I have to tell you all again how much I appreciate the love, support, and care that you give to one another. I try to read every response even though I don’t always have time to personally comment. You all make me proud. I love to see how you take what Satan would love to crush you with, and rise up, get strong, and help your sisters stand strong also.
Today I thought I would answer a question about another type of destructive relationship, still controlling and crazy-making but not in a marriage.
Question: My mom is very negative and controlling. Our discussions consist of her complaining about her husband and anyone else she can think of.
I would never share anything too personal with her. She didn’t know where I worked, nor does she have my home phone number, just my cell.
I don’t enjoy talking with her on the phone – but she is my mom.
At one point she was calling the police to do wellness checks on me whenever she didn’t hear from me for long periods of time – even though our history was never close nor did we communicate often.
Because of that, I decided to start a scheduled call with her (once a month) in order to try and keep some semblance of relationship and keep her from calling the police so frequently.
Then my marriage fell apart and right after, I moved out of my home and separated from my husband. I finally confided to my mom that I was no longer with my husband and that we were getting a divorce. That was during our June phone call.
A week or two later she called the police on me again. She told my family that I was in hiding and even told them that I might be dead.
I finally had enough and realized that no matter what I do she will use manipulation to feed her worry/anxiety – thus calling the police. At one point she was going to file a missing person’s case a week after we had spoken.
I cut off all ties with her – except cards I send her via regular mail. I told her that if she sought counseling I would speak with her and her counselor but otherwise, I wouldn’t be calling again or answering her calls.
My problem is I still struggle with my decision. Am I being unreasonable? I feel like I have been in so many toxic relationships (mom, husband) for so long that I have a hard time believing that I know how to respond and worry that I am overreacting. What do you feel an appropriate boundary would be?
Answer: You have every right to ask your mother to honor your privacy as an adult daughter. She may desire a closer relationship with you or more contact, but that is not her decision alone to make. It takes two willing people to form a healthy relationship.
It sounds as if you’ve struggled with your mother’s intrusion for years and created some specific boundaries around the amount of contact you had. However, your mother worried when she hadn’t heard from you, and then called the police to check on you. Why didn’t she just call you and ask if you were okay?
I’m curious, do you have siblings that you keep in touch with who can communicate to your mother that you are fine? If you are an only child and she has not heard from you in a long while, and you didn’t return her calls, it would be reasonable that she would become anxious about your well-being, but regularly calling the police is over the top and abusive.
During your June call, you confided something personal to her. You shared that your marriage was over and you were getting divorced. During that time did you also disclose that you were in danger or worried for your safety? It once again seems drastic of her to check on you after a week as well as to tell family members of her concern for your safety or to threaten to file a missing persons’ report. I can see where her negative story telling or her desire for extra attention frustrates you.
Therefore, your next step was to invite her to do her own work and get some counseling around how she interacts with you and treats you. You also told her that you would be willing to be a part of that conversation. That’s an appropriate boundary that you have put in place so that your mother isn’t continually intruding on your life.
But you worry now that you might be overreacting. You second guess yourself because you have lived with toxic and controlling people so long you don’t know what normal or healthy looks or feels like. And, it’s true. Sometimes when we are around something that feels like it’s about to snuff the life out of us, responding strongly and setting a clear and firm boundary is what we need to do, at least for a season until we get stronger so we can handle it differently.
For example, I remember with my own mother I could barely hold any conversation with her without either her being abusive or me getting triggered. It took a no contact boundary for a while so I could do my own work and get healthier. But later on, when I was healthier and not as easily triggered, I was able to spend time and help her when she had lung cancer, and do it with a good spirit. But had I not done my work, I would not have been able to care for her in the same way.
You’ve been through a lot. Be compassionate toward yourself. I don’t think you’ve overreacted, but even if you have, let it go.
You are learning how to get healthier and setting boundaries and having limits is part of living in healthy reality(Click To Tweet).
If in hindsight or later on you are able to adjust those boundaries or relax those limits, then do so. If not, then know that you are putting yourself in a place where you are not targeted by your mother’s issues. Writing to her regularly is a way you can honor the relationship and keep her informed that you are alive and well without allowing her to have access to you or act inappropriately by calling the police.
Friend: How have you handled boundary issues with a relative that you don’t live with? Do you second guess yourself?