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Musing on whether you currently have a functioning relationship with your mother, should you call her on her previous terrible behaviour.

(32 Posts)
DottyboutDots Mon 20-May-13 10:26:59

My parents are divorced. Both of them are difficult characters but the most excellent fun and dynamic on good days. My father has an amazing ability to compartmentalise his life, which is convenient as it means not seeing his wife whom I loathe on many levels, she was not the OW, just an out and out bitch.

My mother also did some horrendous things to me as we were growing up and is a damaged person from her youth. My DBro acknowledges how she was always lovely and supportive to him but was underhand and almost jealous of me.

Fastforward to now, we have three lovely children and my mother travels down to see them four times a year. They love her and she adores them. The problem is more that now her and I are able to talk normally, after years of me struggling with her, she seems to think that she can rewrite history.

Yesterday, over the phone, she started talking about my dad being a sociopath, as she's just read the study on people in the board room being borderline psychopaths. This irritates me immensely as she is forever trying to point out his flaws while painting herself as perfect. I just replied that, yes he probably was but there is noone in our family who is perfect, to which she replied in a really hurt tone "Sorry for being so over emotional". I calmly said that i wasn't saying she was over emotional (she uses tears often). Anyway, she was then slighted so cut the call short.

Why do I still feel the need in my 40s to make her realise that she isn't the all encompassing perfect one? It's made me feel really down this week.

Fuck, that was long!

TeacupTempest Mon 20-May-13 10:37:52

No advice but I do understand. My DM and I have a functioning relationship but she has totally rewritten our history and I often struggle to let go of the past.

Their behaviour has shaped who we are and I sort of want some acknowledgment/(punishment?) of my pain and damage. The perfect past DM has created is rather belittling of important aspects of my childhood.

kayfish Mon 20-May-13 10:42:04

I posted a thread about my mother yesterday too. And was wondering the same thing. She seems to have ignored the fact she was terrible mother (did really stand-out violent, abusive, neglectful things) and then act like I had the perfect childhood to my now-DH and future kids and act like we are all one big happy family. I feel like she is a traitor and she does not have my best interests at heart. Why would I consider having her look after my children? I feel such a sense of unfairness that after years of money and time spent on therapy sorting my head out, she gets to surf on the now functional and enjoyable family life I have and congratulate herself on a job well done.

It depends what you hope to achieve?
I have long ago realised that my mother is never going to apoligise for her behaviour, as she will never be able to admit that she is wrong or that she has screwed up in the past. This works between us because our relationship is very much based in the here and now and we don't do analysis of the past.
If I were you, I think I'd just try and change the subject if and when she brings up those sorts of things. It is a good thing for her and your children to have a relationship espcially since you can provide a solid boundary between her and them, should she at some point in the future, try and effect them negatively.

DottyboutDots Mon 20-May-13 10:43:05

Teacup, thank you for your response. That's exactly how I feel. If I call her up on it though, our current fragile reasonable relationship is at stake and I feel I need to be the grown up as so many other relationships are also at stake. It's what lies at the bottom of forgiveness, but sometimes the load feels hard to bear!

DottyboutDots Mon 20-May-13 10:44:05

And to Kayfish and Maggie too. Sometimes a vent is all we need?

PostBellumBugsy Mon 20-May-13 10:44:59

I have a functioning relationship with my mother now even though she emotionally & physically abused me as a child.

I've had quite a bit of counselling & can see no value in calling her on how badly she treated me as a child. My "revenge" if you want to call it that is to have a great relationship with my own children and to live a rounded happy life myself.

I still struggle with her sometimes, but when I do, I think of how relieved I am to be me & not wrestling with the demons that must torment her.

It has taken me most of my adult life to get to this calm, peaceful place where she is concerned and I know there are those who say I should seek "closure" by confronting her - but actually I don't think I'd get closure, it would just be like prodding a hornets nest.

YY to the hornets nest bellum

Lavenderhoney Mon 20-May-13 10:50:06

My dm paints a rosy picture and tbh I let her as she is very ill and like anyone prefers to only remember the good bits. There aren't many.

I just change the subject and make sure a glass of wine is available when I get home.

kayfish Mon 20-May-13 11:00:03

I feel that sometimes if your family is already divided (by divorce etc) it makes people more vulnerable to believing they are wrong. My mother was consistently backed up by a silent/passive father who did nothing to stop her treatment of me.

I can see how my happy, contented situation tempts her to cause problems in it. I feel like she is a ticking bomb. I was with an ex-P for some years who was a psychologist and one day I walked into the kitchen to hear him say very loudly to her "NO, I will not collude with you on any aspect of this - do you hear me?" !!! God knows what they had been talking about beforehand.

Anyway back to you, OP. My own sense of needing revenge would be tempted to subtly exclude her - on an emotional level - from the present relationships around you to prevent her from having the power to ransack them if she could, but I also agree with the much-evolved Bellum that true atonement comes from being happy.

Lavenderhoney Thu 23-May-13 03:21:17

My mum is so in awe of my having a dh who doesn't drink in the pub every night, gamble every penny away and generally be an unsupportive miserable person to be around.

She won't hear a word against dh for this and everything is my fault. She sees him as a provider and thinks I should be so grateful he doesn't do the above. She thinks marriage is for life and if it all goes wrong there is NOTHING you can do. Except blame yourself and try to make him happier.

We don't discuss relationshipssmile

tangerinefeathers Thu 23-May-13 06:14:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DottyboutDots Thu 23-May-13 13:47:24

Tangerine, it's the collusion that does my head in. She never misses an opportunity to talk about how my father and myself have selective memories. Yeah right. Oh well

BunchofTulips Thu 23-May-13 16:08:31

Dotty from real life and MN, I have never heard of a mother in this kind of situation, either acknowledging their wrong doing nor apologising.

I would love to hear of any counsellors who have heard of success in this area from their clients or other mnetters who have had success. From what I hear it is near on impossible. Frustrating though that is. And incomprehensible to most of us.

Good luck with your management of her, sounds good so far!

DottyboutDots Thu 23-May-13 16:44:00

There does come a time where you just have to accept and manage it! Still, thank goodness for this board for the occasional vent.

Salbertina Thu 23-May-13 16:55:09

Feel for you Op, hope its helpful to read so many similar experiences to yours.

Bunch, too true.. hmm And as another poster put it, i "stirred the hornets nest" and it didn't help anyone let alone me.

My dm sounds so like all/most of yours, unbelievable how common the patterns of dysfunction are. Like an earlier poster, i too have a passive df who ranked and defends my abusive dm. The closed ranks of an "unbroken" marriage definitely have closed down opportunities for self reflection that divorce might sadly open.

Personally feel rather a wreck atm, in my 40s and still stuck in victim mode decades after. Angry angry angry and bitter as hell at times (and my poor pathetic father cautions me against such a "corrosive emotion". Well, easier said than done with such a dysfunctional childhood. )

Oldraver Fri 24-May-13 13:18:35

I have on a few occasions pulled my Mother on past behaviour. A few years ago she burst out crying on the phone, another time she just went (a very quiet) "yea, mmm," . It was hard to get her to actually discuss things.

Recently in the last year she has been moaning a lot about my Dad and I have pointed out she has enabled his behaviour, never pulled him up on his behaviour (toward me) or his hissy fits. She is basicically reaping what they have both sown for many years.

The thing is I have always been afraid to speak out for many many years (as a teen I was very frightened physically and emotionally of my Dad), but as I have found a little strength to challenge, not much but just the odd pulling up, I have found them to be quiet meek in their response

HomageToCannelloni Fri 24-May-13 14:06:46

I went to the extent of calling my mother on her past choices and behaviour, it took. Lot of guts and she really seemed to listen, which for me was an enormous step forward. I felt positive and validated and happy about our relationship for the first time ever, like we could build a new fantastic relationship and leave the past behind. It was amazing!

Of course then a few days later she wrote to me explaining away all the reasons WHY she had done what she did (she had a tough childhood, I recognise that, but I feel I've been paying for it, making up for it, understanding it and making excuses for her, for the whole of my life!) and how I was a difficult and unlikable teen who lied incessantly (obviously not due to ANY of the things that had happened to me as a child or the atmosphere I grew up in, or the fact that, if she hits a situation where she needs a reason for cancelling something or taking something back she can't just day what happened or why, she needs to fabricate an 'acceptable' reason...ie LIE mother! You taught me all about it!) which was why I had a bad relationship with her and her husband. And that he had had it hard too, and was to be pitied...blah, blah blah. It was like being slapped in the face, hard. I cried for about 3 days, like a little kid again. I felt betrayed and let down and ignored and s APEC aged all over again. She wants me to respond to her and I just can't not honestly without destroying her...and I'm just not nasty enough to do that. So I just go on as I did before, being nice, looking after her and her feelings and feeling like shit inside.

I think it's just the way it is. I'm seeking help so that I don't make the same mstakes.

It's not you, it's her, I'm so sorry you don't have a mature mother who recognises what that job entails, I'm sending you, and anyone else who has this experience a big hug.We're worth more.

HomageToCannelloni Fri 24-May-13 14:09:29

Oh and there is a lOT of slagging my father off, and telling me I remember things wrong. These women will never change, they don't have the emotional capacity. I guess we carry on so when they die we can feel we did the right thing...

Charbon Fri 24-May-13 14:46:20

It's extremely unusual for mothers like this to acknowledge the past, so it's more helpful I think to consider what impact it is still having on you and what impact her influence will have on your own children.

Daughters who've had difficult relationships with their mothers can find female friendship problematical. There is sometimes a wariness of other women, or competitiveness with them - especially if a father figure has been passive to avoid trouble for himself or has created a new life for himself while leaving his child exposed to a mother's unhelpful influences.

One of the common traps is to forgive the father far more than you would have done the mother if she'd done the same as him - and this then sets up an unhelpful default mechanism whereby women are always blamed more than men for the same behaviour, leading to difficult relationships with your own sex.

This then extends to female children. At its worst it can mean that a daughter is exposed to unhelpful influences from both her mother and her grandmother, but if you've made a determined effort to parent your daughters differently, be aware that while your mother is still in their lives, her influence will rub off in some way and you might have to take steps to counteract it or step in.

Focusing on how you can mitigate against the continuing effects on yourself and your own daughters is IMO a more helpful process than expecting an admission of any sort from your mother. That's likely to be fruitless and in any case isn't the most pressing issue, in my view.

Salbertina Fri 24-May-13 14:50:06

Oh Charbon, that really hit home for me hmm you're v wise. I always dreaded having daughters and didn't quite know why. I also continue to find some female friendships a challenge.
So helpful to be able to identify patterns and their cause thereby breaking them with any luck.

Miggsie Fri 24-May-13 15:02:04

You need to decide whether this relationship brings you anything positive - as if you are hoping she will change then she won't, in 20 years you will be in the same place.

If you add up the hours you will endure and spend in this relationship you may be better off finding a really good friend and having a nicer time with them than you will ever have with your mum.

All your mum will ever do with you is reinforce her own self image of always being right and you always being wrong.
that's it - that's all that will ever happen.

Holly1977 Fri 24-May-13 15:46:09

You can't make anyone realise anything sadly. I have a difficult relationship with my mum too and part of getting some peace with it has been accepting that she'll never see my childhood as I do and will probably never acknowledge the shitty things she does, and continues to do. Your mum sounds like she likes to play the victim, my mum does this too. I don't buy into this any more and since opting out of her manipulative little games and making a conscious decision to have as little to do with her as I can, my life has been much better. The fact that she didn't seem to notice or care was hurtful but life is still better without her in it mostly. My folks are still together and my dad is a terrible enabler for her behaviour. Your mum may be a narcissist. Realising this about my mum made a lot of sense for me and helped a lot (once I'd got through the initial pain because narcissists never get better and never acknowledge their impact on others or their mistakes). There's lots of specific books out there for daughters of narcissistic mothers. Your mum might not be of course, just a guess.

Sorry, just totally hijacked your thread there! If it helps you at all, my conclusion has been that I have to accept her for who she is, limit contact with her so she can't hurt me too much, stop trying to change her, stop hoping that she will be the mum I've always wanted and deal with that as best I can. I'm recently pg and she's being really nice at the mo. I know it won't last though so I'm not getting my hopes up as I have a million times before.

redrubyshoes Fri 24-May-13 15:48:06

I could have written most of the above posts. My mother was emotionally and physically abusive to me throughout my childhood and my brother was the golden child.

I have also paid and paid for my mother's upbringing (she was a Magdalen Laundry victim) and I understand now as an adult what she went through. She is now widowed and elderly (Dad died two years ago) and we talk though she lives two flights away but my home life as a child was horrific and Dad never stepped in/noticed or was too cowed by her to help me.
Yep. Mum rewrites history and takes a lot of credit where none is due. I brought myself up and took care of the house from 8 years old and of myself.

I left home very, very young to escape her violence and cruelty and one day when she is gone my heart will break in two for the times I didn't spend with her as an adult. I sometimes have a quiet reflection when friends joke "My Mum is mad/annoying/demanding etc" because I know I am looking across a gulf soooo wide to be uncrossable.

She had a lot of problems and still does but locking a three year old girl in a coal cellar for a day at a time, beating her with a wooden hairbrush, withdrawing food and making her stand on a freezing cold landing from midnight until early morning when she wakes up and remembers DD is there........................

I can't just hug her and go for a mum/daughter shopping trip with a spot of lunch thrown in and a long girlie chat.

I try though. The world has hurt her enough.

Salbertina Sat 25-May-13 08:36:18

Oh Red, poor 3 year old you, truly awful shock i really admire your ability to show compassion for yr abused and abusive dm but completely understand why cosy shopping trips don't sit comfortably with you.

How to break the generational pattens??? Am trying so hard- have the awareness now but not practising it properly. I hate the toxic, bitter control freak i can be as a parent, just like ma, something i always swore against!

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