Overprotective Mother

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I am a 21 year old female who has always been controlled by her mother, even now as an adult living independently. When I lived at home, arguments always ensued if I asked for permission to go out with friends and God forbid if I were interested in someone. Now that I live out of State, she calls me a minimum of 10 times a day and constantly wants to know where I’m at, who I’m with, what I’m doing and her reasoning is that “I’m so far away and she does it for my safety.” I’ve had enough and want to know how I can get rid of this toxic relationship that is hindering me from forming any relationships here in Arizona out of fear of her intermeddling. I have dealt with this my entire life and I thought that once I moved out and no longer depended on her, this cycle would end but it seems to have only gotten worse. She constantly gives me guilt trips for leaving her back in my home state and she never gives me credit for being a responsible and independent female. I feel like I always need to be proving myself to her to demonstrate that I am independent and I feel like I’m always on attack. I am desperate for help and need advice on how to repair this situation. Thank You.

A. At this point in your life, you have the power to end your mother’s interference and control. I’m sure you know that. What you do not have the power to do is end your mother’s control and please her at the same time. You are uncomfortable with the idea of displeasing your mother. However, you will very likely never please her if you attempt to control your own life. Does she have the right to control her life? Do you have the right to control your life? Does she have the right to control her life and yours, while you don’t have the right to control your own life? Is it all right for her to control two lives while you control none?

Ultimately, changing the toxic dynamic means that you will have to change the way you interact with your mother. These changes will include imposing boundaries and rules regarding your interactions. You talk to your mother 10 times a day because you answer her calls 10 times a day. You apparently give in to her demands. As a young child, you had no choice; you had to follow her rules. As an adult, who no longer lives in her home, you no longer have to follow her rules.

When she calls, you don’t have to answer the phone. Nor do you have to provide the information that she is demanding. How often you speak to her should be your decision. That may mean only speaking to her once a day, once a week or not for months at a time. The choice should be yours.

She is not going to like your new changes. She will likely be upset and attempt to make you feel guilty. The guilt trip only works if you allow it to. You must resist her efforts.

Changing the way you interact with your mother will not be an easy transition. You will have to tolerate her being upset with you. You might think that giving in to her demands is more tolerable or easier than dealing with the unpleasantness of her being upset with you but that would be a mistake. Giving into your mother, and doing things her way, means that she retains control of your life.

I would recommend consulting a mental health professional who can guide you through this process. You may not need many therapy sessions but having professional guidance would be advantageous. You have an established dynamic with your mother that is going to require you to impose major changes. Understandably, you may need assistance in restructuring your relationship in a way that allows you to fully develop your independence. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Nov 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Overprotective Mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/11/24/overprotective-mother/

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