Note: Mumsnetters don't necessarily have the qualifications or experience to offer relationships counselling or to provide help in cases of domestic violence. Mumsnet can't be held responsible for any advice given on the site. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Difficult mother(47 Posts)
Ive just had yet another run in with my mum. I know she has got narcissist tendencies but I don't think she's a full on narc and for the most part we get on well. But I feel there is always an underlying potential for conflict over, well, most things to be honest. It feels as though because I'm her daughter she can say whatever she wants to me, then if I don't give the right response I get "do not speak to me like that, you're supposed to be my daughter who cares about me". I suppose I should learn to nod and say ok but I guess I'm trying to somehow set a boundary of saying that I don't take kindly to an authoritative approach.
Is this just usual mother and daughter stuff? Is it me? Should I be more "caring" and bow down to anything she says even if I disagree or didn't ask for her opinion?
So sick of this. I feel like a teenager (I'm 33) whenever this happens.
I want to get on with her but this constant power struggle wears me down and makes me want to avoid her. We alternate childcare between the two sets of grandparents (and nursery) and I feel like I'm just waiting for the day she'll use this against me somehow
And how do I make bloody sure I don't do the same to my daughter (15mo)??
My mum isn't a narc at all, but she does have strong opinions about what I do and don't do. I've learned over time to roll with it, but there are occasions where she finds a weak point and it cuts to the bone. It sounds like your relationship is a bit like that as well.
I don't know that you can change what your mum does, so its all about working on how you can change how you handle it. Not as easy as it sounds though. I try to say over and again "Its just mum being mum, its just mum being mum..."
You're right that the most important thing is that you don't do the same to your DD - I feel the same. The best you can do is think carefully about what it is that upsets you and now and again think about what you are doing yourself and if you are doing the same, look at how you can change it.
Thank you and sorry to hear you have a similar dynamic.
I'm just sat here
stewing thinking about this mornings tiff and realised that I did say "ok mum, I will do xxx" (ie what she was forcing on to me) but it was my tone that wasn't right today... Never mind that her tone was offensive from the get-go or that she hung up on me (this was over the phone)!
DH just says "just forget about it, it's just her way"... Which I know is true but it rankles me more and more.
But you're right, I need to change the way I react and feel...
No, this is not and has never been normal mother/daughter stuff at all.
She will never admit to being the one who is at fault for all the problems and friction between the two of you.
BTW you do not mention your Dad; is he still in your life?. If so I am wondering what role he is playing here; usually men married to narc women act as both their willing and trained enabler.
DO you really still want to get along with such a person?. She is and will never be the mother you want her to be because her life and being is all about her.
I would also be thinking about how much time she is spending with her grandchild; narcissists do not make for being good grandparents either. She will at some stage declare that she is not spending enough time with her granchild and accuse you of favouring your own parents more. Also such people are likely to use granchildren as another form of narcissist supply.
I daresay you only get along okay because this dysfunctional relationship is carried out mainly on her terms. She wants you for her narc supply, you have been trained to give it. Please do not bow down to her even more because she will take full advantage of your kindness and use same as a stick to beat you with. They are masters of "come closer so I can hurt you some more". Children do want to get along with their parents, no matter how abusive they are towards them and you still want her approval. You do not need her approval any more, not that she would ever freely give it anyway.
I would look at the website called "Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers" and read up on there what it says about low contact. That may well help you.
You cannot change her but you can change how you react to her. That is ultimately by detaching.
You must enforce boundaries and put these a lot bloody higher than they are currently.
Do you have siblings; if so what do they think of her?.
Have a look at this link as well:-
Atilla, your posts made me cry because you've hit the nail on the head a few times. I've seem that website before.
Yes I've had the "I don't see enough of GD" My dad has remarried. My brother's relationship with her is even more strained. A lot of her relationships are broken.
As I say, I don't think she is full-on narc and a lot of the time we get on fine. She has a very sweet side and I know tends to mean well but seems to lack the ability to see how what she says or does affects anyone else and instead is a martyr/victim because she was "only trying to help".
Contact is generally at a workable level. I don't want to cut her out of my life, its not realky necessay as she's not that bad, just occasionally these spats blow everything out of proportion.
I feel dreadful saying all this. She does have lots of functioning and long-standing friendships and relationships too.... She's good fun and lively and intelligent and I have a lot of respect for lots of who she is and for the most part she's been a fab role model.
Oh, I did'nt mean to make you cry honestly.
I would completely re-evaluate the relationship you have with your mother; she is not and will never be the mother you want her to be. I would reiterate that she gets on okay with you superficially because you give her what she wants i.e your time and attention to her needs. Its all about her and pacifying her; you are dealing with someone who is emotionally still at child level. However, children grow up; your mother never did and her own parents
did that damage to her and made her the emotional centre of their universe. Pound to a penny her own childhood was itself emotionally abusive.
Am I surprised to read either about your Dad and your brother; not a bit of it actually. She has caused such fractured relationships and its hard for you also because you are seemingly the last one left who is still bothered at all with her. Her behaviours of "only trying to help" are both passive aggressive and narcissistic; again that is all about her. What you may find as well is that the intensity of such spats increases and becomes more frequent over time. If that also happens, it is okay to walk away. Children now adults of such toxic people though often have FOG - fear, obligation and guilt; a legacy of such toxic parenting as children. Do not let the FOG cloud your life and judgment; you would not tolerate such from a friend and your mother is truly no different.
Going and maintaining low contact is an option available to you for now (you may well change your mind in future about this but if you want to maintain low contact then I for one am not going to dissuade you. I am LC with my narc ILs) and I would suggest you read further about that; there may be ideas and suggestions on there re this that you have not already thought of.
I would certainly limit as much as you can any direct contact she has with your child.
BTW you will not turn into someone like your mother because you have qualtities that she patently does not have; those of insight and empathy. Your mother has no insight and no empathy whatsoever; she does not feel emotions like you do. She knows you are hurting but she does not and never will feel your pain.
You may find reading "Children of the Self Absorbed" written by Nina W Brown also helpful if you have not already read this.
Yes but look closer at all these long standing relationships and friendships; they are all superficial really and these people have given her what she wants i.e power and adoration. Narcissists really do not have any friends, they have no need for friends.
I don't agree with detaching unless someone is genuinely abusive and unbearable. Reason being that detachment often causes more distress (to you) than it prevents. I think a lot of parents struggle to accept that their kids are independent and what's required is a bit of assertiveness rather than letting things go unsaid to keep the peace. 'It's just her way' is carte blanche to behave badly and is therefore not on. If she gets huffy with you for being called out, it's really not your problem.
Stand up to her therefore. Might not make any difference to her behaviour but you'll feel a lot better about yourself.
Unfortunately standing up to such people is extremely difficult and can also backfire because they can then become extremely nasty.
I have used this technique in the past to great effect when dealing with the narc ILs:-
The best strategy Ive found for dealing with toxic narcissists is what I call Yes, No, Got To Go. Its the same way you would respond to a dinnertime telemarketer. Its also the way the narcissist treats you. The yes is where you appear to agree with whatever they say to you, or not to show any resistance. After all, theres no point in resisting what theyre saying to you, as arguing or trying to get them to empathize with you is highly unlikely. So you just go with it, nodding your head, grunting occasionally. Then when they try to manipulate you into doing something, or taking something on, say, Um, thats not going to happen. Or, Im not going to do that. Or Im not going to be in the middle of that. Or, Im not going to take that on. And then, exit stage left by finding some short term desired outcome that requires you elsewhere, and moving towards it. Oh, got to go! Buh Bye! The first part gives no resistance, so youre not crossing swords with them. The second part is when you establish a strong boundary. And the third part is moving away, so as not to become their narcissistic supply.
If you find yourself preyed on and manipulated by a narcissist, then the real issue isnt the narcissist. Its your own self esteem issues, your own lack of confidence, your own psychic spaces where you feel inadequate (I cant handle strong emotions), incapable (I can never think of what to say) and imprisoned (I either cooperate or she punishes me). Thats what theyve been using for leverage with you. Deal with that, take away that leverage, and youll have the strength you need to take positive steps and end the manipulation once and for all. As you come to identify yourself with your creativity, intelligence, integrity and ability, youll find less space available in your life for the narcissist to get rent free.
If they become nasty... so what? They're already being offensive or upsetting or whatever so if it escalates to nastiness just because you've had the balls to stand up to them... no biggie, surely?
Hello again, sorry for the late reply. I've been thinking about this pretty much non-stop.
Atilla - don't worry, I'm ok, just was tired after a few unsettled nights with DD, and frustrated with the latest spat with DM. And so much of what you say is absolutley spot-on.
Ironically, DM had sent me info on NPD a while back after having the revelation that her own mother was a narcissist. I read through those websites again over the weekend and so many of the NPD traits are there with DM; she's fits the engulfing type. When I saw them before I couldn't bring myself to admit that there was a "fit" with the descriptions and DM.
I still don't want to accept that there is a label for how she is. I don't want to look for narc traits in her now that I know it exists as a personality "type/disorder" if that makes sense. It feels wrong and destructive and negative to acknowledge and admit she's like this.
I'm struggling with so much of this.
Also, I now feel totally confused as to what normal is, what a normal mother-daughter relationship should be. My teenage years in particular were frought with arguments with DM. Thinking back, I can't remember any of my friends going into school in tears after a row with their mum; rarely was anyone else grounded. I just put this down to me being a typical teenager and used to think friends' mums were pushovers or too soft or very liberal. (And now I feel like I'm being the narcissist for being all "woe is me".)
In terms of how things are with DM now. Well... we've not actually spoken, she emailed about something yesterday and I tried to call her back and she didn't answer. I left a voicemail and have since had snippy emails back, namely because I can't make a lunch I knew nothing about so when I said words to the effect of "maybe next time", I get "I won't be asking you again" back I'm upset this was over sodding email when I tried to ring her to speak to her and I'm confused as to how the two "incidents" (ie my tone during our call last week and me not being able to make lunch) are related.
This is all very well and ordinarily I'd just leave it for a while until the next time we needed to speak... but she knows I need to call in the next few days or so her regarding DD going there next week and the fact that she's babysitting for me the weekend after. (Again, ironic that I partially only asked her to babysit next weekend because I thought she'd be upset if I chose to ask the in-laws instead of her). So now I don't know what to do.
DH is livid. We spoke about this lots over the weekend and I'm beginning to accept that I definitely do do some of the narc things she does, and that I need to nip this in the bud and not repeat her behaviours. I'm ok with that, it'll make me a better person.
I felt desperately sad when I heard her voice on her voicemail message. This is my mum. She doesn't deserve the label of a narcissist. She deserves people to be nice to her and to have a nice life. She isn't cruel or wicked. She had an emotionally abusive childhood and acknowledges this has negatively affected her. She's not doing any of this on purpose
She isn't doing any of this on purpose?.
Oh yes she is!. These people are truly masters of "come closer so I can hurt you again".
Narcissists do not think like non narcissists; she knows she has hurt you but she has no empathy for you. Her own childhood was abusive; her own parents did that lot of damage to her.
Denial is a powerful force I grant you but being in denial is not going to do you any favours at all in the short term let alone the long term.
Narcs are also extremely aversive to therapy and do not do well within same even if they did attend sessions. It would also require many years hard graft for even the most forgiving of therapists.
It is also hard to be the last one in the family unit to be at all bothered with her, she trained you well to respond to her needs and her needs alone, certainly above any needs you yourself have. You did NOT cause her to become narcissistic. She's lost family and friends because of her behaviours; its all me, me, me with her.
You know this is wrong and you would not treat your child like you were treated this ergo you are not a narcissist and you are not going to turn into your bloody mother!!.
I would limit too the amount of time she spends with your child because she will start on your child given the opportunity. Such people truly make out to become lousy grandparents. You need to protect your child from such malign influences.
I would seriously consider counselling for your own self, at the very least read "Children of the Self Absorbed" written by Nina W Brown.
I would also go as far to say that you're perhaps terrified of her.
I'm not terrified of her, but I am wary of her hypersensitivity and overreactions.
None of this is new and I can think back to dozens of occasions in the past where we've had one of these episodes (every Christmas for example!) and whilst I'm able to forgive, I can't forget. So I half expect this kind of behaviour. It's been a few months since the last flare up, so I guess it was about time for another.
I know none of this is my fault, but is it really hers? I'm not looking to excuse her and I totally understand that her behaviour is childish and inappropriate and wrong. But if she knows no different, then surely all of this is just to be expected even if it's not accepted.
What I do about DD I have no idea. DM knows I need her for childcare, and I don't think would do anything to jeopardise her access to DD - not that that means she won't make life difficult in the meantime............
DM was a journalist. Words are what she "does".
She knows I need to call her at some point soon in the next few days. I don't know how to approach it or what to say, or how to be. DD always takes a while to settle at GPs houses so I'll need to stay there for 20 mins or so next week when I drop her off. I kind of want to say "If you can't be pleasant to me, I don't know how we can communicate re DD so I'm reluctant for you to have her" but I know that notches things up to a whole new level (akin to saying we "wanted to live with dad" when we were kids). Plus I don't want to deny DD a relationship with her grandmother.
This is all sadly familiar. Google FOG Fear, Obligation Guilt.
Yes I've seen the FOG stuff and it rings true
Now just having a tough time processing it all. I'm not sure where our relationship goes from here.
I've checked out the 'Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers' website and my DM doesn't fit the profile - however she can be a nasty, bitter woman, wrapped up in her own pain and suffering. (The problem is, she IS in pain and she IS suffering).
However I had drawn a line in the sand over 20 years ago and fought tooth and nail to be treated with respect by her. The battles have been ongoing, she doesn't like sticking to the rules and when we spend a certain amount of time in each other's company (only every few years as live other side of the world, but will then be for a solid month) it gets really fiery, she can only hold her tongue for so long before she just HAS to criticise. My siblings have alternated between admiring me and completely losing it with me - but I've stood firm and told them to back off - if I don't let HER talk to me like that then I'll be damned if I let THEM talk to me like that!!!
But bizarrely I am treated with the most respect from her, compared to all of my siblings (distance helps!). Some have effectively gone into hiding from her, seeing her as rarely as possible, others have become crushed and alcohol dependent (although I can't say that's caused by her, but she does trigger some of the behaviour) and another has become a bit of a door mat (but is now trying to stand up for herself). There are a lot of things she would never say to me that she would to the others because I will call her up on it each and every time, and she finds that too painful. I also won't let her get away with decreeing how we should parent (it goes WAY beyond parenting advice!!!) because she was quite frankly a crap parent - again she hates that being brought up so has backed away from that with me as well. (And has also stopped criticising siblings for their parenting to me as well as I tell her she has no right to be saying those things given how she parented).
It will NEVER be an easy relationship - and our family circumstances now mean that I will probably have very little to do with most of my siblings. I just don't want to, they certainly make no effort to, and having moved away it's quite easy not to. It's sad how one bitter person can ruin a family.
We lived with my mother and she expected me to do everything...cooking, cleaning, shopping, all admin, organising etc but felt because it was her house she had the right to interfere in everything and that if things weren't done her way they weren't done right. Interefered in parenting massively, criticised me, DH etc etc. Where our relationship went from there is a massive argument that went on for about 6 weeks, culminating in us moving out. Now see her about once a week and have withdrawn a lot emotionally...i.e friendly but not so intertwined/engulfed (My mother fits the narcissistic/engulfing mother model very well). I don't feel I can ever trust her again, am very wary of her motivations and what she might throw back in my face at a later date.
It was a headfuck goig through it and it makes me sad I had to withdraw to such an extent, that I couldn't have a "normal" relationship with her, but I am so so so much happier, calmer now I'm not so involved with her.
I'm sorry the two of you have difficult relationships with your mothers too, it's hard to face isn't it?
I am thinking about counselling. I keep wondering whether in fact I'm the narcissist and am making this all about me, and should be kinder or more patient or more receptive towards her. It's so confusing.
Speaking to my dad a moment ago, he reluctantly mentioned he thought she was a bully (is my dad feeding my narc supply??????) and just reiterated that I need to accept that she won't change and just learn to have different methods for dealing with it.
It's now Wednesday, we had that argument on Friday and I've barely focussed on anything else. I'm getting myself really wound up over this. It's also her birthday at the end of the month.
The fact that you're even asking that means that you're not. A true narcissist COULDN'T see that in themselves.
There is no way around it, things WILL be difficult whichever path you take. But I've found that even though it's really difficult drawing a line which you just will NOT let them cross, in the end it's the only way I could make a relationship with my mum work.
I recall once many, many years ago when DH and I were having marriage problems and we separated for a short while - I visited my parents and mum wanted to know the ins and outs of the problems (because somehow in her mind she in her screwed up relationship was the ideal one to help me sort out my marital problems!!!). I refused to tell her and told her to stop asking me. She kept on asking me, and eventually I told her that if she asked me again I would walk out of the house. She did.... and I did. It was 41 stinking degrees, the middle of the day, I had no car, and it was a 45 minute walk home but I bloody well did it. I even walked a circuitous route to avoid my father finding me because I just knew he would rush out to find me and give me a lift, making my exiting 'statement' a little less dramatic. Sod that, I wanted it to be dramatic!!!!
Guess what, she stopped asking me. She did, however, badger my siblings to find out what was going on, I just told them to mind their own bloody business! (And told my friends to let the phone ring twice on the land line, hang up, then call again so that I knew it was safe to answer!!!)
You have to treat them like a toddler - issue an ultimatum, and go through with it.
If for whatever reason you can't argue back, then walk out, hang up the phone, whatever it takes just REMOVE yourself from her.
I even physically pushed my mother out of my house once!!!! Boy she didn't expect THAT one!!!!!
Join the discussion
Please login first.