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.
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
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!
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.
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...
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".
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
sorry typos....yy to "rage and aggression", it's like dealing with an enraged toddler.
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....
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
It is NOT emotional blackmail. If a friend or a childminder were being unpleasant and rude to you, would you send DD to them???!!!
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!
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.
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.
Join the discussion
Please login first.