Question: I have been in a manipulative, one-sided relationship my entire adult life. I tried to get past a lot of the problems in the quest to keep my family whole. I am basically strong, self-supporting financially, and pretty content with myself. I can stay in the house, we are basically civil, but it's not healthy.
Now, my only child treats me with the same disrespect, and attempts the same manipulation, and I am just sick of it. We are still close, but I am sad about her disregard and disrespect. I just want it to stop. What do I do?
I have said I will go one day.
Answer: You must acknowledge that your child is more of a victim than you are, warranting intervention, due in part to choices you made. The family you kept "whole" set unhealthy examples that your child is now living by.
So find a skilled therapist and go, by yourself, to figure out how to manage the consequences of this extremely unhealthy home environment.
For you, it's basic: to keep doing the important things anyone has to do in the face of manipulation and disrespect. Know yourself, know your limits, and hold to these calmly.
For your daughter - and for your relationship with her - it's about learning what avenues are still available to you for breaking this unhealthy emotional mold.
And also please pardon me for using you as an example to others: People in similar predicaments have to weigh the impact of divorce on a family, yes, but also the costs of leaving that household intact.
Question: I recently traveled more than 2,000 miles to visit my 45-year-old son. He was promoted to a very responsible managerial position six months ago and is doing well.
About eight years ago, the love of his life unexpectedly broke their engagement and his heart. Although he has subsequently dated, he has not pursued a serious relationship.
When I inquired about female companionship, he informed me in a very angry tone that his job required so much interpersonal interaction that he only wanted to be alone on weekends. He also said he has felt "pressured" to visit relatives on vacations, which he has resented. It's not only me but also his dad who's the problem, according to him.
His anger hurt my feelings because I asked whether the recent weekend visit interfered with any other plans and was told no. I visit him only once or twice a year. I am usually the one who initiates contact, so I am thinking of giving him the space he wants and waiting for him to contact me in the future.
Is this the best idea, or should I encourage him to seek counseling, which I doubt he will do?
Answer: You don't have to give him "space" in the amount of contact if you give him enough in the content. Translation: Apologize for butting in, then stop butting in.
I wish he had just asked for that instead of getting defensive, but, still, his anger was clear enough.
He has been an adult now for most of his life. You'll never stop being his mother, but you can do wonders for your relationship if you stop treating him like a kid.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.