Gransnet forums


Toxic Mother

(345 Posts)
Gampsy Tue 24-Aug-21 22:11:51

Hi All,
This is my first time posting and I would really appreciate your thoughts and comments on my relationship with my Mum. To cut a long story short, my brother and I have spent our lives walking on eggshells with her and she has always tried to play us off against each other. Our children have watched her emotionally abuse us but we have remained loyal and steadfast out of a sense of duty and begrudging love. She is now in her 80’s and since our Dad died she has unleashed her full toxicity on her friends, shop staff and us. She thinks that she can sulk, belittle and abuse us and when we push back she denies everything and says she doesn’t care about anyone and that she wishes she was dead - something she’s been saying for over 30 years when she feels called out on her bs. My brother had Covid and she didn’t even call to see how he was and when I said, imagine something happened to him, she said “well I could die anytime”. I phone her and get her shopping twice a week but apparently her neighbour’s son goes round three times a week!!! She is now not talking to my brother or his wife because she upset them and THEY haven’t apologised to her. I tried today to rationalise with her but she’s adamant she doesn’t care about anyone and I know when i phone her I will get the silent treatment to make me feel guilty. I’m wondering if I should cut ties with her even though I know I will feel guilty but my mental, physical and emotional health have taken a battering for many years and I can’t take much more. If she was an abusive partner I would have walked years ago so why are we allowing her to treat us like this? Please help.

Fleur20 Tue 24-Aug-21 22:17:40

You have summed it up in the last question.
Just because she is your mother.... in name only... certainly not in deed by the sound of it.. does not mean you have to take this abuse.
You need to take some time out at least.. dont call, dont answer.. she wants to be alone then so be it....
This isnt dementia or old age if she has been like this for decades... it is simply who she is..

Gampsy Tue 24-Aug-21 22:41:03

Thank you Fleur20. It’s such a head versus heart decision for me, guilt if I walk away (even for a few days, she’ll shun me) but despair at the thought of years of more abuse. I know what I should do but I’m not sure I have the courage to do it.

Dinahmo Tue 24-Aug-21 22:48:32

She doesn't deserve you or your brother. You didn't ask to be born so just walk away. I assume that your children are adults so why not chat to them about it. I'm sure that they will be supportive if you decide to cut loose.

Good luck

Gampsy Tue 24-Aug-21 22:56:24

Hi Dinahmo,
My kids are grown up and have witnessed all the bad behaviours. They are sympathetic and supportive but also aware of my painful dilemma. Thanks for your best wishes, I’m wishing myself good luck for a happy outcome too.

TwiceAsNice Tue 24-Aug-21 23:01:43

I was estranged from my mother because of her bad behaviour , she is obviously dead now. Life is too short to have toxic people in it. You are both adults you do not owe her anything

MerylStreep Tue 24-Aug-21 23:03:18

Just stop now. Stop the phone calls, stop the shopping.
After all, she’s the one who says she doesn’t care about anyone.
Time to turn the table on her and enjoy the rest of your life.
You don’t need her,

Shinamae Tue 24-Aug-21 23:08:01

All of the above ?

Gampsy Tue 24-Aug-21 23:22:38

Thank you both. I know it’s the right thing to do and that she doesn’t deserve a loving family.

maddyone Wed 25-Aug-21 00:19:42

This is a very difficult situation. I have some experience of a dominating mother, and so I sympathise with your situation. My mother says she wants to die when she wants attention too.

VioletSky Wed 25-Aug-21 00:56:09

Hi Gampsy I'm so sorry for your situation, my mother is the same but only to me so I am estranged.

If you want to estrange her I feel you have every right. You've tried to reason, you've tried to be there for you and she makes it clear to you it's not good enough and she doesn't care.

There is another method you can try though. It didn't work for me because others around me did not see that side of my mother but it could work well for you and does for others I know.

It is called Grey Rock.

You give your mum no personal information so that she cannot use it against you. This protects you from hurtful remarks about you or other family members issues and it gives her no satisfaction from hurting you.

You keep conversation polite, talk about her, talk about the weather, talk about the garden or a bird you saw... Just inane chatter. Also set time limits for calls and visits, for you not her. Knowing when you are leaving the situation allows you to do so more easily.

You ignore anything hurtful she says and if she tries to say anything hurtful, you just end the conversation by making a polite excuse and putting the phone down or leaving the room. You do not ask her to justify herself or try to reason with her, instead you do not give her an audience for it. You just have no reaction but to not give her attention for it.

Basically you become as boring as possible so she can get nothing out of verbally abusing you, making unfair comparisons or any of her other techniques to hurt you.

With yourself fully in control this can make it possible to stay in contact with a person like this while gaining strength, confidence and healing yourself.

That's just a suggestion though, if you wish to go no contact with her for your own peace that's exactly what you should do.

Chewbacca Wed 25-Aug-21 01:20:56

Excellent advice VioletSky.

Sara1954 Wed 25-Aug-21 06:07:38

I walked away, and I don’t regret it for a minute.
I know for a lot of people it’s not an easy decision to make, but believe me, it is absolutely liberating.

BigBertha1 Wed 25-Aug-21 06:12:31

Dempsey this is horrible for you my mother was an emotional terrorist too. I tried the Gampsey treatment although I didn't know it had a name to no avail I'm afraid. She was a professional. If you can stand the feelings of guilt cut her off. She is sapping your life and your health probably. I'm sorry.

BigBertha1 Wed 25-Aug-21 06:13:10

That was supposed to say Grey Rock treatment.

sodapop Wed 25-Aug-21 08:39:55

That's a horrible situation to be in Gampsy your mother doesn't deserve help from you. That said I think you would find it very difficult to abandon her at this stage. I would follow VioletSky's advice and limit your interaction with her to essentials only.
Take control and don't let her get to you any more.

Septimia Wed 25-Aug-21 08:52:58

The Grey Rock treatment sounds like a useful first step. Obviously the benefits will take a while to kick in and, if they don't, you still have the option of walking away completely.

ElaineI Wed 25-Aug-21 09:04:33

VioletSkye that is such a good idea. I've not heard of Grey Rock before.
Gampsy I get my Mum's shopping delivered from Sainsburys every week. My Mum is not like your Mum but it could help you - not necessarily from Sainsburys but she has a list of things she orders every week and gives me an "extras' list on a Thursday. (She likes Sainsburys and her neighbour used to take her there before she was not able). It might cut down the visits but ensure she has food.

Smileless2012 Wed 25-Aug-21 09:06:54

I agree with Violetsky's suggestion Gampsy.

It's terrible that you have spent a life time walking on egg shells and now your father has died and your mum is in her 80's, I wonder if taking the advice given and keeping any visits short and perhaps minimising the number of those visits, doing some shopping twice a week and not 'phoning her anymore, would be better for you in the long run than ceasing contact all together.

There's no reason why you shouldn't of course and not many could have maintained this relationship after a life time of emotional abuse, but as you've done so for so long, I worry that if you do walk away, you will be left with a sense of guilt when she's no longer here.

You need to put your own well being first and walking away now may not be the right thing for you in the long term.

Elless Wed 25-Aug-21 09:50:05

I bet you feel like a weight has been lifted Gampsy. Did your Mum work? My Mum was the same and we always put it down to the fact that she'd had a job with authority and was in charge of a lot of people but now she had to rely on us which she found belittling.

Madgran77 Wed 25-Aug-21 09:53:26

Violetsky has given good advice Gampsy flowers

DiscoDancer1975 Wed 25-Aug-21 09:57:33

There was something similar to this a few weeks ago. I’ll say the same to you as I said to that poster.
It sounds like your mother is...and has been... ill for quite some time. Depression maybe? However, you can’t make her better, only encourage her to seek help. It should have no more effect on your family.
We’ve been there, and the only answer is to walk away I’m afraid. You’ll be so much happier.

timetogo2016 Wed 25-Aug-21 09:57:33

Walk away,you teach people how to treat you.
She does what works for her.
Leave her to it.

Nonogran Wed 25-Aug-21 10:06:47

Thanks for the Grey Rock treatment advice! I’d never heard of it but I hope it’s helps anyone who would find it helpful. I hope the OP can use it to help her equilibrium. It’s a great start towards healing & management of this troubling issue.

maddyone Wed 25-Aug-21 10:44:21

Do you know what surprises me? It’s just how many mothers display these narcissistic tendencies. Some very extreme like Gampsy’s mother, some less extreme, but still quite difficult to deal with, especially in old age, when the demands seem to become greater. This is the third thread on this subject in the last couple of weeks. One was about a very demanding mother, I actually started one myself (Three Elderly Parents) and now there’s this one. I think there have been others in the past too. I wonder why so many mothers behave in this way.