Thursday, December 30, 2010

Emotionally Abusive Mothers and Adult Daughters: Part 2 of 4

Subtitled: Control, Family, and Secrecy.

All aspects of my life were open to mom's criticism and could be used, at any moment, to trigger a verbal assault. Even the most obscure points of my life could be cited as a reason to berate me and make her point about my flaws. She'd hit the finer points of issues real and imagined about:

My education. My employment. My address. My clothing. My boyfriend/husband. My child-rearing. My purchase of a pet. My vacation. My finances. My friends. My hair. My sex life.

Sometimes, I'd laugh if I wasn't fighting the urge to cry. Or yell. Or take up yoga. Just 2 short years ago, I disagreed with her about my son's need for braces. She had a tantrum like a child, and turned the conversation into criticisms of my parenting and choice of boyfriend. She threw in the fake tears and cursing to top-off a brilliant performance.

During the various stages of my life, my mother became visibly flustered whenever she lost a tool she could use to criticize and control. I remember the assault she waged when I decided to move out of her house at the age of 26. I stopped accepting her excuses for why I should stay and I experienced an unbelievable wave of relief as I carried my last bag from her home.

She also lost a grip during the time I was married. She didn’t dare challenge my husband’s right to rule the home and reveal herself to him as a controlling mother. She picked the times he wasn’t around to criticize him (to me), to challenge my choice to marry him, and to complain about our parenting.

Just last year, she gifted me a timeshare vacation. I only had to pay the booking fee and transportation. A gift is never truly a gift from a controlling mother, which I realized (again) when she made it clear who I could and could not travel with on my vacation.

I spent countless years wondering why I had chronic feelings of inadequacy even when faced with contrary evidence. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t respond to my mother’s “concerned advice” with joy and appreciation. Why in the world did I always want to turn down the help she offered and even continued to push on me when I turned her down? Worse, I didn’t know why I was growing to dread spending time with my parents.

The last one… losing my desire to hang with the parental units… was the hardest of all. Mom always pushed the concept of “family” (although she is amazingly and chronically estranged from her own birth family). It was nothing short of blasphemy for me to ever speak ill of her, to prefer another family’s company, or even call my mother-in-law “mom.”

Along with the “family” theme came the “secrecy” theme. I was never to speak about home outside of the house. Mom always claimed that other folks didn’t need to know about the problems my dad caused the family. I never stopped to think that she might be protecting her own public image as a wonderful and attentive wife and mother.

I have a vivid memory of how she always saw me as an extension of her and her precious reputation (which must be protected at all costs). At the age of 21, I became pregnant with my oldest son while attending college. She sent me $500 – for the abortion clinic. I had a choice: Hit the clinic or go start my life somewhere. She couldn’t stand that I chose to “go start my life somewhere,” so she and my father retrieved me shortly after the birth. I believed she cared since she wanted me back under her roof….right? Well…

While you're waiting for Part 3 -
Bonus Link for your Reading Pleasure:
DESPERATE MEASURES: When They Sense They’re Losing Their Grip On You - 5 Surprising Ways Of Keeping You Attached

Monday, December 27, 2010

Emotionally Abusive Mothers and Adult Daughters: Part 1 of 4

Subtitled: When the last straw outweighs the excuses.

Last night I experienced the liberation of leaving the State of Denial. In fact, I left the state so fast, I barely had time to wave as the landscape disappeared in the rear-view mirror. This came after another round of bitter tears following an unwarranted attack from my mother – who has been emotionally abusive for as long as I can remember.

Judging by my experience and the experiences shared by others, emotional abuse often gets veiled under “less offensive” terms. The abuser may be characterized as overly critical, controlling, misguided, unfair, grouchy, or just plain mean. I find that these words mostly act to whitewash the intent, malice, pain, and emotional stress that targets must endure.

Denying the crushing weight that 30+ years of emotional abuse placed on my broken heart also meant I had to devise excuses – and even accept the excuses that she and others offered.

She lost her mother at a very young age, so she just wants to be very involved in your life.
I can understand a desire to be present, but not to mistreat.

It’s a generational gap.
Culturally, her generation knew more about honor and respect of fellow man. This doesn’t explain a damned thing.

She means well.
In what way? If you know you’re hurting me, and keep repeating the behavior, then you mean it.

Blood is thicker than water.
It simply isn’t, and this has been an excuse to ignore the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that occurs in family structures.

All families are dysfunctional.
No. All families face issues – not necessarily dysfunction. When love and respect are present, those issues can be overcome.

She was frustrated about my father abusing her, so she took it out on the nearest target.
Even if this is true… and even if one can agree that she deserves sympathy… none of that erases her culpability or explains how she is getting worse long after she and dad parted ways.

She’s controlling because she cares.
That doesn’t even make sense. You
care for things that you care for. You don’t control things you care for. It is dangerous to claim that wanting to eradicate another person’s free will and their right to enjoy life on their own terms is an act of caring. Nonsense like that leads people to stay in abusive relationships.

You’re taking it wrong/overreacting.
You can’t take pain “wrong.” If you call me a name… it hurts. If you withhold love and punish me for disappointing you… it hurts. If you wrongly accuse me of doing something evil… it hurts. If you do these things repeatedly, knowing that it hurts me, I am not overreacting to excuse you from my life. Period.

Maybe you’re doing something wrong.
Let’s pretend I’m doing something wrong. Let’s pretend I went against her advice and failed. Let’s admit my ex-husband wasn’t the best choice for me. Which one of those “crimes” should result in a personal, low, verbal bashing that includes attacks on my character, rude comments about my personal life, lies about things I never said, and a reminder about things my childhood flaws (although they were really just signs of being a child)? Maybe I
am doing something wrong. Or maybe you should just mind your business and stay in your lane.

She’s like that with everybody.
How in the world does knowing how my mother also mistreats strangers make me feel any relief when she mistreats me? Do we assign points now for “equal opportunity” in this case?

Finally, the latest gem she actually offered to me:
“Now that I’m getting older, I feel like I’ve earned the right to say exactly what’s on my mind.”
It’s funny how some use the term “what’s on your mind” to describe criticism, spite, and vitriol. You never earn the right to hurt others who’ve done you no wrong. Never.

While you're waiting for Part 2 -
Bonus Link for your Reading Pleasure:
The Silent Partner (aka the other family member(s) who watch and may even make excuses for the abuse)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Emotionally Abusive Mothers and Adult Daughters: Series Intro

If you were hoping for the next installment in my Insufficient Postage series, you may be in for a treat. The next four posts regarding emotionally abusive mothers and adult daughters can be read as one long letter to my mother.

Don't look for the spills and thrills and chills that come with bitter cat fights. I won't be calling my mom a bucket-full-o-bitches in this one - although that would probably make for a good reality television episode. No siree, this one has a happy ending that releases me from the guilt of wanting to divorce my mother after decades of her verbal slashing.

Here's how it works: The posts are already saved. They're timed to appear on the blog 3 days apart - the first one beginning in 3 days. There simply was no other way to share a 4-page long document without jamming an overstuffed post into one space and possibly losing your attention due to size. This assumes everybody has a touch of ADD. Like me. :-)

Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.