Mother Issues: How not to take everything to heart?

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    Long story short, I’ve always had a somewhat rough relationship with my mother.

    She has this thing where she is always angry. When she is, she says harsh comments and obscenities. For example, If I help her with anything and I end up not doing it the “right way”, she’ll comment on how worthless I am or something. I know she never means them, but it always affects me. I grew up with this sort of behaviour, one would think I should have gotten over it by now.

    The truth is, I haven’t and ever since I was a kid I would hide somewhere to cry about these comments. It would be in the closet or in the bathroom. Embarrassed to admit, I still do this.  I have tried to talk to her about this twice. She would say something along the lines of “that is the way she is and doesn’t ever mean it” then apologizes for it.

    I am 19 years old, and I think the only way to really deal with this to not take these withering comments to heart.


    Last year, I moved  away for college and low key tried to avoid her for a 3 months. I decided it wasn’t fair and talked with her again. She insisted that I told her everything that happened while I was in college. Thinking being honest was the best policy, I admitted in confidence that I had a boyfriend and lost my virginity. This was followed by 4 months of random calls and texts to insult or say demeaning comments. We argued a bit in between. She sent all my stuff to my dorm. When I came to visit, she kicked me out and insisted I went back to my dorm (which was many hours away from home).

    She didn’t like the idea I had a boyfriend while I was in college. She’d say that I am a slut and a whore and now tells my younger brothers not to be like me. I ended up going to therapy because of this. I didn’t know how to cope with it and my support group was smaller (two of my best friends got into an argument and stopped talking to me).

    Things have gotten a little better now. Less fighting, she has apologized. She still tells my brothers how much of a slut I am, but usually when she’s very angry. The other thing is, I’ve only ever had sex with two guys (not at the same time).  She seems to like my boyfriend? When she’s angry she’d threaten to call him and tell him or ask him something , but never specifies what (I always worry it would be something that would ruin our relationship).


    I have come to the conclusion that this really is just her and that I will have to accept everything. My younger brothers (who live with her) seems to have done just that. There is no changing her, she’s just very harsh. This is my mother after all. I assume she’s short tempered because of her back pain, smokes, and is starting to get a bit sick (physically). She does loving things like remember birthdays, purchase medication when we’re sick, be updated with our interests, try to get to know our friends, and ask about our lives every now and then. I appreciate the effort she put into raising my brothers and I. I always buy her gifts, especially on special occasions. I always try to listen and not argue/reply to mean comments like I used to.

    Really, I wanted to ask if there was anyway to not take every mean comment to heart and cry about or feel shitty the rest of the day because of it. Maybe some method to do during mediation or something.

    I have to live with her for the rest of the summer. I’ve been crying often during the past few days since I came home and its not healthy to cry often. Recently, its because I’ve been helping her around the house and she will insult the results.


    Thank you in advance!



    Hi Lunari,

    Thanks so much for writing in– I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been involved in such a painful situation with your family and I’m really glad that you’ve decided to seek additional support for yourself!

    You are very right that you cannot control your mother and that she will not change.  I do want to stress to you though that her cruel treatment of you and incredibly insensitive comments are not accidental and she absolutely does mean them.  There is no possible way for a mother to emotionally abuse her child, call her names, shame her, etc. and do this accidentally.  Unfortunately, she knows exactly what she is doing and after you reasonably asked her to change her behavior twice, she has refused.

    It sounds like you have to live with her for the near future so your best bet would be to minimize contact as much as possible and establish some really strong boundaries with her– especially around your personal life, your dating matters, and your emotional world.  She has proven since you were very young, and even more so as you have become an adult, that she cannot be trusted to be kind, supportive, compassionate, or any of the things that you need and deserve in a mother.  Therefore, she no longer gets unlimited access and knowledge to your college experience, your relationships, etc.  This will be hard at first and she will most definitely not like it.  You do not have to tell her that you are doing this; simply change your behavior.

    It’s great that you’ve started to see a therapist for this– I would recommend bringing this up to him/her and asking for help in setting appropriate boundaries with your mother and working to get out of this situation you’re in.  It does not sound all that good for your emotional well-being to be living with her and I would recommend moving out for good as soon as you are able to do so safely and within your financial means.

    I’m so sorry that she has been so cruel to you– I wonder if you might be able to push back on some of the insults by saying, “Mom, if you cannot stop yourself from making cruel comments or negative remarks after I try to do something helpful around here like cleaning, I will no longer be available to do so.”

    My only other suggestion, specifically since you are asking how to not take every mean comment to heart, would be to build up your own inner resources as much as possible– and, again, I would not tell your mother you are doing this.  She will only be more cruel to you.  Continue going to therapy, see if you can get involved in some social activities, really start investing in as much self-care as you can, whatever that means to you; pedicures, meditation, yoga, boxing class, improv, painting…anything that allows you to relax and take care of yourself.

    You sound like such a strong and resilient person and have already gotten through so much with your mom treating you with disrespect and ill-intentions since you were young.  I can say from personal experience that there is definitely a way through this and a way out.

    I hope that this helps you out in some way– take what makes sense and leave the rest and good luck!!


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