More threads by ^^Phoenix^^

I want to know if I am doing the right thing really. Although I don't really know where to start.

My parents divorced when I was quite young, and I lived with my mum until I was 18. I have always loved her and idolized her to bits and yet our personalities always clashed.

As an adult (although, I find that hard to believe sometimes, 22) I understand her problems, and she does have them. Coming from her side of the family are stories only fit for 'Bold and the Beautiful' at its worst.

Being told she was ugly and worthless made her promise to herself that she would not turn out to be that kind of parent. So why did she? I spent my teen years racked with guilt, and don't get the wrong idea, I was a very difficult child and teenager, and still feel it hard to let that guilt go.

But now I am in a different country, and have been since I left her home. I've grown up as a person, I've come so far from the emotional wreck that I used to be with her. I'm happy, I'm engaged, I'm studying, and its been nice like this for ages. I feel accepted and loved and likeable.

When I visited her this Christmas, I told myself that I would be every-thing she wanted me to be. The perfect guest, and I quickly realized the hold that she had over me. She doesn't know that she holds this power, and I still believe that she is not evil. She just has her problems, but I am at the stage where I am thinking that in order to be happy I need to 'sever' ties with her. At least until I am stronger, or she takes some responsibility in her life.

Obviously, as with all these posts, I imagine, this is a deeply glossed over view of things. I have tried to sort things out so many times, I can't keep banging my head on the same brick wall. She has the power to emotionaly cripple me with one email, and she doesn't even know it. I have already told her my feelings about wanting to stop contact, but she is so emotionally unstable that I worry about stupid things like her hurting herself because of this.

I am trying to be strong... it sounds self inflicted, I know. I really believe that it is the best thing.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
A troubled relationship with a parent may be one of the most difficult things anyone has to deal with in life. If it were anyone else at all, you would have shrugged and walked away long ago - as much as you may want to and resolve to do this with a parent, it seems almost impossible.

One thing to try to learn (and remind yourself about frequently) is that you can not change your mom or the relationship she has with you. However, you can change yourself, the way you react to her, the relationship you have with her - basically, you can learn to set boundaries in the relationship that work for you; define the relationship on your terms instead of hers; work on not buying into or reacting to the negative or critical or hurtful things she says; and limiting the negative impact of the relationship on your life.

An important part of this is giving up the idea that you could somehow change her or make her happy or make her proud of you or somehow make her the mother you wish you always had if you could only think of the right thing to do or the right thing to say. She never was the mother you wish you could have had - she never will be that person - she is just her, for better or for worse. You can't change her and you can't change history. If she was not the mother you wanted or needed when you were 3, or 6, or 10, or 13, or 17, she is not going to suddenly become that mother now. And it has nothing to do with you or who you are.

Young children are all born basically egocentric. To the infant, the world isn't separate from Me - it exists only as an extension of Me - when I cry, somone consoles Me; when I'm hungry, someone feeds Me; when I'm wet, someone changes My diaper. Gradually, as we mature, most of us come to understand that the people and objects in the world around us are independent objects, and that those people have their own feelings and dreams and lives. But as a young child, if good things happen to me, it's because I'm a Good Person, and if bad things happen to me, it's because I'm a Bad Person. As adults, most of us no longer think this way but certain people, and especially parents, seem to retain the ability to take us back to the primitive emotional logic of that young child, and this is part of the hold a parent has on us. It's also something that can be changed.

I recently received a book to review - I haven't yet had time to read it but the title and contents looks fascinating: Dale Atkins, I'm OK, You're My Parents: How to overcome guilt, let go of anger, and create a relationship that works. New York: Henry Holt, 2004 (ISBN 0-8050-7353-1). From the jacket:
* Do you find yourself unable to say "no" to your parents' requests for time and attention - no matter how often they visit or how busy you are?
* Does your relationship with your parents interfere with your marriage or friendships?
* Do your parents refuse to let you grow up, treating you like a "good child" or a "black sheep"?

"I'm OK, You're My Parents offers a wealth of new insights, strategies, and models for anyone trying to cope with a hurtful parent." -- Adele Farber, coauthor of How to talk so kids will listen and listen to kids will talk.

"Required reading for all adult children of parents... I'm OK, You're My Parents offers a brilliant road map, with a strong emotional compass, that will lead you from frustration and stalemate to calm, compelling, and practical resolutions." -- Linda Carter, Ph.D.
One technique that I often recommend to clients is to write a letter to your parent with no intent to ever send it - basically, this will be a letter in which you say all the things you have wanted to say all your life to that parent but have not been able to say for fear of hurting or displeasing or disappointing her - now you can say it, since your parent will never see it. People often find that this exercise helps them to clarify their own ambivalent thinking about the parent and the ambivalent relationship many of us have with one or both parents.

And if you believe that strictly limiting contact with her or even cutting off contact with her for the time being is what you need at this point in your life, then that's what you should do. Your mother has survived all her life without you to protect her - even before you were born - and she will continue to do so whether or not you are at her beck and call. When you have a dysfunctional relationship with a parent, your first priority is to heal and strengthen yourself, and to do whatever it is you must do to accomplish that.
Thank you for the reply. Alot of what you said made perfect sense. My problem is with the statement that you ended on. I feel that I am healed. I mean, I obviously arn't, but I am in every other aspect of my life.

So how do I know when I start again with her? I have a feeling that when I do, I'll keep emotionally falling, again and again. I have changed myself, but her reactions to me haven't, as youve said.

I am so confused because I love her more than she knows, but I also don't care if I don't ever see her again? And certain things like my upcoming wedding, I don't want her there. Not out of spite, but because I can forsee the 'happiest day of my life' turning sour. And I know that that will break her heart!

I feel the need to emotionally lift myself up with a smiley emoticon.. and low and behold, there arn't any! hmmm.... its just difficult right now. Too much time to sit and worry.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Robin Baxter said:
My problem is with the statement that you ended on. I feel that I am healed. I mean, I obviously aren't, but I am in every other aspect of my life.
I didn't mean to imply anything else, Robin - relationships with parents are difficult ones and even long after we have resolved the other significant issues in our lives and think we have sorted out that parent relationship, something will happen to make us realize that some of it is still there...

certain things like my upcoming wedding, I don't want her there. Not out of spite, but because I can forsee the 'happiest day of my life' turning sour. And I know that that will break her heart!
I think that's probably one of those things you need to decide for yourself and not on the basis of whether other people will or will not be disappointed in your decision. The way some people have handled similar situations is to arrange two events - i.e., have the wedding proper the way you want it, where you want it, and with the people you want to be there, and then have a second event, kind of a second reception, which can be shared with your mother... The real point is that when you have a parent who isn't very good at respecting your boundaries, you can't rely on her to set appropriate or acceptable boundaries - only you can do that.
Thats true.
but i fell like I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't.
But, after talking to you, I realize I have time to decide. I'll just wait until I know what is the right decision for me.



You made an interesting statement in regard to the visit you made to your mum:

When I visited her this Christmas, I told myself that I would be every-thing she wanted me to be.

How about thinking this through from the perspective of " being everything you want to be.

One problem many parents have is accepting their faults but most of us love our children even though we have made mistakes. It sounds like you may need to do the same... love yourself.
Just a thought.
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