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Bitter mother... I'm at breaking point

(14 Posts)
mumtoone1 Mon 03-Mar-14 16:18:43

I'll try and keep it as brief as possible while at the same time trying to help myself by venting some of the anger out.

My mother is a very bitter person. I could stop there but i'll go on...

It all started around 8 years ago when my mum and dad, married for 25 years split up. My dad had had enough and finally called an end.

Shes still angry about this. she has remained on her own the entire time slowly sprialling into a bitter mess and drinking excessively (though she never admits it). I understand she is lonely.

My brother doesn't speak to her due to her bitterness and nearly all of her family and friends have disappeared, therefore I am the only one left.

She believes they are all wrong and she is the sane one.

I am married, have a great relationship with my husband and son and more importantly my dad as well as my inlaws.

She gets jealous at any mention of their names. We live close to our inlaws and she resents the fact that we see them constantly as well as holiday with them. I love their company.

She complains that we never visit (we try to visit at least once a month, we live 2 hours drive away).

We are unable to spend more than a few hours together before we argue. The arguments are normally due to her comments. Example below;

Mum "what did you get up to last night?"
Me "went out for dinner and then to the cinema"
Mum "Oh what it must be like to be made of money..."

Mum "What did you last weekend?"
Me "visited dad"
Mum "I don't know why he gets to see you all the time, after what he did to me, what goes around comes around"
Me "What does this have to do with me?"

Her comments are beyond bitter. She drinks excessively now, though refuses to admit it. The last few times I have phoned her around 6:30pm she has been drunk but has refused to admit it, saying she is tired. She says she cannot afford to drink but I borrowed a carrier bag from her recently to take something home and inside was a reciept for a bottle of barcadi.

She loves my son to death, but lately, he has been annoyed by her comments (he is 12) she says things to him like "do you not love me anymore" (apparently jokingly) and "why do you never call me" He's still a child and it hurts him and its got the point where he doesn't even want to call her anymore. He's old enough to see the biterness too.

My husband dislikes my mother and normally hides in another room as he can't stand her comments towards us and me. I've had her up for Christmas day every year since she split with my dad however 2 years ago I decided no more as I wouldn't see my husband.....

I told her today I was going on holiday with my inlaws this year. She began making jealous comments and asked why they got to spend so much time with me and she didn't. I had to hang up.

I wanted to tell her the truth. The truth that I couldn't handle 1 full day with her let alone a 2 week holiday.

I sometimes wish I could tell her I don't ever want to see her again.

And relax....

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 03-Mar-14 16:33:28

I don't really know what to suggest, but I empathise.

I limit interactions with my mother, dodge holiday "opportunities", and just breathe and change the subject when she gets a catty comment in.

You can cut or limit contact with her if you want. You are perfectly free to choose how many visits, phone calls etc she gets, and stick to what you have decided is best for you.

Your son is wise - children have a very strong sense of right and wrong, I find. However, he may be socialised into accepting this kind of behaviour from others, not just from your mother, if it is presented to him as normal and acceptable, and something to be glossed over. And given the fact that she drinks, too, I would make sure not to leave him alone with her.

Regarding her influence on his development, have you had talks with him about how her comments make him feel, where you reinforce that he is right to feel upset by them - that she is not kind and polite? This of course then opens the question of whether you should call her on her bitter comments whenever she makes them in his presence... Hard to teach him that it is wrong, but then watch her get away with it in practice. What do you think you should do?

plentyofsoap Mon 03-Mar-14 18:18:00

I am sorry you are in this position it is very hard. My mother sounds similar in regards to the bitterness and it is draining. For other added reasons I went nc along time ago sadly without much regret.
Even if you tried to get extra help for her (gp) would it be accepted? If it is having a negative impact on your dh and ds you have some serious decisions to make. Some people never change but they are always responsible for their own lives.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 03-Mar-14 18:37:13

I presume you are now the only one who still bothers with her. Its hard to be the last one left.

You have a choice re your mother and she is not going to change.

What do you get from your relationship with your mother, what needs of yours are being met here by her?.

At the very least your boundaries re her are set far too low and you're giving her more ammo to lob in your direction. Let her go.

A good rule of thumb here is that if she is too difficult/nasty/toxic for you to deal with, then she is far too toxic for both your vulnerable and defenceless child.

chattychattyboomba Mon 03-Mar-14 18:39:52

I had it out with my mum a while ago. I told her that she may be angry about what has been done to her, and that is a horrible feeling, but that she can't expect me to take on her anger because it is between her and my sister/dad/nan/aunt (common denominator???) and I am entitled to have a relationship with these people. And please do not bitch about or slate them in front of me because I have a lot of love for these people and it hurts me to hear it. Also explained that I wouldn't bitch about her to them.
Naturally she blew up completely. "How dare you not stick up for me I listen to your problems! Never again!"
That's when I said- "that's because you are my mother and maybe I was stupid enough to expect that you would want to support and advise me as a mother should, you know? Like motherly wisdom? And I never bitch about those you love, but a daughter is not responsible for fixing her mother's problems...that's what their friends are for!" (Go find some bloody friends and get a life!)
To which she replied- no that's what husbands are for and I don't have one so I'm sorry but you are selfish and blah blah blah.

Old dog, new tricks etc.

Anyway that's why I live thousands of miles away and have the option to distance myself emotionally.

I really feel for you. It's a tough balance when this is the person who gave you life, but are a negative impact on it. sad

mumtoone1 Mon 03-Mar-14 18:51:40

Thanks guys. Glad I'm not the only one in this position!! xx

sonjadog Mon 03-Mar-14 18:59:02

What would happen if you told her that you couldn't stand being around her negativity and that's why you wouldn't ever go on holiday with her? Would she take that on board at all?

My mother has negative tendencies and she could be a lot harder work than she is. I had a difficult conversation with her about it a little over a year ago and although she was very upset at the time, she did take in on board and has improved greatly. There aren't any alcohol issues in the picture with her though and I know through experience that that does change the issue a lot.

mumtoone1 Mon 03-Mar-14 19:07:24

Whatever way I word it she'll take it badly. She honestly does not see what she is doing wrong.

We've had discussions in the past and things improved for a bit but then always gone back to where it is now.

I envy my brother for cutting ties all those years ago. I wish I had done it first. I suppose what's stopping me now is I fear what she would do. I have know doubt she would either drink herself into a terrible mess or something much worse. All of which would be on my head.

sonjadog Mon 03-Mar-14 19:13:40

I don't think there is really much you can do about it until she wants to get help herself, but she may never do that. I know several older women who have wasted over twenty years of their lives being bitter about their divorces. It seems that the victim mentality is so well-entenched that they can't see anything but it now.

If I were you, I'd try to detach as much as possible. Be there for her in a practical way, but no enabling and no tolerance of negative comments about your in-laws or other family members. Refuse to be drawn into conversation about any of them. If she goes on, then you suddenly have something important to do and have to get off the phone.

Tex111 Mon 03-Mar-14 19:34:54

Just to say you're not alone. Similar issues with my mother and I've recently made the sad decision to distance myself. I try to do my duty as a daughter but nothing else. No emotional involvement or tolerating bad behaviour. The turning point for me was seeing my children upset by the horribleness I had learned to tolerate. The situation does make me very sad but I know that my mother will never change.

LoonvanBoon Mon 03-Mar-14 19:54:21

I sympathize, OP, as my mum was similar in many ways. She didn't drink too much, & as she died before I had children there were obviously no grandchildren issues. But she seemed consumed by bitterness - as in your mum's case, connected with her divorce - & the victim mentality she assumed in relation to that did spill over into other relationships.

She made it very, very difficult for me to maintain any kind of relationship with my dad during my teenage years, & couldn't tolerate any mention of his name without making some nasty comment. She was vile to me at times when I did insist on visiting him, & included my dad's partner in her spite, even though they didn't meet until years after the divorce. It was awful.

Then there were fall-outs with other people (friends, relatives) which would be accompanied by the same victim narrative, & the accusation that I was "disloyal" because I refused to get involved in her rows; or, even worse, stayed on good terms with the people in question.

In our case I never cut contact permanently, though there were times when I considered it. I certainly never went back home for more than a couple of weeks after I left for university because it was just intolerable - by then she was jealous of my friends, boyfriends, friends' parents if I spent time with them - everyone was seen as some kind of threat to her.

However, as I got older & developed a sense of my own boundaries (though I'd never heard the term!) things did start to improve. I started doing a lot of the things sonjadog refers to - refusing to listen to her bitch about other people, refusing to discuss my dad with her, putting the 'phone down if necessary when she started. I didn't go home at Christmas after a couple of dreadful ones. And I did once effectively go NC for several months, because I told her I just wasn't prepared to discuss certain people with her; & that she needed to accept that before she contacted me again.

Things weren't perfect, by any means. I did try & talk to her about how much her attitude had hurt me, but she always refused to admit how difficult she'd been & even now (she's been dead over 10 years) I occasionally feel angry when I think about what she was like when I was still living at home & not able to put boundaries in place. I would never behave like that towards my children.

But in general being assertive, firm & consistent did yield results, & we had a good adult-to-adult relationship in the last years of her life. Perhaps she wasn't as bad as your mum, OP - she was certainly still capable of having fun & being good company, & wasn't full of self-pity most of the time. Just very bitter towards a number of people, & lacking in self-awareness.

Have you tried to set boundaries & rigidly enforce them? Have you tried talking to her about how upsetting you find it listening to her nasty comments? As I said, the latter didn't work for me, the former did to a large extent, but everyone's different. Sorry to go on so much about my own situation - your post resonated & brought back memories.

Incidentally I don't regret the fact that I had to be quite firm with my mum, even though she's no longer around. It allowed us a better relationship that we'd ever have had otherwise, & was essential for my mental wellbeing. And if I'd had my children then, I'd never have hesitated to put their emotional wellbeing first.

Oddly my mum was lovely - all the bitterness gone - when she was ill & dying. It had seemed so entrenched, yet I wonder if it was ever more than a terrible habit, almost like an addiction. That does make me feel dubious about the idea that the human race can be neatly divided up into the "toxic" & "non-toxic" people. I think the reality is much less black & white.

kentishgirl Tue 04-Mar-14 11:10:42

I feel sorry for your mum; she's very unhappy and her unhappiness is making her behave in a way that is driving those she loves away from her. She is trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts and behaviour that are harming her.

But I also feel for you for being in this difficult position.

You've spoken to her about it in the past and it hasn't helped. Perhaps she needs a bit more of a shock to the system with you clearly spelling out how her behaviour is effecting your relationship, and that you are starting to think of going non-contact like your brother. But that you want to give things one last try (I get the impression you love your mother but just can't handle any more of this). Tell her that. Lay down some rules - not to bad mouth other people you love, not to do the pity party thing about you seeing other people and not giving her all your time. Try and balance it out with some positive suggestions - she's unhappy, she's lonely, what can she do and how can you help her overcome that. How can she improve her social life? What have you got to lose? Either she'll wake up and things will be better, or she'll go off in a huff and you won't have to keep talking to her.

ormirian Tue 04-Mar-14 11:22:28

How about writing her a letter laying out the difficulties you have with her attitude. Don't be harsh or angry, just factual. Tell her that until this is addressed there will be no visits. Advise her to see a counsellor.

Victimhood is a drug, an addiction, IMO. Wallowing feels good, and I am sure booze helps that along. H had an affair in 2012. It was so tempting to wallow in self-pity and recriminations but in the end it was killing me and making reconciliation impossible. She needs to face and accept what happened, she doesn't need to accept blame, but accept that the break-up happened, and then move on. A counsellor will help her. You are not her counsellor.

struggling100 Tue 04-Mar-14 11:25:16

I feel for you, OP. It's not easy to be in the middle of warring parties, and I have to say I think you're being superhumanly patient with her in the circumstances. Maybe even a bit too patient??

First of all, your Mum is in a bit of a state. I imagine she's still raw with the pain and bitterness of being left, hence her jealousy and oversensitivity about your spending time with other family members. She really needs to see a counsellor and get some proper help. However, you can't make that happen. I think the only way you can deal with this is to set some limits in your relationship with her, which unfortunately is going to involve a difficult conversation. One thing that I think it's important to get clear with her is that there is a difference between caring for someone very deeply and 'taking sides'. You may already have done this, but if I were in your shoes, I'd sit her down and tell her that I loved her to bits, and would do anything to help her out, but that I wouldn't take sides in a fight between family members. I would explain that it made me feel just awful to be pushed to do so, that I understood that she was angry, but that I wouldn't accept negative comments about others and that if she made these, I would have to leave. And then stick to it, very firmly and very calmly!! The key is to set the boundary and not to lose your temper (easier said than done!)

Second of all, I really think you should tell her that you're worried about the drinking, in as gentle and non-judgemental a way as possible. She's clearly ashamed of it, since she's lying to you and telling you that she's tired rather than wasted. Perhaps contact some charities that deal with alcohol abuse and get some specialist advice about how to raise this, and what services might be available in her area to ensure that she can receive help.

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