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Abusive Mom

Abusive Mom

From: Andreanna

Sent: Friday, April 09, 1999 9:38 AM

Dear Dr Irene

I just found your website and I thought you might be able to help me. I have just had a horrible experience of verbal abuse from my mother. We do not live in the same country and do not see each other very often. I am now 32 and pregnant for the first time. I am now 4 months pregnant and decided to visit my parents last week end because I felt like seeing them and also thought they would be happy to see me. They have been wanting to become grand parents for a long time now. Every time we saw each other in the past, the first thing they would ask is "So, when is the baby coming?" Since I am pregnant, they have not told me even once that they were happy, and they have only seemed to be worried that I would get too fat. So I wanted to show them that everything was going fine and that my husband and I are very pleased. I wanted them to allow themselves to be happy as well. My mother is 57 and I think that she is undergoing some changes due to menopause. I also have to add that she has been a Jehovah Witness for 10 years now. She has become very active with this organization since last year when my father retired. Last month she did 60 hours volunteer work preaching from door to door. As soon as I arrived, I felt that my mother was very distant to me. She didn't seem to have any interest in the fact that I was pregnant and kept talking about her religious beliefs and her religious activities. After two days like this, I reproached her with the fact that she was talking too much about those subjects. I expressed the opinion that Jehovah Witnesses are always preaching. I have often expressed this kind of  criticism but things never degenerated into a fight. But this time she became extremely upset and started to yell at me that I was a liar, that I invented things, that I was crazy. She repeated those things several times, each time louder. She warned my husband that I was crazy and dangerous and that he should not believe what I said. Finally she said that Satan was speaking through my mouth. At this point I completely  broke down and yelled back at her that she should stop calling me names and that she was completely hysterical. I said that I was going to go home  because I couldn't take it anymore and she told me that I could go. She was laughing and even seemed to enjoy seeing me breaking down. But my husband was very worried to let me leave in the state I was, and  instead we just left the house for the rest of the day and the evening. The next morning, my mother had to go to a meeting with the Jehovah Witnesses.  My husband asked her to talk to me before leaving, but she refused, saying that I had a bad character and would calm down on my own.  My father also refused to discuss the situation with me, and let my husband  and I return to our country saying that we should not dramatize things. Now I don't know how things will evolve. I sent a letter to my parents asking them not to talk about religious issues anymore, and explaining them how I felt, but my father, who opened the letter, did not give it to my mother. He answered me that my letter was too harsh. I don't know what he plans to do now. It is not the first time that my mother calls me Satan. I used to have bad fights with her when I was still single. She used to say that I had a terrible character and that I was too fat and never would find a husband. (I was never fat, just a little bit chubby). But since I am married, everything has been really fine... until last week end. What happened was totally unexpected and was very shocking. My brother and sister also have been subjected to verbal abuse on many occasions.
I am very confused. I would like my mother to realize how much she hurt me. I would like to have a happy pregnancy. I don't know when I will see my parents again because I want to protect myself from such a scene. Can you please send me your comments and advice?
Thank you so much.

Dear Andreanna,

I am sorry the visit with your mom degenerated so. Mom sounds as though she may be having a hard time. That's too bad for her. My question to you is, why get so bent out of shape over how mom treats you? 

This is hard enough in person, let alone "in writing." Please try not to get defensive with what I am going to say. I am not trying to blame you in any way. While it would be much easier for me to tell you that your mom is angry and has zillions of issues, which is probably true, it would not help you. You might feel better but would be no better off. If you can own what is your stuff, you put yourself in a position to face reality, take responsibility, increase the probability of making smarter choices. All good stuff.

OK, here goes:

What were your expectations re: how your mom would react towards your long-awaited pregnancy? In the back of your mind, were you somehow expecting to please her or finally win her favor or something like that? Were you setting yourself up for disappointment? Is it possible you were giving off subtle signals, perhaps asking for approval or affirmation, which may have increased her distance & preaching?

I would also wonder if the hormones running through your body are not making you more reactive in general (I don't know about you, but I can honestly say that pregnancy made my life an emotional roller coaster!).

Perhaps you have honestly searched your soul and are certain that you behaved absolutely OK with mom. Well, then my next question is why allow her awful behavior to cause a loss of control in you? She could be ranting and raving, and while it may not be easy or pleasant, there is no reason for you to allow her emotionality to trigger yours!

Finally, you've been with your mom for years. You know her inside out. You know she tends towards abuse. Have you figured out yet that her anger has absolutely nothing to do with you and absolutely everything to do with her? She is just looking for a hook to hang her stuff on. Why take it personally? You would be better off to allow her to be where she is and duck when the line of fire points your way. After all, your visit is only temporary. You need no more permanent solution, as you might if you lived with her.

Bottom line: Accept that your mom is the way she is. She will never be the mom you want her to be. She will never own how much she hurts you. (Besides, she can only hurt you if you take her seriously and validate her ranting.) Period. End of story. Accept it.

Angry people also tend to have short memories. She is likely to drop the whole thing quickly, if you let her. So stop the letters, leave the whole thing alone and life with mom is likely to return to normal, whatever that is.

Hope this helps. Good luck to you,

Dr. Irene

Dear Dr Irene,

I would like to thank you very much for your reply. I was surprised at how fast you replied to my message. Thank you very much for taking the time to think about my problem.

I read your reply several times and thought it over during the whole weekend. I am grateful for your advice. I am painfully aware that my mother is indeed unlikely to change. I also feel that letters will probably not help either. I always thought that things should be talked out, that any problem
should/could be resolved through dialogue. But this will probably not happen. I also believe now that I should just take some distance from now on, as you suggest.
You helped me a great deal.