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I'm struggling to connect more with my mom and want to know how to overcome one of the most significant boundaries that keeps ruining our efforts. In short the challenge is that we have such different views and values when it comes to politics, budgeting, long-term life decisions and priorities. When it comes to life decisions & personal values it appears to me my mom is often self-sabotaging herself. When it comes to political views my mom attacks mine and we have fierce, passionate disagreements (political divide like is happening in many parts of the European world).

A little context:

My mom raised my sister and I mostly on her own. That wasn't easy for her. Fast forward, and I changed my life for the better with education, hard work, and a mixed bag of luck with at least some positive. I now live in a different country than my mom and sister.

My mom and I talk on average about once a week and see each other on average once a year for about a week. We care about each other and let one another know. Where our relationship falls apart is in challenging personal quirks (example: How to deal with person offloading their indecision on their host under guise of kindness?) and - the main interest in this question - in views & values. Here are two examples of how my mom differs painfully in...

...political views: My mother ridicules people who share my political values, and has what I see as extremist ideas in support of very conservative government, opposing any civil rights or human rights codes

...and personal values: My mom has never been good at managing money, and she's made her life harder a number of times through rash decisions, impulsive purchases, or simply bad strategies in my opinion. One example is buying a house. She lived in a dangerous neighborhood and it took a while but she was finally convinced to move. I urged her to make a frugal, safe purchase in order to gain personal and financial security which is especially important as she nears retirement and the country around her is struggling. She decided to buy a more expensive place, in a more upscale building. It hurts me to see her act in ways that look like self-sabotage to me, no matter how I empathize and try to see her reasoning.

What can I do to overcome these differences in views & values, to try to build a lasting healthy relationship with my mom? I want us to be able to share how things are going in life, and eventually I see that my mom would need someone she can turn to as she's older. At this rate, we can barely be open with each other (we try, inevitably it crashes and burns and it takes time to heal & reconnect), and if she tried moving to my country for retirement it would be a disaster (we can't tolerate living each others roofs and she gets pretty helpless when out of her routine/being in a new place).

  • You don't mention your age, which is a very key component in what a good answer might be. There's probably different strategies for answering your question if you're 17 vs if you're 35. From your situation, I can deduce you haven't been living with her for quite some time, which means you're most likely over 25. But still it's good to mention this fact because, like I said above, it's very relevant. – Radu Murzea Mar 20 '18 at 16:55
  • @RaduMurzea mid 30's – cr0 Mar 20 '18 at 17:57
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Your question is very specifically about a parent so likewise my answer is.

We all learn a lot from our parents, but we learn in different ways. Sometimes we learn from their good example; other times we learn from their bad example, or their bad choices.

It sounds like you have learned to make different choices, which is fine. It also seems you have a good relationship with your mother because you have regular contact, so you don't want to damage that.

Here is my advice: You don't always need to challenge your mother's - or anyone's - opinions or beliefs.

The reason I say this is because a core belief that underpins a lot of other beliefs is that everyone has the right to make their own decisions.

I learned this the hard way. My parents also bought a retirement house that is just too big for them. But it is what they wanted, and I've come to accept that. They haven't lost money, they just used it a different way to how I imagine I would.

As for politics - I personally don't do politics - but in my opinion the politics of today are more concerned with how things are done whereas in the past they were more about getting things done. This is two sides of the same coin. Plus, politics is always about two sides. If you are interested in politics which it seems you are, you should expect your ideals to be challenged sometimes. You specifically don't want it from your mother, so I'm going to suggest you avoid it.

Retired people have lived their life, made their major life decisions, seen political changes and have formed their opinions. And you know, the world is currently in a bit of a mess if we are honest - maybe one or two of those opinions held by previous generations weren't so wrong? Whatever you think, you likely won't change her at this stage in her life.

I suggest:

  • Avoid directly talking politics with your elderly mother.
  • Don't tell her she's made mistakes with her money.

Be more proactive with the financial advice. Don't argue over the purchase she already made, but offer to help hammer down her bills. Maybe tell her you got a good deal on insurance or whatever and offer to help her reduce the cost of hers on renewal? You say that you expect her to become more dependent on you as she gets older but she may like her independence, so things like this will ease her into accepting your help.

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Discussing politics, ethics, and philosophy with one's family without causing problems can be very difficult, especially since life-long relationships often involve a good deal of habit and stubbornness, and especially when there is a familial culture of everyone having to agree with a dominant figure. Here are a few things that I find help me:

1) Agree to disagree without relational retaliation.

2) Emphasize those things that you do agree on or have in common.

3) Acknowledge that everyone, including yourself, has flaws in their reasoning and beliefs.

4) Respect your mother's personal sovereignty/agency, knowing that she may not give you the same benefit.

The most meaningful and lasting relationships I've ever had have been with people who disagree with me and who I disagree with. Such relationships can only survive and thrive by establishing mutual respect and genuine concern for each other's welfare, and when these relationships do survive, they become a source of personal strength and wisdom as both come to see that what they thought of as flaws were in fact their most redeeming qualities.

This approach allows me to regularly discuss politics with my family and disagree on many issues without causing relational discord because we all know that at the end of the day, we're still family and we still stick up for each other.

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Something that would be useful to keep in mind is to not engage in selective listening.

You can usually tell when you're doing this if, when listening to your mom share her political or personal views, you say the word "but" -- or want to include the word "but" in your conversation with her. However, telling people where they’re wrong is unlikely to change their minds or improve your relationship. Remind yourself that winning isn’t everything.

When you talk to your mom, let her know what your own beliefs are, without trying to persuade her that she's wrong. If she wants to learn more, allow her to ask you questions.

And, try to recognize the core beliefs that you and your mom share.

(You may also consider avoiding discussing politics and personal differences altogether, but that would be tough to do, and probably a little unrealistic.)

Source: https://www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-Friends-With-Different-Political-Views

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If you're repeatedly having conversations that cause hurt feelings and/or damage your relationship it's perfectly healthy to avoid the original topic in the first place. This is the unspoken rule for many situations and environments such as the workplace, where politics are generally not brought up for the sake of maintaining good interpersonal relations with your colleagues.

However, what isn't healthy is for this to be one-sided: For example, your mother, prompted by some trigger outside your control (a news story on the TV or radio, an overheard conversation, a news article or poster) begins to voice negative opinions about people who share your political views, hurting your feelings by proxy. You may decide to bite your tongue and not argue but this isn't actually helping your relationship and could in fact be perceived as a form of abuse (you are being made to stifle your own opinions and values to pacify her).

What is healthier and fairer would be to address this with her directly - tell her that you feel these arguments are pulling you apart and that you don't want that because you value your relationship. Suggest that you both take the stance of "Agree to disagree" by default on controversial topics. Suggest also that you both avoid controversial topics at least in the presence of each other, as history has shown it simply causes hurt feelings.

If you do want to talk about these things with her at least sometimes you could propose that both parties consent to discussion; either one person opens with, "I would like to talk about x if you're okay with it..." or failing this, give everyone the right to end the conversation at any time, "I don't want to talk about this right now."

If she's reluctant to agree to this you need to emphasise how you feel about her and how these situations are making you feel about interacting with her. I don't imagine she wants you to drift away even if she disagrees with you on so many topics.

At the end of the day you also have a right to downgrade a relationship that is no longer making you happy. You may even choose to warn her that you may choose to reduce the interactions you have with her, if the two of you cannot work out your differences.

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What can I do to overcome these differences in views & values, to try to build a lasting healthy relationship with my mom?

Adding to the answers that are posted here, I would like to say that :

Start respecting her views and opinions irrespective of whether she is right or wrong. Her decisions might have gone wrong; some people learn from others' mistakes, some from their own, some never. Try to see under which category your mom falls in. And they proceed accordingly.

One of my friends mother in law always made fun of the my friend maintained her house. It was wonderful but her MIL was not happy. Then, my friend took her to another friends' house which was perpetually unkempt. She had the shock of life and she started acknowledging how good her DIL is maintaining her house.

You could probably use a similar approach, show her a few examples how a few people faired, how a few failed. Do not delve into the details. Do not criticize them or praise them. Just narrate the incidents.

A bond becomes stronger over the time when we start respecting people for what they are.

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