My mum loves me, but doesn’t really know me | Dear Mariella

You’re frustrated about this, and you have the right to confront your mother with these emotional challenges, but to what purpose, wonders Mariella Frostrup

The dilemma I am a 50-year-old gay man. When I was young I was cast in the role of the “good” child – my mother’s antidote to my rebellious siblings. I behaved well, did fine at school and sought my mother’s approval and love. As a result I hid my sexuality. I was left in no doubt from her that being gay was “dirty”. She frequently told me I should not go to her if I had any worries as she would not be able to cope if all her children had problems. I came out to her when I was 19. She sought to control the narrative, requesting that I didn’t tell anyone until she felt the time was right. Relieved, as she told me she still loved me, I complied.

I don’t know if my mother’s love for me was conditional, because I didn’t test it. I recognise that she worked extremely hard with four young children and a husband setting up a business. I am still bound up in many of the same patterns of behaviour as when I was a child. She just wants to hear I am happy, but doesn’t if I am not. I smile, regardless of how I am actually feeling. So she doesn’t really know me and loves a vision of me that isn’t who I am. I wonder if I have the right, at this stage in our lives, to change a relationship that she appears content with?

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