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My Mother Is Too Attached to Me and I Don’t Know How to Leave

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My mother has always been very controlling so when it came to graduating high school, I was very excited to be going off to college. However, my mother, who insists that she “would rather die than live without” me, continuously threw temper tantrums and complained to every family member possible until I caved and went to a university close to home. For the past 3 1/2 years, I have been commuting back and forth. I felt like I have missed so much of the college experience and have such little freedom compared to everyone else my age.

I’m finally graduating from college and am planning to move to another city where there are more job opportunities. I know she is planning on following me because she continues with her “I cannot live alone” narrative. All I want is to stand up and say “no, I’m not living with you anymore,” but I can’t help but feel extremely guilty for even thinking it. I don’t want to leave her alone, yet I feel like I will never be happy until I can be independent.

My Mother Is Too Attached to Me and I Don’t Know How to Leave

Answered by on -

A.

Don’t let your mother’s needs become yours. Her unhealthy dependence on you must be assessed directly. You may want to enlist the help of a therapist to do this, but it needs to be done — and done with some compassion for your mother’s limitations.

There are five things I would recommend moving forward.

  1. Get some support for yourself. Talk to those at your college’s counseling center and explain the issue. They can help you with individual or perhaps group therapy support. You don’t want to break away from your mother without having adequate support for yourself.
  2. Once you have this support begin your campaign by being clear and open with your plan to move away. You don’t want this to be fueled by pressure for you to get out suddenly, and you’ll want time for your mother to realize this is happening. Be sure you have your plans in place to the extent you can, before talking about it. Otherwise it may seem like you are asking her for permission.
  3. Anticipate the antics she used last time and begin learning ways to diffuse them. When she tells family members, be clear with them that you understand it will be difficult for your mom, but that isn’t going to change your plans. Invite the family members to help your mother by being available for her when you are gone.
  4. Don’t gloss over her statements when she says she would die if you left. Use this as an opportunity to talk to her about how controlling these statements are to you and that, if they are true, that it is important for her to talk to a therapist about them — not to use them to influence your decisions.
  5. Finally, be resolved in you decision and be assertive with your mom. Having support outside your family will help, but being clear and assertive about your needs is essential.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

My Mother Is Too Attached to Me and I Don’t Know How to Leave

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). My Mother Is Too Attached to Me and I Don’t Know How to Leave. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/02/14/my-mother-is-too-attached-to-me-and-i-dont-know-how-to-leave/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Feb 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 13 Feb 2019
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