on the contrary, love me to bits (and I love them), they welcomed me like a daughter of their own, and are a very close, affectionate family. My family, instead, has a history of endless conflicts, difficulty to express our feelings, and my mother and father are estranged, although still living under the same roof.

Do you have any advice? What do you think? Is this a problem of my parents who are unable to be affectionate? Or am I just overreacting and should I just get over it and live my life without caring what they think of me? Sometimes I wonder if they’d rather I kept a boyfriend I was unhappy with, just for the “image,” and end up like them, full of anger towards each other. If I had a daughter, all I would wish for her was happiness, regardless of how many men it takes before finding it.

Please forgive my not-so-good English (I am Italian but love your column and always read it), and the length of the letter.

“The Shameless Meneater”


Dear Shameless Meneater,

I think your parents are trying to protect themselves and avoid being hurt. Why don’t they just tell you this? Well, as you say, your family members don’t express their feelings well.

They probably have not told you how hard it was for them to see your previous relationships end. They have not told you how much your happiness means to them, how their hopes for you have soared and then been dashed, how they have gone through all your intense emotions right along with you, and now how they fear it will happen again and they just can’t handle it.

They may seem gruff and unfeeling but this is just a pose. They’re trying to protect themselves.

They may think that as parents they should stay out of your business. They may think burdening you with their emotions is wrong. They may think that telling you how hurt they have been is selfish and not right for parents. They may also know, deep down, that how they are handling this is silly and foolish, that refusing to meet him is not ideal. But it’s the best they can do right now. It’s the best they can do.

I think when we are young and in love we do not understand how attached our parents become to our partners. Their situation is not easy. They become attached but have no say. They have to stand on the sidelines. They have no involvement, and yet they have all the emotions.

So I suggest you respond with kindness. Tell them that you understand. Tell them it’s OK if they don’t want to meet him yet. If you show some leeway, they may become less rigid. Take an attitude of relaxed confidence. Take the pressure off them.

It would be great if everyone would show patience, but you cannot control anyone else. You can only show patience yourself and hope that it becomes contagious. So have patience with your parents. Ask your boyfriend to have patience with your parents. And know that your parents are doing the best they can.