My mom has become manipulative

by Katielyn
(Brattleboro, VT)

My mother is 52 years old. She has diabetes, arthritis, fibromialgia and is in remission from cancer. I know she is in a considerable amount of pain.

Over the past two years though her mind has seemed to go. She says horrible things to me. Tells me that I'm no good. That I'm selfish and can't take care of my son. Anyone that's around when this happens is surprised because normally she would say the opposite of me. She's stated that she can't trust anyone so she's going to treat everyone like they are out to get her.

My concern is that she has my son on Saturday mornings till Sunday mornings every week. She states that HE is her reason for survival. She trashes his other mother to him and I do not approve. She thinks she's the best thing for him and only SHE can raise him correctly. I'm worried she's doing more damage than good. My son loves her SOOOOO much but she plays head games with me and yells at me in front of him. If I say that I don't think that's appropriate or ask her to stop she just undermines me more or assumes I'm threatening her with him!

I'm really at a loss. Should I stop the overnight visits? She's a twister of words... and I've just about lost my mind listening to it!

Ben's Answer:

Your mom is behaving abusively towards you. Doing this in front of your son, is extremely hurtful to your son. And trashing his other mother during his weekend visits is also very harmful. I think if you want any peace, and to ensure the well being of your son, you need to set some very clear boundaries with her about her behavior. She may interpret this as an attack on her, and a threat of taking away her grandchild; But your son's emotional health is more important. I've seen many people sacrifice their children's emotional safety in order to try to appease a divorced spouse or possessive grandparent. Your mother is a grown woman, but your son depends on your protection.

If it's too hard to confront her on your own, may be you could see a therapist, and have your mom come in for a session or two to discuss these things. You would not be wrong for requiring her to do this before allowing her to continue overnight visits. It's an opportunity to heal your relationship. If she refuses, it's her choice, and her loss.

The only other question here is whether this behavior change in her is really something abnormal. Sounds a bit on the paranoid side. I would wonder if there isn't some "organic" (neurological) issue going on for her that is causing her perceptions to be distorted. If possible, I would bring this to her doctor's attention.

And last, sometimes just living in physical pain can cause a real disintegration in a person's usual personality, making them bitter, short tempered and pretty miserable to be around. All things to consider.

Regardless of the reasons, your son's well being should be your first priority. It's painful to keep a child away from a grandparent that they love. But kids don't discriminate; they often don't understand or perceive that they are in a toxic relationship because it's a "special" relationship with a grandparent that worships the ground they walk on.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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