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Possibly narc DM - how do you cope?(12 Posts)
I wonder if anybody could help me talk through my relationship with my mum? Sorry, I think this will be a long one! It’s becoming increasingly frustrating trying to have what I would regard as a ‘normal’ mother-daughter relationship with her. It seems to be getting harder as I get older (I’m now almost 25 and have lived mostly away from home since I went to uni at 18, about an hour from my hometown).
She has always been ‘difficult’ and I suspect she may have narcissistic tendencies. Ever since I was quite young, I have been scared of her reactions to things I might do or say. I remember my younger sister and I being threatened with being given away to Barnardo’s when we were little, and Mum would regularly give us the silent treatment from a very young age. She once spent a week’s holiday ignoring us, although I’m not sure what we did to deserve it. She went mad and refused to speak to me when, at 17 and in a fairly long-term relationship, I told her that going to go on the Pill – I thought that I was being responsible! She accused me of deliberately sabotaging my own interview at Cambridge when I failed to get a place, causing her to apparently have sleepless nights and cry at work. When I was in my first year at uni, she blew up because I wanted to try contact lenses and that was ‘a waste of my student loan’, even though I had plenty of my own money saved up to pay for them. I did a Study Abroad placement and struggled with being in a different country on my own, but she would only speak to me if it would be ‘a good Skype’ and I wasn’t going to get upset. These are just the events I can remember off the top of my head, but it feels like this sort of behaviour has been endless since I was very young. Even this weekend, we met for lunch and she stormed off because she stopped to say something to me and I gently suggested that we move away from right at the end of a bridge where she had stopped and people were trying to walk. This all sounds so unbelievably petty written down!
This has all resulted in me not wanting to move home (which she has been suggesting I do since I finished uni) and not wanting to tell her everything about my life, so that I don’t give her anything to get at me about. Last year I met my DP and we’re very happy together. In September I’ll be moving to my DP’s hometown to be closer to him, but I haven’t told my mum this yet. She has already had issues with me spending time with DP’s family (we get on very well and share a hobby – my mum has never really had any).
Today I had a phone call from my dad, who says that my mum has found out from a family friend that I’ve had two travel injections for an upcoming trip. This isn’t something that I’ve deliberately kept from her, but injections seemed like such a minor thing that it just slipped my mind and I forgot to mention it to her. Essentially, my dad has now requested that I Skype my mum at least once a week to keep her up-to-date on everything that’s going on in my life. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid, as I’d rather ‘cool’ the relationship for my own mental health – I’ve read about similar tactics on here and had hoped that they might work.
I think that really, I just wanted to get all of this out of my system and in a way to grieve the fact that I’ve not had an ordinary, loving and supportive relationship with my mum in the way that I would have liked. I had some sessions of counselling about this a few years ago, when the counsellor said that, in a relationship ‘triangle’, if you like, my mum was acting like a child and forcing me into the adult role.
Is it me, though, am I the problem here? Has anybody else had to deal with something like this? If so, how have you coped?
Thank you so much if you’ve read to the end of this enormous spiel! I really, really appreciate any replies or advice.
Your dad facilitates her behaviour. I bet he is quite weak himself and fails to stand up to her or intervene at times when you would have wanted him to.
This says nothing about you at all and you are quite right to limit contact to a level you are comfortable with.
I would suggest that also if you can afford to, get some counselling. You have been conditioned to behave in a certain way by her. If you decide to remain in contact then I would suggest you limit your emotional responses. The counselling will help you with your behaviour around her too.
Best case she is emotionally abusive, a full on narc...doesn't sound like it. Narcs are quite rare although people obviously can display some of those traits.
There is a stress called stately homes. It's about narc parents. You might want to give it a read.
Again, this is not you. But you need to decide how much contact you really want with your parents if they behave so badly.
She isn't your keeper.
And you don't owe her another minute of your time.
At 24 I had 4 dc and my dm who had barely managed to drag her single dc up criticised my parenting once to often and I went nc. Best decision I have ever made.
Your df needs to keep out of it but I am sure you know that!!
Block her number, tell your df if he keeps interfering you will block him also.
Big girl pants on - and then start enjoying life!!
Its not you, its them.
Its also not possible to have a relationship with a narcissist.
None of what you have written down is at all petty; you would not have tolerated any of this from a friend. Your mother is no different. Certainly do not skype her at least once a week either.
Women like your mother cannot do relationships but always need a willing enabler to help them and that person here is your dad; he cannot be let off the hook here either. He is a weak bystander to her abuses of you and is also her hatchet man doing her bidding. He has totally failed you also as a parent.
It goes without saying you need to keep your distance, both mental and physical, from both your parents from now on. Put in firm and consistent boundaries for your own self re them; this may be difficult because you have likely been encouraged not to really have any when it comes to them either. You basically need to tell them nothing about your life; the grey rock technique.
Re your comment:-
"I think that really, I just wanted to get all of this out of my system and in a way to grieve the fact that I’ve not had an ordinary, loving and supportive relationship with my mum in the way that I would have liked. I had some sessions of counselling about this a few years ago, when the counsellor said that, in a relationship ‘triangle’, if you like, my mum was acting like a child and forcing me into the adult role".
Precisely on both points, you had a good counsellor there. You will ultimately need to grieve for the relationship you should have had rather than the one you actually got. Narcissists also triangulate and are emotionally stuck around the age of six.
You may want to consider seeking a counsellor again and one who also has no bias about keeping families together. I would also suggest you read the Out of the Fog and Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers websites and post too on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" on these Relationships pages. The publication "Children of the Self Absorbed" by Nina W Brown is worth reading too.
Thank you everyone for your replies.
I find it really hard to admit that, although my dad has never behaved like my mum has, he still has a role to play in all this. I've been dwelling on our conversation today and all I can think is that yet again the easiest thing for him to do is to get me to appease my mum rather than him challenging her on her behaviour.
My preference would be to limit contact with them. Mum has started to behave like this in front of my DP, which she never did with my previous partner, like storming off or giving me the silent treatment (which she did after I didn't immediately meet her at a rugby match a couple of weeks ago, presumably to ruin my day out with DP and our friends and make everything about her). Frankly, I am embarrassed by her. There are other reasons for this too, like her making rude comments about people, including my 80-year-old GM, and having no table manners.
I wondered if my dad might be tiring of all of this, but apparently he's content to facilitate her, like you say, jeaux, and do anything for a quiet life. I feel let down by my parents and so, so sad that I don't have a close and mutually supportive relationship with them. Growing up, they always spoilt us materially, but the emotional support and unconditional love wasn't there. The same this Christmas just gone - I was at home for a few days and asked my mum not to go overboard on presents, which she perceived as a slight against her. The problem is that I feel that, if I accept presents and money from her, she feels I owe her loyalty in return. When I am at home, it is though I'm expected to regress to being a child. I can't cope with it and I'm already dreading this Christmas - it will be difficult whether it's with them or whether I choose to spend it with DP's family, which would be my preferred option but would cause absolute ructions.
Attila, you're right about the boundaries. My mum would regularly walk into my room unannounced when I lived at home and has no concept of personal space. She gets offended if I move away from her if she sits too close, which she does deliberately. She gave me and my sister no talks about puberty or periods (I was expected to do that for my sister when she started aged 10 and was distraught because she had no idea what was happening to her), yet had weird boundaries about talking about sex, things like asking me if I'd read 50 Shades of Grey etc. I had a bit of a skewed frame of mind around sex when I was younger, I think because it was never talked about. Sometimes she gives the impression of wanting that typical 'girly', mum-and-daughter relationship, but she's done nothing to encourage that closeness when I was growing up, and that's my fault.
There's definitely an expectation by both my parents that I owe them my time, less so of my sister, I think. It's easy for me to say that I'd like to limit contact and keep it on my terms, but in practice? I'm not sure how to do it. If I Skype them after what they perceive to be too long, during which time I've been seeing DP's family as he still lives at home with his parents, I get one-word answers, passive aggressive remarks etc, so cutting down on those talks isn't likely to help. Equally my weekends with DP are busy and time together is precious - we spent an afternoon this weekend with my parents, during which my mum was awful. She seems to think that I owe her my time regardless of how she behaves. As Attila said, I'd have stopped seeing a friend long ago if she had treated me this way, but how does it work when it's your mum?
Reading all of this back, I think you're all right and I could do with some more counselling.
Every time I think too much about this, I wonder if I'm making it up and it's all in my head and I'm exaggerating. I do have mild anxiety and depression, and I wonder if I'm just being a bit 'special snowflake' about my upbringing...
Sorry for rambling, I'm just trying to work out my thoughts! Thank you all
I can't remember the author off the top of my head but go on Amazon and other a copy of 'Your'e not Crazy, it's Your Mother'
Really OP it was a lightbulb in my head. There's no happy ending/magic answer but it made me feel a lot better to realise that however I changed or shaped the way I behaved around my mother, it would never be good enough. It helped to read through the author's experiences and I hope one day I can stop tormenting myself about the fact that my mum has major issues with me. It's hard though
Thanks, Harriet, I've just googled and had a look at the book, it looks helpful!
Just talking this all through with my sister now, it's so difficult, but thank you for your advice!
re your comment:-
" I find it really hard to admit that, although my dad has never behaved like my mum has, he still has a role to play in all this. I've been dwelling on our conversation today and all I can think is that yet again the easiest thing for him to do is to get me to appease my mum rather than him challenging her on her behaviour"
Correct but you really do need to get your head around the fact your dad is also culpable here. She has been actively enabled by him, women like your mother do need a willing enabler. This is also where counselling could help you. Your dad has continued to enable his wife, your mother, for his own reasons.
He certainly has and continues to play out his roles here in your dysfunctional family of origin; he is really her hatchet man here acting on her bidding. He is basically saying that he does not want to rock the boat here so you have to suck it up. Does he also tell you how great she is as well; that is a form of gaslighting you. Their relationship is likely to be one of unhealthy codependency.
And NO its not exaggeration, all in your head or you being a special snowflake. I would also think that any anxiety and depression issues you have are primarily because of their behaviours as well. None of your reply to me personally surprised me at all I am sorry to say.
I would limit all forms of contact and communication with them to a point eventually where there is none. They won't like boundaries and will rail against them but your own self preservation is necessary here.
Your mother is really no different, you would not have tolerated one ounce of this from friends either.
If children are in your future they will too need to be kept away from your parents.
Its not you OP, its them.
I hope that the conversation with your sister goes well.
I am 49 and still find my boundaries porous with my mother. having just finished another point scoring phone call with her I am at my wits bloody end.
The setting of boundaries is so difficult. Even when we lived abroad, she couldn't or wouldn't back off. We are back now and she blows from aggresive to snide.
Agree about the children. She uses my eldest daughter as a pawn and I dont know how to stop it.
It would be so intersting OP to see how you work your way through this cos I need a light in the dark if my few scraps of sanity are to be saved.
Very similar relationship with my narc DM and enabler/poss narc DF. Tied myself up in knots for years trying to keep them happy, it never worked for more than a few weeks. By the time I was 40 I was very stressed, dreaded any contact with them. Didn't find counselling helped a great deal although I read some good books which did help such as Toxic Parents. Eventually I reached my limit, the silent treatment had become near constant. I went low contact - I told them what I was doing and why - there were many tantrums but 7 years later I have stuck to my guns. I'm much happier and don't miss them at all. I never phone, text every couple of months to arrange dinner (always out, never in my house or theirs) and always with my DH present.. It was very difficult for a long time but I never regretted it (despite many many guilt trips)!
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