You won’t believe how often I hear the sentence, “Ugh, you won’t believe what my mother just did!” followed by a massive eye roll. All the time! And you might think that I’m spending a large amount of time with teen girls. But, I’m not. I’m hearing this complaint and seeing those ginormous eye rolls from fully grown women. Mother interference is something most women never outgrow. Fortunately, my mother has always respected all boundaries I set up, which kind of makes her the unicorn of Jewish mothers. But, I fully understand how annoyed my friends get at their moms not understanding boundaries because, well, it’s flat out annoying. I find it a million more times annoying when the interference is in their love lives. Here’s how to deal if you have a mom interfering where you don’t want her.
I know it’s obvious to you that your mother’s behavior is annoying. But, as unbelievable as it is, it’s not obvious to her. She’s doing all of this annoying stuff because she loves you and thinks it’s ultimately going to help you. What you need to do is calmly explain specifically what she’s doing that’s irking you, how it makes you feel and what you’d want her to do differently. For example, “Mom, when you committed me to a date with Ethel’s son even though you know I’m dating Michael, it made me feel like you didn’t respect my choice to date Michael. I know he’s not who you’d pick for me, but he’s who I picked for me. I really wish you’d respect that. It would make me so happy to feel like you accepted Michael.” I know you’re feeling a million things that aren’t reflected in that script and most of them would better be expressed with expletives, but if you stay calm, positive and focused on how to fix that situation, you actually have a shot of making things better.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful methods of changing someone’s behavior. A simple compliment when you notice your mom doing something good will reinforce that good behavior. You might say something like, “Mom, thank you so much for not bringing up the Michael’s unemployment at dinner. It’s been a tough time for us and it means so much to be able to come to your house for fun, loving meal. Thank you.” Of course, in an ideal world your mom shouldn’t need reinforcement to be a good mom to you, but everyone knows we’re not living in an ideal world. Do what you can to make your world as positive as possible for yourself!
If you’ve gone through a few cycles of explanations and reinforcement and you still feel like your mom isn’t getting the hint that she needs to shape up or ship out, you may have to ship her out yourself. Define your boundaries with her in a more strict way. If every time you’re alone with her, she says something nasty, then refuse to be alone with her. Only attend group family events and avoid one-on-one time. If she has a key to your place and just lets herself in without giving you a heads up, change your locks. If she is critical of every man you bring to meet her, stop introducing her to your boyfriends. You can’t change her behavior, but you can change how you deal with her and do your best to make the relationship livable for you.
What’s the worst mom interference story you’ve ever heard? Shout it out in the comments!