Dear Carolyn: This year I will be spending all of my vacation time (and money) on traveling for or with my boyfriend’s family. I understand that I do this voluntarily, but in a very real sense it is also somewhat compulsory because that’s what couples do, and because his mother says, “You will be joining us for Christmas, right?” So my boyfriend and I talked about taking a brief, private trip for New Year’s after being with his family for a week.
Well, after meeting his mother for dinner last night, he came home and said, “My mother said ‘no’ to our New Year’s trip.” And that was the end of it. Carolyn, his mother lives 15 minutes away, and we see her frequently.
We are both adults in our 30s, and are paying our own way. I really do like his family, but I don’t understand why I’m being horrible in saying that it’s not her place to say no.
What do you think? – Annoyed
You do assert your side, that you think he’s the one who needs fixing (a problem unto itself). However, the facts of your question suggest the willingness to adjust/improve/please is running strictly one-way. Your boyfriend plans trips, you go. He cancels, you don’t go. You protest to him, he insults you. He expects you to live by his convictions, and you ask me for permission to live by your own.
That’s telling you something screamingly important about your boyfriend. He’s not just fine with having his mom control his travel plans; he thinks you’re wrong to want to control your own. He doesn’t just have a controlling and presumptuous mother, he has a controlling and presumptuous value system.
Already, you have the shaken confidence in your own beliefs to show for it. Please get help – competent counseling, stat – and learn not just how to get out from under this guy’s thumb, but also how to flick away anyone else’s. Stat.
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