General Question

prolificus's avatar

How can I encourage a reciprocal relationship with my mother who is diametrically opposed to my queer life?

Asked by prolificus (6583points) May 2nd, 2010

MeSee my profile.

Mom – Conservative Christian who comes from the school of thought that one cuts off relationship in order to cause the one cut off to repent (turn away from sin), has a narrow view of gender / sexuality, and still maintains a small-town mentality. The positive side is that she has the capacity to be very loving and compassionate, tender and kind. Plus, although not easily accomplished, she is willing to change.

There are 30+ years of details I am leaving out of this description. However, I will share the things I’ve tried: compliance (practicing her way of life in order to appease her), implementing strong boundaries (living my life and not letting her have access to it), reasoning (trying to find points of agreement, etc.), arguing (“I’m right, you’re wrong”), and debating (trying to prove her POV wrong, etc.). Also, in case you’re curious, I have sought support and counseling over the years.

Over a year ago, mom told me in no uncertain terms, that she does not want to hear anything about my “lifestyle” (this includes: anything related to the queer world). Essentially, this excludes the majority the things I’m passionate about: my church, my relationships, graduate studies, volunteer work, recreational activities, my political and philosophical views, etc.—leaving discussion limited to 9–5 work (yawn), what’s for dinner (zzzz), and other things, although important, aren’t representative of the whole of me. It is as if my mom has no desire to know me as a person.

Out of love and respect, I have complied with her request. This hasn’t been the most pleasant experience, but it has worked for almost a year. However, over the past couple of months, I have become increasingly involved with the elder care of my parents. (This question I asked earlier has more details.) As a result, a tremendous amount of my (mental/emotional) energy is spent on my parents.

Although I am “out and open” in my big-city life, I have come to realize the consequences of compliance in one significant relationship. Year-long compliance has systematically enclosed my soul into another closet and it has led to a mild depression. Relationship with mom is no small thing.

I want to have a relationship with my mom, but as it is, it is very one-sided and draining. I would love to share my life with her.


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40 Answers

janbb's avatar

@prolificus This is a terrific question and what you were evolving toward asking over the past several days. Kudos to you!

I wish I had an easy answer but you clearly know there isn’t one. Have you thought about sitting your loving mother down and telling her how painful it is for you to have to shut up about everything important to you around her? Maybe it is so painful that you have to stop engaging with her for a time and see if she can grow to accept you. I did hear you say you ar involved in their care so I realize disengaging would be very hard, but may it is possible for you to arrange for their care but stay at a distance? If your mother is as loving as you say, maybe a little distance will help her realize that she needs to grow more. I feel for you, sweetie.

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

Your mom is just maybe disgusted of you being gay (don’t get offended I absolutely have nothing against gay people:) ) Just tell her to accept you as you are not for who you are. You can’t change, maybe you were just born like that. Being gay is a difficult thing I think, some choose being gay or they are born like that.

Good Luck and feel free to send me comment.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Tell your mom the one thing you know for sure is we have 1 mortal life and there is no guarantee, healthy or not how long that life is ours. Ask her if you two can agree to let God sort out the sins of the life once you are dead but for you two to make the most of what is for sure and right now.

wilma's avatar

I do so hope that your mother can come to terms with who you are. I think she is missing out on a lot by not really wanting to get to know you better.
Please keep trying and be kind. I suppose it is hard for her to see you as someone that she was raised to believe was somehow “not as you should be”.
She will probably regret it in time, that she has already missed so much with you.
I think @Neizvestnaya has a good suggestion.

As a side note, I do have a problem with you describing her as having “a small-town mentality”. What do you mean by that?, it sounds like a negative stereotype. I live in a small town, we don’t all have the same “mentality”.

liminal's avatar

Your mom has already demonstrated in her behavior that she doesn’t always practice what she believes in. As in the example you give: she believes in “cutting off” and shunning the sinner yet she doesn’t. This is evidenced by, not only having contact with you, but depending on you for her elder care. I actually see this as encouraging. Her behavior towards you tacitly shows that her relationship with you is more important to her than certain beliefs.

Knowing this about her, I wonder what would happen if you simply told her that you have been honoring her request to not say anything about your lifestyle and realize that this no longer works for you. Let her know you are not going to edit yourself anymore and then see what happens. Don’t worry about trying to change her opinon or getting her to express she accepts and wants to know you. See what happens when the ”real you” starts being presented to her.

susanc's avatar

Rather than making any comments at all about her stances and the discrepancies in her thinking and behavior, I would suggest
(very gently – this is really hard stuff) that you tell her you’re feeling grateful to have this time with her. The fact that she (and your dad) are depending on you means they want to have you with them while they can. They could have done other things to arrange for additional care, but they chose you. Am I right about this? This is very, very tender. My heart goes out to you.

prolificus's avatar

@wilma – side note point taken. I used the negative stereotype to sum up old-school, sheltered, not exposed to multicultural points of view, heterosexual / traditional family values, family lives within close proximity of one another, etc. etc. etc. I was born and raised in a small-town. I know plenty of small-town folks who have big-city world-views. I’m not saying everyone in a small-town is narrow-minded. I simply used a negative stereotype to concisely describe my mom within the context of an already lengthy description. I do apologize for any offense.

liminal's avatar

@prolificus What happens when you say to your mom “It is as if you have no desire to know me as a person.”? edt: Have you two ever talked about not expecting each other to change?

MacBean's avatar

Honestly, if I were in your shoes, I’d give up at this point. I wouldn’t stop making sure she’s cared for, but I would stop trying to have a good relationship with her. You’ve been trying literally for decades. You say she’s willing to change, but if you’ve consistently failed to convince her that your life is worth being involved in for this long, I really don’t see it happening now. I’d throw in the towel, save myself the continued frustration, and try to come to terms with the fact that parenthood does not, in fact, entail unconditional love.

But that’s just me.

Rangie's avatar

I think you will have to let time take it’s course. This is her issue not yours. She will have to work it out in her own head.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

re: @MacBean
I agree with this after the reach out talk. Put your cards on the table and then remind yourself you have 1 mortal life for sure and you deserve to live every minute of it, with or without your mom’s approval.

I’ve never believed in unconditional love

Trillian's avatar

@prolificus Maybe I identified with your first two questions because my own mother is like yours. She’s not as completely closed off as yours seems to be, but I can remember years ago there were three very young brothers who had died of AIDS from transfusions they had received. I used them as an example against my mother because she said that AIDS was a punishment from god against gay people. Of all the ridiculous notions. Not to mention that it completely negates the whole “free will” idea. I left the church years ago due to people like my mother. When I was going through a rough patch, she told me that I was being punished for disobeying god. I refuse to worship a god who holds me down until I say “uncle”. Have you considered talking to her minister?
It sounds almost like she is desperately clinging to ideas that she cannot logically support for some other reason, some aspect of her life has spun out of her control.
You may need to consider some straight talk with her. I suggested in your “confession” thread that you take some of what we’ve said to you and speak them directly to her. I feel like I had raised some very valid points and I remember that @quingu seemed to have specific bible references as well.

marinelife's avatar

The sad thing is that you cannot get what you want. You want your mother to be different than she is. Not going to happen. You want to share your life with her openly and have her be accepting. Not going to happen.

What needs to change here ios you. Your attitude toward your relationship with your Mom and what it can be in the real world that you two occupy right now.

In a weird way, you have not accepted your mother’s lifestyle either. You keep wanting her to be different. She can’t be. She is who she is.

You need to get the support you want from elsewhere: good friends, other relatives. Your mother does not have it to give.

It is sad, but freeing.

By the way, my mother has no idea who i am either. She does not know what I feel, what I care about, where my life is centered. She has no interest in those things.

Let go of your fantasy in which your Mom accepts you and your life. You will be happier for it.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

These are your choices:
1. Accept your mother’s shortcomings.
2. Hold a grudge until she dies.
3. Move out of her life forever.

I recommend #1.

Rangie's avatar

@Captain_Fantasy Nothing like telling it like it is. you make me laugh.:)

prolificus's avatar

@janbb – Thank you :)

re: “Have you thought about sitting your loving mother down and telling her how painful it is for you to have to shut up about everything important to you around her?” Yes. I have told her this a few times. She hasn’t invited me to share more, and I don’t want to share where I’m not welcomed.

re: “but may it is possible for you to arrange for their care but stay at a distance?” Yes. We live in two different states. But, I still maintain regular contact with her.

@liminal – Thank you :)

re: “As in the example you give: she believes in “cutting off” and shunning the sinner yet she doesn’t. This is evidenced by, not only having contact with you, ...” Yes, but… by telling me that she doesn’t want to hear about my lifestyle, she has cut off knowing me.

re: “Let her know you are not going to edit yourself anymore and then see what happens….” I have…. and I still feel trapped out of fear to share with her. The day she told me not to share was preceded by me sharing something vulnerable with her. Her reaction has literally traumatized me.

re: “What happens when you say to your mom “It is as if you have no desire to know me as a person.”? edt: Have you two ever talked about not expecting each other to change?” I have.. not been that blunt with her, because I’m afraid of the answer. No, we’ve not had the “let’s agree to disagree” talk.

@susanc – Thank you :)

re: “They could have done other things to arrange for additional care, but they chose you. Am I right about this?” Yes. I have siblings who are able and willing and are helping. But, I’m the one with whom my parents have the closest (emotional) relationship. They rely on me for a lot, to the point like I’ve felt as is I were their parents instead of them being mine.

@MacBean – I tried that. It didn’t work.

@Rangie – Yes, it is her issue. But, we are in relationship with one another. Hence, why I’m seeking to have a reciprocal relationship. It is not fair of her to expect my undying loyalty, for me to be her historian (I’ve listened to everything she has ever shared about her life), for me to offer her my care, love, energy, attention, etc. etc. etc. and for her not to reciprocate.

@Trillian -

re: “Have you considered talking to her minister?” Hecky no! :-)

@marinelife – True.

re: “In a weird way, you have not accepted your mother’s lifestyle either.” Good point!

re: “Let go of your fantasy in which your Mom accepts you and your life.” I wouldn’t say.. it’s a fantasy. The relationship I have with my mother is real, she acknowledges my partner, she has visited me in my home, she has met my queer friends, she has opened up in lots of ways. HOWEVER, when it comes to emotional intimacies.. the sharing of the details of our lives, I am limited, whereas, she has no limits.

Rangie's avatar

@prolificus I am sorry, but to be blunt, @Captain_Fantasy put short and simple. Maybe not as gentle as you would like it, but it is what it is.

prolificus's avatar

@Captain_Fantasy and @Rangie – let’s say I accept my mother’s shortcomings (which I have… like I said in the original post, there are 30+ yrs of details I’ve not included because it requires a library of information to convey). Here’s the problem: By the relationship not being reciprocal, and by the relationship continuing, I am systematically shutting down (as stated in the original post). And, since I’m choosing not to hold a grudge nor move out of her life forever, I have to work with what I do have – a non-reciprocal relationship. If I held a grudge, I wouldn’t be in relationship with her.

So, maybe the question evolves from “how do I encourage a reciprocal relationship..” to “how do I thrive and not shut down within a non-reciprocal relationship?”

liminal's avatar

@prolificus Now that is a wonderful question!

janbb's avatar

You have to decide where your limits are and how much time you are willing to spend in a relationship that is not meeting your needs. I got Caller ID specifically so I could control what access I would allow my mother to have to me.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

You’re full of contradictions here and there’s too much we don’t know.
So if you’re looking for advice, you’ve already gotten it.
If you’re looking for a hug, I’m not the guy.

Rangie's avatar

@prolificus All I can say is there has to be more in your relationship with your mother than this issue. If I was your mother, I would want to keep our relationship, and the things we know to be congenial between us alive, because we love each other. Mothers and daughters have differences of opinions all the time, I realize this is not just a little issue. But, if I was allowed to continue my relationship with you, I would probably come around to being okay with it. I just don’t think this is something you can put in her face and expect results immediately. It will take time. And if it is important to you, you will give her all the time she needs.

prolificus's avatar

@Captain_Fantasy – Life is full on contradictions. Life is not cut and dry. Life is not black and white. It is complex. I am not looking for a hug. I’m glad you’re not the guy. The advice I’ve received thus far is great. I bet there are others who want to share, too. Advice comes in many forms, from many perspectives. Are you a moderator?

tinyfaery's avatar

When I came out (about 9 years ago), I had a similar experience with my mother. She didn’t want to know my wife, she didn’t want to hear about anything that I was feeling or experiencing. All we ever talked about was Johnny Depp and TV/Movies. I acquiesced to her wishes for about 6 months. Then I just started talking about my life to her. I’d talk about my wife and the things we did together and when I brought my wife around I held her hand and doted on her like I always do.

At first she got pissed and behaved rudely. Then she would ignore me. But I continued to be who I was and I shared with her whether or not she wanted to hear it. Eventually, after hearing about trips to Hawaii, my wife’s accomplishments, and just being involved (even if she didn’t want to be) she began reciprocating, in spite herself. Suddenly she was a part of my life and she didn’t even know it.

I have always been antagonistic with my mother so I was able to live my life with her derision and without her approval. (I did that long before I came out to her.) To me, it seems like you have a bit of a codependent relationship with you mom. You seem to need her in ways I have never needed my mother.

I agree with @marinelife. You might want to reevaluate the kind of relationship you have with your mother.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If you’re involved in the care of your parents these days, then… whether you like it or not… your parent /child relationship is changing to more of a child / parent one. So it might be time for you to take the reins and tell her, “Mom, I love you, but it’s time for you to stop that foolishness and talk to me.” That is, you have to be the grownup now.

It’s a difficult transition to go through. I watched my mother do it with her own mother, and for a short while before she died I did it with my own. Time for you to set the agenda. She’ll sulk and pout from time to time because that’s who she is (compounded by her current physical and mental decline), and you just have to ignore it.

An Arab proverb applies: The dogs bark, but the caravan passes.

prolificus's avatar

@tinyfaery – I do have codependent tendencies. However, I’ve come a long way from having no life to living the life I have now. It is the most independent it’s ever been. It’s not so much “needing” my mother, as is it is that I miss her. I miss the good of our relationship. In order to comply to her request, I’ve had to shut down around her. Consequently, our relationship is more professional than genuine and intimate (as intimate a healthy mother-daughter relation can be).

Simply put: I miss my mom. I cannot be myself around my mom. I wish I could. I wish I felt the freedom to be myself around my mom. This lack of freedom is affecting me in other areas of my life.

liminal's avatar

@prolificus, sweetie, sounds like grieving to me. <soft smile>

tinyfaery's avatar

@prolificus It’s simple, but true—just do it. Can it be any worse than how you are feeling now? Who do you miss more, your mom or yourself?

prolificus's avatar

@liminal – I agree.

@tinyfaery – Just do it, as in, just be myself around her even though I am not welcomed by her to do so even though she laments that she misses me, too? I miss us both, equally, but differently.

tinyfaery's avatar

Read my post. Try my technique. If she really misses you she will want to reciprocate.

BTW, you should see a therapist who specializes in this issue. Or join a group. It might give you the encouragement you need to do what you need to do to be happy.

prolificus's avatar

@tinyfaery – I agree. I have. It’s an on-going process. Part of it is the grieving process, as @liminal pinpointed. Part of it is the process of becoming who I am—of accepting myself and feeling confident enough to be myself around everyone at all times. Etc. Etc. Etc. Blah blah blah. You get the point. :-) Edit: And I get your point.

wilma's avatar

@prolificus thank you for explaining. No offense taken.

Silhouette's avatar

You tried it her way and it’s suffocating you, now try it your way. Slip small sexually neutral bits of your real life into the conversations every now and then. It will at minimum release some pressure and you won’t feel like such a ghost when you’re around your mom. Will it make her uncomfortable? Maybe, but it’s a burden you should both have to bear not just you.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@prolificus, perhaps you need to remind her that if you were heterosexual and married, caring for your own husband and children would come before caring for her. “God set you a queer child to take of you in your old age. I am your blessing in disguise, and God will not be happy with how you are treating something He created.” Something along that party line.

prolificus's avatar

@Silhouette – agreed.

@PandoraBoxx – I’ve thought the exact same thing!!!! :-)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Perhaps you could make her a small journal titled, “Aren’t you curious about who I am?” Write about your life from the perspective of how you are like her, or how you use the things she taught you in your adult life, and what that life is like. Leave it without fanfare where she can find it when you’re not there, and where she can read it without having to call attention to the fact that she’s read it, sort of like a “Post Secret” communication. Talking about it is probably too much to ask, but having your say will be good for you.

laureth's avatar

Oooh, I like that one, @PandoraBoxx!

prolificus's avatar

@PandoraBoxx – great idea! I’ll get started a.s.a.p.

I suppose sitting on the couch all day fluthering doesn’t help to develop the fabulous queer life I have. So, on this note, I’m signing off for the night.

Thank you all for your time, energy, and input!!! lots of lurve!!

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Just accept that she will never accept and work on it inside you. Painful as it may be, it is essential to understand that some people will never learn to tolerate and really love. Keep on showing respect to her but do not bother to expect anything in return. Live your life to the best of you abilities. Incidentally, I thought Christianity was all about acceptance and tolerance and a live and let live approach!

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