Dear Amy: My adult son is highly successful in a demanding field. He and I have had a close and loving relationship — until recently.
The more success and recognition he gains, the harder he is on me. This leads to a lecture on my "bad behavior," sending hurtful texts, and with the latest outburst, a complete breaking off of our relationship.
He and his wife are having their first child. I traveled to their home in another state for a pre-baby visit.
Before my arrival, my son called me to say that he was in a tough emotional spot and to ask that I be aware of that. I was extremely careful. However, during a conversation, I innocently commented that I was happy that the baby name they chose was one I had once suggested. The response was an immediate and vicious attack, where he accused me of being "narcissistic" and "kicking him when he's down."
I was shocked and extremely hurt. I packed my things, said goodbye and left.
He first sent me a text apologizing, but then later sent a very angry, very hurtful message that essentially cuts me out of his life.
His wife, with whom I have always had a good relationship, has remained silent.
I do not know how to process my pain. His late father was an angry, emotionally and verbally abusive man, and I see the same traits in my son. I miss the son I used to know.
I have a chronic illness that for the most part is under control, but now I am unable to eat, sleep or stop crying. I am worried about my health.
I don't know where to go from here.
Amy says: You must protect your health. Biofeedback, meditation, medication and therapy could all help.
Your son told you that he is in a "tough emotional spot." What does he mean? His volatile behavior might indicate that he is struggling through some mental health challenges of his own.
If your son is so volatile toward you, you can imagine how powerless his wife might feel. Don't expect her to intervene.
You and your son need professional guidance. For now, try not to catastrophize this encounter, or look too far into the future. Manage your current crisis with a therapist; accept and process your own grief in stages. You should also urge your son to get help. Understand that you can lead him toward insight, but you cannot make him participate in the process.
Relationship red flag
Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I are in college. He gets very angry if I get better grades than him, or when I get an internship offer. When I succeed, he makes me feel as if I have done something wrong.
My first reaction when I do well is to be afraid of what he will say and how he'll feel.
I got him an internship, but he still isn't happy. I never get to be happy for my success because he always gets upset. Please help me.
Amy says: Your boyfriend is making you question whether you deserve grades and internships you work hard for. Additionally, he is punishing you through anger and withholding affection, and blaming you for his unhappiness and shortcomings.
These are symptoms of an abusive relationship.
You deserve to feel good about your accomplishments and to be treated well, not live in fear that outperforming your boyfriend will enrage him. Good partners support one another, through good times and bad. While it sounds like you are supporting him when things get rough, he uses your accomplishments to try to diminish you.
You need to take time away from him. See what it's like to be liberated and to enjoy your own success. Your college has a counseling office — you should visit and talk this through with a campus counselor.
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