Dear Christine, My girlfriend and I have been together for five years, we live together, are totally in love and partners in every sense. We are also ‘out’ to everyone – family, friends and jobs – for two years now and everyone has been accepting and awesome about it (including my girl’s family). My family is fine about it — except for my mom.
She is upset about the fact that I am a lesbian, won’t support or recognize my relationship or my girl, and is pretty ridiculously intolerant, in denial and hurtful about it all. We have had more fights about it than I care to think about. It helps that I live 5 states away from her and my family, but, situations are coming up (my girl and I are visiting my friends in my hometown this summer, my sister is getting married next spring, etc.) where I feel
like the issue can’t just be pushed under the rug. I talk about my girlfriend and my relationship all the time in my mom and my weekly chats so I am not ignoring the fact that my rlshp does exist. (Her comeback is usually an argument or stone cold silence.) I want to continue staying strong and stick up for my relationship and myself but, at the same time, I love my mom and don’t want to hurt her. I feel like I am going to have to make some tough decisions and ultimatums regarding upcoming situations and I don’t want to do that. Do you have any advice on how I can get my mom to come
around – to at least respect me and my relationship? I am not looking for overwhelming support or acceptance, just common decency! (She is not the “read a pamphlet on how to accept your gay daughter” type of woman, either). Please help! ~ Being Ignored in Imlay City
Dear Being Ignored,
Your mom is her own person, and you cannot decide what she thinks, feels, accepts and doesn’t accept. It hurts that she is rejecting your relationship at this point, but she may come around in time. And she may not. Loving someone, including your mother, does mean that at some point you will hurt her and she will hurt you. Maybe not intentionally, maybe so, but the hurt happens because we’re different people, unique, and we can’t always give those we love what they request or want. And sometimes they can’t give us what we need. You are the expert on you, not your mom. If you’re happy with your relationship of 5 years, congratulations! You can try ultimatums with your mom, but they are likely to drive more silence and separation between both of you. You can also try to accept her where she is and see if she will eventually acknowledge the love of your life. There’s really no right or wrong way to handle this, as it completely depends on how you feel and what you can tolerate, and what you need, and on what your mom feels, tolerates and needs.
I have seen some very conservative parents never directly acknowledge their son or daughter’s same sex partner, but after a while, they do seem to develop some acceptance, even if they never verbally acknowledge that. Whatever you try to do, it is most important to be in integrity with yourself, and completely be yourself, as you define you, not as others might. You will learn something along the way that will be of value and help
guide you to the next step in your family relationships. Family is usually for the long term, and being patient can help.
Now, this isn’t what I’ve practiced in my own life, but I’m one person, and sometimes I take a rash stand a bit too far. I can tell you that cutting off a relationship with your mom due to her lack of acceptance will stop the immediate cold silences when you try to talk on the phone, but it also will leave you without any contact and any way of trying to be present to her, to help her to move towards acceptance. Meanwhile, it also shows your
lack of acceptance of where she is. Neither of you is right or wrong. Everyone is coming from their own point of view and has their own process to go through, when a family member comes out. If you can’t tolerate her cold silences, perhaps breaking off contact is the best approach for now. If you can hang in there, and live who you are, I find that most families come around, to some degree, eventually. Just do what is in integrity for you,
and that will lead you in the right direction for you.
Christine C Cantrell, PhD,
Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067