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Tips for dealing with tricky mother

(10 Posts)
TryingToStayRational Mon 27-Mar-17 22:25:43

I have a tricky relationship with my mother, which has become more difficult since my father died several years ago. I could probably write an entire book about it but the summary is that she is loving and really means well, so I feel awful for even saying this, but she is incredibly hard work and after spending time with her I feel drained of all joy. If you've read Harry Potter it's like a Dementor attack. She is full of tales of woe (mostly about people I don't even know) and seems to see the negative side of everything. She also randomly oversteps the boundaries of normal social conduct (going through bins and drawers for example) which irritates me. I feel constantly criticised when she is around (she is always commenting on how I live my life and "just saying" this and that) and I hate the person I feel I become around her. I find myself irritated by literally everything she does, which is obviously completely over the top. Every time I am due to see her I promise myself I will be more patient this time, but I find it so incredibly hard. It is really getting me down and making me dread seeing her.

I have a sister who feels similar and so I know it isn't just me, but she is younger and can somehow get away with being "cheeky" and saying things that I can't - I feel like I can never really tell her she's annoying me because she just cries when I do and then I feel like the worst daughter ever. When my Dad was alive he was her rock and he was calm and cheerful so counterbalanced her perfectly. He was also one of the greatest friends I ever had and I miss him more than words could ever say, but I can't really express that in front of her because its like she has the monopoly on grief and however hard it might be for me I'm made to feel like it is nothing compared to how hard her life is. And it is hard - losing my dad was obviously awful and she has elderly parents as well which is a strain. I'm sure a lot of this is my problem not hers but I just can't bring myself to cry in front of her - the only times I have since about the age of 10 I've been made to feel worse by having her catastrophise or dismiss my feelings, so now I just seem to be unable to do it. Fortunately I have a partner and good friends so I do have outlets.

Anyway, I realise I can't change her, but can anyone recommend any books or websites where I might find some advice on how to deal with her a bit better? I do want to have a good relationship with her and I don't want to hurt her. I think I somehow have to come to terms with the fact that she isn't going to be the truly supportive mother I crave and basically the loss of my dad has led to a role reversal, but I'm not sure how to do that.

highinthesky Mon 27-Mar-17 22:32:28

You can be truthful with DM without being hurtful.

Start by letting her know what you find acceptable behaviour, and what she does that you find difficult to deal with. Drip feed it though to give her time to reflect.

GoodyGoodyGumdrops Tue 28-Mar-17 07:05:55

When my mum has tried to 'take over', I have said straightforwardly to her, "This is about me, not you." Not engaged at all with what she was saying, simply repeated, "Mum, stop. This is about me, not you." And when she has started in on her negativity, I sometimes say "Mum, I can't cope with negativity at the moment," and change the subject.

It's taken me decades to realise that I can do this, that I don't have to let her manipulate the conversation, that I can tell her what to do.

Can't say I get it right all the time, but it helps!

OnTheRise Tue 28-Mar-17 08:09:41

It wouldn't be unreasonable to tell her to stop going through your bins and drawers. If she cries when you tell her this, then either you're shouting and swearing at her and making her feel threatened, or she's being over-dramatic in order to make you feel bad for setting reasonable boundaries.

When she goes into doom-and-gloom mode, change the subject. Make the subject-change clumsy if you like, it'll help point out that you're not going to do that.

And it's reasonable to restrict contact if she doesn't respond.

Expect her to ramp up the controlling behaviour when you first start setting your boundaries. Stand firm. It will be ok.

TryingToStayRational Tue 28-Mar-17 19:20:38

Thanks, I will definitely try some of those!

GoodDayToYou Wed 29-Mar-17 00:03:26

If you can't stop her going through your bins and drawers, meet her away from your home. Find ways to put adult boundaries in place.

My mum used to be really negative at times and can still go there sometimes - I just told her straight and repeated it alongside talking about living a happy life and how life becomes what you focus on etc etc. She gets it now and is a genuinely happy person.

MrsExpo Wed 29-Mar-17 07:54:08

I think the most telling part of you post is the bit about your dad and how much you miss him. My heart goes out to you on this one. I still shed tears for my mum 10 years after she passed.

Please don't think I'm being trite or unhelpful, but have you considered bereavement counselling for yourself. Coming to terms with losing your dad may help you see your mother in a different light and help you to better understand where she's coming from.

She also has your elderly grandparents to deal with which can be stressful on top of losing the man you describe as "her rock". I'm not surprised she's tending to be negative.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 29-Mar-17 08:08:54

Why do you want to have a good relationship with her and not hurt her when she has behaved pretty much like this all her life towards you?. She has shown you no real consideration whatsoever. Such people do not change and it is not your fault your mother is like this; you did not make her this way. People like your mother are not loving and do not mean well because they make everything all about them. You and everyone else around her are merely bit part players in her universe of which she is at the centre.

People from dysfunctional families end up playing roles. Your late father was her buffer and now that he has died she basically has free reign. Where are your boundaries with your mother OP; what is and is not acceptable to you from her?. If she keeps on going through your things do not let her into your house ever again. Were you ever encouraged to have boundaries?. She does not seem at all interested in you at all as a person is she?.

I would read "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward as a starting point and also read the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages.

GloriaV Wed 29-Mar-17 08:17:24

Your post sounds like a plea for a magic wand.
Please can I make my DM into a nice person by not doing anything and not upsetting her.

If she is better with your DSis then their relationship is different thus you need to change your relationship with her, if you can't change her. You are so intent on being 'nice' to her that you are letting her away with stuff. Start speaking up. You have years of relationship with her ahead. It is in Both your interests to get it on a better footing, even if it means short term upset.

TryingToStayRational Wed 29-Mar-17 19:34:47

Thanks All, many good points. Have spoken to my sister and will be trying to adopt some of her tactics, plus will read the stately homes thread properly and see if I can get the Susan Forward book at the library. I don't think she's anything like as toxic as some, but there are definitely some behaviours I can spot there. Hopefully reading more examples will help me to spot when she's going off on one of her negative or critical tracks so I can address it at the time. Often I just feel frustrated and exhausted but it is only afterwards that I can really deconstruct what actually happened, by which time it is harder to tackle. I'm also going to try to spend time with her with other people, rather than just me and her, as that is usually better.

Re the going through drawers etc, this isn't a regular thing and when it has happened I have got really mad with her, and she has apologised profusely, but it's like she is a 5 year old curious child who genuinely doesn't realise that it's rude to go through someone else's stuff. Completely bizarre. We live over 100 miles apart and I mostly visit her home so it is rarely an issue but it's more just an insight into her mind I guess!

Best of luck to anyone else dealing with a difficult relationship smile

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