I love my mom, but she’s incredibly needy. She still lives in the town I grew up in, in Connecticut, and I live a few hundred miles away, but sometimes she calls me multiple times a day. If I don’t pick up a couple times in a row, she lays a guilt trip on me. We were talking the other day, and she said she was thinking about moving closer to me. Honestly, the only thing that keeps our relationship intact is the sanity that those few hundred miles of distance gives me. What do I tell her? I’m not sure how serious she is about this “plan,” but even the thought of it is giving me heart palpitations.


Even though you talk to your mother regularly, I’m guessing there’s something major missing from your discussions with her: honesty.

The behavior you’re describing is suffocating and unhealthy, both for you and your mom.

Forget mom’s “plan” for the moment; you need to address the fact that she is far too dependent on you already, and that you’re not willing to push back.

Next time she calls, don’t pick up. Give it a couple days, in fact. Then call her.

If you get a guilt trip, tell her clearly and firmly, “Mom, I’m calling you now. We talk often. I don’t deserve to be guilted for this.”

She’ll probably get upset. You have to ignore whatever weapons–guilt, weepiness, anger–she uses. Because that’s what they are: weapons. They’re methods of attack she’s employing (consciously or subconsciously) to keep you doing what she wants.

When she reacts, keep your voice as calm as possible and tell her, “If you insist on acting this way, I can’t talk to you right now.”

If she keeps at it, tell her you have to go, and don’t answer when she calls right back.

Then repeat a few days later.

This is a first step. If and when you can get your mother to back off the guilt trips, try a little more honesty: Tell her that while you want her in your life, you need your independence. If she were to uproot her life in order to attach it to yours, you wouldn’t have it.

Your mom may not take that well so you have to be prepared to stick to your guns. This is a two-sided problem; sure, your mom may be as suffocating as wet wool, but you keep pulling her over your head.

You can’t force her to change, but you can change how you react. So stop letting her reactions dictate your actions. It will keep you much saner than counting the mile markers between your place and hers.

And next time you’re home, see if you can’t find her a good hobby and a good therapist.

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