Single? Get Your Mom Off Your Back

By Michelle Cove

Your mother wants you to be happy. She also wants herself to be happy. Both of these, it seems, could be achieved if you would just find a nice guy to settle down with and start making grandchildren for her.

In her eyes, it’s helpful when she sends you a clipping of a couple that met on eHarmony, asks you about your dating criteria, or tells you (again) about how women today are too picky. To you, it feels like she’s saying you have let her down and aren’t cutting it. Even worse, she doesn’t seem to understand that you are doing everything you can think of to find the right guy, so her comments are even more hurtful.

It’s time to end the cycle. First, tell your mom the effects of her “helpful suggestions” and be specific. Ideally, you’ll be able to do this in a calm, grown-up voice as opposed to sobs or shrieking (hey, moms have a way of bringing out our inner nutcase sometimes). Start with the belief that her behavior is not malicious, she really is acting this way because she loves you and worries about you. That will change the dynamic of the conversation.

You can say (feel free to riff): “Mom, I know you love me and that you want me to find a man who will love me as well. That’s what I want for myself, and I feel sad that it hasn’t happened yet. In fact, I’m doing everything I can to put myself out there to find someone. That’s why it feels extra hurtful to me when you send me all these suggestions for meeting a guy. It makes me feel pressured and that you’re disappointed in me.”

She will either apologize on the spot or claim she doesn’t know what you’re talking about. This is where you take a deep breath and refuse to engage in battle. Instead, explain how you would like her to change. For example, “I’d like it when we’re together if you would ask me about work or my friends instead of what I’m doing to find a man.” Or, “Instead of sending me wedding announcements, I’d love it if you would send me book or film recommendations.” Or, “It would be nice sometimes if you would ask me how I feel about being single rather than trying to fix me up with men.”

Give her a little time and space to process this info (and the fact that you really are a grown-up who can take care of yourself). Take accountability yourself by not over-sharing personal info with her if you don’t want her commentary. If she makes one of her overbearing comments, remind her: “We talked about the fact that I’d like you to stop making comments like this, Mom. Please respect it,” and move on. She will come around eventually, when she sees that you are coming from a solid place and mean business.

Excerpted from Seeking Happily Ever After: How to navigate the ups and downs of being single without losing your mind (and finding lasting love along the way), published by Tarcher/Penguin

Michelle Cove is the author of Seeking Happily Ever After: How to navigate the ups and downs of being single without losing your mind (and finding lasting love along the way) (Tarcher/Penguin, 2010) and director of the feature-length documentary “Seeking Happily Ever After: One generation’s struggle to redefine the fairytale” ( She is also the Editor of 614, an ezine for young Jewish women.

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