Lisa "Lou" Welch Hi Lou!

I always hear you on the Smiley show and don't want to call in because I feel like my friends will know exactly who I am. I'm trying to get an un-biased opinion since my friends always hear me gripe. You will probably say go get some help, but I just want your first thoughts on my last question.

I have a very strained relationship with my mom. We try to get along, but we just can't seem to keep it up. I talk to her daily to say hi and check in, but nothing major. We try to go out for dinner often. We may make it for a couple of weeks and then one of us will say something and then we don't talk for a couple of weeks. Neither one of us can let go of things that have happened in the past and I don't know if we will ever be able to do so.

Thus, Christmas is the WORST time of year. She has always made it the worst time of year for several years now. One year she even kicked my dad and me out of the house on Christmas Day. Of course, this is one that I remember the most (they are divorced now). However, I told her I would spend Christmas morning with her. I will then leave and go to my dad's house and spend the afternoon with him (I am very close to my dad and she can not stand this ... she is very jealous). Then she called screaming at me, saying how I never spend any time with her. I re-told my mom about how we were spending Christmas together. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous Daughter

Dear Anonymous Daughter,

I have a rule that family disagreements shouldn't be addressed during the holidays. A year has passed and these issues didn't get worked out. Trying to resolve them at Christmas just piles on the pressure to be a happy, perfect Whoville family gathered 'round the roast beast. If you try to mend seriously damaged relationships at Christmas, and fail, it piles on terrible guilt, which breeds resentment, which in turn makes the problems even worse.

That being said, I think you're a saint for slogging through your mother's emotional blackmail. I can understand if you're running out of reasons to try with her. But, if you want to give it another shot, try as we welcome the new year. It's a better time to attempt change anyway. Your mother is stuck in a very sad pattern. She wants her company to be sought after and enjoyed, but she allows bitterness and jealousy to choose her unpleasant and manipulative behavior, thereby destroying any chance of getting the very thing she desires. Talk to her not about a specific situation, but this pattern in general. You may plant a seed in her mind if you stick to the basic concept and approach it from a "I hate to see you miss out on the very thing you want" angle. Of course, she may not listen. A nasty component of these cycles is that they continue because the culprit will often defend them vehemently. But try, ask her if she's willing to consider a fresh start with a new way of dealing with you. In turn, tell her you'll not dwell on the past but rather you'll have a more open mind about the future.

In truth, she may not bite. If that's the case, I suggest distancing yourself from this relationship. Be a dutiful daughter; honor her, see that she's safe and healthy, but I certainly wouldn't call her every day. If she insists on continuing this destructive behavior, I'd make it clear to her that you'll not be spending a great deal of time with her until she agrees to get some help, kinda like an intervention. Enlist the help of your father with this, too, since it's important for you to surround yourself with those who love you in a healthy way. And though she'll howl about it, she's no victim. You are not doing this TO her. These are the consequences of her own actions, whether she thinks so or not. Best of luck to you.

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