I am an early 20's British Male. I moved home after University and am suffering from somewhat severe depression.
As I got towards graduating, my mother suggested I moved home instead of finding a place to live, so I could save money while I built a larger nest egg. My partner, who I met at University, lives across the Country and it is my intention to move to live near her once I have built up said nest egg. I pay rent that is similar but slightly lower to myself living alone.
My mother always has something to say about me and why I'm substandard in one way or another, always in an accusatory fashion (I couldn't take them as constructive criticism if I tried). She's in her 50's and worked for 10-15 years of her life before retiring due to injury, ergo has been out of the workforce most of her life.
My self care is below average at points, things like hygiene slip, however being aware of depression being the cause of this she realizes they're off limits as my sister was borderline suicidal last year.
Comments I have heard from her:
- Shouldn't you be in bed already, I'm not getting you up in the morning (I go to bed 15 minutes later than I meant to)
- It's unacceptable you leaving the house at x time on a morning (leave without extra time to spare because I wanted a proper breakfast or 5 mins to wake up)
- I feel like a servant, you come home from work and you sit down while I make dinner after I've cleaned the house today (over exaggeration she cleans 1 room every other day on a rotation)
- All you do is sit and play games on your computer (I'm a programmer + gamer, so my friends are primarily online, which she is aware of, also living at home, my in person friends live in other cities)
- walking on eggshells was a direct quote (after I asked her to not keep putting me down)
- Why is it always in a minute, why can't you do something when I ask (she walks into my room, which is private, not communal space)
- why do you always have to visit her, why can't she come here for a change (we don't want to have silent sex, given we only see each other once a month, also my mom has ostracized her the way she has me, and we can actually act the way we want to, she also suffers from depression)
- If you actually got up on a morning, you'd have plenty of time to do x (I stay up late instead as they aren't around)
Writing them down, they seem like reasonable enough comments, however they're said multiple times a day and with layers of snide on top, which gives it the context of wearing me down. Sometimes also layered with an expletive.
When she feels like I'm not paying her any notice, she involves my father and they gang up to attack me. He forms an opinion quickly and will only listen to one side of a story, so when I was younger and played the "game", it was always a race to get in our side of the story first.
I let these chips on my ego slide as best I can and I've had a polite conversation with her on two separate occasions. Once on her conversation with me being negative or derogatory, once about her speech volume/tone of voice as she tends to lose sense of volume when in a discussion with someone and tends to put on a shrill tone. Neither conversation amounting to much. Her feelings tend to be "hurt" for a while, she'll blank me, be nice to me for a day or two, the cycle repeats.
If I call her out on it, she says either that I'm ungrateful or something similar to above about being "hurt".
How I act under the criticism, I tend to let her say her piece, mumble agreeably, unless something is outlandish then I say so, I try to keep a neutral tone, but I have been known to argue back if something gets particularly under my skin. I cannot walk away as if I try to do so, I'm called back to listen to the rest, with renewed vigor.
How I act when I call her out, I tend to point out points to the contrary of her argument (i.e. "you do nothing to help around the house", "I did x, y, z"), if she persists beyond reason, I shut down, wait for it to be over, trying to stop my self confidence being undermined any further
How I act when she involves my father, speech is the kiss of death here, commentary or defense of myself will escalate the argument. Sometimes I fight their points, others I accept it. If I do argue, they beat me down until I basically admit I'm in the wrong.
My question is, how do I break the cycle and form a relationship that is less toxic and more equal?
Obvious solutions I have considered without elimination:
Move out, I can get my own place, this increases my cost of living to the point where it would take a significantly longer period of time to achieve my goal of moving to be with my partner (6 months increased to 10-12 months).
Give her criticisms validation, do what's asked, behave like she wants. I think this might work short term, but would make me miserable and likely she'd find new criticism, as she did when I was young.
Have a round of talks with her each time this occurs, I fear this would just reset the cycle described and I would end up acting like her, rushing to get my criticisms in first.