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Domineering and Controlling Mother

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From France: I have always had a difficult relationship with my mother and so has my sister. She never spoke to my mother seven years prior to her death and my mother has always accused me of preventing my sister from contacting her.

If I was to describe my mother she is manipulative, obnoxious, spiteful, controlling, sly, jealous, irrational, illogical, paranoid, compulsive obsessive with food and clothes, perceives things that don’t exist, likes to be the centre of attention and sulks if she isn’t given the attention she thinks she deserves.

You cannot tell her anything without her spiralling out of control. She twists and fabricates the truth and when you reiterate the conversation back to her she says that she didn’t say any of the things that I have said and I have made it up. If you don’t do what she wants you to do, then you are being controlled by a third party and in her eyes she thinks that it was my husband who has recently died.

My sister unfortunately married a carbon copy of her and it wasn’t until she had been married to her husband for several years that she realised what she had done. Her words “I have swapped mom for “P” (her husband). My sister couldn’t cope with both my mother and my brother in law in her life, so she decided to cut my mother out of her life as she was making her ill.

You can present all the evidence under the sun to my mom about her behaviour but she won’t take responsibility for her actions whatsoever and blames someone else. She can be extremely belligerent and ignorant and maintains that she knows more about certain things than you. Over the years she has always belittled me and put me down. My sister she placed on a pedestal and I am afraid I was ranked somewhere beneath the sewers. She has trouble reiterating events and how they transpired accurately without putting her spin on them or she completely fabricates the truth and exonerates herself of any wrong doing when describing an event to her friends.

Quite honestly it is a revelation listening to her and how she perceives a situation. I recently went to stay with her taking my cat. A journey that was 13 hours long travelling from France to the UK. It was seven months after losing my husband. My cat accidently weed over the duvet and she went berserk and told me to take him out. He wouldn’t go in his carrier so I walked him round the garden with him in my arms and he was doing fine getting used to his surroundings. As I got near to the back door she came out with a bowl of water for the cat even though I had told her that he had had water that morning. I told her to go back in no less than three times because my cat had started to struggle to get free as he was scared. The upshot is he ran off and her reaction as he scratched me to get free.”You want to go and get a cat from the cats home that doesn’t scratch you like that, it is clearly feral and gone back to where it belongs. You can get another cat you can’t get another mother. You want to get your priorities right young lady it is a cat, it is life get over it. I have suffered far greater than you.”

When I told her how much it had cost me to bring him over she said, “It is a pity you don’t spend that sort of money on me instead of that cat and it is a pity you don’t love me like you love that cat.” She did nothing to help me find the cat but told her friends that it was such a shame as she shouted him and found him in brambles but couldn’t get to him.’ She did absolutely nothing and she certainly didn’t tell her friends what she had said to me.

I was horrified by how spiteful and uncaring she could be. This unfortunately is one of many incidents. Basically over the years she has driven both her daughters away and I have also walked away again. I have asked what on earth is wrong with her because she has been like it all my life. She can be so jealous sometimes it is unbelievable. She told me once that she would be glad when I left home so she could have her husband back.

Dad and I got on really well but I was told by her that I was the cause of my father’s cancer. I have had to walk on egg shells all my life and watch what I say and who I talk to as she gets jealous that I am not giving her the attention that she thinks she deserves.

My friend actually witnessed firsthand how she can behave and it shocked her. Normally my mother never lets a third party see the other side of her but she did on this occasion. Her jealousy got the better of her. My friend’s words, “she is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” My mother has a terrible temper and can let rip when she wants but if a third party comes in she will stop berating me and switch to charming mode as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. I think her friends think I am the devil for walking away as she is so, so nice to them and so very convincing that I am the problem.

If you try and help her she throws it back in your face. When I told her that my friend was disgusted with the way she talked about me on the phone, her reaction. “Yes, but does she know how you have abused me over the years?”My sister once said to one of her friends that my mother wasn’t a very nice person. My husband couldn’t stand my mother at all. He once said, “I don’t know how you turned out as well as you have with a mother like yours.” I know for a fact if my sister and I hadn’t walked away in the past we would have probably ended up mentally ill ourselves. I never had children just in case it was genetic and my sister didn’t because of my brother in law. So is my mother mentally ill? That is my question. Many thanks.

Domineering and Controlling Mother

Answered by on -


Sadly, you are not alone in your experience. I’ve received many letters like this in the past. Not everyone gets the parents they deserve. It’s just true that there are some parents who are toxic to their children. You can find several good articles about the subject here on PsychCentral. Just enter “toxic parents” in the search box on the homepage.

I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of a letter. However, you might find some answers by looking at descriptions of personality disorders. Regardless of whether she is diagnosable, you do have a choice about whether to continue to try to relate to her. There is no shame in minimizing contact with someone who abuses you. You’ve done your best.

You’ve been managing this for over 50 years. I’m concerned that you are still trying to understand your mother in order to change her. She’s not interested in changing. Her behaviors are entrenched. It’s unfortunate, indeed, that she is a woman who doesn’t know how to love her children. Instead of trying to change your relationship with your mother, I hope you will focus on maintaining positive, nurturing relationships with your sister and friends who love you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Domineering and Controlling Mother

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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). Domineering and Controlling Mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 27 Aug 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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