Anger Over Family Dynamics

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

There are many things in my life I am proud of. I’m a hard worker, had a lot of success in my career, I’m a loyal friend and a dedicated mother & wife. There are a also few things I really wish I never did. I always had an issue with taking things, like clothes, from people I lived with. The older I got the less these things happened, and my husband would never think any of this to be true because I have not once taken anything from him. The 2 things I have done that haunt me are: once I stole $300 from a good friend when we lived together who just inherited $250K and got caught when I was 19. She forgave me, I paid her back, and luckily we are still good friends. I also stole from my mom when we were renting a house together when I was 25, 60$. She noticed money was missing from her bank and she tried to get the bank to investigate but they never did. She did confront me about it and I lied. I truly believe she wanted the bank to investigate so she could prove that I stole from her and they would charge me. My family supported me the least financially over the years, if at all. At the time I had just moved so I was short on cash and since my parents never lent me money, I didn’t want to bother asking.

It upsets me that my younger sister, who is now 25, still receives full financial support and takes money from my mother all the time. My parents know this is unfair for me but they just laugh. I also know that my mom loves our youngest sister the most, because no matter how many bad things she does, my mom defends her and supports her. My mother has never shown such unconditional love for me. Instead, throughout my whole life, when my mother thinks I’ve done something wrong, she yells at me, and blames me for ruining things.

I don’t know why I had these stealing issues but I believe it’s in my past. I believe that I am a good person now. How do I forgive myself and move on? How do I get over these anger issues with my mother?

A: You are asking the right question. I think you keep rerunning the stories about your younger self to show yourself that there are at least two ways to move beyond a mistake: You can confess, make retribution and move on. Or you can justify a theft and continue to feel smug that you pulled something over on someone you are angry at (in this case, your mother).

This is not to say that your mother is right to be more supportive of your sister than she is of you. But, at 31 years old, isn’t it time you gave up trying to make her love you the way you want her to? Either she will or she won’t. Exacting some sense of revenge by repeatedly reminding yourself that you once got away with stealing $60 from her seems pointless, doesn’t it?

You are not going to change your mother. You might be able to change your relationship by dropping your end of this fight. Maybe so. Maybe not. But in the meantime, you could love yourself better by focusing on maintaining relationships with people who do love you. Continue to be a good friend to your friends, a loving partner to your husband, and a nurturing mom. Those are the relationships that count now – far more than the thorny relationship you have with your mother.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Feb 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Anger Over Family Dynamics. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/02/20/anger-over-family-dynamics/