Tired of the Stress

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-24-2013
Tired of the Stress
Wed, 04-24-2013 - 10:04pm

My mother causes me so much stress. We fight a lot and she makes me feel so guilty about any decisions I make. I love her a lot and want to be part of the family, but it is tolling being told nothing you do is good enough or any decision you make wasn't thought through. She constantly tells me I think I know it all and that I am still a child...I am 28. I have never once acted like I know everything, but I am an adult and have worked for my life and am learning. I will be the first to admit I don't know everything, my future is scary, but that I know I will be ok.

I've always been close with my family, I have two younger brothers and we love to spend time together. My dad traveled a lot for work and we moved frequently, but we had a fabulous family life and my parents loved us so much. The summer I graduated high school my dad got transferred again for his job. My parents made the decision to move because it was back to where they were originally from and a lot of our extended family still lived in the area. I was supposed to go to college in the state I graduated high school in, already had a dorm roommate and was going through sorority rush. When we found out my dad had the opportunity to transfer "we" made the decision I would go to the university in that state instead of the original one I was planning on going to. I came to the new school, but didn't connect with anyone. I felt ripped out of my life and felt forced to move. My mom convinced me I needed to do it for the family and to support each other. Looking back on it, I feel like she was so worried about losing me that she guilted me into moving with them. I spent four years in school and was extremely depressed. I was in a sorority and expected that would automatically mean I would make friends. I struggled with friendships and was disappointed because my expectations were so high about how amazing college would be. My grandmother, whom my mom and I were very close to passed away during my junior year summer. It was extremely hard on both of us, but I was trying to maintain any normal college life I could. Many years later my mom continues to remind me "I wasn't there for the family because I was busy doing my own thing." I later went to counseling for this.

After graduation I got a job close to my parent's house and moved in with them. I had a very serious boyfriend from college, we both got along with each other's family and loved each other very much. We had dated for 2 years and he wanted me to move in with him. My mom wasn't thrilled with the idea of us living together, at that point she claimed she was traditional and that we should wait until we got married. She convinced me to move to her house. My mom had a way of making me feel like I couldn't support myself and that if I lived with them I could save enough money to move out. I lived with my parents for about a year until my best friend moved here. I ended up moving in with my friend, but into my parent's second house, because again I was told I could pay low rent and wouldn't be able to support myself on my own. I regret this decision. I ended up living there for almost 4 years, before just recently moving into my own apartment.  

Fast forward to recently. My college bf and I ended up breaking up and I was feeling pretty down about not finding someone to marry. My mom blamed me and said I should have tried harder with the college guy, "College is where you meet the person you are supposed to marry." I was determined to prove her wrong and I ended up online dating. I met the man of my dreams a few years ago and we are deeply in love. He is the most loving, supportive, wonderful man in the world. The caveat, he is not from around here and doesn't love where we live. He wants to move, add to the mix he is military. Last year he and I made the decision to get married. I wanted a traditional wedding, but because of circumstances (deployment) we ended up eloping. He promised me we would have a wedding this year and so I decided to keep it a secret. We are currently "engaged" and planning a wedding for later this year. When we were making the decision, I had talked to my mom and voiced that it wasn't ideally how I wanted it, but that I loved him and knew we were going to get married eventually. I told her we were thinking about eloping but that we likely wouldn't do it. Anyways, we ended up doing it and she looked on the public records and found out. She will not let me live this down. She didn't tell me right away that she knew, but instead brought it up when we got in a fight. She thinks we did it for the money and that I don't know him well enough and that I should have moved in with him before eloping. I will swear on my dead body we didn't do it for the money. I have a very stable job and could easily support us without his paycheck. She wants to throw me a big wedding and while that is what we have been planning, I don't even want to do it anymore. It's causing way too much stress and it isn't fun. I thought weddings were supposed to be fun? My mom pushes me to get planning, I start planning, put down deposits and commit to things and then she tells me, "You haven't thought anything through." I feel like I can't win with her and she makes me feel so guilty because her feelings get hurt so easily. I don't know what to do.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2003
Sun, 04-28-2013 - 11:59am

I can't add anything to what ELC11's written.  She's bang on with everything and has some amazing advice.  I just wanted to comment to urge you to take her comment to heart and consider everything she's written.  You do need to address the dynamic of your relationship with your mother and you may need some further professional help to guide you with that.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Thu, 04-25-2013 - 3:17pm

You have a lot going on so I'll start with the easy one: "I thought weddings were supposed to be fun?"

Weddings are fun to attend as a guest. Planning one, like planning any other important event, is stressful and difficult for many people who are not experienced at event planning. That's why some people hire a professional wedding coordinator. And then you add a mother with her own agenda...you should check out some wedding forums to see that you are not alone in being stressed, or with your mother adding to your stress. You and your dh should decide what you two want and go from there.

"I feel like I can't win with her and she makes me feel so guilty because her feelings get hurt so easily. I don't know what to do."

You're right, you can't win with her. Your mom has some issues that have nothing to do with you or how competent you are, and allowing her to run your life or put you down won't make her issues go away. You can't change her, you can only change yourself and your reaction to her. You need to set boundaries of how much you will let her into your life, of what type of things you will allow her to say to you, of the control that you have allowed her to exert over your life including caring about what she thinks. Your relationship with your mom could be classified as toxic, and like anything that is poisonous to you, you need to limit your exposure.

Ideally, parents raise their kids to become increasingly independent so that by the time the kids are in their 20s they can become fully independent and self sustaining. The parents recognize that they need to step back from their kids' business, and the kids recognize that they need to exert independence when the parents don't offer it. In your case it would seem that neither of those things happened. Your mother became more controlling and you apparently did not rebel against that excessive control. And your mother attacks your self esteem to keep control of you. She uses guilt to control you but she is responsible for her own happiness and well being, and you are responsible for yours.

Where is your father in all of this? Does your mother treat your brothers in the same way? You said that family life was "fabulous" while growing up, was your mother overbearing during your high school years or did she have a major personality change at the time she moved and you were supposed to go away to college?

While ideally your father and brothers could be your allies in getting your mother to step back, all of that is sort of irrelevant. She has her own problems to deal with but she may not want to. The real work will need to be done by you in changing the dynamics of the relationship by not allowing such treatment any more. You said that you had some counseling regarding your grandmother's death and your mother's accusation that you were not with the family enough...what did that counselor tell you?

It sounds like the past 10 years have been full of these negative messages and guilt from your mother, it will probably require professional help to learn how to disregard all of that, and to learn how to set boundaries and to stand up to her when she tries to put you down. Your husband wanting to live in a different area is probably a good thing as that gives you a convenient way to distance yourself from her. Remember that your mother's problems are her own, you are not responsible for them and you cannot fix them.