Liv­ing near an emo­tional Su­per­fund site

The Washington Post - - TELEVISION - Write to Carolyn Hax at [email protected]­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post. Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn: No one in my fam­ily, in­clud­ing my­self, wants to spend time with my mom.

She can be re­ally toxic. She has hurt me all my life and, re­ally, ev­ery­one I love. I stopped ask­ing my hus­band and kids to go with me a while ago. In fact, I lim­ited my chil­dren’s ex­po­sure to her when they were grow­ing up, but they still have scars from stuff she did or said when they were young adults; it’s dif­fi­cult to be pre­pared for the truly aw­ful stuff she says and does, even when warned your whole life.

Even though I know all this and I’m nor­mally pretty prag­matic, I am find­ing it tough to just cut my mom off. We’ve had so many con­ver­sa­tions over the years about the things she says and does, but she is never go­ing to change be­cause she just doesn’t get it. It’s al­most like pun­ish­ing a fish for bad be­hav­ior. She never ac­cepts ac­count­abil­ity for any­thing, and never sees the dam­age. She says and does petty, hor­ri­ble things in ir­ri­ta­tion, then just shakes it off, ac­cus­ing oth­ers of be­ing too sen­si­tive.

I re­ally am the last one. If I don’t go see her, she will truly be alone.

We are talk­ing about mov­ing away. We would be across the coun­try near my hus­band’s fam­ily, who are just won­der­ful. Sweet, lov­ing and sup­port­ive. I’m so con­flicted. On one hand I’d be free at last! But she’ll be bit­ter and all alone, and it pains me be­cause, de­spite ev­ery­thing, this dam­aged woman is my mom, and I do love her.

Maybe I just need per­mis­sion from an ob­jec­tive third party. I’m al­most 60. Will I ever have peace?

— Con­flicted in Cal­i­for­nia Con­flicted in Cal­i­for­nia: Per­mis­sion granted.

How’s this for a rea­son: You’ve lived near your mom all this time, and you’re al­most 60, and pre­sum­ably your hus­band is roughly your age — so when does he get to be on the same side of the coun­try as his peo­ple?

You’d owe him this even if your lo­cal fam­ily were also “just won­der­ful. Sweet, lov­ing and sup­port­ive.” It’s his turn.

I un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate that you don’t want to leave your mom alone for what is likely to be the end of her life. But her be­ing a hu­man gant­let so painful that no one ex­cept you is will­ing to run it ac­tu­ally makes the case for mov­ing even stronger. Your hus­band and kids may have mostly avoided your mom, but as witnesses to your suffering, they suf­fered. They didn’t avoid her harm.

So take care of them now. Give them the gift of prox­im­ity to peo­ple they want nearby.

And feed this logic to your prag­matic side. Is it enough?

Note that I’m push­ing the ra­tio­nale that it’s good for your fam­ily vs. good for you: I’ve cal­cu­lated that you’ll see self­care as a pri­or­ity you can’t jus­tify.

And that’s not only a byprod­uct of parental tox­i­c­ity, but it’s also a great ar­gu­ment for tak­ing this con­ver­sa­tion to an ex­cel­lent and com­pas­sion­ate ther­a­pist. You are worth car­ing for, you are worth sav­ing, you are worth let­ting off this hook.

Liv­ing far from an ag­ing rel­a­tive is not a nov­elty. Peo­ple man­age to stay in­volved, so you can, too.

So . . . I hardly ever do this: Please, just go.

NICK GAL­I­FI­ANAKIS FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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