Difficult relationship with my mother

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Difficult relationship with my mother
Wed, 03-03-2010 - 1:19pm

I am a very happily married woman who just found out that I am pregnant with our first child. I have a wonderfully supportive and loving family in my husbands family, but mine is a complete mess. Most people have problems with their in-laws- but mine are angels!!! :) My problem is my own family!!! I am terrified.

I come from a very dysfunctional, emotionally abusive family. I have managed to keep my toxic parents at a safe distance, for the most part, but clearly not that successfully or I wouldn't be writing here! I have not shut them out, and I really struggle to find positive moments in my communications with them. It takes so much energy from the rest of my life.

My parents had a horrible divorce that went on for over 10 years - constantly dragging each other into court, getting each other arrested, even dragging each other's bosses into court to testify, and hopefully to get the other fired,etc etc... a complete circus. Luckily, I was raised by my grandmother who was strong, and loving and had amazing values. Sadly she has since passed away. My relationship with my parents was good until college- until I began to see how other families interacted with one another. Slowly, over the next few years, I began to realize what I had missed, and what nonsense my parents still expected me to tolerate. It hurt deeply and I realized that I had healthy friendships and amazing bonds with friends' families that allowed me to flourish.

So from then on, my relationship with both of my parents began to "deteriorate", in their view - but actually got better for me. I keep them at a distance and am happy in my own life. They treat me horribly, gossip about me behind my back, have done nothing to be a positive part of my life. I'll skip the stories, but suffice to say, it is absurdly painful and negative to the point of being toxic. I feel as though they have invested the negative energy they used to battle each other now is turned toward me.

But I've tried to work around it, and set my life on a separate course where they cannot impact me the way they used to.

Anyway, my mother lives a few hours away from my husband and I. She is extremely manipulative, Borderline personality disorder. Lives by herself and is very lonely. Is not happy unless she's really causing someone pain. I do reach out and talk to my mother on the phone atleast once a week or once every two weeks. Perhaps out of obligation and guilt. There is not one conversation that does not leave me in tears. I shut down emotionally each time, and it takes me weeks to recover, sometimes from the shortest of conversations.

This cannot continue. How do I protect myself once my mother finds out I am pregnant? I don't want this in my life! What is going to keep her from just coming down here and destroying my happiness? one of her favorite things to do is badmouth parents to their children. I don't want her near my family!!!!

I am in unknown territory now. I really need to protect my family from this better than I have protected myself. :(

Any advice deeply appreciated.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-09-2007
Wed, 03-03-2010 - 6:43pm
First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy!
If you're looking for permission to cut out your mother, fwiw, you have mine. If a conversation with your mother takes you weeks to recover emotionally, you are not wrong or a bad daughter to protect yourself. You are beyond in the right to want to protect your children. I know not everyone agrees with ever cutting out family, but I believe you have a right to separate yourself from abusive people. No has the right to mistreat you.
What will keep her from showing up and destroying your happiness is you! You can do it, I promise you.
If you don't want to cut her off completely, continue to limit contact. Call less often if once every week or so is too much. Also, when she starts saying hurtful things, put a stop to it. Tell her, I cannot talk to you if you are going insult/hurt/etc me. If she doesn't stop, say, Mom, I'm hanging up the phone now. We can talk another time when you aren't going to insult/hurt me. Then HANG UP. Do it every time. She may not learn, but you will have taken away her power over you. You'll be in charge of how much pain you let her inflict on you.
Do not let her come to visit your baby if you don't want to. If she shows up unannounced, step outside, and close the door behind you, and tell her it's not a good time, and you can't have company. Then go back in and close the door. (if you're too stressed out for that, ask DH to do it) You don't owe it to her to let her into your home, or give her access to your children.
These are just a couple little things. Changing a dysfunctional relationship like this is difficult, and it's especially hard to stop being a child when it comes to our parents.
I really recommend counseling to help you address all the pain you've been put through, and to learn new ways to interact with her that work for you. It sounds like you've already come really far on your own, a specialist will help you get even further.
pregnancy due date

#1! EDD 5/27/10

baby growth
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-05-2010
Fri, 03-05-2010 - 6:22pm
Your message has resonated with me since I read it this morning over breakfast. I too have a not so good relationship with my mother - by the way, I am six months and she has invited herself to come and stay with me for three months. How do I say no and rob her of this joyous occasion? I think you have to ask yourself the following question: How long are you going to let you mother run your life emotionally? You have to get the courage to speak up and let her know that you don't appreciate her MO and today it stops for the sake of your family. This is the last thing you need while going through pregnancy - we need positive people around us and that's the bottom line. Don't let this take over your life - you are robbing yourself and kid of the bonding experience that needs to happen with this beautiful gift from God. I will pray for you - write back if you can.
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-23-2007
Mon, 03-08-2010 - 2:53am

I'd recommend you read the book "walking on eggshells". the book is specifically for family members of those suffering from BPD. Also check out BPDcentral.com for support from others and ways to cope. Hope this helps.



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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Mon, 03-08-2010 - 3:03pm
Wow, Kristin, thank you, that looks like a great resource. I think I need to take some time to read this book and others. I want to create a different relationship going forward, and I never realized how much material there is available. It is really reassuring. Thanks again.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Mon, 03-08-2010 - 3:31pm

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. It means so much to me. I reread it several times this weekend and totally agree.

I would like to talk to a therapist, once I understand it a little better myself. When I was young, I actually had to go to a court-supervised counselor at family court on a regular basis because of my parent's volatile custody case. (Now, I sort of wonder if that was a lie, having believed it was court mandated my whole life.... totally the type of thing my mother would make up to disguise a legal manuever on her part.)

Anyway, as a result of these endless sessions where they would have me draw pictures or play games, I really felt like a guinea pig. I talked to a therapist a few years ago, and felt as though I got nothing out of it except 'validation' that 'your parents behaved like children' and 'you need to create more boundaries'. What an expensive two sentences!!! :)

Seriously, it did help, but after 10 sessions of me talking, I wanted to get something more strategic out of it: methods or strategies for dealing with specific problems. Also, after a certain point, I begin to feel like a liar myself telling these stories and do not enjoy it. They are fairly embarrassing to me now. But I know that I could really use the help, especially moving forward with a family of my own. I just need to find someone who will also help me with actual strategies.

Thank you again. I really appreciate the time you took with your response.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Mon, 03-08-2010 - 3:44pm

Thanks for your lovely email. I feel like I've gotten so much out of each of these responses. Very touching. Three months sounds really tough! I honestly am trying to figure out how I will deal with that situation when it comes up. My own mother has talked about it for years, "when you have your first baby I can come down and stay with you" and " when you get divorced you can come and live with me!" NO THANKS!!! I'll pass on both! Anyway, hopefully our husbands can help enforce this situation.

I really will fall apart with her around, but the rest of my family (aunts, sister, etc) will not be cool with me cutting her out of the experience entirely. I just need to get her out as soon as possible.

Anyway, I don't know if you feel like your mother is actually BPD, but I found this great book in addition to the Eggshell one recommended by someone else on the site. Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship (Paperback)

Thank you for the prayers. I will do the same.

Good luck! And I'd love to hear what you decide or how you're working through it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-05-2010
Mon, 03-08-2010 - 5:13pm

Thanks for your book recommendation - I will be sure to pick it up. It is funny how the situation with our mothers have connected us. I feel like I know you already - how funny is that!

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-09-2007
Mon, 03-08-2010 - 7:33pm
I'm really glad you're finding this board helpful. the ladies are so great.
It can be really hard to find a therapist who's a good fit.
When you're ready to look into it, I would suggest a solution focused therapist. It's a counseling technique, and just as it sounds, it focuses on finding ways to improve your situation, and cope with your specific issues, based on your strengths. Also, it doesn't require you spend a lot of time telling/rehashing your story. Many solution focus therapists don't believe it's necessary for you to tell them much of your story, and like you said, it can just make you feel worse. They just want you to tell them how you want your life to be going forward. It might be a style you like. If you call a large practice, you can request a therapist who practices in a particular style.
I wish you the best of luck, I'm sure you're going to be able to handle all this.
pregnancy due date

#1! EDD 5/27/10

baby growth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-11-2009
Sat, 03-13-2010 - 10:33pm

First, Congratulations on your pregnancy.

Second, you are not alone. My DH and I have similar issues with his family. DH recommends "Drama of the Gifted Child" by Alice Miller. He felt it really resonated with him and it may help you discover more about yourself as the child of someone with your mother's personality type.

We have found for us that setting boundaries, while incredibly hard to do, is essential for our personal growth and independence from a parent like your mother. I highly recommend finding a good social worker or therapist to help you develop these skills. You will find them invaluable. You are not walking an easy road but I applaud you for recognizing your personal needs and being willing to put you and your child first.

Hugs, I hope this helps,


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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2010
Wed, 04-14-2010 - 10:55am

I'm there with you


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