“My Mother Has Abandoned Our Relationship”

I grew up as an adopted member of a seemingly close family. Fifteen years ago, my mom left my then-17-year-old brother with her ex and moved in with a hermit in the mountains of Tennessee. (I was living in college dorms at the time.) The boyfriend won’t leave his house and won’t permit her to leave either due to his “anxiety.” When his mother was still alive, my mom could leave for short periods of time to go to the grocery store or by paying his other family members to stay with him for a few days every 18 months or so. Unfortunately, his mother died and now my mother won’t come to see her children and grandchildren.

This man of hers is very aggressive and manipulative. When she had a job at Wal-mart during the beginning of their relationship, he would change her schedule so she’d miss her scheduled shifts and show up when she wasn’t scheduled. In 2020, when I was eight months pregnant with my second child, I got into a fight with her boyfriend and his brother. Technically, I posted a picture on my mom’s Facebook timeline and her boyfriend became very aggressive with me. I blocked them. Since then, he has gone on other people’s accounts and had my mom’s friends post derogatory comments on my public Facebook wall. Mind you, this is from a 50-year-old man.

I finally gave her an ultimatum. Either she be a present grandmother, which she hasn’t been, and be involved in our lives without this man’s control over her, or we were done. She chose the man. I had been paying for her cellphone at the time and also paying some other bills. I stopped since there’s no reason to pay for these things for someone I don’t even speak with. It’s been six months since this decision and, from what I understand, she’s okay with it. She hasn’t reached out, and I know her terrible boyfriend has rules in place to not communicate with us.

As a mother myself, I don’t understand how you could ever not be involved with your child. As a strong woman, I don’t understand how you can let a man dictate whether you can go to the grocery store or doctor or to see your family. As someone who spoke with my mom twice a day my entire adult life, I don’t understand how she’s just okay with letting it go. To be completely transparent, I don’t know if I want her back in my life, even if she wanted to come back. She really screwed me over by not being here for the birth of her second grandchild. I don’t know that I want to be there in the future to support her health emergencies or provide financial support for her when she needs it. All of this has put a real hindrance on my relationship with my brother and aunt. I feel like they don’t want to talk to me anymore and I’m not sure what to do about any of this. — Feeling Abandoned

I can understand how painful it must be to feel like you’ve lost your mother and that your kids are missing out on a relationship with her. I think you’re right to be focusing on your relationship with the family who might still be receptive to you – your brother and your aunt, and it’s concerning that you feel they don’t want to talk to you anymore. You cannot control anyone else’s behavior or their reaction to your behavior; you can, though, control your own. And you can reflect on past behavior that may have complicated your relationships with family members. For example, you say you posted a picture to your mom’s FB timeline that resulted in her boyfriend being very aggressive with you. Then, he went to other people’s accounts and had your mom’s friends post derogatory comments on your wall? What on earth did you post that riled people up like this? Why would your mom’s friends cooperate with what sounds like an abusive boyfriend of your mother’s? Is there anything in YOUR behavior here that maybe harmed your case?

You say that you feel like your brother and aunt don’t want to talk to you anymore. Your brother was basically abandoned by your mom while he was still in high school. What is it that he’s upset with *you* about? Is it because you (understandably) stopped paying for your mother’s cell phone and her bills? How is your mother now communicating with your brother and your aunt? What is it she’s saying to them about you? It seems like they might be getting one side of the story and, based on what you’ve described of your social media behavior, I am concerned about the side of the story you’ve been expressing. It’s probably time for a heart-to-heart with your brother and your aunt, in which you let them know how important your relationship with each of them is and ask them with an open heart how you can help repair it. It’s important to really listen to them and to try not to be defensive.

Finally, I think it would be best for you to get off FB and social media. It sounds like it’s been harmful to your mental health and to your various relationships. Really evaluate what you’re getting from it. There are other, much better, ways to communicate with loved ones. Your anger and pain are probably justified – at least in terms of your mother’s disappearance from your life – and it would be such a shame if you’re using social media to express that pain in a way that can be used against you, which happens so often. It can be easy to fall into a trap of sending passive aggressive messages through social media posts rather than picking up a phone and calling the people we are desperate to make our points with. Talking directly forces you to be more assertive as well as to actively listen. I suspect that direct communication could go a long way in addressing the issues in your relationships with your brother and your aunt. And I think reinforcing those relationships will give you the support you need to figure out what role you want to have in your mother’s life and what boundaries are needed to pursue that role.

A woman who works for us during the summer as a waitress (and who is married with two teenage kids) sat on my boyfriend’s knee and proceeded to kiss him on both cheeks numerous times. She is in her late 40s if that makes any difference – around 10 years older than my boyfriend and I. Her husband works for us as a chef. We have known them a few years and often go to get-togethers at their house. Last week we went to watch a couple rugby matches where both of their teams won. She was a bit over-excited and jumped on my boyfriend and kissed him on both cheeks. He’s French, so I was a bit shocked but not angry at that point. The second and third time she did it, I became more uncomfortable and, having both my kids with me on either side, I was also flummoxed. Other friends in the room were looking on in slight dismay too. She then (possibly noticing my slight squirming) said in a joking manner, “I hope you don’t mind me sitting on your husband’s knee,” as if it were all just fun and normal. She then high-fived me – all while her own husband watched.

When I approached my partner about it the next day, he said it is just the way she is and not to care about it. The problem is he goes up there alone quite regularly to watch rugby or have a few drinks, and now I am mortified. Do you think I should approach her? Just for the record, she is a possessive woman herself over her husband. Help! — Uncomfortable

No, you shouldn’t approach her; you should approach your boyfriend and tell him you aren’t comfortable with the lack of boundaries he has with your employees and that he needs to put a kibosh on the personal/intimate behavior with this other woman or you will approach her as her boss and tell her to knock it off. Just because this behavior is “just the way she is,” doesn’t mean your boyfriend should engage in said behavior – especially when you’re expressing your discomfort with it.

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. LW1: I am afraid you can’t reason your mother here. Just give up. Some people are lost to cults, or abusive and controlling partners, which is a bit the same as a brainwash process. You can’t help them out if they don’t want to – and often they lose the capacity to get out. For your own state of mind, you have to mourn that loss. Whatever happened on social media, where you seem to have made a mistake, you were right to stop paying for her (why would you?). Don’t feel guilty about it and try to socialise more with your husband’s mother or with other older women who can act like a grandma substitute for your children. Give a try with your brother. Go to people who do make you happy.
    LW2: Are you a co-employer of this woman? If yes, state to your husband that she is off-limit for a summer job this summer. She is a liability (think sexual harassment). And stop going to her place. You have to set some boundaries with employees. I agree with Wendy about stating the obvious to your husband. I would hate such a behaviour and you could have stated loud and clear, when asked: “yes, I do mind” (though I understand that on the spot, you froze).
    Don’t tell HER anything. Act as an employer and stop employing her.

    1. Waitingmyturn says:

      Hi, thanks for this. Problem is we are tied to her and he knows it. We employ her hubby in r other restaurant and she is 100% the boss of him. He has also cheated on her so she has him in her pocket. If she decides she doesn’t want to live here anymore our chef will be gone. He’s a brilliant chef and overall employee and apart from the cheating scandal he’s actually an alright person. She is however toxic and we need to employ her or else she might lose it and say she wants to move. He would also be pissed off as they kind of rely on her havin a job in summer for money

      1. anonymousse says:

        They also need the work. You are being held hostage. Make some boundaries, or have an uncomfortable summer.

  2. LisforLeslie says:

    LW1 – I think you need to mourn the loss of your mother. Clearly she is getting something out of this relationship, maybe she really likes to be needed. But for whatever reason, she’s made her choice. Your aunt and brother may want to put her in the rearview mirror while you keep making it a focal point. Find other things to discuss with them.
    And not to be the ultimate Debbie Downer but it’s entirely possible that she gets sick and gets no treatment because he can’t leave and won’t let her leave. Seriously, you need to assume that you will never see her again.
    Lastly, if she does leave (or he dies and she can leave) then she may want back in your life. Whether you choose to allow that or maintain a safe distance is up to you.

    LW2 – yeah, the woman is a problem, but your husband is a bigger problem. He needs to stop this shit. Saying “it’s just the way she is” is a cop out to avoid dealing with uncomfortable situations. She’s handsy with HIM. Doesn’t seem to be anyone else she’s targeting so it’s not “just the way she is” otherwise she’d be kissing your cheeks, and everyone else’s.

    1. Waitingmyturn says:

      Yes! Absolutely this but he doesn’t want to be involved with approaching her about it. So I’m left to deal with this crap. I know it wasn’t the first time as my 4 year old told me before she was sitting on him and I was sure it was a jok as she said she was only joking after. Bit of an odd coincidence if u ask me

  3. Avatar photo mrmidtwenties says:

    LW1- you did probably the worst thing you can do to a family member in an abusive relationship- you cut off communication- so I’d be incredibly mad if I were you aunt and brother (cutting off her cellphone also likely impacted their communication with her). My mother was in an abusive relationship for several years and we were only able to help her leave that relationship (and get him convicted) by keeping lines of communication open so that she could feel supported when she was ready to leave. I would heavily suggest therapy to deal with the emotions of feeling abandoned, and working with your brother and aunt to re-develop relationships with them and hopefully you can coordinate to be supportive if their is an opportunity for your mother to leave her abuser.

    1. Karebear1813 says:

      Ummm…. LW1 isn’t responsible for keeping communications opened just because her mother is in an abusive relationship with the hopes that one day she will seek help from her. The mother and her relationship is presenting itself as toxic which she should disconnect from. She cannot control nor fix her mothers choices nor should she be financially responsibly for it either. As dangerous as this man sounds, it sounds like the smart thing to do is disconnect to protect herself and her own family.

      LW1 – Yes, disconnect from social media platforms and work on reforming those relationships with family who think she are in the wrong. Explain to them that you are, obviously concerned for your mothers safety but this has exceed far out to worrying about your own families safety as well as your mental health. If you feel you are being taken advantaged of financially, then tell them that too! You have every right to be angry at your mother for not being the grandmother you had hoped she would be but she may not want to be that grandmother and you have to find some form of acceptance in that.

      You can also suggest to these relatives that if they want to continue keeping an open line of communication then they need to foot the bill and you can always get a message over to your mom that you will be available to help when she is ready.

  4. PassingThrough says:

    It sounds like she’s not a present grandmother because she’s in an abusive relationship, not because she doesn’t care about you.

    There is nothing normal about this situation, your mother needs help.

  5. LW1 I don’t think it’s remotely helpful to say things like ‘As a strong woman, I don’t understand how you can let a man dictate whether you can go to the grocery store or doctor or to see your family.’

    Strong women end up in abusive relationships too, unfortunately.

  6. LW1 I can see how hurtful this must be for you, but I think your mother is in an abusive relationship as others have said, and I wouldn’t take her behaviour as a reflection on her attachment to you- it is a classic tactic for the coerced person to be systematically isolated from all support, which is what her partner has managed to do here. While none of this is your responsibility to fix, if I were you I absolutely would not take this that she doesn’t care, but more that she is in a situation where she has no control. I hope she gets out of it for all of your sakes.

  7. Karebear1813 says:

    LW2 – This is simple – tell your boyfriend/husband that you are not comfortable as his partner with another person sitting and kissing on his face. You feel its inappropriate, not just because she is an employee and a female, but also because it makes you feel uncomfortable, and embarrassed at the fact that others are questioning their encounters with each other. Men don’t know how to be firm with women or tell them no in situations like this. I am certain he probably feels awkward (maybe flattered) about the encounter just as much as you do but help him find the words to say “Janice, it makes me uncomfortable when you sit on me and kiss me, I am going to have to ask you to stop”.

    1. Waitingmyturn says:

      Hi, thanks for your reply. The thing is I did speak to him about it and he doesn’t seem to share my view. He even texted her today something funny because they often text etc. I never had a problem with this before until now. I don’t even want him going up to their place alone anymore. She gives me the creeps. I have to work with her this summer too. I was trying to ignore it but I think she does this regularly. Reason being my 4 year old told me she was sitting on him as she was there one night. She told me next day in a matter of fact way that an innocent kid would. Then when I asked her more she said it was a joke! I laughed it off and even told him. He says he doesn’t remember that which is even more disturbing

      1. Look. From your other post, it’s clear that your boyfriend does whatever the fuck he wants, and you go along with it. That’s what your relationship is based on. He doesn’t care what you think. If you stay with him, be prepared to deal with this and worse.

      2. LW2: I totally agree with Kate. The fact that he is French doesn’t make it OK. French people understand professional boundaries like anybody else.
        You don’t “have to” work next summer with that woman. You don’t “have to” do anything regarding neither your employer (are you an employee as well?) nor your boyfriend. If she acts in an inappropriate manner, and your boyfriend doesn’t act in a professional manner as an employer, you should rise the topic and if nothing changes, you can decline the job and also, as a girlfriend, leave him. You are not a prisoner in this relationship, you have leverage. Sit him and start a serious talk about boundaries and respect between partners. He has to understand that you are ready to leave.
        By the way: don’t mix job and romance. If he is your employer, this is really an unhealthy situation. One has to give way. Either work there – before finding something else – or date the guy as a boyfriend without working there – if you trust him enough.
        Or drop both.

    2. LisforLeslie says:

      Yeah – I’ve been working with French folks for 3 years. You kiss when you haven’t seen one another in person in 6 months. You don’t kiss every day that you arrive at work or celebrate something that happened. It’s a totally professional, normal exchange and it is NOT romantic or an excuse to get physically close to someone.
      Your boyfriend enjoys the ego stroke. You can ask him to stop as consideration for your feelings, but if he chooses not to, then you decide where your boundary is. You need to decide if it’s a deal breaker.

      1. Right! It is not as if French employers were having their female employees on their lap on a regular basis!

      2. Waitingmyturn says:

        So my boyfriend and I are her employers. Him and I were working there since we bought the business 2 years ago. She was working in our other restaurant for a couple of summer’s alongside her husband and at times, my partner as he worked there before. Basically she was not a good person to have in charge and started causing problems such as closing too early or not being polite etc. My boyfriend’s business partner suggested she not come back and he agreed. This was a difficult problem as she was fully expecting to go back. So rather than sack her, we ended up employing her in the new place. We figured once supervised she would be ok. The problems in the other place only started when she was left alone or with new staff. Anyway it was a bit problematic but could’ve been worse. I felt sorry for her after he cheated on her so I tried to befriend her. I never 100% trusted her because she has toxic traits. She seems like the jealous type. Ps one night at the bar when drinking her husband was dancing with another employee of ours and she had a go at him. So if I did that to her man she would be reeling herself. I have no choice but to work there due to the financial end of things and same for my boyfriend. She will be apparently coming back as he still sees me as the one over reacting and to be honest, he’s worried the chef will leave if she doesn’t get her job in either place.

      3. anonymousse says:

        No, you actually do have a choice to not work there. Just as your bf has the choice to let her kiss and sit on him. She and her husband need the job, so it’s absolutely ridiculous that you’re accepting that threat as a reason he’s allowing her to paw him all over. The truth is plain, he lets it happen because he enjoys it and he doesn’t care how you feel about it. If he was a good partner, he’d shut this down. He’s not. Kate is correct, it’s pretty obvious he does whatever the hell he wants, and you literally just suffer through it. Why? You aren’t overreacting. You are under reacting.

      4. Waitingmyturn says:

        So we ended up having a massive argument and he accused me of not wanting him to have friends ! He thinks I need to deal with it, by speaking to her about it if I have to. But anyway, latest update is that he wanted a ‘break’ so kept himself up in the other house the last few days. I was pondering my future all the while he was up there partying as soon as I took the kids back. He came to talk today and I suspected he might end up there so I asked him and yep. Feeling angry right now

      5. You are angry, because you have finally been forced to confront the obvious: he is selfish, immature, and really cares very little for you and your desires. This is also on you, because you willfully walked into this awful situation and even had a second child with this man. It is time to MOA. It’s really tough to realize that your SO, the father of your two children, doesn’t give a crap about you. It is better than magical thinking.

      6. anonymousse says:

        He is the only person who can stop her harassing him. Even if you did speak to her about this (which is childish and stupid because he is a grown man and knows how to stand up for himself), as long as she knows he likes and enjoys it, it won’t stop. Honestly, I’d be surprised if this is the only thing going on. He does do whatever the fuck he wants and just forces you to deal with it. It’s so nice that he has you to watch the children while he milks this supposed excuse to party without you for days. He literally just showed you how much he respects you and how much your peace and happiness concerns him.

      7. Wow, I am sorry for you, so sad to see such a behaviour. He shouldn’t be surprised to be in trouble if he has a woman on his lap, kissing him in front of you and your kids. He can’t possible think that you are the one to have to set limits. This is an insult to your intelligence. It seems also crazy that he would prefer breaking up his couple and family, and jeopardise your co-entreprise, for such a silly game. He is either very immature, in a power struggle with you (in a selfish way where you should “deal” with whatever he does), or very conflicted about your relationship, or in a relationship with her.

  8. Bittergaymark says:

    LW1). You cut off your mom by cutting off her phone. And that is what has thoroughly pissed both your brother and aunt off. So yeah… I so wouldn’t have done that.

    LW2). Eh, this all strikes me as a whole lot of needless silly drama. I’d really just let this all go.

  9. LW: rethinking about your dilemma, you could, if you feel like, write to your mother (in a letter, not online) that you acted to protect your feelings, because you were hurt by what you felt like a rejection or a lack of interest on her part, but if she is keen at some point to reconnect with you and have a relationship with you and your family, the door remains open. She is dear and important to you and all you hope is for you both to be able, in the future, to have a more peaceful and harmonious relationship.
    That being said, I don’t see why you should pay for her phone. If the brother is shocked, or the aunt, they can pay for it (if she really can’t afford it, but an adult should be).
    I wonder if your history of adoption didn’t act as a trigger for your hurt, your feeling of rejection?
    Eventually, parents are imperfect, sometimes failing like your mother. One has to accept it, for one’s own peace of mind, but it is surely difficult and painful. So perhaps let the door open, but focus on relationships that make you happy now. Again, you can’t help her being in an abusive relationship.

  10. golfer.gal says:

    LW1, the national domestic violence violence hotline has resources, including via chat and phonecall, for people with loved ones in abusive relationships.

    I don’t think you’re wrong for dropping clearly toxic people from your life, and unfortunately you can’t make your mom leave her abuser. But if you’re unsure if you did the right thing, or you want to rethink contact with her/support for her at any point including as a result of conversations with your brother and aunt, talking to someone through the hotline may help and they can give you good guidance and support. I second the suggestion of counseling as well. This would be a great topic to work through in a few sessions with a counselor. This is really difficult stuff and I’m sure it’s profoundly affected your life. I’m so sorry for you and your family.

  11. second everything golfer.gal said.

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