I feel like my mom doesn’t care about me

Why Doesn’t My Mother Love Me?

Q – I’m feeling really confused and hurt by my mother’s lack of love and care towards me. I’m a single parent of a daughter, aged 4, and I can see the contrast so clearly now I’m a mum myself, and it hurts me so much. My mother chooses to have hardly anything to do with my little girl – which is perhaps a blessing.

I’ve given up trying to please my mother and to not make her feel ashamed or embarrassed by me. I know that I don’t do as well as I could in life because I don’t want her to be envious of me – how mad is that!

All the positive affirmations and mantras I see on social media and in books just don’t sink in – it’s as if I’m blocked from being happy and successful or being seen as any better than her. I don’t want to be unhappy and miserable like she is – yet she causes it!

I’m an only child and so her nastiness is all targeted at me – but I just don’t deserve it. It’s made me have problems with my self-esteem and friendships – as I end up finding people who boss me around or just want to use me.

I make sure I never rock the boat and I know I’m a fake – to make people like me more. I feel sad and pathetic.

People tell me to just put things in the past but I can’t. When I’m with her I feel like an awkward kid again. I want her approval, and to feel that she cares and is interested in me. I want her to make me feel safe and secure, to be kind to me and accept me and my daughter without those disapproving looks and guilt trips whenever I make a mistake (in her eyes).

The silly thing is I do feel guilty for ruining her life and getting in her way.

I want her to be a better grandmother than she is a mother. I feel disloyal and selfish even telling you about her. Am I wasting my time wishing for all of this from her?

A – I feel sadness reading about your emotional wounds. Yes, you may be wasting your time hoping that she will ever be able to heal them for you.

Our most primal and significant relationship starts from inside the womb. Our mother is our first mirror and she determines how we see ourselves and our world.

If that mirror is cracked and dirty because she hasn’t cleaned and repaired it then the reflections will be distorted.

Your mother’s belief system and personality have create the mirror in which you see yourself – a mirror which was probably handed down to her too!

As a young child we have limited cognitive functioning and we can’t separate the truth from a lie. We innocently soak up what we’re bathed in emotionally and believe it to be real and true. We can’t examine it or reject it as false, and it then becomes ingrained within us – and so the unexamined beliefs get passed on.

It takes self-awareness of who we are, and why – and how we affect other people – to give us the incentive to change.

Many people fear and avoid reflecting upon their own shortcomings and weaknesses, and they find it much easier and preferable to see fault in others – even in their own children.

Unless the parent is willing to heal the pain and bad feelings from their own losses, regrets, failures and disappointments, then these toxic feelings percolate and spew out onto those closest to them. Unfortunately a small child has no protection from this poisonous emotional vomit.

It’s particularly hard when we see so many positive examples of kind and loving mothers in social media posts and real-life stories. It can feel like rippling off a scab and exposing our own raw and bleeding wounds again.

A child’s wound caused by a wounded mother who hadn’t healed herself, and instead passed on her poisonous infection to her offspring.

I’m delighted to read that you have ensured that your daughter has a much better experience than you had.

I suspect that as she grows through the natural developmental stages, you will need to face those new triggers and harsh reminders within yourself, and find a sensitive way through them, both for you and your little girl.

Speaking of which, it’s vital that you ‘re-parent your inner child’ – the little girl who still lives deep inside you and feels that old and acute emotional pain. She has had a hard time and needs you to show her those things that you’ve been hoping and wishing to get from your mother.

Allow yourself to create a nurturing and protective parent in your own mind – and become that person for yourself. Someone who shows themselves self compassion, generosity and kindness, and someone who loves being more happy and playful.

This will have a knock-on effect to your relationships – and you’ll no longer allow people to boss you around or to use you.

Your daughter will reap the benefits of this shift in your perceptions too – and that will make it all the more important for you to continue with it.

As you separate your identity from that of your mother, and detach from her behaviour – both emotionally and psychologically – you will become free and empowered to adopt the little girl inside you who is yearning for your love and kindness.

Become clear about your new identity.

What do you want, need, prefer, believe in, and value?

What are you passionate about?

What will you, and won’t you, tolerate?

It’s time for you to ‘repair the tear’ inside of yourself – and stop wishing that your mother will miraculously change into the mother you’ve always wanted her to be.

As you develop and strengthen the robust and reliable adult part of your psyche, you will find a new and better way to speak with your mother. A way which ensures that you remain in ‘adult mode’ and not regress into a needy, rebellious, or compliant and submissive child.

This ‘assertive you’ will be easier to practice with other people first. ‘Mother’ is the biggest challenge!

I urge you to first create boundaries that serve you well – about what is, and isn’t OK with you.

Please remember that you have nothing to prove to your mother, only to yourself, your inner child and your daughter.

As you trust and like yourself more, you will become more emotionally resilient and robust – and be able to pass these valuable traits onto your daughter.

Ditch the shame and guilt – it doesn’t belong with you. It was never yours. It just got passed on to you when you didn’t know any better than to accept it.

Give yourself permission to become confident, authentic, spontaneous, happy and successful – and refuse to swallow any more of your mother’s emotional poison!

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR

www.maxineharley.com Where you’ll find FREE e-booklets and videos to help you to better understand and recover from the difficulties with you’re having with your rmother

You’ll also find a FREE e-booklet called Opti-Mum Parenting © – which will help you to feel more competent and confident in your role as a mother, and show you how healing your own emotional wounds enables you to be a better mother to your own child. I call this process ‘Care & Repair From The Inside Out’ (c)

www.maxineharleymentoring.com – helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours – to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better!

www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk – A series of 10 online self-help Psycho-Emotional-Educational workshops to help you to help yourself with a wide range of emotional, psychological and relationship problems.

To my mother, who doesn’t love me or care about me anymore

I remember what it was like to live in a trailer park with a deadbeat, alcoholic, abusive, and lazy father and a mother who worked three jobs just to feed me. And I remember you, my mom, saving money so that we could afford a deal house. When he – my biological father- left, saying he found another woman, you told me you’d never let it happen again; you said you would keep me happy and safe forever.

Now years down the road, I’m huddled into a ball in my bedroom. I’ve cried so much that I can’t cry anymore. I can’t remember the last time you told me that you loved me, or even the last time you hugged me.

Every heartbreak has a story, though. You used to be my best friend. We would do everything together. When you weren’t working you would pick me up from my grandmother’s house and we would go do something: have a picnic at the park, go camping in the woods behind my house, go look in a store for things I might want to put on my Christmas list. But one night when I was six, you brought a man home from the bar and introduced him to me. He was mean when you weren’t around. Around eight months later you were married to him again. You had already broken the promise you had made. It had only been three and a half years since you had told me you wouldn’t let me hurt anymore.

I was eight when you told me I would have a little brother. While I still love him to death, I dreaded him at that time, and he wasn’t even alive yet. Your husband told me that he would be “the better version of me,” and that he would be the “second chance for you two to have a child that was worth something.” I know that growing up in Alabama at that time, I was abnormal for not liking trucks and hunting and fishing and the army. So I’m sorry I wasn’t like that for you. Honestly, I didnt even know you liked that kind of stuff. You didn’t, until your husband came along.

I was nine when you told me I was getting “too meaty” and that I needed to stop eating so much. I started hiding my food, giving it too the dogs any chance I had. I would sit in my bed and force pressure on my stomach until I felt like I needed to throw up. I’m sorry you had to tell at me and call me a dumbass when you found out. I guess I was.

I was eleven when I came home and told you that people at school were calling me fat and ugly and that I should kill myself. You told me to just get over it and “cowgirl up.” I haven’t said a word to you about what people say about me or to me ever since. You didn’t care enough when I was small and vulnerable, so you wouldn’t care now.

I was thirteen when I lost my only friend I had – Chloe – and when my cousin called you and told you I cut myself. You came into my room and scolded me, saying I would go to hell and that I deserved to lose Chloe. You snatched my arm and looked at my scars before shaking your head and walking out, not saying anything about it every since.

I was fourteen when you took my phone and gave it to your husband. That’s when you figured out I am bisexual. Your husband yelled at me and called me a disgrace and disgusting. You didn’t talk to me for two weeks. Even after that, it took you three months to say anything to me other than “dinner’s ready.” That’s also the same year I told you I wanted to die, and you watched as your husband said, “if you want to do bad, then just do I.” You said nothing. You just observed. When I came home and told you I had a boyfriend, that’s when you asked me if he was okay in the head, because he chose me out of everyone.

I was fifteen when your father sent me a text one thursday night asking me if I would let him “touch,” and telling me that he gets hard when he thinks about me. I showed you the text the next morning, and I cried in your arms. Your husband went to defend me, but your father told him everything. That I’m bi, that I’m atheist. That didn’t matter though, you already knew. But when he made things up, that’s when you turned against me. Both you and your husband came home yelling, telling me that you were going to take me to the hospital to get me tested for STDs and get me an ultrasound. He had told you I was pregnant by my boyfriend. You both carried me and found out I wasn’t pregnant and there were no signs I had been sexually active. Even then, you still didn’t believe me. To this day, I hardly get to see my boyfriend because you think I’m a slut.

I was sixteen when I found out I’m transgender. I never told you, and I still haven’t. I don’t know when I will. Your husband ridiculed me for cutting my hair short, telling me I look like an ugly tranny, and you told me it just makes me look fatter than normal. You made comments about my binder, even though you didn’t understand you said I was ugly and unattractive with a flat chest.

I’m seventeen now. I’m planning to move in with my boyfriend as soon as I turn eighteen so I can avoid any legal problems. I miss you and who you used to be. I don’t think you’ll even become you ever again. I’ll never forget the promise you made to me when I was there, and I will never forget how much it hurts to know that that promise was just a meaningless jumble of words.

I’m becoming my own person. One day I’ll be in college and having fun with my friends and spending time with a family who is better to me than you have been in years. One day I’ll cross out the day on the calendar, exactly five years since we last talked.

I want you to realize that I will always love you. For the longest time, you were the most important person in my life. Though you have changed, for the worse, I can’t ever forget how you used to be. You don’t love me anymore, but that’s okay. You are not you, and I can’t say that it’s completely your fault.

Maybe one day, years from now, you’ll read this and know it was for you. Maybe you’ll call me or text me, wanting so badly to make up.

But maybe you won’t.

Of course we’ve all heard this little ditty:

A son is a son till he takes a wife.

A daughter’s a daughter all her life.

In the lead up to my son’s wedding, I spent a lot of time pondering this idea, wondering if it was going to hold true for me. One evening when I was particularly focused on the potential unraveling of the mother-son bond, my iPhone pinged, as if on cue. It was a photo of a plate, captioned: “Tomato herb rice with white beans and spinach—not bad.” I don’t know what most adult sons text about with their moms, but Paul and I often exchange pictures of what we made for dinner.

“No meat?” I reply.

“Protein in beans,” followed by a heart emoji.

Paul and I have always been close. Among other things, we share a love of debate, bad puns, and cooking. The food bond started early. Paul claims that when he was eight years old, I snapped at him in the grocery store produce section, “Didn’t I raise you better than to buy peaches out of season?” In my defense, my son, now 28, is an inspired cook and a careful shopper.

Testing My Own Theories on the Mother-Son Bond

When Paul was a teenager, I wrote a book on the mother-son relationship, called The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger. Research backed up the subtitle – studies revealed that boys who have a strong emotional bond with their mothers fare better in school, in the workplace, and in relationships with friends and significant others. They had lower rates of anxiety and depression.

In interviews, many moms rejected the idea that by keeping our sons close, we’d raise wimpy, dependent – even effeminate – “mama’s boys.” As a feminist, I thought that was homophobic nonsense. I believed I had a lot to teach my son – and not just about making a perfect omelet. From a strong work ethic to empathy towards others, I wanted to model the same values to Paul as I did to his older sister, Jeanie.

Yet something nagged at me. Common wisdom held that when your son hit adolescence, it was time to start letting him go, for his own mental well being. Obviously, I didn’t want to stand in the way of my kids’ healthy evolution towards independence. But there seemed to be an expectation that I was supposed to detach emotionally from Paul in a way that I wasn’t with Jeanie. Again, this seemed dated and sexist. I just didn’t buy that our bond would prevent my son from becoming a well-adjusted man.

Read More: Hey, Over-Invested Moms! Your Adult Child’s Romance Is Not Your Business

Warnings and Stereotypes

But another warning was tougher to dismiss. Ultimately, you will lose your son to another. Separating from him will preemptively protect your heart. And, the implication is, prevent you from becoming another outmoded stereotype: The overbearing mother-in-law, competing for attention and affection with “the other woman.” Paul trading a mother for wife, only enough room for one woman in his heart. Meanwhile, Jeanie and I would be tight forever. Ridiculous. And yet…

Now Paul is getting married, and my theories are being put to the test.

First things first. I love his fiancé, Afroz. She’s moral, smart, and funny and has a great dynamic with Paul. They’ve dated for years. I’ve watched their relationship mature and had time to really get to know Afroz. We also share much in common, including a deep fear of flying and an abiding love for Jane Austen, The Golden Girls, and, of course, Paul.

Overstepping Boundaries?

The Happy Trio: Kate, Paul and Afroz.

As they fell in love, I had to adjust. Paul, who lives in another city, would call when he was sick.

“Sounds like you should rest and take some Tylenol,” I’d advise.

“Yeah, that’s what Afroz told me. She made me ginger tea with lemon and honey.”

I was happy he was cared for, but I felt a twinge that I wasn’t his first consult. Then there was the cooking.

“Mom, Afroz made these amazing potato, cauliflower, and onion patties. It’s her mom’s recipe.”

This felt like encroachment. But, hey, I really wanted the recipe.

When they called to tell us they were engaged, my husband and I were thrilled. But I overstepped—right out of the box, joyfully babbling to Afroz, “You’re going to be the mother of my grandchildren!” This was met with radio silence, followed by a polite, “Um. Someday. That’s the hope.”
Update: Find Out How the Author Fared After Her Son’s Marriage

Could We Share Him?

My future-daughter-in law is a lawyer. In college, she majored in politics and gender studies. I’d never asked about her feelings on my close relationship to Paul. Now that wedding plans are well underway, it seemed time.

Her answer surprised me: “When we started dating, I thought, ‘He’s really close to his family and his mom. This is so great.’” Encouraged, I asked if she’d ever heard the maxim that if you want to know how a man will be as a husband, watch how he treats his mother. She hadn’t. She thought it made sense, but that it was somewhat limited.

“Of course, there’s something to be said about respecting the women in your life,” Afroz told me. “But it extends beyond being a good spouse. He was raised to be an incredibly good person to all the people he’s close to.”

Pretty nice words for any parent to hear.

Paul, of course, has his faults. Afroz and I exchange eye rolls when he gets that dog-worrying-a-bone way of endlessly making his point, or, worse, breaks into his victory dance. (Paul’s not a bad loser, but he is a truly obnoxious winner.)

But you know what? I believe Paul will be as good a husband as he is a son. It’s brought me joy—not resentment—to see Paul and Afroz’s love for each other. After all, love is not a zero-sum game. There’s plenty to go around. Besides, I just remembered another proverb:

You’re not losing a son. You’re gaining a daughter.

***

Kate Stone Lombardi has been a journalist for more than 25 years. She work has appeared in the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Ladies Home Journal, Parenting Magazine and other national publications. Lombardi is the author of The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger.

A version of this article was originally published in May 2017. See the author’s update on her relationship with her son here.

My son got married on March 22, 2014.

There were many red flags before the wedding but I made a concerted effort to accept my new daughter-in-law, knowing that she would be difficult to deal with. He had been so very close to my husband and me and to his three sisters. He is a shy guy and never had a girlfriend until he met his wife-to-be in his 3rd year of college, 4 years ago. They went through a nasty breakup a few months after they began dating, and I was greatly relieved. He told me at that time that he learned she was involved with her old boyfriend, was smoking dope and hanging around with people he didn’t like, so he broke it off. He was a wreck but I was so relieved. Much to my disappointment, I found out a few months later that they had gotten back together. He had shared with me during the time of their breakup all of the hurtful things she had done, so naturally I was not happy that they were back together. However, I knew that if I spoke negatively about her it would do no good, so I have always been as kind as I can be to her. She is very controlling. My son no longer does many of the things he loves, such as playing his guitar or simply spending time with his family.

As a couple they did things that my son would normally have had the common sense not to do. They went on expensive vacations, despite huge school loan debts. He bought her a $12,000 engagement ring. That is the only time I actually said something to him. I drove 2 hours to meet him at college and tell him that he needed to think about how much money he was spending , as they were at the beginning of making many expensive decisions – wedding dress, honeymoon, etc. He was very hurt and told me that the $12,000 ring was entirely his decision, which I doubt. He was not happy with me but we got over it and got along well for the most part.

They got married in March. She kept us out of the wedding preparations, which was fine, I guess. I would have liked to help but she kept everything to herself. She had none of her new sister-in-laws in the wedding party. She squashed ideas that my son wanted for the wedding. He wanted two things: For us to do a special choreographed mother and son dance at the reception and for his youngest sister, who has a beautiful voice, to sing at their wedding. After going through much effort over a three month period to get a dance ready, my son wrote and said that she did not want us to do the dance because it would take attention away from her. I was sad but I accepted it with grace and simply said, “Whatever you want is fine.” She wavered back and forth on his sister singing at the wedding. One day she would say yes, the next no. We heard all of this through my son, never directly from the daughter-in-law. Finally, 2 days before the wedding, our son said yes, his sister can sing. She had only 2 days to learn a song for the wedding. This kept her from giving her best performance, but for a teenage sister, she did a pretty good job. Looking back I think they probably were fighting about that, and my son won that little battle. It is the only battle he won as far as we can tell regarding doing what he wanted for the wedding.

I should mention that the week before the wedding, my son called me in a panic. He said his wife-to-be was making him miserable, that she was so angry at him for making her quit her job in their college town in order to move to his hometown for a job. He said that she did nothing but yell at him and tell him he did nothing right. I told my son to back out NOW. It was not too late. If she is like this now, she will be like this whenever there is stress and there will be a lot of stress in a marriage. He mumbled something about talking to her and told me he would let me know how it went.

I immediately told my husband, his dad that he needed to get our son alone and let him talk to see if he needed help. My husband and my son did meet. He said my son said he talked it all over and everything was hunky dory. My husband felt he was lying, but he couldn’t get him to let down his guard.

The wedding went on. They left for an elaborate month long honeymoon. They came back to live in our hometown. They refused offers to meet with us for dinner or outings. I tried to meet with my new daughter-in-law, but she kept refusing my invitations. After another rejection, I texted my son, in a very positive way, and asked if they would like to get together with our family. Apparently I touched a nerve, because he went on a rant and told me that we needed to give his wife space because she felt that if she relied on her husband’s family and friends it would lessen the connection she had with her family and friends back home. He needed to not see us for a while. He said, and this is important, I TELL YOU THIS IN CONFIDENCE because she would not like to know he was telling me this stuff. I was very concerned and told him that I did not understand her. I told him he needed to evaluate his life and decide if he wanted to live this way. I encouraged him to get counseling and told him that I would go along, too, because I wanted to know how to have them in my life. He very angrily told me in response to leave him alone. Sadly, I said I would, and I would not get in touch until he chose to contact me. I urged him to take care of himself.

That was May 30. I did not hear from him until he stopped over, alone, to say hi to his dad on Father’s day. He did not address me except indirectly. It was awkward but it was better than nothing. I heard nothing from him until July 27, 2014, when he and his wife came over and rocked our world.

We had invited son and wife on our family vacation which was July 19-26. They never responded to the invitation and so we assumed they were not coming. This made us sad, as our son had never missed a family vacation. The 3 other kids and significant others came along, but not those two. We knew that the daughter-in-law’s birthday was in late July. I asked my son through email what his wife would like for her birthday. He sent a detailed list to his dad and me, including links to desired items, and thanked us for thinking of her. I felt this was a positive step. Several emails went back and forth between son and my husband, and a gift was chosen through Amazon and we sent it to their home. Before we left on our trip, my husband and I and his sisters signed a card for daughter-in-law, in which we included some gift cards and we placed it all in a yellow envelope and mailed to her.

They indeed did not show up on our vacation, which made us sad but we still had fun with the other kids. The day we got back, July 27th, son texted his dad and said they wanted to come over and talk about some stuff. We immediately made ourselves available and wondered what they would discuss: were they having a baby? Did they want to thank us for the gifts? They were fairly generous gifts, not that we needed a big thank you.

Son walked in first. I hugged him and he recoiled. I went to hug daughter-in-law and she flinched and backed away. Then I noticed that my son was carrying a legal pad full of writing. And my daughter-in-law was carrying an unopened box from Amazon, and an unopened yellow birthday card envelope. I started to get very worried.

They sat down at our table with us and my son began reading their list of grievances against me. He said that he cannot believe that I did not try to contact him and apologize for what I had said in my text to him on May 30. He said that they could not accept these birthday gifts because I obviously did not support their marriage. And how dare I suggest that they get a divorce?

I was stunned beyond belief. The first thing I blurted out was, “I didn’t say you should get a divorce! ” My daughter-in-law looked me in the eye, wagged her finger back and forth, and stated coldly, “Oh no – you don’t get to say anything.” I was floored. I could not believe she had spoken to me like that. I just sat there stunned, as did my husband. My son went on, saying how much I annoy them and pester them, alternated with repeated expressions of how sad he was that I had not apologized to him. I gathered my wits and said, “I didn’t contact you because you told me to leave you alone.” My daughter-in-law said, “Why are you so defensive?” My husband, thank goodness, finally piped up and said, “She is defensive because you are on the attack.” They also severely criticized me for suggesting counseling. I said. “I think that meeting with a counselor is a safer way to have a productive discussion. This is not a productive discussion.” She told me to be quiet and let my son talk. I told her that I didn’t think that she was being fair. She said, again wagging the finger, “OH no – you don’t get to feel that way.” That is the only time I got angry – I told her, “You cannot tell someone how they should feel.”

In general, though, I am an introverted person, a survivor of severe childhood abuse, and I just began to crumble. They kept up the attack. I apologized for anything and everything – more than I should have, my husband said, as I hadn’t really done anything – but they were unmoved. I felt like a beaten dog that rolled over to show my belly – and they kept kicking me in the belly. It was one of the worst days of my life.

I don’t really remember what else happened. My husband told me that he said to them, “Okay, she apologized, she promised not to bother you and to leave you alone – will you please accept this birthday gift now?” They just turned and left our house.

I have cried every day since. My husband tried twice to talk to them. The last time he tried, he put it on speakerphone so that I could hear. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have believed that it was my son, the one I knew and loved, speaking to his dad that way . My husband pleaded with him to speak to his mother and to reconcile this problem. My son said, “You know, if you don’t have anything important to say, I’m going to bed now”. He hung up.

What has happened to our son? This was a kid who never gave us an ounce of trouble. He would defend the underdog in any situation. He never in his life, ever once, spoke disrespectfully to either of us. He treated his sisters like queens. He was valedictorian, an all state athlete, a talented singer, singing in elite choirs, playing any stringed instrument you put in front of him, even became a pretty good chef, learning from TV chef shows. He graduated with honors from a top ten law school. Our opinion of him could not have been higher. I was so proud of him.

If you had told me 5 years ago that my son would speak so disrespectfully to his parents, I would have bet everything I own that you were wrong wrong wrong! I still cannot believe it happened. It has been two months, and there has been no communication. This is a kid who previously spoke with us at least once a week, and contacted us through texts or other media several times per week. To have heard nothing from him in 2 months, with the last time being one of the worst experiences of my life, is unbelievable.

I cry every single day. I feel as though he died but there is no body to bury. Does anyone have any advice? I really don’t know how I will be able to survive the holidays. I know we will not see him .

I should mention – during the wedding reception, the bride’s mother came to me and said, “I gotta warn you – she’s a real control freak.” How very, very true.

Is there any chance we will ever have a normal relationship again? I now fear for my son. She is a ruthlessly controlling and manipulative person. He cannot be happy, can he? If he ever regains his senses and tries to leave her, she will try to destroy him, I am sure.

Any advice, anyone?

I don’t know what your argument was about, but if it was anything like most arguments between parents and their adult children, it ultimately had to do with what you mention: separation—that is, renegotiating your roles as your son gets older. Indeed, your son just got married, and though you adore your daughter-in-law, this does represent a new life phase for him, one in which his primary relationship is the one he has with his wife. That doesn’t mean you two will necessarily be less close—plenty of married adults are very close with their parents—it just means that you have the potential to develop a healthier and less fraught kind of closeness. In other words, this is a wonderful opportunity.

Most children, with or without siblings, go through a process way back in toddlerhood called “separation and individuation.” Separation refers to the child’s recognition that he or she is a separate person from the parent (as opposed to the infant’s concept of “fusion,” in which they’re part of the same whole). Individuation refers to the child having his or her own thoughts, feelings, and ways of seeing the world that may be different from the parent’s. If all goes well in this process, the child feels connected to the parent, but also free to be his or her own person.

Sometimes, though, parents and children become “enmeshed,” usually because the parent—due to her own history, or her not getting her needs met in other ways—struggles to let go. With separation and individuation, the parent and child feel both comfortably connected and separate. With enmeshment, however, it becomes hard to distinguish one person’s emotional experience from the other’s: The parent tends to be over-involved in the child’s life (for instance, trying to direct the son’s or daughter’s choices), making it hard for the child to become independent. The thing about enmeshment is that it can be confused with closeness. And when there’s a breach, it feels particularly painful.

All healthy relationships go through rupture and repair. There’s a rupture—a misunderstanding, an unfortunate interaction, hurt feelings—followed by a repair. The repair might involve one person or both people taking responsibility for their actions, making a genuine apology, or working through a difference. I have a feeling that your son was also upset by what happened on Mother’s Day but instead of taking into account his experience and what you can do to repair your part, you’re insisting that he re-create the Mother’s Day you wanted—as if a do-over consisting of him grudgingly restaging the day’s festivities would repair this for either of you.

If you can see beyond the hurt, you might view your son’s walking out not as “the meanest thing a child can do to a mother,” but as an indication that he wants to preserve your relationship. The meanest thing a child can do isn’t leave during a chaotic argument so that both of you can calm down and not do even more damage; the meanest thing isn’t being willing to move forward despite the extremely hurtful things that were said; the meanest thing isn’t his saying, after six weeks of hearing you attempt to get him to accede to your demand, that he feels those conversations need to end because they aren’t helping either of you. He’s essentially saying, I’m not giving up on us, Mom, but I care too much about our relationship to argue about this anymore—let’s agree to disagree, as all people must do.

Authorities believe the estranged husband accused of killing Connecticut mom Jennifer Farber Dulos made an apparent suicide attempt Tuesday, according to two law enforcement sources.

Fotis Dulos, 52, is in critical condition at UConn Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut and is being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, Farmington Police Lt. Tim McKenzie said. He is being transported from UConn Health to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Dulos’ attorney Norm Pattis said Dulos is being treated in a hyperbaric chamber at the hospital. A hyperbaric oxygen chamber could be used to treat several medical conditions, including burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. It pumps oxygen into the body.

McKenzie said officers conducted a well-being check at his house on Tuesday just before noon after Dulos did not appear in court for an emergency bond hearing. Upon arrival, officers saw Dulos sitting in his vehicle in the house’s garage in obvious signs of medical distress, so they forced entry and began CPR, he said.

He was alone at his home at the time, McKenzie said.

Overhead video of the home, filmed by CNN affiliate WFSB, shows officers performing chest compressions on a person lying on the ground for more than 10 minutes.

Jennifer Farber Dulos, a 50-year-old mother of five, disappeared in May 2019 in New Canaan, Connecticut, after she dropped her children off at school. Investigators found her car near a park not far from her home, but she has not been seen or heard from since, and officials now believe she is dead.

She and Fotis Dulos, 52, were in the midst of a bitter custody battle. Jennifer Farber Dulos moved out in 2017 to a home in New Canaan and filed for divorce, court records show. She had told officials she was afraid of her husband before her disappearance, according to court documents obtained by CNN.

“I know that filing for divorce and filing this motion will enrage him,” she said, according to the documents. “I know he will retaliate by trying to harm me in some way.”

Fotis Dulos denied making any threats or bullying her, according to court filings.

He and his then-girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, were arrested in June and charged with tampering with or fabricating evidence after investigators found blood stains and evidence of attempts to clean the crime scene, officials said. They had pleaded not guilty.

He was arrested on murder and kidnapping charges earlier this month and again pleaded not guilty. Troconis, as well as Dulos’ friend and former attorney, Kent Mawhinney, have also been arraigned on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Neither has entered a plea yet.

Fotis Dulos has denied wrongdoing and his attorney has said the murder case against him lacks sufficient evidence.

He was released on a $6 million bond earlier this month, and an emergency bond hearing was set for Tuesday at noon.

The day she went missing, surveillance cameras captured someone matching the description of her estranged husband getting out of his truck and putting “multiple garage bags into various trash receptacles” in the Hartford area, authorities said. Detectives later recovered clothing and household goods from trash receptacles with Jennifer Dulos’ blood on it.

Fotis Dulos is president and CEO of the Fore Group, a Farmington-based company that builds custom homes.

41.736030 -72.795027

Lab Tests Find Estranged Husband’s DNA Mixed With Missing Connecticut Mom of 5’s Blood on Kitchen Faucet, Prosecutors Say

What to Know

  • Jennifer Dulos, a 50-year-old mother of five, disappeared on Friday, May 24, after dropping her kids off at school; she remains missing
  • Her estranged husband and his girlfriend both pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges in connection with her disappearance
  • The children’s grandmother, who lives in NYC, has filed for custody of them; their father has been barred from contact with the kids

The estranged husband of Jennifer Dulos, the suburban Connecticut mother of five now missing for more than two weeks, and his girlfriend pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with her disappearance Tuesday, as prosecutors unveiled new forensic information for the first time in several days.
Fotis Dulos, 51, and his 44-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, have been charged with evidence tampering and hindering prosecution. Dulos is now out of jail after posting $500,000 bond on Tuesday, and was seen walking out of the Stamford, Connecticut, courthouse. Prosecutors wanted Dulos’ bond increased to $850,000 after they say lab tests showed a mixture of his DNA and Jennifer Dulos’ blood on a faucet in the missing woman’s kitchen.
That was the first key new forensic detail made public since last week, when court documents revealed cops found blood in Jennifer Dulos’ garage and said she appeared to have been the victim of a “serious physical assault.” Arrest warrants also linked the pair to videos of trash bags being dumped in areas where Jennifer Dulos’ blood was later found on clothing and other items. Surveillance video allegedly showed their pickup truck stopping 30 times along a 4-mile stretch of road to allegedly dump garbage.
Pattis says, “Just because there were 30 stops doesn’t mean there were 30 bags,” but didn’t elaborate on a potential reason for the number of stops.
Prosecutors also allege Fotis Dulos showed up at Jennifer Dulos’ New Canaan home on Wednesday, May 22, two days before she vanished. He did not go inside, they said, and allegedly told people he didn’t want to go inside because he was worried his DNA would be found inside the residence. The two have not been living together since Jennifer Dulos filed for divorce in 2017.
At the same time prosecutors requested a bond increase, Norm Pattis, a high-profile defense attorney representing Fotis Dulos, asked for a bond reduction. The judge denied both motions and held Fotis Dulos’ bond at $500,000. Pattis also asked the judge for an immediate trial, which the judge denied. The bond for the girlfriend, Troconis, did not change; she is permitted to leave the state with the court’s permission.
Troconis left court quickly after her brief hearing and did not speak to reporters on her way out. She’s due back in court next month while Fotis Dulos’ next hearing is scheduled for early August.
Pattis said Tuesday after court that the state picked the wrong fight.
“At the risk of sounding rude, there’s a lot you don’t know. The state has picked this fight; we’ll win it,” Pattis said. “We deny the charges. We don’t know where Mr. Dulos’ ex-wife is. I would ask everyone to put aside the easy narrative here.”

Jennifer Dulos, who moved from Farmington to New Canaan after filing for divorce, was last seen while dropping off her children at school in New Canaan on Friday, May 24. She was reported missing later that night after she missed several appointments in New York City and her friends became concerned when they could not reach her.

Police have been searching all across Connecticut, including in Hartford, Farmington and New Canaan, sifting through shredded trash in their hunt for evidence in the disappearance of the 50-year-old mother. Her five children, who range in age from 8 to 13 and include two sets of twins — have been staying with her 85-year-old mother at an Upper East Side apartment, apparently under armed guard. The grandmother has filed for custody of the children, while Fotis Dulos remains banned from contact with them. At a custody hearing Tuesday, a judge said he was not yet ready to make a permanent ruling in the case.

As the search continues, police dedicated a website, FindJenniferDulos.com, and an email address, [email protected], to the investigation.

The Laws of In-Laws

“My husband’s mother wants to tell me how to cook. I cooked my own meals for five years before we married. I don’t need her help.”

“My wife’s parents give her money to buy things we can’t afford. I resent that. I wish they would let us run our own lives.”

“My husband’s parents just ‘drop in’ unannounced. Sometimes I’m in the middle of a project I need to complete. I wish they would respect our schedules.”

For 30 years, people have sat in my counseling office and said things like this. In-law problems are common and often include such issues as control, interference, inconvenience and the clashing of values and traditions.

Separating from parents

Scriptures indicate two parallel guidelines for relating to parents after you are married. First, we are to separate from our parents. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). God’s pattern for marriage involves “leaving” parents and “holding fast” to a husband or wife. Thus, marriage brings a change of allegiance. Before marriage, one’s allegiance is to parents; after marriage, allegiance shifts to one’s mate.

For example, if there is a conflict of interest between a man’s wife and his mother, the husband is to stand with his wife. This does not mean that the mother is to be treated unkindly. It means that she is no longer the dominant female in his life. No couple will reach their full potential in marriage without this psychological break from parents.

This principle of separation is perhaps most important in decision-making. Your parents and in-laws may have suggestions about many aspects of your married life. These should be taken into consideration. However, you must make your own decisions as a couple. It’s important that you not allow parents to manipulate you into making a decision on which the two of you do not agree.

Honoring parents

The second fundamental principle of marriage is that we are to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12). This command does not cease when we are married.

The word honor means to show respect. It involves treating others with kindness and dignity. One wife said, “My parents do not live respectable lives. How can I respect them when I don’t agree with what they are doing?” Not all parents live honorable lives. Their actions may not be worthy of respect, but because of the special God-given role they’ve played in our lives, it is always right to honor our parents and the parents of our spouse.

How do we express honor to our parents in daily life? By keeping the lines of communication open — visiting, telephoning and sending emails. Such communication conveys the message “I still love you and want you to be a part of my life.” Failure to communicate says in effect, “I no longer care.”

Building mutual respect

Leaving and honoring sets the stage for a relationship of mutual respect with parents and in-laws. Even so, this kind of relationship doesn’t always come easily. Let me suggest four areas that may require extra diligence as you seek to establish respect:

Holiday traditions. Christmas is the biggie. His parents and your parents both want you at their house on Christmas Day. Unless they live beside each other, that will likely be impossible. So you must negotiate a settlement that will be fair and shows respect to both parents. That may mean Christmas with his parents and Thanksgiving with her parents, with the understanding that next year you will switch the order. Or it may mean that the two of you decide to establish your own Christmas traditions and not visit either set of parents. However, this second choice will likely be taken as a symbol of disrespect — at least until you have children.

Religious differences. Seldom do two individuals come to marriage with the same spiritual background. They may both be Christians but come from different doctrinal traditions. Parents can have strong beliefs that may differ from yours or those of your spouse. Not all religious beliefs could possibly be true — they may even contradict each other. But we must show respect and give each other the same freedom that God grants us. When you show respect for religious differences, you create a positive relationship in which you can discuss religious issues openly. You may even learn something from one another.

Privacy. A young husband said, “We really need help with my mom and dad. We don’t want to hurt them, but we have got to do something. We never know when they will drop by for a visit, and sometimes it’s really inconvenient.

“In fact, last week my wife and I had agreed that we would get the children to bed early and we would have an extended time together for making love. By 8 o’clock the children were asleep, when suddenly the doorbell rang and there were my mother and father. As you can imagine, it destroyed our dreams of a romantic evening.”

I told the young husband that his folks were not respecting his privacy.

“I know,” he said, “but we don’t know what to do about it.”

“Let me suggest that you talk with your father privately and tell him what happened last week,” I said. “If you share what happened, chances are, he will explain it to your mother, and they will begin to call before they come over.”

I saw the couple a few months later and the wife said, “Dr. Chapman, thanks so much. His mother got upset for about three weeks and didn’t come to visit at all. Then we talked about it and assured them that they were always welcome but explained that it was helpful if they would call and ask if it was a convenient time. We haven’t had any problems since then.”

Many couples wait until they are so frustrated with their in-laws that they lash out with harsh and condemning words and fracture the relationship. But when we speak with respect, we are likely to get respect.

Differing opinions and ideas. Scripture indicates that we ought to seek the counsel of others to make wise decisions (Proverbs 11:14; 19:20). Your in-laws may have more experience and wisdom than you — at least in certain areas of life. So, ask for their advice. Then make the decision that you and your spouse think is wise.

Our political, religious and philosophical ideas are often different from those held by our in-laws, so don’t think you must always agree with their ideas. But we can enrich one another’s lives when we share our thoughts and reflect on what the other person is sharing. We can respect his or her ideas even though we may not agree with them: “I hear what you’re saying, and I think it makes sense from one perspective. But let me share my perspective.” Because you have listened, he or she will more likely listen to your idea. Then each of you can evaluate what was said. A different perspective can help us refine our own ideas into a more meaningful approach to life, and respect for each other can be foundational to a healthy in-law relationship.

It’s nearly three years since I heard your voice on the telephone, nearly two years since I heard your voice from the other side of your front door. A small, frightened whisper, which, though I knew it to be in your voice, didn’t seem like you at all. I sat for nearly three hours in the rain on your doorstep, hoping we could talk, if only through the door; I hoped you would come to the station to find me before I went back. Through that door, I also heard the grandson I have never met. I came to know he existed because a dear friend, talking to a mutual acquaintance, found out they had been sent a Christmas card two years ago, with a photograph of my grandson in it – a beautiful baby boy.

It was a shock to find out, through her, that I am a grandmother, and even more of a shock when I looked at the photo of that beautiful child, to see what a strong resemblance he bears to my father, who died when I was seven. You see, you might want to deny your heritage, but you never can. Such things are always within us. You will notice all these little signs so deeply embedded within us in the years to come.

I felt you slipping away, something I could never quite put my finger on. It was something I was also powerless to prevent. You were an “adult” … legally. When you truly love somebody, you have to release them to do what they will, even when you instinctively know that they are harming themselves by what they are doing.

What I cannot understand is how two people who were always so close could so suddenly be so far apart in every way. I travelled a long way to see you, to hold you and to tell you that I love you and always will; to meet my grandson; to share a little of your joy in welcoming your son into the world. I have often told you that when you were small, it was the happiest time of my life. How exciting, how privileged to share those moments of growing in every way; how exciting to be there at your discoveries, your proud achievements. It’s what you’re experiencing yourself as a mum, I hope – such sublime joy.

You have never replied to my letters, cards, emails, calls or texts, which we always used to share so happily. Finally, you apparently got your husband to contact me 18 months ago, forbidding any further contact of any kind. It’s a request I have honoured, in no small pain and confusion. Until that terrible point, there was nothing but a wall of silence for two and a half years, after quite “normal” constant contact at a very meaningful level.

Apparently you feel there is no need to explain or justify your actions … not to me, perhaps, but there may well be another who might feel differently in the future. It often seems to me that, in your pride, instilled and nurtured in you by whatever “therapy” you have been engaged in, you would rather feel “right” and suffer than “wrong” and happy, if such draconian definitions even exist. What a waste of everyone’s life.

There is always hope. That is one certainty I continue to live in. I am not perfect; there’s no such thing as a normal family. We do our best in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Your generation can never truly understand how utterly different the dynamics of marriage were in those days – how could you? We are all children of our time, whether we like it or not.

Whatever else changes, real love does not … I will see you! Anonymous

How to Deal with Having an Estranged Adult Child

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. It was filled with both blessings and pain.

Mothering is like that. Not too long ago, one of my children was estranged from me. It was not how I envisioned a relationship with an adult child. At the time, I wasn’t completely sure where she was living and had no reliable way to contact her.

Even the word “estranged” was foreign to me. I had invested my life into mothering. And this child turned away from me. It was not easy to admit. I’m the one who has written books about parenting. In the depth of this situation, those books mocked me. I was humbled and laid low in the dust.

Some things have healed. The lost sheep has returned home and even more issues have surfaced. Most days, I am again both saddened and gladdened. She chose to be “missing” once again this Mother’s Day. As I am now in the process of writing a book about my experience, I am learning that there are many of us wounded mamas. Our numbers are legion. You are not alone!

You Did Not Cause Your Adult Child to Turn Away

One parenting expert, Debbie Pincus, offers these soothing words: “Cutting off is a way people manage anxiety when they don’t know a better way. The love and caring is there; the ability to solve differences is not. You did not cause your child to turn away. That was her decision.”

Yet we admit we all made so many mistakes, took so many missteps. She has come home and gone again more times than I can count. Will we be estranged again in the future? The horror and the certainty of it hang over my heart. In her mind, the distance lessened the conflict. She didn’t have to deal with me or the rest of the family. In reality, it has caused far more damage for everyone.

The best thing I can do as a parent is to own what I own – recognize the mistakes I have made – and try to seek my own healing from the wound. I remind myself – it was her choice to leave.

When a Relationship Becomes Unmanageable

I tried to move on with my life. I moved with a limp that constantly reminded me of how much I missed her and what a hole she left. There are many more of us mamas who live with this pain. You may not know them because they are silent. The shame and embarrassment of the situation is too much to bear.

Dealing with an Estranged Adult Child? You Are Not Alone

It would be one thing if the estranged parent had abused the child. Then the adult disengagement would be a healthy move. But with no such backdrop, I don’t think fleeing adult children understand or appreciate the heartbreak caused by their actions. Or if they do understand, there is a lack of feeling or empathy for the other.

Through thick and thin in life, your mother is your mother. You can merely tolerate her, or you can treasure her. The worst thing you can do is discard her.

If you are one of us hurting mamas, the wisest thing you can do comes from author Sheri McGregor. She says to tend to your heartache, noting that, “In acknowledging and tending to our hurt, we honor ourselves. That might then free us up to enjoy the way our loved ones want to honor us. Or to simply enjoy the day.”

Put another way, don’t let one empty chair make you neglect your full table. It’s okay to switch up your Mother’s Day traditions. Spend the time you need to work with your emotions, but then get on with the day.

McGregor says we have to do what’s right for us. “If that means you didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day this year, that’s okay. Recognize what you need and honor yourself in that way.”

Then treat yourself to a manicure, haircut, massage or new outfit. Soon the day will be over and you can go another year before having to see those upsetting greeting card commercials on television.

Until then, take care of yourself. Know that you are not alone. Life can still be good. It might be time for you to move on.

Are you a mother with an estranged adult child? What do you do to deal with anniversaries and days that highlight the loss? What have you found helps you move forward? Please join the conversation.