(or maybe that should read, What I Try To Do When I Feel Rejected)
I’ve just returned home from a two-week vacation on the West Coast – it was wonderful to get away from the coldest and snowiest February on record here on the southeastern shore of Connecticut!
My husband and I flew into LA, spent four nights in Santa Barbara (where I attended a Mastermind retreat with my fellow Life Coach School friends and colleagues), then spent several days driving up the coast to Washington, where we got to meet our brand new granddaughter (my stepdaughter, her husband, and our nearly four-year-old grandson moved from Connecticut to Washington in January of 2014).
While I was away, something pretty amazing happened: an article I wrote about unconditional love got syndicated on Yahoo.com!
As a result, I received many lovely emails, one of which I’d like to share here and address (with the writer’s permission), because it touches on a tender and relatable subject: what to do when your mother rejects you.
“I read your article on how you chose to love your mother unconditionally.
I am 28 years old and for 24 years of my life my mother was the best mother you could imagine. She cooked everyday and gave my brother and me everything: the best birthdays, vacations…everything!
And then she left. She walked out on my dad and I haven’t spoken to her in three years. When she left she said it had nothing to do with me…she was just not happy with my father anymore.
I respect that. For any woman to stand up for herself and make her life happier is brave. My father never mistreated her, never hit her, in fact my parents never even cussed. He just became set in his ways and content in his life. She wanted to be more active and do things.
I believe she hasn’t spoken to me because I’m such a Daddy’s Girl…my father is my world and he is equally an amazing parent as she was.
The world turns with or without her, so I live happily each day. But I wonder every day why she doesn’t want to talk to me. I get advice to be the bigger person, to stand up and contact her. Maybe that is what I should do, but I won’t beg anyone to love me. Like I said I respect her and her decision but I just can’t understand why she would punish me and our relationship.
So my question to you is, how do you put away all the questions and love her unconditionally and let her go?”
First let me say that I admire and honor your willingness to share your story.
Second, let me share that I, too, was a Daddy’s Girl (my parents were divorced when I was three) and based on what my mother has shared with me over the years, I gather that she sometimes felt hurt and/or jealous of my relationship with him. She was the one on the “front lines” so to speak (because I lived with her), and he got to have all the fun (every sixth weekend when I was a kid).
All of that being said, something I say to my clients (and to myself) is this: not only can’t we control other people; we can’t ever truly know what they are thinking or feeling (even when they express it), or why they do what they do.
And that includes our parents, our partners, our children (if we have them), our friends, and so on.
Being human, it’s our tendency to want to analyze others’ behavior, to ponder “why,” and to make it all mean something.
So when a mother chooses not to have contact with her adult daughter – whatever the reason – it’s doesn’t take much effort for the daughter to make it mean something painful: that she’s been rejected.
You might be thinking that there’s only one way to interpret your mother’s actions: she’s rejecting or punishing you. Maybe she is and maybe she isn’t.
You might be thinking, “Mothers aren’t supposed to reject their daughters” or perhaps “What kind of mother doesn’t talk to her daughter for three years?”
These kinds of thoughts and questions usually create uncertainty and hurt.
So the key is to ask yourself how you WANT to feel right now (and I take it that you don’t want to feel uncertain and hurt). The good news is that however you answer that question, you already know how to feel the way you want to feel. What thoughts and questions will support you in feeling that way?
In your note you said that you live happily each day (and that’s awesome), but that you wonder why she doesn’t want to talk to you. You also wonder how to “put away” your questions, love her unconditionally, and let her go.
Is that what you really want to do? Or do you want a relationship with her? If you do want a relationship with her, what do you want it to look like? Do you want to wait and see if she comes around, or do you want to reach out to her?
As for loving her unconditionally: all that means is that when you think of her, you get to feel love inside of you.
You say that you don’t want to beg her to love you, and I don’t blame you because you have no idea how she’ll respond. It’s a vulnerable place to be.
There are no right or wrong answers here. There are no shoulds or shouldn’ts.
The beauty of doing this work is that the result is empowerment to create; to create the life and relationships you want by creating the thoughts and feelings that support them. It also teaches you that you can feel any emotion – even the uncomfortable ones – and be okay.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Much love to you…and to your mother.
P.S. I’ve got an awesome $25 mini-class on how to create Empowered Boundaries coming up on March 30. Registration closes on March 29th. There are no calls to attend and all the materials will be available to you, forever! I will be on-hand for one week to provide coaching and support. Join us!