Breaking Up

Parenting is, without a doubt, one of the most important ways that we conceptualize being a lover. Carlos has shared a lot with the blog about what being a father means to him. I haven’t been sharing my thoughts on motherhood with you, because something that happened earlier this summer has put them all in disarray.

My mother broke up with me.

This is a long story, and one that is not going to be told smoothly.

In part, I can’t tell it smoothly because its wounds are still fresh, and the events and their meaning have not had time to uncurl and make sense of themselves. In part, I don’t really want to tell this story, because I cannot believe that it’s true, because the things that have happened bring vividly back all the desire to shut down and hide that I work so hard to get past. I don’t want to tell it, but holy shit, you guys. We have to talk about this.

My mom broke up with me. Both my parents did, I guess, but my mom is the one who sent me an email telling me that she can “no longer support [me], as long as I am married to Carlos.” My dad packed all of the things that we left at their house, and my mom stood in the garage doorway and watched us load it into a truck.

I have gone around and around with myself about how to talk about, how much to tell. Like I said, I don’t want to tell any of it, because I want to believe that I can keep it from being real. But the truth is this: my mom decided that she didn’t like my marriage, and gave me an ultimatum. She told me that I had to choose between her and Carlos, and she stuck to her guns when I made my choice.

So, how did we get here?

My mom has always described herself as having a very long fuse, leading to drastic consequences once she hits her limit. She is also extremely conflict-averse. So her long fuse has been burning, with anger at Carlos and at me, and she only ever hinted about her unhappiness. She has just been burning, for months, maybe years, while she has been angry at me, angry at Carlos, and not talking to us about it.

You Don’t Know About Any Relationship You’re Not In
Wedding 10
On this blog and in person, Carlos and I talk a lot about the principles that guide our decisions as parents. “Love your kid and treat them with respect.” “Make their life better than ours.” “Do better.” “Take care of your family, you’re stuck with them.” For the most part, these are lessons that my mom shared with me explicitly, in discussions about how and why they raised us kids in the way that they did. It was not an accident that Carlos and I talked about having kids so early in our dating; having children, raising them to be good people who do good for the world is important to me. I knew I wanted to find a partner who saw the world the same way that I do, whose purpose and practice in parenting would be in line with my own. On our first date, in 1999, I hadn’t worked this out, but by the time we went out again in 2009, I knew what I wanted in a coparent, and I saw it in Carlos.

I saw other things in Carlos, too. I saw a man who knew me when I was a child, who remembered me fondly despite the years I had spent running away from him. I saw someone who had purpose and direction, setting the terms by which he lived his life. And I saw a place for me in that life. I saw a person who knew me in some of my absolute shittiest times, who had always intimidated and intrigued me, and who thought I was really something, even after all that. He was, and is, a smart, strong, challenging, supportive person who understands where I am coming from and wants to go great places together. In him, and our relationship, I saw a future I wanted to live.

The time that Carlos and I have been married has not always been easy. I came to this marriage with A LOT of issues. I am afraid of many things, including my feelings, and confrontation, and other people’s feelings, and vacations, and the ocean, and doing things wrong. At times, these fears can be paralyzing for me. I chose Carlos as my partner for life because our life together is better than my life with fear. I struggle with my fears every day, and I don’t always come out triumphant. There have been times when the struggles of our life together have been miserable, but even so, my life is better with Carlos.

Take Care Of Your Family, They’re All You’ve Got
This is why we can't have nice things
When it came time for us to embark on this grand adventure, I saw an opportunity to do something to nourish myself as both a child and a parent, and to support the relationships between my parents and their only grandchild. I knew that there was tension between Carlos and my folks, and I hoped that spending some time together would alleviate that. In my youth, and during my pregnancy, my mom was always by my side, sympathetic to the challenges I was facing, ready with hugs and wisdom and patience. I loved that about her, and I wanted to share that patience and experience with the family I am building. I wanted to practice parenting with the people who had raised me, to be in a place where their guidance and experience could help me and Carlos give Rockford the same kind of loving, respectful care that they had given me.

Instead of that, they placed the blame for my exhaustion on Carlos, met him with hostility, and refused to engage with either of us as adults. I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault that they treated us like children, for coming to them in a time of turmoil and changes. Why wouldn’t they assume that I (and by extension, Carlos) would just do as they told us, without arguments or questions? I needed so much help. When we were there, it became clear that my parents dislike my choice of partner, don’t respect the commitment I’ve made to my husband, and had no intention of helping us keep our marriage strong.

All this was pretty hard, but the worst of it came when we finally did launch onto the road. Getting our van ready took a long time, and while we were working, Carlos’s grandmother died. There was no question for us of whether we would attend her memorial, and it became the hard line for getting us out of my parents’ house. My dad described this as me “doing things on [my] husband’s time line, not mine,” as if there was some timeline on which he would have been comfortable with any of this happening. During our travels to Las Vegas and Portland, lots of moms took care of us, and I tweeted about how important that felt to me. This was the last straw for him, I guess, because it was the point where he started calling me an ungrateful child on twitter, and refusing to speak to me on the phone, instead carrying on an extended argument via text message. It was during this barrage that some important details emerged, explaining in part why my mom was mad, and why she hadn’t (and still hasn’t) spoken to me. That story isn’t mine to tell.

You Don’t Get To Choose Your Family
Here’s the story that is mine, though: finding ourselves in a hard situation, my parents pressed me to make a choice between them and my husband. I guess their expectation was that I would fall into line with their demands. They didn’t like the choices I was making, and tried to call me back to the fold. But the lessons that they instilled in me as a child have stuck. “You don’t know any relationship you’re not in.” “You don’t get to choose your family, and you have to look out for one another.” “The things most worth doing are often the hardest.”

did get to choose my husband. I chose the family that I wanted to build, and there wasn’t a question for me about whether I was going to defend that family. I didn’t get to choose my parents, as awesome as they have been for me, but I did choose to stand in front of all my friends and family and make a commitment to Carlos. I renewed that commitment when I chose to have a child with him. The hard times that we have together are part of a bigger story. We have hard times on the road to great times. My life is richer, stranger, and more interesting because of my marriage to Carlos. I have lived bigger, better, more challenging experiences because of my commitment to him, and his commitment to me.

Carlos never asked me to ditch my parents. He never told me that I was being unreasonable by being hurt by their actions. He comforted me in my pain, and tried to calm my rage. He felt rage for me, and looked out for the best interests of our family. When the moment came, and my mom told me “you’re not welcome as long as Carlos is in your life,” I didn’t feel any ambiguity. I felt anger, and hurt, and disgust. And I curled up next to my husband and cried.

She sent me her email in the middle of July. Some days I miss her so hard it hurts. Some days all I see is the myriad ways that her story makes up my story, and all the ways that I am her. She thinks that I hate her, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I reach for the phone to tell her about something funny I’ve seen, and the hurt catches my breath in my chest. I hurt, but she raised me to be an adult. So here I am. I am nursing my broken heart and taking care of the relationships that nourish me.


25 thoughts on “Breaking Up”

  1. Oh, my love, I’m so so sorry you’re having to go through this. I’m heartbroken that this is possible. I wish I could give you tons of hugs and do something to help. I have no words of advice, just that I’m sorry you were put through that. You should never have to choose.

    Sending you all my love,


  2. This piece is so beautifully written, and you took something that’s so complex and personal and made it accessible and relatable to everyone. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for being you. I love you, Rosie.

    1. Thank you, Katie. I passed English teacher muster! It has taken me a long time to tell it without being consumed by the hurt of it. <3

  3. Rose, I’m weeping for all concerned. First, you didn’t choose between your mother and your husband. Your mother will always be your mother and you will always love and cherish her and she will always love and cherish you… no way out of that… no matter what transpires between you. Second, you are now an adult. Your mother is entitled to an opinion regarding your decisions and lifestyle, but she will learn, soon I hope, that they are best kept to herself… unless there is violence or her insights are requested. For better or worse, our own life stories impact our parenting. Carlos has had, I think, some issues with me that emanated from dysfunction in my family of origin. But mostly, I think, for both your mother and me (and nearly every mother), it’s just hard to let go… especially when we see our kids struggle.

    Three generations living together made for an almost impossible situation for everyone… except Rockford and Dita, who probably thrived on all that attention. I can assure you that when you and Carlos are settled and relatively comfortable with your own life, your mother will have a different perspective. After all, she liked Carlos in the beginning, it’s just been hard for her to see you struggle.

    Third, your parents did a good job rearing you, Rose. I think you take your fears much too seriously. I see a girl living in “the sticks” (actually dessert) who went off to a very challenging college in the Northwest, who managed a store in Tacoma, who told me what she liked best about Carlos was the ways he’s different from other people.

    Fear is just a signal, an emotion. It seems to me it has not dominated your life. My guess is that what you call fear, many simply view as the adrenaline rush of doing the daring.

    Fourth, I don’t know a lot of mothers who would be comfortable having their daughter take off in an ’86 camper van with a husband, a baby and a dog… to spend unknown months in unknown places doing… what?

    And as close as you and your mother have always been (best friends?), it’s got to be really difficult for her… not to mention not seeing that adorable little grandson. So, the challenge is to find balance in your relationship. For now, just know that this “break” with your mother is going to be brief and it’s giving you time to work on your own life and marriage.

    Ultimately, we are each alone. We have parents, spouses, friends, children… but at core, we are alone. That need not be frightening. It’s just part of finding maturity. For me, that’s a spiritual reality that connects me with flowers and trees, birds and the hills. It doesn’t take away the pain of difficult family situations, but it helps me know that they are temporary… and that love prevails.

    You are a much-loved child of wonderful parents and the bonds cannot be broken. You don’t have to defend your choice of a husband. It’s a choice you are entitled to make. As his mother, I believe your choice of Carlos will be richly rewarded, Life is more challenging for exceptional individuals like you and Carlos. But you are strong and courageous and determined and I firmly believe you will find “your nitch” in life… or maybe nitches, because it’s a long life and you will have many opportunities. You have my utmost love and respect and my hear-felt sympathy.

    1. Thanks for the comprehensive thoughts.

      1. It was made very clear in the e-mail that it was, in fact, an ultimatum. Debbi said that Rose is not welcome in her life as long as she is married to me. Debbi even went so far as to say that I was not even allowed to enter the garage to retrieve my belongings. Those actions speak pretty loud.
      2. Yes Rose is an adult. While Debbi is entitled to an opinion she is not entitled to make malicious attacks against her daughter.
      3. We did not enter this adventure with our eyes closed. We know our history as far as their decisions in the same period for Rose and we have made unimpeachably more stable choices for Rockford. They were given multiple occasions where they were directly approached for advice and refused to participate in anyway that was actionable or informative. Instead they used the opportunity berate us about off-topic things that they don’t have rights to.

      I am aware that it is a struggle to take in the adulthood of your children, and to take on new paths that you have never dealt with before. The thing that separates strong people from weak people is the grace they bring to situations that are outside their control. From day to day I would rather know people that fail earnestly and have ambition to improve themselves, rather than people that balk at challenge and lash out to hurt people.

      One of the greatest tests of becoming an adult is accepting that humility in error is more valuable than righteousness in any context.

      1. Indeed. Your relationship with Rose’s mother is the culmination of her time spent with you, intimate and personal. I can’t speak to it, but it came to the ultimatum you describe. I suspect you know more than I about why.

        Your time spent with me was difficult, mostly because of your lifestyle, by which I mean your sleep schedule and your unwillingness to participate in family activities such as keeping the house in order, etc. You know all of this.

        When Rose warned us about your willingness to cut us off from her and Rockford, she was not telling us something we didn’t know: we saw how you treated your mother for the first two years of your marriage. We know how important total control is to you. We have seen it.

        I hope you recover from the scars of your childhood, or whatever it is that drives you. I hope you value the woman you made your wife more than I have seen in the considerable time we spent together, living as a family. I hope you learn that someone who disagrees with you can still care about you, and that your opinions are just that, not the product of a lifetime of wisdom accumulated by trials of fire-some of that humility of which you speak.

        Most of all I hope you realize that raising a child requires putting someone other than yourself first, pretty much forever, and that you can manage to fulfill that imperative.

        I love you.

        1. Excuse me? I warned you about his willingness to do WHAT? Funny, I recall several conversations where I reassured Mom that he would not interfere in her relationship with us, but then again, you tell me I’m a fucking liar, so why would you believe me about a conversation you weren’t present for?

          Thanks for spending so much time proving that we’re being unreasonable. Still waiting on that phone call.

          1. I have not typed a single word that is not true here, Rose, and you know it.

            I will call you tomorrow. My time spent on introspection is done today.

        2. John, there was no point in the time that I was in your home that I refused to help. The vast majority of the cleanliness of the house could have been solved by you pitching in more than once per month.

          Your assertion that I should be open to opposing opinions is misplaced. I have talked with many people about the things I take on in life. I do not recall you discussing anything with Rose and me that was based in the reality of our lives.

          Lastly, Rose and I have never threatened to cut you off from our family. However I did say once, “If you alienate her she will cut you off and I will be your liaison to this side of the family.” I have stayed open to talking to you, but you have not shown any interest in that, so the ball is still in your court.

          I appreciate that you are trying to do right by your wife, but you have not been considerate of mine.

  4. Reading again and again the narrative you wrote, Rose, I am so moved by your clarity, your love for Carlos and your love for your mother. Your parents are so blessed to have you for a daughter. I’m so sorry they are unwilling to accept your choices… that they have cut themselves off from your life. I know it’s breaking your heart. Thank you for sharing your beautiful soul.

  5. I am so, so sorry for you three. I’m sorry for your parents, too – because I don’t think they quite realize all that they are losing.

    I … I don’t really know what else to say. I can’t think of anything comforting or useful to tell you. But just know that I love you guys a ton, and I’m here for you if you ever need me.

    1. Are you kidding? You can’t imagine the heartbreak this has caused. And like most relationship problems, there are no innocent parties, just really stubborn people. While Rose makes it all be our fault, (her parents), there are of course two sides to every story. I would love to share my version, but I have some degree of pride and a desire to keep private things private.

      1. I literally just asked you to call me, but instead you’re posting here. Please, go on about how you want to keep private things private.

  6. So sorry to read this. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be. Lots of hugs.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about parent-child relationships as I am building a new one with our little guy. Every day I hope I am giving him skills to make his own decisions, and I hope I am giving myself the skills not only to let him make those decisions, but to set my own expectations – of what he will choose, of the family he will build – based on HIS desires. (Right now, I expect that he will choose a life full of bananas, cell phones, and shoes.) So thank you for writing about your experiences.

    Lots of love to all of you, and a raspberry for Rock, which I hope to be able to give him in person one of these days!

  7. It’s funny how perspective shades things. Your view of what happened when you and Carlos moved into our home is so far from my reality that it is laughable.

    I have avoided reading it, but of course, I miss you and want to keep some idea of your being alive and well.

    The thing i would say here is this: you became angry at me for poking at you on the internet, saying it was inappropriate. Now here you are making up this story of victimhood that is both inaccurate and demeaning.

    There are broken hearts aplenty out of this idiocy.

    1. Yes, Dad, perspective is interesting.
      I keep being told that I am “making myself look pathetic,” that I’m “shaming myself and my family,” yet no one but Coral will talk to me in person, and I have yet to get an answer to what, exactly, I have discussed that is as “shameful family secret.”
      If you miss me so much, why don’t you call me?

    2. You clearly missed the point John. There has yet to be a time or channel of communication that is has not been said that your refusal to talk in person is the major issue.

      Your choice to attack Rose on Twitter, rather than call her and have an adult conversation was cowardly. Your choice to not respond to Rose’s phone calls stupid. After the well over 100 texts you sent filled with petty baseless attacks you should not be surprised that you are seen as inscrutable and unprepared for adult conversation.

      You claim to be heartbroken, but we have yet to see any attempt on your part to protect Rose’s interests. Nor, have we seen any attempt to know Rose’s interests. Rose has made a legitimate statement about her experience.

      1. Carlos, Rose hasn’t called me. I poked at her on Twitter. Poking at each other has been a long tradition in our family; I suspect you have engaged in it as well. I think I remember some comments about my hairy back, for one.

        If you recall, I also apologized to Rose on Twitter and move the conversation to what appeared to be an appropriate medium.

        For you to call me a coward and unprepared for adult conversation is rather provocative. Is that your intent? I think you know quite well that neither of those things are true. Why would you do that?

        As for Rose’s interests, I have done all that I can to protect her interests. And Rockford’s. She is an adult, and a married woman. I would like to see you protect her interests, but that would require you acknowledge she has some beyond what you have decided they are, and I don’t think you have matured to the point to be able to do that as yet.

        1. She called you on June 20th, a couple days before we headed to Roseburg the 2nd time. You two spoke for about 2 or 3 minutes about not wanting to be in a fight. Since then you have not responded to any call, nor responded when she asked for a call from you.

          You have this delusion that Rose and I don’t make decisions together. It seems to me that you are hurt that she doesn’t consider your opinions. That is okay. You can feel how you want, but you need to look at your actions. You have have made a hardline choice to be ignorant of Rose as an adult. Consequently much of your advice is misguided and your accusations are silly. Again, this all can be solved by letting go of your pride and actually listening to her.

  8. Who is telling you those things? The last telephone conversation you had was when you told your mom “it was nice having been in your family” which was your way of telling her to fuck off.

    The last communication we had was when you said you needed to protect your husband and your son from me, then you told me to stop texting you.

    You were angry because after 4 months in our home we set some boundaries. You left us here to deal with an incredible pile of your belongings and the flotsam and jetsam of your passing and immediately started trashing us to the internet. You attribute our discomfort with your relationship to your poly lifestyle but the reality is quite different.

    We don’t want to make your choices and we have told you BOTH again and again that we love you and I have told you I am not judging you. That apparently wasn’t enough. You forced a conversation then didn’t like how it went.

    “Open and honest communication.” That’s what you said you wanted. Only, if anyone disagrees with you…

    So I will call you, maybe we can talk. I am also going to post here, because after all, you guys are talking about family. I have some perspective on that which might be valuable or at least interesting to your readers. I love you.

    1. It’s funny, Coral accused me of saying that to Mom in a text message, but I didn’t do either. If she interpreted something I said as meaning “fuck off,” that’s her interpretation, not “my way of saying it.” You were the one who told me I was being cut from the herd, she’s the one who told me I am welcome to come back when Carlos is out of our life. I would say I don’t know who you think this conversation was with, but I do, and like I said to you privately, things didn’t go down the way you’ve been told.

      Again, please tell me where I was trashing you. I know the comments that I made, but since you have literally never had an actual conversation with me, I don’t think you’re in any position to talk about them.

      As for your apology – you apologized for the medium, but not for the hurtful and unnecessary things you said. If you want to talk about hurt feelings, I have a few we can start with.

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