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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Mom troubles

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Author Topic: Mom troubles
carlyn_101
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I think my home environment is contributing to a downturn in my mental health. I've lived away from home for a while up until now, but finances and other factors forced me to move back temporarily. I plan to be out again by May, but I was hoping you guys could give me some coping strategies to deal with problems when they arise. (The idea of facing the next couple of months here is just really depressing and overwhelming). Basically, my parents don't leave the house. Their marriage is imploding due to codependency and a joint inability to confront problems and find solutions. Neither has outside hobbies, goals, or friends. Neither of them work.

My mother, in particular, seems unable to deal with the roots of what's bothering her. Whenever something goes wrong (either circumstantially or within our family dynamic), she becomes unreadable, passive aggressive, nitpick-y, and just generally unbearable. For example, when I got home from working at the library today, I found a note on my bed (from my mom) asking me to store my shampoo and body wash bottles behind the shower curtain instead of the corner of the tub. 1) I have always kept my bottles in the corner of the tub, ever since I was a kid.
2) It has never been a problem until recently.
3) When I asked my mom directly about the note and tried to explain my reasons for the bottles being where they were, she basically got hostile and withdrew from the conversation.
4) It seemed like something else was bothering her but she would not allow me to understand what it was (even when I asked). It's just not natural for such small things to become battles.

I don't understand why the placement of my bottles was interpreted by her as a personal affront. Everything becomes an issue of "right" and "wrong" with her, rather than simply an issue of comfort or preference. It somehow became "wrong" of me to want to have the bottles within reach, rather than having to push past a dirty plastic curtain to get to them. She didn't even consider what I was saying at all.

Things like this happen constantly in our house. If no one is doing anything wrong, she nitpicks and focuses on small things...It's almost like conflict makes her feel closer to my dad and I. When viewed in isolation, the bottle argument seems like no big deal, right? Well it a healthier family, it probably would be. But instead, stuff like this is constant, a pattern.

It's like existing on an emotional minefield. After the bottle incident, my mom knocked on my door to tell me that she didn't feel like messing with dinner, and that I should make food for myself. (Again, in a normal family who deals with problems, this would be no big deal. In principle, I have no problem making my own dinner). I cooked dinner last night for her and I; we generally switch off. However, whenever conflicts arise, she is quick to cancel plans with us or renege on obligations. I am beginning to hate her for it...It's so unbelievably passive aggressive, like punishment.

I've tried to speak with her about some of these things, but she won't take responsibility for any of it. I feel like I'm pretty obliging to her whims and expressions of need, but I'm getting really fed up. I've tried to minimize the time spent around her and the house, to have productive conversations, etc. But to no avail. Living in the this situation and witnessing its effects on all parties involved is absolutely depressing. It makes me feel so hopeless.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Hey, carlyn. Welcome to the boards. I'm sorry to hear about this, it sounds like a really uncomfortable spot to be in.

It doesn't sound to me like your parents are likely to change any of this anytime soon. It sounds like in order for change to happen, they're both going to have to want to change on their own, something completely outside your power and likely outside your influence. It also sounds likely they are so wrapped up in what's going on with them that you've just come back home at a time of such conflict, it's bound to be bad news. And if they got into patterns when you weren't there, too, they're bound to be sticky, and not be patterns either of them could change very quickly even if they did want to.

So, the best approach here seems to be a) to keep minimizing the time you spend there, b) to try setting some real limits and boundaries, and/or c) to look at other options in terms of places to live when you're financially strapped, like staying with a friend or finding a place to live with roommates.

How do you feel about those options?

[ 01-27-2013, 07:04 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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carlyn_101
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I've definitely been attempting the first two things. I try to keep myself separate from the emotional muck that's going on (as much as possible anyway). I spend most of my time during the day either at the gym, at the library, or in my room working.

I'm not sure how I could set better boundaries...Can you clarify what you mean by that?

Also, I have been considering the option of going to stay with friends. Unfortunately I only have three friends in this area, two of which are engaged and living with one another. My third friend lives an hour away with her parents. (Her house would be too far of a drive for me to get to work). All the rest of my hometown friends I've either fallen out with or they've moved away. The engaged couple has a two bedroom townhouse and they've said I'm welcome to stay with them for a while if I need to. I just don't want to intrude on their pre-married life too much... Not sure whether I should take them up on their offer or not.

I had a built a whole separate group of friends in another city, but that got kind of messed up when I had to come home.

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Heather
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You know, if they offered, it's probably because THEY don't feel like it'd be an intrusion. So, if that's available to you, and you are miserable, it seems to be that's a pretty great offer you should give serious thought to taking them up on.

Of course, you can also talk to them about your concerns first so that you can be sure you feel okay about it.

In terms of the boundaries, I don't suppose you've been able to talk kindly, but honestly, about your assessments about the dynamics in the house right now? If you haven't, you might start by doing that, and then ask for some boundaries like having your mother try and recognize when she might be taking things out on you before she says anything to you or leaves notes. You can also ask to have a talk about the boundaries SHE needs so that they're things you two talk about, and she has to take responsibility for, now, rather than things she responds poorly to as you go, if you know what I mean.

Also, if you are staying, can you ask about each of you establishing space that is ONLY yours, so everyone feels less piled on top of each other and less like their space is being invaded?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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carlyn_101
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I've had a couple of conversations with each of my parents about the dynamics in the house. My dad acknowledges my observations and seems to understand my frustration. My mom, on the other hand, hates it when I mention anything that's going on between her and my dad. She basically says that I shouldn't be as affected as I am by it. She says that they're in a rut as sometimes happens in marriages. Nevermind that the rut has lasted 9 years...

I think your advice is really sound, but I'm positive that my mom would never own up to "taking things out" on me. I might try mentioning the space issues, although I wouldn't say we are piled on top of one another in my family. There are only three of us in the house. I may have bottles in the bathroom, but that's pretty much it. I bet could throw them all out and she'd still find something to be pissed about.

See, my mom doesn't like to have concrete conversations (based on actual examples) because she doesn't want to be stuck taking responsibility for things. She senses early on in the conversation that you're trying to set limits and usually just stonewalls the conversation or belittles the person who brings up issues. That person becomes "too sensitive" or "too exacting." She then tries to make it sound like she's super easy-going, and that any kind of behavioral contract is unnecessary, a betrayal of her kind nature. It's really twisted; she's definitely an emotional bully.

I've tried sending her emails so that issues don't explode, but she doesn't respond to them. I will try the boundaries thing in some other way, I suppose. I just get the sense that all her anger needs an escape route...and the issues she brings up really aren't all that important to her.

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Heather
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You know your Mom, and I don't, so by all means, I trust you on having a good sense of what would land and what wouldn't with her.

But I gotta say, it's really sounding like ultimately the best answer is probably just for you to get out of there and let whatever is going to happen with the two of them happen. Without having to be in the middle of it. [Frown]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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carlyn_101
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That probably does make the most sense. I'm just torn since it's only a 3 month situation. Even living with friends seems expensive. Oh well I guess.
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Heather
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Why not start by talking to that couple? Just talk to them and feel it out in a conversation.

Mind, I'd also bear in mind that living at home costs you, too, just not money. And I get that money can be hard to come by, I've struggled for it my whole life, but sometimes busting our butts a little bit more to make a little extra money wipes us out a whole lot less than being put through an emotional wringer 24/7.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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carlyn_101
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That's true. If it does turn out that I decide to leave, how do you think I should explain that to my parents?
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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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How about we cross that bridge when we get to it?

Mind, I think you could say that you are leaving because it is too uncomfortable for you to stay, emotionally, and that'd sum it up simply, but again, happy to talk you through that if you want something else if you do decide to move on.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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