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"Performative" people - how to get them to turn it down...?

(4 Posts)
magnificatAnimaMea Thu 03-Mar-16 20:14:03

I've moaned on here about my mother many times. She is an unhappily manipulative person for whom every interaction is a sort of performance where she is constantly rating whether the other person is paying her enough attention. If she's not getting enough from the other person, she will either decide she hates them for some utterly pointless reason, or she will continually deliberately goad them and then criticise them for reacting unsatisfactorily. She is very performative, competitive, controlling and in everyone's face all the time. I find her exhausting and a general PITA.

I do also recognise that she is extremely damaged and that a lot of this is the result of 71 years of unsatisfactory relationships (many of which could've been a lot better had she ever learnt to take a step back, shut up, and listen to anyone else). I recognise that the goading and criticism is her version of bids for affection, even though they're guaranteed to kill affection pretty quickly.

So I am not looking for advice on how to go NC with her. I am about as close to no contact as I can be, while maintaining contact with my father, who (while damaged in different ways, and codependent with my mother) is somewhat less of a pain.

Does anyone have any advice on getting someone like this to turn down the constant goading? I don't react to my mother's face any more, but some of her petty, pretentious wankery really drives me mad. At 71 she's hardly likely to change much, but if there's anything anyone can suggest to get her to turn it down, it might be worth a try.

magnificatAnimaMea Fri 04-Mar-16 00:45:21

Perhaps also worth saying that I'm pretty sure I don't want a closer relationship with the woman - but a better one would be nice.

As it is, I phone them, they talk about themselves/other people who i don't know for an hour or two, where I say "mm" and "hhmm" and "yes" a bit, "oh, yes, it's all fine here, nothing happening out of the ordinary", my mother tries to have a go at me a few times, I fail to respond or just politely change the subject to something she likes to rant about - and then eventually I hang up and it all happens again a week later.

In between phonecalls there's usually no contact except sporadic uninterested email from my father - but sometimes there will be goady shit in an email from mother, or she will send a passive-aggressive postcard if they're on holiday. I see them once a year on holidays, where I try to spend as little time talking to her/ being talked at by her as possible. In person, she does a lot of little nasty things and then says quietly with an angelic look on her face "I knew you wouldn't like that" or if I show any acknowledgement or reaction whatsoever to anything "I knew you'd go mad if I did that, you have to learn the rest of the world thinks people like you are weird".

My father always backs her up, tells me not to overreact if I react, tells me I'm subnormal and too stupid to hold a conversation if I just say "mm, hmm, yes, no"

Actually reading it back they're both fairly abusive and unpleasant. Sigh.

RiceCrispieTreats Fri 04-Mar-16 01:20:16

It doesn't sound like you can change the quality of interactions, only the quantity. What you are asking for depends on them changing, which they are unlikely to do.

Just decide on how often, where and when you are willing to interact with them, and do that.

Weekly phone calls where you reveal nothing about yourself, and an annual visit sound about right. FWIW, with my similar-ish parents I have found that it is best to see them on their own home turf, rather than at my place or elsewhere, as they are more comfortable (and less likely to act out) where they feel fully in control - ie. in their own home.

magnificatAnimaMea Fri 04-Mar-16 02:43:40

Thanks. I find seeing them on holiday seems to work best, since a lot of my mother's issues are about her feeling she needs to show dominance about household issues - difficult for her to do when there's no household around.

I guess many people have unlikeable parents, who dislike their children. I never really set out to be a massive disappointment to mine, but now that they've decided that I am, there's not much I can do to change the point of view, since they're not interested in objective reality.

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