[Two Pronged] Should I cut my 'toxic' mom out of my life?
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
My problem is my mom. I am 18 years old and live with my mom. My father died when I was young, we have no contact with his side of the family. So it was only my mom and me against the world.
I am popular, pretty, well dressed, brainy, and yet, still…NBSB.
Many men would court me, but then stop after about 6 to 10 months. I seriously thought something was wrong with me. But I found out it was because my mom would approach the boy's parents. I don't know what she told them, but the result was always the same – the guy stopped coming around. I confronted her and she denied it all. But I asked the last guy who courted me and he admitted that he stopped seeing me because his parents forbade him to. He did not know reason.
I was so shocked. But it makes sense… My mom always says that she trusts me and all she asks is that I tell her about any boy who is still courting me after 6 months. Of course I love my mom so I did as she asked…she still denies everything, and even cried …but I can think of no other explanation.
After some checking, I also found out my dad is still alive! I don't know how I can contact him, but why would she lie to me about something so basic?
They always say on FB, cut off toxic people from your life. But what if that toxic person is your mom? Can I cut her off too? I can never trust her again.
Relationships with parents are unlike all others. Friends, lovers, spouses may all come and go but you only have one set of parents, those who gave you life and brought you up and are therefore unique. This is not to say that parent/child relationships are not subject to all sorts of influences – societal pressures, religious pressures, family traditions, to name but 3 – whether or not the family in question chooses to conform or go its own way.
You have concluded that your mother, for whatever reason, has made a practice of terminating all your relationships – and to add insult to injury she denies this. Your main evidence is the admission by the last guy who courted you that his own parents told him to stop seeing you but he didn't know why (I would suggest that you are actually better off without such a spineless creature).
Well, as I am sure you realize, this is not exactly a smoking gun as there is nothing to indicate your mother even spoke to them. So, if there is nothing else with which to pursue your case, perhaps the way forward is to carry on as before, secure in the knowledge that as you get older you will become more and more independent of your mother anyway and the problem will simply disappear.
Your other issue with your mother – that your supposedly dead father is in fact alive – cannot however be dealt with quite so casually. Only one of you can be correct and if it is you, then you have every right to ask your mother for an explanation. How you should then react rather depends on what she has to say.
Bear in mind that for good or for evil this is the only mother you will ever have. You have to make the best of what you've got, certain in the knowledge that within a few years you will have a job and the means to be independent if this is indeed what is best for you. Wishing you luck.
Thank you very much for your letter. Mr Baer says you do not yet have sufficient reason to deem your mother toxic. However, I disagree, and will thus answer your letter based on my belief that your mother, because she has lied to you and tried to isolate you from everyone else except herself (hence, your feeling that "it was only my mom and me against the world") is toxic.
Toxic because her behavior meant that she was your only friend, and thus necessary for your survival. Not only in the literal way every young child's physical survival depends on her parents, but for you it meant your emotional and psychological survival as well.
I suspect the reason you find it hard to cut her off is that you have been fed the Mommy Propaganda before you had the nous to discriminate between immature love which states "I love you because I need you" and mature love which Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving (1956) describes as the exact opposite "I need you because I love you."
The Mommy Propaganda states that all mothers love their children and thus should be respected. While that may be true most of the time, it is not true all the time. It is highly likely that your mother did/does not. At least, not in the mature and healthy way.
The pervasive myth in our culture is, as Meredith May writes in her 2019 book The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage, and a Girl Saved by Bees, "we must always honor our mothers, no matter how much they may not honor us." Ms May continues "I began to see that giving birth to me is not the same as loving me."
In answer to your final question, yes, you can cut your mother off from your life. If not physically, then definitely emotionally. In fact, I believe you must, lest you convince yourself that a relationship based on lies and manipulation is normal. Please write us again if there is anything else we can do for you. Good luck!
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.