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My mother is giving me the silent treatment…what next

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  • #356772
    NeW
    Participant

    I will try to make the background short: I have had a good relationship with my mother over my 36 years on Earth. My father died in an accident when I was an infant and she remarried when I was 4 and then divorced about 10 years later. No trauma, a happy normal country childhood. We have been close and shared many of the same moral and spiritual values. About 10 years ago she started dating a man that I felt drug her down a lot: IMO he was ignorant, racist, homophobic and took advantage of her lifestyle and more importantly, her intense aversion to any conflict (i.e. never disagreed with him or expressed any reaction to some of his off color behavior). Soon after he moved in, I had saved up money to buy my own home nearby but continued to keep my horses at her farm so we also continued to have daily interactions. I openly admit to there being enmeshment which I take responsibility for being party to.

    Over the years her b.f. has done some very passive aggressive gross things to me (1 quick example: my dog pooped on their lawn so he wrapped it in a holiday gift box and put in my vehicle on a hot summer’s day). My mother never reacted to the events as I thought was appropriate (again, my expectation- responsibility). Over the last 3 years I have continually tried explain how I felt and how I felt not good enough and tried to prove my worth to her and been very (so uncomfortably) vulnerable to her and trying to explain what I needed in a mother/daughter relationship.  I have been so fortunate to have therapy to recognize my own responsibilities here and I was working on a great tool box of navigating our relationship. My biggest hurdle was that I knew she was continually being dishonest to me, in an attempt to avoid confrontation….some of this involved finances, some of it involved things with other family members. I made my boundaries very clear – please be honest with me, I will not tolerate lying.

    A few weeks ago, my mother and I had a heated discussion about something stupid, and since that day she has totally stonewalled me. She is giving me the silent treatment but has not communicated what she is upset about or anything……what should I do?

    #357029
    anita
    Participant

    Dear NeW:

    She lied to you repeatedly and on different topics: “she was continually being dishonest to me… some of this involved finances, some of it involved things with other family members.. please be honest with me, I will not tolerate lying“.

    Her “silent treatment” is better than her lying treatment of you: silence is preferable to lies, isn’t it?

    I think that her silence treatment of you is your opportunity to work on that enmeshment you mentioned (“I openly admit to there being enmeshment”).

    If I was you, I would find another place for your horses so that you don’t have to visit her home and her property. Don’t chase her for contact. And better, if she contacts you, tell her that you are extending the silence between the two of you, because you need that silence, for now.

    “I felt not good enough and tried to prove my worth to her and been very (so uncomfortably) vulnerable to her and trying to explain what I needed in a mother/ daughter relationship”-

    – I think that what you need in your relationship with your mother is the silence that she is providing you. Not that her intent is to help you with her silence, but it so happens that you do need that silence, I believe.

    There is a term in child psychology called “separation- individuation”- a young child starts being enmeshed with her main caretaker, usually the mother.Later, gradually, the child separates from her mother, becoming her own separate, content person. (Lots of women don’t get to that stage of mental separation from their mother).

    I hope to read more from you and to reply further to you.

    anita

    #357078
    NeW
    Participant

    Thank you Anita for your reply. I appreciate your support. Thank you for reminding me of the separation/individuation stage.

    I am actively working on building my own barn for our horses so that should be finished within the next month.

    I agree: the silence is an opportunity of some kind for myself.

    I guess that is my biggest question at this time is when the time comes that we come into contact with each other, what do I say? I agree with extending the silence part but I know she will ask for more.

    The personal need I have to ‘call her out’ on things is slowly fading. What I WANT to say are things like: “Obviously you don’t love me so let’s just keep this going, it seems like that is what you want”, or /”What did you think would happen by pretending I didn’t exist?”

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by NeW.
    #357086
    anita
    Participant

    Dear NeW:

    You are very welcome. “my biggest question at this time is when the time comes that we come into contact with each other, what do I say?.. What I WANT to say are things like: ‘Obviously you don’t love me so let’s just keep this going, it seems like that is what you want’, or ‘What did you think would happen by pretending I didn’t exist?'”-

    – You mentioned her “intense aversion to any conflict”- if it takes pretending that you don’t exist so to keep conflict out of her subjective experience of life, then she will pretend you don’t exist.

    I suppose that when her boyfriend wrapped your dog’s poop for you as a gift and placed it in your car, she didn’t react to the event because she wanted nothing to do with the conflict between you and her boyfriend and she didn’t want to create a conflict between herself and him.

    When you explained to her that you “felt not good enough.. trying to explain what I needed in a mother/ daughter relationship”- that was too much for her: if she actually listened to you and considered what you were saying, that would have created a conflict within herself, so.. she didn’t listen to you.

    When telling the truth causes conflict, she lies (“she was continually being dishonest to me, in an attempt to avoid confrontation”). You told her that you “will not tolerate lying”, but she will not tolerate conflict!

    An honest relationship with her is impossible. Her relationship with her boyfriend is not honest, but it lasts because they are both okay with it. And maybe he figures that she will tolerate a whole lot of misbehaviors on his part for as long as he accommodates this one thing: to not accuse her of anything,  to not blame her for anything and to direct his anger/ the passive aggressive behaviors you mentioned toward other people, including her daughter, but not at her.

    I think that your attachment to her is fueled by your hope and desire to have an honest relationship with her, but it takes two, and she is not motivated.

    Back to your question: “when the time comes that we come into contact with each other, what do I say?”- if you say to her anything that has the hint of conflict, she will not hear you.

    If you tell her: “Obviously you don’t love me so let’s just keep this going, it seems like that is what you want”, or “What did you think would happen by pretending I didn’t exist?”- I imagine she will think something like this: why is she talking this way to me, I don’t like it! (no listening, no  considering or taking in what you said).

    What you want to say to her is very meaningful to you, but it is gibberish to her because if there is a hint of conflict in what you say, she is not listening.

    I see your choices to be the following:

    1. Keep waiting and hoping and wanting to have an honest relationship with her, keep trying to get through to her, to make her understand.

    2. Accept a no-conflict tolerated, dishonest relationship with her, keeping your conflict within you, never expressed to her.

    3. Have no contact with her, and form the honest relationship you need with someone else.

    anita

     

    #357089
    NeW
    Participant

    “if you say to her anything that has the hint of conflict, she will not hear you.” – you are so right anita! I understand it in my heart and I do still kid myself that she will come around so to speak, but….

    I don’t think Scenario # 1 or 2 is  healthy for me. I feel like no matter what I say or how carefully I construct a thought, it will be interpreted by her as a confrontation. I am almost sure she will say something like, ‘what can we do to move forward?’, to which I still feel, is having an honest relationship, which doesn’t seem to be possible for her at this time.

    For choice # 3 – how do I verbalize that? Or do I just ‘do it’.

    #357094
    anita
    Participant

    Dear NeW:

    Regarding the third choice, to have no contact with your mother and form the honest relationship you need with someone else. you asked “how do I verbalize that? Or do I just ‘do it'”?

    To extend the silent treatment that she initiated for as long as you need it, send her a message saying that sometime after she initiated the silence between her and you, you found out that silence is just what you need from her, so to promote your own mental health. Let her know that you are extending the silence that she initiated it from the date she initiated it, (state the date) until further notice. Ask her to not contact you before you will let her know of that further notice, and let her know that if she initiates contact with you before that further notice, you will not respond to her. Then add that you wish her well.

    I predict that it will not be easy for you to carry this through, that you will feel guilty, that you will be imagining that she needs you and that she is so sad to not have you in her life.. because this is what I experienced when I ended all contact with my mother seven years ago. But what I learned is that all along I needed her, not the other way around; I loved her, not really the other way around.  When I understood that completely, the guilt expired.

    Regarding promoting your mental health during this break, it will be about that separation I mentioned, removing yourself from that enmeshment with her. Enmeshed a daughter is  confused, having the identities of her mother and herself.. well, enmeshed. Separated you will become the authentic you, which will make an honest relationship possible with someone else.

    I will  be glad to keep communicating with you. Post again anytime.

    anita

    #357145
    NeW
    Participant

    send her a message saying that sometime after she initiated the silence between her and you, you found out that silence is just what you need from her

    My only concern here is that I feel like we are in a power struggle – I know without a doubt that she is being coached by a very mentally unwell friend to not ‘give into’ me (=any communication), – so I almost feel like if I send a message she will feel like she won. I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t matter?

    and let her know that if she initiates contact with you before that further notice, you will not respond to her

    and please entlighten me if I am off base, but I kind of see this as doing the same thing as she is doing to me?

    I would never give her the silent treatment, with each day I just can’t understand she has turned into this kind of person.

    #357148
    anita
    Participant

    Dear NeW:

    The reason I suggested that you have no contact with her is that I believe that an adult daughter who is enmeshed with her dishonest mother needs no-contact with her mother so  to mentally separate from her. You need no contact with her so that you can heal from that overdue enmeshment.

    The purpose of the no contact is not to punish her or “doing the same thing as she is doing”, it’s not about her winning a power struggle.. it is not about her: it is about you, it is about you healing.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by anita.
    #357600
    NeW
    Participant

    I have to admit this week was the most difficult, I think I am grieving our relationship and realizing finally that she cannot be the parent I wanted and I know I don’t really want to be in a relationship with someone that refuses to discuss issues or resolve conflict. I realize the silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse, which I never thought she would resort to.

     form the honest relationship you need with someone else.

    What are you thinking of here – with another ‘motherly’ figure? Or just in general. Thanks <3

    #357608
    anita
    Participant

    Dear NeW:

    What I mean is that by trying again and again to have a relationship with your dishonest mother (dishonest with you), you had to compromise your own honesty. In other words, she rejected your honesty and you wanted a relationship with her-> something had to give, and that something was your honesty: honesty with yourself and with her.

    When your honesty with yourself is compromised, honesty in all your relationships is compromised. I suggested ending contact with her and healing, becoming aware of who you are, what you are about, becoming more and more honest with yourself and so, being able to have honest relationships with others, from strangers to friends to a romantic partner.

    anita

    #357920
    Jan
    Participant

    Dear NeW

    The first thing that struck me about your original post was this:

    “My father died in an accident when I was an infant and she remarried when I was 4 and then divorced about 10 years later. No trauma”

    Um, no trauma? For a child of 14 to have lost her father (even though you don’t remember him) then see her mother marry and divorce within the space of 10 years is pretty big. Also, think of the trauma your mother has been through: losing her husband when their child was tiny (are you an only child, btw?) then going through the pain of divorce after a shortish marriage when she was, I’m guessing, only 40 or so. She was then effectively on her own until she was in her 50s? And she has discovered that she is living with an abusive partner who is very passive aggressive towards you and, most likely, towards her, too. Imagine her disappointment and embarrassment at letting this man into her life, imagine the hurt she feels at being on the receiving end of his narcissistic behaviour and probably feeling powerless to do anything about it. And then the judgement of her daughter, who might have been her ally.

    You said:

    “I have had a good relationship with my mother over my 36 years on Earth . . . We have been close and shared many of the same moral and spiritual values”

    That being the case, it sounds like it is a relationship worth fighting for, on both sides.

    This man sounds like a piece of work and he has come between you and your mother, probably deliberately. If he puts dog poop in your car, then it is YOU who should be saying something to him, NOT your mother. Yes, it would be great if she took your side but, remember, when you go home she has to live with this man. She is probably very afraid of him.

    Out of interest, and if you can remember, was her relationship with her second husband similar? Was he a similarly abusive person? I suspect that she is the sort of woman who is attracted to narcissists, possibly because of abuse she suffered in her own childhood. Does this strike a chord with you at all?

    Try to talk to her, to find out if she is happy with this man (it seems unlikely, she seems scared of him) and, if she asks for your help, to help get him out of her home and her life. However, if she doesn’t wish to discuss her relationship with this man with you, then you must accept her choice to be with him. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have a good relationship with her, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to go no contact. To be stating that your mother doesn’t love you because of these events is somewhat self-involved, I think.

    What was the ‘something stupid’ you argued about? If it was heated then it was probably about more than the ‘something stupid’ you mention, if only underneath. You must have some idea why she’s so upset. If you don’t, ASK HER. Via an email or similar if she won’t actually talk to you, and without being confrontational or she will clam up. Be her friend again, coax her to open up to you. And keep your horses on her farm so that the connection between you is not irretrievably cut.

    Get the ball rolling on your reconciliation before it sets in and totally wrecks your mother/daughter relationship which was clearly very good until this man came along.

    I do hope this helps.

    all the best

    Jan

     

    #357921
    NeW
    Participant

    thanks for your reply Jan.

    If he puts dog poop in your car, then it is YOU who should be saying something to him, NOT your mother

    yes I absolutely did address it in person with him?

     To be stating that your mother doesn’t love you because of these events is somewhat self-involved, I think.

    did I say that? I don’t think so, but maybe I missed it?

    I know for a fact she is being coached by her best friend who has a terrible non-relationship with her daughters. So I truly don’t think her actions are all of her own. I keep hoping she will ‘see the light’ and realize how damaging this behavior is.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t still have a good relationship with her, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to go no contact

    The issue is more the dishonesty and lack of respect, more than her boyfriend. He has been like this for 10+ years, it’s nothing new. And I don’t think that will change, it’s been about 3 years of lying to me to avoid discomfort.

    Have you ever been treated like this? If not, it’s incredibly hurtful and damaging. I just don’t feel like I can suddenly reach out to her and brush it all under the rug. I said to my husband on the weekend that as each week passes I don’t feel like I can forgive her.

    #357925
    NeW
    Participant

    What I mean is that by trying again and again to have a relationship with your dishonest mother (dishonest with you), you had to compromise your own honesty. In other words, she rejected your honesty and you wanted a relationship with her-> something had to give, and that something was your honesty: honesty with yourself and with her.

    When your honesty with yourself is compromised, honesty in all your relationships is compromised. I suggested ending contact with her and healing, becoming aware of who you are, what you are about, becoming more and more honest with yourself and so, being able to have honest relationships with others, from strangers to friends to a romantic partner.

    Thank you anita for the clarity. I think in the end, this experience will carve me to be stronger and more independent of others’ opinions.

     

    #357931
    anita
    Participant

    You are welcome, NeW. I hope that you are getting stronger and more independent of others’ opinions. Post again anytime.

    anita

    #357944
    Jan
    Participant

    Perhaps I have misunderstood the crux of your problem. I thought it was that you had a fight with your mother about ‘something stupid’ and that she was now not talking to you. I thought that you had a good relationship with her until that time and that the situation would be salvageable with mature communication on both sides. You asked ‘what next?’ so I imagined you wanted to repair the relationship, but perhaps you don’t? Not sure, then, what it is you are trying to achieve? It seems unlikely that she is stonewalling you out of the blue, you must have some idea of what you said that has so upset her she will not talk to you.

    You seem to have mixed a few things in together so it’s difficult to know what exactly it is you want to address. Your mother’s partner, whom you dislike (for good reason)? The fact that you don’t feel loved by her (this seemed connected to the dog poop incident the way you wrote the post, but perhaps it’s a separate issue?) and the fact that you fought and she will no longer talk to you.

    Your mother is not behaving in a very adult manner but you must honestly examine your own part in why she is doing this when things were good between you up to that point. Although, you now say things have been bad between you for 10+ years, whereas before you said it was because of a recent fight. Which is it?

    If it really has been going downhill since she got together with this man then, yes, she does seem to have chosen him over you which must be incredibly painful. If she absolutely refuses to talk to you and is in the clutches of this man and her toxic ‘friend’ then, perhaps you have no other option but to accept the situation and move on without her.

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by Jan.
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