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Is My Mother’s Behavior Normal?

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From Romania: My parents are divorced, my father had problems with drinking and was very violent towards my mother (not towards me, but I witnessed his violence towards her many times growing up), however she tried to fight for the family. They got divorced after 25 years and she came to live with me.

She was always overly protective of me, always saying no one else loves me like she does. She said she can stay anywhere else, but she wants to stay with me until I get married, to take care of me (I am 30 years old).

I once mentioned to her that I would like to buy her an apartment so I could live alone and she got very very upset, started crying, calling me all kinds of stuff. Right now I moved in with my boyfriend (she disapproves of him).

However I just wanted to ask if her behavior is normal? Fighting with her makes me feel like I am worthless. Sometimes even talking with her, she always says I deserve better and no one else will love me or take care of me like she does. Those are nice words but they make me feel like, except for her I won’t be loved by anyone else.

Is My Mother’s Behavior Normal?

Answered by on -

A.

Your mother’s words are not “nice”. They are manipulative. I’m guessing that she is terrified of living on her own. Instead of dealing with her own dependence on you, she has worked to make you feel dependent on her! She has been chipping away at your self-esteeem for years so you won’t leave her.

You are not unlovable. You have a boyfriend who loves you and wants to be with you. I imagine that it hurts him a lot that you don’t embrace his love. He may even resent it that you question his judgment in loving you.

Fighting with your mother is unlikely to get you anywhere. Her dependence on you isn’t rational. You can’t reason or fight someone out of irrational thinking. You need to shift the conversation to what is real: Her fear living by herself.

What you may be able to do, if you can keep calm, is to gently ask her what you can do to help her be less afraid of being on her own. She probably won’t like it that you finally see what’s going on. She may try to provoke another fight.

Don’t fall for it! Stay calm. Let her know you love her but you are an adult and need to get on with your life. So does she. If she continues to provoke, tell her as lovingly as possible that you do love her, but that you won’t participate in shouting matches about the lie that you are unlovable. Tell her that when she is willing to talk about next steps for both of you, without putting you down, you will be glad to do it. Then calmly leave.

The manipulative behavior has gone on for a very long time. It will take time to change it. But if you are persistent and kind, you may be able to establish a more adult to adult relationship with your mother.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Is My Mother’s Behavior Normal?

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). Is My Mother’s Behavior Normal?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/08/25/is-my-mothers-behavior-normal/
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.