<p class="">Hi Everyone. This forum is a godsend. I lurk and learn so much. My mom is 83, worked so hard her whole life and is still quite independent. She still drives and is mentally sharp. She has some pain from joints but overall does well. My problem is it is soooo hard to be around her! I love her alot but it fills me with knots being in her presence because of her negativity and inability to allow others to express themselves. She has always been this way. I know I cant change her. She takes everything as criticism, gets defensive, etc. She grew up with 8 siblings and never got her emotional needs met. I get it. I grew up the same way but after a lifetime of therapy, I am better but heaven forbid I cry in front of her. She cannot handle it. Looks away, gets physically uncomfortable. I know it's not her fault but it riles me up inside to be shut down anytime I try to express anything be it a concern, feeling etc. I grew up totally emotionally abused and suffered my entire life with bulimia. I need tips to be able to be around someone who is headstrong, passive-aggressive, emotionally void. I feel like nothing ever gets resolved because she gets so defensive and takes it as a personal attack and says Im "fighting with her". She is controlling and I have never heard her say "Im sorry" to anyone because she feels it's a sign of weakness. She constantly tells me what to do and any attempt to stop that behavior is met with hetrgetting mad. She truly is a wonderful person but was/is unavailable emotionally. Help!! Thanks in advance to all of the amazing rockstars on this site!

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
So to clarify, you Mother is both "unavailable emotionally", "emotionally abusive" and yet "truly a wonderful person".

You can't have it both ways. Which is she? She doesn't sound like a "truly wonderful person". Based on what evidence?

You basically described my Mother, who many years ago had the nerve to say to my face, "We don't have the type of relationship that other mothers and daughters have." Hahahahaha! Ya think?

So I've gotten over the expectation that she just will ever fill that role.

Expectations = premeditated anger

Therefore, stop expecting your Mother to be "motherly". You keep wanting her to be someone she isn't capable/willing to be, and never was. You will need to get "mothering" from elsewhere now (or at my age, 64, I think I'm beyond needing it since now *I'm* the mother).

Therapy is good and so happy it has helped you.

The way I deal with my Mother is to spend as little time with her as possible (she lives next door to me, is single and I'm her PoA). I know my boundaries and am not afraid to point them out to her. When her behavior gets inappropriate I warn her, then if she persists, I just walk out. I ignore her negativity completely and again, will walk away if she persists. Vote with your feet. And I don't feel guilty about it because we don't get to choose our relatives, we can only choose how we interact with them, if at all.

I'm not responsible for my Mother's happiness. I'm not her entertainment committee. Neither are you. That's how I deal with someone like her.
Helpful Answer (23)
RDWashington17 Oct 29, 2023
I want to commend you on your response, you are spot on. All I could do was nod in agreement on everything you said. My 80-year-old mother is the same way as the writer's mother, and I have had to come to terms with that. Everything you said I am doing now; I do not expect something from her as she is incapable of giving it, but I can remain focused on the mission which is giving her the assistance she needs. Thank you.
See 1 more reply
Read this article, for starters:

Then put the thought out of your mind that mother is a "truly wonderful person".

Truly wonderful people aren't abusive, passive-aggressive or emotionally void. They are present and available for their children all the time so they don't acquire eating disorders or lifelong therapy to cope or to come to terms with how they've been treated.

Why is it "not her fault" that she can't handle your emotions? What is a parent for if not to help and guide their children thru life? Your mother chose not to deal with her issues making her "I can't help it" statements pure nonsense. My mother uttered those words constantly and truth is, she COULD have helped ALL of her dysfunctional behavior by asking for help. That her EGO prevented such a thing became MY problem, and dad's problem too.

Stop looking for mother to BE a mother now and realize it'll never be that warm fuzzy mom-daughter relationship you want it to be. She's incapable of it, and unwilling to change. Keep her at arms length or further, and limit contact with her, like I did with my mother. Toxic people's fumes reach out and draw us in from all sides. The ONLY way to avoid such noxious fumes is to avoid the person emanating them. Doesn't mean you don't "love" her, just that protecting yourself is more important now. You deserve to.

Once I acknowledged my mother's limitations/shortcomings and quit having expectations of her, things got a bit easier for me. I stopped jumping thru hoops to please her or make her happy. I focused on MYSELF instead and that was nice. I suggest you do the same and stop trying to get blood from a stone. It'll never happen.

Good luck.
Helpful Answer (23)
BurntCaregiver Oct 27, 2023

I wish I could like this post a thousand times. You nailed it perfectly with this explanation. Well done.
"She constantly tells me what to do and any attempt to stop that behavior is met with her getting mad. She truly is a wonderful person but was/is unavailable emotionally."

Let's start here.

She TELLS you that she is a wonderful person, or others tell you that she is. She ISN'T a wonderful mother to you. Accept that as a given. Stop lying to yourself.

She TELLS you what to do? Are you an adult? Yes. Does she expect a response to those "orders"?

1. I can't possibly do that.
2. I don't want to do that.
3. I hear that you want me to do X. I'll think about it.
4. No.

Those are all reasonable responses for an ADULT to make to another adult. Practice them.

You won't stop her from continuing to order you about. But you CAN simply not do the things she wants.

If she gets mad, so what?
Helpful Answer (18)
DaSweadie Oct 29, 2023
I love how you tell it like it is. And I received great advice from you myself. And am acting on it. I as the whiner with the husband that won’t move to Tennessee so I can be with my kids. And I’m moving in a few months. With or without him. You were right he’s figured out. My bp is now 137/80 👍
First of all, your mother is not a wonderful people if she treats you like you're saying. She's a narcissistic bully and a senior brat. If she doesn't have dementia she most certainly can "help it". Her behavior is 100% within her control if she does not have some neurological or psychiatric illness.

Your bulimia is very likely caused by your mother's behavior and a lifetime of her conditioning of you. I have struggled with food addiction, bulimia, and anorexia. It's cause was the conditioning and bullying that was my parents and family.

What your mom needs is the same thing mine got. Some tough love. Damn tough.

She is the one who is going to learn how to apologize whe she is wrong and how to have some basic human empathy for her daughter (you) and others. If she doesn't then everyone she treats this way should make it plain to her that no one will do anything for her, or help her, or speak to her. That she can look forward to being completely alone and she can complain and spread her negativity to whatever homecare worker she gets or in whatever nursing home she gets put in.

This is how to handle her. Go as 'Gray Rock' as you can. I didn't speak to my mother for years. When she needs something she will learn to say she's sorry and mean it.
My mother is exactly like yours. You describe her perfectly when describing your own.

We both have senior brats. My mother loves negativity, complaining, staging fake health crises, and ruining special times like holidays, birthdays, planned events, etc... This has always been so. Not just in old age.

As her caregiver I was cooking her three delicious meals a day only to be met with complaining and criticism. Until one day when I brought her the supper and she started with the complaining. I took her plate and threw it in the garbage telling her that she can go hungry or fend for herself.
There were no meals for a few days. She was getting by on bread and peanut butter.

When she was ready to swallow her pride and apologize, the meals returned. I still had to take her plate a few times and put in the garbage when some complaining started, but it was rare.

You start holding her accountable for her behavior. Don't take it from her and you will see positive change.

Even of she improves, DO NOT become her POA. Don't do it. Let someone who is not family have that responsibility.
Helpful Answer (17)

You limit contact with her.

You don't try to get your emotional needs met by her.

You find friends who accept you for who you are

You stop thinking that she will ever accept responsibility.

I'm truly sorry that you didn't get the mother you needed or deserved.
Helpful Answer (16)

You are not going to change your mother.
That much should be clear.
You must change your SELF.
Limit your visits. Find a good supportive group of friends to do the "mothering" and "companionship" you might get from a parent without the limitations your Mom has.

You are good at recognizing your mother's limitations.
You have not, however, ACCEPTED them as a given in your life.
And you have not accepted that this won't change; that only YOU will need to change your own life.

I can just suggest that you stay in therapy. It is clearly helping you. But it hasn't yet come to the magic moment of KNOWING her limitations, KNOWING they are permanent, and KNOWING you must move on.

You are a grownup. Only humans, in all the animal world, stay around parents all their lives. All other animals move on. I think actually the latter works better overall, but this is the way we evolved. You need to come to peace with the REALITY.

I sure do suggest listening to the Podcast Dr Laura's Call of the Day. She is just the best at letting people know that not everything can be fixed. Some things just require you moving through them and beyond them, being polite and understanding that nothing will change.
Helpful Answer (15)

You limit your contact with her and when you do have contact every conversation needs to be superficial. Stop sharing your life with her. Talk about the weather and that is basically it.
Helpful Answer (12)
Bunnymomjulie Oct 27, 2023
I had to do that with mine. I read a book once called "Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down" or something like that, and it said that there are some people you just shouldn't share everything with if all they do is belittle or criticize everything you say. They said "don't cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them" (which is from the Bible but suddenly it made so much sense.) I can still love and appreciate my mom for all that she did and tried to do for me. I believe she tried to be the best momshe could be, but she also had some issues of neglect and abuse. I know this now that I'm older. But for many, many years I kept all conversations very shallow. Doesn't mean I don't care about her or don't love her. She is not kind of person I wish she was and I can't just expect certain behavior from her that she will never do, so I have to protect myself.
1) Know that your mother will never be happy .

2) Always have an exit plan on the phone or in person . Sorry , I have to go now , I have an appointment . Hang up , leave . Limit visits and phone calls . Go no contact when necessary .

3) Do not share every bit of your life with her . Omit things , even white lies are appropriate .

4) Limit your reaction to her . Don’t fight with her . The more you react the more fuel she gets . Leave or change the subject.
Helpful Answer (12)

Although my mother appears to be much worse than yours and I no longer speak to her, therapy helped me, it helped me understand that it is her not me and no matter what I did to please her it would never change.

It finally came down to whether it was her or me, I chose me, 13 years later I have no regrets.

I would cut back on my dealings with her, take time to heal yourself, set your boundaries and stick to them.

Sending support your way!
Helpful Answer (11)

"She constantly tells me what to do and any attempt to stop that behavior is met with her getting mad."

She can tell you all she wants about what to do but you just say No. Or just ignore her.

"I feel like nothing ever gets resolved" What are you trying to resolve, the way you were treated as a kid or now? Whichever, you are trying to change someone you can't change. A person who never thinks she is wrong or says she is sorry. That's a Narcissist and they can't be helped because they don't see themselves as needing it. I think PTSD is being used too freely now a days. (Read your first post) What you say and feel does not effect this type of person. They have no empathy. They don't know how to "walk in someone elses shoes". You are banging ur head against a wall. The less you expect from Mom and interact with her the better.

I know people whose parents weren't there for them emotionally and they turned out OK. They are very compassionate people. I bet you are too. Your problem, IMO, is you have tried to label Mom to be able to understand and forgive her. But you look up Narcissist and I bet Mom fits that label. If so, she will never change because...she is not the problem in her mind.
Helpful Answer (10)
BurntCaregiver Oct 27, 2023
You're right JoAnn, but the mother can learn how to fake it or at least behave with the same basic respect she'd show a stranger.

Or better still an employer. If the mother ever worked and had a job, she knows that you can't get about the complaining, negativity, gaslighting, and bullying because you get fired.

Work manners or everyone should abandon her and give her a taste of what total alone is like.
It's very bitter and most people don't care for it.
See All Answers
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter