Dealing with a critical mother


#1

My mother is soo judgemental. My brothers and I are in agreement about this - so I know its not just me.

I continue making the mistake of reaching out to her for emotional support. I know better but I often hope “this time will be different” - it never is. I have trouble establishing boundaries with her & if I distance her she is going to notice. She is a very big part of my childrens lives.

She is always in the know about the details of my life. (money, relationships, my children, my husband, careers) nothing is off limits to her. Money matters is her big one! She is so frugal & hates to see us spend money - unless its practical. She will offer her critical opinion & she seems so frustrated by my life & the decisions Ive made… After giving me her opinion she will say things like “I hope I didnt upset you” or “I cant make decisions for you” I have a difficult time standing up to her? She pouts and turns everything back on me whenever I try to stand up for myself.

She thinks my husband is lazy - she dislikes my brothers wife too (lazy). She notices every dime my brother & his wife spend too? Not sure why she cares so much about our money?

She doesnt want me to pay for preschool for my daughter next year. I guess she thinks Im throwing my money away. She says things like arent there activities in the community you can take her to. I respond by saying "she is a social child, she loves being around other kids, it gives me a break during the day, etc…She just sighs?

She never spends time with her husband (my step-dad) & when they are together they really arent. She talks about him behind his back too.

Dont get me wrong - I need a little confidence to stand up to her. I guess Im weak & she is stronger so she thinks Im just going to take it & I have up to this point. Im ready to live my life & be proud of who Ive become. Her criticism hurts!

Is there a good book out there on this topic? I need a backbone - she is driving me nutso!


#2

Wow! That is a big one.

If you have not already read them, I woudl highly recommend the books, Boundaries by Henry Cloud (but he is not a light-brain:D ) and *God Help Me! These People are Driving Me Nuts! *By Greg Popcak.

How does she find out all the details of your life, such as your finances? Who tells her? If it’s you, then you need to work on a plan to not tell her.

You can practice with your husband, or another person, or the mirror. Try saying things such as, “I’m sorry, but that’s personal” when she pries. When she starts to offer her opinion, such as with “I hope I didn’t upset you” tell her, “Well, you did upset me, because I am a grown woman, and this is none of your business.” You can say it nicely but still mean it. There is also “Thank you for your input. DH and I will be making a decision on that at a later date- privately.”

If it’s other people, you need not to talk to those other people about your personal business.

Again, on the matter of what your DH spends, or whether your daughter goes to preschool or not- same lines.

Surprise her! Use one of the tactic phrases described, after rehearsing with somebody else or the mirror. Set yourself a goal for every time you don’t give in, for every time you politely squash her interference, you will give yourself some kind of small reward: A piece of good chocolate, a 15-minute nap, a half hour with a good book, every time you deal successfully with her.


#3

If you don’t give her details of your personal life, you may be sharing them w/ someone who IS telling her.

I learned long ago not to share personal info w/ just one family member unless I wanted them all to know!

How old is your mom? My mom lived through the Depression and she is very concerned about how others spend money. I just accept it and don’t share what isn’t her business.


#4

This may sound “harsh” but it is meant to help you, really. Try and think of the sins you are committing in this relationship and also the sins you are providing an opportunity for your mom to commit.

When you talk to your mother about personal things in your marriage you are committing a sin. This is serious. You can read a book about how to deal with your mother, get tips from people here or ask friends for input. But the fact remains that you took vows with your husband and you are gossiping about him and your private family life behind his back and this is sinful behavior. Approach this problem from the viewpoint of sin and (I beleive) that you will be more strongly motivated to change. I know that I was in my life.

Go to confession. Tell the priest you have been gossiping. Is your mother Catholic? Tell her you made a promise not to talk about these things anymore. Maybe that will help, maybe not. You do not have to put her out of your life! Talk about pleasant things. Talk about happy memories. Tell her you love her, go to the movies. When she brings up unpleasant topics, gently change the topic or say you have to go (politely).

In addition, it may be helpful to approach your mothers criticism from the viewpoint of sin as well. Your mother is critical. In all likelihood you have a pretty good idea of what brings this on. When you push these triggers you are actually enticing your mother to commit a sin. It seems harmless because you have made yourself beleive that you are going to her for support but in reality all that happens is you bring out her “mean” side which is bad for you/bad for her.

I have had a similiar situation in my life. It took me years to learn these lessons along with much prayer and especially the help of a wonderful Deacon. When I am talking to certain people in my life…I can almost feel Satan urging me to bring up certain topics! He knows the sparks will fly! He is cunning and a liar and he plays on our weaknesses. Don’t let him win.

This is not just a mother/daughter problem. Remember that you are fighting a spiritual battle here. I will pray for you and I sincerely hope this helps. God bless.


#5

I agree that the OP probably cannot talk freely to her mother, but to accuse her of the sin of gossip? Where did that come from? False accusations are also also a sin, monicad. You are levying some serious charges against the OP on an open forum.

Additionally, with certain people, almost anything one does will push a trigger. What is she supposed to do, stop breathing? The above comments sound like a bunch of “blame the victim” nonsense.


#6

I apologize if I publically accused katesmom of committing a sin. I really meant to just suggest that it may be sinful. I based my thoughts on the above quote. If her mother is always “in the know” about all the details of her life…it is possible that she is gossiping about personal family matters to her mother. Her mother could not be in the know any other way? This does not put katesmom at fault, but she could be contributing to the problem.

Blaming the victim is not my intention, but taking the victims side only to tell her she is a victim is not useful in my opinion. I base my advice on the wonderful advice given me by a Deacon years ago that has brought much grace into my relationship with someone like the original poster’s mother.

She needs to try and come to terms with her mother’s limitations and pray for her. Sorry again if my post came across as “nonsense” as was suggested, it was honestly not my intention. Hope this helps. God bless.


#7

I know exactly where you’re coming from.
I love my mum, but she also has behaviour issues like yours. One day I finally told her that she raised her family and that now it was my turn. I said that we wanted her love, and guidance, not her criticisms, that her negativity was destructive to our relationships and wasn’t going to be tolerated any longer. I said that I’d waited many years to become an adult, and was well -equipped to handle my life.
You are stronger than you think. Lay the law down, gently but firmly. If she is critical on the phone - tell her you need to go and hang up, no matter what. If she acts up in her house, then you must leave after a (gentle) warning. If she is badly behaved in your own home, you can say that while she is always welcome in your home and life, that her criticisms are not.
My mother reacted better than I thought to my decision and although things aren’t perfect, she knows the boundaries and is more respectful. Sadly, you can’t share too much of your personal life with your mother, so she won’t have much ammunition to use on you. Use positive conversations around her and don’t be tempted to argue with her - it’s futile. Say things firmly, but with love and look her in the eye, ie: “Katie is going to Nursery next week.” And if she starts to complain, tell her it’s your choice - end of story.
Be positive and pray for strength.
Some people might think my advice harsh, however I’ve put up with the same for many years and wish I’d had courage to put a stop to it earlier and saved myself a lot of grief. You must not accept anything less than full respect from your mother, father sister, brother whomever. End of story.


#8

I really don’t have much advice for you, just prayers :signofcross:

I will say one thing. If ANYONE said something bad about my DH I would 1) tell them they were out of place and WRONG! 2) I would limit my contact with them.

I am a FIRM believer in that in our marriage we are ONE, therefore if they say something bad about him they are saying something bad about me!!


#9

I am going to second the previous opinion.
Your mother is showing the traits of my mother in law – and the end result is quite destructive. I am a man, though, and I see this from a different perspective – I have also quite a few complicating factors (unmentioned) which you probably don’t have.

My wife has two sisters, both of whom’s life and marriages were wrecked by my mother in law & both of whom seemed normal when I married my wife – and my wife is unable to deal mentally with the impact her family has had on our marriage.
( Her sisters partial cooperation was all that was needed…)

Presently we are seperate, although I see her regularly and take care of my kids.
What I witnessed happening in my in-laws marriage’s I found soon happening in mine, with my mother in law apologetically saying things like “what else can I do” when in fact I had told her exactly what she could do that would be acceptable.
The emotional rationalization was so good, I believed her for a few years, until the unbelievable happened.

After being falsely accused of raping my wife by my father in Law – provably so – but under the guidance of my mother in law (which she bragged the incident to other people)-- things totally tanked. My wife was so afraid of her mother that she would do anything to appease her, even put our kids in direct contact with her prostituting sister when I had repeatedly asked her not to.

The local priests got involved the wrong way, because they too believed my mother in Law – until I proved otherwise the hard way.
I found my mother in law using a local priest to discuss “annulment” arrangements by accident when a friend who had videoed his family when the conversation took place caught the audio in the other room by accident.
(Not legal court info in my state, but I was sure tempted.).

And later, I came across a conversation myself between my mother in law and my wife to the same effect. Even a psychiatrist couldn’t straigten my wife out.

My inlaws are Great Depression era people who’s view of finances are so tight they regularly do foolish things to save a few pennies which end up costing them more in the long run. My decision to go back to college was a financial reason for my inlaws to pressure my marriage since they don’t believe in higher education – she has “good” intentions of using social pressure to control the men her daughters marry, and in all three of her daughter’s lives it became disasterous.

One I hope is a reformed prostitute, one is an adulturating buddhist now,
and my wife is a loving half basket case.

My niece just got a scholarship to college because of the child abuse she went through – although I advised my mother in law not to put my niece back in the care of my prostituting sister in law at the time. And I don’t care how many rosaries she prayed while doing her stripping acts.

Now, I hope your situation is not this serious, and perhaps your extended family is more stable than my wife’s – but if you fear your mother so much that you use your husband as a shield against her and public humiliation, you might be on a similar road to what I have been through. Eventually your husband is going to stop tolerating the mother/mother in law.

There has to be a unity between a husband and a wife to stand up to a manipulating mother / mother in law. Division equates to destruction.
Continuous negative pressure will eventually wear someone in the marriage down.

I love my wife, and I understand my wife loving her family – but I can’t be around her or my inlaws anymore – they have made me sick because of how I worry about my kids, and how they have affected the way my wife thinks. That is how a husband’s health can be destroyed – my wife is diagnosed with depression, but refuses professional treatement.

I can’t offer you any advice, except to caution you to solve it before you do go nuts. The only real danger is the mother exploiting differences between you and your husband to drive a wedge between you. Selfishness, irritations, all can be magically explioted when the situations arise. If you are able, as I have spoken to others with similar situations – moving to place some physical distance often appears to help so long as the relationship between you and your husband is good.

You might also consider counselling for yourself, ask your local priest about who is good at dealing with the issues of family pressure. I don’t think self help books are anywhere near as valuable as a trained professional – and even then, prepare to spend some time and being quite frustrated. The only thing is Never give up – because once you do, it is only a matter of time before your own health goes in the dump.

God bless you, and your whole family is in my prayers.
–Andrew.


#10

why?
she cannot be in possession of this information unless you share it with her, or with other family members who share it with her. keep your own counsel and keep your family out of the loop. you owe this to your husband in loyalty and respect to him.


#11

I wouldn’t say this is the only way she could know – or even that she does know. Sometimes my mother in law was obviously guessing, because she knew what my wife was like – and those guesses are often deadly close enough to cause my wife to collapse emotionally. She can’t be certain of this information unless she gets it from someone, but manipulative people have a way of tricking others into revealing part of the information often by accusing them of what they merely think has happened, or is happening.

Also, the OP says the mother in law has a big part in the children’s life – and children are extremely easy to manipulate for certain circumstancial facts.
Trust me, it happens – and nothing is worse than having your children used as pawns in emotional manipulation.


#12

My 2 cents worth on this -

I find it much easier to “turn the other cheek” when I deal with strangers, or at least with people who are not my family. For some reason, when it comes to those closest to me, like my family or husband, it’s not as easy to yield to what feels like injustice. However, I have found that the best way to deal with tricky situations I have had with my own parents is by standing there like a statue and taking it, remaining so neutral that there is nowhere for the discussion to go, and no way for it to deteriorate. It was unbelievably hard the first time or two, but as I strengthened my humility muscles (pray pray pray for grace!) I found it actually quite liberating. Submitting actually put me in control of a no-win situation. Regular trips to confession helped too, in finding the grace to forgive, and to get over my own self-righteous anger.

I know some may not like this advice, because there is no justice or reward in it. But the Lord knows what is just, and knows what it costs for you to take the high road. What do you think it means to Him? A lot, I imagine…

imho


#13

sandraladeda,

In light of what Huiou Theou wrote, your advice would only be workable if the perpetrators did not escalate things. Unfortunately, “taking it” only makes matters worse sometimes, since those “dishing it out” feel more emboldened to go further and push the limits. Sometimes we learn that lesson the hard way. And if it negatively impacts your marriage, then “taking it” is the absolute worst thing one can do, because you are dealing with a sacrament here, and it must be guarded so closely and protected so aggressively like you would protect your child from a molester.

Comparing this to Jesus taking the high road is not valid when the attacks are a direct assault on the marriage. Spiritually, where is the benefit? No gates of heaven are being opened by it; if anything, it could lead to sin down the road.


#14

Yes, you are right – but…

This is hard for me to write. I have to live with sending my eldest son into the arms of a pedophile –

I KNOW from experience that the conditions which allowed pedophiles to exist in the priesthood are only superficially healed. My belief in God is not emotionally based. BTW: I never sued, and the pedophile didn’t do damage worth verifying.

You are right, Norseman, when the world ends – it will be because Jesus’ bride is being murdered through social pressure. The groom’s wrath against those who attack his bride will bring about the second coming – that same husbanding is mine and every husbands.

But let me give a few examples of the twists in logic that can happen by being aggressive or complaining…

How do I approach priests now, who see the look on my face and hear a fraction of the whole story as I try to encourge him NOT to put my kids in jeapoardy?

The results over the years? Phone conversations with women comparing me to their ex-husband because the local priest asked them to “help” me, and they do so in their own way. I found out all kinds of things I did, that I never did.

So, does one strike first in hopes of cutting this all off?

I agree, that being quiet emboldens your opposition – but agression of a man is met by super aggression of women.

Imagine being in the front of a church with a priest who does not believe your story because your overbearing mother-in-law comes to daily mass to be with your kids – and so he asks you into the confession room so he can supposedly “talk” briefly without concern of others overhearing. He does this repetitively in a parish full of people who never go to confession, and all they see is you going into the confessional over and over after mass…

Yes, there comes a time to say “No, Father – Let’s talk outside.”

But if you become angry with the priest in front of the parish – you will find yourself condemned just the same as if you were guilty. There is nothing you can do to the mother in law in that setting – so grin and bear it.

Or imagine your wife comes home from speaking with a NUN who wishes to be a priest – and who has counseled your wife. Your wife is SO happy at this spiritual direction that she starts a conversation about you going on an outing with her prostituting sister and her spoiling mother with all the kids. So you look her in the eyes and say “No”, but I love you. And then your wife starts off with this stuff about how “why can’t I be Jesus Christ in this family – there is sin in the people going to mass… WHY!!!” The creshendoing voice plaintively echoing through the entire mostly protestant neighborhood.

And will the archdiocese get rid of the NUN, (NO), she is popular with too many people which is why she can make fun of the same priest who gave you hell.
And when that priest finally says “you better believe it” to a feminine cheuvanistic remark she makes “jokingly” in mass on the microphone – the entire parish inhales audibly.

Does anyone notice the Archdiocese of Portland washes women’s feet every year although Rome says technically this is wrong. Why did the USCCB have a web page explaining why women could have their feet washed – which they took down when I e-mailed them in incredulity? Aggressiveness is met with beurocracy.

The NUN could condemn a priest burying a non-parishoner (living within the parish boundaries – a spiritual work of mercy?) and in the same breath justify the “opinion” not on cannon law, which according to her does not apply – but because priests are greedy … and her original complaint about the burial, it costs the parish money…

Then one day, this NUN finally gets a brain tumor and dies – but I didn’t DARE say anything at all to my wife about it – I went to the funeral and said “rest in peace” with everyone else who came.

This same NUN gave comfort to our neighbor when her risking brother died in a speeding car wreck – and in consolation the nun decided to say: “It’s God’s will”. My neighbor has her problems and she didn’t come to the NUN’s funeral.

But did the nun always fail? No, the church was packed at her proxy funeral.
She did lots of social work – that is what she cared about. But the NUN really did put her years of service in, she just came to the conclusion that women have to run the church – and proved herself willing to do things normally attributed to cruel men to get there.

She had most of the power in the parish – and messing with her was certain trouble. The last priest got death threats… That’s why he left.

I agree with you, I also know that if I did it all again – I couldn’t have avoided all the pit-falls no matter how aggressively I defended my marriage and children.
If God says to the Devil, “He’s yours” – that’s it, you are going through it – he has too many weapons.

I just hope my time in purgatory is short…

Here’s a bit of useful advice, look at the tabernacle, and shake. Ask the priest for a key, at least the sanctuary is quiet.

I too am like the theif on the cross, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I know I am not guilty of everything.


#15

My mother gets in all our business too. Sometimes it is annoying, but I have learned to ignore it. Sometimes I’ll say something like, “It’s none of your business”. That shuts her up. Or I just laugh at her. I truly do not care what my mother thinks. But it takes time to get there. First, begin by realizing that no matter what you do, your mother will likely disapprove. Then, think on the fact that you know what is best for your own life. Next, envision ways that you can respond to her the next time she says you spend too much money, etc. My way is to come back with a semi-sarcastic remark like “Yes, Mom, my hope is that we go bankrupt. I want to experience the feeling of losing everything.” Usually she ends up laughing. If your mom would respond with hurt feelings, tone it down a bit but do consider using humor as a way to deflect criticism. It really works.
Sometimes the best way is to come right out and say, “I did (such and such) anyway, because no matter what I do you won’t approve.” She might be shocked but sometimes honesty is the best policy.
In any case, think out your responses before the situation arises.
In the case of your daughter going to preschool, I can’t imagine why your mom would care. But it sounds like you are trying to convince her that it’s a good thing. Stop being on the defensive and simply say, “I am sending my daughter to preschool because I love her. Don’t you love her?” Something like that.
The only way your parents will stop criticizing you is if you go on the offensive. It took me 40 years to figure this out. Now I wonder why I ever cared in the first place. Our relationship is closer than ever and we have lots of fun. But you have to establish your own adult identity. Do it and you won’t be sorry!


#16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.