How to honor your mom if she is saying hurtful things


I am a thirty year old wife, relatively new Catholic and hopefully soon to be mother. Over the past couple of months my mom has become very mean to me. At first I just wrote of the mean comments, but now it seems to be a pattern and it is making me not want to pick up the telephone when she calls. She will make mean comments about how fat I have become (I have gained some weight but certainly not enough to be dangerous to my health), how it is terrible to have a daughter fatter than her mother (even though that is not true) and that is as bad as having a daughter die before her mother, etc.

When I was in high school and as a young adult I struggled with bulimia nervosa, so I am shocked as these comments. They are also completely out of character. They are really hurting my feelings and it is becoming really hard for me not to feel bitter. How can I continue to honor my mother even though she is hurting me? Any suggestions on how to handle this would be much appreciated.

Another layer is that my husband and I converted to Roman Catholicism two years ago from Evangelical/Baptist background (on my end, my husband was an former Episcopalian/Evangelical), and my family is still Protestant.


My mother has also been increasingly critical. (I'm 26, my mother is 55ish.) My counselor suggested "correct and redirect," and it has really been working.

Whenever my mother says something critical to me I say "Comments like that hurt my feelings. Why don't you tell me what you're making for dinner tonight?" If she insists on returning to the hurtful topic, I politely excuse myself. "Mom, I feel like this conversation is heading in a bad direction. I don't want us to get frustrated with each other, so I'd like to call you back tomorrow when I'm calm." I always say this with a positive voice (I even smile while I am saying it, because I've heard that you can "hear a smile" over the phone). Over the past couple months, she definitely criticizes me less (and when she does, I'm not as personally offended as I used to be.)


I heard Mother Angelica speaking to a caller on one of her live shows about a similar thing. The caller said about how her mother-in-law was making nasty comments about how inept a wife she was, etc, etc. The caller said she tried very hard to talk nicely to her whenever she called, and honor her. She was trying very hard to get along with this woman with whom it was very difficult to get along.

Mother said, "Forgive her, but some people it is better to love from afar. Pray for her."


[quote="nsm, post:1, topic:184420"]
I . Over the past couple of months my mom has become very mean to me. At first I just wrote of the mean comments, but now it seems to be a pattern and it is making me not want to pick up the telephone when she calls. She
. . .
When I was in high school and as a young adult I struggled with bulimia nervosa, so I am shocked as these comments. They are also completely out of character. .


two things stand out, her mean comments are recent, and out of character

could there be something going on with her that is affecting her judgment and behavior? for instance when I was diagnosed with diabetes I learned how abnormal sugar levels can affect my behavior and speech, and mood, make me crabby even insolent. On at least 2 occasions before I got better control of my sugar I make horrid comments to people I care about. Depression, or taking meds that affect her mood may also be a possibility. Is this a topic you can broach gently with her?


I’ve recently recommended this book to another poster. “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner, Phd.

Sounds like the changing status is something your mother doesn’t like. You are losing your status as a child and becoming a wife and someday a mother. Your growing independence as a wife may be threatening your old relationship. So she is saying things (maybe purposefully, or maybe not) to reduce you back to the old way of relating to her. And perhaps your old bulimia was a response to her expectations over what is a good body image. Whatever she is saying is about HER issues, not about you. You can sidestep her, or let her step on your toes. Your choice.

For some reason she sees her success as a mother wound up with your physical appearance. I’m sure there is a story in her background to explain that. Maybe now is a good time to start asking her for stories about her own early married days, her own mother and grandmother and see if there is a pattern here. She is probably repeating something she knows. Someone in her own background didn’t accept her as she was, and she’s passing along the favor. If this is recent behavior, it’s about her growing insecurity over her place in your life and your future. Yeah, it’s a funny way to fix it. But sometimes people do things that don’t make sense.

See if by redirecting the conversation it changes the tone. Responding in anger or hurt will only worsen the situation. Ignoring her will only cause her to redouble her efforts to get you to revert back to the needy teenager and her role as the suffering mother of the child with problems. Or whatever it was that gave her life spice. Your happiness is making her have to address her own issues in life. Before when you were bulimic, she could concentrate on that and ignore her problems. She’s trying to shove old problems back on you. That’s kind of sad.

Give the book a try. It might help you handle this recent onslaught.

And congratulations on beating bulimia. :thumbsup:

(Agreed about this may be a signal of other problems. The key is, does she just reserve this special behavior for you, or does everyone get to have fun?)


I like what puzzleannie suggested about asking her about her past life. Maybe your mom misses the importance of being "mom." You could make her feel important by asking her for advice (even if you don't think you need it.) You're trying for children right now--ask her about her experience conceiving and birthing her children. Ask her for her advice on children's issues in the distant future ("What do you think about natural birth?" "What do you think about pacifiers?" "Did you let us cry it out or did you come get us every time we cried?" "How did you handle temper tantrums in the grocery store?") These topics might let her spew advice at you without the critical edge.


Wow! Thanks guys for all of the GREAT advice. I would have never considered these things!


For real? I saw this book on Amazon, and couldn’t decide whether to get it. Mayhap I shall…

Nsm: Sounds like you have been given stellar advice! I just wanted to add that if nothing else works, and you have to hang up the phone, hang up the phone! Some people will literally not let you get a word in, and/or start yelling abusively. We are called to love other people AS ourselves, not to let ourselves get wantonly hurt.


nsm, this may be off-base but how old is your mom? Dementia starts around the age of 55 and can affect the personality. If you think I'm exaggerating my husband a Neurologist is sitting next to me while I write this!

He says it's very common for people to get forgetful, misplace things, and have personality changes such as becoming apathetic, inappropriate, depressed and short tempered or "mean" together with lots of blaming other people for their mistakes. Also they can't remember how to do things they used to be able to do.

He says families are often emotionally hurt by the behavior and personality changes but don't realize it is the beginning of dementia until many years later when they look back.

If this sets off light bulbs my dh suggests that your mom visit a specialist such as a Neurologist or Geriatrician. Medication can actually slow the development of symptoms to the point where it can prevent a person needing to go into a nursing home for example.


Have a Mass said for her. And pray the rosary for her regularly.

In the mean time, don't let her -- or anyone else -- talk to you like that. Let her know her comments are hurtful, that you love her, and that you'll talk to her later. Buh-bye. And only talk to her again when you're ready and when she's civil.

I too have overcome (or am in recovery, you know what I mean) from a nasty ED and most of the symptoms flared up over conflicts with my family -- specifically with my Mom. She has NPD (look it up -- yucky and abusive) and is alcoholic. Once I dealt with her issues, my ED was easy (well, easier) to tackle. We haven't spoken or had contact in two years, but it was the best decision I could have ever made. Not saying that's your particular solution, btw.

Most likely, she's mad that she can't call the shots anymore and she's targeting an area that she knows is vulnerable because she wants to get back at you for "abandoning" her. That's hideous. She certainly needs your prayer. But you are not to be her punching bag. Assert yourself with love. No one is allowed to abuse you, Child of God!


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