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Disliking your own mother


flipmo

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I am at the end of my tether. I don't hate my mother, I just see no redeeming features in her personality at all. We rarely talk and I don't see her often, but whenever I do her behaviour makes me want to tear my hair out. She does not care about anyone besides herself. She has always put my stepfather above me and my sister, and yet she treats him like crap anyway. She has a vile temper and will say the most awful things when she is angry, then bawl like a baby to make you feel sorry for her. She is the most selfish person I have ever encountered (she came to the town I was in on my birthday, wouldn't meet me and my sister for a drink because she was buying her engagement ring then told me it was 'her special day'). She doesn't know anything of my or my sister's achievements (we both have good careers, good degrees etc). If you bring any of this stuff up with her she cries and says we're bullies. You can't make a joke about anything she says, she will cry and tell you to f off and that you're a bully. She is materialistic and manipulative. When she tries to hug me or tell me she loves me I find it physically repulsive.

 

I am 21 and have an excellent relationship with my father and sister, who I speak to every day. I have been to see a therapist about this. I think she hoped to make me closer to my mother but all she made me do was accept that I will never like her. The worst thing is, my mother is a counsellor herself and yet still does not see how destructive her behaviour is and what a terrible person we think she is.

 

What makes me upset is that people have one of three reactions when you say you don't like your mother

1. you're going through a teenager phase, and you'll get over it

2. noone dislikes their mother, deep down, you love her (don't get me wrong, I would be upset if she died, but I don't think that is the same as love - I think you have to like someone to love them)

3. there must be something wrong with you

 

I am also concerned that deep down I am like her, selfish and nasty to the core. I don't want to become like that. I guess I am just looking for some reassurance that this is not as weird a situation that everybody makes out.

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Having serious issues with your own mother is a tough one indeed. Most people just don't understand how anyone can dislike their own mother, but then again most people have good, decent mothers. It's when you have one who has serious mental issues and you had to bear the brunt of them growing up is when the trouble starts.

 

Just some quick background, my mother was an only child in a emotionally and physically abuive home. The thing is most of the abuse came from her own mother. She grew up never knowing what a good mother is because she never had one. When he and my dad had me it became apparent to much of the family that she wasn't mother material. She treated me like a possession to be put on a shelf and only brought down to show off. As I got older and started thinking for myself, like all children do at some point, she began to resent me. The divorce my parents when through only made things worse. She told my father in front of me when I was 5 that she would see in a state home before she let him be in my life. Long story a little shorter, she kept her word and I spent half my childhood in state and youth homes.

 

I left her home at 16 and it was a long, hard road for us as mother and son. It was only when her own mother developed Alzheimer's that she saw how her behavior had affected me over the years and she apologized. She is right now doing a lot to make amends for her past actions and our relationship is the best it's been ever. For me it all started with her sincere apology for things she had done in the past. I'd apologized many, many times over the years but until I heard her say those words I don't think she ever really understood that I wasn't trying to soften her up for anything but to repair the damage between us.

 

The best advice I can give you is to do your damnedest to keep all exchanges with her as civil as possible. It that means limiting your contact with her, so be it. Just like it takes two to fight it takes two to repair and rebuild a relationship. If you or her aren't willing to try for whatever reason it's not going to happen and there is no use in forcing it. I tried forcing it with my mother and we ended up estranged for close to 2 years because of it. Looking back I should have just took the high road and kept my contact and discussions with her to a minimum and only about "safe" topics.

 

Hope some of this helps.

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Thank you for replying. I feel really awful because I know how terrible some people have had problems with their parents: your story is desperately sad for you and your mother and I am very pleased that you two have begun building bridges.

 

Yet I don't feel any urge to connect with my mother. I don't see any particular reason for her behaviour, I think it is just her personality (although I do think she has some mental problems - which is why I find it so weird that she is a counsellor). I feel totally distant from her and satisfied in my relationships with my father, stepfather and stepmother. I also have some wonderful friends who are there for me in the way I would expect my mother to be (e.g. phoning me when a relative of mine died recently). Because of this I don't really strive to have a relationship with her any more. But then I feel guilty about that.

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Yet I don't feel any urge to connect with my mother. I don't see any particular reason for her behaviour, I think it is just her personality (although I do think she has some mental problems - which is why I find it so weird that she is a counsellor). I feel totally distant from her and satisfied in my relationships with my father, stepfather and stepmother. I also have some wonderful friends who are there for me in the way I would expect my mother to be (e.g. phoning me when a relative of mine died recently). Because of this I don't really strive to have a relationship with her any more. But then I feel guilty about that.

 

Well then I'd say if you can look your self in the mirror and honestly saw you've tried as much as you can to close the rift with your mother than maybe your best bet is to have no relationship with her. Sometimes people are better left alone at certain points in our lives. And just because you don't feel the urge to connect with her now doesn't mean it might not come out of nowhere at a later date.

 

You have to decide what is best for you and her, and if forcing a relationship isn't in both of your best interests then go with your gut.

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I don't believe in forcing things either. I went through quite a bit with my own mother. She also grew up in an abusive home and her mom (my grandma) doesn't know how to be a mother... so she never knew either. It's weird though, because my g-ma totally mellowed out and loves spending time with me lol. But anyway, I moved out for awhile and limited our contacts a lot and I guess that helped her realize that she needs me and cares for me. When you're not getting along and already don't appreciate each other, being in each other's face so often will not help at all. When you get out of each other's face and have time to breath and think, things can cool down and you're in a better state to work things out (or find the drive to even care).

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While its true that some people are fortunate enough to have one or both parents sane enough to serve as 'do' models, all too many of us are not so blessed, and we're dealt a human DON'T model, instead.

 

While we didn't have a choice as children, as adults we get to decide how we want to manage these relationships. We're no longer helpless, and this can free us to view a parent through a lens of compassion rather than one of leftover expectations that will never be met.

 

Everyone goes through the uncomfortable power shift of finding our roles with a parent reversed, and for some this happens much earlier in life than for others. The adjustment period can be full of conflict, however, once the shift shakes out and settles into a dynamic where the child is now the more mature and capable adult in the relationship, we can drop our fantasies that keep getting trashed. We can see Mom as an aging vulnerable and frightened person--with all the defensive and antagonistic qualities that can go along with that.

 

This isn't to suggest that you 'should' feel for Mom what you can't, it's only a statement about what has helped me stop holding my bar too high for my Mom to reach. Once I did that, I was able to approach Mom as someone who obviously needs my loving care and affection rather than the other way around. I stopped manipulating and I stopped resenting her, and I started humoring her instead. I don't intend to spend my future suffering guilt about how I could have behaved differently while she was alive. I'd rather tolerate and sometimes cater to the weaknesses I can now see with gentle clarity instead of through a lens of trying to get my needs met. This changed everything for me, and it left my Mom spinning her old patters for a while until she noticed my softening and my support. She responded to my changes in surprising ways over time.

 

My heart goes out to you, and I hope you'll write more if it helps.

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Parents are still people and you may or may not get along with them depending on your personalities or your pasts.

 

As a child and as an adult I have always been close with my parents, but my Dad more so. He is truly one of my best friends. My Mom is a great Mom, but not emotionally open like my Dad is, so I prefer discussing personal things with him.

 

Some parents are toxic and if they are not respectful there is no shame in limiting your contact with them, just as you would any other toxic person.

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My mother is the same way, very emotionally unstable, quick tempered, stubborn, selfish, and as much as I don't want to fathom it she probably has a mental or personality disorder. I stopped counting the number of insults she threw in my face when she is angry, such as "I wish I had an abortion" etc. Sadly, because everything out of her mouth is poisonous, I have emotionally disengaged myself from her and after a difficult year of living at home post college, I have recently moved out. She does not believe in compromise, and she never believes in resolving disagreements with respect or calm. Throughout my life all I've known is how to shout to get your way, and now I've become a calmer person because I realize that it's the wrong way to communicate.

 

My advice is to not feel guilty for not feeling more for your mother, although she is your mom, that doesn't give her the right to treat her children with disrespect. Just like any other person who is unreasonable, I disengage. If anything, your mom should feel guilty for not feeling blessed for having such a wonderful child, and it's a shame that she will never come to realize what a beautiful relationship this could have been. It's a pity indeed, and relationships are two way streets, never one.

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I think we might have the same mother! No, but this is a great post...

The only option in such situations is acceptance - and moving out. People that say, "oh, you guys can 'patch things up'", or " you are just stressed" or "it's normal to argue" don't understand that relationships like these go far beyond just mood swings and argument. Such comments generally come from people with loving parental relations.

 

And often communication with these mothers about these issues tends to just fuel the fire and anger them. All you can do is what Arcadia said - you must distance yourself from them -emotionally and physically.

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I think we might have the same mother! No, but this is a great post...

The only option in such situations is acceptance - and moving out. People that say, "oh, you guys can 'patch things up'", or " you are just stressed" or "it's normal to argue" don't understand that relationships like these go far beyond just mood swings and argument. Such comments generally come from people with loving parental relations.

 

And often communication with these mothers about these issues tends to just fuel the fire and anger them. All you can do is what Arcadia said - you must distance yourself from them -emotionally and physically.

 

I agree that those who say relationships like this can be "fixed" have loving mothers and have never had to go through the emotional abuse while growing up, and then having to hear the same abusive logic applied to them as adults post college. And another thing to point, if your boyfriend is acting in the same manner to you, the advice would be to break up with him immediately, would it not? The egregious double standard should not be applied to anyone, not even your own blood relative, at least in my opinion.

 

I highly suggest reading this New York Times article regarding toxic parents. Although I do no advocate going to extremes such as cutting off all ties, it does touch upon the issues we are going through with our own mothers.

 

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What makes me upset is that people have one of three reactions when you say you don't like your mother

1. you're going through a teenager phase, and you'll get over it

2. noone dislikes their mother, deep down, you love her (don't get me wrong, I would be upset if she died, but I don't think that is the same as love - I think you have to like someone to love them)

3. there must be something wrong with you.

 

I nodded in agreement while reading your post. I find the same reactions when I tell people I don't like my mother and don't want to be like her. They don't seem to take into consideration all that I've lived with and ask themselves, "What could her mother have done to make her feel this way?" The mother-daughter bond seems to be most sacred that any talk otherwise is taboo.

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I highly suggest reading this New York Times article regarding toxic parents. Although I do no advocate going to extremes such as cutting off all ties, it does touch upon the issues we are going through with our own mothers.

 

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This was a very informative article. Thanks for sharing it! I often feel like I'm the only one dealing with toxic parents and am constantly justifying their behavior.

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I don't hold moralistic views about disowning a parent, I just try to look beyond what seems to be the most expedient reflex when it comes to rejecting one. My reasons are practical rather than judgmental, and I understand that trying to project oneself into the future may not seem practical. But for these purposes, consider that we can't know today what we'll someday discover about ourselves, our objectivity and our most mature capacity for compassion--possibly until after it's too late.

 

During my early work in nursing, among my patients were the elderly in various states of mental health. It occurred to me that the caretaking roles between these folks and their adult children had been switched years before the parent ever required full time care.

 

The caretaker switch can happen as early as one's childhood when frailties such as personality or mood disorders or the like begin to crack open and show through in the behaviors of the parent. This doesn't require professional diagnosis to make it so. In fact, most sick people avoid evaluation rendering treatment impossible.

 

But one's own private definition of 'sick' can be all that's practical and necessary to become a working definition. Helpful tools and tips for caring for "the elderly" can be just as applicable to anyone's relationships with a sick parent at any age.

 

If my compassion for someone living with a dis-ease can be invoked for anyone else in the world despite hostile and combative behaviors that could even land such a person living on the streets, why would I not be able to find it within myself to adopt such a position when it comes to my own parent?

 

This isn't about shifting blame, it's recognizing that blame isn't the point. How would I care for someone in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's or any other illness? And how do I know that the harmful behaviors displayed by a parent (even as early as their 20's) aren't precursors to such events? If I assume that this is true just for the sake of practicality, and I find that this working definition of sickness aids my approach, I will continue to make my life easier with the only question that's within my control: how can 'I' behave differently?

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[...]I understand completely what you are saying. I had a mother with problems that prevented her from being the parent she wanted to be. Somehow I knew she couldn't help herself and that it had nothing to do with me.

 

Wow. That kind of objectivity is about as rare as it gets. If I take myself out of the equation just long enough to get a glimpse of Dearest as somebody else's 'patient,' what would I see?

 

The adult children who were the most hostile toward the parents I cared for ultimately took it the hardest when they died. Some were inconsolable. That's not because they were bad people who deserved guilt, it's because they saw in that moment all chances to do ANYthing differently pulled out from under them--and they could never, ever, get a do-over.

 

It's less about how Dearest will benefit from my ability to look beyond my own pain, it's more about how I can benefit myself. I will ALWAYS have my hurts to go back over whenever I wish, but I have power as an adult I never had before to change everything about my own responses.

 

If holding hurt is more important to me now, that's valid. It just may not be true for me later, and later may not hold the same opportunities that I have today.

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How would a do-over have been possible? Stay with a parent who abuses you, either physically, verbally or emotionally? [...]

 

Good question. The primary goal is to make this about your own coping strategies rather than about responsibilities toward a parent. Should an undeserving parent happen to benefit from your learning, that's a byproduct of any benefits to you. In other words, it makes no sense to rip yourself off just to get back at them.

 

Support groups for elder care have sprung up around the world, but these groups can offer friendship and help in dealing with 'sick' parents regardless of their age or capacity, and regardless of your degree of involvement with them. They are especially helpful with the mental and emotional aspects of dealing with hurtful parents.

 

Another great resource is to ask people who work at mental hospitals, treatment centers, nursing homes, etc. how they handle their patients when they're abusive. However, if caring for a parent puts you at physical risk, staying with them might not be your best option without private duty help.

 

Mental and emotional abuse makes the switch from viewing a parent as 'the patient' instead of your parent crucial. Even once-kind parents can degenerate into foul-mouthed combatants, but when a parent has ALWAYS been cruel, it can be difficult to make the shift into a caretaker role without slipping into one's own emotional regression from time to time. It's part of the territory--and this is why elder care support groups can be so helpful.

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While I agree that a child should not be hostile towards his own parent, I also do not believe that you should continue a toxic bond with someone (does not matter who) who is doing more damage than good. I believe you can display compassion, but that does not mean giving the parent permission to treat you poorly. One wouldn't even tolerate this behavior from a SO or friend.

 

I see my own mother deal with my grandma's issues with Alzheimers and such. My grandma treats me mother so poorly, would insult her, shout at her, and whenever my mom brings over food she cooks, my grandma would complain very vocally about how bad it tastes. I understand that there is nothing my grandma can do to change this illness, but seeing my mom come home and take out her frustrations and hurt onto her own daughter is just prolonging a terrible cycle caused by my grandma. So I am a huge advocate of disengaging when it comes to toxic parents. Especially if one is not strong enough to look past the hurt and continues the cycle with her own children.

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