troubled relationship with motehr

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    Hello everyone,

    I am writing hoping that putting things black and white might help get some clarity, and maybe get in touch with people with similar experiences as mine.

    I have chosen to have a distant relationship with my mom. By that I mean that I might feel like calling her maybe once a month. She calls a few times a week and send texts. But everything is relatively superficial. This makes me feel bad, guilty, like I am not doing enough to have a closer relationship with her – she, oftentimes brutally, said that I am too distant and that other daughters do not behave that way. But then I get frustrated because I feel being totally unable to make an extra effort. Sometimes it really breaks me inside and feels like an ancient pain I could never really get rid of.

    I have good memories of her from when I was a kid. I remember us and dad had a lot of fun and the house was full of love – to be honest, looking back, I realized I was rather spoiled. Everything changed when I was 13 and dad left the house. Since then, everything kind of fell apart and we all became emotionally distant. One example to make you understand what happened in the next few years: when dad left, my friend living next door came to take me out in the common area of the building park so I could let everything out. It lasted 5 minutes, with mom yelling at me from the balcony I had to come back home and go to bed. Since then, she behaved pretending nothing happened. This shows who she is I think: a fragile and vulnerable woman who put on an armour and keeps saying she is strong and happy alone. However, this also meant she was often unable to empathize with me, and I have somehow mirrored her behaviour and became very untrue to myself, very disconnected, people pleasing and insecure.

    During this time, mom and dad were fighting a lot. Spoke badly about each other, put me in the middle of their arguments, brought me to court to have the judge ask with whom I wanted to live with. That was very bad. My dad was sometimes mean, but I felt my mom was meaner than him in everything she said. I know that dad behaved badly with her (es. Cheated, left with the money and stuff) but he was never that bad with me and provided me with monthly allowance until he lost his job in the financial crisis. He treated us very differently and as many men is reactions under stress very not as intense, emotionally wise, as those of my mom. For instance, when dad left I started to get low grades at school, and she would often yell and cry and I felt so bad. My dad would rather sit with me and teach me maths. Sometimes I felt he cared less about me and somehow that distance made everything easier and the relationship lighter.

    Mom was very depressed and faking she was okay. I have always felt like she never forgave me for not taking her side. In my mind I have never taken any side, but in her mind I took my dad side. My teenage years were complex. I started smoking, drink, did a little bit of drugs and found my new family in some friends which were not maybe the best for me (good people, just not my people). By the time I was 22, I got my degree, all my anger, 2000 euros and moved abroad for 2 years. We barely spoke during that time.

    By the age of 24, I came back to my hometown and broke down completely – and that pain is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I realized how much some people I loved hurt me just because I was unable to set boundaries, and fear abandonment. It took me 4 years of therapy, new partner and new friends to work this out. She did her best to be next to me and I was very happy about it. Unfortunately it did not really last. But once my personal issues were “solved” and I got more stability in my life, I asked my therapist to unravel the issues with my mother. It took my one more year and was so painful. I would go back home after a session and either cry 1 hour or sleep for 3. All of that, while I was working and studying for my master degree. I was so exhausted I asked my boyfriend to live separately for 6 months because I felt I was too much to be around. He did not need to see me like that all the time because I felt somehow that was “my” struggle.

    Lets say, after many ups and downs, a family therapy session, and endless tears, things got better with mom. For the second time in my life I felt her close and felt her unconditional love. I was proud of myself for the effort I have put into this. I felt so strong I decided to make some big decisions about my career, give up a job I hated and started to put some serious efforts to get my dream job in the social services. My mom knew how much in pain I was but somehow she let her fears take over. She accused me of being irresponsible. She called me an idiot and denied it later, and stuff like that.

    What I am trying to say is that some days she is sweet and gentle. Some others, she is extremely aggressive and seems to lose touch with reality. After one first fight I pushed her away and kept the distance for some time. That only made it worse. We spoke again and she did a crazy scene at my house (in front of my boyfriend, which was shocked because he always thought I was exaggerating a bit). It escalated so badly and was so painful I had to kick her out. It felt like she was in competition with me, being still bitter about the divorce and rambling about all the bad of me, my dad, and most decisions I have made.

    Looking back, I feel that the only 2 times I felt her really close were when I had issues with other problems in my life and asked for her help. I don’t remember her really sharing my happiness. Like now, that I stared a new career: I am 29, got 2 masters, speak 3 languages, have 4 years of professional international experience, no rent to pay and a small monthly allowance from a property I rent. I mean, I am doing an unpaid internship still (you must start from the bottom!) but I have never been happier, luckier and healthier in my life. And she is farer away as ever.

    To conclude, I don’t really know what to do. I think I have made many mistakes in the past and have my share of responsibility in that sometimes I still behaved childishly and selfishly. But I also think I worked a lot on myself and really, really did my best. Now I am just exhausted. Keeping her away is painful, showing her my vulnerability exposes me to potential harm and again, pain. And I don’t know how to be close without both of us being authentic. I don’t know what to do, or if there is something that I can do.

    Did anyone of you have a similar experience? Like, knowing that your mom loves you but still feel to detached from her?

    Thanks for reading, feels good to be heard.


    Dear flavia:

    Yes, I think that I may have had a similar experience to yours, but I think that I felt worse than you do about your mother (I may be wrong):  I had an excruciatingly troubling relationship with my mother. I suffered intense and prolonged guilt in regard to her, and fear, for decades. I finally ended all contact with her, it’s been seven years.

    It was not easy to end contact and keep it in the past, but it was my only shot at experiencing sanity.



    Hi falvia,

    And I don’t know how to be close without both of us being authentic. I don’t know what to do, or if there is something that I can do.

    Yes. You can do it energetically without even going in front of your mom.

    Practice the half-smile exercise.

    What is the Half smile technique:

    Half-smile is a technique borrowed from Buddhism, and it’s quick, easy, and free. … Begin to smile with your lips, but stop just when you notice a small amount of tension at the corners of your mouth. If someone were watching you, he/she probably wouldn’t notice any change in your face. It’s a subtle, tiny smile.

    The half-smile starts with relaxed lips which turn slightly upward and a loose jaw and the eyes are soft and relaxed. Then half-smile spreads as your scalp and neck relax and your shoulders drop.

    Sit quietly. Breathe and smile a half-smile. Imagine the image of the person who has caused you the most suffering. Regard the features you hate or despise the most or find the most repulsive. Try to examine what makes this person happy and what causes suffering in his or her daily life. Imagine the person’s perceptions; try to see what patterns of thought and reason this person follows. Examine what motivates this person’s hopes and actions. Finally, consider the person’s consciousness. See whether the person’s views and insights are open and free or not, and whether or not the person has been influenced by any prejudices, narrow-mindedness, hatred, or anger. See whether or not the person is master of himself or herself. Continue until you feel compassion rise in your heart like a well filling with fresh water, and your anger and resentment disappear. Practice this exercise many times on the same person.


    You will notice changes in the situation. Either both of you will have cordial relationship over the phone or maybe in person when you visit your mom. Or you may not have the feelings that you have troubled relations with your mother or maybe you may forget everything, or everything would sound/look like normal, or maybe this thing does not bother you anymore.



    I don’t knot know really where to being I get that moms and daughters when they are teens and enetering menopause do not lead to the most pleasant situations but I am always trying to figure out and wrap my head around they way my mom thinks and her logic behind certain things a good example is of today. My sister and I both take things from her and I’m not saying that it makes it right but the worst we take are things like clothes. I had two old shirts of hers that I never even ever see her wear to being with, and when she found out I had them she flipped out said I could see my boyfriend for two weeks and scream at me and before that to get my attention she threw a rock at me. Like I don’t care if she gets mad I know I should have asked to show her respect but she has so many of the same white tank tops ( multiple of just basic clothes) and she I normally cool if I borrow things so I didn’t think anything of it cause it wasn’t something Fancy and nice or high end or something she routinely uses. And this is my last summer before o go off to college to see my boyfriend and plus right now I have had a lot of issues with friends bullying me so at the moment he is what I have to have social interaction and hang out with someone. But when my sister takes my moms hair iron or clips or even jewelry my mom gets mad and my sister gives her very sassy responses and is extremely more disrespectful and my when my mom asks for it back she will not bring it to her and laugh at her and my mom doesn’t even punish her not one thing and just lets her get away with it she only gets yelled at. I do the same thing and I get punished for two weeks and I don’t hear the end of it. And when I bring that up to her my mom will all of sudden cover for her and under inflate the situation just to make me wrong and I can only argue so much cause I know I will get no where. I just don’t get why I get the most extreme punishments for the littlest things and they way my sister talks to her and disrespects my mom she just gets a slap on the wrist but I get treated as if I was caught like taking her wallet or hiding drugs or something way worse than it is
    update so sometime dishes we have end up in the either the dishwasher or hand wash so anybody could put things away yet today my mom saw some dishes that she didn’t like how they were put away so of course she yells at me about it when it could have been anyone who did it so I just go and fix it and the she keeps barking in my ear so I say it’s just not fair how when my sister  runs her mouth or “doesn’t know when to stop” she gets no disciplinary action toward her and my mom went off saying this why I have punished you cause your rude and don’t know when to stop. It’s just not fair why do I get to be the one that gets grounded or something taken or I can’t see someone or go out and My sister does do worse and gets away with it. I just wish I could understand.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 8 months ago by tinybuddha.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 8 months ago by tinybuddha.

    Dear Melissa:

    Your mother’s behavior seems immature, competitive and aggressive, as if she is one of three teenagers in the household, the two other teenagers being her two daughters.

    You wrote: “I had two old shirts of hers.. and when she found out I had them she flipped out .. and screamed at me and before that to get my attention she threw a rock at me”-

    – threw a rock at you.. can you elaborate on that?






    I am wondering if your mom has some undiagnosed mental illness, or maybe even diagnosed? The things you describe, the mood swings, the irrationality, the accusations are not normal everyday human behavior. If she is past age 60, and this is new behaviors, this could be dementia. If you mother has something wrong in her brain to make her unstable or irrational, then you may want to limit your connection if there is nothing you can do to improve things. I do not like estrangement as an option because I think it hurts both the parent and the adult child. Not talking about abusive situations where the parent harms the child. Just talking about difficult people. Your mother may just be a difficult person. Can you accept her for how she is and then deal with her in a way that supports yourself? Screaming and throwing a rock sound like perhaps a person with a brain health disorder. This situation of your mother is likely not fixable by yourself. So how does one deal with difficult people? We can choose to limit contact, we can argue and cause problems with them, we can set boundaries, and maybe we need to accept that they are not “right” and can’t help themselves. You have learned much about yourself but know it is hard to set boundaries and it can be very hard to accept our parents as being flawed or difficult or damaged people. But accepting people for who they are is key to our own happiness in life. As long as we expect others to act in a certain way or talk in a certain way, then we feel great disappointment when they don’t. And sometimes we have to accept that our parents have their own character or personality limitations. They are simply flawed because all humans have flaws and problems. Sometimes we have to change how we react and how we set our expectations. Sometimes we have to accept that the parental love we had hoped for or wanted is not within our parent’s capability. We can love flawed people without pretending what they did was okay or perfect or that we are safe with them. So once you think this out and maybe even look into mental illness or dementia, you can decide what works best for you. You can tell mom you will call her every month but you think her texting as much as she does is obnoxious or whatever you feel. You can set limits with her but expect her not to obey them either because she won’t or can’t. Both of my parents were flawed human beings and I decided to just love them and forgive them when I was in my late twenties. I accepted who they were and it made it easier to put up with their aggressive ways. My in-laws were very narcissistic and demeaned my partner all the time until and we finally changed how we reacted and thought when he got counseling and we realized we could love them but not like them. This is about us changing our perspective not about us changing them. That doesn’t work and if your mother has some kind of brain health disorder, then her dysfunctional life and thinking will impact your relationship with her. Sometimes the adult child becomes the mature one, and has to parent the parent later on in life when the parent can’t function at all any longer. Life gives us many lessons and you already have great insight and wisdom.


    I know this is old but I came to these forums to find something to help ease my own trouble with my mother, and the words all sit true with me. My heart goes out these daughters who also struggle with their moms. My mom used to be my best friend, and then everything changed once my aunt (her sister) passed away suddenly. My aunt was also like a second mom to me, so the grief hit us both pretty hard. But I have made a concerted effort to walk along side my grief and not pretend it didn’t happen or doesn’t hurt – my mom chose the latter. Which has greatly affected our relationship because she is constantly irritable, defensive and you can’t say anything without insulting her – even if when you’re not. It’s both exhausting and frustrating all wrapped in one. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my father but it seems as I have gotten older, that shift has moved to my mother more so. I feel immense guilt over these feelings and even if no one ever reads this – it honestly feels good to get it out. I long for the days when my mother wasn’t so cold – and I am not without empathy realizing that unprocessed grief has changed her in a way she is not emotionally equip to handle. I would give anything to grieve with her but I feel as if I have to do so alone, grieving not only my deceased aunt but the relationship of my former best friend who is still very much alive in my life.

    Liz P.

    Hi Flavia,

    You sound as if you have thought about this well and carefully.  I’m going to ask what might be a strange question:  have you thought about it from your Mom’s point of view as a complete human for whom being a mom was part of her life, not all of it?  She is a whole human being separate from you with a whole history before becoming a parent, and after her parent duties ended when you became an adult.  Can you try to relate to her as another adult, not only seeing her as a person with a role relevant to you, but that her Mom role is ONE PART of her life, and try to look at all that whole rest of her life, not just looking at the one slice of the pie that relates to you?  It is hard to see our moms except in-terms-of-us, but it’s a good exercise to see tham apart from us, with a whole set of things about them that has nothing to do with us.

    Ask yourself:  if she were one of my adult friends, what would I say to her and think of her? How would I talk to her? What expectations and assumptions and boundaries would I hold, if she were one of my closest adult friends? How would I think of what she has been through?

    I hope this helps,


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