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Help with Toxic Mother

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This is a support forum for the family, partners and friends of those with mental health issues. This forum is intended to be a safe place to discuss information, give and receive support and learn about all the issues related to being involved with a person with a disorder. Whilst it can be healthy to express various emotions, please remember to be respectful about the disorder itself. This is a place for constructive discussions, not a venting forum.

The issues experienced by the significant others of those with disorders cannot always be discussed in the other parts of the site in a way that does not trigger those with disorders. Moderators may therefore move threads from other forums into this one at their discretion.

Help with Toxic Mother

Postby K3rm1t » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:07 am

Hello, I'm asking for some advice on how to deal with this complicated issue for me.
I'm a 30 year old person with a spouse and a new baby son. My Mother I believe is a toxic person, but she's borderline since if she was very bad I'm sure I would have cut her out of my life already. I'm just not sure how to deal with her, how to respond when she says certain mean things. She puts doubt in me, whether I'm being a bad son, mean or hurtful. She does make me feel guilty even though I think I'm not really doing anything wrong. AM I? Maybe you can help? Here is my situation today. We haven't talked for 2 weeks because we have a surface relationship and I don't really enjoy spending time with her. It's pretending to be nice, but lots of hard feelings and unresolved issues. I love her and I think I don't want to cut her out of my life but I don't know how to set down my boundaries or what to tell her that doesn't make me seem like the bad guy if I do. Keep in mind my son is 1 year old now, and she loves to see him and I feel guilty when I withhold him from her.
Today she messages me saying the following text messages:
"[Again, the same type of treatment. No contact. Lack of interest. That's our relation. Our talk was for nothing. Sad. Have a good day.]
[I saw you on July 23. How many times did you see your spouses parents since then?]
[Is it so difficult to message your mother at least to pretend that we care family?]
[Is there a reason for your silence? Do you pay for your messages?]
[What is happening?]
[We are not included in your life]"

What are your guys opinions? How should I respond? Am I truly treating her badly because I didn't talk with her for 2 weeks?

Thanks guys in advance.
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Re: Help with Toxic Mother

Postby Absinthe » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:05 pm

K3rm1t wrote:Am I truly treating her badly because I didn't talk with her for 2 weeks?

No, I don't think so.

K3rm1t wrote: It's pretending to be nice, but lots of hard feelings and unresolved issues. I love her and I think I don't want to cut her out of my life but I don't know how to set down my boundaries or what to tell her that doesn't make me seem like the bad guy if I do.

I think you just need to be clear in your own mind what the boundary lines are. If not, you'll tend to feel some resentment (and coinciding guilt) each time she makes contact.

On her side, she may be sensing the ambivalence and having an emotional reaction of her own.

It's really your choice if you want to be in contact with her. Do you want a relationship? If yes, how often are you comfortable being in contact? How often do you want her to visit with your son? Are there other parameters you need to put in place so you can make the time more enjoyable?

She probably won't like the boundaries you set, especially if she's not accustomed to having to deal with them. And will initially give you grief for it. But if you stay consistent, she'll eventually get used to it over time.
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Re: Help with Toxic Mother

Postby xdude » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:18 pm

Hey K3rm1t,

K3rm1t wrote:...I'm just not sure how to deal with her, how to respond when she says certain mean things. She puts doubt in me, whether I'm being a bad son, mean or hurtful. She does make me feel guilty even though I think I'm not really doing anything wrong. AM I? ...


No you aren't doing anything wrong.

The use of guilt, shaming, covert aggression, etc., to manipulate children works up until the point where the children finally have some time away from it. You're just at that point now where it is increasingly becoming clear what's really going on, and it's painful, and you want it to stop. There is nothing wrong with you for reaching this point (quite the opposite, you are on a path to doing what is healthy for you!).

The hard part will be as you increasingly set boundaries (and you should), odds are she is going to ramp up those manipulation techniques because they use to work. I don't know of any easy way over that, but the situation may (should) improve somewhat eventually as she learns it's no longer working.

I assume your spouse is supportive, but even if so, when/if it's possible for you, also no shame in needing some therapy, just for you, to help you make this change in direction.

In the mean time, totally understood why you need time away from mom. Especially with a new child, you need to be the best you can be for him too.
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Re: Help with Toxic Mother

Postby MellonCollie » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:18 pm

xdude wrote:The use of guilt, shaming, covert aggression, etc., to manipulate children works up until the point where the children finally have some time away from it. You're just at that point now where it is increasingly becoming clear what's really going on, and it's painful, and you want it to stop. There is nothing wrong with you for reaching this point (quite the opposite, you are on a path to doing what is healthy for you!).


This sounds pretty solid and I definitely feel like this applies to my situation as well. I don't have a family, but I have a partner that I've been with for a long time that understands my situation. Looking out for your mental health as well doing what seems best for your family is definitely the important thing in the situation.
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Re: Help with Toxic Mother

Postby K3rm1t » Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:12 pm

Thank you for the responses so far.
So last night I decided to confront her on the phone. I poured my heart out and told her as a child/teenager I was scared of her and didn't trust her, and that I couldn't count on emotional support from her. She was surprised to hear these things and thought I was out of my mind.
Her points were that family is supposed to be together. There's a special bond between mother and son and that no matter what you always should forgive each other. ALso that my son needs her because grandparents should be in a child's life, etc...
She said we were the cause of her depressions and is always saying stuff like that and making feel GUILTY. I realizing that she's been giving me GUILT TRIPS all my life, and somehow it works. I sympathize with her because she barely has any family besides me, and an unhappy marriage. I Need help to stop being sorry for her, if that's even possible....
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Re: Help with Toxic Mother

Postby MellonCollie » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:28 pm

Major props on confronting her, K3rm1t. Bummer that it just brought toxicity your way though. Hopefully that clarity on your part will be another big step in learning how to move forward with things.
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Re: Help with Toxic Mother

Postby xdude » Tue Aug 14, 2018 11:47 am

K3rm1t wrote:She said we were the cause of her depressions and is always saying stuff like that and making feel GUILTY. I realizing that she's been giving me GUILT TRIPS all my life, and somehow it works. ... I Need help to stop being sorry for her, if that's even possible....


Good for you!

It does work. Kids have no intellectual or emotional defenses, and once the guilt-ridden belief gets burned in, it is going to be a lifelong work to undo it, but also you are right to see you will need help with unlearning this.

One step at a time. No rush to change anything, but you are on the right track.

BTW my mom also told me and my siblings the same. We were the cause of her not being happy. How sweet (not). She also told us that she had kids so someone would take care of her later in life. Nice (cough). Unfortunately the reality is some parents really do think this way, and it works. Kids need their parents and some will do whatever they must to keep their parent/s emotionally afloat. Survival, but we simply aren't equipped to deal with an adult's emotional load, let alone a parent, whose role is to protect us.

You have been asked to do something that is impossible. Impossible even if this was just an acquaintance. You cannot make someone else happy, it cannot be done.

You do deserve to be able to enjoy your life without the persistent sense of guilt. Keep on going. It's worth it.
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