Posted by fxckfeelings on December 8, 2015Share This Post
We may not have written the book on Assholes™, but, as authors of a thoroughly informative chapter on the subject, we know a lot about the uncanny ability Asshole™s have to make others, their children especially, feel responsible for their unhappiness. So if you’re the unfortunate spawn of an Asshole™ (who’s also unfortunate enough to not own a copy of our book) who wants to have a life of your own, define for yourself what it means to be a good son or daughter and live up to your own expectations, not your parent’s. As long as you can bear the pain of Asshole™ guilt-slinging, you can ultimately be proud of your own decisions, and, hopefully, another family member can give you our book as a stocking stuffer.
My mother is a real piece of work. My previous therapist is of the opinion that she most likely has borderline personality disorder and is a covert narcissist, but of course that cannot be verified because she won’t enter a therapist’s office long enough to be diagnosed. In the past year, I have finally opened my eyes to the emotional abuse of my childhood and the unhealthy enmeshment of my adulthood. I am determined to break free of her controlling and needy behavior. I’ve accepted the fact that she will not change, so I have been setting boundaries such as no longer allowing her to gossip to me about other family members, not visiting as often, and reducing phone calls to once a week. But in her eyes, this is Bad Daughter behavior and it cannot be tolerated; when she questions these boundaries, any reply from me other than total submission and groveling is met with rages for my “snippy” tone and how I think I’m better than everyone. She sends me 10 page letters about how she can’t believe a daughter would treat her this way and then lists all of the ways the numerous people in her life continue to disappoint her. When I don’t respond to those, she enlists my sister and brother to do her bidding and guilt me back into submission. She has said to me numerous times that she is entitled to say anything she wants to me and I’m obligated to take it because she is my mother. I want to live my life free to make my own choices about how I choose to spend my time, without being called to account for my comings and goings. I want freedom and peace! My goal is to effectively learn to say to myself “f*ck Mom’s feelings” and just go on with my life.
It’s one thing when an asshole is one tough mother, and it’s another when a tough mother is an Asshole™. The latter isn’t just worse, but a clinical assessment, since Asshole™ here is just shorthand for your previous therapist’s diagnosis.
We certainly don’t mean that your mother deserves confrontation or punishment, or would even benefit from it; just that she’s a needy, whiny emotional bully who truly believes you’re responsible for her unhappiness just as surely as she’s responsible for your existence.
It’s good that you now have the adult perspective to know she’s an Asshole™ and tell yourself that her words reflect that fact, and not your faults or failures. Still, it’s hard to ignore her claims that you are responsible for her unhappiness, and, unfortunately, the more you focus on what she says, even though you totally disagree, the more her words hurt.
To strengthen the boundary you’re trying to create between the two of you, focus on your own rules about what it means to be a good daughter to an Asshole™ mother. Decide how frequently you think you should speak to her, and for how long, in order to meet your requirements for both being a good daughter and a sane human being. Then remind yourself of that assessment every time she and your siblings complain about your negative tone and neglect, and prepare scripts to use so you can keep any defensiveness at bay.
Borrow techniques from shady businesses—large cable companies, cell providers, some horrific hybrid of the two, etc.—that routinely deal with customers that they’ve pushed to become their worst, road-rage-est, most asshole-like selves. Begin with respectful acknowledgement, and if you’re upset or doubt yourself, buy time and delay your response by promising to get back to her later.
After giving yourself time to calm down and decide what’s fair and right, apologize only if you think you’ve done wrong. Otherwise, express respect, regret that you have to disagree, and determination to change the topic or hang up if necessary in order to stop negative speech. You’re a customer service rep, and your mother patronizes your time; be polite, but put your company’s bottom line first.
Of course, she will probably respond negatively to your limit setting and convey her unhappiness by letter and messages delivered via mail, phone, and/or siblings. Again, respond with memorized scripts and keep busy with other matters and relationships, so the lingering pain of having your mother angry at you doesn’t control or change your response.
Your mother may never accept your boundaries, but be strong, bear her displeasure, avoid defensiveness, and maintain an offer of friendly engagement while maintaining good Asshole™ protection. She may be tough, but be the tougher mother after all.
“I can’t imagine my mother letting me have space or independence if I don’t satisfy her needs, but I have standards of my own and a full life and I can proceed on my way, even if she will always be an asshole who’s ready to unload.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname