Parent or Spouse – who comes first?

by on May 3, 2014

in Emails

Bernice: I received this email, which I found very touching and shows the difficult dilemmas an adult only-child faces when they feel divided between a parent and a spouse. I have placed the dilemmas in the text first, and the life story after so people can understand the dilemmas in context. In my next post I will attempt to offer some understanding of the situation and possible ways forward.

Dilemmas: My problem is that I don’t know how to split myself…. I need my mom in my life. I need her close to me; I need to see her every day. In fact, I see her every single day and if she is in Colombia we talk twice a day and if we don’t I feel guilty. I don’t know how to divide myself. I want to spend time with my mom, and if possible with my husband too (which if I’m with both it makes everything easier).

I feel guilty when I travel with my husband and don’t take mom. When we travel places she always wants to go with me. I feel guilty when she is in NY and I don’t spend at least one day of the weekend with her. I feel guilty trying to be with mom when my husband just wants to be with me and friends. I feel guilty trying  to explain this to my husband when he is not a single child and grew up so separate from him mom, because in reality it is not his problem, and he is not required to understand or accept it. My world would be ideal if I could take my mom everywhere and my husband saw my mom as his mom, but I know this is impossible.

Please, help me understand myself, my relationship with mom and husband and tell me please tell me how to deal with this.

How can I help my husband understand my situation my feelings without making him guilty? or even worst starting to hate my mom? Because if this happens, I’m not sure what I would do. Help me with my mom, how to work with her so she doesn’t feel like I don’t love her, like I don’t prefer her, like I she is not longer important in my life?

When do I draw the line? and how to do it without hurting those I love?

My mom and husband are ultimately the only one’s I have and in reality my mom is the only real person I know will always be there for me, but I don’t want to hurt her because then I hurt even more. Then I start hurting my husband and then I put my marriage on the line. I can’t just leave my mom, she left everything for me, she left having a social life to protect me, I am her reason to be alive. Thanks to my existence she was able to accomplish everything she has, thanks to her, I have every single thing I have and the person I am…

Life Story: I was born in July 28, 1982 in Colombia, and lived there until I was about 18yrs old, when my mom decided to move to the USA. My mom has been my friend, father and well mom forever as my father never really wanted anything to do with me. She grew up in a very poor village in Colombia, one of 11 children and at a very young age moved to the city to work and earn money. She met my dad who came from a wealthy family. Obviously my mom loved my father but he was married and never told my mom until the day she was pregnant. I believe my mom and dad lived together for a year after I was born but the moment I started to call him dad he left and never gave any money to my mom.  We rented the underneath section of a staircase to live in, until Mom was able to get more money and move to a bigger room.

Many years went by and she bought her first apartment and became a successful business owner. Currently she has two stores, apartments and lives well. As you can see she is quite a role model. I obviously love her to death, I feel the older I get the more I love her. I was never alone, she over protected me, which I guess made sense because it was just she and I. I am a girl so she avoided dating people, as she was concerned someone would hurt me. She barely had a social life, though I pushed her to have one, but between work and me well she had no energy left. Bottom line is, that she breathed and ate for me, to make sure I had it all, to make sure I always had all she never had. She never gave me in excess, so I wasn’t ever a spoiled kid, instead she brought me up to be humble and work for what I want.

Thanks to the man my mum met in the US my mom and I have American citizenship. She thought that it would be better for me to study in the US as I would have a better career future. Because we were waiting for the papers to enter the US she sent me to England for one year to live and learn the English so that once I got to New York I was ready to enter college. She had to travel there to see me and as you can imagine she was extremely depressed. She had lost weight, etc. well we had never been separated before and I was just 17yr.

A few years later mom and her husband got divorced. I think this was because my mom never really lived with a man, was never married (at least for over 25yrs). She was always independent and the neighborhood we moved in NY wasn’t the best compared to how we lived in Columbia. After her husband left the house, mom decided to rent the extra rooms in the apartment and we both slept in the same bed… she travels between Bogota and New York because of her business. She wanted to make sure that when she passes away I have something to rely on in case something ever happens and I need money or a place to stay.

We are never separated for more than 2 months.  In 2014 I got married to an amazing man from Colombia (in fact the same city where my dad is from). Before the wedding we were together for 3yrs. My mom learned to love him, although he grew up differently. His family use to be wealthy until the head of the family died and there was no more money coming in. My husband was born in the US and he has supported his mom and brother financially. When I got engaged mom was super excited, she knew that now if she died I wouldn’t be alone. However the closer the wedding lots of problems emerged and after my mom went into a terrible depression crying every single day. She was referred to therapies, started to take prescribed pills etc. All this I understand and knew it was going to be hard because we are no longer living together or even sleeping together. However my husband and I found an apartment close to where she lives so that we can see each other every day.

I was happy that I was marrying a person that understood the relationship I have with my mom and that loved my mom. I think if I hadn’t seen this I probably wouldn’t had married him. In fact, before I continued with the engagement, my husband and I had a conversation of my mom living with me as she has nobody else and I need her in my life. Off course he wasn’t too happy but understood and accepted it…


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