Understanding why Mom doesn't reach out often may ease hurt

Understanding why Mom doesn't reach out often may ease hurt

Q: I appreciate your guiding principle, that none of us can make others do anything they don't want to do. I'm in that situation now. I know there's nothing I can do to make my mother call me more, e-mail more, text every now and again. I have accepted that any requests just make her defensive.

What I need help with now is getting over my hurt, that in the competition between TV shows and calling me to catch up, chat, what have you, TV wins. I'm a nice person, with good friends, a loving, fantastic husband, and my family is distant from me (Dad never calls at all, but that's a separate issue).

Anywhere

A: I appreciate your appreciation, but at the risk of sounding ungracious: They're guiding principles, plural.

It's good to accept that you can't control others' behavior, but that's an avenue to frustration and hurt feelings unless you pair it with a companion principle: You can't project your way of thinking onto others.

You've projected your mother's noncommunication into a conscious choice, a moment where she thinks, "Hmm, should I watch TV, or call my kid? Ha ha, just kidding, hand me that remote."

Maybe you're mindful that way, and before you grab the remote, you weigh other options, better choices, even boxes you feel duty-bound to check. Maybe you don't even get to the point of conscious thought, and feel an impulse toward personal connections, vs. passive media consumption, the moment the pressure of daily obligations is off.

Not everyone's wired to do these things. For every extrovert who thrives on connections, there's an introvert looking to withdraw, shut down, regroup. These end-of-day readers/watchers/putterers don't necessarily love their friends and families less; they just don't reach for the phone the way their more outgoing brethren do.

And that's just the most obvious bit of line-drawing. There's also chemistry, the way two personalities mix — and that, too, is more wiring than conscious choice. From parent to child, sib to sib, grandparent to grandchild, and so on, there are going to be connections that root instantly and grow like weeds, and there are going to be some that languish without meticulous care and feeding. If your connection to Mom is the latter, then you're blaming her, and yourself, for something beyond you both.

Who knows — maybe generations of your mother's family have been hands-off with each other, and that's her comfort zone.

You'd like her to try harder, fair enough. But maybe she'd like you to accept her as she is. Isn't that fair, too?

Your alienation from Mom is worth exploring as long as it doesn't consume you. Understanding her terms may help you feel better about them, but it's not necessary to accepting them.

Besides, the more productive line of inquiry will be into your own mind — to see why, as a well-established adult, you're still agitating on the maternal hand you were dealt.

Not everything people do is a personal reflection on you. Take away the element of personal rejection, and what you have are some concrete choices: Keep pressuring Mom for something she'll never give; detach from her completely; or make do with the crumbs (i.e., call her when you feel like it). Which one sounds right to you?

Understanding why Mom doesn't reach out often may ease hurt 06/10/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 10, 2010 3:08pm]

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