Why does my Narcissistic mother lie to me?
While I can’t be sure, I have a pretty good idea. So let’s start with some observations.
Sooner or later, everyone tells a lie.
In fact, over a lifetime, we all tell many lies. The Narcissist, however, is a liar. It isn’t just what they do; it is who they are.
In my work with daughters of narcissistic mothers, daughters frequently can’t wrap their heads around why their mothers would lie. Needless to say, it hurts and confuses them.
What’s the difference between a person who tells a lie and a liar?
When confronted with the opportunity, to tell the truth or lie, most of us check in with our inner selves to see if our answer feels right. This gut check is a calculation that happens automatically, mainly at the unconscious level.
This is true even for liars… and if mom is Narcissistic, this is true for her.
Thus, we all act in accordance with our sense of… who we know ourselves to be.
The three-year-old, mouth rimmed with chocolate, who declares with impunity she was NOT the one who ate the half-eaten candy bar, is given a pass because we all know intuitively she doesn’t have a fully formed sense of self.
But Narcissism is a disorder of the self. It isn’t so much an undeveloped sense of self as an impaired/fragmented sense of self—a self-based on opportunism instead of values.
Life is a game, and they play to win.
What happens when otherwise reasonable people tell a lie?
As mentioned, somewhere, somehow, most people will lie. Given enough reason, fear, or perceived gain, most of us will violate our sense of integrity and our internalized values.
We calculate that an untruth is worth telling. Then, if we aren’t a liar, we feel bad, sometimes really bad.
We feel bad because who we know ourselves to be and our values don’t match up. This incongruence makes us uncomfortable.
In other words, it costs us to lie.
What happens when a Narcissist lies, and why is it a red flag.
The narcissistic calculation is a different algebraic equation.
A Narcissistic mothers’ lie also comes from her sense of self. The difference is that her life has become a lie.
When her life becomes a lie, her lying is different. Different because her sense of self is different. The lie is not inconsistent with her sense of self. For her, the lie is a necessity to preserve what she regards as a self.
That self, however, is a set of defenses, not internalized values.
That set of defenses stand as armed guards against a horrible cauldron of self-loathing of which she is mostly unaware. And, her defenses keep her unaware of the emotional pain that would otherwise swallow her up… or so she believes.
The secrets, the layers of lies, become a fragile house of cards. The self she has built from those lies can easily cave in on itself under the weight of truth.
Her lying is an act of desperation.
This is what makes it a red flag.
If Mom is fighting to the psychological death to preserve what she experiences as a self she will take you down with her.
The Narcissistic mother is operating from a place of defense… all of the time.
The lie is more a PR stunt, a marketing ploy rather than a cohesive integrated set of values. Mom’s narcissistic personality is more of a storefront designed to hide that there isn’t any there, there.
She doesn’t experience it as manipulation or lying, not exactly… she feels it is necessary for survival, psychological survival.
She can’t ever let down their guard and let anyone in.
Why the Narcissistic mother lies and why it is a red flag-
1) She can’t be close
Because she can’t let you get too close, there is no true capacity for intimacy.
She can’t invite you into the store because the store is full of empty, discarded garbage. She wants you to buy the fiction that the storefront is so dazzling you will buy her performative act and wouldn’t need to come inside. “Nothing to see here…move along”.
Thus, she may have tons of acquaintances and even be the life of the party, but no one knows the whole story.
There will be gaps in her stories and in her life. If you look too closely, you will see the cracks, the unrepaired ruptures, and they won’t be pretty.
2) She can’t be trusted
She is marketing a self she wants you ( and others) to believe.
She needs you to believe the storefront is the store and that she is who she pretends to be.
These days that can manifest as a carefully curated Facebook page or Instagram Feed or a host of “friends” and family that she keeps at a distance. She will gossip behind their backs and is always looking to put them down in order to get a narcissistic leg up.
3) She is not sorry
You don’t see true humility and remorse for the mistakes she makes. That takes self-reflection and honesty. Looking more closely, you will see she takes no ownership of her struggles.
4) She will use you
Instead of empathizing with you and caring for you, she will use you for her own gain. She will brag about you to her friends if she thinks it makes her look good, criticize you if she worries you are making her look bad, or take you down a notch if she worries that you will overshadow her.
5) She’s the victim, never the perpetrator.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing, her lies are more subtle, plausible, and manipulative rather than grandiose. You may have to look more closely to spot them. That’s what makes her harder to spot and so so much more dangerous.
It might not look like a male narcissist – she is more likely to exhibit the covert vulnerable variety of narcissism.
What she will say about her lies if she is confronted.
- “I had to lie.” You see, circumstances were such that it only made sense for me to lie. External conditions forced me to lie- “I would be stupid not to.”
- “The other person is so ridiculous/stupid/unreasonable that they left me with no choice. “ They put the responsibility for lying on the other person. “They made me do it.” Again you see the lack of accountability coupled with the denigration of the other.
- “I am protecting someone by lying to them.” If they knew the truth, it would hurt them. Not that everyone needs to know every thought or fact about our lives. However, the narcissistic mother will mislead, omit or outright lie about huge aspects of her life and tell herself she is protecting people, not hurting them.
All of these excuses reflect an impoverished and distorted sense of self and are red flags that she is not going to change.
You see…Paradoxically, she isn’t lying; she is speaking the truth of who she is.
It is confusing and damaging to have a mother who is distorting reality to you when she is the one you look to to interpret reality.
- It bears saying that the fractured abusive childhoods that create the need for this level of narcissistic defense imprison their victims in lives that are hard, if not near impossible, to heal from.
- When a person lies, as a matter of course, they not only do relational violence to others but tragically do it to themselves.
- It is not an excuse, but it is real.
However, you need to know what you are dealing with. A mother whose narcissism is so severe that she will lie easily and habitually can’t be close, trusted, or counted on – no matter what you do.
As hard as it is to accept, these red flags tell you something sobering and essential. If your mother lies chronically, she is unlikely to have the core personality traits to sustain a healthy relationship with you.
Because, despite all evidence to the contrary, daughters are prone to blaming themselves. Thinking if they were only good enough, sensitive enough, and caring enough, their mothers would be different.
If left unchallenged, this thinking only compounds the damage.
If this describes you, you are caught in the Good Daughter Trap. And if you are… I can help you get free.
Wondering if you are in the role of the Good Daughter of a narcissistic mother? Take the quiz – it’s free.
What are some lies you have been told? Let me know in the comments.
Good article. I am a 63 year old woman who is just realizing and breaking free from my abusive, narcissistic mother. It has been the toughest fight and journey. I will make it. This abuser abused me physically and mentally. She took all the stuffing out of me.
I am breaking free. I am very poor because she also financially wreaked havoc on this area as well. What I have realized though, is I am free.
And that is worth millions to me! Free, free at last!
Thank you Deborah, I hear your pain and struggle but I also hear your joy. May your joy grow and your pain diminish as you chart your new path.
I am also the victim of a narcissistic mother but I am slowly regaining my independence. My mother can tell an outright
lie to me without blinking for absolutely no reason at all and my sister isnt far behind her. I have to be on my guard of what I tell them to keep myself ‘safe’. They seem to relish when things go wrong for me and I think they now know I don’t tell them everything. I have no trust in them whatsoever and feel really let down by them!
It is hard to face the fact that those closest to you will lie because of their own brokenness and not a reflection of your worth. My best to you in this hard journey.
It is hard to put a price on freedom, impossible in fact.
My mother is dyslexic and gets her words wrong e.g. she says blakes instead of brakes. She also lies on a regular basis e.g. she says her phone is, “up the wall” when it works and when I pull her up on any issues she says that I should know her by now and that I can’t take a joke. I am now 52 and she is 76 and it is still all going on. I always thought that when I got older she would change but no she hasn’t. It is her birthday in two weeks and I said that I would travel up to see her. I told her that I would stay longer than my partner is staying for (he is staying for 3 days to see his mother then driving back) and that I would get the train back. She said that she can’t be bothered with her birthday and that she is, “past it all” and not to bother and to go back home when my partner does. I am getting to the point where I don’t want any more contact with her, but I still want to have contact with her. It’s very confusing and I feel that my head will one day just explode with stress. I let her get away with it because she is dyslexic. Apparantly my nan got pregnant with her through her step father and I think my nan tried to home abort her and caused her brain damage. It’s very difficult. Can you help me with any advice on how to go forward and to make the best of the time that we have left together. Thank you.
Although I don’t know your mother individually of course I can see that I’ve seen people mix up one condition for another. To my knowledge dyslexia (which I actually have) shouldn’t affect what you communicate -even if it is difficult to do so. When she says she is past it all – is it a threat/manipulation or could she be depressed? In general, if she is like a lot of my client’s mothers your best bet is to try and get past tying your happiness to hers. She sounds like someone who is entrenched in ” not being please” and your trying and trying only makes it worse. I see a lot of good daughters waste a lot of time and energy thinking Mom will get better with age. In my experience, this rarely happens. Perhaps running it by a therapist or good friend you could come up with your independent assessment/plan for how you want to communicate with her- how long and how often that isn’t tied to mom’s happiness. You sound like a very caring person. My guess is, it isn’t you that is uncaring it is her determination to string you along expecting you to make her happy. Sadly you can’t but you might drive yourself crazy trying. If that is the case- don’t do that 🙂
why does my mom always have to start drama with me? It’s like she’s bored with herself or something.
Hi Nicole –
If your mother is like many I have heard about she could be trying to provoke you to prevent feeling something inside of herself. If she can externalize the thing that is bothering her internally she can get some relief from feeling it. This could be for several reasons. Many mothers like this have a need to project their insecurities onto you and get you to “hold” them. For instance, she may feel she has some negative quality but picks and picks at you until she can pin the negative quality on you and admonish you for “having it”. Another reason might be she puts you down or picks at you until you break so she can be the one to give you a lift up. If she is more of the borderline variety she unconsciously fears abandonment and will settle for you being in conflict with her rather than “ignoring her”- even when ignoring her is simply you going about your separate business. She may feel more relevant and connected even if you all are in conflict. It isn’t right but it is real.
My mother contacts me usually some time after I’ve “ignored” her and gone about ny own business. She says I’m keeping her grandchildren away from her and using them against her which I’m not. She tells an awful lot of lies and cries if I point out the truth. She then retaliates and throws all sorts of things in my face. It’s such confusing behaviour as she makes out her family is everything on FB and paints a picture of an angel.
It does sound close to other senarios I’ve heard about. With the advent of Facebook people who put everything into managing their image while behaving in ways that are far from that image confuse those who are there to experience the difference. Best to you.
It’s difficult for me to realize at the age of 33 that my mother fits this description. But she’s hidden behind a veil I cannot understand. She has called people that know me to try to let them know “who I really am”… deliberate sabotage. I don’t understand how she can sit here and pretend there’s nothing wrong with her and pretend she’s my mother when different people have told me she has called them before. What does she want to achieve with this? I have lived with her all of my life, we have been peaceful and I thought we were close. But now I don’t know who I’m looking at… this is what drove me to find information.
It sounds like your mom has a very unstable sense of self. She might be more interested in representing an image of herself she can’t quite live up to… and then (incorrectly) blames it on you when it is she who, in fact, can’t keep up the self she “advertises” to others. Most likely, on some level, she believes her fiction.
I’d be curious to know what happens when you confront her? If you decide to, let me know what her response is.
Thank you for responding Katherine, I know it’s been almost two years from this. Shortly after this post, my mom followed me to the new church where I moved to and made new acquaintances with the people that surround me. I moved out 6 months ago to another city and closer to church, and she’s now looking to move “closer to church” just like me. Up to this day I have not confronted her about it. I still can’t. A part me is afraid to lose whatever relationship we have, I’ve chosen to let her be and observe from afar. Living separate from her has allowed me to hear more clearly her words, but at the same time I feel like her desire to be close to me stops her from saying more negative things than she wants to. She seems to be more supportive now than before, and living separate has set me free from that bondage. I get to control how much interaction I want and I feel like I have more power in my conversations with her. And I feel more secure and certain of myself than ever before. I am just very doubtful in the things she says because she intends to sabotage my relationships with other people, especially female mentors in my life.
Information like this have helped me grow and open my eyes. I don’t have any resentment for my mother, I love her and forgive her. I just have to learn to work with her and keep myself sane, is how I feel at this time. I hope it doesn’t worsen.
Thank you so much!
It is so nice to hear from you. Thank you for checking back in. I love the freedom you have found in something as simple -but difficult- in separation. You are operating from a place of power that some separation has afforded you.
“living separate has set me free from that bondage. I get to control how much interaction I want and I feel like I have more power in my conversations with her. And I feel more secure and certain of myself than ever before. ”
From what you write it seems you will never go back to an earlier naivete. You can’t unknow what you know. That’s a good thing and something that will help you protect yourself.
I hope you will check back in and let us know how it is going on your journey.
All the best,
I’m 35 year old man. And my mother has always been over bearing and thinks I’m not capable of being a responsible adult. Even tho I’m happily married, have a child that’s happy and healthy. I have been successful with my career as a crane operator for the last decade. But lately I have been seeing on social media where my mother has been Lieing about what she does for a job. Even lied about her mother being dead in a comment she made on some news article post. I’m starting to kinda think maybe my mother is a narcissist now that I’m putting the pieces together. Between the way she has always tried to control every decision my sister and myself make. And now with the lying I have seen on social media. I havnt called her out on the social media posts. But I’m concerned.
I imagine this is very disturbing to you.
It would be interesting if you could confront her in a calm way- just the two of you, not calling her out in a public way. If you have the social media “evidence”, you could ask her to explain to you.
Keep in mind- if she is forgetting things she might be suffering from dementia. That would be important to rule out which is why it is best to go about these things calmly but firmly.
Best of luck to you,
I am 33 now and I have a whole history with my mother.
When I was 21 I was drugged and raped, when I got home eventually she berated me and distanced herself from me.
I had a hard time healing because nobody ever wanted to speak about what happened, nor did anyone report it to the police.
I didn’t admit to myself what had happened and I lived in repression for 5 years.
When everything started to come out, my mom had convinced my dad that I was lying about everything. She dug dirt in every area of my life becaus I trusted her so implicitly.
I was sent to my cousins’ and their parents in another province in my country to heal and there on my first outing it happened again. Except this time I woke up in the perps house.
I had to fend for myself. I went to the police station but a law officer was involved so it was dangerous. Again, mom said I was the problem.
I moved out to another family member who took me in. I tried to talk to them, and I realized that my mom was controlling everyone’s opinion of me when I noticed they knew things only she knew.
Within the month I moved into my own place with friends, started my healing, lived well.
I met my husband in this time. We had a child and then.She forced us to move back with them (biggest mistake)
She treated my husband like dirt, offered no help with my newborn and constantly scandalized our every move.
They kicked us out and we started a very humble beginning and I went away with them for my dad’s birthday and my leg broke in a car accident and I had to come stay here after the hospital admission and surgery.
I am currently healing but she used that opportunity to publicly show how she took care of my daughter.
When I got here, she planned a trip abroad (first time she left the country) to leave me helpless with my daughter (my thigh bone broke in half and exited the flesh)
She also refused me food and drink unless my dad was here.
Now that I think of it, I think she may have done some voodoo.
I want to cut her off completely now because I have seen how she treats my daughter and husband.
Hubby’s dad passed away so he’s been in his country where I will join him soon.
Am I being heartless?
If what you are saying is true, you have indeed been living a nightmare. And although I can’t tell you what to do -I might be able to offer a few suggestions to encourage you to develop your own perspective.
Read your letter out loud as if you were a stranger asking for your advice. Notice what you would tell that stranger.
When you say, “I want to cut her off completely now because I have seen how she treats my daughter and husband.” -ask why don’t you include yourself in that?
When you say, “She also refused me food and drink unless my dad was here.”- why would you ask me if you were the one being heartless?
I would suggest you begin to see yourself as someone who deserves to be treated with kindness, fairness, and decency. That is important for your daughter to witness as well. If you can’t see yourself that way, try it on as a lens to look at the behavior you describe and use that lens to make decisions for yourself.
Ultimately, you need to get straight with you.
Then you will know what to do, and you will have the fortitude to carry it through.
Best of luck,
P.S. I also realize that reclaiming your sense of worth as a person when you haven’t been treated like one may be the hardest thing you will ever do. However, that’s what needs to happen in order to make the decisions you need to make for yourself and your family.
Hi. I have realised after years that my mother constantly lies to me. She treats me like I am stupid and I feel this is damaging me. After a visit I come home and it can be a couple of days before I feel upbeat again. My sister is just as bad. I have said to them both ‘ just tell me the truth I can deal with the truth’ but I can get one story from my sister that totally disagrees with my mums. The worst part is they dont seem to care that I know they are lying to me which makes me feel worthless. I am at my wits end mentally. Its got so bad now that even if they told truth I dont think I would believe it. Any advice please.
I can imagine it feels so hurtful to realize those close to you are not being real with you. It is easy to make the mistake to equate their lying with whether or not you deserve to be told the truth. However, by equating their lying behavior with your self-worth, “The worst part is they don’t seem to care that I know they are lying to me which makes me feel worthless.” you give them tremendous power over you, and chances are you are wrong.
They lie because they are liars, not because you don’t deserve to be told the truth.
Best of luck,
I am going to be 23 years old next month and I am at my wits end with my mothers lies. She will outright lie about anything and she’s never once taken accountability when she is proven to be lying. I want to know how I can live a happy life in the same house as somebody who can’t tell the truth once to save their life?
I recently had a graduation party and she promised me that she would order from a special place. For weeks, she’d call
Me and chat about the menu and what we’d pick from the place i wanted.
The grad party came and I was under the impression we ordered food from that place.. I heard my cousin ask my mom,“where is this food from, it’s great?” I saw my mom quickly nudge her (basically telling her to be quiet) ever since that moment I found out the truth from another family Member that she had her sister cook for us. I
I felt so stupid eating at my own party that I was talking about for weeks. Instead of an apology all i got was a fake excuse. It’s never an apology it’s always an excuse. I just don’t understand how you can lie so much and never take accountability once.
I also have many stories like this but this recent grad party story has sent me over the edge.
That sounds so frustrating. And while there is much more to know about your situation, that I don’t know. However, in my experience, a person who lies frequently and easily has many more underlying personality issues that make trusting them impossible. You ask how you can live happily with someone who can’t tell the truth. The short answer is… I don’t know how you can do that. Without trust, it sets a ceiling or limit to what kind of relationship you can have. Facing up to that and making adjustments in your expectation (and possibly living arrangements) is probably the best course of action in my opinion.
Something as fundamental as a lack of honesty is probably unlikely to change over time.
Best of luck,
I’m male but reading all of this has really hit home about how closely it reflects my own 68 yr old mother. She has never really valued me in the sense she may tell me to my face she does but behind my back will put me down. And when I confront her about it, she will deny it – or – if she can’t deny it, tries to justify it. It has got worse over the last few years. She lies about almost anything. Telling my father things which aren’t true or just putting me down. I tried to see my stepdad in hospital recently and so called the hospital. When she found this out, she sent me a text telling me it was none of my business (my mum now texts and never calls). I replied telling her he is my stepdad, and that she didn’t own him, he is not her property. Very controlling and my step dad agrees with this. This was 2 days after wishing me happy birthday and trying to tell me she wanted to come down and see me. She is horribly two faced but as I say, when confronted, either totally denies it most of the time or tries to make another story up to try and justify it – as if none of it is a big deal. Suffice to say my sister seems to resemble her somewhat. Differing stories etc. What you describe fits psychologically with my mother’s sense of self. To be fair, she has had a difficult life, but much of that has been brought upon by herself. She was abused as a child which I have sympathy for and her first marriage wasn’t great. This charade is her trying to be something she is not and the charade she displays is a thick wall of desperation on her side about who she is. She isn’t particulrly intelligent woman but tries so very hard to try – but the problem is she ends up alienating many of those around her. I am not alone. She must be confused, lost and in emotional turmoil deep inside – even telling me doesn’t like music anymore and doesn’t want to listen to it. I fear all these things have made her this way. There’s so much more to say…
I’m so sorry you have had to endure this. It sounds like you have a good handle on understanding where she is coming from- that she is a shell of a person with no internal solid sense of self-born out of her own hurt and pain but tragically unable to stop the cycle. It seems you have the insight to be the one to stop the cycle in your family. Best of luck to you.
The last 48 hours have been hard . My brother is having abandonment issues . I think mom jealous that brother always closer to Dad.
My mom feels she gave as much to him and his children emotionally as she did with us 3 girls and our kids (.
She never liked his wife : neither did my one sister , and the dice were cast .
He feels betrayed by his mother with good reason.
I can see why he feels anxious and upset around her . She’s also a self proclaimed hard ass . Why is that something to
Brag about ? Wow so much to digest I m dizzy and am thinking my mom is the narcissist and I’m the good daughter to never confront her when I feel she’s fabricating it or outright lying to manipulate a situation to suit her and my youngest sisters wishes .
To hell with everybody else
Hard thing to realize at 54 . Moms a liar and threw her son and his wife and their kids out of the protection of the family nest to save face . Is she a cold hearted bitch ?
He certainly thinks so
There is a lot to unpack here. It sounds like there is a lot of pain to go around and you aren’t really sure where to begin to unravel it all. I realize you wrote this some time ago. Has anything clarified for you? Do you understand why it is so hard to call your mother?
Let us know if anything has become more clear to you. I know it is a lot to digest.
Alexander, my brother and I have lived under my narcissistic mothers rule our whole lives. My brother is 60 & I am 52. She told lie after lie about both of us to each other and our father and other relatives. She relished in the times we had issues in our lives. She would be kind to is to illicit information then use it against us to turn people against us & even our father. For years my brother & I were estranged due to this. Finally she worked her evil spell on our father who hated us both before he died. The pain she caused was immense. She even tried to turn our now adult children against us in her own desperate bid to be the shining light in their eyes, this left my own son in tears & my nephews and son don’t want anything to do with her. When dad recently passed she refused to tell my brother, thinking this was a low act indeed I told him myself. She set my brother up to be attacked at our father’s funeral. Now she uses money to manipulate us. It kills me that my own mother can hate us so much and want to destroy us. She tries to use money to manipulate us and even tried her head games with my step children. There is no trust. I trust no one but my husband. For goodness sake she even tried to take my dog away. At my father’s funeral I was surrounded by relatives relaying my life’s challenges. So much pain. I don’t think I can ever forgive her. Easy for me to say I know. Stay away!
Yours is a cautionary tale for sure- one borne out of so much betrayal and pain.
Thank you for generously sharing your tale so that others won’t feel so alone and can watch out for similar treatment.
I hope your life has some peace now.
My granddaughter lives with my son but when she visits her narcissistic mother every other week and half of hollidays she trys to poisen her mind. My granddaughter has been throwing tantrums & shutting herself in her room after school she keeps saying she is unlucky & when i ask her what the problem is she says its daddy
she is only ten years old but ask me to do a recovery club so we went into her room she ask my worry said i worry about grandma falling over and then i worry about you because i know you have a problem she said the problem is really big but she said if i tell you it might be doubly big she then said imagine this side is ticking and that side is ticking my head is in the middle and about to explode then she said because of daddy ! mummy said he is a liar has told me lies since i was a baby and he is nasty was nasty to mummy thats why she left I ask her have you ever seen daddy be nasty she said no isaid have you ever known daddy to tell a lie she said no so itold her mummy shouldnt say those things to you there not true and thats very naughty has daddy ever said bad things about mummy she said no i said no daddy wouldnt do that and anyway he wouldnt want to upset you she looked upset and shocked and said why would mummy lie to me why ! i said i dont no darling but you no courts dont lie and daddy has a big book from the courts that explains everything when you are old enough daddy is going to let you read it so you know everything he loves you very much she said ive been horrible to daddy as well and ive been hiding in my phone playing games
i told her ur a big girl now you can see what daddy is like you make ur own mind up and don’t listen to what anyone else says
she loves her dad and was allways hanging around him playing and laughing this past month she has been just sulking and hard to deal with were all giving her plenty of love and understanding after coming back from her mothers yesterday she looked down more tantrums but chose daddy to take her to bed
when she comes home from visiting her mother she is allways different we cant hug her straight away we have to let her come round
but she allways looks down unwashed and uncared for its heartbraking she is very stubborn but such a beautiful little girl and very caring
she is back at school today which she loves and is very academic and quite clever
but she has to spend a whole week with her mother next week i only hope she can cope with it she often says she wants to stay home
but our hands are tied if we manage to have another recovery club session as she calls it is there anything you think i should ask her
Thankyou so much for listening im feeling distraught at the moment her mother has done some terrible things like snatching my grandaughter out of school and running of with her when my son was in hospital with severe pneumonia it took nearly two months to get her back too her home where she was born and a school she loved by the way her mum says she doesnt see her enough but she was on her phone most of the day texting us yesterday from her bedroom wouldnt you think her mum would be spending time with her
please let me know what you think
It sounds like a very painful situation made harder by the fact that you are a grandparent- having to watch something so painful but having very little power to change it. However, never underestimate the power of your steady loving presence in your granddaughter’s life and your care for her. It sounds like you are giving her the tools to make up her own mind- which in the long run will serve her very well. It may take a while but children eventually see the difference in the way adults treat them. If at all possible find a therapist just for her. That way she can sort out truth from fiction with a neutral party.
As far as your question, about asking her mother a question, although I can’t advise you specifically, I can tell you that confronting a narcissist with their lies rarely goes well. They will (usually) gaslight and defend to the death their position. Your energy may best be spent modeling how an honest kind person of integrity treats the people they love. Best of luck
Thankyou so much for this article, I am 48 and my mother is now 78 I have looked after her in one way or another since I was 7 years old, even when I got married she wouldn’t let me go she did everything she could to break my husband and I up and tried to manipulate our son.
She is a pathological liar, not one truth comes from her mouth, she has told people such awful lies about me including I was a prostitute, a alcoholic, a drug addict, gave herself a false career and told people she was a wealthy woman and her sons were high achievers etc but apparently i was the only bad apple in the family ( I am the only one of her children who sees her).
She managed to destroy every friendship and happy event in my life to date. I went no contact for 6 months and she was taken into hospital and my brother told me she was dying to get me to the hospital, then cheerfully went back to his own life and left me with her yet again.
I feel so much resentment and hurt to all of my family now, but I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband and adult son who support me completely. I’m at the end of the road, so tired and drained by it all its never ending but somehow guilt keeps me there waiting! For what I’m not sure but I think its the day I have the freedom to eventually start my own life or thats how it feels…. my hearts go out to anyone who has a narcissistic parent its a pain thats hard to describe to anyone, and I send lots of blessings and strength to you all x
Thank you for writing Dolly,
What you describe sounds like hell on earth. I wish freedom for you! You deserve so much better in this life.
I don’t truly know if my mother is a narcissist, what I do know is she constantly lies to me about large events and occasionally to my aunts and cousins, makes me feel bad about almost anything I decide, and has neglected, emotionally abused me and broken my trust enough times that I don’t trust her with any information, or know if I even love her anymore. As a child i was told that money was never a problem because my mum has her own very successful business. Whenever I would question it a new very expensive present would show up, so I’d stop for a while, because I was told “if mum wasn’t so well off how could we afford such nice things?” When I was 13 we suddenly had to move out of our house which my aunt and cousins also lived in on another level, at the time I was told my mums company had gone under (shortly after the 2008 market crash) so bank was taking everything of value, my mum and my aunt didn’t talk for almost 10 years after we moved out, my mum told me they were fighting because my aunt screwed us out of our house. Whenever I asked for more details my mum would cry or get angry so I stopped asking. I never asked my aunt about it I was scared she’d have the same response and not want to see me anymore. A couple years later we moved out of the city all together and I was essentially cut off from the friends and family I grew up with. As an adult I brought up our old house at a Christmas dinner my boyfriends family was hosting and my mum said “what are you talking about? we never owned that house your aunt threw us out”. I felt incredibly embarrassed and stupid because I had mentioned that house lots because it was one of the happiest times in my childhood. It reminded me of being a child again because I felt alienated from people I love. A month and a half ago my mum told me she was dating someone new, she didn’t volunteer much info and I didn’t ask. 2 weeks ago I talked to my aunt who asked how my mum and her boyfriend were doing I volunteered the info my mum gave me about him and my aunt followed up with much more information and it sounded a lot more serious then what my mum had lead me to believe. Once I was off the phone with my aunt I called my mum to ask for more information and she told me they were taking it slow and they’re just friends right now, and the activities my aunt described as romantic get aways my mum described as multiple friends having a day trip. I’m not going to ask about the subject again because I don’t care for being confused because I’m hearing 2 very different stories. I don’t know if my mum will ever tell me the truth about much of anything and it makes me feel like I can’t trust my own memory as an adult about my memories involving my mum because I don’t know which things are my own memories and which are lies she told me. I got her to go to family counselling with me 5 times after telling her I wouldn’t have a relationship with her if we didn’t sort out our issues. The last one we went to she said she’d have to sort out her schedule and she’d call us back with times that worked for her. That was 3 months ago. I honestly don’t know if I should even bother trying to sort out our issues at this point.
I forgot to add the counselling situation, my final breaking point of me demanding family counselling was me calling her with some awful news about my life and her only reply was “oh good, you finally have time to do X,Y, & Z for me”. I hung up because I was already crying and wanted comfort or advice and it felt like she could not care less that I was hurting. I didn’t talk to her for the rest of the week while I thought about our relationship and she called me a week later acting totally normal, I cut her off to inform her I was extremely hurt by her reaction last week and she pretended to not know what I was talking about. I told her if she was going to behave like this instead of apologizing and going to counselling with me I wasn’t interested in having a relationship with her going forward, she started into her usual victim speech saying how she was doing her best and how I must think she’s a evil bad mum. As a teenager at this point I would give in and apologize for making her feel bad and reassure her she’s not a bad mum… But in that moment I was angry so I said “it doesn’t matter what happened to you in the past because you’ve had many many years to go to counselling to deal with it in a healthy way and you didn’t, so if this is your best it’s not good enough, and yes if this is how you react to me asking for an apology you are a bad mum. So you have 2 choices here, either you can apologize and go to therapy with me. Or we don’t need to have a relationship” she said “well since I’m such an awful mother you don’t have to deal with me anymore if that’s what you want”, I said “no, that’s not what I want, I’m giving you the opportunity to fix everything that’s wrong with our relationship” At some point during that last sentence she hung up on me, she called me a few days later again pretending everything was normal, so I asked if this call means she’s ready to go to counselling with me. She got angry so I hung up… it took 2 and a half months (November, December and some of January) of me not answering texts or calls from her for her agree to counselling. At no point did I block her texts or FB messages, but I had to block her calls because she would call me repeatedly through out my work day to the point I thought it was an emergency, so I’d step out of my office to take one of the calls for her to just chat as if nothing had happened I repeated I wasn’t interested in talking unless it was with a counseller. Mid-January I got a call from my aunt asking what was going on so because my mum told her I had blocked her on everything including calls, texts, email etc… which is bull. I explained the situation to her and she told me my mum called her asking her to phone me to inform me she was ready to go to counselling.
I can hear the anguish in all that you have written- so confusing, so hurtful, sooooooo much time and energy dealing with this one person. Are you doing all the emotional and mental work in the relationship? It sure sounds like you are on the receiving end of some major gaslighting. The problem with moms like this is…you end up questioning yourself, going over and over and over what happened, trying to make sure you haven’t misread her or made a misstep yourself when all she is doing is lying, deflecting, and whatever it takes to throw you off her scent or get herself out of hot water in the moment. My guess is, she’s a master at it. She’s been honing these skills of deception all of her life and is pretty good at it.
While I understand why you would want to go to therapy with her, my best guess is that she would do the same thing there, lie and deflect.
I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for her to own up to everything just because she’s in a counselor’s office. It sounds very likely she strings you along with a promise to “go to therapy.” One question you might ask her is this- ” Mom, I hear you have agreed to go to therapy with me. What would you like to work on in therapy?” That way, you can test out if she is willing to take ownership of at least part of the problem.
If she feigns innocence or puts it all back on you…. ask yourself what you could do with all of the energy you pour into a one-sided relationship with her if you were to use it for yourself, making your life better?
Thank you for your prompt reply, everything you said rings true, which makes me sad but perhaps it’s time I admit I’ll never have a healthy relationship with her. In regards to your question about what she would like out of therapy the therapist actually asked both of us that question in our first session and mum said she just didn’t want me to cut her off. When she said that I thought she meant she was willing to work with me to fix our relationship, but while in session it was mostly me talking and her replying with “well that’s not what I think happened” or “I don’t remember that” . So perhaps I should have seen that first answer as a red flag that she didn’t actually care about the state our relationship but instead only cared that the relationship existed and hoped to keep the status quo. I have a lot of thinking to do to decide if I want a relationship with her. But either way I believe I’ll be perusing individual therapy to sort out these issues. Thank you for your thoughtful advice it has helped.
Dear Katie- You seem so thoughtful and reflective to me. Working things through over time in individual therapy is an excellent idea. As a therapist myself I have seen how this is a slow gradual process…and it needs to be in order to integrate complex feelings and come to decisions you feel good about. Sure there are epiphanies, moments of no turning back, and deal-breakers but in reality, this is the person( your mother) who most likely has been your role model as a woman and primary attachment figure. Whatever you decide you owe it to yourself to examine what kind of relationship, if any, you want with her, consider the impact she has had on your life, and heal.
A clue I couldn’t help but notice (and you pointed it out) was when your mom said she was willing to go to therapy so you wouldn’t cut her off. That may be your leverage right here. She may be unable to own anything about her part in the relationship but she may be willing to comply with a request you make in order to stay in your life. Most or many difficult mothers don’t have what it takes to be a mutually respectful relationship- and it’s power that they respond to. Her verbiage ( from what you’ve said in your post) suggests to me that she responds to power, not feelings.
A mistake I see many good daughters make is to talk in terms of feelings when mom will only respond to power statements. Daughters make relational statements and the mother responds with a power statement. If that’s true in your case, your best bet is to stop trying to get her to see your side or empathize with you but to make clear what you will and will not put up with in order to have her in your life. This may be the only thing she is capable of responding to. Then of course if she doesn’t comply you can take the next logical step.
Best of luck,
I have found this article very helpful in understanding my mother. I am 39 and have only recently realized my mother is a narcissist and am working on overcoming the damaging effects it has had on my life and our relationship. I have discovered my mother is a frequent liar. This article has helped me to understand why she lies, although I do still find it hurtful. After reading this, I have been able to let go of some of the anger I have built up towards her because it has helped me see her as a deeply flawed and troubled person. However, I don’t think we will ever have a good/solid relationship and I have to work on coming to terms with that realization.
Dear Missing My Mother,
What a beautifully poignant way you put your experience. When someone lies, they deprive the other person access to the true self. And a child of any age longs to make contact with their mother’s essential self.
Although realizing the basis of your mother’s actions may be painful, I do hope you are ultimately set free by this painful realization.
Ultimately, truth rather than lies always sets us free.
Best of luck and thank you for writing about your experience.
Hi I am a 16 year old boy who lives with his mother and sees his dad on the weekends but I don’t want to live with my mom because she is a liar and a narcissist I want to live with my dad because he has never told me a lie and can actually support me unlike my mother that constantly steals my hard earned money I make with my dad and when I confront her about it she says to not make her mad like what I should be the mad one you stole MY money so I looked in her purse today and saw my money and when I told her about it she got mad at me for looking through her purse when she goes through my drawer in search of money while I’m at school since a little kid I’ve been taken away from my dad she randomly just disappeared from the house with me and I can’t help but hate myself for not having the courage to tell her I don’t want to go with her and it’s because she is my mom and I feel if I tell her she’ll go crazy my mom needs serious help she’s always made me suffer but blames it on my dad when I’m with my dad I feel free to do whatever I want when I’m with my mom I feel like I’m trapped and just have to agree with her and one time I did tell her I didn’t want to be with her and she started crying and all this extra stuff and I can’t help seeing my mom cry and I feel that those tears are fake now she just wants me to be with her so she gets all this financial aid because if I leave she’s done even though she’s made my dad and I go through so much I can’t help but lover her I guess I’m just too soft my dad tells me to man up and I want to but I can’t I can’t help seeing her struggle and I don’t know what to do I guess I’ll just wait a year or two to go with my dad and I get worried about my dad and my mom because I feel like they both need me since they’re both pretty old I do well in school but I don’t know my career path and I don’t know about college or university if I don’t apply for a scholarship ship I might just keep working with my dad the pay isn’t that bad but I ask of someone to please suggest on what do I do
It sounds like you are in a terrible dilemma and shouldn’t have to shoulder all this adult responsibility. Is there a counselor at school or an adult at church or a coach who would be able to listen to you without forcing you to take sides? Most adults realize that a child loves both their parents- no matter what. Perhaps you could tell your mom that talking to a counselor together – or even an older relative would help you. No child should have to feel responsible for a parent’s happiness. You deserve someone to help you sort through this. There are adults out there who would be happy to be a support to you.
Best of luck to you,
My mother lies effortlessly and constantly. I have identified 4 basic ways that she lies; firstly she makes up stories, complete fictions, secondly she embellishes and tweaks real events, thirdly she puts her thoughts and words into the mouths of others, and lastly she engages in willful misunderstanding, pretending that she mistook the meaning of another’s words. In every case there is a theme of her either being some kind of hero in the moment, or of being unfairly treated and victimised. Her lies have created great damage, probably permanent in the relationship between my older brother and myself. She doesn’t care, she feels she has won something by creating a rift. It took a lot of time and work to accept the idea that I was raised by such a woman. I have been no-contact with her for 3 years and this has helped in so many ways. My life has improved more than I could have imagined.
Thank you for writing in and sharing your experience.
Your story is a testament to how destructive a mother’s lies can be and how sometimes going “no contact” is the only acceptable answer.
It’s ironic when you think about it- with a mother who lies constantly to her children she makes it impossible for them to have “contact” with her true self. In doing so she has ensured ” no contact”. It comes from her.
When you go ” no contact” what you are really saying is that you will no longer agree to be in contact with the faux construct she puts out there. It was never really her anyway.
I’m happy for the peace that you have found.
My mother recently texted me and asked me to call her. So I did and the first thing she tells me is she tripped and fell and was knocked unconscious for 20 minutes, laying outside her house. I kept asking questions to this so called incident and every one of her answers was another lie, on top of lie on top of lie. I backed her in a corner with my questions until she said she had to let me go. This is just one, 10 minute conversation out of thousands throughout my life that have gone the same way. My mother is the most difficult person in my life, a narcissist with borderline personality disorder and whatever else mixed in there. She’s never been diagnosed because she’s refused to get help but I’d bet everything I own on it.
Oh my gosh- this indeed sounds like a nightmare. It must take all of your energy just to stay sane. And good for you that you had the presence of mind to not take mom at her word but to question her- I imagine this was born out of a lifetime of feeling tricked.
It is so disconcerting, to say the least when the same person who raises you can’t live in a world of truth.
Thanks for writing in and sharing your experience.
I grew up with a narcissistic mother who was constantly lying to me to spend as little money or no money on me al all. I have an older sister and had to wear all of her used clothes as to which my mother told the lie ‘Your brand new clothes come out of the wardrobe but your sister’s brand new clothes come from the shop.’ We were at the sops and my mum told me I can pick what I want, but as soon as I picked a piece of clothing I wanted, my sister would cry and mum would tell me “Mummy has no money today” but then bought clothes for my sister saying to me “I didn’t buy anything. I already told you I have no money”. On the rare occasion when I did get anything new, it was never what I had chosen. We were at the shops and I was told you can spend $20 on shoes, so I chose a pair I liked for $20.Mum looked at the price and told me that it is $40. She then chose a pair for $10 telling me that they cost $20.
My emotions were never validated. My sister would cry every day saying that she never got a turn to choose what to eat for dinner or sit in the front seat of the car. Mum always believed her wheeling me “You don’t always get what you want in life”. That was a lie because my sister always got what she wanted. Mum’s excuse for letting this happen “She will get tired of getting her own way every day”. That was a lie as mum could see I was hurting and always lied to push me out of they way and punish me.
Aime- that sounds really hard. It helps sometimes to write it out to those who can hear you and validate your experience.
Thanks for writing in.
I found out a few months ago that my MIL, who is a covert narcissist, has lied to my husband about who is father is. I finally plucked up the courage to tell my husband, as I couldn’t cope with the feeling of deception, and he has reacted with huge anger towards me for telling him something he feels he didn’t need to know. He says he is going to speak to his mother, but as you have pointed out in this article, I find it extremely unlikely that she will admit to her lie. Despite many people corroborating the story. My husband is the golden child in his family & is strongly enmeshed with his mother so any form of criticism of her is taken very, very badly. He also has a bad relationship with who he thought was his father which has partly been cleverly manipulated by his mother. Such a mess. I really don’t know what to do for the best.
It does seem to me that you are in a tough spot. interesting that your husband’s complaint (as reported here) is that you told him something: he didn’t need to know”, not something that he found patently untrue. It makes me wonder if, on some level, he knows that his mother is capable of deceiving him.
In my experience, the truth has staying power. It has a way of hanging around, not going anywhere, and eventually setting people free. With that in mind, what if you just let your husband’s reaction run its course? You just stuck to the facts- what you know and how you know it- not defending yourself or extrapolating about how your MIL is this or that.
The danger here, as I see it, is that when the covert narc MIL feels exposed, she will come out swinging- throwing everything she can into the fight- all designed to take the focus off her deception or crumple into a victim poor me stance designed to bring everyone to her rescue.
However, if you don’t play, and stick to the facts, eventually, the storm will pass, and if your husband has the psychological fortitude, he will face the truth about his mother.
If he can’t or won’t, then that’s on him. You will have unburdened yourself and declared that you will not be a party to her deception. He will know you have a backbone and shoot straight with him. He can trust you.
So, in summary, I’d lie low, don’t let this become more than it is (and it is quite a lot), and wait for the ramifications of her actions to settle out. The truth has a way of showing itself.
P.S. it would be great if your husband could sort this through with a counselor. It sounds like there are many layers to this bombshell, and he might feel relief and freedom to talk it through with a neutral party.
Best of luck to you,
Thank you so much! Your advice is amazing. I am finding it extremely difficult as my husband is refusing to talk about any of this to me. He says it doesn’t matter & he doesn’t care about any of it. He also won’t speak to his mum about it. We have children together so I feel it reaches further than just him. Also I’m worried that him suppressing it could be detrimental to him. He said he doesn’t believe that it’s true. I suppose I’m just going to have to leave it but I just find the situation so weird.
My mom loves irritating me saying lies about things. loves hurting my feelings.
I’m so sorry.
I hope you have another adult in your life that you can trust, someone you can confide in about this difficult relationship. The things you describe aren’t what a child should have to endure.
For at least the past eight years my mom has been lying to me. The first time happened when I was pregnant and my dad told me that my mom wasn’t excited about being a grandmother. That comment hurt a lot so I asked her and she told me that she didn’t say that and that my father was lying but he wasn’t. I don’t know why she made that comment because I live in a different state so she would not really see my son often anyway. She showed no interest in my pregnancy and I found that I was the one mostly calling her. She rarely called me.
We’re of the same religion and she had a big event come up and she said she was attending but didn’t and when I asked her how it went she answered my questions as if she did attend and it was at this time I respectfully confronted her because I was tired of being lied to. She admitted to lying because in her words if I knew I would make a big “stink” out of it which simply is not true. Im more frustrated about the continual lying and she had no remorse and never apologized. Instead she got ugly about it and said it’s better we’re five hours away we just bump heads, we’re two different people. She kept saying I was critical but couldn’t give me an example of why I was critical. I even asked her why do you say I’m critical? She said, “I don’t know”. She’s twisted this story for a family friend too.
After all this I still tried to reach out to her but over two years passed and she would not respond. For a good year I thought I had done something wrong but now I realize I didn’t. I saw her a couple months ago when I visited my parents house. She gave me a hug and then I did call her days later but I also knew I would never hear from her again even though the conversation seemed to go well. She lied again in that conversation and made up another story to my dad. I’ve been through this for the past ten years of her not really reaching out to me. I’m at peace knowing I tried and there’s really nothing I can do. She’s resorted to drinking more and suffers from some chronic conditions plus her behavior has also strained her marriage. Does that make her a narcissist and a gaslighter? I hope she gets the help she needs.
Unfortunately it sounds like your mother fits what I am talking about. People who so easily lie and then turn the tables on you when they are caught usually have a very fragmented sense of self. Also from what I’m reading here there is no ownership in the lie nor remorse for telling a lie- only deflection and blame. It’s like there is a chip missing.
And those on the sociopathic end of the spectrum can be the most dangerous.
When there is alcohol addiction it can be hard to tell which is the driver of the dysfunction- The question to ask here is- which came first, the drinking or the lying?
At the very least it looks like you can assume you don’t have a mother you can trust to be a reliable parent or grandparent for that matter. I am very sorry- better to know what you are dealing with than trust someone who is untrustworthy.
Best of luck,
Sorry I know my first comment is lengthy but I just want to add I’m happy I came across your website which gives me an opportunity to express myself and read of other’s experiences…
But also I feel she turns it around and plays victim and refuses to talk about the past, invalidating how I feel and would rather sweep everything under the rug. In general though I truly believe she is not happy in life but I guess I’m so confused by her behavior and I feel as she’s gotten older (64) she’s just gotten worse.
You are very welcomed. I am glad the site is helping you. You will see I answered in greater detail in the last comment reply.
One thing I wonder about- did your mother suffer from Trauma in her childhood? Even though it is rare is it unusual for someone to lie so easily- it makes me wonder what the origin of her childhood might have been like. Either severe neglect, indulgence ….or severe trauma can interfere with the development of the sense of self that is required to live by rules and the norms we come to expect with adulthood and parenthood. That would not be an excuse for her behavior but it could help in explaining it.
Thank you for bringing some closure to this and peace of mind.
As far as my mom’s childhood I don’t know too many details but I think they could be pretty mean even physical at times. My mom was very rebellious but she remained in contact with them and to this day speaks to her mother every week. I don’t know if this is related but my grandmother has become bitter and negative even towards people who have helped her out. I’m also seeing a similar pattern with my mother.
As far as the drinking, I know she’s been drinking wine not to the point of drunkenness but I’m guessing as a coping mechanism and unless she’s been hiding it for years I’m not sure but I’ve never brought up the drinking. I’m trying to recall the lying and making up stories as a child but I can’t think of anything except for the past eight years. But throughout the my life there have been little oddities about her behavior, I’ve noticed it more since I left home and have a family of my own. She is more prone to showing anger than talking things out and working on things. Again thank you so much for reading and responding. I really appreciate it and I’m happy that I know what her condition is since it’s been driving me crazy trying to figure her out and that I’m not to blame.
You are so welcomed. I wish you much peace in the days to come. Knowledge is power.
My mom she very much enjoys saying lies wanting you to believe them so that you can purposely hurt your feelings.
Great article. My mother and cousin were supposed to come over to my house for Christmas eve. My husband and I spent a week shopping and getting everything ready. My mother called me the morning of saying she could no longer come because she was coming down with a cold, then later that evening posted a photo on social media of her, my cousin and her daughter, wearing matching pajamas, and wishing everyone a merry Christmas. Then the next day she went to my brother’s house (who she bad mouths constantly). Am I wrong to be upset?
Wow- Well two things are possible – Either mom just doesn’t care or she is extremely naive about social media.
I’d have to wonder about the intelligence level of someone who could lie so blatantly or their lack of morality. Unless there is more to the story, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be upset.
It begs the question, is this a pattern or is this how she usually acts?