Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Dear Mum(129 Posts)
You've just left and as usual, I feel broken. Sad and guilty and hopeless and, oddly but as always, ill.
Our relationship is the most complicated and saddening thing in my life. My friends simply don't understand it, but I make a point of keeping you out of my 'real' life as much as I can, so they only see a very small side of you. DH and SIL get it, at least to some extent.
To anybody else, I think I would seem quite 2 dimensional given the limited input you get from me. But given that you don't actually seem to see me as a separate entity, rather as an extension of yourself, I don't suppose that really matters. It's a claustrophobic and stifling perspective. The disappointment whenever a situation occurs which clearly disputes this is palpable but is soon 'rewritten' and forgotten.
You consider yourself to be so 'nice' that any perceived criticism results in an extreme defensive response. I always end up feeling as if I've just booted a small puppy, no matter how light-hearted or innocuous the comment.
You are a little girl in a women's body. You consider your childish affectations to be somehow charming. I champion strong women and it pains me that the woman I should be able to look up to and respect is such a child.
Your ability to turn every topic of conversation, every achievement of mine, everything my children do, even the bloody weather onto yourself is mind blowing. I still can't quite fathom how you can be so self-deprecating and so self-obsessed at the same time.
You seem to think you are a big help. In reality, you do nothing except add another person trying to claim my full and constant attention to the mix. I'm not sure how you aren't embarrassed to just lounge on the sofa while we run around organising or clearing up after family get-togethers.
I can't hug you or tell you I love you. I turned it off during my teenage years (a very dark time at home for me) and can't turn it back on again. I hate it when you touch me.
You have lied and manipulated, and when challenged you deny everything. It's all done in your little girl, I'm just so nice persona, and it leaves me disorientated about what is real. You also make stuff up in order to appear empathetic. Or to make a point. Or to make you sound more wise. Or for a hundred other reasons. If we challenge you on it, the booted puppy makes a reappearance.
You fill every pause in conversation by telling us how much you love us or love spending time with us. This should be a wonderful thing but it feels stifling. Something about the rise in intonation at the end and the pause which suggests you're again fishing for validation (the search for validation, about everything from your clothes to your opinions, is constant and draining). Is it wonderful to see us? Can it really be wonderful for you while I'm struggling so much just to be in the same room as you? Probably not and it again means that it's not clear quite how much of it is truth.
When you're around, I can hardly breathe. My stomach is tight and there have been occasions when I've had to fight a panic attack. There is no other time when I feel like this. The only way I can cope is to switch a part of myself off when I'm with you. But your words about how much you love us are in my psyche, even though I doubt their truth, and it means that as soon as you've left I feel cripplingly guilty.
In many ways I would love to cut you out but know that I will never be able to. I wish I could find a way to allow us to get on, but I think I finally have to accept that it's never going to happen. Every single time I let my guard down I regret it. I don't know what the answer is and I'm so, so tired.
I didn't want to read and run, hopefully a poster with much more experience than me will be along soon. I didn't want you to think that no-one had read your message.
It sounds exhausting - what are your reasons for still staying in contact?
I know that the Stately Homes thread is useful for people with parents like your mum.
Thanks for your reply.
I think the main reason I can't cut contact is because it's so difficult to pin down anything tangible. I tend to view it as a personality clash and it doesn't seem fair to cut her out on that basis. It's just so subtle.
The more I think about it, it's not quite that simple though.
My dad is no picnic either but he is tangibly crap, which makes it easier to deal with - I don't feel the guilt or as if I'm going mad. I could cut him out easily, I'm not sure he'd notice for quite some time tbh, but don't need to. Whereas cutting out my mum would be incredibly difficult as she wouldn't let go. The pair of them are very extreme in completely opposite directions.
Many children now adults of such toxic parenting often underplay what has happened or actually think that well it was not so bad after all. But it was and you seem to have FOG in spades - fear, obligation, guilt.
In your case your mother seems to be narcissistic in terms of personality and all such women need a willing enabler to help them, your Dad fits that bill perfectly.
Would certainly visit the Stately Homes thread on these pages and post/read there too.
I hear you.
I could have written your post apart from my 'D'M takes more of a 'I've done my bit bringing YOU up' than the wounded puppy stance.
Some people have kind and supportive parents, others have ones like ours.
I can't say anything that will make you feel better, just wanted to tell you that you're not alone.
I've just visited the stately homes thread and stumbled onto this
Oh my word. It's my mother. I'm a bit speechless.
Another one here to let you know that you're not alone.
I could identify with much of your post especially the feeling stifled, the not wanting to be touched by her, the me me me stuff, and of course the crippling guilt of not actually liking her or wanting her around. I don't know about you but I also feel incredibly two faced which makes me feel awful about myself. I too would love to cut her off but have only managed to reduce contact (which she has heavily resisted and I have had to be quite hardened to the relentlessness of the calls and the manipulative messages and constant invites) which has helped me feel less stressed and angry & also allowed me to take a step back and look at things with a clearer head.
You mentioned feeling like you don't have cause to cut her off other than a personality clash. While I think that it sounds like more than that I wanted to say that I also went through a stage of feeling like I needed some massively huge issue to initiate cutting her off but am realising that the drip drip effect over several years is reason enough to have had enough also the fact that when somebody brings nothing to the party and just emotionally drains you then it is okay to draw a line in the sand.
Have you tried a bit of distance not least to give yourself an emotional break & hopefully to try and redefine the boundaries of your relationship a bit?
I've just finished reading the whole article. A lot of it is worse than or describes an extreme version of her behaviour. Quite a bit of it is uncannily accurate and also helps to explain why I found my teenage years with her so hard.
I think I do need to allow myself a bit of space from her. I've had 7 messages from her (text and email) since she left yesterday which I've not yet answered and have a niggling guilt about. It's crazy.
The end of your third paragraph has made me think, pout.
I get the incessant & persistent phone calls too and it was one of the biggest things driving me to distraction. Every time the phone rang it felt like she was stood in the corner of the room shouting for attention & I just couldn't escape her. It got to the point where I was feeling harassed in my own home. I just wanted to scream at the thought of having to speak everyday for an hour listening to her cry & bemoan how awful her life is and making me feel like she was my responsibility. In the end, after years of this, I decided that I would unplug the phone and ignore. Like you I still get the guilt, sick feeling when she leaves messages but I am learning to see every time I don't call back or pick up the phone as a little victory for me. Like I am retaking a bit of myself back. It gets easier too.
I read that article too a while ago and it was like a lightbulb moment for me too. It was kind of nice to know that this kind of behaviour isn't right and there was a problem and it wasn't just me being dramatic.
I get angry answerphone messages, the tone accusatory, the content demanding
i'm learning how to not react. my 'D'M feeds on reaction
OP you write so eloquently. Sorry that you have a poor relationship with your mum, i hope that coming on here and seeing that you are not alone is a comfort to you. I also hope that the resources available help you develop coping strategies that allow you to move forwards without guilt.
Thank you so much for the replies, they've given me a lot to think about.
It is a huge relief to know I'm not going completely crazy. It's interesting though that even though the article describes my mum so accurately in so many ways, even echoing some of the words or phrases I used myself in the OP, I still can't seem to properly accept that she's anything other than what she says she is. It's very strange. I need to try to get past that block and explore some of the resources.
Pout, our mothers sound quite similar. I'm taking a lot from your posts
Meery, that's really kind
On Monday, the day I wrote the OP, I was feeling very low. I had arranged to meet one of my best friends and she could see I wasn't myself. We talked briefly about it (we both had children in tow) so she knew the reason behind it. As we were leaving, it came up again (in the context of me looking knackered) and she said "you and your mum....." in a rolling of eyes, what are we going to do with you kind of way. It really hurt me that she could be so dismissive of something which causes me so much pain.
But the fact is, my friends just don't get it. I keep my mum away from the rest of my life as much as possible as I always end up regretting it.
When I was getting married, I decided to try and make sure that mum and dad felt involved. Bear in mind, particularly at that point when it really did just seem to be me who couldn't get along with her (brother is golden child), I felt that it was my fault. So she has met my friends on the following occasions:
1. She came to my Hen Party. Everyone brought something which made them think of me. My mum brought the most generic gift you could imagine. In the story to accompany the gift, she spoke about something which had happened to my brother. After the hen party, she emailed all my friends (using addresses from the emails sent to organise the party), as if they were now all her best friends too. Overstepping boundaries - check - but try explaining that without sounding possessive.
2. She came to my wedding. 6 months later, at Christmas, she took me aside and told me something my friend (who I saw yesterday) had said about my dad. Mum made it sound as if I'd been bitching about him to my friend and she'd let it slip out. It was something that I knew I would never have said but I felt guilty anyway, because it was all very between-you-and-me and she's been fretting about it ever since. It put a small shadow over what had been a wonderful day. I can't mention it to my friend because I'm normal and don't want her to fret about it too. But again, it means it's something I can't explain to her about my mum.
3. She came to my son's naming day. This time it was something my FIL said which had hurt dad (as reported by her) which again had the unspoken suggestion that it was based on something I'd said to FIL behind their backs.
But all my friends see is the very nice lady they speak to for a bit at these events.
Unfortunately many people who have actually come from normal healthy functioning families do not get it and never will. I had a feeling she was narcissistic in terms of personality (the crap gift giving is a clue, the acting as a six year old girl in an adult's body is yet another big one which made me think NPD re her in the first place=).
Your mother is all me, me, me and lets talk about me some more. It is NOT repeat NOT your fault she is like this, her own birth family did that lot of damage to her. What if anything do you know about her own childhood, that will provide clues as well.
Trying to appeal to a narcissist;s good nature (they do not have one) is about as effective as spitting in the ocean.
Establishing boundaries that will work as well is going to be impossible as well because she will keep trying to break them, she will disregard any boundaries you put in place anyway because she regards you as an extension of her. I would block her e-mails and at the very least not read them.
Do read the Stately Homes thread too, this can help also.
Her crap gifts are a bit of a standing joke actually. She buys stuff for herself basically, wraps it up and gives it to me. I send it to the charity shop after a suitable period of it sitting unused in my wardrobe (guilt).
Her own childhood is a bit fucked, so the background is certainly there. As is her own conviction that stuff happens 'to' her as a result of this, victim mentality I guess, and that she is powerless to change things.
Oh dear poor you.
But look. You are responding to not hurt her. It seems everything is about her - including you.
A good healing tool would be to think for your self and your needs. Who cares how many texts go unread? Who cares if no-one understands?
I would advise you to create some space and if she asks whats up, tell her square on WHY you are doing it. You don't need her to understand or agree that it is right - and she won't - and that doesn't matter.
It sounds like it is time to see things from your pov, not hers any more. It doesnt matter if she doesnt understand. It doesn't matter if she feels hurt by your actions - you matter - you have been hurt all these years - now it is her turn - and she is the one causing the issue not you, yet you have been hurting over it. Do you see?
I think also i would advise not pretending anymore.
Why invite her to things if she is going to behave the way she does? Do you think she will change? I would advise you to spend some times learning about dysfunctional families, and how they often never change, and neer accept that they are in the wrong - so we have to leave them behind knowing they will happily blame us for it all - and often to our friends or remaining family.
Here is why I said it is important to create a sense of yourself. You are the only one who needs to understand what you feel and why. and then act upon it. Are you in a position to be able to pay a counsellor for some support in the early days? That will help understand her when she lies, tries to drag others into her side, chases you, tries to make you feel guilty etc.
Good luck. But dont feel bad and ill any longer. This personality defect is her problem not yours. x
Also, just to add that my understanding of her childhood is based solely on her own relaying of it, all of which is 'poor little me' and requires sympathy. So I feel guilty for not always being sympathetic of that poor little girl and angry that she can't take responsibility for her adult response to that and guilty...... And so on.
This is rather enlightening.
X post, have to go but will come back to yours soon, s2s
I empathise so much with feeling totally isolated in your pain, because everyone sees your mother as being 'lovely'. Mine was a social success in every way, was the pillar of the community, my friends thought she was super. My brother was also a golden child, so any attempt to verify my view of my mother ran into the wall of his totally different experience.
I empathise also with the extreme subtlety of the manipulations and punishments, although mine could be very obviously abusive if the mood took her.
It is particularly hard to deal with the guilt feelings if one rejects or disagrees with them in any way. That stems from being trained from the cradle that their approval is crucial to ones' wellbeing.
You are, I think, at that most difficult stage of having finally realised the reality of your relationship, and of all that entails. It is so hard, and you might find that you experience an emotional backlash of depressive feelings in the coming days.
Deciding on a No Contact relationship is a scary decision, and the right one for many people, but is not likely to be right for you when still at this very new place of realising what has really been happening in the parent/child dynamic, for so many years.
Take it stage by stage.
Perhaps the first of those stages is to accept that you are not in the wrong to defy your mother if you wish. Daughters with normal mothers do it all the time, because their mothers support their adult choices. You have absolute validation, and can find it on the highly supportive threads here.
It takes time to work through the feelings, and to learn to establish new boundaries. I really recommend organising some counselling or therapy so you have backup for yourself in the process of disengaging.
It helps a lot.
S2S, you mention telling her square on WHY I am choosing to create some space between us. This is an interesting one. Firstly, while I'm usually pretty outspoken, I do avoid bringing up anything with mum because the defensive, poor little me act is insane and drives me to distraction. And yes, does make me feel horribly guilty despite how ridiculous I can see that it is. Secondly, I've reached the point where I care slightly less about all that and would be prepared to say something. But what? It's the sum of a million parts over nearly 40 years and individually, it's all so difficult to summarise and easy to deny.
You're right about the invites. That's one area I can safely say no more. I've spoken to DH about that this evening.
Mumngran, sorry to hear that your mum was so obviously abusive. That must have been really hard in contrast to her social image. Your comment about approval rings true. I thought briefly about showing this thread and my first thought was 'I could never do that, she'd be so hurt'.
I've been thinking about getting some counselling. I'm not quite ready though, I seem to be in denial in RL that this is actually true, iykwim. Writing on here has made it clear that there is a tangible issue when it comes to her mixing with anyone except immediate family, which is why I can feel strong about putting an end to that.
My mum is a bit like this, I don't cut her put yet I have emotionally distanced myself and accept she can't change. I leave it for her to call me, communicate mainly by what app in group with my Dad and siblings so if she is rude it's seen by everyone and she can't gaslight. I have moved in iyswim .... She lives in different city - comes to stay for a weekend maybe 3x a year. It's fine- we aren't close but it works for me.
Name change, hi.
Often at your stage of working things out (in my view anyway..) the temptation is to talk to the person to try and hash it out.
Then you get stuck in THEIR cycle and behaviour.
Or you just cut them off and nothing ever really gets said.
I am in favour of a middle ground, if she won't physically hurt you for it.
I would think it all through yourself away from her. Work out a summary, such as 'you piss me right off with your childish self centered behaviour. I've had enough of you for now so don't ring me please.' Then she knows that you are upset, and a bit about why, but you dot get caught in her cycle.
This is quite scary to do though and watch for an aftermath.
After that, it reads to me as tho you really would value some support in the way you see it and the millions of little cuts that have added up to this ow great wound. Can you either get to that stage yourself and with your husband, or can you pay to talk it through with someone? You don't have to explain to her and if you do, she won't understand and will trot out all of the behaviours.
But it really is alright for her to know, fact, and you to say, baldly, and for her to be open mouthed and you to walk off. It is alright to feel scared after that, but then let the dust settle and see how you feel. Maybe proud? Maybe lighter and free?
Avoid talking about it with anyone who will put you down and not understand. I think you need to get to the heart of what she is all about and what she has done to hurt you, so that you are able to take it from there.
Has she been selfish and immature? Has she been deliberately weak and fake? Has she sold you out or let you down? Is there any sort of real connection there?
That is the heart for me. The sadness. The reason we don't give up a lot quicker. Get support for any grief you may feel as you come to the realisation that she may never be the mother you wish. But even as that is true, you can be the woman you wish xxxx. Starting by being true to yourself. Even with your own mother, who should have taught you that very thing xxx
You're spot on when you say I need to avoid talking about it with anyone who doesn't understand. And as I slowly start to feel like I understand it more myself, I feel less bothered about that.
Somewhere up thread someone mentioned histrionic PD, I'm sorry I can't seem to find it, but this also describes my mother to a tee, she must be a combination of the two.
I just feel such relief that I'm not going completely mad and the support on here is absolutely priceless. Even DH, who is also driven crazy by her, doesn't understand the half of it.
to all of you, more than you may know.
PS... again s2s I'm going to come back to some of your other questions and comments a little later... giving myself a little time to digest what I've read this evening, but I think working through some of what you've asked will be very constructive x
One of the symptoms of histrionic PD, and actually it seems to be one of the key summary features, is being overly or inappropriately sexual/flirty. While the other points describe her very accurately, this one is not so much the case, but again has made me think.
Weird things relating to this......
1. Her inappropriate 'flashing' - sitting in a ridiculous position on the floor whilst wearing a dress and no underwear. I pick her up on this every time she does it so it doesn't happen too often, but it happens.
2. Her bizarre approach to my own sexuality as a teenager. My sex ed was 'not before you're married' and that I would go to hell if I did (she's a firm Christian). When it became fairly clear that my uni boyfriend and I were sleeping together, she cried all morning and barely spoke to me for a long time. There were other examples... she absolutely could not entertain the possibility of me having that kind of relationship. My boyfriend when I was at school was entirely unwelcome and I was made to feel like some sort of floozy for having one at all. The same applied to male friends. I could write for hours about my teenage years.
3. Her general [portrayed] prudishness about sex. She has often told stories about someone at work fancying her inappropriately, or someone who upset her once with their demonic flirty behaviour at a party. Or an ex-boyfriend who, would you believe it - wanted to KISS her! [Shock] Come to think of it, I can't imagine relaying any comparable stories to my own daughter unless there was a very specific context. She's only one though, so I can't say for sure
4. Strange, quasi-sexual body language. I would never have labelled it as sexual until DH tentatively joked about it one day. Now I find it quite unnerving! It's mostly a discomfort thing I think. But yes, the actions themselves would usually be described as flirtatious or sexual, when not accompanied by the wrong facial expression.
5. Her body image is terrible. I am certain she has an eating disorder, which manifests itself in an ongoing series of diets/allergies. Every time she will talk to us at great length about the benefits and the difference it's made to her, she will buy in all the necessary ingredients to follow it religiously, make us all do the same so that we can accommodate her when she comes, then binge eat exactly the foods she should be avoiding.
She has obsessed about her figure for as long as I can remember, although when we were little she was skinny "because we didn't have enough money to feed all of us and you two came first".
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.