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Ask Amy: Daughter wants distance after wedding nightmare

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My husband "John" and I were married recently. We funded the wedding. At our wedding, my mother behaved erratically. She drank too much, gave an awful speech, yelled at John, hijacked the DJ for multiple "surprise" spotlight dances, groped John's married uncle, and was taken home early. I had nightmares for weeks.

We met with Mom and my stepfather. John and I said we were worried and wanted Mom to visit her doctor and begin therapy, but also that she had hurt us. John then asked her to acknowledge this and apologize. Mom began screaming and physically threatened him. She said she had always disliked him and that she would rather kill herself than apologize. We left.

My stepfather later told us that he will take care of Mom, and understands if we distance ourselves. Her only communication since then has been to send short, pleasant texts about how to avoid us. I find it confusing, exhausting, and upsetting.

I started therapy, read about "emotional immaturity," and contacted a local family mediation center. For the first time, I'm thinking about all of her terrible behavior.

I've been thinking about future milestones like moving, pregnancy, and parenthood, and I don't know what role Mom is capable of having or what role I want her to have.

Should I be doing something different? What happens when we have news to share?

 

-- Unresolved

Dear Unresolved: You have responded to your mother's behavior in a straightforward and honest way. Working on a hunch, I suggest you ask your therapist to talk to you about Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of what you describe sounds typical of someone with BPD, who will have an exaggerated reaction to perceived abandonments. If your mother does have these characteristics, don't hold your breath for an apology; it will never come.

As her daughter, you will have to find healthy ways to erect strong boundaries. When/if your mother behaves well, you can open a door, but you should be prepared to close it again. Do not let her control you. Continue to be in touch with your stepfather. Share any and all lifetime announcements with both of them, and then take your future with her on a case-by-case basis.

A book that might help you explore this challenging dynamic is, "Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder," by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger (New Harbinger Publications; Second edition (January 1, 2010).

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