#73 Dad fears lazy girlfriend will be lazy wife / Son dramatizing disrespect of dad
Dear Abby: My 25-year-old son, “Mitch,” and his live-in girlfriend, “Mimi,” just became engaged, and I’m really worried. They met in college, where Mimi admits she went to “get her MRS.”
When Mitch took a job in another state and started working on his graduate degree, Mimi tagged along. At first she had her own apartment. But since she “couldn’t afford” a car, Mitch drove her to and from work everyday. Then she got a job where he worked, and they began having lunch together every day to the exclusion of co-workers.
Two years later, Mimi still has no car of her own in a state where cars are a necessity. In addition, she’s “just so tired” after her “long” 7 ½ hour day that “she just can’t manage to cook,” so they either go out or Mitch does the cooking too.
Abby, my son is lean, out going, into sports and martial arts. Mimi is obese and lethargic. She constantly complains about her aches and pains and other people. She has no hobbies and spends every night watching television.
I’m afraid this is somehow my fault. Mitch’s mother was “high maintenance.” I modeled care-taking for him in his early years when she and I were married—we have been divorced for more than ten years—but never to this extent. Now Mimi has announced that she needs surgery and pain-killers because she's got a bad back, and "exercise doesn’t work.” (How could it? She’d have to actually move.)
I’m desperate to have a father-son talk about the path Mitch seems to be heading down, but I know I risk alienating him, maybe permanently. Should I keep my mouth shut, or what? PANICKED POP IN PAWTUCKET
Dear Panicked Pop: Talk to your son, but make absolutely sure that when you do, it is not perceived as an attack on his fiancée. Instead, discuss the mistakes you made during your marriage to Mitch’s mother, which fostered her dependence upon you—and which Mitch seems to be mirroring with Mimi. However, do it with a light touch, and with none of the contempt for her that you have displayed in your letter—or it could have indeed, negatively affect your relationship with your son. --Abby
Hi Panicked Pop: Let’s begin with the option to “keep your mouth shut.” Notice that keeping these thoughts to yourself keeps you incomplete. I assure you your thoughts do get communicated, non-verbally; they are impacting others, having profound consequences. Which leads to a problem that you haven’t mentioned. Why on earth would your son choose a woman he intuitively knows would so repulse you? I suspect that he is dramatizing, through his relationship with her, several communications to you having to do with respect that he doesn’t know how to deliver verbally.
One clue to the source of your problem is, “I’m afraid this is somehow my fault.” “Afraid?” Like you, he also is in denial. He’s clueless as to the effects his choice in her has had on you. It’s clear that you did not teach him that what works is for him to choose a partner with you in mind, one who will fit into, and compliment, the clan. His arrogance is such that he thinks he can make a marriage work without your approval and support. Little does he know that you will be unconsciously psychically hexing the relationship so as to be right, that he should have selected someone you like.
Again we ask, just what is he covertly trying to communicate to you? Perhaps it's, “Look what you’ve taught me dad? Notice that I have no sense of self-worth. Notice my sexist point of view, my addiction to helping an immature girl instead of selecting a woman who is whole and complete, self-sufficient, one who doesn’t need me to make it. Notice the negative effect my leadership-communication skills have on her health?”
The answer to your problem: Look back to the point in time in your relationship with Mitch, the exact incident, when you lost his respect. At that time you had the option of insisting that he tow the line or move out.” You weren’t willing to not have him so you succumbed to his blackmail. That’s where you are now. “Mitch, if you marry her, I’ll won't be interacting with you until you’ve completed 25-hours of therapy or counseling.” It's referred to as responsible estrangement.
In other words, you still haven’t learned the lesson you were supposed to have learned with your ex. When it’s not working let it go, immediately. You hung out with your ex until it got so bad that you now speak of her derisively and abusively as though she were “high maintenance.” If you’ll look back you will be able to locate the incident with your ex, after which it was all over but the drama. That was the time you could have completed the relationship amicably, knowing full well that you wanted to change her without her permission. She revealed your addiction to abusing and being abused. Now you’ve set it up for your son to abuse you. I'd place a small wager that one or both of your parents didn't approve of your engagement to your ex.
Now you’ve got the same choice with your son, to communicate verbally that you've already played the dependency game and know that it doesn’t work. That it doesn’t feel good to know that you have trained him to abuse you. His decision to get engaged to her without asking for your approval and support invalidates your role as a father. Let him know that he should play his game until he doesn’t need to do it anymore and then come back into your life. In other words, what’s up for you is to be willing to choose to be lonely rather than put up with someone in your life who is the source of abuse.
Here’s your challenge: Invite them both for a home-cooked dinner and share verbally with them all that you and I have talked about here, including showing them our communications (it’s unethical to badmouth another). Both of them are withholding similar thoughts from you. The evening will effect a transformation. Mimi’s health suggests that she has set up her life so as to get caught for a perpetration, withhold, or some incomplete with her own parents. In return, if you ask her to be honest with you, she will deliver some communications to you that will effect a transformation between you and your son. —Gabby
PS: Gabby thinks it's great that you wrote; most parents (it's not only men) continue driving, refusing to stop and ask for directions.
PPS: What he doesn't know is that if he lets his children interact with you that you will teach them (mostly non-verbally) to put up with abuse.
last edited 10/3/17