Dear Carolyn: By mutual agreement, my ex and I ended our six-year relationship last year. We’ve remained friendly because we recognize that we simply grew up and apart since we met in college, but still enjoy the friendship our relationship was rooted in.
When we first broke up, my mom made many insulting implications about me and spent weeks trying to find the “real reason” we ended it, wildly guessing everything from money problems to my not-approved-by-her career.
In the last year she has stayed in touch with my ex, sending him packages of homemade treats and other oddities just like she did when we were dating, despite his protests. She also seizes every opportunity to talk about him with me, despite my making it very clear that I am happily single and neither of us is harboring any hope for getting back together.
How can I get her to accept that I’ve moved on?
Better question, why are you still trying?
It’s one (pretty awful) thing to have your own mother side against you in a hail of insults over a mutual, amicable breakup.
But for her to be sending him care packages a full year after your relationship folded, likely to ensure there’s no mistaking her loyalties? That’s something else entirely, and it verges on the unhinged.
As always, though, it makes no sense to blame the unhinged for being their version of normal. Instead, your job is to decide whether your mother’s antics are acceptable to you and, if not, what consequences you’re willing to attach to them.
For example, you can’t make her stop sending care packages or start accepting your version of events — but you can choose not to indulge her when she “seizes every opportunity” to discuss him. You can instead say, “Mom, I won’t discuss Exie with you anymore,” and then change the subject/end the call/leave the room every single time she chooses to test your boundary.
And — this one’s optional of course — since you’re still friends and since he receives these treats under protest, you can suggest to your ex that he start refusing these packages, unopened, from your mom. (Obviously, whether he chooses to is up to him.)
It’s a logistical move that actually applies well to the emotional task you have before you. To exercise your control over your own life, start refusing delivery of your mother’s unwanted intrusions.
She won’t take it well, I expect, both because you’ve never stopped her before and because she’s so over-invested. But your best chance that she’ll occupy a more appropriate place in your life is for you to find the strength to show her exactly where that place is — and to flatly, kindly deny her access to any territory beyond it. I hope for both of your sakes that she’s mindful enough of her own self-interest to respect the lines you draw.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.