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    Wow. Anita! Thank you so, so much for sharing this. It’s a very humbling summary. Sometimes I forget where I’ve been. It’s crazy to see the pressure points of my past laid out like this. I feel as if I’m slowly learning from these lessons. I admit I’m still a work-in-progress.

    I’m glad I decided to reach out to this community again, even though it has been a long, forgotten time. I’ve been thinking of this quote and how there have been people I have come across who build cages of fear, whether they mean to or not, and how I can learn from them — even if it’s just choosing a different path:

    “The small man builds cages for every man he knows while the sage who has to duck his head when the moon is low keeps dropping keys all night long to the beautiful, rowdy prisoners.” – Hafiz

    Still so much to reflect on.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Marie.

    I know this post is closed, but I came across an old email with someone’s reply and I wanted to give an update:

    My life partner decided early this year to take a break from his mom after she started to aggressively (and daily) batter him with alt-right, xenophobic, abusive tirades. After fighting for years on these topics, it really ramped up with the world-wide BLM protests and she doubled down on her intolerant views and verbal abuse towards my life partner. He decided to step away from the relationship and ceased contact with her.

    He is saddened that he had to do this, but he is also lighter and more confident now that he doesn’t have his mother telling him repeatedly that he is worthless and incapable of achieving his dreams. He no longer has “dead voice” or depressed episodes after engaging with her.

    It truly does seem like a weight has been lifted. She still calls and texts him multiple times a day/week and tries to convince him that he is nothing without her, but he does not pick up the phone.

    He is  healing. He is laughing more. We are both focusing on the loving family and friend relationships in our lives that nurture joy, happiness, acceptance.

    Thank you again for your replies. It’s difficult when a close family member (a mother, a father, a caregiver) acts in this way and tries to dim our light. If there is someone out there who is going through the same thing… I hope you remember that you are worthy of love, that you don’t have to listen to anyone you trust (or trusted) tell you you are worthless. If someone puts conditions on love… that is NOT love.

    You are enough. Just as you are.


    Thank you all again for your responses to my questions. It isn’t easy reaching out and thinking about these topics. It’s not easy putting up boundaries– especially for someone who’s been a people pleaser most of her life (me!) – but as I get older my independence and freedom are very important to me.

    It becomes harder and harder to have patience to accommodate the personalities that cause so much hurt to those around them. Her daughters are so kind and considerate. Seeing her steamroll over the one she does talk to and gaslight her emotions and POV is… hard. I have never left an interaction with her not feeling drained. And the fallout with the kids is often intense– where they will dissect and vent about her behavior long after she is gone. (And look, here I am doing it too in this thread.)

    We do send his mom flowers and chocolates on the appropriate days and take her out to dinner when we see her at times. It does give her joy. She loves any and all attention so gifts are a must. I try to compliment her often when we are together and keep the questions always on her. Mostly interactions with her are being silent as she talks at you. It’s not a true relationship. It’s all one-sided.

    This is all why at a distance is definitely better for this relationship. Though I do agree that people who cause such pain should have some joy in their lives too. (As long as I am at a distance from her so I don’t have to watch her stamp out the joy of those around her.)

    If she had her way I’m sure my fiance would be living next to her or with her in a job he hated in his hometown and we would see each other many times a week. That is never, ever happening. My fiance has also said he was miserable at home and would have chest pains/headaches/panic attacks.

    And so… she will always be sad about the arrangement because it is not exactly to her liking. At least I suspect. She definitely makes it a point to tell my fiance — subtly or not-so-subtly — what a terrible, crime-ridden place me and him are living in any chance she can get. (Though she has never said this when I am present.)

    He laughs it off. But I find the whole dynamic so disturbing… though I push it in the back of my mind most of the months and try not to think about it. Otherwise, you just go crazy.

    There’s no rhyme or reason to it. No way to fix it. All you can do is let it lie and walk away.

    I know she is a lonely soul who fears abandonment and that is a part of why she lashes out… which in turn causes people to turn away from her and repeat the vicious cycle over and over again of her holding them closer in a vice-like grip… which just makes them want to run farther away.

    She never sees herself to blame for why they turn away from her. It is always that they are ungrateful. Garbage. Easily manipulated. Dumb. It’s depressing.

    Despite this, I don’t wish her harm. I just want my freedom. And I want my fiance to be at peace.

    It’s heartbreaking that she boasts of her emotional intelligence and yet cannot see the pain she causes her own kids.

    She has always been perfectly cheery and charming to me as she cuts down her child on the next day or storms out when she isn’t getting enough praise.

    Mark used the word ‘accommodate’ above. That word has really stuck with me. I have been far too accommodating with these types of personalities in the past.


    Thanks so much, Anita. Yup, it’s clear that this type of personality really triggers me. After I found a better gig and quit that old one with that toxic lady years ago I felt 1000% better without her in my life. I also thrived. That lady said I couldn’t handle simple tasks, but without her in my life I took on more and more creative roles.

    The same with a business relationship that cropped up on another project a couple of years later — it was with a woman who exhibited similar textbook-symptoms as my fiance’s mom and that toxic lady. There’s definitely a type. This particular woman confided in me she was insecure because she didn’t have ideas like I did.

    My fiance actually warned me about that business relationship but I didn’t see it in time because she was a friend of over ten years. He kept saying: “She’s acting just like my mom. I’d be careful.” (I didn’t know his mom as well then.) My fiance then began to predict my business partner’s behavior before it even happened: her outbursts, her moodiness, her gaslighting and belittling comments. It was nuts. Watching her with her husband and sister was the worst though — she destroyed them cruelly with words. Broke them down. It was hard to watch. They lived to support her. And nothing was ever her fault.

    Sure enough the deeper entwined we became, the more my business partner exhibited behavior like that old boss and my fiance’s mom. And yes, there was love-bombing in the beginning too. That relationship didn’t end well. She tried to bully me into giving her most of the credit for our project (but of course I would pay for it all). I reached out to her former collaborators and she had done the same to them… and they had caved! No wonder she thought she could get away with her behavior.

    I chose to walk away from her and cut her out of my life. Though she tried to hit me with a frivolous lawsuit threat and smear campaign… both tactics thankfully eventually faded away as I didn’t react to her.

    I’m very grateful that the majority of my relationships have boundaries and are with people who respect and love me as an individual, and who I respect and love in turn. There’s only been a few in my whole life who have been like this, so I’m grateful for that. Of course it always hurts when you’re around someone like this. But as I get older it’s very clear these people are going to keep popping up as long as I give them power by having a presence in my life.

    No contact is the way to go for people you cannot trust. And people with no boundaries cannot be trusted.

    No contact is actually what my fiance’s other sister and another relative have been doing with her for years (which is sad! her mom will never know all of her grandkids — but my fiance’s sister said enough and got tired of her own mom’s manipulations — of course the mom blames her ‘ungrateful daughter’ for the no-contact and says she’s being brainwashed by her husband).

    I’m not sure if my fiance will agree to no contact. But I know what I need to do for my own peace of mind.

    Thanks again. It’s been so helpful to write this all out and listen to all of your objective thoughts on what to do (instead of stewing in my head).

    P.S. I also found these articles to be helpful.




    I know. It’s so hard. But I think you reaching out and trying to understand these feelings is an amazing step. It shows you’re looking inward and searching for answers and understanding. I actually really love what Kevin said above.

    ‘There is nobody on this entire planet who can be “just as pretty as you” or “just as smart as you”, because you are unique in every respect. You are perfect exactly as you are.’

    We’ve heard it before… but it’s the TRUTH.

    But that still doesn’t mean that this journey isn’t complicated and tough. Wishing you the best, Alexandria!


    Also, Peggy, I didn’t mean to say you are upset. I’m sure you’re very level-headed and this is run-of-the-mill boundary stuff we’ve all seen before. It’s just hard to sort out when it’s your own life.


    Thanks for your replies. I appreciate it. It’s a stressful situation, which is why I am reaching out to total strangers as I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.

    Peggy, I don’t mean to upset you, but she does all of these things, so why should I think that she would treat my fiance and myself differently in the future?

    I do not believe that giving someone life and bringing them into existence allows you a free pass to run rampant over their emotions, verbally abuse them, and expect them to have total allegiance to you for the rest of their lives. What an awful arrangement. We can’t choose who are parents are. But this is what she has expected of her children since they were born. She has never seen them as individuals, but just offsprings of her being (her children’s words, not mine, although it is very clear from how she treats them that this is true).

    I also find that this is the problem when trying to talk about what people who exhibit Narcissistic and Borderline personality disorder symptoms do and how it effects your own boundaries, as even bringing up what they do causes other people to think you are being dramatic. How does one handle their dramatic behavior without setting up dramatic boundaries? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really don’t know.

    Although you are right in that it’s a little too early to threaten to start up the getaway car with my rogue baby-warriors. I won’t bring that up to him again.

    I do try to consciously live in the moment every day, but it is clear how she treats her own children (and how they let her treat them) is not healthy. Every time I am with her I feel her desperation and loneliness to be loved, but then watch as she belittles, desmans, gaslights, steamrolls and insults her own children, literally calling them ‘cesspools’ when they do not do what she wants (even if it compromises someone else’s boundaries) or attempting to pit her daughters against each other as she feels jealous of their closeness.

    In marriage, are you supposed to stand by your husband’s side and watch that unhealthy relationship roll out until… someone dies? Is that what you have done? (‘You’ being American society and what is expected of someone, and not you personally.) I never will put myself in a position where I give someone like his mom free reign over my existence.

    Maybe I can eventually help him set clear boundaries with her. He is going to therapy now about that and other things and he seems more calm. But there is also a possibility that he allows this dynamic to play out until one of them dies or moves so far away they rarely see each other.

    When you see someone consistently belittle, demean, gaslight and insult her own children even as she is playing with her grandchild, what else can be rationally thought but she will continue this behavior when you have children with this man you love? Why would you want to have someone like that intimately in your life, even if she did birth the man you love, if she causes so much pain and doesn’t even notice when the energy of her children fades when she is around?

    Is that a rule of marriage — that you must be around a member of your husband’s family to watch these unhealthy dynamics play out every time they are together and most often when they connect?

    I am fully aware my fiance has an unhealthy relationship with his mother. But he puts up with her behavior and her calling him ‘a garbage person’ when he doesn’t do what she wants, because she is his only living parent. However, that is the journey that he is on with her, and I have been to therapy about this, and I do not have to go on all the journeys that my husband wants to go on if it will effect my mental health and well-being.

    And yet… having kids would change the game. As it always does. As I know I would want to stay together for them. I have seen so many friends and family stay together ‘for the children’ even though they were unhappy. I’m just trying to not make the same mistake. It’s not so easy to leave the person you love and feel so connected to. He knows me better than anyone else in the world. He loves the parts of me that I hated, and in turn, I began to love them too. He is a kind, supportive, smart, funny, compassionate man. And he’s handsome and communicative. I adore him. Which is why this is so hard. Because it pains me to see him be verbally belittled so often… and to hear her racist and xenophobic claims and how they fight about it.

    She’ll never change. She’s too set in her ways. But she did raise beautiful, loving kids despite their claims that she tortured them verbally and mentally. I have been told his mother used her son as emotional support over the years to fill the ‘husband’ role when her husband died when he was young (they were already getting divorced at that point and she was pitting the kids against him – so says my fiance and his sisters). I can only imagine it was a lot of pressure for a kid. He feels that he cannot cut her off, and I would never, ever ask him to do that, as that is his mother.

    But does that tragedy decades earlier excuse her behavior for the rest of her life and give her a free pass to walk all over her children? I’m asking you (or the abyss of the internet), because I find that so baffling. To listen to her children claim that she has made many deaths, births, tragedies, celebrations since they were born about her — and if she is not the center of attention then she lashes out and causes more drama?

    How strange marriage is. Why allow someone like that — even if they are blood – do that to you?

    I have watched that kind of personality hurt me and the people I love in the past. Blood or no blood. I’ve learned and grown stronger because of it by cutting them out or going low contact (if no contact is not possible). That seems to work best.
    I will also say that I have kept these feelings to very close inner circle people (and now the abyss of the internet, but you don’t know who I am). If we do marry I will never have more than a superficial, distant relationship with her.

    And we are definitely going to counseling in the meantime. Maybe I’ll just go the Oprah route and never marry and be with him. That’s what she did, right? We’ll see. Apologies for the novel of a post.

    I’m clearly still figuring it out. I wouldn’t be on this forum if I wasn’t.

    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by Marie.
    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by Marie.

    Oy. Well, I’ve already stated that he would be the one to take these hypothetical children that I don’t even know I can have on most trips when he’s with his mom and that we can never live in the same town as her. So far he’s kept his word on keeping her physically at a distance for most of the year. But I agree! There’s still more work to be done before we tie the knot. Perhaps couple’s counseling will help. Or maybe it won’t.

    My freedom is important to me above all else and I tend to empathetically take on other people’s emotions, which is why it’s so hard to be around her, as well — I don’t intend to compromise on this or be steamrolled when/if married. To be honest, I’ve never even really dreamed about getting married.

    He knows all this about me and we are very open with communication — which is one of the things I love about him. But I think I need to be better about never engaging in the conversation when his mom comes up and never rehashing the outrageous things she’s done or said. At this point I don’t need to dissect with him or anyone else the awful things she does and the way she hurts her family. It’s clear she will continue to cause drama as that’s unfortunately just how she is.

    Thanks again. Appreciate it.


    Thanks for the reply, Mark.

    I have discussed this with him and he’s very open and understanding. He totally understands how she alienates people and is overbearing and has agreed that I need to go low-contact with her for my own mental health. She’s very triggering. He also understands that if these boundaries are crossed when we are married and have (hypothetical) children that I will leave him.

    She isn’t a day to day energy-drain, but she does crop up when there is a holiday (and the weeks leading up to the holiday), when they fight about politics over the phone, when I see her call him a dozen times in a row, or when she has done or said something outrageous to his sisters. Thankfully, she is over five hours away by car and we don’t see her often right now. But his sisters have jokingly (not-so-jokingly) stated that he will be the one to care for her when she’s old and she has said the same as she views him as her golden child. (Even though she also treats him terribly when he doesn’t do what she wants. Again, it’s exhausting.) He is adamant that she’s going in a home though. (Which is sad! But also, tough — to treat the people you love like shit and expect them to bend over backwards so you can steamroll them, even in old age.)

    I don’t know if I’m willing to stand by him for all this and watch her steamroll him with guilt and manipulation for decades. But the days when she’s not draining the life out of her children are really, really great, and I consider him my cosmic twin/companion and adore his sisters. I am also expecting — as I have seen this happen with her children and others — that once I disagree with her she will turn on me. So interactions with her are always ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’. This is a philosophy my fiance is always concerned about, and after spending some time with her, I can see how that mentality came to be.

    Bah. A tough situation.


    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by Marie.

    Whenever I feel jealously or envy I try to use it as an instructive tool to look inward about what exactly is being triggered by this or that person’s behavior or success. I know that sounds like a load of baloney, but… It’s amazing what you can discover about yourself in this way. Oftentimes I’ll subconsciously be burying what I really want, so jealous or envious feelings help me see what I’m really longing for in my heart or where I may be afraid to journey — what I really desire or need to work on.

    I would also say that this quote is very much true — “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Your time on this earth is so brief. Why spend the minutes, hours or days torturing yourself by focusing on what you don’t have? It wastes so much of your time — and time is all we got. What do you really want to be doing with your life? In this present moment?

    It’s so much easier (and lighter) to wish someone well and focus on doing your own thing. To let go of all that doubt and negativity you might be carrying with you. It’s hard to build a life, and focusing too much on jealousy and envy can slow you down. If you really thought about it, I bet you could find so much to be grateful for in your own life. Also, someone might be jealous or envious of you too — so it’s all about perspective. The truth is we never really know what’s going on in someone else’s head, so that beautiful, carefree friend you’re jealous of might have some deep sadness in his or her life you never considered. Life is so beautiful and messy.

    One other thing that I’ve noticed on my own life journey — your friends can probably sense if you’re saying or doing things half-heartedly around them due to jealousy or envy (even if you think you’re hiding it). I know I have sensed when a friend wasn’t being genuine around me and I’ve felt that I’ve acted differently when those feelings have arisen within me. I’m working on it.

    But what I have also noticed is when someone is just doing their own thing and wishing other people well and minding their own business… they tend to attract others to their light too. Maybe that beautiful, carefree, messy, empathetic friend rubs you the wrong way, because she’s triggering a deep longing or desire in yourself you’re afraid to face?
    We’re all figuring this out and we’re all works-in-progress. I’ve definitely been there. Not sure if these thoughts help at all, but I wish you well. This stuff is hard and it’s okay to not have it all figured out today.

    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by Marie.

    It’s the worst! Ha, oh, a mini reunion. How awkward that would be! Perhaps I’ll let him know – like you said – that that would be crossing some sort of boundary and the break up is still too raw. There would definitely be no getting back together if any funny business did happen between them. I just think it’s weird how he’ll say I’m the one for him forever in one sentence and then say this in another. Why try to make the one you love jealous? It all seems very not healthy. I get it. He’s hurting too. But still. And as for my friend. Wow. I don’t even know. It’s just weird how she hasn’t said anything. Maybe they’re perfect for each other as they both don’t really talk about their feelings. =(



    Thank you all for your feedback. I’ve tried all of the above and it’s definitely helped with trying to keep my feelings in check when around such an emotionally draining person.

    Also, focusing on the good. Not letting her occupy my thoughts or cause me anxiety/stress outside work. Sometimes I forget, but it really does make a difference – being grateful for what is positive in my life and not obsessing over people that make no sense to me or people who I feel have treated others wrongly, for whatever weird reason!

    Recently it has come to light that I am not the only one who feels this way and my coworkers have commiserated with me about having to walk on eggshells around this supervisor. We recently all discussed her constant mood swings, accusatory delusional behavior and general insecurity and lack of managerial skills.

    I know it’s awful to admit, but it made me feel somewhat better knowing I was not the only extreme target of this woman’s delusional, explosive way of thinking. Not sure if that’s borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder or just family patterns on how she was raised shining through. Does it have to be diagnosed? Does it matter?

    Either way your thoughts have been helpful in dealing with such an unstable person on a regular basis, and I thank you for that.


    Thank you so much for these responses. They really helped me at a time when I was kind of drowning.

    (I know, it’s only been a few days, but I was scared to reach out to anyone about this because I was so in my head. There was even a point where I thought I should delete the post or make it private because it seemed like such an absurd question. A sign of weakness. What have you. And that goes for all the postings I made in the last few days.)

    It’s definitely been hard trying to figure everything out with a recent break-up and wading through unwanted and wanted attention and growing pains/figuring stuff out, but I just wanted to let you know that your feedback has profoundly made a difference.

    Again, much gratitude.


    Just for an update, I decided to move out of my boyfriend’s apartment about five months ago. Life has been really great, and it was only with the distance of being apart that I realized how much he was ignoring me in the last few years. It was all good as long as I didn’t challenge drinking habits (ask him to DD sometimes, or maybe just have a few instead of unlimited), talk about the future (for us or him), ask him how the job search was going (he was unemployed for over five years), or talk to him about intimacy/communication issues. By being apart, I saw just how much he really was not “seeing” me and was completely disrespecting me as a human being. I feel kind of like a fool, to be honest, to hold on SO LONG to a relationship because of sunken costs/dreams/whatever. But it’s hard to have a future with someone who doesn’t want to communicate or want to kiss me.

    With all this said, I do still love him. Even though I feel like an idiot saying so. I’ve left it open with him and said that if he wants to talk about the above or work on us, if he sees a future with us at all, then I’m open to talking… but so far he’s ignored my requests, yet he doesn’t want to stop talking to me and still sends me pics of beautiful sunsets and stuff he’s cooked that night, etc. He just doesn’t want to change or talk about what he loves to do (drinking, not working, etc). And I suspect he doesn’t even really want to be with me either. I feel like when a man – or anyone – wants to be with someone else, they reach out and try in some way. He’s just not trying at all. It’s very eye opening to see. That I was the one really reaching out and he wasn’t meeting me halfway. Hurts though.

    I’m glad I did this at the age of 30 though and not decades from now. Still, it’s really hard – but I’ve found that I can be independent and live on my own. It’s kind of nice. Plus, friends and family have been very helpful and supportive of my transition. It’s nice to know there are people out there that want me to succeed. And to be happy.


    Thank you all for your help and guidance. They’re very helpful. Very empowering. Very hard.

    I think I am co-dependent on him. Argh.

    As for what he drinks, it really depends – mostly wine/beer and then ending the night with scotch or whiskey. Sometimes he’ll make drinks – like margaritas, Rob Roys. He’s very good at making drinks. He’s definitely the type of person that never wants the party to end and is jovial among others and wants people to keep going because he doesn’t have a stop button. His words. And it’s fun. Sure. But it’s also distracting for what I want to do with my life.

    So…it’s a bummer. Yes. When I leave him I stand to lose a significant chunk of change. He hasn’t paid me back yet, and he just doesn’t have the money. He feels bad about it, but…yeah. I think if I stay for that sort of reason it’s just going to drive me insane.

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