Carolyn Hax: Mom's good intentions have gone overboard

This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • My parents are wonderful people, and have been kind to allow my sister and me to move home due to the recession/higher education. However, my mother has shifted her overprotective nature from "good intentions" to "overbearing," wherein she feels she can dictate whom I associate with. I can understand this for a teenager, but now that I am in my late 20s, I think I am more than capable of deciding whom I associate with. I have always been a good student, have an accomplished resume and pristine record, have never been into the party scene, and have well-mannered and mature friends. However, should my friends even breathe wrong in her presence ... that's it. It has gotten to the point where I have stopped inviting friends over who are on her "no-fly" list and started lying when I go out with them. I'd move out, but that's really not an option due to graduate school. I just want my mom to trust me. How can I draw boundaries with someone who constantly swoops down like a vulture to rip my confidence apart? Sometimes the fights are so bad I cancel my plans.

Watching Her Friendships Sink

Dear Watching • Stop engaging, stop explaining yourself. That last one especially. High-achiever, substance non-abuser, good character judge — great stuff! And irrelevant! What is relevant: (1) You're an adult and it's your social life. (2) It's your mom's house. These realities allow you to decline to engage when your mother goes off on your friends. This is where your excellent track record does matter; at a calm moment when you're not discussing your friends, say: "Mom, do you trust that you did a good job raising me?" Pause while she responds affirmatively. "Good. Now it's time to show that by letting me handle my own friendships." If she makes an argument for interfering hear her out. Then say you love her, and respect that she is entitled to her opinion. Then remind her you are also entitled to yours: that your social life is not a topic of discussion. Say this once. She can, of course, kick you out, and those "so bad" fights suggest she might. If so, summon the discipline to remain so very, very calm, and say, "That's your prerogative, Mom. I'll start looking."

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