Ask Amy: Mother excels at investigating, not parenting

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • July 14, 2014 - 1:51 PM

Dear Amy: I am a college student. My mother and I have a great relationship — I feel like I can tell her anything — but there is one problem that has become increasingly frustrating. If I give her the name of a guy I would maybe consider dating, she insists on conducting extensive Internet searches until she has found his hometown, his high school activities, his parents’ professions, his past girlfriends — everything.

This has been happening since I was in high school, but it grew worse last year, when I showed interest in someone who we later found out was keeping some pretty significant information from me.

I have no problem with looking through Facebook and Twitter profiles myself, and I’ve turned down prospects with no regrets.

However, the threat of a profile check has made me somewhat unsure of myself because I’m ultimately worried that my mother won’t approve.

I’ve also gone out with “bad matches” just because I knew she would hate them, which I admit is an immature reaction.

I’ve brought this up, but she has continued searching anyway; her reasoning is that since everything is on the Internet, she might as well use it to her advantage.

Honestly, she is usually spot-on in her judgments. I understand that she has good intentions and doesn’t want me to waste my time with the wrong person, and I don’t, either.

Should I limit what I tell her (which will make me feel guilty)?

Amy says: This outrageous behavior doesn’t seem to bother you enough. I can only assume that this is because your mother has successfully gaslighted you into thinking her behavior is acceptable. It is not. She might be a great private investigator, but her parenting skills leave a lot to be desired.

You’ve already admitted to going out with “bad matches” in order to punish her, and that is the most predictable consequence of her intrusion. She is pushing you into a hornet’s nest, but in the end you will get stung.

The obvious answer is for you to not tell her anything relating to your intimate dating life. Call a complete moratorium. Explain this by telling her, “No more background checks, Mom. I’m going to have to figure this out on my own.” This will definitely interfere with your mother-daughter closeness, but that is a consequence of her being so untrustworthy.

Bothered by attitude

Dear Amy: Is there an effective reply to my husband’s comment: “It does not bother me; if it bothers you, then you clean it up, pick it up, put it away, fix it, move it, etc.”?

End of discussion.

He is retired, I am still working, and I come home to an incredible mess. He is a good man, but I cannot seem to make him understand that this refusal to be helpful is tearing up a 30-year marriage. Suggestions?

Amy says: I’m going to assume that you are not griping about towels left on the bathroom floor, but about major household nightmares. If so, one effective reply would be, “This does bother me. It’s always bothered me. Here’s my new address. End of discussion. You’re a good guy, so let’s date.”

The at-home partner should at the minimum ensure that the working partner doesn’t return home after work to a house that is markedly worse than she left it. That’s the minimum.

Retired spouses who really step up domestically can often find themselves with a transformed relationship — when the working spouse notices and appreciates the TLC.

A counselor could help you to mediate this by encouraging each of you to see this domestic situation from your spouse’s perspective. Some relatively small changes on both of your parts could make a big difference.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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