Author Topic: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?  (Read 2770 times)

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MerryCat

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Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« on: August 09, 2010, 11:38:59 PM »
So, my mother has a tendency to make jokingly disparaging comments about SeriousCat, my boyfriend when I visit her. She clearly intends them to be "just jokes", and she would never say them to him, but it still bothers me.  Given our history, where she's been very highly critical of me and my choices, I really can't stand her criticizing me (or those I care about) even jokingly. But she doesn't get that. I've tried talking to her about it, but she has a history of dismissing my feelings, and tells me I'm being "over sensitive" over comments that  she feels are harmless, good-natured ribbing. If I keep pushing, it does nothing but cause drama("Can't I even joke with my own daughters? Must we be all fooormall??!" *sob*). My mother does have many good qualities, but listening is not one of them.

Anyway, rather than deal with the drama, I've just taken to pretending that I didn't hear her and bean-dipping. And I've never told SeriousCat about her comments, on the grounds it would only hurt him and do no real good. My mother really does like him, although he's not "perfect" enough by her standards, and he likes her well enough for someone he doesn't really know. I don't want to hurt their relationship by spreading her comments to him.

The problem is that the last time I visited her, she upset me more than usual with her remarks, and it wasn't easy for me to hide my feelings when I came back home. It was kind of a struggle. I don't want to put up a facade in front of SeriousCat, but I can't really tell him how I feel without telling him the whole story about my mother and her "joking" comments.

JadeGirl

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2010, 12:08:15 AM »
Has SeriousCat met your mother?  If yes, then I don't see why you can't tell him if you are upset.

If no, I would tread a little more carefully.  Maybe tell him about the fact that she makes "joking" comments that are thinly disguised criticisms and how much it upsets you.  He will see for himself when he does meet her.

I often use the line "Mum, it's only a joke if both people are laughing" which sometimes helps forestall the comments.

HonorH

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2010, 12:14:10 AM »
No, don't tell him.  It'll only color his opinion of your mother.  Might give him the right idea . . .

As for your mother, when you hit your gorge point, say, "Okay, Mom, it's not funny anymore."

Mom: Oh, can't you take a joke?  Must we be formal?
You: Joking is fine.  I love joking.  All the jokes about SeriousCat are starting to get old, though.
Mom: You just have no sense of humor.
You: I'm not the one repeating myself.  Are you getting senile?  Should I start to look into nursing homes?  There's one not too far from my work where I hear the residents get Jell-o every day!

The last bit, of course, would be optional, depending on if your mother's willing to have a sense of humor about herself.  I think approaching it from a "this is getting old" standpoint might work on Madame Sensitivity better than trying to have a serious talk with her would.

Or, of course, you could throw in with her side.  When she rags on him, say, "You know, you're right.  He's not good enough for me.  In fact, no man is.  I'll be your old maid daughter.  Maybe I could move back in with you.  Wouldn't that be cozy?  How do you feel about multiple cats?"  That'll terrorize most parents.
William wondered why he always disliked people who said "no offense meant." Maybe it was because they found it easier to say "no offense meant" than actually to refrain from giving offense.

--Terry Pratchett, The Truth

ShadesOfGrey

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2010, 12:14:32 AM »
WE often ask on this site "Why would someone tell you that?"  And in this case, you're in that position.

So no, I would not tell him. I'd take a stronger standd with your mother.

"No, mother, we cannot joke at the expense of my boyfriend. If you want to call that formal, then so be it.  Tehre are plenty of other things to talk about, let's talk about those things. Joking at the expense of my boyfriend makes me upset." 
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning. - Maya Angelou

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

MaggieB

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2010, 12:17:06 AM »
I think you can tell him that your mom upset you without giving him the gory details.  You are right that it would only hurt him and his relationship with your mom...and it wouldn't do anyone any good.  

Your mom likes him, so it's not like there's anything he can do to "better" himself.  I think this is between you and her, and you need to deal with your mom directly.

JustEstelle

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2010, 12:19:42 AM »
I'm in the position that some of my family unjustly dislike my DH and have said disparaging things to me about him.  This happened years ago, and I have yet to tell him who said it and what they said.  We don't go around these toxic relatives of mine.  All he knows is that they are toxic.  For him to know what they said and who said it would only hurt him.

In other words, unless some good can come of your BF knowing that your mom is disparaging him, then by all means tell him.  If you have even a suspicion that it could wind up hurting him or hurting your relationship with him, do not tell him.  Instead tell your mother that, unless and until she stops making comments, you will not come to visit her, call her, whatever.  And the minute she starts up, the visit, call, etc., ends.  Say something along the lines of, "Mom, I will not tolerate you making such comments about my boyfriend in my presence.  This visit/call/whatever is over.  Goodbye."  Then leave or hangup.  And stick to your guns, no matter what.

D-Banana

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2010, 12:23:06 AM »
'They aren't jokes when the people on the receiving end aren't laughing. If it takes you acting formal to respect my comfort limits then yes, we should stick to that.'
A day without fusion is a day without sunshine

DangerMouth

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2010, 01:19:27 AM »
"Mom, would you say these things to his face? No? Well then don't say them to me".

Of course if she would say these thing directly to him, then you move to plan B.

(I have kinda the opposite problem. After years of not liking my SO, my mother has taken the position that he all but walks on water. This is wearying. On the other side, SO has always said my mom is bat-poo crazy. When I lived 3k miles away from her, I strenuously protested this. After moving to the same town, I can only conclude that if anything, he was being generous).

MerryCat

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2010, 03:02:54 AM »
Thanks for the feedback guys. I felt a bit guilty about keeping this from SeriousCat, partly because we share almost everything. But I really couldn't see any good coming from telling him this, and it's good to know that others agree.

I've really been shrinking from conflict with my mother, because all conflict leaves me feeling sick to my stomach. I avoid it whenever I can.  But I think this is one of those cases where rocking the boat is the only option. Just letting her get away with belittling him not only makes me feel  bad, but I feel like I'm betraying SeriousCat by not standing up for him more.

Has SeriousCat met your mother?  If yes, then I don't see why you can't tell him if you are upset.

SeriousCat has met my mother, but in person she's a bit intimidated by him. She actually asks his opinions and defers to his judgement in a way that she never has to me or my sister.  This is partly because she English is not her first language, and she's a bit intimidated by native english speakers, and partly because he's male. She also she misreads his behavior around her. He is shy, quiet, and on "company  behavior" around her, but she thinks that he is reserved and forbidding. Since makes her behave more "formally" around him - eg. she never lectures him on his eating habit as she does us- I haven't corrected her.

Serious cat does know that she's not entirely er... normal, from what I've told him, but he doesn't dislike her as a person. Their relationship is cordial, if not especially close.

No, don't tell him.  It'll only color his opinion of your mother.  Might give him the right idea . . .

HonorH, you post totally gave me the giggles LOL. I'm not sure threatening to move back in with her would work though, because in myculture, grown children live with their parents until marriage and, in some cases, even after. My mother would very much like to have all her children living with her forever, where she can "protect" them.

Instead tell your mother that, unless and until she stops making comments, you will not come to visit her, call her, whatever.  And the minute she starts up, the visit, call, etc., ends. 

I hate to do this, because it means I'll see a lot less of my dad too, but it may be the only way :( It's getting hard to deal with her comments otherwise.

The last time stung because it came totally out of the blue. We were laughing, having such a pleasant, fun conversation, and then she took by surprise asking "What do you see in that bald guy! hahahaha!" It just deflated me entirely. I think I replied with something along the lines of "He's totally awesome" and tried to change the subject, but she wouldn't drop it for a while.

I know that she not-so-secretly feels that I have settled for less. In myculture, appearances are a big deal, and SeriousCat doesn't live up the the image of the perfect son in law. He's overweight, bearded, balding, isn't a engineer, doctor or lawyer (the only real professions), works on a contract basis rather than a "real" 9-5 job, isn't rich enough (only 6 digits a year will do!), dresses too casually, and any number of other superficial little things. She's even "joked", a couple of times, that it's not to late for her to find me a nice, rich, doctor if I'll reconsider.

It frustrates me that she focuses on these surface details instead of the awesome, wickedly funny, brilliantly creative evil genius I love.

JadeGirl

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2010, 06:02:08 AM »
Arrrgh - if I weren't an only child, you'd probably be my sister.  I'm willing to bet that we're in the same or a closely related ethnic group.

Your mom isn't joking.  She's using "jokes" to communicate her disapproval of your relationship.  She's probably too smart to tell you outright, which would probably result in you dumping her.   Mine does the same thing.  I'm the only one of my generation who moved out of home and cohabited with others (flat mates and then boyfriend) before marriage. I've had to endure years of snide remarks.

My advice would be just to let SeriousCat know that she's pulling her usual tricks and upsetting you again.  You can use examples of how she attacks you (rather than him) to describe what she does.

NestHolder

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2010, 06:30:03 AM »
JadeGirl is right—your mother is not joking.  She's pretending to be 'just joking' so that she can get away with being disparaging, and, frankly, unkind.

Do not let her.

bopper

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2010, 09:27:59 AM »
You can't change your mother.
You can only change your behavior.
One of the things you can change is your boundaries.

You can tell her that you are aware of her opinions on SeriousCat, but if she is going to "joke" about him you are going not going to visit, and if she does anyway, you are going to leave because you are not interested in hearing those "jokes." Her choice.

Also I wonder if you are getting more serious with SeriousCat so she is upping the joking because she is feeling like he is "taking you away from her."


Bibliophile

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2010, 09:33:52 AM »
I would wait to tell BF only after a frank discussion with mom.  It's not fair to bring him in on the drama when you're not backing him up with her.

“Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.” ~ Groucho Marx

girlysprite

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2010, 09:39:19 AM »
AArrrgh, this so much screams passive aggressive with me! Yes, insist on a formal communications between the two of you. Encourage it. I have it too with people when they say things that hurt me, and I call them out on it, they'll go like 'Well, then I will just shut up and not say anything anymore!'. They expect you to scramble back then. Don't. I learned to let my face lighten up, smile happily and ask "Really? Would you promise to do that? That would be awesome."

Dindrane

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Re: Mom Disparages my BF- Should I Tell Him?
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2010, 09:48:40 AM »
Interestingly, I have been in a situation that is not all that different from SeriousCat's.

My DF is not American, and was not even born here.  His parents were, shall we say, less than thrilled with our relationship when it began.  Part of that reason is because I am American, another part is my personal appearance, and yet another part is my sneaking suspicion that his parents (and mother in particular) would have reacted in precisely the same way no matter what girl DF brought home to meet the family.

But the point is, DF's parents have never been anything but nice to me.  Even though the first and only time I've visited them, they had a long discussion with DF about what a big mistake he was making (while I was upstairs, no less).  But to my face, they've always been polite and gracious.

I do know what they've said about me to DF when I'm not there, mostly because I asked about it.  I don't know that DF would have told me on his own, using the same logic -- that it would only hurt me.  But the reason I wanted to know is that I really, really needed to know what his parents truly thought of me so that I could know how I ought to behave around them.  I was paranoid that I'd do something unintentionally that would result in their lowering their opinion of me.  Plus, DF was often upset at what his parents said about me, because he loves me and they weren't always being fair.  I didn't like hearing about it, because nobody really wants to hear the bad things other people have said about them, but I was able to deal with it.  Mostly, I realized very early on that it didn't really have anything to do with me as a person, and said a lot more about DF's relationship with his parents than anything else.

The good news is, my relationship with DF's parents has improved greatly over the past few years, and is continuing to improve.  But I still want to know what they really think of me, because part of the reason for that improvement has been the care I've taken in my behavior towards them.  But with time and patience and no little effort from DF and I, I think his parents have begun to see what DF sees in me.  And they no longer object to the idea of us getting married, which is why we started planning our wedding. :)

So you might think about that.  SeriousCat may not benefit from knowing what your mother says about him for reasons similar to mine, but then again, he might find it useful to know.  You also should think about whether or not his "company behavior" is truly helping or hurting your case here.  Your mom might be intimidated enough by him to behave formally in his presence, but she's obviously not intimidated enough to refrain from saying bad things about him when he's not there.  Is it possible that if he was less reserved, and your mother's interactions could be less formal, that she would see more than his appearance and profession?