Carolyn: Im getting married soon, and I need help dealing with my mother. She has a lot of good qualities, but tends to be pretty negative (shes already let me know she doesnt like my wedding dress), criticizes when its too late to change something, and reacts badly when she feels affronted, which is often. For example, she screamed and hung up on me when she found out a wedding detail from a cousin instead of from me and then gave me the silent treatment when I tried to apologize.
Of course, when she does these things, it makes me feel awful. I do want to share my wedding day with my mother, but Im terrified shes going to act in a way that really hurts me right before I walk down the aisle. Is there any way I can set behavioral expectations ahead of time in a way that wont make her angry, or should I just grin and bear whatever she throws at me?
Im going to go with (c) Develop a better understanding of, and emotional resilience with, your mother.
Theres no of course in she makes me feel awful. To see it that way is to give her power over you when you can claim that power yourself. Specifically, you can choose not to take your moms hostility personally because all of it all is about her.
Who criticizes a brides dress? Someone who is too emotionally stunted to even be happy for her own child. And thats sorry stuff.
As too is the screaming about learning details from a cousin (translation: Everyone must think Im out of the wedding loop!), as is criticizing when its too late to change something (translation: She gets the last word).
So, you neednt worry that shell act up at your wedding you can go straight to counting on it. Be prepared, not terrified.
She will undermine you as you head down the aisle, because she has to. Its where she is, emotionally. And it will be lousy for you, since who wants that kind of crud pie from her own mother but it will be far worse for her. She doesnt find joy where humans reliably find it; she finds insecurity and anxiety.
Good luck, and train your eyes on the good.
Email email@example.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.