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.
How do I enforce some boundaries with an overbearing, controlling mother?(14 Posts)
I've come to the decission that in 2016 I really need to enforce some boundaries with my DM, who is quite frankly driving me mad. She is a difficult woman anyway, and I've long suspected she has undiagnosed mental health problems.
In a nutshell she is never wrong and always has to be right, is overly opinionated to the point of rudeness and hates anyone disagreeing with her. Even now as an adult I struggle to air an opinion im case I offend someone, and I'm sure this stems from her literally screaming at me on the very rare occasions when I dared to tell challenge her point of view on something. She has an overwhelming need to control the family and is IMO very overly invested in mine and DB's, she loves telling us and DF what we should and shouldn't do and becomes hysterical if we don't fall into line. In recent years she has also become very nasty with DF, whom can't do anything right. I sometimes wonder why the hell she married him as all she does is whinge about him.
She hates me being confident and does all she can to slap me down. Keep me in my place so to speak. She hates me being good at anything and I think sees me as a threat for some reason. Any kind of assertiveness from me is met with backhanded compliments and a corrosive drip of negativity.
It's like she can't see us as seperate beings from her. I accept a lot of her issues stem from her childhood, and she was parented in a very similar way. Her siblings have very similar boundary issues with their children, and I know that my cousins have similar battles to me own.
So anyway it's time to instill some boundaries. I've had enough, but don't know where to start? How do you break a lifetime of this kind of behaviour?
I think firstly by removing her ability to get under your skin.
As long as you care what she thinks, she has the power to hurt you so emotionally disengaging is always the first step.
Then its easier to say what you will and wont accept and enforce that by ending conversations, leaving, asking her to leave etc.
Its bloody hard and not always something you can do by yourself, not after a lifetime of this shit being your 'normal' and you may want to look into some sort of support to help you.
You could also write down your boundaries. What exactly is it you want to enforce, what are your lines in the sand. Identifying them can be a good first step in deciding how to enforce them.
It looks like you have understood her patterns which are affecting you and the fact that she clearly will not change Go Low contact or no contact with her.
You can send her an email to explain your decision but don't expect a friendly reply.
Sorry to say but your dad is an enabler. She is abusive and he is letting her abuse you and your DB as well as himself.
How do you break a lifetime of this kind of behaviour?
I am not sure you can.
It may be a case of arranging a meeting with her on neutral ground (and hopefully remove the opportunity for her screaming) and telling her straight.
You could write her a letter/email
You could see if your brother is willing to support you
Whatever you do be prepared for a volcanic explosion. You may need to let her stew as she doesn't sound like the sort of person who will accept what you will be telling her. That will probably mean no contact
What level of contact do you have with your parents these days; I would seriously consider lowering such even further and even consider going no contact ultimately.
Do you think that your mother is narcissistic; I mention this also because amongst other things you state that she cannot see you as a separate being from her. I am not at all surprised to see that she was herself parented similarly; such toxic behaviours can and do filter down the generations.
I would think your dad is really her hatchet man in this overall dysfunction and cannot be relied upon either. He has completely failed to protect you from her excesses of behaviour over the years.
I would suggest you seek out a therapist who has had vast experience in seeing people who have grown up with a narcissistic family structure.
Enforcing your boundaries will mean being able to say “no” effectively. Saying no was really hard for me because it is my nature not to want to disappoint others – which is a feeling shared by many Adult Children of Narcissist (ACON). Narcissistic parents react strongly when their children say no, feeling like they were wrongly denied. We may feel as if everyone will treat us the same way a narcissistic parent did and feel this need to please everyone by saying “yes”. This destructive behaviour will result in becoming emotionally drained and you will not have the energy to focus on the things that are important to you. It is ok to say “no” to enforce your boundaries – keeping the good in and the bad out.
People who have a healthy sense of self normally do not need to be reminded of boundaries. People who have empathy are able to read people and more importantly, listen to people and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Narcissists do not have these capacities and will trample any personal boundaries you have to control the situation. When dealing with someone who has NPD you need to be painfully explicit about your boundaries and stand your ground to enforce them. Narcissists are bullies. Backing down after setting boundaries is one of the most damaging things you can do as it shows the narcissist your boundaries are easily broken.
Setting boundaries with such a person like your mother is going to be very hard because she may well rail against any boundary you care to set her.
It is also not possible to have any sort of a relationship with a narcissist if she is indeed a narcissist.
Yep, I have one of those. It took years of abuse for me to realise just how much it had affected my confidence and self esteem.
I tried LC but she could not accept this, as it meant I had instilled a boundary, and these must not be allowed. She blew up at me and stormed out of my house about 4 years ago and we have been NC ever since.
It is absolute bliss and I have come on leaps and bounds. I now have much better personal relationships, because I have boundaries, and I have a fabulous job. When we were still in contact and I mentioned the possibility of me doing this job at some point in the future, she said "You!!!!???? Be a teacher???!!!" and laughed in my face. Well now I am the head of department so fuck you mother.
It's awful once you realise the extent of this kind of abuse. Once you recognise it, all kinds of past scenarios come rearing up at you and you realise just how bloody abnormal it all was/is.
I hope you find a way of dealing with your mother OP
It's hard because the way she behaves with the outside world is so different to the way she behaves with us. She is very popular and well liked by work colleagues, neighbours and the wider family.Interestingly she doesn't really have any close friends outside of the family, but she is well liked by everyone on the whole. A much loved "favourite Aunt" of her nieces and nephews, someone who drop eveything to help a neighbour or work colleague in a crisis.
She is helpful and generous to a fault with them, although she frequently slags them off behind their backs. Cutting her out would mean being completley alone, she is so liked by everyone. I can imagine the bile she'd spout about me to everyone, I've already caught her slagging my DF to a neighbour. Unfairly I might add.
She can be very nice with me, but only when I'm weak and passive. It's like when Im strong I'm a direct threat to her.
Many abusive people are plausible on some level to those in the outside world but their act is one that cannot be maintained and your brother and you know her true nature. They do nice/nasty very well and that cycle is a continuous one.
She wouldn't be alone if you were to cut her out; that is your own FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) talking here. I think you would be well and truly slagged off to wider family (they could also be used by her as the flying monkeys) and friends by her if you were to cut all contact; she could call you amongst other things an ungrateful DD and after all that she has done for you nonsense such people come out with. All this woman has really given you is a lifetime of mental anguish. Her rights do not trump yours; you matter.
Protecting yourself from your mother is truly the best thing you can do for you and your own family. Such people as well make for being deplorably bad as a grandparent figure as well. After all she was not a good parent to you. She will not change and she will not be the mother you perhaps still want her to be for you. It is NOT your fault she is like this; you did not make her that way.
My dh mother is like this. Whenever I go round she produces some awful painting dh did. Because I'm talented in art she thinks this negates me. Lunatic awful woman. So I basically stopped seeing her as much and didn't let her lunacy bother me.
You are letting her have power over you because you're bothered. Detach with love is your answer.
Good books to read about this: Toxic Parents
and Mothers who Can't Love
if the titles seem too extreme for you and your mother, don't be put off. From what you've said, there might be quite a bit in those books that apply, though perhaps not to an extreme level.
fwiw people who are subtly nasty very often put on a face to the rest of the world. it's their nearest who get the other side. Their masks can be very good.
Attila, I blame her own mother for the way she is. She was a very strange woman, very unmaternal and completley self involved. She was a hard as nails as wells. I can't imagine there was much love growing up.
Also if your mother has a personality disorder such as NPD appearances will be tremendously important to her so her efforts with be expended on maintaining a popular and successful image to the world. The fact that she has no close friends says it all.
You definitely will be a threat to her because she cannot abide other people receiving positive attention that she believes she rightly deserves at all times. The total lack of empathy is the biggest and most obvious sign that she has a serious personality disorder.
This is why I also stated that such toxic dysfunction like this often filters down the generations. Generations of family do get harmed by this sort of dysfunction and there was little to no love either shown.
Yes, she is obsessed with appearance and terrified of looking bad in public. I remember a family wedding we went to where it turned out that the skirt of the dress she was wearing was see through in a certain light, she then laid into me (quietly and out of ear shot of anyone else of course), because apparently I should have told her that it was see through before we left the house and she was humiliated because of it. Well firstly it didn't look see through in the house, and secondly who cares? All eyes where on the bride and not on her anyway!
She will also happily take the piss out of or laugh at the misfortune of others but can't laugh at herself at all.
Join the discussion
Please login first.