In the last step, we covered self-image and beauty, an often entertaining, if complicated, subject. There, you took a small step toward opening up to your mother as a woman with a life
What made you decide to marry Dad?
One lighthearted starting point for discussion is asking about your mother's early experiences with love. Who was her first boyfriend? Who kissed her first and how old was she? Was she ever engaged to someone who wasn't your father? How did she and your father meet? What made her decide to marry your dad?
Asking your mother what specifically helped her decide to date or marry your father can spark the conversational fire about men, rekindle positive memories and add insight into your own decisions about men and marriage. Whatever choices we make about marriage (to stay single, get married, stay married, divorce), our reasons are usually complex
Why did you stay with Dad?
For all the problems my mother and father had in their marriage, their resolute commitment to their marriage vows, in spite of their challenges, remains one of the strongest messages about marriage I received from both of them. In moments of frustration, I would ask my mother, "Why do you stay with Dad if you're so unhappy?" Her response was always the same, "I love him and I married him for life, no matter how he acts. He doesn't mean it. He doesn't know any better."
What's interesting to me about the question in this case is not just my or your mother's answer, but also your motives for asking it. If you're like me, you already know the answer. The question is a mask for anger. For me it was anger at my mother for allowing herself to be treated so poorly, at my father for treating her so poorly and at myself for not being able to fix the situation.
The question can also be an indirect way of stating how you really feel. If this is the case for you, I suggest you first ask yourself the question, "Why do I think Mom is staying with Dad?" Once you know the answer to that question (because she's afraid to be on her own, because she has no income, because she takes her marriage vows literally, because there are intimate details she's kept private or some other private matter), address the issue with her. Make sure you have already established a comfortable rapport with her during a calm moment perhaps driving in the car or on vacation or during a quiet afternoon walk
Celebrating the love between your parents
No matter how happy or sad your parents' story turned out, celebrating the love between them by asking your mother to talk about those feelings and memories can be very healing. Ask your mother to recall the positive memories of your father or the experiences of romantic love she's had in her life. If your parents are divorced, this could also include her thoughts and feelings toward your stepfather or another significant relationship. How did they show their love for each other? Did they have any simple habits or special traditions that kept them close?
For example, the mother of one woman I know said that one of her love rituals is always laughing at her husband's jokes no matter how bad they are. Another woman asked her mother about a love ritual, and was surprised to learn that in 45 years of marriage, every single time her mother came down the stairs to leave for a social engagement, without fail, her husband whistled at her and said, "I am one lucky guy." You might be amazed at what you learn when you start to see your mother as a grownup woman with a lifetime of her own love stories!
Questions for your mom
When you're ready, consider sitting down with your mom and going over the following questions. You can choose questions that are appropriate for you and your mother, or use the entire list as a guide for writing down your own questions that are specific to your situation. Be sure to keep track of any progress that you have made in a private journal.
- Who was your first boyfriend? Who gave you your first kiss?
- What's your favorite memory of falling in love?
- Is there any man you still think about from your early dating years?
- Were you ever engaged to anyone before Dad?
- How did you meet my father? How did he propose? What made you say yes?
- What message about men did you get from your mother? Your father?
- What's one of the most romantic experiences you've ever had?
- When you see an attractive man, what do you think about?
- What have you enjoyed most about marriage?
- How did you get through the tough times with Dad?
- If you were to meet Dad now, would you still marry him?
- What did you learn after your divorce?
- How did you first learn about sex?
- What's romance like for you now?
- What do you want people to remember about the way you loved Dad?
Ready to move on to the next step? Find out how you can talk to your mom about aging next >>