How to Deal with a Narcissistic Mother (Five Effective Ways)

Are you interested in how to deal with a narcissistic mother? Then this guide is for you!

When you have a narcissistic mother, you must devise strategies for protecting yourself.

Narcissistic mothers often behave in ways that are harmful to their children. You can’t allow yourself to be too open or vulnerable with your mother. Instead, you must consider how to deal with her in different situations.

The following are five major changes you can make in how you interact with and relate to her.

1) Establish and maintain boundaries

Boundaries contribute to your safety, privacy, and dignity. When someone respects your boundaries, they respect you as a person distinct from themselves.

They show a willingness to understand your reasonable needs and preferences.

Narcissists have a strong tendency to ignore or actively undermine your boundaries. They hammer away at your refusals or pretend they have your consent.

Threats, emotional blackmail, and other damaging tactics weaken your ability to set boundaries.

A narcissistic mother often fails to see her children as individuals distinct from herself. She expects them to serve her purposes.

Her children may need to act as her trophies, scapegoats, servants, or therapists. Because she doesn’t respect her children’s boundaries, she may naturally want whatever she wants.

As the child of a narcissistic mother, you need to work on your ability to set firm boundaries with her. If she has raised you to disregard your boundaries, it can be difficult to refuse her or set limits on her behavior.

You can get better at it with time, healing, and practice.

For example, your mother may demand that you answer her calls at any time of the day. She may insist on visiting you without any notice.

Maybe she’s interfering with your relationships or speaking to you or your children in a way that you find unacceptable.

Setting boundaries can mean firmly telling her that you’re not going to accept a certain behavior. After that, you need to reinforce the boundary that you’ve established.

For example, if you’ve asked her not to speak to you insultingly, you can end a conversation every time she says something mocking and cruel.

You can tell her that you won’t speak to her when she disrespects you, and you can either leave the room or hang up the phone.

She’ll likely try to fight against any new boundary. She’ll make you feel guilty and claim that you’re hurting her.

Or she’ll ridicule you and tell you you’re stupid and overly sensitive. It’s important not to cave in.

Over time, you may find that she insults you less or stops entirely. However, there’s no guarantee that she’ll change her behavior for the better.

Sometimes, her behavior may be so toxic that you must cut off all contact with her. This may be a temporary measure or a decision that lasts for years.

Refusing to maintain contact is one way to reinforce a boundary, and it may be the one that serves you best.

2) Don’t look to her for approval

In a relationship with a narcissistic mother, you’re never really secure in her feelings for you. Even if she sometimes seems proud of you and glad to show you off to other people, you don’t feel as if you’re enough.

It’s possible that your mother holds you to perfectionistic standards. She relentlessly compares you to other people and finds that you’re always falling short in some way. She criticizes you frequently and tends to be harsh.

Another possibility is that your mother doesn’t pay the right kind of attention to you. She doesn’t notice much of what you do or how you feel.

She seems to notice you only when she needs something from you. If she isn’t currently using you to fulfill some need of her own, you don’t fully exist to her.

You know that she can abruptly and arbitrarily take it away whenever she grants you her approval. She behaves with caprice, coldness, and emotional instability. For example, she may be full of envy whenever you accomplish something.

Even if she brags about you to the neighbors, she privately insults you, robbing you of your pride and happiness. Or she sabotages your efforts, holding you back from working towards new goals.

When dealing with her, remind yourself not to seek her approval. Don’t plead with her for compliments or tell her how upset you are that she never seems to acknowledge the good things you do.

Don’t go out of your way to showcase your achievements or tell her how much a high grade, an award, or a job promotion means to you. You can’t rely on consistent warmth and approval from her, and her reaction may be damaging.

Instead of turning to her for approval, praise yourself for what you’re doing well. Develop the habit of seeing what’s good in your behavior and life. Even if it’s something you consider a small achievement, it’s still meaningful and positive.

When you want other people’s feedback, pay attention to people you trust. They can include other family members, friends, your spouse, or a mentor helping you succeed at school or work.

If your mother does praise you, you can thank her politely, but try not to act as if her words are deeply important. Remind yourself that narcissists will often grant approval or withhold it to control you. You can’t rely on them to be sincere.

3) Keep conversations brief and dry

A heart-to-heart talk generally doesn’t work out well with a narcissistic mother. She makes a weapon out of what you tell her and uses your vulnerability against you.

You also can’t count on her to make a sincere effort to understand you or focus on you when you’re talking.

Another problem is the potential for arguments. These don’t tend to be reasonable disagreements. Instead, they become dramatic and vicious confrontations.

She doesn’t seem to have a problem screaming at you, insulting you, or relying on exaggerations and dishonesty to win the dispute.

If you’re in contact with your mother, the best way to approach conversations is to keep them short and stay on neutral topics. Don’t reveal information unnecessarily or talk about the depth of your emotions.

It may pain you to limit yourself to such superficial interactions with your mother. However, keeping your conversations light and brief is often a useful way to protect yourself.

It’s also best to refrain from arguing with her. Even if your mother says something to goad you, the best response is to ignore the provocative comment or respond to it mildly, such as rolling your eyes.

You can then bring the conversation back to the main topic or bring it to a close.

What if an argument is unavoidable? You may need to defend yourself against an accusation she has made in front of other people. Or you may need to resolve a dispute about property ownership or another important issue.

You can keep from getting sucked into a long and dramatic confrontation.

One approach that’s often useful is to stay calm and focused. If she lies about you, you can calmly state the truth.

If she makes irrelevant comments and tries to rehash old arguments, you can simply tell her that you’re not going to talk about any of those other things.

You’re also allowed to walk away if she becomes especially vicious. In some situations, you may need legal assistance or the intervention of a trusted third party. You don’t need to stick around to be abused.

4) Be careful about accepting help from her

Narcissistic mothers use their children’s dependence as a means of controlling them. Physical violence and financial deprivation are two obvious methods of maintaining control.

Other times, the control is more subtle. It’s enacted through patterns of manipulation, guilt, shame, and fear.

If you ask your mother for assistance, she may take your request as permission to be intrusive and controlling. Even if it’s a small favor, her assistance will likely come with strings attached.

If you resist her attempts at control, she’ll try to make you feel horrible about yourself. She’ll tell you that she does so much for you and that you’re deeply ungrateful.

There may be a situation where you need to rely on her for something. In that case, remind yourself that her assistance doesn’t mean she can do whatever she wants.

She’s still not allowed to demolish your boundaries. Any gratitude you feel doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to turn yourself into a doormat for her.

It’s also important to keep records of your agreements with her. Keep copies of emails, texts, or other documents spelling out your obligations. If you need to pay her back for something, focus on the payment itself.

Don’t allow her to use your debt as an opportunity to control you and hurt you.

5) Don’t let your empathy for her get in the way of compassion for yourself

You may feel bad for your mother. Maybe she doesn’t have genuinely close relationships with anyone. Maybe her life is emotionally impoverished.

Feeling empathy isn’t a bad thing. She may not have much empathy for you, but you don’t have to feel or think the way she does. However, it’s important not to let your empathy undermine you.

Even if you feel bad for her, you don’t need to expose yourself to her harmful behavior. You don’t have to hold yourself back in life and keep yourself closely attached to her.

If your mother still demands that you act in unhealthy ways, you don’t have to appease her. Even if you’re firmly convinced that adult children need to help their parents, any assistance you offer shouldn’t come at the expense of your psychological, spiritual, and physical health.

Your narcissistic mother raised you to disregard some of your deepest needs. You need to give yourself care and attention to heal from your childhood. You deserve to protect and nurture yourself.

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