#107 Mom stays close to daughter's exes / Mom's attachments are sexist
DEAR ABBY: From the time when I was a teen, whenever a romance of mine ended, my mother would continue having her own relationship with the ex regardless of how I felt about it.
Over the years she has — attended my ex-husband's wedding, still visits with my former high school boyfriend, contacts my sister's ex-boyfriend — the list goes on and on. Not surprisingly, this issue has generated some heated exchanges.
Now my adult daughter is experiencing the same thing. She recently ended a three-year relationship, and guess where Mother ended up? She drove 20 miles to visit him in his store, although there are plenty of other stores she could have gone to nearby.
I have long felt that I didn't matter much to her since my ex’s were so important to her. But seeing the pain this has brought to my daughter makes me furious all over again. Should we just never introduce her to anyone in our lives until the wedding? —SICK OF THE EX-FACTOR
DEAR SICK OF EX-FACTOR: You’re within your rights to do that. However I find it odd that not only does your mother have such a hard time letting go of these men, but also that all of them seem to have a hard time letting go of her. I could see this happening once - but that it's happening with all of them seems peculiar. —Abby
Hi SICK OF EX-FACTOR: How fortunate you are to have a role model such as your mother. It speaks well of your exes also, that they too continue to have loving supportive relationships with her. You’ve chosen well.
Let’s begin with the fact that it is both unethical and abusive to bring someone into your life and then dump them as you have your exes.* Your letter is exciting because it suggests that you are ready to begin the leadership-relationship communication skills mastery curriculum. In other words, you have mastered talking. One characteristic of talking (how we can distinguish talking from communication) is that when we’ve become stuck in talking we bring another into our lives and find something wrong with them and keep them at arms (or more) for life. Think of it as two magnificent universes heading towards each other with the sole purpose of becoming one with the other. And then the mind, out of fear, puts the brakes on one or two miles from the other and they remain in these self-imposed orbits for life, just short of the ultimate experience of communication. In this orbit all glimpses of love are but peak experiences that happen every once in a while; when communication takes place, with even one person, it opens one’s heart to the potential for it to be that way with everyone.
Notice that talking is not a difficult skill to learn, most everyone does it. It’s a fundamental survival mechanism. It gets us through the day and even life but with little or no joy. The difference between talking and communication is that with communication there is always an experience of love upon completion. In a relationship in which communication takes place the relationship never ends.
I’m reluctant to reward your “I wanna be right that she’s wrong” position but your mother does have a problem. The clue is that she continues relationships with your exes but not your girlfriends. In other words, there is a sexist element to her behavior, it’s not an enlightened behavior, rather one of a person en route to becoming enlightened. Her behavior has become an addiction much the same as you have become addicted to making her wrong and trying to change her.
There’s nothing you have to do. A Zen master would tell you that you’re doing great, that you’re well on the way, that you’ve already entered the bamboo tube en route to enlightenment. Light is at the end of the tube and you can’t squirm backwards and you can’t stand up. Keep sharing your thoughts until you have none. There’s thousands of conversations you’ve yet to have with your parents.
Do show everyone our posts.
* There is one possibility but your letter doesn’t suggest it. If you discovered that all of your ex’s were involved in drugs or unethical/illegal activities/abuses (especially dysfunctional families) then of course your were smart to recess them from your life. However there is a responsible way to recess another. For example: “I won’t be interacting with you ever again until you can tell me you have completed x hrs of therapy.” In that way they have a way of supportively interacting with you again. And, if this were the case you should have told your mother why you were recessing them. If she continued to interact with someone you experienced needed therapy then she too would need therapy, and you’d reveal your addiction to invalidation and abuse if you continued interacting with her—except that you issued her a “heal or else” ultimatum.