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My Mother Is Emotionally Abusive Now that I’ve Moved Away

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From the U.S.: I recently moved 2300 miles away from home to go to graduate school. During undergrad I lived at home, so I also moved out of my parent’s home for the first time. My parents helped me move and are helping me buy groceries while I go to grad school. They seemed very supportive.

Now that I’ve actually moved, my mother has become mean. She called last night and guilt tripped me about moving, saying that I would never see my family again, and accusing me of being calloused towards them. This isn’t true at all, but I couldn’t defend myself without her talking over me. She said that I needed to move closer, even though I’ve only been here for a few weeks, and that I’m too selfish to inconvenience myself with another move. Then she began to use her and my dad’s financial help as something to hold over me and try to manipulate me, saying they don’t have to help me. It really upset me because I never asked for their help and thought she supported me.

I tried to let it go because I realize that she must be struggling with me being gone, but she’s gotten me to feel guilty about everything. I feel bad about buying groceries with their card and about going to grad school, which has been my dream, and I know I shouldn’t. Today I got a package from her in the mail and let her know I received it. She did not respond to my texts, which is unlike her. Much later she texted me passive aggressively about not thanking her for the gift (which was a new leash for my dog). Honestly, I was doing my best to contact her at all because I’m so upset with her. Any advice on dealing with this? I still love her and miss her, but I can’t have someone calling/texting me and upsetting me on a daily basis.

My Mother Is Emotionally Abusive Now that I’ve Moved Away

Answered by on -

A.

Some people have more difficulty with transitions than others. You and your parents delayed the normal separation process for many years because you lived at home until your mid-twenties. Unless you were willing to live with her until she died, this time would inevitably come at some point. That point of “leaving” is now.

It sounds like your mother sees you as her friend, not her daughter, and that she is struggling mightily with being “left.” She has forgotten that it is a parent’s job to launch their children into the world, not to hold them back. She needs to be leaning on friends, not on you.

The kindest thing you can do is to be kind to her; to reassure her that you love her; and to be understanding about her panic. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You don’t need to be upset because she is. When she texts or calls, just listen, reassure her that you love her too and then change the subject if you can to things that are going well in your life. Don’t argue, debate, rebut, or fall into making apologies for being in school. Just tell her that you know it is hard for her and that you appreciate whatever support she can offer during this difficult time of transition. Ask for advice if you need it. But don’t then argue with it. Just listen respectfully and tell her you’ll think about whatever it is she seems to want you to think about.

Do remember that thousands upon thousands of families are going through something similar at the beginning of the academic year when kids move away. Your mom is just a more extreme example. Almost everyone makes it through and are glad to see each other once the holidays come around.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

My Mother Is Emotionally Abusive Now that I’ve Moved Away

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). My Mother Is Emotionally Abusive Now that I’ve Moved Away. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 19, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/10/13/my-mother-is-emotionally-abusive-now-that-ive-moved-away/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.