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How do I forgive her? (long, sorry)(22 Posts)
My mother and I have a chequered history. She never physically abused me or anything like that, but I do feel quite mentally affected by my teenage years and I'm finding it impossible to get over it.
The thing is, I was never neglected or physically harmed and part of the reason why I'm finding things so difficult now is that it's hard to identify exactly why I feel the way I do about her.
She was always very controlling throughout my childhood e.g- I was never allowed to listen to anything other than classical music, never allowed friends over. Things were always awful between her and my father for as long as I can remember and eventually she left when I was 14. He wasn't abusive, but they were very badly matched. He was quite an introverted academic and she's very extrovert (in an over the top way). I know now she thought my father would chase after her and beg her to come back, but he didn't. From then on until now (so over 25 years, she would bad mouth my father at every opportunity and eventually I did all I could to minimise contact with her as it was so painful to have to listen to it over and over. I had to change my number when I was at university as she was calling me all the time crying and threatening to take her own life. I tried to support her and did I all could to help by trying to bring in family members etc, but in the end it was having such a bad affect on me I had to cut ties. It was a case of that or going downhill myself.
So, moving forward to the present I have 2 children, married, good job etc. She's up at the moment and I just find her so draining (she's still going on about how awful my childhood years were for her. From the house we lived in being too cold, to how selfish and awful my father was). It's like re-living the whole thing all over again. I have some good memories from my childhood and it feels like having all my memories trashed over and over. I'm afraid I just lost it with her.
Oh dear, it wasn't good. She's here for another week. Why on earth can't I get a grip on myself? What can I do to stop this crazy anger I still feel towards her after all these years? I should have got over it by now, but I just can't. Each time I see her it ends up the same way, me getting angry and losing it with her.
All tips/coping mechanisms welcome. All grips will be gratefully received.
As long as you only said what was true it is ok. She is acting the 'victim' whereas you were the one that was suffering because she wasn't brave enough to leave sooner. Don't forget though, that she did eventually leave, it must have been hard for her.
How is your relationship with your father?
I have a very good relationship with my father. The difference is that he's moved on. Met someone else and remarried after being single for around 5 years. I lived with him after my mother left, but he was never emotionally reliant on me like she was. He remained my father, but with my mother I feel there was a switch of roles which I found hard.
Mum won't entertain the idea of meeting someone else. She feels men are only after 'one thing' and that she doesn't want someone in her life. Fair enough, I respect that.
Yes, it would have been hard for her to leave (although I don't think she actually thought she was doing that at the time). It's the replaying of it over and over which I find so difficult. It's like it sets of a trigger in me.
I haven't said anything that wasn't true, but the truth is pretty tough.
The truth is fine, I am sure she can identify with that.
Your options were to tell her some home truths or carry on hearing the sob story which was her life. You either sympathise with that or you don't. You clearly don't, completely.
If I were you I would continue to be honest and maybe she will change the record.
I did sympathise Buzzard, but I'm very tired of hearing the same thing over and over again for over 25 years. I'm not responsible for what happened, but I feel like I'm being made to pay for it by being forced to relive what was actually an absolute nightmare for me.
I have been truthful with her, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. She keeps on doing it and I don't think she'll ever stop. So, the only option of for me to change the way I feel or the way I react. I just don't seem to be able to do that. If I can't do that the only other option is to stop seeing her altogether, which isn't a good thing either.
Hamish I have no useful advice for you, but I just want to say I understand what you mean about still holding onto the anger you feel towards her.
My own mum had a lot of (then undiagnosed) mental health issues and my early teenage years were not fun at all, up until she left when I was 13. She caused a lot of upset for everyone (although I can acknowledge my dad was not wholly innocent) which still to this day I have never let go of. She's the only person who I can just see and instantly get mad at. So I understand completely how you must be feeling about being unable to let go. I hope it gets better for you and the rest of her stay is somewhat amicable.
I think you are correct in changing the way you react. It might start a different conversation and she might begin to realise that she isn't the only 'victim'.
You don't owe her anything Hamish.
If you doubt yourself think how you would treat your children.
Hamish, have a read of a book called "mothers who can't love", Susan Forward.
Your mther may have been able to love you so the title might be a bit misleading, but it's well worth a read. There is a strong section on ways to cope with the anger.
It sounds like you need to limit exposure to her to 3 days max. "fish and guests stink after 3 days!". Shorter bursts will make it easier. She won't change, not now. And it does you no good to have all this stuff rubbed in over and over and over again. Is it possible in practical terms to reduce the length of stays with you? or for you to go and visit her instead?
Also, is it possible to deflect or sidetrack her? (some people are steamrollers, some can be gently distracted). Talking about the children or something else more positive that's close to her heart.
Come and sit in the cupboard under the stairs with me Hamish. We'll take the sherry and the gin with us and stay there until it's all over.
I have some issues to do with my childhood and my parents' marriage breakdown too, but my mother only sees how tough it all was for her. She has a very selective memory about certain things, and trots out the same old misery anecdotes on a loop, ad nauseum to anyone who will listen.
Although our parents' characters and the circumstances of their respective divorces were rather different, I too have to listen to endless ENDLESS re-runs, analyses and post mortems of stuff that started over 40 years ago, and I'm SOOO tired of it. And when she's not boring me with it, she's getting pissed and trying to bore my friends instead, to the point where I dread letting her mix with them. Bit tricky when she's staying for weeks over Christmas, so my hackles are on high alert atm.
She truly seems to think she was the first woman with children to ever be left by a man and she has some sort of martyr complex as a result, although she was actually quite selfish and irresponsible in many ways when I was a child. She made some real fundamental errors of judgement that affect me and my sibling to this day. Yet to hear her talk about it she was some kind of selfless Mother Fucking Theresa figure who worked her fingers to the bone and went without, all for us. We are not allowed to question anything or remind her of some uncomfortable home truths because she looks all wounded and we have no idea of how hard it was to be a 'single mother in those days.'
I try so hard to not lose my rag with her but one day I really do think I might scream 'SHUT UP AND GET OVER YOURSELF' in her face.
I have to be careful here because this post throws up some very vivid memories for me, and I need to be objective. Bear with me, OP
Your mother sounds like the emotionally needy type, almost pathologically needy. I'm very, very wary of the 'narcissist/borderline' labels that are so easily bandied around online at the moment, but she may well have some traits. Was her own upbringing unstable? Believe me, I will never condone the abused perpetrating further abuse, I'm just trying to get a possible idea of her mentality here.
Regardless of any issues she may or may not have, you are NOT responsible for them or for the way she deals with them. It sounds to me like you were used as a bargaining chip in her breakup from your dad; you were her unbreakable connection to him, so she worked it for all it was worth in order to manipulate him.
There's a website that you may find useful, it's mainly aimed at male victims/survivors of domestic and emotional abuse (from partners AND parents), but it deals with a lot of parental manipulation tactics too and regardless of sex, it's well worth looking at. It's www.shrink4men.com - give it a go, they have a forum and it's incredibly supportive.
Thanks so much to you all for taking the time to reply to my post. It's a huge relief to be able to write it all down and to feel like I'm being listened to.
Jumblebee - it's very comforting to know I'm not alone in my struggle to let go of how I feel, even after many years.
Meerka- no, I haven't read that book, but I will definitely have a look at it. 3 days is certainly a good limit, but I find I crack most often after 2. It's like I have a set threshold and everything explodes once I pass it. I have tried to sidetrack her, but unfortunately she's one of those people who just keeps on talking and doesn't listen to what's being said to her. She's like that with everyone not just me. She talks at people, constantly. Maybe I just need to try a bit harder though. I will give it a try.
Halo- some of your experience sound very similar to mine, especially the re-hashing over and over of the same things. It's difficult, especially when I do have some sympathy for her experience (being unhappy in a marriage is very hard to deal with), but she just seems to get some kind of pleasure out of going over and over it. I'm really sorry you're going through similar.
Another- it's interesting, because my mother actually had an extremely happy childhood. Her parents had a wonderful marriage and she adored her father. In a way, I think her dissatisfaction with her own marriage was amplified by the fact she was trying to emulate the perfection she had seen in her own parents. She IS extremely needy though. Everything always has to be about her. She gets on very well with young children as they let her lead and manipulate their play. Every adult I know has said she's extremely hard work, so I'm not alone in feeling that. However, they obviously don't get the same kind of re-hashing of old ground that I do. I think there's a lot of truth in what you say about her maintaining a connection to my dad. The fact is that I don't think she ever truly thought she would leave permanently (in fact she left and came back several times), but that last time my father simply didn't ask her to return. I still remember standing at the bus station in Glasgow waving her off with my dad (at the time I didn't know it was forever) and the 2 of us just sighing a huge sigh of relief. Of course he got to step away completely, so he doesn't have the same ongoing issues I do. I will certainly take a look at your suggested website. Thank you.
Oh, to actually answer your OP, you don't actually 'have' to forgive her. That is your choice. Please try and remember that there are two sides to your parent's divorce though and your Mother may have shielded you from the really nitty gritty. I doubt it, but you never know.
It's a pity she hasn't moved on like your Father has, wonder why she feels so strongly about never trusting a man again?
Please tell her that discussions regarding your father are not to be had.
The past is the past and you would like to leave it there.
If she has trouble coming to terms with the past, a counsellor, not her daughter is who she should be discussing them with.
Please respect my wishes.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Yes - a counsellor seems long overdue for yr mother if she can recognise that? Clearly going over & over the same ground is not helping her (as well as exasperating you).
Sorry, Quitelikely, I have no idea how I assumed it was Son? Just read back and there was nothing to indicate this. My apologies.
We've tried to get her to go to counselling for years, but she's always refused. I don't know where her hatred of men comes from, but she can be irrational about it at times. She told me the other day that a widower at her church asked her out for coffee, which she interpreted as he was trying to get into her pants and after her money. Of course those could have been her motives, but if that's what she thinks about a fairly innocuous approach, then nobody will get near her. She also claims not to be homophobic, but makes the most horrendous comments sometimes and has offended a number of my brother's friends so badly they refuse to be in the same room as her.
I see what you mean about the possibility of her shielding me Buzzard, but tbh I don't think that's the case. I think I've heard of every moment my father has put a foot wrong since they met at university on a loop for the past 25 years or more. I've heard things come out of her mouth that nobody should have to hear. Not abusive or horrible stuff towards her, but really intimate, personal things about my father that I'm sure he would be mortified to know she's told me.
All these years she's painted my dad as a complete introvert, unable to make or sustain any meaningful relationships. All I can say is that he's a different man now he's remarried. Social, engaging, enjoying life and I'm pleased for him, really pleased. I wish the same for her, but I don't think there's a man alive who could meet her standards.
Your mother sounds so much like mine. Similar background as well. Doting father she adored, etc. She's dead now but when she died it put me into a major depression and I've still got therapy work to go through to try and resolve all my mixed feelings about it. The best way to explain it is that it's like being both kicked and hugged by a person that's your very first introduction in how to engage with other human beings and to behave with them.
I'm going through my own personal stuff right now and it seems I tick a number of criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. The great news though (and I haven't had a confirmed diagnosis) is that it's likely an "echo" type which means I basically picked up behaviour from my mother than can be resolved with simple CBT, and not the full spectrum of the disorder (which can also have a biological basis). I had the same constant guilt/anger/attachment/withdrawal pattern with her while she was alive so I would say, if you think these things are worth working through in case they impact on your relationships (and they really can without you realising it), perhaps book a couple of sessions with a psychologist. They can help you resolve your anxieties about her, go through any impacts they might be having, and it's just nice to talk to someone and get it all out. You might think you've processed it inside yourself but if she causes stress reactions in you, it can be a sign that something's going on with your thinking that's not being addressed. Maybe. You know yourself better than anyone else. The psychologist (and please get someone actually qualified and not just some certificate) will also give you helpful tips on how to handle her too and establish your own boundaries without feeling guilty.
Mothers are very, very powerful creatures. You can really, really love them and absolutely hate them at the same time, too. You sound like a nice person anyway. I hope it works out for you and you find some way to have her in your life without having to feel like you're sacrificing it for her at the same time.
Hamish do yourself a favour.
I think most of the people that have responded on here can identify with your position or we wouldn't have been attracted by your OP.
We are telling you what we wish we had the courage to do...
I think you make a very valid point about the benefits of getting counselling myself abi67. I did have a few sessions around 15 years ago, but it was so painful I found it was doing me more harm than good in the short term and at the time I just wasn't able to copy with that.
Thanks Buzzard, I really appreciate what you're saying.
OK Hamish, do you feel like you can change the situation and make things 'normal' by acting like 'normal' people?
Do you think that you owe something by being loyal?
Pretty sure it won't make a jot of difference. I really admire you for having a go at her. I wish I had your courage. I think you should stand by your feelings and tell her how you feel. I feel she has been left to get away with it for too long.
I am sure you wouldn't treat your children this way.
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