Milliemouse has returned to the Allies site after a pause. She is very upset about the on-again-off-again romantic relationship her son keeps returning to. His girlfriend continues to drag Mom into their drama and Mom keeps getting triggered, her fear of relapse never far from the surface. Laurie MacDougall, our "Boundaries Queen," responds.
"Hello Dominique and Laurie. I haven't been on AIR for awhile but have somehow managed to survive the continual relapse of my 32 year old son's cocaine and alcohol addiction with the help of Alanon and a lot of praying and faith!! Today I felt the need to log back in as my son and his partner who is 10 years older than him finally decided back in mid December to move in together. They have been seeing each other for 18 months and in that time have had 8 break ups due to terrible arguments which then led to relapse. His gf has been the one who has always asked him to come back – she says he is the love of her life. So finally he gave up his apartment last week and the final move was completed. However every time they have a spat – if he's irritable or stressed either because of work or dealing with cravings – she messages me and tells me everything that's going on.
This is very upsetting because I immediately start to panic that the fight is going to lead him to using and that she's going to kick him out and he has nowhere to go. This morning another situation arose as they were planning to go to a beach house for her birthday this weekend and they got in a fight and he went off without her. She's messaging me to tell me he did it on purpose to spoil her birthday and now she doesn't want to go anymore! I feel she is overreacting and being childish. I honestly don't think he's done anything on purpose it was just everyone under stress with the packing up and organizing.
I have had to turn my phone off so I don't see her messages anymore but I am sitting here with my stomach in a knot, I am actually feeling sick at the thought that this will really escalate into a massive situation. I don't feel I should get involved. 12-step work teaches me that I have to accept the things I cannot change and that I cannot control or cure. I'm not even sure this is an appropriate question for this forum but I want help with setting boundaries when it comes to this relationship and my involvement. I cannot go on this way! Can you impart any words of wisdom?"
Oh, how much more complicated recovery can be while mixing in a love relationship! The added complications and chaos can also really pile onto our (family members' and friends') stress, anxiety and worry, especially when we become entangled in that relationship. Your son and long-term girlfriend have decided to see if they can figure it all out together regardless of signs they may not be fully prepared to do so. In an attempt at support, your son’s girlfriend is also pulling you into the middle of their tornado.
I hear the warning bells going off in your head that this situation is something you do not want to be involved in. There are multiple reasons why, for all three of you, this is probably best.
Adding boundaries and limits into your Loved One's love relationship is a good start!
You are asking for support and suggestions on how to set boundaries and limit how involved you become in their relationship, it sounds like you are off to a great start! Turning your phone off so you do not have to listen to the girlfriend’s complaints is a solid boundary to implement. Doing this not only protects you but also forces the girlfriend to either start to deal with the situation herself or reach out to someone else. She may not deal with it appropriately or reach out to someone that is helpful, but it shouldn't be you, the mother of her boyfriend.
I have a few thoughts that might help strengthen your boundaries. What about being open and honest with her? Tell her he is your son and you love him, but you have no power over his actions. Maybe lay it out for her in a way that she may better understand that you know she needs supports with this relationship and that although you want the best for both of them, professionals may be better at providing relationship navigation needs to her and your son. It might sound something like:
“I know that you and my son are struggling in your relationship and I'm thinking I am not the best person to speak to about this. My involvement just complicates things for all three of us and I don't feel equipped to help out. Have you two thought about bringing this to a couples counselor? Love relationships can be difficult to navigate and finding ways to communicate with each other just might make things less stressful.”
You'll need a solid, accessible care to offer them, and it should be formulated as a "call to action," such as:
"When you're both ready, here's the number"
If she continues to call with complaints about your son, firming up those boundaries and being very clear that you are not going to entertain them anymore. Maybe something like:
“It sounds like you two are still struggling. Have you set up an appointment with a counselor? I think it’s best that whatever is going on with you two stays with you two. I would love to talk about anything else, but I am not going to be a part of this.”
What if she keeps pushing and continues leaving messages? Staying compassionate and caring, while still being firm and confident with your boundaries, with her will let her know you mean what you say. There is nothing wrong with blocking her for however long you need so that she starts to understand she is the one that needs to figure things out. This is their problem to find solutions that will work for them.
It sounds like you are off to a solid start in setting down healthy boundaries. I hope I was able to add a few thoughts and ideas on how to step away from their chaos and bring you some well-deserved peace. You may also want to check out the 2-part series I published on this blog on the topic of Boundaries.