Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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I need help with my 70 yr old mother. Iím 34, and weíre close. When I do confide in her, she takes the ďtough loveĒ approach and is very mean to me. For years, I told her this doesnít work with me. She has a tendency to be negative and mean to myself and my father with digs here and there, 90% to my dad.
Recently when I confided in her when I went to the dentist, one of the hygienist asked if I have a boyfriend and we got t talking about it. This is always a topic with everyone and Iím tired of it. Even recently my momís hairdresser asked if I found anyone and eluded to well maybe sheís gay. Everyone is concerned about my business!
Anyway, I told my mom how yet another person asked me and I was upset about it and wished everyonr would leave me alone. Her response was this:
ďWhy are you so upset. So what if someone asks if you have boyfriend. You are acting like lunatic, sheís asking about boyfriend. Relax, my god. ď

I wrote back to her that I donít appreciate that and she cannot talk to me like that, that sheís very mean.

I ended up calling her on the phone to talk about it, and it exploded.
She said sheís not here to praise me and shes here to tell the truth. That Iím always angry. Iím like I just want to confide in you and not have you be mean, canít you respond in a nice way? Of course, she goes off on a tangent, totally irrelevant to what weíre talking about. I finally snapped and called her a bitch, because she really is. Then she calls me more names, ďI raised you to be classy, no classy girl would say that,you have no respectĒ on and on and on.I yelled at her to eff off and hung up on her.

She never listens, and she always puts people down, twists everything I say or blows it so out of proportion. Always, sheíllrefer back to her life experience and how she handled it ďI couldnít get pregnant for years, people kept asking me and I ignored them, I wasnít upset!Ē Was her response!Therefore,Iím not allowed to get upset either. Thatís her thinking.
After my shouting match with her on the phone, she emails me this:ďWOW, nice words.
I guess you needed punching bag to get your frustrations out and of course as always I am that bag. Itís been a while since you didnít need that bag, I was waiting for your explosion. My god. I raised you to be respectful and you tired to be opposite.I should have been like most mothers kids didnít give a damn about kids and those kids are eager and hungry for Motherís love and wouldnít dream to say words like you do. They have respect for themselves and their parents. Oh how huge mistake I have made.
Donít bother with me again, I am done with you and your outburst. Shame on you.
I have put up with lot but no more, remember that for ever. I donít know you anymore.Iam done with youĒ

Weíve had like 5 fights like this over the last 3-4 years. Sheís 80% the shit starter and my father will agree to that because they get into big arguments too. Sheís a very diffficult person her whole life.How do I deal with this woman who acts like this?
I certainly donít need this in my life. She doesnít act like a mother, someone I can talk to about anything without being slammed and attacked by ďtough loveĒ.

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    I'll speak to a couple of issues that are extremely apparent in this situation.

    The first is your expectations. You want your mother to be a safe person to confide in. But the fact of the matter is, your mother is never going to be that person. She is never going to be what you expect and want her to be. So rather than repeatedly banging your head against these expectations and the inevitable disappointment, just stop. If you really need to confide in someone, pick someone other than your mother. If you do ever speak to her again, don't give her your life details. Just don't. She's not entitled to them and your life won't end if you don't share them with her.

    The second is this cycle between you two. The reason she's able to push your buttons is because she created them and has been fine tuning them since your birth. So she's able to get under your skin in a way that no one else can. You share an intimate detail of your life. She reacts in an unkind manner in a way designed to get under your skin. You respond with disappointment. She lashes out. You respond with your own lashing out. And it escalates.

    And this situation poisons your interactions with third parties. If you weren't discussing what the hygienist said with your mother, would the discussion of boyfriend still have gotten you so riled up? That being said, if that would have still gotten you riled up, there are some anger management issues of your own that you need to deal with.

    She is not going to change so you have two choices: either reduce or eliminate the time you spend with her or learn to deal with her as she is rather than through the current filter of expectation. Stop giving her the details of your life and keep her at an emotional arms length. A tactic that often works is that when in her presence, observe her as if you were Jane Goodall. For example, does her left eye twitch or her nostrils flare before she belittles you or your father? Does the language she uses for this have a discernible pattern. Analyzing details like this can help you step back emotionally.

    One last observation: if you haven't taken a Myers-Briggs test, do so. From your letter here, you appear to be a Feeler while your mother is a Thinker. This means that you will have a tendency to apply emotions to pretty much everything in your life. To a Thinker, yet another question about boyfriends would result in mild irritation at most, forgotten fairly quickly. To a Feeler, there would be a strong emotional response, which would linger. I suspect you are expecting your mother to understand your emotional response to this and she is wondering why this event even warrants it. So the two of you will, at best, have an academic understanding of each other's responses. But with all of your other issues, the gap widens even further.

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    Thank you Jill, that is super helpful and I appreciate it immensely.
    I was upset at the third party asking personal questions, but not to the extent of how my mother felt I was! Not at all! I was upset but not where my world would implode.

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    anonymous wrote: Thank you Jill, that is super helpful and I appreciate it immensely. I was upset at the third party asking personal questions, but not to the extent of how my mother felt I was! Not at all! I was upset but not where my world would implode.

    Yes, but you had enough of an emotional response to this that you complained about it to your mother. As a Thinker myself, I can tell you that for us, unless it was really funny, it would not even be worth a mention. So the fact that you talked about it and was upset about it gave your mother the perception that you were overly-emotional about it. To a Thinker, that IS overly-emotional, but most of us get that not everyone is going to react to things the way we do. Your mother very likely wonders how someone so emotional sprung from her loins, so she doesn't get you. Add in your and her dysfunctional cycle and you've got a major incident every time you want her to provide the emotional support you want and she doesn't understand why you need it.

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    Just chiming in to second Jill's excellent advice!

    Your mother just isn't capable of offering the kind of emotional support you'd like. Which is a shame, but it's akin to asking a blind person to look out for stop signs while you're driving -- they may have lots of other great qualities, but they simply can't help you with that particular task. (And they might get resentful if you keep asking them to do it!) So you need to find someone else who can help you out in that arena; a friend, most likely.

    Your mother probably IS the person to talk to when you need a no-holds-barred reality check. Of course, that might not be that often, but it *is* something that we all need at least once or twice in our lives.

    Anyway, the way to deal with your mother is to recognize her boundaries and limitations. You may wish she didn't have them, but that's not going to change the fact that she does... so don't fool yourself into thinking that maybe THIS time, she'll behave differently; maybe THIS time, she'll "get it". She's suffering from "emotional blindness" and simply does not have that ability.

    This doesn't (necessarily) make her a bad person ... it just means that you can't expect her to perform certain tasks. So you make sure, as much as possible, you don't ask her to.

    Which is difficult, sometimes, I know! You'd LIKE her to be different, but the truth is you can't change her -- no one can. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is to work within the limitations she has...

    Good luck!

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    Wow, thank you so much ladies!!

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    Kal wrote: Just chiming in to second Jill's excellent advice! Your mother just isn't capable of offering the kind of emotional support you'd like. Which is a shame, but it's akin to asking a blind person to look out for stop signs while you're driving -- they may have lots of other great qualities, but they simply can't help you with that particular task. (And they might get resentful if you keep asking them to do it!) So you need to find someone else who can help you out in that arena; a friend, most likely. Your mother probably IS the person to talk to when you need a no-holds-barred reality check. Of course, that might not be that often, but it *is* something that we all need at least once or twice in our lives. Anyway, the way to deal with your mother is to recognize her boundaries and limitations. You may wish she didn't have them, but that's not going to change the fact that she does... so don't fool yourself into thinking that maybe THIS time, she'll behave differently; maybe THIS time, she'll "get it". She's suffering from "emotional blindness" and simply does not have that ability. This doesn't (necessarily) make her a bad person ... it just means that you can't expect her to perform certain tasks. So you make sure, as much as possible, you don't ask her to. Which is difficult, sometimes, I know! You'd LIKE her to be different, but the truth is you can't change her -- no one can. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is to work within the limitations she has... Good luck!

    I canít believe how you can be so blind. She is exaggerating beyond belief. This 34 years young is my daughter and she fulled you all. She is the one thatís abusive to me, her father and everybody else who crosses her path. She is spoiled and if you donít agree with her she will get nasty. I am the only one who gives her the best advice. I canít kiss her behind all the time and she knows that I donít like when she snaps at others. You have to be polite to people and there is a nicer way to answer their question about boyfriend or anything else. She has ugly personality and everyone that knows me is surprised that she is like that. I am always there for he. Itís not my fault that she blames everyone instead finding out what is the reason that she doesnít have friends or boyfriends. She has to change her attitude towards people. Everyone that knows me and my personality is saying that she is not like I am. No matter where I go or where I worked I leave impact on people and they all love me. I was told that I am like a magnet to people. I have beautiful personality, I have genuine smile and laughter, I donít smile through my teeth like she does. So, so many have said that she needs professional help. Yes, I even told her to see someone to find out why is she like that. She is very unhappy and I donít think that she will change ever. She is beautiful, classy smart young woman. She has beautiful condo, good job with excellent pay. I understand that all of this is nothing if you donít have anyone to share with it. She is not the only one thatís single, so instead wasting her time being miserable she should enjoy her life to the fullest. Some things you canít control so go with the flow. I do feel sorry for her and my heart goes out to her but when she is nasty to others and to me I wonít let her. I am here always to help her in any situations but she will not abuse me no matter how much I love her. I donít deserve it. So my dear who ever you are donít judge me since you donít know me and especially you donít know my daughter. If you did you would be surprised and apologized to me.

    reply to Sadie
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    Mamma, the point is, you have no right to attack and put me down calling me a lunatic when I confided in you, telling you about my day. That is the whole point. You attacked ME out of the blue.
    I defended myself. Period. Just because youíre my mother, does not give you the right to put me down out of no where.
    This is why we are having an argument.
    You put people down by calling them nasty names and attacking.
    How do you expect anyone to respond to that?

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    The whole point of this Sadie, was to get you to open your eyes: Youíre not 100% right and I proved it.
    You need to be more compassionate. Not mean.
    Every time you were upset about your personal problems, I was there supporting you.
    Not once did I call you a lunatic every time dad caused trouble with you. Think about that. Never!
    Just as you confide in me, I do the same to you, yet each time you put me down calling me names. Tell me how that is right?

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    I told you about a conversation I had with someone and how it upset me.
    Your first response to me is calling me a lunatic.

    I posted your email word for word above. Itís not brainwashing. People see how you are.


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    Both of you are right and both of you are wrong. When you can admit this honestly to yourself, you may be able to begin repairing your relationship. The two of you react and process things very differently and to assume that your way is the only correct way is a very rigid and unfortunate assumption.

    Mom: I'll bet if someone were to ask your friends who they ask to help in a crisis, your name would likely come up in the top five. However, I'm willing to bet that if you asked them who they'd contact for emotional support, your name would not be in that list. And that's okay. I'm like you in this way, so can appreciate this mindset.

    However, I'm sensing a lot of judgmental attitude toward your daughter. Frankly, I'm flabbergasted that she continues to go to you for any sort of support, emotional or otherwise. And her life is NOT nothing without a husband. She may find the right person next month. She may not find him until she's in her fifties. Or she may never get married. And that's okay. Things have changed since the days when women had few options other than marriage and kids.

    So my advice to you is please keep in mind that not everyone is going to be as rational and unemotional as you and that your daughter's life is her own and no reflection on you.

    Sadie: take a breath and step back. Are you okay with your life? Are you fine with being single or is that a major thorn in your side? Do you have a friend you can talk with who will be honest with you? Also, I would recommend seeing a therapist, because I am sensing a lot of anger and unhappiness beyond your relationship with your mother.

    Both: back off for a while. The two of you are locked in a very dysfunctional cycle. I suspect that if either of you said even the most innocuous thing, the other would mis-interpret it and take offense. Also, I recommend taking a Myers-Briggs test and sharing the results with each other. That could go a long way toward understanding where each of you is coming from. From your posts here, I'm guessing mom is an ESTJ and Sadie is an ISFJ. But I could be wrong.

    reply to Jill
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    Thanks for making my point for me, Sadie! You are very, very clearly someone who simply cannot (and will not) understand what 'emotional support' is.

    Please note that, as I've said already, this does not in and of itself make you a bad person. But it does mean this: Sadie's daughter -- there is no way you should ever go to Sadie for emotional support.

    *Ever*. Under any circumstances.

    Look -- a gasoline pump is never, ever, ever going to dispense vanilla yogurt. *Ever.* Not even if you're really hungry, and really, really want vanilla yogurt...

    You can get mad at the gasoline pump, argue with the gasoline pump, press all the buttons on the gasoline pump, try the pump at different times of day, experiment with pumping into a cone instead of a cup ... the fact of the matter is that you aren't ever, ever, ever going to get vanilla yogurt from it. And if you keep trying, after a while, YOU become the one who has a problem -- because you won't deal with reality.

    So....your mother is who she is. She has certain things she can give you. But as she has made inescapably (indeed, almost ludicrously) clear, emotional support is not one of those things.

    Sadie's daughter -- Jill's suggestion of therapy is a very good one. This is an issue that runs deep, because you keep going back to your mother for emotional support ... which you should well realize by now is never, ever going to be forthcoming. So obviously, this is something that you clearly need some tools to help you deal with -- and therapy can help give you those tools.

    I sincerely hope you look into it! And I hope therapy helps you figure out a way to keep your relationship with your mother going...because right now, it's definitely not going to last without some outside intervention.

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