From a young woman in Canada: My mother and I always seem to get into arguments when we speak. Often times when I find myself speaking about my emotions or issues with her, she’ll quickly dismiss them or compare my feelings to others. This makes me feel like my emotions are invalid or not important to her. I’e tried to explain this to her many times, but I don’t think she’ll ever quite understand my point on this.
Because of this, I often try to avoid speaking with her altogether. Even when she makes remarks generally, I find myself annoyed or automatically put off by her opinion.
\I’d like to know what strategies I can use to reduce this habit of continual frustration and annoyance by my mother’s behaviour. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt and treat her with the same openness as I can usually manage with others. However, I’m finding it quite hard and I’d like some more information on what this type of phenomenon is called and what I can do to start improving my relationship with her.
Any insights or suggests you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Thank you for writing. Let me ask you this: If you find that a door is locked, how many times do you shake the doorknob before you give up? Do you get annoyed with the door? Or do you look for other ways to take care of the situation?
Your mother is who she is. Her ability to deal with emotions is locked up. You have tried everything you can think of to have more intimate conversations with her. She can’t handle it. This is not new information. It doesn’t matter what her behavior might be called. It doesn’t matter that you want things to be different. It doesn’t matter how many different ways you try to make her understand. She just. Can’t. Do. It. (at least for now).
The way to give up a tug of war is to drop your end of the rope. A fight can only happen if you agree to participate. You don’t need her validation for your feelings to be valid. You don’t need to frustrate yourself by trying to change her. You don’t need to continue to frighten her by rattling her locks. That only shuts her down more.
You are asking her to accept you as you are, but you aren’t returning the favor. There are probably good but painful reasons why she can’t handle your feelings that are buried in her own history. She is so fearful of opening up that she can’t even do it for you. Imagine how big that fear must be if she feels she has to avoid that level of intimacy with her own daughter.
My suggestion? Have more compassion. Accept her for who she is. Look to your good friends for validation and support. If you are looking for a romantic partner, do look for someone who is in touch with his own feelings and who can support you in yours. It’s a legitimate need. You deserve to have a partner with whom you can mutually share an emotional and intimate part of life.
Most important, look to yourself. Trust your own instincts and your own sense of what is right to confirm your points of view. It should be enough. If it isn’t, maybe it would be helpful for you to see a therapist to dig into why you keep looking for something from your mother that isn’t there. A therapist can also offer you practical strategies for managing your relationship with her.
I wish you well.