Carolyn: I am 26 and have been with my boyfriend for three years. We have a happy and loving relationship.
My boyfriend’s mother is very sweet and I value my relationship with her. However, she is always dropping hints to my boyfriend and me about getting married and having children. While I respect this is the right choice for some, I do not want children and I am not certain marriage is right for me. My boyfriend is aware of my feelings on the subject and is fine with it.
He has told his mother gently on more than one occasion that this was not the path we are choosing (I only nod in agreement as I’m not sure it’s my place to tell her). However, she is insistent that I will change my mind.
It’s just not going to happen. I love his mother dearly and I don’t want to shatter any expectations she has for us or cause a rift, but trying to tell her nicely doesn’t seem to be getting through. I also have to admit the constant asking about wedding and babies sometimes makes me feel less-than. As if our life and commitment to each other is not enough.
I don’t know whether to let it go and allow time to prove our sincerity, or if I should really sit down with her and explain, from my own mouth, that this is not going to happen. Please help.
Defending My Choice
Explain, from your own mouth.
With your boyfriend’s blessing and support, though, because it’s his mom, his relationship with her is more important than yours is, and he’s in a better position to predict how she will respond to this approach.
Assuming he agrees: Make an outing of it – a nice lunch, one-on-one, your treat. Frame it not as a chance to set her straight or “defend my choice” (which I’ll get to in a second), but instead as a gesture to protect a relationship with her that you love and value. Explain that you feel “less-than” when her interest and attention regularly skip over the present day to what’s coming next, and when you’re reminded on a regular basis that you’re a source of disappointment for her.
Even though she is not entitled to grandchildren, the disappointment of not having them is a doozy. It would be a loving gesture if you could acknowledge that, and say it does pain you to “shatter any expectations.” There is healing power in choosing not to deny someone’s pain, especially when you’re a source of it.
That is why it is important not to see this as defending your choice. You don’t have to, for starters – it’s your life and you’re not morally obligated to raise children. (I’d argue your lack of interest morally obligates you not to.) And, by extension, defending turns her into the entity you defend yourself against, an antagonist where you want an ally.
Her response might be painful for you, of course, from, “You’ll change your mind” to much worse. In that case, agreeing isn’t an option – but listening and understanding still are. “Perhaps,” “I hear how upset you are,” “I’m sorry you feel that way”: You can offer truth, friendship, compassion and sympathy without giving an inch.
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