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Toxic Mother

(346 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.

Kryptonite Sat 28-Aug-21 10:49:39

For your own health, at least take a proper break from her because ghus could go on for years. If neighbour is looking in on her regularly, you don't have to worry about that side of things. Seems like she has a few people running around after her! You and your brother have done your very best, but she is abusing and damaging you both. If she does die, you will have nothing to reproach yourself for. Keep contact with your brother. At least you have each other. I know how you must feel from the guilt point of view, because we only have one mum, but unless she becomes a bit kinder, your mental health will continue to suffer. Manipulation and control is going on here.

Marjgran Sat 28-Aug-21 10:53:50

Others have said it. She will not change so there will not be a “happy” outcome but there should be a less abusive one. Decide what you can live with. No contact? Fine. Once a month check she is alive (sounds like neighbours do that though) equally fine but every time she is rude you say “unacceptable” and nothing else. Do not apologise. At most, if she says she may as well die, say “as you have said”. Good luck

dizzygran Sat 28-Aug-21 10:53:51

Gampsy your situation is heartbreaking. You You need to do whatever it takes to protect your own mental health and if that means cutting ties with your abusive mother so be it. Try a few of the suggestions - keep any contact to a minimum. If you do the shopping. Don't stop too long and don't give her any information she can use against you. If she phones you - say you are cleaning the bedrooms / walking the dog/ whatever. Cutting her out of your life completely is a big decision, but this might be the way you can cope. You could discuss options with your brother.

MaryQueen Sat 28-Aug-21 10:54:48

Should you cut ties? YES YES a thousand times YES!

This will only give you the freedom and peace you and your brother deserve IF you don't succumb to the burden of guilt you may feel which will be worse than anything your toxic mother will put you through.

Don't try to justify yourself to other people who will say things like "oh but she's your mother. People who say this don't understand and never will so don't try to explain.

The things you say is like describing my mother and brother who is 21 years younger than me and has been bullied etc all his life. When she needed more care she became more abusive and hateful to him.

I decided enough was enough and told him that I was breaking all ties with her and so should he.

Our mother lived another 15 years in which her mental, emotional and physical torture would have persisted. By cutting our ties we were able to heal and live in peace.

I have NO regrets but my sensitive brother suffers from the guilt from time to time but I support him through it.

SO should you cut ties? I repeat YES YES A THOUGHSAND TIMES YES!

grannygranby Sat 28-Aug-21 10:58:59

Or why do so many women want to demonise their mothers in their dotage so they can walk away happy with everyone telling them they are saints and deserve happiness? All sounds a bit fanciful.
People get away with what they can get away with that’s for sure, and if you feel you are being abused by a mother now she is very old you have the power, you can gradually put your foot down and not be masochistic. You can’t make her what you want, kind and gentle and grateful and quiet. We all dream of mothers gently going into the night, I doubt if it has ever been thus. We all know the care system is broken in this country and to leave them to that is by perhaps heartless and / or very expensive. You have to forgive be strong and be as kind as you can. I’ve often seen such people rage like this until they accept the inevitable, she is obviously very scared of death. Old age ain’t for sissies. It is the toughest thing we will all face.

Youcantchoosethem Sat 28-Aug-21 11:00:46

It is a very difficult decision for you but from your comments I feel you know that you have to distance yourself for your own sanity. It is tough. My relationship with my mum was always difficult and when I told her I was getting divorced it was all my fault, I couldn’t have just put up with it, (abusive relationship) I had brought shame on the family etc etc - no sympathy just blame on me. I estranged from them and it took 18 months but eventually they made contact and apologised and we are back now on better terms although it has taken a long time and there is a part of me that won’t forgive that incident and many many more. It was only when I had that estrangement that I came to release that actually there was a lot that she was traumatised about. In a way she blamed me for getting out because she hadn’t years before and had put up with a very domineering relationship for years herself. It helped me put it into perspective.

I can’t say that is the case for your mum but there might be something that caused a trigger from years before. She may be jealous of your independence or life and doesn’t deal with it properly and that has festered and grown.

Definitely for your sake have some space. What happens later will remain to be seen but you can’t feel guilty for putting your own mental health first. If you go on an airplane (when you could!) you are told to put on your oxygen mask before helping another. I use this analogy regularly myself in that I have to make sure my mental health is in an ok state before I can help anyone else. Take time for you. flowers

Coconut Sat 28-Aug-21 11:01:09

I’ve never heard the term “Grey Rock” but I’ve actually been doing this for years ! My mum is 91, a controller all her life and now she has no one to control, I get all the hostility. I could fill a book with it all and made the decision years ago that I was in control of my life not her. I’m very assertive, not rude, I stop her mid sentence when she oversteps the line, and I tell her very little about mine or my AC lives. I’ve just lost another brother, but he didn’t speak to mum for 5 years at one time because of her controlling. She nagged my poor Dad all his life, and she falls out with anyone who won’t comply. I give her 3 hours a week, and I ring her once and that’s it. She tells everyone that I only spare her those 3 hours, so I’m glad that it’s registered. I refuse to be dictated to, refuse to be spoken down to and I refuse to be with anyone who angers me. I do not argue with anyone, I am placid and have many life long friends and am best friends with 3 AC and their partners. Mum is the one area in my life where I get angst, and I flatly reuse to pander to her, mother or not. As others have rightly said, this is not the behaviour of a loving and caring mother. She misses out on so many family get togethers because of what she is, it’s very sad but very true.

sandelf Sat 28-Aug-21 11:02:02

Grey Rock - Never heard the term before but I realise that's what I did eventually with my very nasty MIL. - and that's what husband has done to her too - he must have learnt as a boy that it was the only way to get by.

pigsmayfly. Sat 28-Aug-21 11:02:50

Maddyone it seems to be a generation of mothers who were brought up to look after their elderly mums. But the next generation have been brought up to look after themselves?

CrazyGrandma2 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:04:25

Gampsy I have no experience of your situation. It must be awful. Your last post interested me.

You said you would try having a rational conversation with your mom. However, from what you said earlier you have tried this before. Why are you expecting a different result this time? If it didn't work then why should it now?

As others have said, you need to cease control of the situation and change your behaviour. Just set out what you are prepared to do, no negotiations as the agenda is yours. No contact doesn't need to be for ever.

Maybe your mom needs a short sharp shock. Sounds to me as if you have been a very good daughter but your first duty is to yourself and your own family. I wish you well.

DeeDe Sat 28-Aug-21 11:06:19

How awful, she’s not a mother never has been …
a mother doesn’t treat her children like this
Cut all ties and never look back …
I think deep down you know you’ve done all you can do

DillytheGardener Sat 28-Aug-21 11:07:10

grannygranby I think that your words are harsh and unkind. I don’t think the op or other posters are “demonising their mothers” at all. Some mothers are manipulative and emotionally abusive. My mother was lovely and my mil while she is a dominating and rather unlikeable piece of work I keep up a relationship with, I should have put better boundaries into our relationship, but there we are. However, these are not the kind of mothers being discussed here. These are the type of mothers that are emotionally abusive, a different kettle of fish altogether.

sue140 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:10:47

Dear Gampsy, I have never replied to any posts on this site, but read them often with interest and compassion

Your post really struck a chord with me, you could be describing my sister whom I am currently (sadly) estranged from ... her decision (but best for my sanity)

I believe your mother (and my sister) are narcissists BUT because of your mothers age I do not think you should cut all ties as I think the guilt would be unbearable.

VioletSky's advice of Grey Rock is excellent, I have done lots of research because of my sister and this is supposedly very good.

I don't think you will ever change your mother but accepting her behaviour and keeping your emotions at arms length.

If my sister ever chooses to speak to me again I will always keep an emotional distance from her.

There is a forum on Facebook Narcissist Abuse Support Group which has lots of good advice too

Wishing you lots of luck and peace of mind xx

Jillybird Sat 28-Aug-21 11:11:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Gwan1 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:12:08

I had similar situation with aunt. A friend told me to wash my hands of her and I did! It's the best thing I have ever done,I'm free!

cher45 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:12:41

My mother was the similar but my younger brother could do no wrong he robbed her blind but he was lovely I did all the cleaning shopping but I was the bad one ........ Walk away I did glad I did dont regret it.
Look after yourself no one else will

growstuff Sat 28-Aug-21 11:12:58


Sadly my Mum’s condition isn’t illness, depression or any other kind of disorder. It’s always a well timed, targeted take down undertaken in a cold and emotionless manner which ironically almost gives her pleasure. Having fallen out with me, she has phoned my sister in law up to tell her that it’s all her fault. Honestly, I give up.

Guilt is extremely damaging and, unfortunately, so many people are affected. Some people know how to use it as a weapon. I'm afraid I can't recommend any link or book, but maybe you should consider some counselling for yourself.

My own mother was the same. In some ways, she hadn't had an easy life, but she tried to manipulate and dominate her children by emotional blackmail. I felt that something had been lifted from my shoulders when she died.

Freda65 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:14:14

If she’s been like that for 30 years makes me wonder if all this kicked in around the menopause and that she might be depressed...?
That said unlikely you’ll be able to influence her to see a dr at her age, and as such sadly she’s not likely to change especially given her age.
Your life is precious, start to live it. Should she need additional support going forward you can enlist the help of “carers” and probably be eligible to claim attendance allowance which would go towards funding and help alleviate any guilt you may feel too.
Sounds like you’re totally taken for granted and your efforts unappreciated. It’s time to live and enjoy your life.

Lesley60 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:14:51

I can empathise with you as I had an emotionally abusive mother and she ruined my childhood and made me lose any bit of self esteem I had.
I won’t go into everything she did as I don’t want to hijack your post, but when she ignored my three year old on the street calling her it was the final straw, I new she was toxic in my life and I wasn’t going to let her do it to my children, she never sent the children or me as much as a birthday card.
I moved away from her and didn’t speak to her for forty years I didn’t know she had died until a year after her death as she had told family I wasn’t to know.
I think just because someone gave birth to you doesn’t make them a mother, sadly I didn’t even shed a tear for her when I found out she died, she upset my children and that was the end for me.

growstuff Sat 28-Aug-21 11:14:57

I wish I'd read a thread like this while she was still alive.

MissElly Sat 28-Aug-21 11:19:19

I feel like you’re writing my story Gampsy. My mother was a narcissist all her life but walking away just wasn’t an option for me. I found huge help and support on line. Type in narcissistic mothers and you’ll be floored by the amount of information, support and advice there is. I bought a book called something like Never Good Enough,Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers ’. Just reading about the condition and how other people have coped was incredibly helpful. My mother died three years ago and perversely I miss her. I miss the fact that now she will never change which is of course ridiculous, but apparently very common. We are all different and many people can walk away and that is best for them. What was best for me, and it sounds like maybe for you was to look after her. I’m glad I did because now I have at least the peace of knowing I did my best for her, even if it was sometimes grudging and with very poor grace at the time. Do what you have to for your own peace of mind but remember that it will be over soon enough. Very best wishes, where you are is exhausting, I look back that those years now and they seem like a different lifetime.

Pammie1 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:20:51

Before I say this, I’m really not trying to excuse past toxic behaviour. You say your mum is now in her 80s and it seems recently lost your dad - her behaviour is now worse, yes ? Could this be the start of dementia do you think ? May be triggered by bereavement. My mum, who is 90, has dementia, diagnosed a couple of years ago and thought to be triggered by the sudden death of a very close family member. She frequently engages in the kind of manipulative behaviour you’re describing. Might be worth getting it checked out before you do anything else.

CleoPanda Sat 28-Aug-21 11:21:11

Some really excellent advice. Whatever you decide, remember no decision has to be permanent.
If you try conciliation and it fails, a gradual estrangement could help you see what it’s like to be free of this terrible emotional abuse.
You’ve been a caring, dutiful, thoughtful daughter. She’s been an emotionally detached, controlling, vindictive, selfish person. There’s nothing remotely mothering in her behaviour.
You owe her nothing. You should never feel guilt! She’s ruining your life by digging away at your mental health - she feels no guilt. In fact she seems to thrive off it.
The fact that you’re asking on here, suggests the time is right - you’ve had enough and realise for your own health is at risk.
I wish you strength and peace!

Gwenisgreat1 Sat 28-Aug-21 11:21:42

Gampsy quite honestly your mother does not deserve you! My MIL used to go around the house muttering "nobody knows how much I suffer" and "I wish I were dead". After she said that for the last time, I told here she had enough pills in the house if she really meant it!! I did't hear that utter again!!

Elijah Sat 28-Aug-21 11:24:46

Sometimes cutting the tie is the only way to save yourself! I have been through a similar situation , my sons watched m over the years being belittled and upset everytime I was in contact with her and couldn't understand why I put up with it. In the end I cut contact. I no longer feel useless and inferior and if we do meet up I hold my own and if I need to I can leave the situation. You need to start valuing yourself and don't feel guilty