DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Worried Friend" prompted me to write. She said her friend "Anne" was in her 40s and still vainly trying to get her mother's approval and love. I, too, allowed my mother to dominate my thoughts and my life. She never approved of who I am. Although I have four successful adult children and have had a successful 28-year career as an educator, nothing I did was ever good enough for Mother.
It took me years to realize that nothing I can do will ever bring her happiness. She didn't find it in her life. But I refuse to let her take away the joy I find in mine.
Anne has more than served her time as a loving daughter. Now it's time for her to live. Love is all around us, and if our mothers cannot provide it, we must seek it elsewhere. -- LOVING, BUT DETACHED, IN MISSISSIPPI
DEAR LOVING BUT DETACHED: I agree, but no amount of "telling" that to Anne will free her from her mother's control until she reaches a point where she's ready to hear it. All of the letters I received on this subject echo your sentiments. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My mother is like the one described in "Worried Friend's" letter. When I was 56, I finally acknowledged that Mom's criticism and loathing of me increased proportionately with my efforts to make her happy.
We are now estranged. She lives with my only sibling, a sister, who is furious with me for no longer maintaining the status quo. After the break I struggled with depression, sought psychotherapy and was prescribed anti-depressant medication. Now, a year and a half later, I am healthier emotionally and physically than I have ever been. My life is now based on what is best for me, my husband and my son, who have always loved me for who I am.
I wish Anne the strength and resolve to change, because her mother never will. -- STANDING TALL, SURPRISE, ARIZ.
DEAR ABBY: My heart goes out to Anne. I, too, wanted my mother's approval and never got it. After Mother died, without realizing what I was doing, I tried seeking approval from my sister -- who was just like our mother. Finally, I realized I will never get approval from her, either.
Because of this long-time-coming realization, I now have peace of mind. Each day is happier because I approve of myself. I have started doing all the things I wanted and needed to do that make me happy.
Please tell Anne's friend to help her to love and approve of herself. It's what saved me. -- HAPPY AT LAST IN UTAH
DEAR ABBY: I had a friend like Anne, whose mother made her life miserable by withholding love and approval. It nearly drove her crazy, until one day her mother died. Anne was 50 by then and had been a doormat all that time for her mother, her daughter, her son and their spouses.
Out of the blue she called me and said she was moving to New Mexico and starting her life over. She and her husband sold their house, packed their van and their dogs, and went to live in a completely new place. I hear from her every few months. While life has had its ups and downs, she's happier than she has ever been in her whole life. I hope Anne's friend doesn't give up on her; she may just be waiting to be set free. -- LAURIE IN PENNSYLVANIA