How to manage Mom

A letter writer has a toxic relationship with her mother – something our elder can understand all too well. 

It won’t happen overnight, but it can get better.


Dear EWC

I am an 18-year-old female and I am tired of putting my faith in trust in my mother. She lets me down every time. She never listens to my side of the story or tries to put herself in my shoes. All she does is assume what she will. Throughout my teenage years she has been dismissive of my problems (a lot pertaining to mental illness) and has not thought accordingly about how she could help me with my situation. She never let me have room to express myself and I never felt accepted the way I am. We used to be very close, but in my late teens she has revealed herself to be unhelpful, not understanding, and judgmental. I am tired of rekindling my relationship with her just for her to disappoint me again. All she ever does is hurt me. I know her intentions are good, but when I try to talk to her, she just gets defensive and rude. She thinks she knows everything and she’s always right. I love my mother, but I won’t deal with this toxic relationship anymore. How can I forgive my mother and accept the fact that we can’t be close without getting too upset about it? How can I let go of my mother and realize she’ll never be the mother I want her to be?


Good-Listener replies

Am so sorry for what you’re going through with your mother. I felt compelled to answer your letter because I relate, more than you know.

I can’t say what the root causes for your mother’s anger and the way she treats you, and not being a psychologist, I won’t try. I didn’t start to figure things out until after my mother died and I had enough therapy and spoke to enough people to start understanding. I would hate for you to wait that long.

I believe what you’re telling me. The problem is, it’s unlikely she will change much. It sounds as though you’ve tried talking to her, expressing yourself and it didn’t work. It made things worse in my case, so that option left the building from the start.

You will have to change. Not change who you are, but how you react. It won’t be easy, and I will suggest that if there’s any way you can get some therapy… It may help tremendously. In my opinion you need support in how you go forward with Mom. What I was finally able to do – and what I’m suggesting to you, is that you find a way to detach. That’s hard but it can be done. By detach, I mean, emotionally. She’s going to react to you – understand that she will behave in certain ways and you need to learn to nicely “yes” her. When you can (and you can’t always do it, but when possible), say, “OK, Mom”. If you can compromise on certain things, do it without argument. When you can’t – well, reserve those times for the arguments that inevitably will happen. Don’t go to her for “real” advice that you know will start an argument. Maybe go to her when you know the answer, so that you’ll make her feel wanted and you can agree with what she says because you don’t really care anyway. You can’t heal her wounds, whatever they are, nor should you suffer because of them. But the situation is what it is – and you can’t blame yourself for what may be her trauma or mental issues.

I always envied my friends who had supportive parents – who could genuinely enjoy the time spent with their mothers. I never had it – I had exactly what you did, only worse, but we don’t need to get into that. She will never be what you hope she will – likely she isn’t capable. It’s time for you to almost become the parent and rise above the unpleasantness, when you can. However, with learning the tricks to appeasing her (while keeping your dignity), things can be much better. By the time my mother passed – even five or so years before, I had learned what I’m imparting to you now and things were much better. It didn’t change the past, or what or who she was, what changed was my attitude and reaction to her. She passed thinking things were fine because my behavior and respectful behavior towards her, made her feel that way. And, in the end, I had no regrets.

The other suggestion is, when you are in a position to is to get out of the house. I don’t know if you’re still in school or working, but moving out when you can manage it, may ease some of the tension. It won’t take it away – she will likely still try to hold on to control, but, again, it will help you to not have her there on top of you, so to speak.

As I said – this won’t happen overnight, but you can manage. I can’t emphasize enough trying to get some counseling or therapy. If there’s an adult you can confide in who can help you to find someone or check in with a state agency, there may be low or no cost. Every state and county is different in terms of what social services they can provide. 

Keep up hope – it can get better and you will be better off for it. Good luck.

Article #: 419129

Category: Family

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