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Any relationship possible with narcissistic mother?

(48 Posts)

For the last twelve-ish years I have had a minimal (emails, birthday cards) relationship with my mother, who is a narcissist and a trouble-maker. I am happy with my reasons for breaking contact - it was to do with putting my mental health first so I could bring up my daughters in peace.

From time to time, I think...but she is my mother, I love her, this can't go on for ever etc... And usually just as I am thinking that I should re-establish contact, I hear from one or other of my two brothers about the horrendous trouble she makes for them and their wives and families, and it always confirms to me that I did the right thing.

However, my wonderful daughters are grown up now (so can't use needing to be in a good state for their sakes anymore), and I have moved to the West Country (most of family in SE), and my mother will be 70 soon.

I was wondering whether it might be worth going to whatever birthday 'do' my brothers will arrange for her....

Is this just pointless? I think I am realistic about the fact that she is just like this and will NEVER change, so I am not hoping she will have turned into the mother we'd have all liked to have or anything like that. It's just that I find it hard to accept that this state of affairs will go on for ever and that she will one day die and that I will not have seen her.

Being a mother myself, I could not allow such a thing to occur between myself and my daughters and would go to the ends of the earth to make relations good between us. Thankfully my relationship with my now adult daughters is just beautiful and no-one is afraid of anyone else and we are all able to be ourselves etc, so I have never had to repair it because it has never been broken. I'm trying to say that, in my mother's position I would have been heartbroken.

At the moment our relationship consists of infrequent but friendly emails and birthday cards. Once I stood up to her, she realised I would not be bullied anymore and basically didn't want anything to do with me. I think she has also been more comfortable with this distance between us.

Any thoughts?

Salbertina Sat 24-Nov-12 12:23:46

Gosh, you're not alone ( see Stately homes and my current thread)
I'd say if you want to go, can handle going and have firm, impenetrable boundaries in place then maybe. Otherwise, no way..too much to loss, too little to gain other than duty? for you, face-saving for dm
Not easy.

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 12:29:10

I think it depends on how you approach it. If you decide to go with firm boundaries and a plan (for example, leaving or absenting yourself if things aren't going well), and if you feel strong enough that whatever nastiness she may throw at you, you will be OK, I would say then far enough. If you're still unsure about whether you can stand up to her in person, or how her actions may affect you, I'd find an excuse. As Salbertina has said - what are you gaining, and who are you protecting. Put yourself and your feelings first and then if you still feel you can go, get a plan ready smile good luck OP.

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 12:30:28

ps you said 'in my mother's position I would have been heartbroken'.

Yes, and this is why you are a wonderful mum with lovely relationships with your children. Don't make the mistake of thinking she is heartbroken, she is a narcissist.

You lovely people - thank you so much for taking the time to reply. As is the case for all children with narcissistic parents, the ins and outs and history of it all is so detailed and mind-boggling it can be very hard to make oneself understood when trying to explain to others, so I truly appreciate your replies, which are really helpful and thought-provoking.

forgetmeknots - that was a lovely thing to say and has brought tears to my eyes (am missing my girls at the mo sad )

I once, about seven years ago, went to a large party of my brother's that my mother was at. Beforehand, I was actually scared of seeing her as it had been several years since we'd seen each other. A very good friend (who I grew up with and who knows how frightening my M can be) advised me to "put on my adult shoes". This was because she knows being in my mother's presence can make me feel like a ten year old furious child.

In the event, she actually seemed like quite a short, old, mad, lady - she asked how my cat was not my daughters and we spoke for a few minutes, small talk. Then i drifted off to mingle and shortly after, we left.

I was unwounded.

So maybe I can do this.

I would be doing this for my own sake, and for my two brothers who have remained stuck with her and are still abused by her, and pay for her life, and try to look after her, though nothing they ever do is enough of course. I would also be doing this for her because I think it would make her happy that I bothered. I think she thinks I hate her, which I don't. I just couldn't have her behaviour in my life because it made me feel mental and unhinged and I had to save myself.

Obviously she wouldn't be able to understand or accept or even hear any of this and I wouldn't dream of trying to explain, because that way craziness lies....

She did once say to my father at a party (her first of three husbands) when he was alive:
"I've fallen out with Scarletwoman - I expect it's probably my fault" but this was three or four YEARS after the event and she has a very selective memory!

Last Christmas she stormed off from one of my brothers' houses after complaining she didn't get very good presents! Christmas is her absolute speciality. So maybe I'll see how it goes for my darling brothers this year before deciding.
Those poor boys -THEY TRY SO HARD but have no insight sad

Salbertina Sat 24-Nov-12 13:59:52

No worries, love the " adult shoes" suggestion, shall try that!
OP, reckon you could advise us all having maintained no contact longterm and come through the other side with happy adult kids. Surely the best evidence of parenting done very right?
Any tips?!

You certainly sound strong enough to face yr dm again, for all your sakes esp yr dbs. So why not uniess anything changes?

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 14:22:50

Hear hear! Scarletwoman, you should write a book for the people of toxic parents raising their own kids! Full marks to you for stopping that cycle.

I think you do sound strong enough, but I think your suggestion of waiting to see how Christmas goes is a good idea. Always the favourite disruptive holiday of the narcissist. If it wasn't for the ages and your apparently lovely personality I would think you were my SIL!

I'm amazed to know how you've managed with your brothers and their wives (in our case, our decision to step away meant the siblings joined in the scapegoating of my DH, as they've now got to deal with MIL's 'devastation' hmm). I feel sorry for them (your brothers and my siblings-in-law!) as they've paid their prices for their decisions, but genuinely impressed that your family hasn't totally turned on each other. Maybe you can take strength from your brothers/nieces and nephews at the party?

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 14:25:26

'Children of toxic parents', not people! confused

Salbertina Sat 24-Nov-12 14:50:28

And yes, as Fmn says, so telling that you have sibling support. Sadly my dsis has similar relationship w my BIL as our dps had, apparently "it's a sign of his strength that he agrees with everything she says" hmm
Meanwhile I'm the convenient scapegoat..thank goodness fir your dbs' strength and affection for you, Op.

forgetmenots - thanks just thanks

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 15:00:56

More likely wine all round on this thread - cheers! smile

Salbertina - the "adult shoes" - actually my friend said STEP into your adult shoes - and it worked! For me anyway...

When I realised i was shushing my daughters so my mother could carry on her very long diatribes, I realised I was putting my fear of her before my respect for my children. Soon stopped placating M after that, and once I did that, well...you can imagine the rest.

On the subject of my dbs and sils, it's along story, but at first my dbs wanted me to make it all up with m, as it would mean easier life for all. But I stood firm and they were bemused really...but they now know why I did what I did, as their suffering increased sadly with my departure from the scene.

One of my sils said just before last christmas (and upset me greatly) "you just know how to handle her, she's fine really. How would you feel if she died?" or words to that effect. She rang me on Christmas day to apologise and tell me how my M had just royally wrecked their Christmas!

Sorry that was meant to read "You just NEED to know how to handle her"

Same sil had holiday wrecked by screaming match with my m this summer followed by three months of not speaking. My brother regarded this three months as time off.

And have to say, the screaming match included my sil telling my mother "Your own daughter has no relationship with you because of how you behave - and I don't blame her! Do you want to be in the same position with the rest of your children?"

wine cheers all!

Here's to not putting up with this shit!

Also, if it's a party, think I could do it. If it's dinner in a restaurant, then probably not.

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 15:15:44

Eeeek, sounds like your DB and SIL are in a pickle. Can see this happening with DBIL and partner to be honest (although she would never scream at MIL, too afraid). Definitely raise a glass to being the strongest of the bunch who has come away from all this dysfunction - and nice to see SIL having her penny-dropping moment!

(Easier life are the two most common words I've heard from DH's family, i think the years of eggshell-treading makes it understandable. Can't say not speaking to MIL for years has made my life any harder, though <selfish emoticon!>)

All power to your elbow Scarletwoman. Your DM has shot herself in both feet, with sons and DILs who obey and appease her (but don't much 'like' her, I'm willing to bet), a lovely DD and DGDs who she could have had a great time with and lots of love, instead has excluded herself from all of this. Let her have her misery and nastiness, you sound like you've got your head held high and so you should. salbertina is on her way to this too so it's definitely worth a [cheers]

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 15:16:50

Haha wine even!
Yessss, dinner means more chat opportunity. Party means mingling avoiding if necessary

Can I also say that when my 2nd dh and I got married in 2007, my first reaction was of course I should invite her, she's my mother.

Two of my best friends and the older of my daughters said "Really?' "want to think about that one?"

realised it would make the day all about the reunion etc and not about our marriage. Also her other speciality, apart from christmas, is ruining family christenings, funerals, weddings and parties, because she can't bear it not to all be about her!

So didn't invite her.

Enjoyed the day SO much.

sneezecakesmum Sat 24-Nov-12 15:21:17

If you feel that it will benefit you and maybe your brothers, then I would do it. You have good insight into people with narcissistic personality disorder so know nothing you ever do will be right for both you and your M. Its self preservation on your part and meeting with her may give you some closure.

If you think she could die tomorrow and you will feel nothing, no regrets, it may not be worth meeting with her when she is alive. I would also support your DBs in any way you can but not bother trying to explain their Ms behaviour, it will only upset them and make them turn against you (another victory for your M). People with NPD are arch manipulators so tread carefully and be on your guard.

I've no doubt the argument with SIL was engineered by your M for her own ends. Your M needs everyone to pander to her needs, and by stepping aside from this you have left her circle of controlled individuals. If it helps your DBs lie through your teeth to her, words cost nothing and a meaningful relationship is impossible so what does it matter? If you do meet with her stay calm and the safest thing is to say nothing! smile

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 15:23:29

Wish I'd done that with my MIL. She didn't say one word to me the whole day. DH asked her to dance which she reluctantly did and she was pouring poison in his ear the whole time: 'a list of reasons he felt excluded from the day' (looooong story but she thought it was her day). At the end of the night she burst into tears and had enablers members of her family 'comforting' her. Her scowling face is in my photographs! You made a wise decision smile

(Love that your daughter was one of the dissenters!)

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 15:25:24

'she felt excluded' ... Bloody phone!

Good advice sneezecakes!

Thank you sneezecakes

I think if she died tomorrow, to be fair, I'd feel immense grief and sadness, I'd feel I wished I'd seen her, I'd feel I let my DBs down, I'd feel like a complete shit. Because at the end of the day, she's my mother, and I love her. We have had good laughs together in the past. Sometimes things have seemed good between us, but mainly as I became an expert at placating...

As a teenager I was her confidant, and felt we were close in some ways. I was young and felt special I suppose that she told me all her adult problems, even if it was sometimes too much info. I actually felt responsible for her when I was away at school and worried that I wasn't there with her. But unfortunately she wasn't motherly to me, she was flippant and dramatic, threatened suicide, faked a cancer diagnosis and let me believe for two weeks while I was 13 or 14 and at boarding school that she only had two years to live. She told me when I was home for a weekend and had brought a friend sad She told us both. What I didn't realise at the time was that she had based her belief on something a clairvoyant had said to her, FFS. I got a letter from abroad two weeks later. She'd taken herself on holiday after hearing from her actual doctor that she was perfectly ok.

When things haven't gone her way she has even threatened to kill herself in front of my very young nieces sad

She has insulted my dbs mothers...accused my stepM, in a vicious letter written on Christmas Eve and read out aloud proudly over phone to one SIL, of killing my father... shock (Forgetmenots, I really hope this one isn't ringing any bells otherwise you actually are my SIL!)

It's actually quite bad isn't it? Most of the time I tend not to think of her and all this stuff that much, but bloody hell, once I get started!

Because I have explained all this stuff to my daughters, they are protective of me where she is concerned and would probably prefer I didn't go within 100 miles.... But I have to do what seems right and if I can explain it to myself I will be able to explain it to them.

The more I write, I am starting to feel maybe this is not such a good idea after all. Perhaps I am not as detached from the pain she caused me as I like to think I am.

confused

Bugger

She has insulted my dbs mothers - not mothers MILs

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