I’ve always been the type of person to avoid confrontation. For me, it is more than just unpleasant–it is emotionally fueled, painful, and anxiety provoking.
It has always been easier…better…to just be the peacemaker. The nurturer.
I was cultivated into this role from an early age. The first person that I tried to avoid confrontation with is a person that I still try to avoid confrontation with: my mother.
My mother has always been the type of person to see life from her own perspective. Everything has been about her. If I was upset with her, she would some how switch track the situation and turn it on me–Why don’t I love her? Why can’t she ever do anything right with me?
Clearly, it was all my fault.
I found myself abandoning my own feelings and feeling worse.
Feeling bad for her.
So, rather than continue to explain my own viewpoint and communicate my needs, from early on I simply avoided confrontation when I could.
I became the one who listened to my mother. The “good” daughter…because she could complain and complain about everyone else and I would listen and try to make her feel better. I tried to avoid stirring the pot after learning that, every time I did so, I would get burned.
When I started therapy, I began to recognize how unhealthy my relationship with my mother was.
I can now see her manipulation and passive aggressive tendencies as they are occurring–or even before they happen.
Our relationship, right now, is strained. She knows I have put up lots of boundaries. I am no longer her sounding board. I no longer let her emotionally bully me into doing things that I don’t want to do (if I can avoid it.).
We seem to be in a cycle. It starts with everything feeling somewhat “normal” and okay. I am busy. I don’t reach out and contact her, but she tries to be understanding and pass it off as normal busy-ness. Then, as time goes on, she starts to get upset, but doesn’t say anything. It is obvious in sighs and glances. Then comes the passive aggressive phase: Oh, you and grandma had dinner? You know I like to have dinner, too. It sure would be nice to be invited sometime. I don’t know what I ever did that none of my children want to spend time with me.
Then, the pissed off stage.
Then, the apologetic stage.
And it starts again.
It is, at least, predictable.
But, it is frustrating.
Many, many people have asked me: Why do you still deal with her? Why haven’t you gone no-contact and cut her off yet?
The honest answer? I don’t know.
I don’t know why I can’t seem to fathom this idea.
Mothers and daughters are intricately connected. It is so complicated. My children are her grandchildren.
I want a mom I can talk to about my problems. Who I can laugh with. Who I can hug. Who I can cry with. Yet, repeatedly, she has shown me she cannot be that mom.
I cannot trust her with secrets. I cannot trust her with my emotions.
It is dangerous and she has shown me, too many times, that she will use these things against me if it suits her.
My biggest problem? Getting rid of this want is so difficult.
Cognitively, I can sit here and tell you that I don’t need a relationship from her. I don’t. Despite all of my fears going into this process, I have learned that I have other people I can turn to. It looks different, but these other people mean the world to me–I trust them, which is something I have never been able to fully do with my own mom.
Emotionally, however? Giving up on the idea that she can change is so, so hard.
Moreover, that cycle we’re in? It screws with my head.
Yes, the cycle is predictable. But, somehow, when she is in that apologetic, nice stage, she can seem so genuine. It starts to make me feel guilty.
I start to think, Maybe she isn’t so bad. I should call her. I should check on her. I should be the “good” daughter.
And I do.
Then, I’m filled with regret.
Because we move onto the next part of the cycle. And, again, I am finding myself searching for the right responses as she accuses me of not loving her.
Love? It has always been her weapon. It is not unconditional.
It is full of so many conditions that I have never been able to get it right.
Because there is no right. At least…not from me.
So much of this resonates with me. I was talking to a friend last night who is really struggling with her mental health and the reaction of her mother. It’s so hard when all we want is a mum who understands and we can talk to.
I can relate to this so much it’s scary!! I think the fact that you have recognised the pattern is a really important step in your recovery. Even if you sometimes get sucked back in. I still get sucked back in to certain things with my mother too, and I hate myself for it when I realise BUT we are only human and we are fighting against what we have always done and what we have always known so it takes time. I like to think that gradually this will happen less and less until it never happens again.
The “daughter guilt” was awful. I completely understand what you are saying. I remember it VERY clearly. My mother (who sounds similar to your’s) would go through phases of staying quiet then making sly comments (such as “are you alive”), then would slag me off to my family who would tell me – I would get angry, then I would feel guilty as they told me “mummy is very upset” and so on and so on….. eugh it’s exhausting isn’t it?
Grieving the mum you wanted/still want and being able to so clearly SEE the difference as you start to accept the reality is just awful. I have grieved a lot and probably have much more to do. It’s horrible and there is nothing we can do about it. The unfairness of it for me is what I found so, so hard. As you say, giving up on the idea she can change is so hard – BUT it will happen. In time and when you are ready. You have to get through all of the heaps of denial first (and that takes a long time) because who wants to have to face that as their reality? Nobody!!!
I am thinking of you, keep going and don’t give up. xx
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I can relate to this. After talking to a friend of mine about my issues with my mom she bought me the book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers,” by Dr. Karyl McBride Ph.D. It was very enlightening. I had never thought of my mother as a narcissist, but when I read the book it all fit.
Hang in there!
You’re completely correct and on point about the two wants. The rational and emotional. These cycles are really difficult, I had a very rough relationship with my own mother (father wasnt present), but I was largely able to reconcile when I put her in less of my life for a couple of years. We learned to better communicate without as much anger.
Not saying it’s the same, reading your words makes me feel you have it worse. But there is always a way. But you also can’t cost yourself your own sanity and self love to fight that. I wish you the best the figuring things out, I’m glad you have some support in this fight. I just read and recalled a lot of my own thoughts about my mom. But since she passed away last year, none of that dysfunction seems to matter anymore.
”I don’t know what I ever did to make none of my children want to spend time with me.” My mother says some version of this almost every time we talk. I think we have the same mother. I’m also in therapy, and boundaries with my mother are changing. She hates that I write about her, and I almost love that she hates it while still craving her approval, cause that’s normal 🙃
You sound brave! My mother has no idea I write about her. It would be a huge, huge MESS. This is my secret, safe outlet. 🙂
I can relate to this so much! Only my mom also manipulates my emotions about my son and my parenting as well. She also refuses to have serious, meaningful conversations in which she cannot tell me what to do. She ignores what she can and cries through the rest. It truly is so exhausting. I hope you find the balance and peace you need. I would like to guarantee it for you, though if our moms are the same, it’s just wishful thinking unfortunately.
Thank you for writing about ‘daughter guilt’, I’m glad I’m not the only person who seems to have this kind of toxic relationship with a parent
The saddest part of this is not only what you are missing but what she is missing. Your description of her personality sounds like a person who has some traits of antisocial personality disorder. I am sorry that you can’t have the relationship you crave but those who function putting themselves ahead of all else always can manipulate others. She is your mother and it sounds like you have done well in a very difficult situation. You are amazing to still keep on!
This post made me very tearful as I have experienced the same kind of relationship. My mother and me have a respectful relationship now for the first time in my life which is amazing. All the best to you, Amy Belle
Erica I just got back into the blogging world after a long absence and came across your blog. This post spoke to me so much I had to comment. I too have a strained relationship with my mother, and she does many of the same things yours seems to do. Very passive aggressive and manipulative, and the worst part is I am the only one who sees it, most other people think she is quite a lovely person. Which she is around others, because she knows how to behave in public. I’ve never been close to my mom, even as a child. Not that she ever did anything wrong, but for some reason I never felt that special mother daughter connection I hear about. Now that I am an adult and married and hoping to have a child of my own someday, we have grown even further apart. I needed her help and assistance when I was younger and she wasn’t there. So in my mind I really don’t need her here now that everything’s going (relatively) well. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but I don’t have the emotional room in my life for her, so I just treat her as sort of an acquaintance. I’m civil, and when she starts with her passive aggressive comments I take them at face value and don’t entertain them.
The only advice I can tell you is this is all about her, not you. Don’t let it control you. You are doing awesome by setting boundaries. Also, take it as a learning experience of what type of relationship you want to have with your own children. All of this is easy to say, but difficult in practice. I realize that. But just recognizing it is a big step. I wish you all the luck and am very happy to have come across your blog this morning.