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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!!!!!
If you have a narcissist for a parent, you live in a world governed by whim enforced without mercy.
Narcissists have normal, even superior, intellectual development while remaining emotionally and morally immature. Dealing with them can give you the sense of trying to have a reasonable discussion with a very clever six-year-old -- this is an age when normal children are grandiose and exhibitionistic, when they are very resistant to taking the blame for their own misbehavior, when they understand what the rules are (e.g., that lying, cheating, and stealing are prohibited) but are still trying to wriggle out of accepting those rules for themselves. This is the year, by the way, when children were traditionally thought to reach the age of reason and when first communions (and first confessions) were made.
Having a narcissist for a mother is a lot like living under the supervision of a six-year-old. Narcissists are always pretending, and with a narcissistic mother it's a lot like, "Let's play house. I'll pretend to be the mother and you pretend to be the baby," though, as the baby, you'll be expected to act like a doll (keep smiling, no matter what) and you'll be treated like a doll -- as an inanimate object, as a toy to be manipulated, dressed and undressed, walked around and have words put in your mouth; something that can be broken but not hurt, something that will be dropped and forgotten when when something more interesting comes along. With narcissists, there's also usually a fair element of "playing doctor," as well -- of childish sexual curiosity that may find expression in "seductive" behavior towards the child, such as inappropriate touching of the genitals, or it can also come out as "hypochondriacal" worries about the child's health and/or being most interested and attentive when the child is ill (thus teaching the child that the way to get Mother's kind attention is to get sick). Having a sick child can also be a way for the narcissistic mother to get the sympathetic attention of authority figures, such as doctors and teachers.
Problem is too that toddlers or 6 year olds grow up; narcs remain at such an emotional age.
Re this part of your comment 6monthsin:-
"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"
Counselling may well be very helpful to you but counsellors are like shoes; you need to find someone who fits in with you.
And no you are not a narc either, narcs would never ever ask themselves such questions to begin with. Being kinder to a narcissist only gives you more aggravation in the long run.
With regards to your child I would keep your child at arms length from her anyway. This is because narcs do not make for being good grandparents and in your case as well your mother certainly has what they need i.e a willing enabler - your Dad - to help her.
You need to stop with the idea that you're a narcissist, it is a bit self-indulgent and just plain wrong. Narcissist's do not even consider that they might be a narcissist, deep down they feel they are perfect.
Your dad is right, she is a bully and you need to stop using her for childcare because it puts you at her mercy and it's not good to have her in charge of your DD, however it might help you on a practical level. Someone who kept making you cry as a teenager is not a good mum, I really felt for your teenage self when I read that. You keep making excuses for her and trying to see her point of view, she, on the other hand, remains furious at you and is still being nasty.
You are not a child any more and you don't have to put up with this just because she is a blood relation - there's no law saying we have to indulge people being nasty to us just because we share genes with them. She may well be damaged but it's not your fault and you aren't responsible for 'mending' her or making her life happy. Life is very short and you deserve to be happy.
DIY - I like your style!
I'm not sure I'm that strong (yet). My dad also said the same - ie hang up on her if it happens again.
I'll give her a call over the weekend to see how the land lies re her having DD on Tuesday and I am bracing myself to say "I'm not comfortable you having DD if we are unable to communicate properly". I am currently questioning whether this is reasonable or whether it's emotional blackmail (which is no doubt how she will see it). I do not want to be in the position where I'm asking a favour (ie for her to look after DD) from someone who cannot be civil with me.
It is NOT emotional blackmail. If a friend or a childminder were being unpleasant and rude to you, would you send DD to them???!!!
Its not emotional blackmail although your mother would be unreasonable enough to see your behaviour as precisely that. These people cannot be at all reasoned with.
You would not tolerate such treatment from a friend, your mother is no different honestly.
Atilla & Cleo - I totally understand what you are saying and I would be issuing the same advice if a friend was in the same situation, but I'm really battling with accepting it all. I feel like everything will be different from this point onwards and I don't feel 100% ready or strong enough to face that.
Ok, yes, put like that I would not send DD to a nasty "friend".
I'm hoping it won't come to that to be honest and it'll be fine when I speak to her. I'm sure this sounds cowardly, but I think I'll find it easier to process this when there isn't conflict at the same time, if that makes sense.
Quick question: What are people's experiences of telling a narcissist that they are a narcissist? I'm guessing by their very nature they don't take too kindly to it and horrified and unable to consider this might be true?
btw am certainly not brave enough to suggest this to DM
It does not go at all well if you tell them.
The narcissists sense of self, which has not progressed past that of a very young child, they cannot deal with the reality of a mirror being held up before them. A narcissist simply does not have the emotional skills to step outside of themselves and glimpse the truth in the mirror. The essence of NPD is that the sufferer lives in a bubble that can only accommodate themselves. Self-reflection is definitely not in the narcissists bag of skills and expecting them to be capable of doing so can court disaster.
Be prepared for rage and aggression to be aimed at you. Be prepared to not be heard.. Be prepared to have everything that you claim about them, to be reassigned to you. When and if you are strong enough to cope with this treatment, then you may decide to go ahead. If you are hoping for recognition and a change for the better, more pain is in store.
I have never uttered the word narcissist to my mother. I just stopped getting upset and taking the blame when she was horrible. I said it wasn't acceptable (calmly) and that I wouldn't stand for it. This "rebellion" prompted her to ever wrose behaviour, strengthening my resolve and making me withdraw further and further. It's easier in some ways to withdraw after a row, or to at least start to withdraw or redraw the boundaries.
My mother would never accept me telling her she has narc traits, is manipulative etc. She'd never see that side of herself, it would just be me being horrible in her eyes (she's very good at the victime/martyr thing too). When I said she was interfering in my marriage and undermining my husband in front of the children she went ballistic and disappeared or 4 days....
sorry typos....yy to "rage and aggression", it's like dealing with an enraged toddler.
It was when my ds became a teenager and subsequently came out the other side as a normal compassionate person that I realised my mother was stuck at about 14 and had never stopped stamping her feet and making her presence felt. I couldn't put up with any more of her nonsense and so after years of her nasty comments and controlling behaviour I mentioned it and she cut me out of her life completely That was a year ago and it is still hard at times but there is really no choice. She still cannot see that she has 4 children and only sees one Has 2 brothers and has nothing to do with them and their families and has fallen out with all relations and friends and neighbours over the years and still, thinks its not her its us! Since I stopped seeing her many friends and relations have asked what took me so long! The thing is I covered for her in the hope she would change but she never did . I used to think I missed her but now I realise I missed the idea of a proper mum and she was never that and indeed said she didn't want to be. I am lucky I have a lovely sister though who is in the same situation with her and so have support. I wish I had spoken out earlier
Ok. As I say, I wasn't planning on doing that, but just wondered.. As I suspected really.
I will try to remember to update here after I next speak to her. I really appreciate you listening and responding, it's helping more than I think you could know
Oh Noddy, it's such a double-edged sword isn't it.
I'm desperately trying to reconcile the woman who brought me over a birthday cake a couple of weeks ago with the woman who ranted and raved down the phone at me on Friday . She's not narc-y all the time which is why I think I'm having a hard time with all of this. I think in a way it would be easier if she was like all the time because it would be more black and white then.
OP - your DM sounds a bit like mine. I'm her DS rather than DD which, I suspect, makes it less full on for me. I've seen some of the horror stories on here and I don't think I've got the full blown narc but someone who I've always realised has zero empathy and is, frankly, a pain in the arse.
I think Attila has hit the nail on the head (13:22 post) - emotionally they're 6 years old. There is a tactic I've started to use over the last few years which is - essentially - to never, ever forget that they're 6 years old and to relate to them as such (emotionally). Of course it would be preferable to have an adult-adult relationship but that's never going to happen, so accepting that you're in an adult-six year old relationship is a practical strategy. Normal people would find it horribly patronising to be related to as a six year old but narcs don't have normal relationship frameworks and so don't notice.
In practice this means that when the narc behaviour rears it's head you focus totally on the fact that you're dealing with a six year old and treat them as such. This makes it easier to set boundaries because when they object (obv narcs hate the whole idea of boundaries) and pour abuse in your direction (all the familiar "you're so selfish and don't care about me" guff) it's a lot easier to maintain your composure and self esteem. After all, when a 6 year old abuses you because you're setting boundaries it might be somewhat wearing but you don't take it personally because - well, they're 6 years old. Sometimes, I actually even visualise her as a 6 year old - taking to an extreme the old chestnut of you can't change them, only your response to them.
So, if you're ever beginning to query your judgement in the situation, just remember that it's you versus a 6 year old - who's more likely to be right?
Can totally sympathise with you. I'm 50 and still get treated like a child by my mohter.
Since separating from my husband 3 years ago she has totally taken his side and given him several thousand pounds and given me nothing. She discusses my situation with her friends and tells lies about me. I find out about all these lies and when I confront her, she just denies it or says that's just how she feels.
I have given her one more chance to behave like a mother or I will cut all ties with her as it's beginning to affect my health.
I think it is very common for them to be 'nice' sometimes and appear almost normal I think thats part of it. If they didn't turn on the narc charm then things would crumble for them very quickly They give just enough to keep certain people on side although eventually everyone goes.
Thanks Dopamine. I'd never really thought to view my mum as anything but my mum if that makes sense. I will try this approach when I call her next as I think it will arm me and help me keep perspective on the matter.
lindy I'd like to hope your mother has taken your chance on board, and I hope your health doesn't suffer further.
Noddy, I guess a narc needs to keep people sweet to keep them as their supply right? (I'm learning!)
There's part of me that feels like I'm being brain-washed by a bunch of strangers on the internet - no offence - to jump on the "she's a narc" bandwagon.... and another part of me that feels if you ever met me and mum you'd all be like "She's fine, what's the problem, you're the one being precious and unkind".
6monthsin your mum sounds very like mine... who has reared her worst side again today by texting me 'Where are you?' and 'Am feeling very miserable'. Doesn't sound that bad does it, but I hate that she tries to keep tabs on my movements all day and that I am expected to drop everything and chat to her. (OK, she's got a bad cold, but we all do at times... we just have to get on with it!)
I'm not going to respond to such stupid games-playing texts. If she wants to talk to me, she could pick up the phone. She won't though - less opportunity for games playing, and it doesn't disrupt my evening nearly as much.
sorry for the hijack...
I feel "softer" about things today, I'm less angry/upset/confused and less consumed by it all...
I plan to ring mum as normal and not let this fester, at least not from my side anyway. If she wants it to continue then that's her choice. Unless she is particularly nasty I am planning for DD to go to her on Tuesday as normal. I'm not going to do anything that will provoke her and will shut down the start of any rage with "please call me back when you can talk calmly" and leave it at that.
She's not cruel or unkind, she's not been a bad mother. She might get off on this power, and she might be a bully, but as you've all pointed out I cannot change her and need to change my reaction/feelings towards her. So that's what I shall do, I will let it be water off a duck's back and not fuel/feed the argument and just stop the ranting or remove myself from it.
I'm not going to let her cast a shadow over my life.
There no doubt will be other "episodes", but I understand more about why they are happening now and will possibly be able to pre-empt them, if I don't in fact trigger them (which usually seems to be the case!). I feel that I will be able to compartmentalise what happens and I hope over time it will bother me less and less.
I've spent the past 50 years wondering what on earth is the matter with my relationship with my mother - we get on fine superficially but she always finds something to undermine me about, which has been wounding - and thanks to mumsnet, I now realise she has narc tendencies. Thank you so much to everyone for sharing. It has really helped - you have no idea. There are too many incidents of her behaviour to list - it's now getting worse because in extreme old age she really doesn't care if she upsets people. After a lifetime of trying to please her, I'm only just starting to stand up to her now and have been told I'm getting 'feisty in my old age'! My advice to others - don't leave it as late as I did to get to the bottom of this terrible thing and try to address it. It can leave a trail of unresolved difficulties. I still don't understand why she is like this and I probably never well. Her particular thing is being ultra-critical, judgemental, negative and perfectionist, so the other day she read my college project from 40 years ago - she'd never bothered to look at it before. Her very first comment was to find a spelling mistake in it! Onward and upward!! Tra la!
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