Dear Thelma: I am torn between my mum and the love of my life


  • Family
  • Sunday, 30 Aug 2020

I'm 31 and she's 29. We are a mixed-race couple (she's Iban and Chinese, and I'm Chinese). We have been together for two years.

I live with my mum, I lost my dad six years ago, and my younger brother is working abroad.

When I met my girlfriend, I was excited and told my mum about it about a month after we had met.

My mum was reluctant to accept it at first and then it slowly turned to outright rejection of my girlfriend due to her race and job (she's a shop manager of a renowned handphone brand).

My mum reacted very emotionally and asked for us to not see each other again.

My girlfriend and I decided to keep our relationship from my mum. During these two years, our love developed and we found that we are happy and compatible together.

Recently, when my mum asked about my love life, I revealed to her that I am still together with my girlfriend.

She reacted with the same emotion as she did two years ago, and forced us to break up.

She threatened to disown me and say that everyone in my family would be disappointed with me if I marry this girl. She even texted my girlfriend and urged her to leave me if she loves me.

My girlfriend politely apologised for all the trouble she caused but refused to leave unless it is my decision.

I am now torn between the two women I love. One is my mother, whom I love and who has lost her husband; the other is my love and the happiness of my future. I cannot give up either one as I love and truly care about them the same.

I feel that a compromise has to be made and that our love can stand this test, but at the same time I feel hopeless with my mum's insistent rejection.

Lost & Helpless

In healthy relationships, parents raise their kids to be independent adults, capable of finding and bonding with a compatible partner.

Ideally, everyone gets along. But in cases where there is a little friction, we adjust our boundaries and are a little bit more distant and polite. We always remember the key fact: when our loved ones have partners that make them happy, we are happy for them.

You have found a girl who you're happy with, who loves you too, and your relationship has strengthened as it has matured. Your mother's reaction is to smash your happiness. The reasons she gives for her outrageous behaviour show she's a racist and a snob.

As if that's not problematic enough, there's the emotional blackmail. Look, she's a widow and that's a shame but it doesn't mean you are a substitute husband. As for the threats to disown you and cut you off from the family, that is all part of the horrendous bullying.

While there are different ways of looking at marriage, you want to marry your sweetheart and have a relationship with your mother. That is not going to be easy.

If you simply marry your sweetheart, I suspect your mum will do her best to make your bride's life a misery. In addition, she will try to cause trouble between the two of you by manufacturing fights. To prevent this, set boundaries.

You and your partner must be a united front; a solid couple. Make sure your mother understands she has a choice: she can treat the two of you with respect and have a relationship with you both, but if she cannot do this, then you will be less present in her life.

I'm not saying you should abandon her. You might visit her on your own, for example. But clearly you cannot allow your mother to hurt your partner.

My dear, I feel for you both because this will not be easy. When toxic people are thwarted, they throw temper tantrums. They also use emotional blackmail. Often, they rope in friends to guilt and coerce you. Some will fake illnesses, accidents and even pretend to suicide – anything to get their own way.

You must be ready to resist all of these ploys and repeat,"Be respectful of me and my wife, or you see less of me."

Your mother may cut you off, but from your description of her character, that is unlikely to last long. If she does go that far, I predict she'll create some kind of drama intended to bring you rushing to her side.

I suspect your heart is sinking as you read this. I'm afraid that this is why bullies like your parent get their way so often: most of us just can't deal with this kind of nastiness.

Although you are only asking for healthy, normal behaviour, you are likely to feel difficult emotions. Therefore, I suggest you rope in the support of a mental health professional who is skilled in dealing with abusive and toxic relationships. You need support and so will your wife.

Also, a bit of encouragement: there are plenty of people who manage to maintain relationships with toxic and abusive people. You simply need to stand firm.

See your mother as a two-year-old who's throwing herself on the floor because she can't get her own way. Don't soothe her; ignore her when she misbehaving. She'll learn eventually that you can't be messed with.


Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11,46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Please include your full name, address and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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