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This question focuses on my relationship with my mom. Most people who know her find her difficult to be around. She invites me to her place but there’s a 75% chance we get in a fight the first 15 minutes and I have to leave. This is a problem because it leaves me feeling upset and I waste travel time. I find she nitpicks until I lose my temper and then she kicks me out for getting mad.

For example today she invited me over for lunch. Whenever she speaks it’s like she’s giving orders. The first thing that bothered me is how she said ‘put the plates on the table!’ in a harsh tone instead of asking ‘can you put the plates on the table’. I brought over a bottle of wine as a gift and she got mad that I put it on the table so I moved it, but I don’t understand why someone would get mad about something like this. The third thing she did that made me lose my cool was I was touching my food with my fingers and she got mad at me for this. This was bad on my part but I started shoveling food in my face with my hands to prove that she can’t control how I chose to eat my food. She told me to leave and I did. Also, for the short time I was there she didn’t really engage with me except to boss me around.

Shortly after I left I got an email saying she had picked up groceries for me that are still at her home. This makes no sense to me as I was still very angry at her behavior.

This sort of thing has happened before and I don’t know how to stop it. I would like to spend less time around her but she reals me in by saying she has food for me at her home. It’s not really effective leaving when she acts in a way I don’t like as I already wasted a lot of time making the journey to her home.

I’m thinking of replying to the email

Last time it wasn’t pleasant for either of us when I came over. How will things be different this time? I’m confused why you get so angry over small things like how I put the bottle of wine on the table? I really don’t appreciate when you get mad at me.

How can I get her to speak to me nicer instead of ordering me around and using an angry voice? What should I say when she speaks to me in a way I don't appreciate? What should I do when she tries to coerce me to come visit her? When should I blow things off and when should I tell her to stop doing something? For example, with telling me to put the plates on the table in a bossy voice, I can ignore, but after several times when she told me not to eat with my fingers, I blow up. Just to be clear, even if I'm really careful what to be polite, she'll still find something to get mad at me for.

It is a value of mine to maintain ties with family, and that’s why I want this to work. If it was a friend of mine, I wouldn't be friends with them if they treated me like this but you can't chose your family.

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    This sounds like there is a lot of history involved. Did she always behave like that? Since when does she behave like that? How do you and her get along with other family members? I think all this is important but even if you would answer all of it will be difficult to answer your question. – user8838 Apr 2 '18 at 10:18
  • Is she insecure about something? It could be anything related to her or related to you or anything for that matter. When a person is insecure, they tend to nitpick anything and everything. Is she going through that rough phase? – WonderWoman Apr 2 '18 at 10:45
  • @Edgar yes always like that, around most people – snowchym Apr 2 '18 at 23:08
  • @SandyC I don't think it's an issue due to insecurity (I would almost say it's over confidence or dictator like personality). – snowchym Apr 2 '18 at 23:08
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If you look at a lot of my responses on IPS, one thing I repeat ad infinitum is this: it is extremely difficult to change other people's behavior. It is much easier to change your response to their behavior.

How do you get her to speak nicer to you? I wish I knew the answer. She's in that mode of behavior and it sounds like it's not just to you. Generally behavior continues when it gets something desired; when it fails to achieve the desired result, the behavior stops.

First of all, to get her to stop reeling you in: it sounds like she does so by saying she has food for you. Question: did you ask for it? Did you need it? If not, then I'd suggest starting there. "Thanks for getting that for me; I appreciate the effort but I don't need anything right now." She'll most likely be angry with you for refusing her gift but if you decline it (politely) several times in a row, I suspect that will stop.

Now, with respect to her wanting you to come over, e-mail is pretty impersonal. I'd suggest having that conversation with her, either over the phone or in person. She needs to hear it, not read it. I think you have the right conversation with:

Last time it wasn’t pleasant for either of us when I came over. How will things be different this time?

and let things just flow from there. The second half of your proposed conversation can happen at a later date. But let her demonstrate how things will be different and then prove it to you.

Relationships within family are the hardest because you never chose family, yet they're a big part of your life. By insisting on your independence, however, you can establish a more proper distance between you and your mother, which will lead to a more productive relationship.

  • I just tried over a phone call, and asked what would be different. She just said "well I guess you won't be eating here next time". What do I say next? – snowchym Apr 2 '18 at 23:07
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    @snowchym: Nothing! This shows her interest in interacting with you. "I'm not going to change". That's fine. Now you know where you stand. As long as she will be unpleasant, you keep your distance. That's how I'd proceed from here. This has an assumption that you're willing to put up with her behavior to eat there - not showing up will over time challenge that assumption. – baldPrussian Apr 3 '18 at 0:31
  • @snowchym do you know why she offers you food? Because it reels you back in. She knows it works. You can easily change that behavior in yourself which might lead (many steps later) to a change in hers. – Pete B. Apr 3 '18 at 14:58
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It sounds like she's simply an unpleasant person to be around. This may be one of those cases where she simply needs to be introduced to the idea "If everyone around you is a jerk, maybe the jerk is actually you." Just like badPrussian said, it's quite difficult to change someone else's behavior, especially if they're old enough to have an adult child (which I assume since you say you have to travel there).

You say that you tried to have this conversation over the phone the same day that you had a fight and were kicked out of her house, that was probably a mistake. Give the situation a few days to cool off then tell her you want to sit down and have an honest conversation. Let her choose the time and place to allow her to feel comfortable with it.

Once you get there, start by apologizing for how you acted last time (you may not feel like you need to but it should help). Explain your point of view and how it feels when you try to do something nice/helpful and all it seems like you get in return is anger. Don't point the finger at her, this will make her go on the defensive and will likely lead to another outburst. Instead, state that you want to make it so that you can both enjoy having dinner together. Share the fact that you don't want to upset her and that explaining it to you in a calm manner will help you to understand and remember to avoid doing it in the future.

It sounds like this may just be the way she is, but maybe you can bring her to an agreement that works for both of you. Say that you'll visit once a week if she does her best to use a mild tone and you'll do your best to avoid doing things that upset her. If she can't uphold her end of the deal, you'll cut visits down to once every two weeks, even if she tries to entice you with food you never asked for.


As I was typing this I noticed your comment

I just tried over a phone call, and asked what would be different. She just said "well I guess you won't be eating here next time". What do I say next?

Depending on how the conversation went overall, I'm guessing not good, that may be the end of it. It may be best to just cut ties for a while and try to get back in touch later.

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