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Tremendous Guilt
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Tremendous Guilt

is in her 60's.

In the past, she has had a habit of impulsive behavior. She has quit jobs without having new ones, sold a house and put her mom in a nursing home, only to follow a guy to a different city and watch him to back to his ex-wife.

In my last teenage years, she sent me off to be with my dad's side of the family
on the other side of the country. Since those approximately 15 years, she has called about 5 times. The rest have been distant, factual-type e-mails.

I was able to tolerate her random e-mails throughout each year. Then this recent episode threw me into a  obsessive
loop.

She met a guy online earlier this year. She didn't meet him in person or talk to him on the phone until recently. Before that point, under his suggestion, she got rid of her apt. and quit her job. This was before she met him.

She met him in person last month and married him the very next day. Within a few days, she sold her car. I didn't go to the wedding.
When I called on the wedding day to wish them well, they made the decision to stay in town, so my mom could be close to her family.They stayed in a hotel for 2 weeks, got an apt. for 2 weeks, then he sold his car too and they took a bus a different state to move in with a pastor and his wife that they met off the internet. She wasn't planning on telling familywhen she left. I just happened to call her and informed the rest of the familyin that state. I live on the other side of the country.  

Their decisions really stressed me out. He doesn't have contact with any of his family
and he invited no one to the wedding. I was extremely skeptical, so I didn't go. My issues are:

1) How can I deal with the overwhelming and piercing guilt for not going to the wedding?
2) How do I deal with a mom who rarely contacts me and is very distant. She hasnt' really been there. She didn't even show up at my graduations.
3) How do I stop worrying about the two of them and their continuously impulsive decisions.
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2 Comments
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Avatar_m_tn
Dear Giraffe,

Tough problem, and one of very long standing!

Before I comment, a disclaimer. I have never evaluated your mother, and am just meeting you for the first time. So, in my comments, I am not condemning any aspect of your relationship or the personalities involved. My reliability may be low as a function of unfamiliarity. So please take the comments only as a general guideline, a small part of the work to be done and the understanding to be had.

This said, my educated guess is that you need an overhaul of your perspective. From your report, your mother appears quite irrational, and it appears she has been so for a long time. Her problems appear moderate at best, and perhaps significantly more severe. Her impulsivity, chaotic life style, unstable relationships, and social inappropriateness could exist as a pattern in their own right, or could be a manifestation of a more profound set of issues, such as bipolar disorder, drug abuse, some form of hypo-psychotic process, etc. I don’t claim to know. And with respect to your questions, I don’t think it much matters. I think what’s important is that you maintain an understandable but, when you think about it, irrational need for her to be “normal,” dealing with people in the honorable and consistent manner that you and I would. But evidently it’s just not going to happen.

At what point do we realize that “unreliable means unreliable, inconsistent means inconsistent, impulsive means impulsive?” I think now’s the time. Can we stand realizing that she’s likely not going to be better than this, not now, probably not ever, without some real help that she will very likely never get? I think it’s necessary. Otherwise, you’re left in pain, sad and angry about a change that will never come.

I’ve worked for years with people on this problem. We just don’t want to let go. It’s as if doing so leaves us without both a sense of control and some fundamental connection, especially when a parent is involved. But it’s not so. We can remake these fundamentals.

The first, crucial step is to see reality clearly. Once this happens, we stop waiting in vain for consistency. Remember that INconsistency keeps us on the hook way more than someone consistently letting us down. It’s as if we secretly believe that one instance of decent behavior could be coaxed into a pattern. No way!

Then, it’s a question of grieving the fact that your mother has failed to be the mother you wanted. This and the other questions you pose I believe are best dealt with with a good therapist. I’d guess that you need in that person the opposite of mother: someone consistent, attentive, and caring. Guilt for not going to the wedding? Concern about her decisions, over which you have zero control? That’s crazy-making! And after all she’s put you through? I well understand the feeling, but how does that square with the reality? As you say, she has rarely contacted you and has been very distant, even abandoning you as a teenager (and even her own mother)! Is this someone you should continue to invest in? I think your concern should be on yourself, and on generating relationships that are truly nurturing. It may take some time and work, especially to get over the quite irrational guilt,
but if you spend your resources both dealing with your feelings about your mother AND making rewarding relationships, you’ll wind up with a far better life.

Giraffe, you deserve so much more. This would start with you getting stable, caring people in your life, professionals and private life people both. I hope you do so!

Sincerely,

Dr. P.
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Avatar_m_tn
Your advice is excellent. My friends have been supporting me in taking care of myself and finding better relationships too. Thank you so much.
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