When Mom Won’t Let Go, Daughters Pay A Terrible Price

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“Mom calls me multiple times a day. Sometimes, I don’t pick up. I put off calling her back as long as I can.

It hurts her feelings and, well,  I can’t stop feeling guilty.

She just can’t let me go so that I can live my own life.

 

When Mom won’t let go…this causes understandable and predictable problems for her daughter, problems that can have far reaching effects and last a lifetime.

As a psychotherapist, I have heard the same issue more times than I can count.

 

( Go to the end of the post for the audio version of when Mom won’t let go)

See if you can relate-

 

Mom weighs in, offers “suggestions,” and intrudes on your decisions. Mom questions your every move and gives you unsolicited advice. Finally, when you’ve had enough, you snap at her, and she comes back with, ” I was only trying to help.”

 

Or maybe you’ve been dying to say something. You want more time to yourself, you want some breathing room.. but you are paralyzed with fear she will take what you have to say as a rejection of her…

 

…so you swallow your anger and say nothing while you feel your resentment grow and grow…

 

You always thought when you became an adult; your mother would respect you as a peer.

 

In other words…

 

You thought when you became an adult; Mom would let you go.

 

I understand.

 

Most adult daughters think their Mom will at least loosen up the controls when they become adults.

 

But, with your Mom, not so much.

 

Unfortunately, here you are, waiting for your permission slip to become an adult- waiting and waiting and waiting.

 

You hope against hope Mom will recognize that you are grown and let you make your own adult decisions. Is that too much to ask?

 

Apparently so.

 

Many of the daughters I see in my practice who have the same problem are just scratching the surface of an issue that has its roots in a dynamic that has been there all along.

 

If things are really bad now, chances are…these patterns have been there all along throughout your developmenthidden in plain sight.

 

You didn’t see them, not entirely. All you knew was Mom, your Mom. You thought, that is, if you thought about it at all, wasn’t everyone’s mother like that- helicoptering, micromanaging their daughter’s lives?

 

Isn’t that just what caring Moms do? 

 

You see…

 

Mom’s overreach and intrusions have been baked into her brand of mothering from the start. Her mothering style was normalized, so it has become like the air you breathe.

 

How could you have known any different?

 

Until…

 

you find yourself trapped and suffocated as an adult with a clingy, needy Mom, like an albatross around your neck… that you start to wonder if there is, in fact, something VERY wrong.

 

Why didn’t you see this in your childhood?

 

Well, when this is your childhood reality, you don’t know any better- how could you?

 

All you knew was that you were deathly afraid of leaving Mom out or disappointing her. And you’d better take her advice, or else there’d be hell to pay.

 

You told yourself, Mom knows best. You were (and perhaps are sure) that Mom would take it as a rejection and either crumble or make you pay… double if you dare to speak up.

 

You are used to telling yourself, “let her have it her way; don’t make a fuss; it’s just easier that way.

 

If you resonate so far, I’m reasonably certain underneath the psychological curtain…

 

Mom was holding you back and appropriating you because of her insecurities.

 

Huh.. you say, by her insecurities- she always seems so sure of herself– how could she be insecure? That’s the thing with difficult personalities; they aren’t always what they seem.

 

If this is your dynamic with Mom, chances are she was and is driven by unconscious forces; she didn’t even fully understand and still isn’t aware of it.

 

But, before you know it, you are both trapped in a dysfunctional dynamic set up to meet her needs, not yours.

 

Let’s dig deeper, and I’m going to ask…

 

Are there little to no boundaries?

 

Does Mom treat you as her therapist or best friend? Are her relationship problems and complaints about your dad all fodder for discussion? Is nothing off-limits, even though you seriously wish it were?

 

Has it been like this, like… forever?

 

Your mother’s told you things that were too much for a kid to handle… and it never stopped. She still calls you when things go badly and talks and talks and talks…

 

Does she expect that you will take her side in every fight, and there are plenty of them?

 

Truth be told, you aren’t allowed a separate opinion. So instead, you feel like the only acceptable opinion is an echo of hers.

 

Does Mom expect you to report everything to her? Does she feels left out if you hold back anything? Is there no such thing as a private life? And does she regard any relationship that she is not privy to as a betrayal of her?

 

Is talking with Mom not so much a dialogue-more like a monologue with you trapped as the audience?

 

Either way, this kind of “closeness” can feel suffocating.

 

If you are like others, you want the freedom to live without Mom’s input or worry she will be hurt if you move without her.

 

Instead, you toggle between guilt and resentment– never knowing if you are ungrateful or unlucky.

 

I’m here to tell you; there’s a problem, and it’s not you.

 

Why, Mom, can’t you let go?

 

-Some mothers need a bit of a wake-up call that it’s time to cut the strings and let their grown daughters fly free.

 

They may falter because of outdated patriarchal religious or cultural expectations that only grant power to women by encouraging them to have power over their daughters while denying them power elsewhere.

 

However, Suppose Mom has a full-blown personality disorder or is high in traits of those disorders. In that case, she will cling to her daughter for dear (emotional).., life-sucking out every bit of her daughter’s vitality.

 

It is not unusual for both narcissistic personalities, especially the covert narcissistic mother disordered and borderline personality disordered mothers, to use their daughters to make up for their childhood deficits and look to their daughters as emotional partners.

 

Depending on your mother’s wound, she will look to her daughter for similar but slightly different reasons.

 

To break it down-

 

  1. Narcissistic mothers need to be superior, relevant, and in control.

  2. Borderline Moms are unpredictable, clingy, and needy. They are obsessed with warding off fears of abandonment.

Your normal, healthy need to grow up and away triggers your mother’s childhood wound.

 

Either way, when Mom can’t let you go, she puts her needs ahead of your need to grow up, leave home, and make a healthy separation.

 

When she looks for you to take care of her- this is called parentification, and it traps you into a role that is not good for you.

 

when mom won't let go

When Mom won’t let go

If a mother is troubled and clingy and her daughter is empathetic, she will frequently take on the role of good daughter…

 

she is trapped in an unhealthy position… taking on making Mom’s needs instead of becoming her person.

 

The cost can have far-reaching consequences.

 

How can this affect her daughter’s ability to connect with a life partner?

 

Let’s start with what a healthy mother/daughter dynamic looks like.

 

When a daughter leaves home and makes a healthy separation from Mom and dad, ideally, she transfers her primary emotional connection from her parents to her partner. No doubt, leaving and being left is hard for mother and daughter. It involves loss and change for both.

 

Mothers need to let go, and daughters need to grow up and leave. Each has her separate emotional task.

 

But, leaving and being left is a necessary developmental task for the adult daughter and the Mom. Letting her go is the greatest gift you will give your daughter, and it will break your heart.

 

I should know. While my mother couldn’t let me go smoothly or easily, I was determined to do better by my girls.

 

Yet, letting them go was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

 

Yet, as psychologist Pat Love states, adults need to have their emotional needs met by other adults. – period.

 

If this doesn’t happen, life can’t move on as it should.

 

An adult daughter will not be free to invest in her relationship with an adult partner fully. In other words, in health, the daughter needs to choose her partner over her mother.

 

This may sound harsh, but this is a healthy trajectory.

 

 Both Mom and Daughter have their particular challenges. 

 

  • Mom’s job is to let go and accept her daughter’s leaving the familial nest.

 

  • A daughter’s job is to enter into an equal relationship with a peer and leave behind her role as a child.

 

This is the way of healthy development. Each task has its responsibilities. Leaving home and making a home of your own is the healthy trajectory, one paved with both loss and gratification. Letting go is the path toward growth. 

 

 

when mom won't let go

When Mom won’t let go

However, things are upside down when mothers make their adult daughters feel responsible for their emotional well-being.

 

Only dysfunction and misery follow.

 

Daughters resent having to care for Mom emotionally. Underneath it all, they know something isn’t right. Asking your daughter to take care of you emotionally, to be the person they look to for closeness and connection as adults… places an unnecessary burden on your daughter.

 

This emotional burden traps daughters in the good daughter role and is part of the good daughter syndrome.

 

Here is how this happens –

 

 

A postscript-

 

If you find yourself caught in the grip of this unhealthy dynamic, don’t despair. There is a way out. A way that is kind and fair, and sane. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. I’ve led daughters like you through the valley of struggle to the other side.

 

Find out if you suffer from The Good Daughter Syndrome. It’s FREE! Audio version below

 

Yes, a mother who appropriates her daughter is treating her as an extension of herself. In doing so she fails to acknowledge and respect that daughter as exists separately-  not to serve the narcissistic mother’s needs.

It sends the message of no-confidence to their daughters. When Moms continue to give their daughters unwanted advice and interfere in their lives well into adulthood, they are telling their daughters that they can’t handle the responsibilities of adulthood.

Narcissistic mothers look to their daughters for narcissistic supply- relevance, superiority, or to have power over them. In contrast, borderline mothers are more likely to cling to their daughters to ward off their fear of abandonment.

It is a mother’s job to release her daughter into her own life as she becomes an adult. Mothers who don’t let go are interfering with the healthy trajectory of entering adulthood.

Let me know in the comments if your Mom has let go.

Sources

Golomb, Elan Ph.D. (1992). Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists and Their Struggle for Self. New York, N.Y.: William

Morrow.Lawson, Christine Ann. (2004). Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. New York: Rowman& Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Lerner, Harriet. (1985). The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships. New York, N.Y: HarperCollins.

McBride, Karla. (2008). Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. New York, N.Y.: Free Press.

Miller, Alice. (1997). The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. revised edition New York, N.Y: Basic Books

Raise Awareness TWEET IT OUT –

When mothers look to their daughters to be their primary emotional partner, this interferes with the daughter's emotional growth. Click To Tweet It is mom's job to, let go and accept her daughter's leaving. Click To Tweet Mom must let go to set the stage for a no strings attached adult relationship with her daughter later in life. Click To Tweet No doubt, leaving and being left is hard for mother and daughter. It involves loss and change for both. Click To Tweet When a mother looks to her daughter to be her primary emotional partner, this is called parentification. This holds daughters back from fully living their own adult lives. Click To Tweet Leaving and being left is a necessary developmental task for both the adult daughter and the mom. Hard, but necessary. Click To Tweet

Do you relate?
If so, here are some ways I can support you on your journey from Good Daughter to Empowered Woman:

Discover – if you have the Good Daughter Syndrome Take the Quiz (It’s Free)
Read – The Good Daughter Syndrome  (Now available for Preorder here.) Introduction and first chapter Go here!
Watch – Practical Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic, Borderline, or Difficult Mother That Work – Video Course
Consult with Katherine – Private Coaching

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Comments

42 Comments

  1. KIMBERLY WILSON

    I am 47 year old female who has been married twice has 2 grown son’s, and I’m still living at home with mom and dad. Everytime I would want to grow and leave the nest, mom would guilt or manipulate me into staying. I am an only child. Now both my parents are in their late 70s and not in great health. I have now become their primary caregiver as well. I now suffer from depression and anxiety.. I feel trapped and want my own life. I can’t just leave them behind but not sure what to do.. they can’t live on their own. Not sure what to do anymore.

    Reply
    • Dee

      Kimberly, I totally understand you! I have never been married and I have no kids. I have left home twice, but always ended up returning home. This time, my mother cannot financially live on her own. So, I have to take care of her. But, at the same time, I need my independence and ability to start my own family. I wish that I had the answer for you. But, if you are not financially tied to them, then you could possibly get them a home health aide or caregiver, and then move out on your own. I’m trying my best to not get to the point where my life has passed me by.

      Reply
      • Ann

        Wow! I never knew others like me existed! I know what you both are feeling too! And I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through 🙁 I will be praying for both of you:-)
        I have moved out twice and ended back at home. Been single my whole life, not by choice! My family has had so many health issues which makes it really
        complicated, and I came down with health issues for many years after their diagnoses, (I think from all the stress!) But I’m doing so much better now and want to take that leap of faith and move to a place I feel led to move (a place far away!)…I know this time I need a better support system (been way too close to my family for years!) yet, both parents are so filled with fear! They are both used to being saviors for many years for all of my siblings and me and are only thinking about how they’d have to save me at some point. It’s never about, “Wow! I’m so glad you want to be empowered!”,
        Or “let’s talk about how we can make this a reality…”
        For some reason I also feel like I need their approval because when I did stuff on my own and they didn’t approve out (later to find out), it made my life a living hell. There’s such a weird feel of attachment I’ve felt to them all my life that I want to get rid of!! It had produced so much panic, anxiety, depression, etc.
        It’s ironic because they want to “protect” me but they fail to realize they are hurting me if I stay with them!

        Maybe this site can help!

        Reply
      • Ann

        Wow! I never knew others like me existed! Kim & Dee—I know what you both are feeling too! And I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through 🙁 I will be praying for both of you:-)
        I have moved out twice and ended back at home. Been single my whole life, not by choice! My family has had so many health issues which makes it really
        complicated, and I came down with health issues for many years after their diagnoses, (I think from all the stress!) But I’m doing so much better now and want to take that leap of faith and move to a place I feel led to move (a place far away!)…I know this time I need a better support system (been way too close to my family for years!) yet, both parents are so filled with fear! They are both used to being saviors for many years for all of my siblings and me and are only thinking about how they’d have to save me at some point. It’s never about, “Wow! I’m so glad you want to be empowered!”,
        Or “let’s talk about how we can make this a reality…”
        For some reason I also feel like I need their approval because when I did stuff on my own and they didn’t approve out (later to find out), it made my life a living hell. There’s such a weird feel of attachment I’ve felt to them all my life that I want to get rid of!! It had produced so much panic, anxiety, depression, etc.
        It’s ironic because they want to “protect” me but they fail to realize that they are the cause of the pain I’ve been experiencing almost all my life.
        I’m hopeful about finding this site,
        Looks like a lot of good info that can be very helpful! Thank-you so much Katherine, can’t wait to download the guide!

        Reply
    • Kate

      Hi Katherine,
      I stumbled upon your blog by chance. All these comments seemed very real and unfortunately made me think I am not so screwed up as I thought I would.

      My background is not from western culture. I came to North America since I was 17 years old and now I am 40 years old with my own children. My mother came to live with me when I was around 22 years old. She is been living with me since. While I work to support my family, She helped me to look after my children and I now feel very guilty to think that she should leave me alone.

      Ever since I was child my mother always told me I should look after her and my siblings and I thought I was doing that till last year when we had our big fall out.

      During our fight she said to me that I have not finished to pay-off all my debt to her and I used her for all these years by making her to look after my children and blamed me for loosing out on her young years.

      She then went on to live with my brother for a year and came back to live with me again. She has heart problem now and telling my friends she is going to die soon.

      Now I can’t make myself to be nice to her anymore. Anything she says make me sick but I can’t ask her to leave because she has no where to go and she might die of broken heart or heart attack for worse.

      I feel terrible for all these thought and I also feel very sick all the time. I don’t feel like staying in my own home. I can also feel she feels the same and since we both have no where to go we are just staying like strangers in our home avoiding each other.

      We have no relatives to go or financially able to go anywhere in our town.

      Reply
      • Katherine Fabrizio

        Hi Kate,
        Thank you for writing in. And no you aren’t screwed up or alone.

        I have heard from plenty of first-generation daughters, (I am assuming since you said you weren’t Western) who are caught in this cultural trap with mothers who expect their daughters to take care of them and daughters yearning to live their own lives.

        Since I don’t know you or your mother first hand of course I can’t be sure… but it seems likely that she may be suffering from a personality disorder or traits thereof as well.

        Maybe you can clue me in, but why would you be expected to look after your sibling as well? That one throws me.

        Anyway, it seems you and your mother have really different expectations- so much so that she feels betrayed and you feel sick with no relief. Perhaps you could talk about your individual expectations. What she expected and why and how you would like to see things go.

        Giving voice to these feelings and expectations could go a long way in relieving your physical symptoms. Even if you don;t agree getting it out into words can still help.
        Take care and best of luck,
        Katherine
        P.S. Maybe going back to live with your brother might be a good compromise.

        Reply
    • DD

      I’ve been wanting to leave home since I was 18. I just turned 24 and I still live at home. I’m embarrassed and ashamed just saying that. I’m working on getting an apartment this coming January and THIS time, I’m not going to be manipulated into staying home. I’ve missed out on too much.

      Reply
      • Katherine Fabrizio

        Hi DD,
        Thank you for sharing your story with us. But please please don’t beat yourself up for staying as long as you have.
        Although I don’t know the particulars of your story- clients who have similar stories to yours are so brave in my book.

        They have had to go against every internalized message that tells them they can’t make it outside of their mother’s reach. It takes tremendous courage to leave their homes and branch out on their own.

        If applicable to your situation, I hope what you find here on this website will inform you and support your efforts to establish an adult life.
        Let us know how it goes.
        Best,
        Katherine

        Reply
  2. Danny Dunderman

    I am remarried and my wife whom I absolutely adore has her 23 year old daughter spend the weekends here like my 15 year old daughter. When she isn’t here they constantly text each other. We may be at the movies, watching t.v., making dinner, even making love. When she is here they go into her daughter’s room close the door, lay in bed and watch shows. They eat dinner in the room as well. Then when my wife comes to bed after spending a few hours watching their shows, they TEXT three or four times as well. I can’t do anything with my wife when she’s here. When she is here I am in second place. I love my wife like I’ve never have anyone. Her daughter barely speaks to me in my own house. I know she resents me I’m her mom’s life, so much so she plays on her mother’s feelings to take as much of her tome as she can. In my wifes eyes her daughter never does anything wrong. She is an adult, we went to therapy and a psychiatrist mirrored my thoughts about the whole thing, I paid for a therapist who also paralled my feelings on the whole thing. She still disagrees with all of us. I am so torn. I am 64 and have aome health issues and I am afraid my time will pass too quickly and we won’t have the opportunity to really enjoy the time we do have.
    There is so much more……
    Danny

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Danny- thank you for writing. It does sound so hard… and to be left out. It sounds like family therapy might be a good option.
      Best of luck,
      Katherine

      Reply
  3. Scott

    I have a mother that prisons my 23 year old sister. My sister already struggles with having no confidence in herself, her chooses in life, and her ability to grow. This allows my mother to keep my sister all to herself and will never allow her to grow and take care of herself. Till this day my mother still goes to doctor appointments with my sister, will not allow my sister to drive anywhere, but to work, which is only 5 miles from the house, she will not allow my sister to get a full time job to better herself because she tells her that “you dont have the skill or mindset to do so”. My sister believes what my mother says about her so she doesnt push or persue. See my step dad, my sisters real father and my mothers husband committed suicide 6 years ago. Ever since then my mother doesn’t want to be alone so she holds on to my sister and keeps her for her company, but in the long run she is hurting my sister. My sister needs to get a full time job, learn how the real world is, and take care of herself.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Dear Scott- It does sound like your sister is indeed held hostage and infantilized. It’s a real thing and you see it up close. I hope you can be a resource to your sister if she reaches out. You are in a tricky position because unless she sees it as a problem she will have no motivation to change anything and change will be very hard. The losses from suicide don’t just end when with the suicide. Perhaps some family counseling could help. I wish you and your family the best.

      Reply
  4. sharon whitfield

    Hi I am in tears after reading this article. I was both the parentificated child(if that is a word) and the toxic mother to my own daughter.
    My parents’ relationship was very volatile and my mother confided in me from a young age. I was an only child. Unfortunately when I was 17 she died from cancer. My father then emotionally blackmailed me in all sorts of toxic ways until he too died when I was 27.
    I missed my mum so much and resented the fact I was left with my father who I hated for how he had treated my mum but still felt I had to be the ‘good girl’ and look after him rather than make my own life. I was fortunate to leave home to go to university but still went on holiday with him rather than friends. I’m sure he would have come on my honeymoon if we had asked him!
    As a result- you guessed- I married the first man who asked me. I gave birth to my daughter 10 months later. I loved her so much and still do but realise now I wanted to recreate the relationship I had with my own mum before it was cruelly taken away from me too soon.
    As my relationship with her father broke down ( 7 years and 2 sons later) I confided in her about my failing relationship with her father as I really didn’t have any real friends at that time. We lived in a very gossipy village and didn’t feel I could trust anyone and had no family to support me. I even continued confiding in her with my second relationship for the same reasons.
    I now realise albeit 30 years later I put the same emotional pressure on her as I had put on me. I now realise why she couldn’t wait to leave home at 18 for a year abroad before university.
    She has tried several times I now realise to try and explain all this but she has always found it hard to express herself – I now appreciate why. At one stage I even said she had never been the daughter I wanted: I regret this so very much. That was 10 years ago. Again I now realise what I meant was she was not the daughter I was to my parents. I am so pleased she fought being that in her own way. I am now so terribly sad that I ruined her life like my parents ruined mine. Even though I understand the reasons why my parents burdened me with things they shouldn’t have and I forgive them ( well I forgive my mum but still feel resentful of my father for how violent he was to my mum) but I’m not sure my daughter will ever forgive me.
    We still have a relationship and I am so very proud of her. She is happily married and expecting her third daughter in a couple of months.
    She is however I feel very hard on me. Does not even buy me birthday or Christmas gifts and shows me no affection. She always focusses on the one wrong thing I may do/say rather than all the good things I do. I love her so much but her attitude hurts. I suppose this is what she wants as she must resent me for how I used her as my emotional crook at times in my life when I had no one.
    I suppose she keeps me at a distance in case I start doing this again – I haven’t off loaded to her for 10 years as I now have time to develop some very good friends and invest in my relationship with my 2nd husband.
    I realise what I did was wrong: I was repeating my parents’ treatment of me totally not realising that it was not normal behaviour.
    How can I explain all this to her and apologise? I so would like to have a mutually loving, respectful relationship with her but maybe the thought of this fills her with dread and it’s probably too late. Maybe she only feels able to cope with me in her life at arm’s length. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Sharon,
      First I want to commend you for your courage and insight. This is exactly how the cycle is broken, one person realizing how they were repeating a cycle, stopping the cycle, and making amends. It takes both courage and humility. I think you have a great start with your daughter by simply sharing what you’ve said here to me.
      Also don’t expect her to turn around in one conversation. it will take some time to heal the wounds and time for her to trust that she can share her vulnerability with you. The way you demonstrate that is to ask her how she felt when you did the things you regret to her. If you can listen without becoming defensive or with countering with how much worse you had it (even though it may be true) this will be a gift to her. You have a great opportunity here.
      Thank you so much for reaching out and writing.
      Best of luck to you and your daughter,
      Katherine

      Reply
      • sharon whitfield

        Hi Katherine
        Thank you very much for your kind reply.
        However I am very concerned that by raising all these issues I may be reinforcing my daughter’s feelings about me: that even now I am trying to dump all these emotions on her when she now has a busy life; teaching, bringing up 2 young children whilst pregnant and looking after her husband. As I mentioned, my daughter struggles to express herself verbally and as a result reacts very negatively.
        Could this not make matters even worse?
        I have realised from reading your article how I have given her the same experiences i had in my childhood and this is why she is so harsh with me. The difference bring i am still alive for her to show her resentment and anger. Is this just a punishment I have to bear to maintain at least some sort of relationship with her and my granddaughters? In other words, could I be opening a can of worms?
        Sharon

        Reply
        • Katherine Fabrizio

          Hi Sharon,
          I think you have touched on a good point and a risk anyone facing when bringing up a touchy subject. Most of the time people don’t bring something up because they feel they could rock the boat or unsettle things/ open a can of worms. And you are right, it could open a can of worms. You can’t be sure how she is going to react. That’s where the courage and vulnerability come in.

          Also without knowing more, I can’t be informed enough to give direct advice and wouldn’t want to encourage you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing.

          And… possibly it might be enough for you to realize where your daughter is coming from. You could approach her and say that you want a better relationship with her and ask what from her perspective could you do differently? Or ask if there is anything she’s like to understand about her childhood that you might be able to fill in some blanks. That way she would lead in opening things up. I realize all of these suggestions involve you dropping your armor in hopes she will eventually respond with kindness rather than punish you. Only you can decide if you are ready to do that.

          I will tell you, most daughters I see in therapy long, for one thing, more than any other… and that’s an apology and validation for the hurt they feel from their mother. The main thing that gets in the way is when Mom continues to defend herself and her daughter eventually gives up. All the worms are indeed back in the can but a chilly truce is formed and none of the worms get dealt with.
          Best wishes,
          Katherine

          Reply
  5. Susan

    I can’t say too much but I’ve broken the bond, in a round about way it was her choice to go into a care home, but I’m now being blamed for this, I’m not believed for anything negative that has happened in my life. She has tried twice now to “commit suicide”although it feels very planned and attention seeking, unlikely to cause death, she has discredited me to everyone she can. My daughters are also targets although they tell me to talk to her but I just can’t, I can not do it anymore, all I’ve asked for is time, time to work through my feelings, just give me that grace, but sadly I’m not allowed to have this. I have no choice honestly but to walk and ignore as I know emotionally and physically I am incapable of dealing with it all.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Susan,
      Sometimes you just have to walk away.

      No one can give you permission to do this, nor can they. You are the ultimate authority over you.

      Sometimes you figure out no one is coming around to save you and you have to save yourself. You realize no one is going to fully realize all the hurt and sacrifice you have endured and give you a pass.

      What if you stop asking others for time and space and simply take it for yourself?

      And once you step into that kind of empowerment… keep going.
      If this applies to you… your breakdown might possibly be a breakthrough.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
      • Louisa

        Wow! This article is blaming mothers .What about the adult daughter not cleaning her room and she won’t do it when I ask her?.When something goes wrong in her life ,she will blame me at times .She hasn’t put her tax return in and I told her twice that she will be in trouble with the tax department .Then I realised that it is her problem and not mine . She will learn and suffer the consequences and I can not be over protective .If she goes out I would ask what time she will be home .I will ask her that question only if she is going out at night .If she is not home on time ,I will wait for an hour or two before contacting her.My Mum was very protective when I was growing up and it was hard for me lbut is mentally ill.When my daughter wants me to give her my opinion on something ,I will do so .She then will tell me that my opinion didn’t help her but she repeats it about 4 to 5 times .It is hard on us parents because so many bad things can happen in this world and we worry about our adult children .I hope you can understand.p

        Reply
        • Katherine Fabrizio

          Dear Louisa,
          As a mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother of 3, I do understand how much a mother can want to protect her daughter/daughters from harm. Plus, the culture certainly tells mothers that they are responsible for the way their children turn out, which can make you feel even more responsible. It is enough to make your head explode!

          Of course, I don’t know your particular situation, but for me, it is tempting to let your worry drive you to weigh in on areas that really should be left up to them.

          What I have found for both myself and my clients is this: when you try and direct an adult’s life, they end up resenting you and are less likely to take responsibility for their own lives. They may end up arguing with you instead of using that energy to learn their way in the world.

          When you direct an adult’s life, you feel helpful when in reality, you are only interfering with their growing up. The more you step in, the more you have to step in, and the more the resentment grows… It is an endless cycle.

          If you treat an adult as if they are a child, they will unconsciously match your expectations and act like a child. It is a no-win situation.

          These are my thoughts- only use what applies to your situation.

          Take care,
          Katherine

          Reply
  6. Fadhila

    I never wanna get married i just wanna live alone and have no family myself so theres no-one being mean and annoying and no rules and boundaries and im not the same to people who cares about being lonely my parents want me to stay at home for university to save on living costs im nearly 22 im sick of them still getting involved with my business and bossing me around jc they brought me up (asian n muslim parents are especially the worst no matter how old i get or where i live and/or at least until marriage especially as again i never want to i dont help im stuck under their roof n will always be their child and thats especially towards girls) as well getting told off and nagged at especially for things i do by accident or doesnt directly affect people or not my fault and just how i like to have things and getting picked on as the eldest having to have the most responsibility and set an example like im perfect and got to follow the same rules as my lil bro n sis (my bro is nearly 19 and he still gets treated that way too in fact they were more encouraging of him to go uni in another city cuz now there religious law in terms of being charged interest with living loans and cuz i recently got thrown out of my university so will incur more tuition costs transferring to a new one next year). they so dont respect my boundaries at all

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Thanks for writing Fadhila,
      I hear your frustration and pain. I could have written something similar in my youth although my I didn’t have the same cultural/religious pressure. I just wanted to be left alone to live my life.
      I imagine there is an enormous amount of pressure when individually and culturally you are breaking a cycle that has been in place for perhaps generations. Yet cycles have been broken and continue to be broken. That is how change happens.

      I hope you have a base of support as you go about sorting through all this. Perhaps that is a good place to put your energy until you are in a position to move out. You will have a soft place to land and a supportive community when the going gets rough.
      I wish you strength and the very best,
      Katherine

      Reply
  7. Kathryn louise Smith

    I’m 42 and I live on my own and in a relationship with someone but my mum is being manipulate and controlling my life and I wish she would let go of me so I can have a life of my own she expects me to look after my brothers if anything happens to her and I think she is being unfair to me at some point I’m hoping to live with boyfriend but I don’t want my mum stop me from living my life with him

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Kathryn,
      I certainly hear your frustration. 42 sounds old enough to me to decide who you want to live with and how you want to conduct your own life. I hope you will spend some time on this site- there is a lot of free information here that I think would benefit you.
      Take care and best of luck,
      Katherine

      Reply
  8. Jeremy Anderson Thompson

    My Mom keeps talking to me and I would like her to not be talking to me anymore right now and to stay out of my room. To stop with this ridiculous bug and parasite nonsense right now. There is no bugs and there is no parasites. Her Mental illness is making her believe there is.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Jeremy,
      That sounds both annoying and scary. Mental illness is real and can be very frightening for children whom they rely on their parents (to a greater or lesser extent to interpret reality) who have lost touch with reality themselves.

      I hope there is some relative or some responsible adult in your life ( who you can turn to ) that can help your mother. She might be helped with medication and benefit from seeing a psychiatrist.

      Best of luck,
      Katherine

      Reply
  9. Donald Griffis

    I have a 25 year old daughter I’ve never met. When she was conceived, her grandparents told me to go away and they’d take care of her. Being a teenager going through trauma, it was the best idea. They moved away and I’ve been looking for a way to get in touch. I found her GoFundMe stating she is an abuse survivor trying to get out from her family’s overreaching control. The language she used matches some of this article. Her family will not allow me to contact her. The police and social services also refuse to check on her.

    Reply
  10. Mya

    My mother would not let me go. When my father demanded that I go, I rented a house that my felon brother-in-law wanted. He told me to move out so they could move in. It was not that simple–I had a lease. So he started to break in to scare me. It worked. I was terrified. My mother did not weigh in. She did nothing to warn my sister; she just let the mayhem go on. She called constantly, but she never supplied any support for me. She was not concerned that her other daughter and her felon husband were breaking into my house. It was all about her anxious need for attention.; never mind the trauma I was going through–the trauma of being alone, female, and being traumatized by her son-in-law. It was a horrible time in my life, and I got no support from her–she could have done something about it, but she didn’t.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      I’m so sorry Mya- I hope you can find other people in your life to support you.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
      • Betty

        This is the situation I am dealing with now. I am a 24 year old who has been in a 6 year relationship. In the beginning of that relationship we use to spend every minute together which was always an issue between my mother and I she alway use to guilt me by saying I never spend time with her even though we still lived together. A year later my grandmother passed away which means that my mom lost her mom which automatically gave her reason to be my priority always and for 5 years I started spending less time with my boyfriend and more time with my mom this is equal to spending one day a week with him and the rest with her and whenever I want to spend more time with him I get guilted by my mom to such an extent that I stopped suggesting to spend more time with him which obviously started causing so much problems between him and I. Finally after 5 years of doing this we are in the best place we have ever been and this means that I want to take my power back as a daughter and stop prioritizing my mom. But now the guilting is starting again. She uses the fact that she’s a single mom and alone and the no 1 poking point and how my boyfriend has his whole family and she only has me and as a daughter that is so much guilt and responsibility to take that 9 don’t always know that if now always choosing her is the right thing

        Reply
        • Katherine Fabrizio

          Thanks for writing in Betty,
          You are describing one of the most common Good daughter scenarios I hear about. There are predictable patterns that good daughters encounter and they really don’t know where to turn- pursue their relationship or keep mom happy.

          If I am understanding, on the one hand you are very much wanting to go forward with your boyfriend of 6 years and make a life for the two of you. On the other hand, your mother is very threatened by your connection with him and is guilt-tripping you about it.

          It causes you so much distress that you will actually are willing to put your relationship on hold.

          You state, ” I want to take my power back as a daughter and stop prioritizing my mom.”

          In my opinion, and based on what I have seen in my practice- you will need to choose, not between your mom and your boyfriend but between your interests and your mother’s interests.

          The whole thing begs the larger question you need to ask yourself- “do I accept the responsiblity for my mother’s emotions?”

          The problem with good daughters of difficult mothers is that they are programmed from an early age to prioritize their mother’s feelings about their own. The dysfunction becomes baked into their psychology.

          Developmentally Mom’s job is to ready you for a life without her. That includes supporting you as you take your place with a partner and form your own family. You can’t do that without leaving home-both emotionally and literally.

          Of course, I can’t know if this applies to your individual situation… but it sure sounds like it.

          If so, it will come down to… accepting some feelings of guilt now or living a lifetime of resentment.

          I’m writing a book about this very topic that will be out next October. Check back with this site as I release 2 chapters of the book in advance.
          It’s free and might be of help.
          Take care,
          Katherine

          Reply
  11. Carol

    Wow! This is my mom to a T! As a young adult, I held fantasies and daydreams about simply disappearing one day. I wondered what it would be like to travel out-of-state and never be heard from again. I was ready to do that to mom, but NOT my dad or extended family, so I stayed. She tried guilt, manipulation, making her happiness MY responsibility, AND she also went to unreasonable freak-out tantrums when unhappy. It drove my dad away after 30 years of marriage—then she was the “victim”. She over involved herself in my relationships until it eventually learned to stop supplying her with ammunition. Along with my own maturity came the ability to allow her to be how she is, without it affecting my life. Slowly, I was able to maintain distance, yet still visit her on holidays.

    I DID get a few short years of a life, when disease hit. Mom has Alzheimer’s and no nearby friends or family or spouse. I have no siblings and when it became apparent that mom could no longer live alone, hubby and I moved in with her. In her dementia-logic, she tries to continue her ridiculous thought processes (ie: the belief that she has to think FOR me, when it’s already been thought of) and while it’s good that she’s appreciative of my helping her, I am absolutely filled with rage and disgust upon hearing “I love my baby” “I love my baby” “I love my baby” “ I love my baby” every 20 seconds! It feels glommy and clingy. It implies infantilization and ownership and I’m left feeling frustrated. It won’t make any difference if I explain it now—she can no longer learn or understand. She has always only done what SHE wants to do regardless of how I made my feelings known (“I” statements, etc) She can’t help it, her brain is broken and clogged and will only get worse. I/we don’t have the funds to pay for a caregiver or a “home”, or I 100% would have already done do. Every day, I wish that it’s time for her to “go” but the disease is slow and progressive. I comfort myself knowing that I have chosen to do the charitable thing. Even people who had wonderful mothers want their life back, and thus disease holds them hostage, but I already held resentment and mistrust. I have to dig deep to forgive her for how she WAS my whole life as well as how she IS in her current needy state. ‍♀️

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Carole-
      Oh my goodness- how articulately you have expressed your pain and your plight here.
      I’m sure your words will resonate with others here. Dementia is such an all-consuming and cruel disease for the caregiver! And to think that you escaped once only to have circumstances pull you back in. Ugh!

      I wish I could offer some words of comfort. I only have words of appreciation and a deeply held compassion for your situation.
      I do wish you freedom sooner rather than later.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
  12. Mara Lawrence

    This is something I can relate too. My mother raised me and my five siblings alone, so growing up she was always working whilst I took care of my siblings. Even though she wasn’t around much, she was still very invested in all of our lives. Everything from our grades, or our majors in college, even to our closest friends was managed and chosen by my mom. And it was my job to make sure everyone followed what she said. I honestly hated being the second mother, I felt like all of my siblings hated me. Sometimes (being the eldest daughter) I would speak up or give my opinions on what we should do next, but that was immediately shut down by my mother. Once when I told her that I wanted to be a veterinarian, she immediately gave me the “You don’t understand life, you have to follow the rules I make for you” and the “I am your mother you listen to me” lecture, mind you, I was 16 at that time, working part time to help pay rent, working night shifts on the weekends, whilst running the household. I eventually became a senior in highschool and started picking out colleges, by that time, my mom decided I would major in nursing, while I wanted to do economics. Soon replies from colleges admissions came in, and we sat down together on a Saturday to decide where I would be going. Out of the 7 schools, I wanted she chose the one that I was forced to pick because it was 35 minutes away from home, but this time I refused. I had never seen her so angry, she started yelling at me, saying that I couldn’t move far away because I “didn’t understand life.” But I had made up my mind, I was going to new york. After multiple fights, I decided I was going to leave the house, moved in with a boyfriend that she didn’t know I had, but I still sent in the money I made in the mail so that she could pay rent. I left that summer, as soon as my mom found out, she started calling me 5 or more times a day and I would feel bad and answer, but after a while it got tiring. I went weeks without answering her phone calls because it was the same thing each time, she was crying and telling me that I was to young and precious to live by myself. Fast forward, I graduated, got a good job, started my own business and bought a house in the same city she lived in. I was hoping that now since I live with my fiance, she would stop calling but it has gotten worse, somedays she stops by without notice to come check on me. I know she sacrificed most of her life to raise us, but I so badly want to cut her off.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Mara,
      Thank you for writing and sharing your story. It seems like you have bravely ventured out on your own several times in your life despite your mother’s attempts to hold you back. I can see how her latest attempts to cling to you are driving you away even further. It is interesting that all her attempts at holding you back were couched as “because you don’t understand life,” as if she was saving you from yourself when it was really her needs she was attending to, not yours.
      I wish you the best,
      Katherine

      Reply
  13. Me

    What I’d like to know is what happens when it’s the adult daughters who do not want to leave? I’ve got involved with a friend, who is also not Western, and her daughters are now just about to turn 30! They plan ever weekend, holiday and evening free from work or homework – to spend with their mother! They don’t have friends or social life, and they accused me of ‘stealing their mother’ when we became too close, in their opinion. In reality, we were just two older women enjoying each other’s company.
    How do you deal with the situation like this?

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Wow, this is a new one for me. And I can see how this situation leaves you out in the cold and not knowing how to respond.

      Personally. I think there it is really important to venture out on your own ( as a young adult) to find yourself- even if your relationship with your mother is a good one. But you and I can have all the thoughts we want, but if it seems to work for the parties involved, well… I guess that’s their choice. Which leads me to the main question- how is your friend, their mother, with all of this?

      Reply
  14. Rose

    I’m really struggling with this. I’ve always been extremely close with my mom. I got married just about 4 years ago and it affected her so much. I realized how codependent we were and that from the time I was becoming a teenager I was parentified. Around that age my older sister moved out and my sister kinda went wild and had some really awful stuff happen to her. I got put into a position where I had to emotionally take care of my mom because the stuff with my sister kinda destroyed my mom. I was homeschooled for high school so I spent basically every moment with her. I loved it and thought it was a great relationship but looking back I realized that it really stunted me. Now I’m in a hard position I just want to start a family unit with my husband but my mom feels like I’m abandoning her and especially since my dad has early onset Alzheimer’s and was recently put into a home. She just wants so much from me and I feel terrible for not wanting to give it to her. I try to see her once every week or every other week but it’s not enough she’s always complaining that I don’t spend more time or spend the night with her. She says we used to be so close and she doesn’t understand why I don’t want to be with her as much now. Especially since it’s “the worst part of her life”. I don’t know how to handle it. I don’t want to hurt her but I feel like I’m drowning.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Rose,
      I certainly feel for everyone in this situation. Sometimes life’s twists and turns are unpredictable and cruel.

      It might be helpful to sort through what is sad and inevitable and… what you can do something about.

      Your dad’s failing health and the pain of letting go of an adult child into her own life- I would say, are inevitable. I hear you empathize with her (and I’m sure his) pain.

      However, for you to chart a path of your own, you will need to change the trajectory. You can’t shoulder the weight of your parent’s pain. That’s not your job.

      You can help out and care about them but you can’t take it on. I would imagine that’s where the drowning feeling comes from.

      Unfortunately, if your situation is like with the other women I counsel, you can’t make this change without rocking the boat.

      You will need to get very clear with yourself about your need to attend to the family you are creating.

      It sounds like you have been in the upside-down world of parentification for quite some time.

      However, as you know, just because it is familiar doesn’t make it right.
      Sorting all of this through with a therapist might be very helpful -as it will take a lot of strength and clarity to make this change and follow through on it.
      But your emotional life may depend on it, and I hear you are ready.

      Best of luck,
      Katherine

      Reply
  15. Me

    She always takes their side, sadly, which really hurts!

    Reply
  16. Kylie

    I found myself relating to almost this entire article. She has really been getting into my head and makes me feel like I am crazy. She has given me fear to do what I want because she will have a problem with it. She makes me feel like everything I want to do with my boyfriend is crazy or ridiculous, or that he is mind controlling me. She invalidates almost everything I say in argument and with what I said about her, by turning it back around on me and telling me that I’m at fault here for even feeling that about her. I know she’s stopping me from moving in with my boyfriend because of how she feels about him, and for the simple fact that she does not want me to leave. All at the same time, she tries convincing me that this is what “normal” parents do.

    I am 23, I have been in a semi-long distance relationship for almost 3 years now and right from the beginning she always had her issues she would voice on it. From not liking me going and staying with him so often, to plans we made and so on. Since then the issues have only gotten worse and anytime it is mentioned we fight about it. She always tells me she doesn’t think its right for me to stay with him so much, which keep in mind the only time I can see him is the weekends. I have never pushed off a responsibility, work, or anything so I can stay with him, I always keep up on my responsibilities. She says that its basically disrespecting her. Lately she has been telling me that he has narcissistic traits and that I’m not seeing it because I am in love. My mother was married to a narcissist who happens to be my father. Their divorce was final few years ago and he had moved out. I don’t feel I am being manipulated or brainwashed by my boyfriend, and just because she is telling me so doesn’t mean I need to go ahead and break up with him. Mind you my sister has a long term boyfriend who my mother doesn’t have these problems with, mainly for the fact that they don’t do any of the things we do or stay together.

    For a long time I have been telling her that I don’t feel I need to be so controlled at my age anymore. I want my relationship with my boyfriend to grow and I want to become a more responsible person. He tells me its not normal for her to want to control me so much and tell me I cant stay away from home on the weekends or make comments about trips we planned, etc.
    Recently we had our largest fight yet and as I told her I wanted to start chipping in for my expenses that she normally covers for me, and that I don’t need to be so restricted at my age anymore, she told me I was trying to manipulate her and that if I don’t like it then move out because I owe her that respect. During the argument I had told her that her constant complaining and negativity rubs off on me and has been making me miserable, and that she displayed narcissistic tendencies. She accuses me of basically not caring about her, and that I am showing narcissistic tendencies. She then tallied up all the expenses she has paid for me since my emancipation in 8 months ago. She is now telling me that she can sue me for all of that and she would win, despite us not having any agreement at the time of my emancipation about expenses. On top of that threat, she is also threatening to remove me from her will.

    I don’t feel that any of this is normal despite her trying to convince me of it. I feel she is trapping me at all costs. I think I need therapy.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Wow- what a hard dilemma you are in.
      While I can’t know everything that is going on- it seems like you can use some space to catch your breath and evaluate where you have been and where you need to go.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply

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