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really need to know how to handle negative family member

(3 Posts)
BBLucy1891 Thu 04-Aug-16 11:57:37

I'd REALLY appreciate other people's experiences on this issue, because sometimes I feel on my own with it. All my friends seem to have these perfect parents who are cruising around the world on their retirement. My poor mum - she's had it really, really tough. She was a single parent, broke, no friends or family, no hobbies or interests that made her happy and some (very understandable) trust issues after an altogether hard life. My life wasn't easy either - I have battled through some serious challenges, but I try to maintain a breezy outlook, do my best to be sociable and positive and to enjoy my life. She would say its easy for me because I have a partner and a baby and a wide circle of friends but I wouldn't have those things if I was negative and distrustful to start off with. So my issue is - I just don't know how to help her. She always has something or someone to moan about, some shop assistant who wasn't helpful, some dinner she didn't enjoy, some sad story about a car crash or someone who died. There are always a string of ailments, none of which I know what to say about other than "see a doctor". The ONLY thing that makes her happy is her grandchild, and I'm delighted about that, but I live a few hours away. I try to do this once a month but its tough, and I'm busy. She also comes to visit but can be negative and unduly critical about my partner which makes me uncomfortable. She only ever sees the bad in everything...and it drains me. She's painfully lonely but I can't help her, sometimes I can't even listen to her because I feel burnt out already. Anyone have a close friend/family member like this?

Resilience16 Thu 04-Aug-16 17:37:34

Hi BB, I pretty much could have written your post! Just come back from visiting my mum who is opposite end of the country, 6 hour train journey with my 7 year old.
My Dd loves her nanny dearly and vice versa which is why I make the effort to get down there every 6 weeks or so but oh my God my mother is soooooo negative about everything, it can really be draining!
I have tried pointing out it is better to be positive than negative but she either enjoys moaning or is too set in her ways to change. She is lonely, but refuses suggestions of joining any social groups. Most of her friends now avoid her as she us so relentlessly self absorbed and negative.
So after advice on here I now say "oh dear , isn't that terrible" or "I'm sorry to hear that" after every tale of woe and then change the subject. When we visit I make sure to take time out to do stuff with my dd , without nanny, so we get a bit of breathing space. I keep the visits relatively short and I make a point of asking if there is anything practical I can do when she starts on the "poor me"s.
I have also started the positive affirmation "I love going to see my mother" and "I'm having a fabulous visit"...sounds daft but I have been a lot calmer and laid back with her this time round. Got to be worth a try!
But yes, it is hard going and you have my sympathy!

pallasathena Thu 04-Aug-16 17:37:58

Yes. And its heartbreaking to watch as they repeat the same old mantras day in and day out. I don't know what you can do to be honest as when I've suggested stuff for my relative to do she's just shrugged her shoulders and carried on moaning. I've tried to get angry with her and point out how she isn't helping herself but it backfired, leaving me feeling that I had to apologise.
Someone once told me that if you can't change the person inflicting the aggravation but you can change the way you react to it.
That's what I'm now doing. Changing the way I react. Instead of patiently listening to all the negativity and vitriol I close it down firmly and refuse to engage. I repeat the mantra 'What are you going to do about it' or 'You need to stop overthinking everything', or 'Why is everything always about you?'
By changing my reaction to her I'm forcing her to acknowledge that her unhappiness has become something that defines her. She's known for being grumpy, critical, difficult and angry, so that's the internal and external world she constantly recreates.
Its slow and one step forward three steps back and frustrating but I'm hopeful that one day, she'll find her way back to being if not happy then somewhere near accepting of things. There's times I want to walk away but if I did, and she too has had a very hard life, she'd have no-one and I'm a soft touch anyway.

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