Relationships 1: Remembering a connection
Relationships 2: Getting someone to grow; including a follow-up: dealing with distance.
Relationships 3: Falling in Love with Trouble.
Relationships 4: The Distancer’s Dilemma
Relationships 5: The Goodbye Letter
Relationships 6: Communication Strategies and Conflict Resolution.
Relationships 7: Building or Rebuilding Trust.
Relationships 8: Writing Two Letters.

Relationships 1:  Remembering a connection
“Dear Dr-Rick,
. . . I find that once a relationship goes stale there is no getting it back.  This worries me because, what if it never stops?  Is there a way to recapture any of the original spark? . . .”

Remembering a Connection
From your note, I presume you are talking about a romantic relationship.  Here is one technique to rekindle the memory of that spark, which is a first step to getting it back:

Enhancing a Relationship by Recalling the Original Connection

Imagine you are taking a walk;
Just you and your dog;
You and your dog and a friendly sun and a gentle breeze;
You, your dog, the warmth of the sun and breeze, and an intriguing vision.
Your eyes a drawn to a another walker, a stranger for the moment,
complete with dog, an appealing face, and a style that makes you want to see more.
Closer now, and witness an expression that births fantasies of a kindred soul.
Yes, it’s true, you can now see in this person’s eyes, a look that is probably just like yours:
We want to know each other.  We can definitely play.

Speaking now, and it’s only getting better.
Thoughts arise — there’s nowhere you could be right now that you wouldn’t like better
with this person next to you.
At this exact moment, with the scene missing nothing but a music score;
at this perfect meeting, now imagine:
the dogs get in a fight.

Snarls and growls abound, with each pet projecting the kind of canine rage,
that tells you they think you’re behind them 100 percent.
Grabbing them off, holding them off, anticipating the lunges,
while checking your dog’s coat for signs of blood.

“Make sure you keep your dog off mine,” you order the stranger,
as you eye the other dog warily.
“Well, you too.  I think your started it anyway,” is the retort.
Unpleasantly engaged by the dogs for a couple of minutes,
you don’t notice that you are starting to forget the first five minutes you shared,
but you each begin to have the last connection you will ever share, a common thought:
“If I just go away, I won’t have to keep this up, the struggle will be over,”
and so, with a helpless glance, you leave.

When this happens in a marriage, it’s called a divorce.
This  problem is normal, unfortunately.  It is the most difficult to be ourselves with the people who matter the most to us, because of the stress of knowing how much they could hurt us.
To remember why you began to hang out with your friend to begin with, do this:

— Write down four recent enjoyable events, not involving your friend. (big or little)
— Next, add four qualities you enjoy about yourself. (adjectives, characteristics you have ever evidenced)
— Now, four qualities you enjoy about your friend.  Not the only four or best four, any four.
— Finally, four times you enjoyed with this person from whenever, even the first five minutes you met.
There is no way to do this wrong, except to qualify it.  It already goes without saying that none of these positive events or qualities are all the time, so you don’t have to say it.  As you do this, you’ll remember what the couple with the dogs forgot.

Ask your friend to do this, too.  If you get agreement, set a time to read each one to the other.   Prepare to be embarrassed, maybe to cry.  But, when you are listening, don’t say a word.  Just experience the gift.  Say hello to the sun.

Enjoy applying this technique   — Dr-Rick

Relationships 2:  Getting someone to grow; including a follow-up:  dealing with distance.

“Dear Dr-Rick,
. . . What can you do when you understand someone’s problems, but they are just not interested.  I thought my boyfriend would get excited about the information you emailed to me, but I was wrong.  Now I’m just frustrated, and I’m afraid I’ll just make the situation worse. . . .”

Getting someone to grow

Yours is a common dilemma. We learn some information that could be crucial to the life of someone we love. We can imagine the possible benefits to this person once we share this information, and we can picture what we would so usefully do with such an insight, if someone were to bring it to us. So, we hopefully offer the lesson to this person and immediately get blasted out of the water. We learn that we have overstepped some boundary that we are forbidden to cross. This is heartbreaking and unfair, since we were only trying to help. At the same time, we recognize that we have learned something about ourselves. You see, this person expects to be loved just as he or she is. They were the same way when we found them, and we chose them that way. This leads to my advice:

First, back off  diagnosing his problems, just for the time being. Take the next month to convey, without belaboring the point, that you love him as he is. This can be in the form of affection or words of appreciation or thoughtfulness, whichever you know from experience to work.

Step two: after a full month of this, not before, continue your own education about the concern. You can read about it, download files from the internet, or attend support groups — your choice. But, do not say one word to him about this. Let his curiosity  drive his questioning you. And, when he does, don’t start a lecture. Answer minimally, allowing the curiosity to come all from him.

This is your best shot. If it does not help, then you must ask a larger question, which is whether the two of you have drifted apart to the degree that he would not notice what you are doing. If so, write me back, since that’s a whole other story.

Follow up:  Dealing with distance
“Boy, did you hit it right!
Your prediction has come true. Before I got your reply, he drifted completely away from me.  And, he acted like I was the only person in his life who could not accept him….on his terms, not just “the way I found him”.   Tired of being rejected, I finally told him not to call me.  He believes I will calm down (his words via email). I will never understand  this: how can someone so selfish and so needy be so afraid of being loved?  I did not ask him to change his personality, only to improve the behavior traits he could (like constant swearing that kind of thing).  I accepted him  and all of his baggage and offered love.  So, I believe it is too much for him. ”

Right now, it sounds like a dance between you, which actually has a name. It’s called “distancer-pursuer.” So, when you pursued him, he ran away. Now that you are fed up, he pursues you. If you want to break out of that, you can try a flexible response. In other words, whenever he approaches, you could show some receptivity, but always a bit less than he is. On the other hand, when he pushes you away, you would give him more distance than he is even asking for. It is the same as you have already done, but more flexibly and responsively applied.  One way to look at it is as:  sooner and  smaller.   As a result, he will learn that pushing you away has no benefit and showing interest is helpful.

This is not a way to manipulate him.  Rather, it prevents your making the situation worse.   The emotionally natural response is the opposite:  to try to change him when he avoids interaction, and then to punish him for hurting you when he approaches you once again.

This takes practice! But, if you learn it, you may find that it gives the two of you a second opportunity, and then you could get the help to move past the communication problems a create a solid basis so that you would not have to do this dance at all. Good luck   — Dr-Rick

Relationships 3:  Falling in Love with Trouble.

“Dear Dr-Rick,
I have been in a relationship now with a man for 3 1/2 years. We have been living together now for 2 years. I would like to find out more information about the affects my boyfriend may have sustained from not only living at home until the age of 35 without adult responsibilities but also the affects he endured from a dictator-like father that didn’t work the majority of his up bringing.  He does not follow through in the big area of his life, including us.  He was obviously able to bring our relationship to a certain level but can’t finalize it with marriage or what I believe to be a real commitment. He also gets exceptionally depressed and angry out of the blue, and he can be very critical and harsh.  It is so different from the way I grew up, which was in a very loving and supportive family.  I know this is not that and that I can’t fix it. I would sincerely appreciate any insight or suggestions you may have. Thank you for your time.”

Falling in Love with Trouble

Thanks for writing. I think that you said something very insightful at the end of your note, which is that you recognize that your boyfriend does not come from or share in the kind of loving family you are used to and that you know you cannot fix it.

You are clearly intelligent and so I also expect that you know that people don’t usually get more than they will settle for in a relationship, because when they find what they will settle for, they stop looking. This leads us to an important question, which is why you have been settling for less than you know a relationship should be, and I’m going to tell you why people do that.

First, it is easy to fall in love with trouble. Troublesome differences produce emotional (sometimes physical) danger in a relationship, and danger produces passion. So, if you confuse passion with someone being right for you, then you may go after trouble. Second, the way that smart people allow painful choices is thinking that somehow the person will outgrow their troubles, especially in the face of the loving contrast that they intend to provide. Of course, by now you know that the loving example you show has not changed him, and it won’t.

You are not married, you don’t have children together, and his not committing to you frees you from being obligated in return. So, yes, there is a lot of help possible for him, but as you surmise it is not in your hands or at your hand. You cannot marry a man’s potential, and you cannot be in a relationship with the man you hope he could become.

I hope that I am not sounding flippant about the painful prospect of maybe ending a relationship, but you are clear in your description of his behavior, which you correctly labeled as unacceptable.

So, I suggest that you let him know that you love him, and that otherwise you would not be there. You might add that you had hoped that your love would encourage him to create a loving family with you, but that you see this is not happening. You could then let him know that you are out of hope, and that you need some source of hope to carry on, and ask him if he would seek the help that would provide that hope.

If he agrees, even several days later, then let me know and I’ll advise you how to choose a therapist. If he refuses, then you must make a tough choice, but one that your good head will help you make: whether to choose him exactly as he is, since that’s the only him you know, or to choose a different future.

Best wishes,
Dr. Rick Blum

Follow up
“I appreciate you taking time to respond back to me. I think it’s very telling that I begin the request inquiring about my boyfriends behavior and you respond by addressing the behaviors I am engaging in. It is amazing how you succinctly summed up a pattern of behavior I have been engaging in now for many years. I honestly believed I had broken this pattern you touched on with “dangerous” relationships producing what I believe to be passionate ones because this man didn’t fit the “on the edge” type I had been with previously. I am constantly trying to fit square pegs into round ones, I guess because it’s more challenging? Or with all the confidence I think I have, in truth I don’t think very highly of myself and continuously settle for less. Thank you for refocusing the attention back to where I should have had it in the first place, me. I have heard it said that we find people that are our mirror image. Maybe he is more like me than I care to admit. It’s not easy to look at ourselves with a magnifying glass, but I think it’s more then time I did. Thank you! I will let you know how things go.”

Thanks for you thoughtful and kind response.

You make a very interesting point at the end of your letter about a subtle similarity between you. Often the way that women avoid intimacy is by picking men that are incapable of it. That way they can have the sense that they are seeking closeness and vulnerability, without truly risking it. I cannot tell if this applies to you, but it came to mind when you mentioned that, so I thought I’d write it.

Your struggle is courageous and also somewhat universal, so as I get more opportunity to update the site, you can expect to find an anonymous version of your letter that I hope will help others in similar situations.

Best regards,
Dr. Rick Blum

Relationships 4:  The Distancer’s Dilemma

“Hi Dr. Rick,
I recently came across your discussion of distancers and pursuers, and it sounds so like my own relationship that I’m anxious to find out more.  I am definitely the distancer, with my boyfriend the pursuer, although at times when he’s ‘had enough’ we will reverse roles.  That almost always leaves me feeling like I’ve caved in, or given my power away, which leads to resentment on my part if he’s not appreciative enough of the immense effort involved in me backing down.  He usually isn’t appreciative, mainly because he feels like the cost of ‘winning’ is just too high.  How do you break this cycle?  It manifests the most in our ‘arguments’, but it effects every aspect of our relationship as well.

Thank you”

I apologize for my delay in writing back.  I misread your note at first, thinking that you were asking about what I had already posted, so that I was unsure how to respond.   Then, I read more carefully, and I realize that you are describing yourself as the distancer.  Now that is unusual.  More typically, the pursuers write; thus my misread.    I will try to make it up to you by my length of reply.

First, congratulations on wanting to confront this pattern.  Also, I’m glad to see that you care enough about him to reverse the roles, when he starts to pull away.   So, let’s see if I can be helpful.

Your observations seem on the mark to me.   The problem with those who pursue is that they becomes upset and do the opposite of what I recommend in my posting (Relationships 2).  When you finally approach him, he is so angry for the past distance that he is unable to receive you happily.

Of course, it would be great to break this from your side.  You mention that you feel that you’ve lost your power when you have to chase him.   So, one angle on this might be that you loved someone a lot once upon a time (probably a parent, but it could be a sibling or other important relationship) who made you feel humiliated and dominated for your love.    As a result, your boyfriend is in effect paying for someone else’s crimes.  If this rings a bell, work to separate him from that other person in your mind.   If you find you cannot, write me, and I will suggest a method to do this.

A second cause  of distance is the “Groucho Marx syndrome.”   Herein lies a  tale:

It is said that Groucho Marx, the most famous of the Marx Brothers (famous comedians on Vaudeville and then films), wanted to join a country club.  His success was just starting to grow, and he wanted to enjoy this for himself, his wife, and his son.    I believe this was during the 1930’s and he was refused membership.    The director attempted to be somewhat polite, writing that this was not personal, but that Mr.. Marx was Jewish, and it was the policy of the club not to accept Jews.   Groucho Marx wrote back something like this:   ‘I have received your reply, and I think I understand.   It seems that I cannot join your country club because I am Jewish.   Now, my wife is not Jewish, so I expect that she could join.   Where I am confused is about my son, whom I guess you would consider half-Jewish.    Does this mean that he could join, but only go swimming up to his waist?’

Perhaps this was what was on his mind when, some years later, he resigned from Hollywood’s Friar Club with the following quip:   “Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

Most of us feel some of this at some time.  For example, in high school it is common for boys and girls to want someone’s attention until they get it.   Not all of us outgrow this.   The fact is: you have to love yourself a lot to be able to want someone who wants you.     So, if you have noticed any kind of a persisting pattern like that, then you might want to learn what stops you from valuing yourself enough, if that’s the problem.

A third cause can be called “love as a drug.”   If I fall in love for the high (and this is more common than people realize), anyone I’m with for awhile  will eventually fall short.  I can only be amazed for so long that this person wants me.  If it is about getting-off on the infatuation, I’ll want the challenge of chasing him or someone else all over again.  If so, you have to choose  for this time in your life whether you want relationships for the thrill or are shopping for a long-term partner.

I don’t know if any of these strike a bell.   If any of them do, but you are having a tough time working through it, write me again, and I’ll go into more detail.  If none seem to connect, you can also let me know that, and I will look for another approach.

Good luck,
Dr. Rick Blum

Relationships 5:  The Goodbye Letter

“Hi Dr,
My worst source of anxiety is the fact that my boyfriend  has not called in two weeks. He has also acted in a very insensitive manner in for a while. Question:

Is it appropriate to send him an email to let him know that I think his actions are disgraceful or should I just close the door and walk away. I do not want to start the relationship up again as he will continue to treat me shabbily but I feel as if I need to let him know that he has behaved like a child and needs to grow up.

I am crying a lot the last little while and I am trying to be strong and to say I need to forget him and go on . Even though I will not be in the relationship I seem to have a need to express my feelings of disappointment in him as a person.

The Goodbye Letter”

It seems to me you are making the right decision to take the stand that you deserve better treatment. The best purpose sending a note at such a time is to make sure you feel complete, not really with him but mostly with yourself.  In other words, anything that might haunt you later, as in wishing you had said it — that’s what you write.

A nice technique is to write two letters, one not to send and a second to send. The unsent letter can express your anger in a forceful way. Any letter that you would consider sending him, even on your angriest day, is not angry enough for such a letter. Then, once the anger is out of your system, you can write the second one.

It might include :
• your own view of what you think went wrong,
• your opinion of his issues,
• and the effects of these on the relationship and on his own life.
• Be sure to add that you don’t expect him to agree, but you wanted just once to put it out there.
• If there any circumstances at all under which you would consider seeing him again, be sure to mention them. For example, if he got professional help on his issues, would you ever see him?  If so, after how long?

Again, this letter works so that such thoughts don’t draw your attention away from getting over him, not because you expect him to fix himself after receiving it.   Wondering about that would also keep you attached, so view this letter as the end of your relationship with him, as you have known him.   If he ever changes, he will not be the same guy that you have known.  So, you commitment becomes that the next  man in  your life will be much different from this, even if it is some future version of this fellow.

Hope this is helpful.

Best wishes,
Dr. Rick Blum

Relationships 6:  Communication Strategies and Conflict Resolution.

Unlike all the other pages, this page is not in response to any particular question that someone has emailed to me.  Instead, it has an outline of the best “strategies” I have been able to design for preventing and handling conflict in a close relationship.
It is one of the most  frequent handouts  that  I give to people in my office.  So, I am posting it here both for easy access by my clients and for the interest of anyone who wants to improve a relationship.

Please note a  few points  about these  strategies:
1.  Although the list is brief in description, every one of the actual skills used are already present in most  people.  The trick is to remember  to use them when needed, in the circumstances that  I describe.
2.  They cover most situations, even the circumstances in which you are using these strategies and the other person is fighting dirty.
3.  In the fair fighting section, I don’t even mention physical violence.   Do not try to improve communication with someone who is physically violent with  you.   Get out of the situation and stay out unless that person gets substantial help such that a licensed therapist assures you that it is safe to return to the setting.
4.  Each of the circumstances has a group of three strategies.   In stress, we cannot keep more than three things in our heads.  If we have more than three, we will pick only one of them and do that.
5.  You cannot learn these when you need them.  In order to use them:
• first review them alone;
• once you are comfortable with them, make them familiar by imagining using them in past situations;
• then, project them forward by imagining future scenarios;
• then, remember number 6 below, which is that they are not in fact techniques, but guides and gauges!
6.  Below are the simplest and most effective methods I have been able to design thus far, but every technique will be defeated unless the following condition is met:  The secret to a wonderful relationship is the result of two people continually looking for ways to contribute love, support, and sweet acts of kindness to each other, while usually saying “yes” to the other person’s efforts.  I call this “the gold standard.”  So, even the best strategies, like those below, are simply a guide to know how to express this loving attitude and a gauge to test whether you are doing your part.

Communication Strategies and Conflict Resolution  [NOT techniques, but guides and gauges of the “gold standard” above.]

Emotional Intimacy
The One Question:   “If I just wanted to be good to you, what would I do next?”
  Assistance in his/her missions in life
  Affection
  Learning what makes her/him happy and doing it.
Active Listening:   If I wanted to be 100% certain that I  understood you, what would I ask or say next?
Vulnerability [what to do when you are hurting too much to contribute much to the other person]:  tears, fears, and tender hopes

Conflict prevention
Appreciation (concretely expressed through words or touch)
Reassurance (especially when I can anticipate a possible negative interpretation of my words)
When in doubt, check it out.  (When I am upset by what I think  the other person may be meaning)
         Powerful but more difficult:  wishful hearing (confirm the positive interpretation)
         Easer and  still effective:  rule out the negative interpretation.

Conflict resolution
Tell the good news first (specify area of agreement); when you are done, don’t say “but.”  Instead, say “AND.”
Make requests not cases:  Make your suggestion for what you would like as concrete as possible, giving just enough information to have  it make sense.   If you explain it further, you just make the other person feel bad for not having done what you want already.   So, instead of responding to your request he or she will make a defense against your “case.”
No “no”s (search for alternatives  instead).  Never say “yes” when you don’t agree, but  present a counter-offer, even if that alternative is to say “ok, let me think carefully about what you are  asking and  I will bring it up with you tonight.”

Fair fighting  rules (don’t try to solve anything during an argument – you cannot usually argue and resolve at the same time).   The list proceeds in the order of more and more pain.   If a couple does these things, the love  hemorrhages out of the relationship.
Don’t change  the subject.  Everyone want to do this, in order to make a point, but it frustrates the other person by offering too much content to deal with.  As a  result, they are  likely to do things  further on down the list.
No aggression
         No painful volume
         No name calling or behavior labels (for example, “that was so inconsiderate!”)
         No aggressive gestures (for example, rushing at someone, hitting objects or oneself)
Don’t threaten to break up the relationship.  This is the worst of the list.  It is meant  to make  someone else care. Instead, it strongly encourages someone not to care about you in order to hurt less about your threat.

Ending an unfair argument (the other’s behavior is not a rationale for my own; don’t fight dirty just because the other person is.)
Say what I’d rather have (for example, “please yell lower.”)
If necessary (if it goes on), set a boundary for what you cannot have done.
         Say what you cannot do together.
         If possible, phrase in terms of something like “I’m not able to treat you the way that you deserve if I experience the names you’re calling.”

If necessary (if  it goes on), take a timed break (providing a specific return time is essential to this).   Then, when you return, go back to the beginning  and start nice.  If you find  you cannot, you did not leave  soon enough.  Eventually, the other person will see that he or she is getting good treatment for  nothing, but is receiving nothing for unfair fighting.

Relationships 7:  Building or Rebuilding Trust.

Dr Rick,

If you could help me out with this issue I would really appreciate it. I am a 23 old male who met a soon to be 22 year old girl. Everything was going great until she told me she cheated on all of her prior boyfriends (3) and that her mother cheated on her father. Since then I have kept my distance. I should also mention that I have had a rough past with my mother — in fact she was abusive from time to time. Do you thing I am running away from my girlfriend because I am afraid of being hurt or am I making a wise decision by not getting into a relationship under these circumstances.

Thank you very much for your time.”

First, let me tell you that it makes plenty of sense that you would be apprehensive. On the other hand, the fact that she is 22 is a hopeful part of the picture, since people change a lot during these years. The research suggests that the human brain finishes growing up at around the age of 25.  The most hopeful part is the fact that she told you. Unless it came out by accident, she did not have to do so.

Communication could help
I also agree that having a mother who betrayed your trust can add to the picture for you and will give you your own challenge to work through. One suggestion I have for another alternative to just breaking up would be to let her know that you like her a lot and have these concerns for her history, which is why you are glad that she told you. You could say that this was a positive step, but you’d like to know what, if anything, she learned through these past mistakes that makes her think that she is ready and that you should take a chance on her fidelity. Then, if she cannot articulate anything that makes sense you (or maybe even if she can) you can ask if she would be willing to get counseling to help identify what is driving her to violate her own standards.

The Power of Accountability

Now, assuming you think she has grown, you can ask her whether she would help you build your trust of her by doing something together you would not otherwise do, but which would allow her to take ownership for her past difficulty in this area and make amends (take responsibility) for it. This would be through a strategy of accountability. She would not ask your permission to do things, but would be locatable. In other words, she would be willing to tell you where she was, and how you could check if you wanted to do that. To help prevent this from becoming a parent-child action, you could offer to do this both ways, especially since men in general are more the problem than women.  You see, people usually put up a smokescreen when they are cheating, where they like to be vague about their activities. You can be clear that this might feel annoying to both of you, and that you of course would seldom check, but that you would do that at least sometimes, so that you would know she is being straightforward. This would hopefully become either a temporary or an occasional arrangement.  For all it’s awkwardness, it absolutely confirms trust, so it is worth it.

Well, you might wonder whether this is worth it for you to do at 23. It might not be. If it is, it would be for one of two reasons. You’d have to think that otherwise this is a very special lady, and she is worth the trouble. Or, because of your own background, it could be for the purpose of practice in trust and rebuilding trust.

How Trust Works
Trust, when realistic, is based upon expectations which, in turn, are based upon experience. So, you trust a person to do what they repeatedly do, which may be something you like or something you don’t. When people want to rebuild trust after a betrayal of trusts, it takes three ingredients: new words, new actions, and new time.

The new words consist of evidence of coherent and fresh learning about how the person has grown in understanding of their motives and choices. They have to know how they fell in the hole that in turn hurt you and how to avoid it for both your sakes. If the words make sense, you have to have a way to judge if the person is acting differently.  This means new actions that fit the new words (thus, the temporary accountability technique above). Finally, it takes a period of new time in order to build trust, that is new expectations based upon new experience.

Thanks for sending me such an interesting and important questions.  I hope this is useful

Best Wishes,
Dr. Rick Blum
Relationships 8:  Writing Two Letters.

“Dr Rick,

Recently, my son, an intelligent man (a college professor) wrote me a letter declaring me emotionally abusive. He included a long morbid description of how he believes I “got” that way, saying my only “redemption” is thru my grandsons!  He said that I don’t care about him, and disrespect him when he visits, including by having a messy house. Then he wrote that he expected that I would react to his letter in some destructive way.  He did not write in any way suggesting a fix for our problems, but said it was hopeless.  He specifically wrote that he does not want to discuss this!

I haven’t yet reacted in the destructive way he described….but am just about to.

Could you give me a hint on whether there is a way to “fix” this?  It’s not like I think I’m perfect. I have done a lot of introspection and therapy trying to resolve some of my problems before this.  I have even talked to him and written him about things I’ve learned about myself, so it is pretty insulting to have this thrown in my face.  He is a part of the problem too, but he won’t resolve this with me.  I’m old enough to hate wasting time on a rift in the family, but I don’t know what to do in reaction to such a letter.
Thank you”

Thanks for writing.
You are smart to hold off on any direct reaction while you feel the first waves of this hurt.   You are also right that time is precious.   Actually, it is as precious when we are 20 as when we are 60, but we recognize it more often later on.  So, you are probably more in touch with that than your son is.

What I am about to suggest may be totally unacceptable to you.    You may or may not be ready to take this on, since it allows him to be who he is and aims to fix it from your side only.   So, please recognize that I am making these suggestions in response to the question of how you might improve the situation.  If you choose to not go this way, I can respect that also.

I think he wants you to be there for him emotionally, and not the reverse.  Despite his being an adult and a professional, in his relationship with you, he is an adult child.  For example, his criticism of housekeeping issues may even connect with his desire to be nurtured by you.   So, he probably doesn’t feel like he can handle a discussion of your issues and an invitation to fix the tension as if you were two friends.   I know that it’s not how you meant it, and I have not seen the letter, but it may be how he meant it.

This opens up an option.   If you can remember him as a little boy, and forgive him as you did back then, you may be able to write him a much different letter.

First write the angry one that you should not send.  Let yourself vent your feelings in that, and feel free to make it rough.  Any letter that you might consider sending is not angry enough.

Once you’ve let that out, you may be ready to write a second letter, one that you can send.  When you are ready for this, write a letter stating that you apologize for giving him too much information about your process, if it was to a degree that upset him.    You can tell him that you meant to say that, while you are still in this world, you would like to be more the mother that he would want, that you want to improve your side of what there is in your mother-son relationship.  You are ready to apologize for any acts that he found hurtful, in detail if he will share them with you, and you are ready to correct your course.

Next, you can invite him to tell you in concrete terms what it is that you do that you should stop doing and what you don’t do around him that you should start doing.   If the response is vague, then ask him to be more specific (to describe the actual behaviors) so that you can understand better.   Of course, he may refuse this, but this is the kind of invitation that most of us would love to get if we are lucky enough to have a parent living.   Even if he won’t let you in, you at least will have the serenity that you are no longer part of the problem.  Instead you would comprise a loving offer for a solution.

This is a lot to throw at you in the mood that you described, so it may take a few days to digest.
All the best,
Dr. Rick Blum