How do I respond to a message without taking the bait? Familial relationships and NPD

Story short: My mother has some sort of severe personality disorder. She is raising my niece. I have recently reconciled with my sister (my niece’s mother) and we cleared the air and discovered the amount of our mother’s lies and manipulations. I had been NO CONTACT with my mother for more than 6 months, until recently I sent a text saying that I would be willing to communicate via text or email, written communication only. I did this so that I will have opportunities to communicate with my niece. I have had nice chats via phone and FaceTime with my niece. So far, ending NO CONTACT has been worth it for me, just to be in my niece’s life.

Okay, so current question:
I got a text from my mother last night. She is apparently incapable of any kind of small talk, because while I have texted her a couple times, her first text to me is
“I love you. I miss you and your family.”


Sigh. Yawn. Blech.

I am starting to see that she really is as disturbed as I suspected she was, and that I was not overreacting in order to protect myself. She cannot send a text like “We are doing such-and-such today.” or “Niece is having her soccer game tonight” or “I watched a nice movie yesterday”.
No, for my mother, she is ALWAYS looking for the next score. How can she play on my heart-strings and make me feel pity for her. I need to go back and read the Sociopath Next Door book again.

So finally, my question is, how might I respond without taking the bait? Or is ignoring the text altogether the best idea? Furthermore, I need to learn how to handle interactions with a severely disturbed mother in order to not abandon my niece, who is innocent in all this. I already have been informed by my sister of some lies that my mother tells my niece in order to blame my niece for my mother’s estrangement from me. :mad::mad::mad:
But this is what my mother has always done, and it is what she will always do. It is wrong, but it will not change, but until my niece is old enough to make a cross-country trip all on her own so she can visit us, I am going to have to figure out how to manage a sociopath. :rolleyes:
Any thoughts?

why would your sister allow her child to be raised by a crazy person?

I can’t provide advice for all the scenarios, but I can provide one for the texting. Ignore it.

Then, if you so desire, text her back the next day with something innocuous pretending that you never saw her text from before. Rinse and repeat. Establish through your actions that you’re not going to take the bait but you are willing to keep up your end of the bargain and communicate through written means. If she throws out red meat, just let it sit there and rot. Then write something about the weather or a sports result or something else to her later.

Unfortunately it was against her will. My sister was being driven crazy by my mother during her pregnancy (I can see that in hindsight, but she and I were being so effectively manipulated at the time that neither she nor I realized what was happening). My mother was emotionally abusing my sister. Then after the baby, she developed severe PPD and had to go on some serious meds and have psychiatric care. So despite the fact that she had escaped my mother after the baby was born, she ended up back on my mother’s doorstep in the middle of the night with a baby saying she needed help to care for the baby because her meds were so strong that she felt weak and couldn’t wake up properly to feed the baby during the night. My mother took the baby and shut the door. I was not informed of this until two weeks ago, eight years after the fact. My mother went to court to end parental rights of my sister due to mental illness. My sister was homeless, destitute, and mentally ill. She didn’t have the ability to fight to keep her daughter. My mother won. And then she persuaded my sister to agree to adoption so my mother could get more disability benefits just over a year ago. My sister recently got a great therapist and they are doing some good work together. The therapist believes that my mother gaslighted my sister and abused her during a vulnerable time to get the baby. My dad and his family also believe this. My sister is smart and sweet, but whenever she is in the presence of our mother, she becomes angry and self-protective and very edgy. It is sad and scary. She is very successful in her adult life now, and is pursuing a degree in psychology and wants to work in addict-recovery programs. Because this is a public forum I will refrain from saying more of her future plans, in order to protect her. But thinking back to all that she has gone thru at the hands of our mother, it is almost diabolical.

Very nice! Thanks Bucket. I like this advice very much. :thumbsup:

Please do not let your mother use your niece as bait to get you back. What does your therapist advise? I would certainly ignore her texts. I have ignored a lot of messages that are no-win for me. If I answer truthfully, the person will get her feelings hurt. If I lie, I am lying and postponing the issue for it to come up again. I now simply ignore those questions and messages. Just pretend you don’t see it.

I do not have a therapist. My former therapist advised AGAINST the idea of No Contact. The advice she gave was…erm…not good. I live in a very small town. She is the best therapist, and the only Catholic one, in town. I am making progress without one currently.

The strange thing is, my honest answer at this point would be that I do not miss my mother. I grieve that I will never have a relationship with a healthy mother who loves truly loves me as a person. It hurts to know I am a target, not a person, in her eyes. But I do not miss her. I love her, but I do not like her. And loving her means removing myself from contact anytime she attempts to draw me in to her abuse and manipulations.

But yeah, I cannot say any of that. :eek: :o
I will go the route of ignoring the text and pretending it did not happen. Although she is likely to text and ask if I got her text before, and ramp up the waterworks if I do not play along. :rolleyes:

Anyway to your other point…my mother has loved dangling my niece out there as bait, but she is NOT bait, she is a human being who deserves love and acceptance, not abandonment. We love her and are planning to have a visit with her this summer, that does not involve me seeing my mother at all. My sister and I are learning to work around the spider in the middle of her web. We have to be very cautious, in order to protect my sister’s ability to see her daughter, but we are finding ways to make contact with my niece without shaking the web too much.

Oh, and my niece recently received her First Holy Communion, despite the fact that my mother has not been received into the Church yet. She must wait on 3 annulments to come through. But my niece is now Catholic! In fact, she and my daughter received their First Holy Communion within hours of each other. :slight_smile:

I like this advice also.

I need to remember that there some statements that I should not acknowledge and some questions that I should not answer. That is part of me sticking to my own boundaries. I need to get comfortable with “uncomfortable silences” and stop trying to fill them up with kindness, when the truly charitable thing to do would be to allow the person to feel the natural consequences of their horrible behavior. :ehh:

This is SO HARD to do. I tend to try to make people feel better for whatever their offense was, but sometimes it really is best to, as you say, allow the person to feel the natural consequences of their horrible behavior.

I’ve used the ignore tactic before and it works wonders.
I use it for people who at times have asked me inappropriate questions; I just pretend I didn’t hear it and speak to the sentence; conversation before.

Usually those with the same motive; to bait into a conversation or evoke some response.

Great advice.

I’d think about whether this is really manipulation or if the medium limits the message.

One thing to note, with respect to the older generation texting, is that they don’t communicate the same things or in the same way. Texting or email is, by the stipulations you laid down, the only way she can communicate with you. Those stipulations may have very good reasons for being there, and those reasons are yours to know. But you haven’t indicated if she ever sends a normal text, tweet or facebook post with “this is what we did today”. In my experience, and I suspect that of many others, the Baby Boomers don’t give daily updates very often in the way that the Millenials do. Even Gen X (perhaps OP’s generation, as well as mine) doesn’t post as often or in the same way as Millenials.

My father, in his mid-60s, called me the week after he set up his Facebook account and asked “what do I do with it?” It’s just not how his generation (and I assume your mother is in the same generation) learned to communicate. By the same token, I look at the generation after me coming into the workplace and constantly correct grammar in their emails. It’s not acceptable for them to send an email to client or vendor with “This is 2 interstg LOL” or “What d u think???” even if that’s how they’re used to communicating in their private time.

So positing text or email may be a barrier in and of itself, and your mother’s gambit of “Love you, miss you” isn’t a ploy. Could you tell the difference if she was being sincere? I understand the reasons for not wanting voice communication or face-to-face. We have a family member who has difficulty separating reality from fantasy (she takes up crusades against post office workers for writing the wrong names on packages that she addressed herself, for example) and honestly in need of psychiatric help, and another who made violent threats against other family members. Would a letter, a medium with which she is more familiar likely, be better? Especially if you or your mother are the type to think out loud when writing, or refine your words over a few drafts, that might allow for the clearest communication.

That’s assuming you want a relationship with her at all. If you do want a relationship, start with what kind of relationship. Do you want to ultimately patch things up? Do you want to be close enough to help her work through personal issues? Do you want the kids to know her? Or do you need to keep her to a 5-minute phone call on Christmas and birthdays?

BREAKING NEWS: My mother is an insane manipulative psycho *&$%#

I just got off of the phone with my sister. We had a very long conversation. Apparently, when my mother’s text from last night did not get her the desired effect, she called my sister this morning. She told my sister that because I will not have the relationship with my mother that she desires, that she will not allow contact between my niece and my sister (my niece’s mother). As in, because my mother cannot manipulate me directly, she will attempt to manipulate me through my niece and sister, by severing their relationship to hurt me.

Wow. Just wow. This woman is really a piece of work. I am so angry right now that I cannot see straight.

I suspected she was a sociopath before, but THIS…this is just beyond anything I could have imagined she would do at this point. My poor niece and sister. How long, Lord? How long will they have to suffer?

I’m so sorry that I did not remember that correctly. For some reason, I thought that you did have a therapist and that he/she was supportive of cutting off contact with your mother. :shrug: Well, you know that your CAF “therapists” are very vocal in support of your decision to cut her off as much as possible! :rolleyes:

As long as you live, you will continue to be shocked and disgusted by your mother’s behavior. It is the nature of sociopaths to do what they do, and it is NOT in our natures to do such things, so the contrast will always be surprising to some extent. Stay strong! Protect yourself and your family. Do what you can for your niece but do NOT sacrifice yourself or your family on her behalf. I will keep you in my prayers. Your mother may yet make a mistake that will mean she will not get to keep custody.


Perhaps it is time for a call to child services to get an investigation going. It sounds like a dreadful environment for your niece. How old is the niece?

That is truly horrendous. But please resist the urge to “help” your sister by restarting an unhealthy relationship with your mom. If the manipulation works once, it’ll work again, and your mom will try it again. I know it’s tough, but it’s better for everyone if you don’t cave this time. Even if your mom punishes your sister, they may eventually reconcile. That won’t happen if you give in, because the next time you tick off your mom the situation will restart and you’ll have lost all credibility.

I don’t have any advice and I couldn’t read the whole thread, it hurt too much. I just want to say that I am sorry you all have to be in this situation and I hope that it improves as well as it can as quickly as it can.

All of her other actions aside, your response to your mom telling you she loves and misses you is “blech”?

Is she legally insane? Do you have any power to have your niece taken away from her? Can you raise your niece if so? If the answer to any or all of these questions is no, you have no choice but to deal with your mother. Dropping out of your niece’s life doesn’t sound like a good option for your niece – so are you willing to deal with your mother to benefit your niece?

This is the craziest, nastiest thing I have heard of lately. I’m so sorry :frowning:

May I suggest you stay away from your mother? Please don’t let this make you feel like you have to go back to her so your sister can see her daughter. I very much doubt that their relationship would blossom as a result of you allowing your mother to abuse you again. I really have no advice on what can be done here, and can only offer my prayers. Hopefully, your sister will find a way to deal with her situation, without you having to play a role in this mess.

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