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When you don't like/respect your Mum very much, but she's not got NPD or anything?

(25 Posts)
feesh Thu 11-Oct-12 15:24:07

I don't really know where to start with my relationship with my Mum. She's not got any personality disorders, so I sometimes wonder if it's me with the problem and not her.

I just read 'When You and Your Mother Can't Be Friends' and couldn't relate to it at all. My Mum's just not that bad.

But there are things about her that drive me so mad that I just don't like being around her. That makes me a bad daughter, doesn't it?

She has also done some amazing things for me in my life and she is really cool and helpful in the event of a crisis. I have also moved overseas now and she's been really supportive of it, despite me knowing that she was probably really upset inside (especially as I'm an only child). So in many respects I am lucky to have my Mum.

But I just never enjoy any contact with her, whether by Skype or visiting.

I am totally going to out myself to anyone who knows me, but hey I need to get it off my chest as I am currently pregnant and I am thinking about everything a lot as a result.

Mum had an Irish Catholic upbringing which I believe has damaged her in many ways which are not her fault. She isn't religious herself, but she is obviously very angry at religion in general and lives her whole life plagued by Catholic guilt and a sense of obligation bordering on martyrdom.

I honestly have NO idea what bound my Mum and Dad together. I don't think they ever loved eachother. They merely tolerated eachother. She eventually left him when I went to Uni, but it's still all a bit weird and they hang out together a lot now and they have never divorced - I know that he still loves her, and she just puts up with him and then bitches about him to anyone who will listen.

She is incredibly judgemental about EVERYONE, which is the main reason I think I don't enjoy being around her. The first time I saw her for what she really is (instead of just 'Mum') i.e. as a person I feel uncomfortable around, was when she came to stay with me at Uni and told me she thought my housemate was a deeply damaged and unhappy person. Now this honestly could not be further from the truth - my housemate is rock solid and very happy, even 15 years on! She didn't want to hear any other argument and this profoundly ridiculous judgement upset me. I suppose you wonder who else she is judging as the bitching never seems to stop!

Then she went and had some weird affair with one of her close friend's husbands, which never went anywhere - I don't know too much detail, but I do know the circle of friends then ditched my Mum and the husband went back to his wife and Mum ended up moving on to another group of friends instead. This made me feel pretty sick - I was 21 when she told me and I just lost a lot of respect for her overnight after that. I think there may have been some wife swapping involved which started it off, from a web page she left open on her computer once, but I never dug around enough to find out as some things you just don't need to know!

I think this is when I became less tolerant of her and our relationship shifted.

She has never had any kind of relationship since the affair (I don't think she's emotionally capable as she seems very damaged from her upbringing). She keeps people at arms length, although she has plenty of friends.

She has done 1 or 2 great 'mum' things for me since then, such as helping me get through a major split with my ex and a termination, and having me living back at home for 3 months afterwards to recover. She is great in a crisis.

But she still doesn't really know me, interrupts me WHENEVER I speak, is dismissive of my opinions, doesn't see me as a professional (in the career sense), never asks me questions, just talks 'at' me - I just don't feel listened to (never have - I remember trying and failing to voice this as a teenager).

There were a couple of really stupid stunts she pulled at my wedding which I just can't seem to forgive her for - they were relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, but one of them will stay in my mind forever and was just one of a few things which went wrong on the day. They both involved her playing sort of practical jokes on me, which I didn't appreciate at the time as I was taking the day very seriously! I sometimes wake up in the night angry about it and I've been married for 5 years now! I really need to get over it. I don't think she really 'gets' marriage as she's always very cynical/bitchy about other people getting married, so I don't think she realised how seriously I was taking everything on the day (and no I was not a bridezilla by ANY stretch of the imagination!).

I went to stay at her house for 2 weeks this summer and tried to set some boundaries. She is RIDICULOUSLY excited that I am pregnant (which has taken me aback to be honest!) and she was crossing the line with a few things she was saying to other people which I didn't want to become common knowledge, but she threw all her toys out of the pram when I asked her not to do it any more, told me she was obviously a crap mum, went and hid upstairs for almost 2 days without talking to me and then did some weird passive aggressive shit when I ordered a pizza for dinner which involved me having to call the pizza restaurant to find out where said pizza had got to...anyway it's too long a story but it was all very strange behaviour from her!

We are speaking again now but I am making less effort to Skype her as much. She has offered to come and stay when the babies are born (yes it's twins) and while she is saying she doesn't want to tread on my toes etc (she is good with her boundaries compared to some Mums, thankfully), I can tell she's dying to come over and I can't deny her that, so she's going to come when they're about 2 weeks old. I know I will need some help, but to be honest I would rather it came from my MIL, who is a wonderful and very straightforward lady and verrrrry laid back - total opposite to my Mum.

I just need some coping tactics really. I am going to be in tiger mum mode I am sure and I need to know how to handle her without us falling out again. I find her quite domineering and I am worried about that when I will be feeling most vulnerable. She has already made a few sarky comments (she likes to gently mock me as a way of letting me know when she doesn't approve of something) and I end up coming off Skype with my blood boiling!

I had counselling for depression a few years ago, and I remember changing my behaviour towards her as a result, which really helped smooth things - the trouble is I can't remember why/how to do it. My counsellor had pointed out my Mum's bad communication skills to me (i.e. ALWAYS making 'you' statements) and taught me how to respond, but I can't remember any of it.

I just wondered how other people cope when you have a mother that is definitely annoying, but by no means toxic. I know there are people with much worse mothers on here!

ThatBintAgain Thu 11-Oct-12 15:28:59

Sorry - didn't want to read and run, but just to say that I can see why your relationship is strained and I don't think it's down to you. On a day to day level the interrupting, passive aggressive, judgemental behaviour make people very draining and difficult to be around.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 11-Oct-12 15:55:43

"But there are things about her that drive me so mad that I just don't like being around her"

Doesnt make you a bad person. We don't choose our mothers any more than we choose our workmates. Because we're 'thrown together' through circumstances rather than it being an active decision on anyone's part its sheer dumb luck if we end up with a mother that we actually get along with. Then theres all that big heavy number about 'love' .... talk about pressure.

I have really good friends who I find irritating in some degree or other and I'm sure plenty of people feel the same way about me. Even the loveliest person who you get along best with in the world will drive you crackers after three or four days together. Poor old parents have got us for life and vice versa. It's an extreme version of Big Brother with no possibility of eviction! I know I wind my mother up because we are different in a lot of ways. She knows she winds me up because I've told her smile

Which brings me to my last point. Speak out. I don't think you can avoid falling out so don't even attempt to be nicey-nicey. But try not to fall into well-worn conversations and behaviour patterns that you know only end up one way. Take things forward not on a mother/daughter basis but as if she were a slightly barmy co-worker or someone less emotionally connected to you.

Good luck

BessieMcBean Thu 11-Oct-12 16:40:26

Gosh, she sounds very screwed up.

I wouldn't want to hear about my DM's wife swapping parties when I was 80 let alone 21, I mean why would you tell your daughter that?

The bottom line is it doesn't matter how angry or upset you are, whether it's a special day for you or not, whether it's appropriate to tell you stuff or not, in fact your feelings don't matter one bit to her, her relationship with you appears to be all about her and only her.

And the new babies might bring out a different side in her but it's unlikely.

So you need to see a counsellor again to get things in place for when she comes. You could also try writing things down, it stops things going round and round in your head and it might show patterns in her, and your, behaviour which you could find ways to deal with. So buy a note book and keep it just for issues with your mother. Also you could take it to the counselling sessions and remember what she's said etc.

deleted203 Thu 11-Oct-12 16:50:09

I suspect that you have very little in common with your Mother, as I do with mine. Yes, like yours, my Mum can be fantastically supportive; she can also be a complete pain in the arse. My DMs main problem is that she can never see anyone else's point of view - she believes everyone should think as she does on any subject or else they are clearly wrong! Unfortunately my DS is exactly like my Mother and they are thick as thieves whereas I was labelled the 'difficult' one by my Ma at a very early age and this has clearly stuck. I cope by spending as little time as possible with her, keeping it on a friendly, polite, acquaintance level and then moaning to my DH about her afterwards. You are lucky you live in another country and therefore time with her is limited. Perhaps you could make a list of things you would like your DM to do when she comes to stay (washing, tidying, whatever) to allow you to spend time with the babies, rather than letting her take over with them. Try and put the sarky comments etc into a box in your head labelled 'OMG it's typical Mother - just ignore her'.

HeathRobinson Thu 11-Oct-12 17:38:31

'she likes to gently mock me' What sort of stuff does she come out with?

feesh Thu 11-Oct-12 18:01:32

Thanks all, it's good to know I'm not a complete cow. Bessie she never told me about the wife swapping, I was just on her computer once and a wife swapping page was open - I just hurriedly closed it down without looking, as the very idea of my mum looking at it was so sickening!

I have found a counsellor - the trouble is with living in an expat community is there's no way of checking they're registered with BACP etc., so I've been dilly dallying about it a bit. But I think it's time to explore some of these things with someone, before my Mum visits.

Heathrobinson I dunno, she can just be quite dismissive of my feelings sometimes - I remember as a kid her sometimes brushing something off or gently mocking me for crying when I just wanted someone to actually properly HEAR what I was upset about. She's not the worst mum in the world - I did used to cuddles and she did care, but sometimes she wasn't able to listen to me as much as I wanted. She is trying very hard to be supportive of my pregnancy and she knows what she should be saying, but sometimes things leak out - eg co-sleeping in a drop sided cot has obviously been playing on her mind and the other day she couldn't hold back any more from making a sarky comment about how naive I was being about it.

I have started pulling her up on all those sorts of comments in the past couple of years (as well as pointing out every time she interrupts me, which is literally every time I open my mouth) and she's starting to feel a bit picked on, I think. - that's why she finally boiled over and went all weird on me when we had the row at her house in the summer.

I don't think I am very good at pulling her up on things though, without sinking to her level and being snappy - I remember my counsellor teaching me some more effective ways of doing it, which were calmer and more effective, I just can't remember them!

The worst thing is, that my MIL's observation when I confided in her about it was that me and my Mum are just too similar and that's why we rub each other up the wrong way - aargh! I am so scared I am going to repeat the same patterns with my kids - I admit to being a poor listener myself sad

WhatEverItIsIDidntDoIt Thu 11-Oct-12 18:05:12

Feesh...are you me?

Apart from the catholic/twins bit it feels like you have described my relationship with my mum sad

I don't know what to suggest but I just want you to know your not alone in feeling this way! sad

MajesticWhine Thu 11-Oct-12 21:12:56

OP,
I don't know where to start. Much of what you say about your mum sounds like my relationship with my Mum. The judging others, interrupting, not listening, passive aggressive behaviour. Even the catholic background. I am in therapy and having lots of moments of realisation about how my relationship with my mum has coloured everything in my life in the way I relate to others and fear criticism. Like you, I have concerns about repeating the patterns with my own kids. It's scary stuff.

One thing that struck me is that you seem to think there is a black and white about personality disorders... this is not the case in my opinion. There is a whole spectrum of difficult behaviours that might not actually meet an official "diagnosis" but still makes for very difficult and very toxic people to deal with who have very inflexible patterns of behaviour and relating to others.

I'm trying to think what your counsellor may have advised you. Perhaps if she makes a criticism or mocks you, you could confront it by saying "Mum, it's clear that you don't approve, but I've made up my mind about this, so I guess we'll have to agree to differ". or maybe even a bit more challenging "Mum, it makes me feel quite bad to be mocked like that".
How does that sound? Not sure how to help...
It might also help you to bear in mind that your mum comes out with all this judgemental stuff about you and others, it's probably because she is insecure in herself and is defending herself against her own insecurity. Not that it is an excuse, but it can help you to see her behaviour as her frailty in facing up to her own inadequacies.

feesh Thu 11-Oct-12 21:49:27

Thanks both, it's nice to know I'm not alone. It seems to be a generational f*ck up doesn't it, with women of a certain age? She is so obsessed with being seen to do the right thing, it's ironic really. I don't think she has ever been true to herself EVER. It is sad and I do see the judgements as being her own insecurities, but it doesn't make them easier to live with.

Eg she is obsessed with other people's weight and she will gladly point out to people's faces if they are too big - but interestingly she only does this to men, not women. She has teased/borderline hassled my husband and my cousins' husbands about it and when you pull her up on it, of course she says she is just teasing.

Thankfully she's never commented on my weight and has always been very supportive and non-critical of me in general, like a Mum should be, but I still feel judged because I know what goes on in her head. And interestingly, since I've been pregnant, she HAS now started to comment on my body and I am prepared to tell her to f*ck right off if she starts commenting on losing the baby weight next year.

It's interesting what you say about the spectrum Majestic, as I do believe my Mum's older sister is classic NPD - my Mum seems to have escaped the worst of their upbringing by virtue of being younger, but her sister is a whole different kettle of fish and I really feel for my cousins as they had to put up with a lot more crap than I did.

I never really knew my granny but I would love to know what went so badly wrong with their generation that my mum and aunt ended up how they did. It's criminal really. Neither of them have ever truly lived in a way which is true to themselves.

Salbertina Fri 12-Oct-12 07:28:47

V similar "d"m here, sadly.
I got "French Women don't get Fat" for Christmas (i'm a size 10!)

Haahoostory Fri 12-Oct-12 08:59:10

My dm is similar. She also, is a terrible listener, v opinionated about anything which deviates from how she lives her own life, even the most minor of things. and a lot of the time I feel she is more immature than me.
However, she is loving and was a great help after my ds1 and ds2s births. She is v practical around the home so she did all the shopping, cooking and cleaning and I just focused on being a mum.
Any annoying comments about my life or the lives of others I try and let bounce off me and try and move the conversation on, but it is hard!
My cosleeping with my 6 month old really winds her up and she will not drop the subject off it, but I just let her opinions roll off like water off a ducks back.

Haahoostory Fri 12-Oct-12 09:01:37

And she is obsessed with other peoples weight! And all the unnecessary things other people spend money on, whilst she spends it left right and centre!

JemimaPuddle Fri 12-Oct-12 09:05:52

I have the same relationship with my DM. I really thought it was just me.
She's nice enough but I don't really like her, I don't agree with her views on anything, she doesn't know me at all and she is always the victim.
I really really struggle to have any respect for her at all.
No advice for coping I'm afraid, I'm just very releaved it's not just me.
Gah, I thought about a starting a thread like this for ages.

getrealandgetalife Fri 12-Oct-12 09:07:36

not getting along with your mum is not new... I'm 43 and for the first 34 years of my life i battled with my mum.

from the minute i drew breath she has been disappointed in me that i wasnt a boy. so much so that she sent me away to live with relatives at 2 becuause she hated me that much.

Anyway at 34 i became a mum myself and realsised a couple of things.

firstly i could not change my mum. she is who she is and nothing can change her basic personality.

I dont have to put up with her constant picking and putting me down.

I dont have to subject my dd to her constant picking and putting down.

I can make sure that history doesnt repeat itself.

So..... i moved away from her, physically and emotionally. i stopped aksing for her validation, and i realised that she was giving as much as she could, even though that wasnt enough.

things have worked out for me. Keeping her at arms distance has worked. I hope you find a way to deal with your mum, and hope that my story helps you.

Mumsyblouse Fri 12-Oct-12 09:32:13

Thing is, just because you are related to someone, doesn't mean you really have to like them. They may not be your kind of person, and in another life, you would have no contact with them whatsoever.

Having said that, I have come to realise that parents are people too, and so, over things like them sleeping around, or having affairs and so on, I am not judgemental, I don't think it helps to think of your parents always as these idealised parent figures, so your mum may like swinging, or my dad may have lots of affairs- I kind of think that is their own business and I won't thank my children for having a rather judgemental or prudish attitude to me and my lifestyle, so I don't towards them.

Beyond that, your mum does sound self-centred, and like she doesn't listen, but on the other hand can be caring and good in a crisis. Given she is your mum, and if having time with her is not too damaging to you, I suggest you distance yourself a bit emotionally (you sound very bound up in her judgements) and then continue to see her on your terms. Soon you will have the twins and if she wants to visit and be a doting granny, she has to be nice and well-behaved. This sounds like blackmail, but I have found it very effective in ensuring my dad is basically pleasant and nicer than he would have been in the past (I have never said this out loud I hasten to add, but being involved in my family life is conditional on certain standards of behaviour towards everyone). On that note, he has proved to be an excellent granddad and has a really strong bond with the children, so just because you don't personally click with a relative doesn't mean others won't. This applies unless they are downright nasty or dangerous in which case keeping the whole family well away is more advisable.

This may work out better than you think, but you need to be very strong about your own boundaries and what you are going to tolerate, but if your mum is like my dad, she may moan and groan a lot, but ultimately they want a relationship with you and the grandkids and will toe the line (if you draw it).

HeathRobinson Fri 12-Oct-12 10:02:50

This thread really resonates when I think about my relationship with my mum.

Regarding the criticism, I think you've just got to say things like - 'I know you think I'm being naive (or whatever), Mum, but it's right for me.'

Or, 'Well, that's the way it's going to be Mum, because that works for me.'

AgathaFusty Fri 12-Oct-12 10:21:05

Your mum sounds very self-centred and actually, I think she does sound toxic to some extent. I agree with MajesticWhine that there isn't really a black and white about personality disorders - some people are on a spectrum, but only just. However, their behaviour will still be difficult for other people to cope with.

You talk about her being concerned about what others think of her, about her being seen to be doing the right thing. Do you think that the 'being great in a crisis' is partly to do with that? That she can be good in the crisis because it makes her look good, gives her lots of attention?

I think it is really important for you to keep some distance from her when you have had your twins. You will be feeling vulnerable, tired and anxious to be doing the best for your babies. Criticism in any form will be very hard to cope with and will really knock your confidence. Could she stay in a B&B, so that at least you get some space from her overnight? Could you arrange for relatives or friends to take her out sometimes - shopping, lunch etc - to give you some time to yourself during the day? Could you arrange to have people around with you when she is there for some of the time, to dilute her presence?

You need to plan carefully for her visit, but you also need to accept the fact that you will be quite entitled to tell her to keep her opinions to herself, that you are doing things your way just like she did things her way when you were a child.

WellHello Mon 15-Oct-12 18:06:04

My God OP I actually looked this kind of thread up specifically as I have those same issues with my mother.
It's taken me several years to realise that there is a possibility that I am not simply a misery but maybe in fact the finished product of years of good old fashioned criticism.
She comments on my weight, my partners weight, quite recently my 1yr old dd's weight ('Dont get edgy with me I'm only wondering if the health visitors would think she was too chubby!')
I've recently accepted that I am a depressive with low self esteem and anxiety issues. I've only recently wondered if that is due to dm's influence. Same as yours, judging of others, interrupting. She also sometimes just stops listening and stares into space when I'm telling her something about a friend or some kind of anecdote, making me feel like a some kind of boring idiot. Shockingly, i find myself doing that with my dp.
But yes indeed OP I understand you perfectly, i thought I was alone in this too.

evilwem Mon 15-Oct-12 18:22:15

My mum is similar. What you said about how she doesn't criticise directly, but you feel it anyway because you know what's going on in her head really resonates.

If we ever go to stay with them I have a 3 day rule because any more than that and her negativity about everything and everyone gets me down too much.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 15-Oct-12 18:24:55

I identify with the 'boring idiot' comment. LOL! Despite being a middle-aged woman, well respected in my field, seen by friends as the reliable sort in a crisis and the only one in the entire extended family with any academic qualifications, in dear old mama's eyes I am still just some bit of a kid and therefore not to be taken seriously. .... smile

BessieMcBean Mon 15-Oct-12 20:17:50

I am still just some bit of a kid and therefore not to be taken seriously

Are you the youngest Cogito. My poor sis is a good bit younger than the rest of us and it's relatively recently that I realised that her comments and views are dismissed out of hand by the rest of us siblings - we are in our 50s now. (not me now, though I had to remind myself not to do that initially)

BessieMcBean Mon 15-Oct-12 20:21:28

Should have said that my DM also treated her this way so the post is relevant to this thread smile

HoleyGhost Tue 16-Oct-12 06:21:31

I think you are trying to remember assertiveness techniques. Reading up on them is an excellent idea when expecting.

Will help you manage all kinds of relationships at a vulnerable time.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 16-Oct-12 07:51:10

Ironically, I am the oldest. My younger DB is considered by darling mama as the font of all knowledge and source of sage advice because.... (all together now)... he is the boy. smile He's not a stupid man, don't get me wrong, but he is definitely regarded with a reverence he really doesn't deserve.

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