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Mom's Venting


I can’t tell you how I appreciate this service because I really can’t put this matter to anyone else. My Mother is obsessed with her family. They all are. It’s all they ever talk about and it’s not a positive feeling, by any means. She and her sisters and brothers are constantly trying to control and hurt each other. There were 10 of them, but the youngest one is now over 60 and some have died. No amount of time can mitigate their desire to control each other’s behavior though. My question is: when my Mother calls and starts to scream and whine about how awful her brother is, (the one that she insisted had to live with her so that he couldn’t live with any of the others), what should I do? As a good daughter, do I just listen as she “vents”, (her word), or can I suggest to her in some non-hurtful way that this obsession is harmful to her and boring and inconsequential to everyone else?

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  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
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This is a matter of boundaries and assertiveness, and has to do with how assertive you wish to be in this situation. No matter what you do, you are unlikely to be able to change your families’ behavior. They’ve been going at it for too long and it seems that there are just resentments everywhere. You can however, put a distance between you and this strife. I think you can be a good daughter and still politely ask your mother to not vent at you when you are not in a place to handle it. In fact, if you don’t stand up to your mother in this way, you will be allowing her to control you just as she tries to control others. You are within your rights to tell her that her speech is “harmful to her and boring and inconsequential to everyone else”, but there is some anger in saying it this way (you seem to be angry with her for boring you with this inconsequential stuff), and I wonder if she would respond well to this approach. Perhaps it would be better if you just told her politely that you would love to listen to her a different time when you were in a better place to handle it, but as it stands you find it stressful to listen to her and have to ask her to find someone else to vent at. This is all about finding a balance between what you can take and what you can’t take, between what is good about your mom and what is not so good. You have the right to say that you don’t want to hear it sometimes and to be okay with that even if she isn’t. Good luck.

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