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My Mother Is Ruining My Life

Question:

Undoubtedly, you probably get a number of questions about parents. But I have to ask. It’s my mother, she has caused me to lose a number of friends, as well as girlfriends. She constantly calls (like 15 times a day) and thinks that the whole world is against her. My mother is very manipulative, and it has finally come to the point where I have told her that I want nothing else to do with her until she seeks help. Case in point, last night she calls my house. I have a new answering machine and I haven’t figured out how to change the message from the womans voice. She begins yelling at my roomate, demanding why her voice is on the machine. My roomate tells her its not hers, and my mother calls her a liar. She then calls back like 7 times asking for me ( I was out on a date) then begins to call my cell phone. I have tried to discuss this with my father, but it is useless. She has always been this way, and I believe it has even affected my social life. I just don’t want to bring an innocent into this mess. About 2 years ago I was seriously in love with a girl, and she ended up leaving because she ‘didn’t like who I would become around my mother’. She also couldn’t handle my mothers constant interuptions. My older brother has been totally destroyed, he is now a crack addict and criminal. She has no life, no friends, and just sits in her room or constantly goes to a number of physicians for a number of various health issues, though I wonder ofter how much is real, and how much is just a way of getting attention. And they, of course just feed her healthcare addiction with multiple diagnoses of different problems. What can I do? I don’t know how much longer I can take this.

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Answer:

What you’re dealing with here is technically called a ‘boundary issue’. A boundary is a line around something that separates it from other things. There are boundaries around the cells in our bodies (called cell membranes), and these boundaries (like all good boundaries) are working properly when they let certain things in (like food) and keep other things out (like poison and waste). It turns out that social and family relationships have boundaries just like cells do, and these social boundaries need to be balanced properly between what they’ll let in and what they’ll keep out just like cells if a person’s relationships are to function effectively. A given person’s boundaries need to let in people who are loving, and keep out people who are harmful and abusive. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

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p> In your case, it appears that your mother is quite invasive and has either stompped down your healthy boundaries, or was invasive from such an early time in your development that you never had a chance to grow a healthy boundary. If your boundary was healthy, you’d reject dealing with someone who would invade your space as your mother is described to do. Instead, you are letting her abuse you. There very well may be reasons why your mother is the way she is that are beyond her ability to control. For instance, she may be more than a little bit paranoid, or hypocondriacal. You might be tempted to say, “well, I’ll just have to put up with it if she isn’t able to control it”, but that would be a mistake. For whatever reason your mother acts abusively, it is not your role or responsability in life to let her harm you.

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p> My suggestion to you is to get yourself into a psychotherapy situation. Either individual or group therapy would be fine so long as it will focus on helping you to understand (and role-play) assertiveness skills, and to learn about healthy relationship boundaries. I also think you may need to limit the access your mother has to your life. For example, consider getting an unlisted number and having your own number blocked from display on CallerID units. Move to a place far enough away that it isn’t convenient for her to just come over unannounced. You may experience guilt feelings if you do these things, but that is okay. Talk about the guilt feelings in your therapy, and do them anyway. What you are describing is not healthy and you need to take some steps to protect yourself.

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