Posted by: Hannah | 01/20/2011

just shut up

“Honesty has come to mean the privilege of insulting you to your face without expecting redress”. – Judith Martin

Last night I had dinner with my mother. We do this every few months, just to have a conversation where other people aren’t bouncing up and down demanding her attention. We’ve been planning it for weeks. I was really looking forward to it.

My mom and I are very close. Except for the teenage years, which are just grim for everyone I’d say, we’ve always been so. I respect her opinion. I crave her approval. This is probably unhealthy. As demonstrated by last night.

We were sitting in a restaurant. We had just eaten. We were having a nice time. Then she comes over all serious and well, this is what happened:

Her: I need to tell you something. It’s not easy to say.

Me: gobsmacked silence

Her: I feel like by lying to you I am disrespecting you.

Me: gobsmacked silence, accompanied now by that stomach-dropping feeling you get when you’ve done something wrong, and you know you’ve been caught, and the boom is about to fall – except I hadn’t done anything wrong

Her: I don’t like your husband. I’ve tried and tried, but I just can’t like him. He grinds my gears.

Me: speechless

Now, this sounds maybe kind of funny as I’m reading it back over, but I can assure you it was not. It was horrible. It was dredging up twelve years of ill-considered remarks, of offhanded comments, of undercurrents I’ve suspected all along but thought we were all in tacit agreement to not discuss because some things, once said, can’t ever be taken back.

I was very upset. All I’ve ever wanted is for my family to accept my choice. I know he can be rough around the edges. I know sometimes he says things that come out completely differently than he intends.

I cried, there in the restaurant. The ugly cry. The “I don’t want to actually sit here sobbing right now so I’ll stare up at the ceiling and wipe my streaming face with the heel of my hand and hope no one sees me” cry.

All I wanted was a night out.

Then, once I was crying, then she got upset and this happened:

Her: I don’t want to hurt you.

Me: Kind of late for that, you have.

Her: But I didn’t want to. I’m sorry. Don’t cry.


And here I am. Haven’t slept much. When I did I must have been crying in my sleep because my pillow was damp when I woke up. Got up, packed lunches, cried. Hubby keeps asking what’s wrong. Can’t exactly tell him, can I? He loves my mother.

Just checked my Facebook and she has written on my wall:

“I had a great time last night, thank you!! Next month, again? <3”

So clearly she has no idea how much she hurt me, and thinks that we had a good air-clearing discussion because I didn’t storm out of the restaurant, when really I just said I was OK because I was tired of crying in public.

Which means I need to talk to her. But frankly, I don’t want to. I’m just reeling over all of this. I’m finding my trust in her pretty rattled right now.

Ive got to ask – if your parents told you they didn’t like your partner, what would you do? What would you think?



  1. That’s awful. All she has done is alienate you, and now if you ever do need to turn to her over the course of life and the marriage hiccups we all encounter, you won’t be able to or want to. Silly woman. She should not have shut the door to her own daughter.

    I’m sorry, Hannah.

  2. do and think are probably different for me, in this case. and feel might be different again.

    i never especially expected my mother to like my partners, though i appreciate her making an effort. i don’t see her not liking someone’s qualities as anything but a reflection of their very different personalities, and so long as i’m not stuck trying to make everybody “okay” then i’m okay. i expect my mother to respect my relationship and try to see the best where she can – this has gotten much better as we’ve all gotten older, both in this relationship and previous – and to be polite and kind and inclusive. i expect the same of my partner. often, it’s me who is the hardest on both of them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    it sounds like for you, your mother’s liking your husband matters on a very different level. i will say i don’t think it *should* be a reflection of how you see her love for you. ie, it sounds like maybe you do feel like this is a judgement of you. and i don’t know your mother, so i can’t say whether it is, but certainly it needn’t necessarily be. since she said she didn’t want to hurt you, and you said you’ve suspected, my guess would be she just needed to be honest. which may not be terribly sensitive to you, as there’s not much you can DO about it, but still isn’t the same as passing judgement on you, IMO.

    but that’s just one perspective. it sounds as though, to you, loving him is part of loving you. is there room to dislike qualities and discuss that even within the bounds of loving acceptance, in your family structure?

    whatever the case, i’m terribly sorry. the crying at the table just sounds awful, and my heart goes out to you.

  3. Oh dear. That’s against the rules. I always knew that my mother didn’t like my first husband, and it created a lot of tension between us, and Sue is right – it did mean that I could never talk to her about anything going on in that marriage. But it helped that it was never vocalized openly. This is one of those topics that doesn’t need to be aired out.

    I don’t know whether there’s anything to be gained by reopening the issue – other than, perhaps, giving you an opportunity to express the loyalty that you obviously feel to your husband and that your mother needs to be reminded of.

  4. Oh, that sucks, sucks, sucks. Sucks big time.

    If my mother did that to me I would be gutted. Once I got my head and heart in some semblance of an order I would make it perfectly clear what damage she had done and what I saw the realistic options to be from that point forward. Because that sort of thing said changes things. Irrevocably.

  5. First off – big virtual hug.

    Knowing your relationship with your mother, I think you might want to clear the air a bit. Nothing confrontational more along the lines of old fashioned Dr. Phil: “Mom, when you … I felt …” Your mother is entitled to her opinion, but she is also duty bound to keep some feelings to herself, especially if those feelings will only hurt you. If M. was an abusive asshole – different story.

    Also, here’s a story from a friend: Her mother has never liked her husband (and been fairly up front about it since day one) but the day my friend brought her first born home from the hospital her mother said that she felt she should leave her husband and move back in with her mother. The DAY SHE BROUGHT HER CHILD HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL! Now she wonders why her relationship with her daughter is strained. Sigh.

  6. oy. oy and vey.

    Now, I have a different perspective, only cause Dad HATED my ex from day one, and fuck me if he wasn’t on to something…

    that said, I think Mothers have a completely different set of rules spouses need to play by. And THAT JUST ISN’T SOMETHING YOU SAY, EVER.

    I’d either get slightly tipsy and have a LOOONNNGG talk, which may or may not end well, or write a letter, which may end in nothing.

    Either way, that is a shitty thing to do. It’s like when you don’t like a friend’s spouse. You don’t TELL THEM. It just isn’t done.

    Hugs sweet lass. (See? A HUG. Not a real one, but hey, it’s a start. ๐Ÿ˜› )

  7. Oh H., we sometimes live out of the same brain. I hate that I can relate to this. This made me tear up and squeezed my heart.

    My parents (both of them) really hate my husband. I wish it were a simple dislike….but it’s turned into a hatred. Their personalities bring out the worst in one another. It started with snide comments and veiled insults under the guise of “we just care about you too much”…but it soon became apparent that it was not about me…but rather, it was about HIM. They don’t get him, dont want to…and dont care to.

    I’ve cried about it many MANY times. I still don’t know how to fully reconcile it either. I used to let them attack him….at first in front of me (it caused ALOT of damage to my marriage)…and then when that backfired, I continued to allow it behind behind closed doors when he wasn’t around.

    They seemed to always be looking for a way to wedge me into the corner and make it into a US vs HIM. In the past couple of years, I have constructively (and painfully) learnt to disengage from any conversation about him. I’ve also moved onto a place that is similar to what Bon suggests….they don’t have to like him….but they HAVE to respect that he’s the one I chose for my partner. Period. I demand it.

    So anytime they start a discussion about him, about a behavior they dislike…or anything remotely critical, I stop the conversation and leave. I have had some success in making them realize that if they respect me and love me….that they’ll respect my choice. They don’t have to live with him. But I chose to. They’ve slowly gotten the hint….although it’s not absolute.

    Family get togethers are still fraught with tension unless alcohol is involved (they somehow all get along rather well when smashed, curiously)….but the demanding of respect has helped….a bit.

    Sending you a HUGE virtual hug for now….and soon, a real one.

  8. I would tell my Mom that she hurt me very badly saying that AND
    if she has those thoughts/feelings, in the future-
    keep em to herself.

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