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Responding to emotionally manipulative DM?(6 Posts)
I won't go into all the details, but I've always had a rocky relationship with my DM, sometimes downright terrible. She can often be pleasant company, but I am always on edge because anything can set her off. She then tends to play the martyr, and be emotionally manipulative.
The thing is, I don't know how to respond when she is in this state. Normally I try not to engage as much as possible, so I will say nothing, or very little. Sometimes she pushes me so far that I crack and get angry at her, but unfortunately this makes me look like the bad guy and provides further fuel for her.
I'll give a couple of examples - how should I respond in these situations? 1. She picks up DS (9 months) and he cries. She hands him to me and says to him wistfully "You're the only grandchild who doesn't smile at me. X,y,z always smile at me when I see them." In this case I told her what she said was upsetting 2. She goes on and on about friends/family who have wronged her in some way, eg. not made enough effort for her birthday when she did for them. I tend to listen and not engage but sometimes it gets too much as I don't have any beef with the rest of the family. If I protest, then she'll say "well you obviously don't care about me, so I might as well just go home". 3. She pries into my life, asking me very direct questions about what I earn, my outgoings, what I do with my time etc. It might not sound too bad, but it feels like a grilling rather than pleasant small talk. I tend to answer all of these questions as if I challenged her motives she would deny anything and make me out to be the bad guy. 4. She complains about herself all the time - her life, her health etc., even though any bad things are mostly self-inflicted. I think she wants me to show concern, but I feel like it's attention-seeking so I tend to say "that's not very healthy, you shouldn't do that", and leave it there.
Basically what I'm trying to say is I can never "win" any arguments or come out of any conversations looking good. Any advice from people who've been there?
My mum is similar. I cut contact with her in Feb this year and life is so much more pleasant.
Have you ever read Toxic Parents by Susan Forward?
If I protest, then she'll say "well you obviously don't care about me, so I might as well just go home".
If she does this, say "okay, see you next time".
Let her go home.
She's playing the emotional dance game. The only ways to handle it are either 1) direct honest talk (rarely works and only if they don't realise what they are doing and are willing to change) or 2) Not engage. Let her get on with it.
Ignore the guilt tripping. Let her get on with it and moan about how awful you are. If anyone says anything, deal with it by a relaxed "oh, she's saying that is she again? It was XXX last time" and chuckle.
Regarding the grilling, stand strong and laugh off whatever is happening. Again, let her get upset.
About her complaints, just listen and say mmmhmmm, let it wash over you. She won't change, specially not that.
this means you having to step back emotionally and perhaps having to start seeing her as an aging woman whom you make a conscious choice to care for, not as the very powerful mummy that you'd love to be close to and share things with. You can't. She's playing emotional games and it's just about impossible to be close to someone like that.
She is very unlikely to flounce away permanently btw. If she does, you can get in touch when you are ready and try to defuse all the emotional drama by letting it pass you by
"im sorry you feel like that"
"that wasn't what was meant, it's a shame you felt that. Now, what's for dinner?
And play Bingo. When she comes out with the next expected phrase to try to push you into behaving the way she wants, not the way you want, tick it off on the list (1 glass of wine for every 5 or 10 bingo phrases you tick off, once she's gone).
At nine months old, your son appears to show remarkably good judgement.
My Mother is exactly the same, it's like it will kill her if she doesn't say something nasty to me whenever she see's me.
She is also the martyr like yours, well actually she sounds just like yours.
I have tried standing up for myself which gets me nowhere or the response "Well I'm only trying to help you". I have been reading the books 'Toxic parents' and 'Will I ever be good enough', both good books and worth reading.
Thanks for the advice. I guess I just need to be a bit stronger and try to ignore all the incendiary comments. I don't want to cut contact, just manage the situation better. Good idea about trying to emotionally distance myself from her and let go of her as a mother.
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