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You can’t buy love.

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My wife and her 9 siblings (from 5 different fathers) have tried so hard (for as long as I have known them all – 12 years) to get the love of their mother. The mother seems to be all about her. Which ever son/daughter buys her the “most” expensive things seem to be the son/daughter who gets the most attention from her at that time. She basically ignores or is not interested in any others at that time. She often lies or is deceiptful to her children. For instance, she recently was out of town visiting her own mother. She called all her adult kids and cried about how she needed money for different things, etc. etc. Well they all sent her money feeling bad for her. Come to find out, she was buying herself stuff and sending it back to her home. Things like this happen all the time. She has in the past been real jealous of her daughters, and have always competed with them in her physical looks. Its all about her, and she always makes them feel for her. I have tried telling them to quit buying her flowers, jewelry, expensive stuff. Send her a card, call her from time to time, but quit trying to buy her love. Is there any documentation on this type of behavior? What should my wife and her siblings do? Your advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

You can’t buy love.

Answered by on -


What a sad, sad situation. I don’t have enough information to venture a guess why she couldn’t embrace her role as the mom of these wonderful kids. It’s probably rooted in her own childhood and in her psychological make up. One guess is that she has one or more personality disorders from what is known as the dramatic cluster: borderline, histrionic, narcissistic. She may have had so many kids because she loved the unconditional love she got from babies. She might have had so many partners for much the same reason: Early love or an affair is much more intense and forgiving than love over the long haul.
Her adult kids feel sorry for her. If they are truly trying to buy her love, they will never succeed. She is too wounded herself to be generous. It’s sweet of them to be trying to make her feel better but from what you say she’s a bottomless pit of neediness. Material things only provide a temporary fix. Dialectical Behavior Therapy would probably help her but she might not be open to that suggestion. I understand that it is painful for you to watch, but this is something she and her adult kids are going to have to work out for themselves. Criticizing doesn’t help. Getting frustrated with them doesn’t either. All you can do is offer them your perspective and then love and support them while they figure out how to live with their mother’s limitations.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

You can’t buy love.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). You can’t buy love.. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.