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Strained relationship with a surprise caller
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • There is a woman in my life with whom I do not wish to interact on a regular basis. She's incredibly selfish and cares only for her own happiness. She can't be trusted with confidences; she blabs everything to anyone who will listen, even when she's asked to keep something to herself. When I bothered to call her, she either didn't answer or was too busy to talk to me. I quit calling. Yet, when she calls me, she expects me to drop whatever I'm doing to chat. If I ignore her calls, she continues to call until I answer.

I find these conversations tiresome and would rather avoid them.

Does it change your answer to know that she's my mother? If this were anyone else, I would have cut off contact years ago.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous • OK then — why does it change your answer?

You've chosen not to cut her off despite solid reasons and incentives to do so. That tells me you regard her, or maybe just motherhood itself, as worthy of an exception.

There's nothing wrong with that — and if it does feel wrong, then maybe what you need isn't to cut the tie once and for all, as you seem tempted yet reluctant to do, but instead to gain a full understanding of your own reasons for making this exception.

Is it because she brought good things to your life, amid the bad? Is it because you recognize that she did provide for you — changed your diapers, fed you, drove you where you needed to go — even if her motives centered on her? Is it because you love her, even while you dislike her? Is it because part of you is still waiting for her to put you first? Is it because you just don't want to be the person who no longer speaks to his/her own mom?

There's a reason in there somewhere. Figure it out, then decide whether it satisfies you as a reason to keep doing this maddening dance. I expect it'll be easier to choose how much contact you have — and what you expect of it — from there.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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