Dear Amy: I am 33. My parents split up when I was 10, but I am still close to both. My dad remarried when I was 12. My mom has not remarried or dated anyone since their divorce.
My problem is that mom pressures me to see her all the time. My dad doesn’t guilt me at all.
The pressure was easy to manage in the past because she lived only an hour away and we could meet for lunch, etc. Last year she moved six hours away and now our visits end up lasting a whole weekend.
She wants us to get together all the time (every other month), and I feel so much pressure to do that. In between visits, she goes on about how she misses me, and when I do visit she will talk about how the visit was too short.
I know I sound like a spoiled brat. I feel this huge amount of guilt from her and I can’t just tell her, “I’ve had my fill of you. How about we get together in five months?” — but this is really what I want.
I sometimes even think about how the guilt would go away when she passes away. I get upset because I have these terrible thoughts. I love my mom very much. I like spending time with her.
We have talked about how the visits are too often for me, but the guilt is ALWAYS there, so then I just give in to the visits to relieve the guilt.
How do I either cope with this guilt, or slow down the visits without crushing my mom? I feel so bad because she doesn’t have a companion like my dad does. — Guilted
Dear Guilted: Your mother doesn’t have a companion, but if she did, would she miss you any less? I don’t think so.
If you are an only child, your mother might have relied on you heavily for emotional support, starting in adolescence. But, if she is so emotionally reliant on you, why did she move so far away?
She is making choices. You do NOT get to feel guilty about her choices. It takes two people to initiate a guilt trip: your mother might book the tickets, but you don’t have to pack your bags.
Reframing your own perceptions might help. Seeing her six times a year seems like nothing to her, but it is “all the time” to you. When she says how much she loves spending time with you, you feel the guilt ratchet up, while if a friend said this to you, you would welcome it.
Because this is so persistent and upsetting, you should see a therapist who could help you to work on your boundaries, and also coach you to tolerate a level of discomfort regarding the guilt you feel. Therapy would also help you to find the words to say to this person who you really might love better from a greater distance. Talking with her about your own feelings (without shaming or blaming) will help to clear the air.
Dear Amy: I am a 57-year-old woman.
I have a brother somewhere. Long ago my father was married briefly and had a son. They divorced, and to my knowledge he never saw the child again. (There was an ugly history involved in that arranged marriage.)
I learned about this brother in my teens from my father. I have been respectful of my father’s desire to leave it be.
My mother has been dead for years and my elderly father has dementia.
Do you think it would be acceptable for me to try to contact this brother, or has too much time gone by and it would serve no good? We only share DNA, after all. Maybe I’m just being foolish? — A Page from History
Dear History: Yes, I think you should attempt to locate your brother. You are obviously curious about him, and the search itself could help you to come to terms with aspects of your own life.
It is vital that you keep your expectations in check. DNA can be a powerful connector, but DNA does not determine a person’s character or emotional health.
Dear Amy: “Dismissed and Invisible” has politely and patiently waited for people to stop interrupting or talking over her, to no avail.
When I find myself in similar situations, I often say with great effectiveness, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was done.” — Kimberly
Dear Kimberly: I love this phrasing. Thank you.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.