How to Deal with an Elderly Narcissistic Mother: 12 Tips To Save Your Sanity

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dealing with an elderly narcissistic mother

 

(How to deal with an elderly Narcissistic mother- READ/WATCH/LISTEN)

 

You thought Mom was a handful when she was in her prime. WELLLLLLLL, Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.

 

SURPRISE!

 

Instead of softening with age and becoming a sweet old lady, if she has a personality disorder, chances are good that she’s turned into the wicked witch of the west (my apologies to all self-respecting witches), seemingly hell-bent on your destruction- the destruction of your sanity, that is.

 

At least, that’s how it feels sometimes. Demanding, entitled hardly covers it. And you seem to have a target on your back.  Haven’t you sacrificed enough for her?

 

You never guessed it would get worse as she aged. You might have even fantasized she would wake up one day and realize all you have done for her.

 

But, alas, no such luck.

 

Instead, she is demanding as ever and oblivious to your needs. So now you wonder how to deal with an elderly Narcissistic mother.

 

When you aren’t tearing your hair out in frustration, you either feel sorry for Mom or guilty for thinking such angry thoughts about a woman who is in her last season of life.

 

You’ve been a good daughter, giving until it hurts and then some. When will it be your turn?

 

dealing with a difficult mother

While no one can tell you precisely what to do, I can give you some tips that have helped my clients navigate these treacherous waters.

 

Let me take a moment to acknowledge- if you have sought out my advice, I know you are hurting. After years of feeling appropriated, parentified, and basically taken from in your relationship with your mother, you are justified in the fury you feel when your Mom and the culture expect you to step up and give when you weren’t given to.

 

I get it-

 

Your tank is empty, and everyone around you expects you to come up with compassion and love when Mom hasn’t made any deposits. But, instead, you are drawing on an overdrawn account, and there is no one to tell. You can feel so alone in your distress.

 

If you take nothing else from this article, please take this one thing in- in my view – you have no obligation to give to someone who didn’t give to you.

 

Everything that follows in this article needs to be your choice.

 

Believe it or not, some clients experience long-hoped-for growth and confidence as they navigate this final chapter with Mom.

 

It is possible,

 

And how?

 

They realize they are no longer going to live only for their mothers and that their needs count too.

 

And my dear, take it from someone who has been there… you are going to need a plan, a well-thought-out strategy.

 

Without one, you are dead in the water. If you thought she was difficult growing up, that was just the minor leagues.

 

Mom has had much more practice than you have in getting her way, and she will pull out all the stops in her last act.

 

And don’t be fooled if Mom’s outward behavior trends more towards the victim martyred type… yet she is still entitled and self-absorbed; a covert narcissist can be more manipulative than an overt one.

 

How to deal with an elderly narcissistic mother – 12 tips to get you through

 

First-  Understand what you are up against.

 

Is Mom narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic, or does she have tendencies of these disorders?

 

If so, the traits which make up personality disorders rarely soften with age.  If anything, they are likely to get worse. When you educate yourself about these disorders, you will know what you are up against and be better prepared to handle them.

 

Aging itself is a narcissistic injury- we all have a degree of healthy narcissism inside of us and feel insulted by the ravages of aging. The wrinkles that seem to appear overnight, the stubborn weight that won’t come off no matter what, the lack of mobility… it’s a challenge for all of us to work through.

 

For the narcissist aging is the thing they are least psychologically equipped to handle.

 

 

1) Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

 

You are better off assuming things will get progressively worse because aging and all that comes with it usually follow a downhill trajectory.

 

However, When you plan for the worst, you won’t constantly be playing catch up to the latest disaster.

 

With planning and forethought, you might even be able to get out in front of it.

 

She may become compliant.

 

Then when she gets it and really gets it that you are firmly in charge ( probably for the first time in your relationship). The thing is, you have to reverse the roles you’ve always played. You are the leader, the one with the power, and she is the follower.

 

Whatever, you won’t be on the other end of her whims and demands. It is unsustainable, and you will burn out.

 

2) Look out for your own best interests.

 

Chances are Mom hasn’t been looking out for your interests for a very long time.

 

Yes, of course, that’s part of the problem.

 

This is the time to step out of any denial and advocate for yourself. Again this is an opportunity for you to grow as a person.

 

Besides, no one else will do it for you if don’t look out for yourself you. So you are better off facing this truth and acting from there.

 

3) Make peace with yourself and your decisions.

 

Get together with a therapist, a trusted best friend, or a partner, and sort out what role you want to play, if any, in your mother’s dotage.

 

Don’t fall into the cultural myth that Mom was there for you; now, you must be there for her.

 

If the truth is.. if Mom was critical, neglectful, or even abusive, the cultural expectations don’t apply to you. Your childhood was different, and you need to factor that in.

 

Pray about it, meditate on it, and then make a plan and stick to it.

 

 4) Take charge of the situation and be proactive.

 

Instead of jumping when she says jump, plan your visits and phone calls when it fits your schedule. Take yourself out of a reactive stance as much as possible.

 

A proactive stance is always better than a reactive one.

 

5) Don’t be a martyr.

 

I’ve seen daughters sink into the victim role and get comfortable with being the child who remains at Mom’s beck and call.

 

As hard as it is to face, there are no pots of gold at the end of that particular rainbow.

 

It isn’t good for your mental health, and it sucks the life out of you.

 

6) Don’t leave your sibling out of all the fun :).

 

Just because you’ve always been the one to deal with Mom in the past doesn’t mean you have to be the one to take all responsibility for her care now.

 

I know asking your sibling to participate is easier said than done… but if you don’t speak out, the chips will fall where they’ve always fallen- in your lap.

 

7) Get help outside the family… if you are able.

 

While caring for your Mom may be unpleasant to unbearable,  chances are it doesn’t cost a paid caregiver the same way it costs you to deal with her.

 

If you can pay someone to check in on her, run errands, and do some of the work so that you don’t get burnt out.

 

8) Expect Mom to resist help but don’t let that stop you.

 

Mom may resist having anyone outside the family help her. However, it drives home the fact that she can no longer take care of herself. I know there is a disconnect here: she doesn’t mind calling you at all hours, yet she is in denial that she can no longer live independently.

 

I see this dynamic with my clients and their elderly narcissistic mothers ALL THE TIME.

 

As long as she has you doing her stepping and fetching, she can stay in her denial bubble.

 

And guess who gets to pay the price?

 

You, that’s who.

9) Realize it will never be enough for Mom.

 

Don’t be surprised if Mom takes and takes from you without being satisfied. Assume she will be a bottomless pit of need.

 

If you begin there, you can plan without chasing the hopeless idea that she will be satisfied if you try hard enough.

 

10) Let yourself matter, for once.

 

Mom isn’t looking out for your best interests.

 

So that’s your job now.

 

The truth is, she was probably incapable of looking out for you… that’s been the problem all along. But now, with the stresses of old age, she is even less likely/capable of keeping your interests in mind.

 

The temptation is to endlessly count up how she is unfair, thoughtless, and unfeeling, yet it won’t get you anywhere- at least not good.

 

Now more than ever, it is time for you to decide to protect yourself.

 

11) Don’t just “take” the abuse.

 

What we don’t pass back, we pass on.

 

If you “take it” from Mom, you are at risk of either internalizing it and becoming depressed or passing it on and traumatizing someone else.

 

Intergenerational wounding happens when one generation is traumatized, doesn’t get help, and traumatizes the next generation instead of stopping the cycle.

 

Vow to see the abuse stops with you.

 

 

12) Don’t lose sight of your life outside your relationship with Mom.

 

At the end of your mother’s life, make sure you still have a life.

 

Don’t let the relationship you have with her take over.

 

Instead, realize your time, attention, and care are valuable… even when she doesn’t value you.

 

 

Hold close to the people who value you, replenish your soul, and make time for them. Take time for yourself and know you are growing and stepping into your own. It’s never too late.

 

Here’s your new reality 

 

You may need to limit how much time and attention you give her to preserve yourself. Serving yourself up as a human sacrifice doesn’t do anyone any good.

 

Sadly, a narcissistic Mom won’t notice or care. That’s the good news and the bad news.

 

Only you will know what caregiving costs you.

 

You aren’t a little girl seeking Mom’s approval; you are a grown woman making adult decisions based on reality.

 

There is power in that.

 

Feel it!

 

 

You can get out in front of this.

 

You don’t have to let Mom take you down with her through her negativity.

 

You don’t have to take the bait when she starts in on you; answer any questions you don’t want to answer or listen to any lectures you’d rather not hear.

 

Mom needs you now, not the other way around.

 

Let that sink in.

 

It’s never too late to learn what underlies your mother’s problematic behavior, set boundaries, and move forward with your life.

 

It can be a hard patch for sure, but you can use the challenge it presents to flex (or find) that empowerment muscle ( even if you didn’t know one was there).

 

Hard times can also be clarifying.

 

This is your moment. Use it wisely.

 

If you want me to coach you through it, go here.

 

(Audio of the post_

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Frequently Asked Questions:

No, but you can burn yourself out by catering to her demands.

Although it is possible that narcissistic mothers mellow with age, they will most likely get worse.

Get support and set limits by stating upfront what you can and cannot do for her.

The defenses that make the elderly narcissistic Mom difficult become more extreme as she copes with the stressors of aging.

Aging brings on both loss of control and increasing vulnerability,- so she ramps up her narcissistic defenses against this losing battle. It doesn’t work but it makes her more demanding.

 

Do you relate?

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Comments

34 Comments

  1. Diana

    What do you do when your elderly mother always fakes illness in front of you to give you a taste of what her death will be like? Sometimes she goes to the extreme of putting herself in the hospital. The doctors of course release her after finding no medical reasons to keep her. I have lived through her death at least 6 times in the past 5 years. In acting out what her death just around the corner, I have started feeling anger instead of grief like she is trying to make me feel. This is her attempt to make her family flock around her while she is still living. It is so hurtful. As of right now I have decided to go no contact for awhile. I have done this once in the past for 6 months, but all that did was encourage her to trash me to family and friends.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Diana,
      Thank sounds really frustrating and hurtful to be manipulated in this way. Most of the time, when you feel manipulated by a difficult mother, the answer is to push pause on your response. If Mom is doing something for an expected response, you will interrupt the pattern that way.
      Here is what I have found helpful with clients in similar circumstances. Perhaps it might be helpful to you.

      For instance, you might insist on talking to the doctor in charge before rushing off to the hospital. You could warn him that she has a history of faking illness and get his cooperation in helping you determine if this is a real emergency.

      You have to be prepared that she will most likely amplify her tactics before she gives them up – or finds someone else who is willing to play her games.

      My guess is her trash-talking you to the rest of the family will eventually lose its credibility. They will “consider the source” if not sooner then later.
      Best of luck,
      Katherine

      Basically, if you don’t give her reinforcement for the game she is playing she will lose her reason for playing it.

      Reply
  2. Adele Bull

    My mum has been like this for years, but I had no clue what was up with her. She had a mild heart attack earlier this year and seemed to be recovering well, then she cut off all contact with me. I thought “here we go again, I wonder what I’ve done this time!” Then my dad (who bows to her every need) hand posts a letter from her through my door blaming the stress I, and my children have caused her over the years for her heart attack! I have never caused her any abnormal stress, she is just perpetually offended. I am and only child and I afraid I have gone into self preservation mode. I wrote a drank, but kind letter back asking her to get done professional help and to try and be happy in life. That was three weeks ago. I’ve heard nothing, but am resolved she will not enter my life again with her toxicity. I am grateful for the guidance on this site.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Thanks for writing, Adele.
      It is incredible how we as daughters can so quickly normalize our mothers’ destructive behavior thinking, “that’s just how mom is.” And when dad is passive and enabling, it can be even harder to see it for what it is until something genuinely egregious happens.
      It sounds like that has happened, and the toxicity you have always felt has been unveiled. To be around someone who is “perpetually offended” is indeed demoralizing and exhausting. But, you’ve drawn a line and let her know her current behavior towards you is not okay.
      That seems to me like a step in the right direction.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
  3. Dr. Geraldine

    Your post is a great help. This post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      DR. Geraldine,
      Thank you for writing in. I’m so glad the tips are helpful.
      I find many of my clients are surprised that their mothers become more difficult as they age. Frequently they feel incredibly trapped by someone who didn’t give them much growing up and are now demanding to be taken care of in their dotage. It’s hard to make a withdrawal from a source you’ve never made deposits into. Plus the culture has the expectation that daughters happily give up their own freedom to attend to mothers who many times are ungrateful and demanding. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. There is no easy way that know of, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.
      My heart goes out to all women in this near-impossible situation.
      Best,
      Katherine

      Reply
  4. Kelly Munyon

    Hello and please help! First off, thank you for your article. It is one of the best out there on this difficult topic. My sister and I are struggling with setting boundaries with our very narcissistic and very I’ll mother. She needs 24/7 care that our very passive father provides. It is now to the point where he can no longer do it alone at 78. She expects us to give up our entire lives to come an care for her. She fights us on any help outside the family , saying that’s why I have 2 daughters. My father is exhausted and we worry about him. He is ready for an assisted living arrangement with her. She refuses to go. She knows he will care for her until he drops. She also knows my sister and I won’t let him struggle on his own. She told him he can go live there and she’ll stay home by herself, but she can’t even get to the bathroom on her own let alone walk more than 5 feet. Either my sister or I have to stay there everyday and sleep there or stay until she’s in bed. She has no problem with us being there until 11pm with no regard to our lives. We tell her what it’s doing she apologizes and cries and then refuses help. My sister goes every day as she is 30 minutes away. I leave my home and husband for weeks or a month at a time to go give her a break, since j live 3 hours away. How do we try to set boundaries when we know it may literally kill our father? I don’t think he will ever put his foot down and demand she move. She won’t sign the deed for the sale of the home to pay for assisted living. Any suggestions would be most helpful.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Dear Kelly,
      It sounds as if you are in the midst of a living hell. I hear your pain and frustration.

      And although I can’t give specific advice, I can tell you what others in similar circumstances to yours have done and the general principles they have followed.
      .
      1) It is not unusual at all for an aging narcissistic parent to really resist moving into an assisted living situation or accept outside help. But guess what? Nobody likes those things.. and we all have to do things we don’t want to do.

      2) Somehow the narcissistic parent can act as though they are the exception to the rule and are quite willing for everyone’s life to revolve around their needs and their needs only.

      3) From what I hear there are 4 adults (maybe more if you could your husband) in this situation and only one of their needs are considered.

      Again a general approach might be this- consider everyone’s needs equally despite what your mother says yours, your father’s, your sisters…
      Then make a plan that will take into account several peoples’ needs- a plan that is sustainable.

      One tip here- a boundary isn’t an opinion you try and get your mother to share. A boundary is something that you can control. For example, Mom I am only able to visit you on (x), take your calls on (y). Or, “mom I am no longer able to be your caregiver. My sister and I will be scheduling outside help when we can’t be here.

      She won’t like it. She will cry and moan. You can still stand your ground.

      One thing I have found-when the narcissist sees they have no other choice, they will get on board- but not before they learn their bullying will not work.

      Meanwhile, you can’t wait for your father to get on board. You may need to make separate accommodations for him. It sounds like his safety and health are at stake.

      This sounds like a time when there needs to be a complete role reversal. The parents are acting like toddlers and we all know how well that goes. Taking charge with the same energy you take a child’s hand as you cross a busy street- firm, loving, and all business.

      Good luck- it’s not going to be easy, but it is possible.
      Katherine

      Reply
      • Kelly

        The k you for your wise words of recommendation. You are spot on, especially with the toddler scenario. I also appreciate you reminding me of what the term boundaries really means. I appreciate your response.
        Thank you.

        Reply
        • Katherine Fabrizio

          You are so welcome Kelly- Hang in there.

          Reply
  5. Tracey E Johnson

    Wish I’d known what I know now BEFORE I moved in with my severely narcissistic mother 14 years ago, I could have saved my own life, spirit and soul from the slow, painful, lonely death I am trapped in.
    I’m 58 years old and use to be a happy, beautiful, healthy woman, but that version of me is long gone, my evil mother made sure of it!
    Some women should never have children, such as narcissists, because they only have children to ensure a future servant!
    I have to say, I honestly had no idea a mother could hate and happily destroy a daughter that is/has done anything and everything for her, but it’s true, my mother has killed me, inside and out, and smiling all the while.
    I have 3 siblings and other family members that I’ve begged for help for years to get me and my daughter Isabella away from her, explaining the abuse to them, the restrictions and rules and regulations we suffer under daily, all to no avail, why? well of course they all believe what mother tells them, therefore I am the problem lol.
    My mother has made sure there’s no escaping her grasp/wrath, I have no money, no car, no friends, zero resources and after all of the years of busting my hump to serve her my physical being is crippled, I’m disabled and suffer severely daily.
    I’m a highly sensitive empath that has only wanted to do the right thing (dutiful daughter) and ease the pain and suffering and discomfort of others with any help I can give.
    Little did I know that my demise would be the result of my servant hood.
    I could/ should have written a book (many,many years of torture to write about), the title was going to be “Death of a dutiful daughter “or “Left alone to die”.
    By the way, my mother is 83 and yes it gets much worse as they age, she now has dementia and is becoming quite paranoid.
    I’ll stop rambling on, but please get away and stay away from narcissistic mothers!!
    Thanks for listening,
    Tracey

    Reply
    • Edith Graham

      Tracy, get yourself out of there! Your life is precious too! I ended up passing out a couple of times completely sacrificing myself for my mother. Crisis care was put in place at that point to manage her, and to enable me to save my life! Shortly after, my mother was taken into respite care on an emergency basis and it’s been the absolute best thing that could ever have happened. She loves being waited on hand and foot 24 hours a day! We never dreamt such a scenario could ever exist! She loves the audience and attention she gets from all the staff, who of course love her because she’s so sweet ( around them). Even visits wipe me out, but the home, and Covid, have given me a chance to discover and recover some boundaries for myself. Good luck! You can and will get through this!

      Reply
      • Katherine Fabrizio

        Hi Edith-Thanks so much for writing in and sharing your wisdom and experience with Tracey!
        Your first-hand experience of someone who had escaped is truly inspirational.
        Thank you,
        Katherine

        Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Tracy- Be sure and takin what Edith has shared. Hers is such an inspirational story. Sometimes when it looks hopeless there appears light at the end of the tunnel. You deserve a life free of abuse.
      Know you are not alone and there are plenty here on this site who believe you.

      Don’t forget your duty to yourself.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
    • Vivian

      I sympathize with you. My mother demanded she could no longer afford to live on her own and had to live with me. Told her family at my fathers funeral that i was going to make her homeless. Heartbreaking behaviors. I sold my townhouse that was 10 minutes from work and bought a one level that was an hour from work. Moved her in. It’s been miserable. She’s demanding and gossipy, needs to be the center of attention. My adult sons avoid her but she doesn’t notice as she barges her way into everything. My health is sinking i don’t ever look like the same person i was before all this happened three years ago. I just want out. Don’t even want to be in my own home. I told her this, laid out some basic ground rules. Her reaction was bad. However I’m sticking to the ground rules. Thinking i might seek a therapist at least to unload. Don’t like my friends being exposed to these feelings.

      Reply
      • Noelle

        Move her out! Reclaim your life. It’s hard and painful but it can be done! I moved mom and dad in in December and out in April to save my family’s collective sanity. They are now miserable in a 55+ community instead of my home. You can do this!

        Reply
        • Sally Waudby

          I have discovered my true narsisstic mother now my youngest sister committed suicide and my older brother has gone no contact and lives abroad. I always thought they were the problem with the constant dramas around them. I am left with my elderly narsisstic mother and realise she created the dramas. You have helped me set boundaries being the last sibling standing but now she is getting older and everyone thinking she’s marvellous how do I cope with her? Whilst she pretends to everyone she is independent and physically able, she lies all the time, in reality she sleeps in her chair, eats crap watches tv. There’s nothing wrong with that in your 80’s but she relise on me emotionally but I can’t stand her lies and pretense, it’s like she’s on the stage. I have a supportive partner but the future looks bleak, she has nobody else. She is in hospital overnight but coming back to home with me staying overnight. Hoping I can then leave! But following week going to stay with brother abroad, not dare tell, putting off telling her as they’ll be drama, what do I do? Will she be wellenough to be home alone?

          Reply
          • Katherine Fabrizio

            Hi Sally,

            Hi —
            I can hear how stuck you must feel. And while I can’t know your situation exactly… I can tell you what has been effective with others in a similar situation.

            First, I will tell you something you probably do not want to hear. But in the long run, it will save you from a lot of trouble.
            Most daughters in your situation want life to be peaceful. They will do almost anything to avoid drama. That’s admirable but it can also be your downfall.

            Why? Because if Mom is truly narcissistic and an expert manipulator, she will use your kindness and softness to exploit you.

            If you stay in a reactive position, she will run you ragged and never stop demanding she do this and that for her.

            Therefore, you have to prepare for telling her the bad news and then give it to her straight- hold on tight and brace for the blowback, and don’t back down.

            Figure out what you will and will not do for her and explain it in the simplest least apologetic manner. Don’t look for her agreement or approval. She won’t give it to you. But, when you are direct and confident, she won’t like it but she will realize you are in charge and that is the position you want to be in. Anything less and she will walk all over you.

            I wish you luck.

          • Missy

            Hello everyone!
            I am 59 and my mom and I have been sharing a house for about 5 (?) Years. The time is running together. She’s so controlling that she has to correct my sentences and demands I correct my language ( if I get really frustrated). She doe so very little that our house is a wreck. I just recently lost my job. It was very taxing both physically and mentally, along with having to take care of all our appointments in my Wednesdays off as that was how my “abusive boss” desired it. On Sundays I would get to spend time with my boyfriend, but something always has to be done for my mother when I get home. Whether she asks him or me to do it.
            When I lost my job, it was grounds for her to use it against me if I didn’t say, act or do as she wants. I was bullied at work, just like I’m bullied at home. My siblings refuse to help. They’ve “paid their dues” they say. They are also married and don’t have to live with her.
            I need all the confidence I can get to find another job. I don’t need her to infringe on my self-esteem, yet it’s like a radar goes off in her when I least need it to and she’s off!
            I cannot afford (literally) to move out or move her out. I’m stuck! I can’t even ignore her. She’ll just keep, keep, keep pressuring.
            Help! Any ideas or suggestions?
            Thank you so much!

  6. Jen

    I have gained SO much validation just by reading these comments…thank you!! I always thought my mother was just heavy on guilt tripping me….but then I got smarter & saw it as narcissistic tendencies. As she’s gotten older, I’m expected to “trade in my child rearing days for taking care of my parents “. It’s not an option-she’s said she deserves it. That they took care of me & now it’s time for me to take care of them. She uses my sweet hearted dad as the reason for all of this (bc Dad is amazing & I also feel bad that he’s trapped with her). I bought a house that has a garage apt just for them…they they said no (bc only one bathroom). Now she needs me (finances) & I don’t want to do it. I’d rather move to escape her but that makes me sound like a horrible person. She’s even said…we’re family & you’re stuck with us. How do I tell her she’s the reason without antagonizing the narcissist?

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hey Jen,
      Thanks for writing in. I think there is nothing more validating than hearing firsthand what others are going through.

      I have a bold response to the question you pose. “How do I tell her she’s the reason without antagonizing the narcissist?” While there may be a more slick way of responding, in my experience, narcissists can smell it from a mile away when you try to manage them. They are the ones who are practiced at manipulation so they see it clearly. Then they accuse you of having a reasonable response to their unreasonable behavior. In that light, what if you can’t help but antagonize them? What if you didn’t try and hide it- be truthful and let the chips fall where they may?

      I don’t say this lightly.

      Only you can know what is best for you and your situation, but I’ve seen daughters give away all of their power by trying “not to upset” the bully.

      Narcissists want it both ways… never concluding that they might want to change their behavior or alter their perspective! If you look back through the comments you will see how the narcissist is always the one “defining the problem” and ” prescribing the solution”. It’s like- it’s their world and the rest of everybody just happen to live in it. What about what you want (even if it is to get away from her)?

      What if you weren’t a horrible person, but a reasonable one responding to an unreasonable situation?
      It’s worth considering.
      Best of luck to you,
      Katherine

      Reply
    • Noelle

      Save yourself the headache and say no now.

      Reply
  7. Pixybelle

    I’m 52 and I have lived with my narcissistic mother my whole life. I never moved far away to pursue my dreams because she would ” kill herself I left her”. She used to try to convince me to kill my father as a child, because he was so awful “to me”.I eventually had a beautiful daughter who my mother literally drove crazy. She passed away last year, I think she gave up. My mother’s negativity just got too damned heavy, and I couldn’t get us out in time. I’ve never had alot of self esteem and couldn’t make it out of the rut I’m in. My mother accuses me of ostracizing her when I ask her not to smoke around me( I have asthma and I go outside to get fresh air a couple hours a day) and reminds me that she owns part of the house, that she’s always been the only one there for me, and OUR daughter( yea, somehow my daughter is half hers too in her mind). My sister keeps her distance, even tho I told her I’m about to have to be hospitalized for depression ( my mother always reminds me about my daughters death, my missing dog, anything else that is bad literally 10 times a day or more). I’m contemplating just throwing in the towel and becoming homeless in an effort to save my sanity. Just walking away. Because the only thing keeping me alive right now is my awesome therapist and my hunny(who she never attacks me in front of). I don’t even love her anymore. I feel like I’m trapped in whatever happened to baby Jane.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Pixybelle- This is truly one of the most horrific stories I’ve heard, and I’ve heard plenty.
      Please know that you are not alone and you deserve so much more.
      Stay in therapy. I’m rooting for you, as are plenty of readers on the site.
      Hang in there. Life can get better.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
  8. Jess

    My boyfriend and his 21 yo adult daughter were part of an enmeshed family. The mom has mostly BPD traits and some Narcissistic traits. She divorced him and has made multiple attempts to hoover him back since she moved out. She escalates the hoovering & love bombing when he has a girlfriend and uses their daughter to get information about me, then texts him about his “playmate”. Mom refuses to call me by name & texted incessantly until my boyfriend blocked her. Mom went as far as to ask him to buy her silk underwear on a business trip. Her desperate attempts were disgusting. When we go on vacation with the daughter, Mom texts constantly and asks for pictures. When daughter comes over to visit, Mom texts throughout the night & tells daughter when to come home. We go out to dinner as a family & Mom is texting for details. Holidays? Mom calls or texts “urgent” messages which typically upset daughter. Daughter gets stressed out & typically complies with moms demands. Daughter comes home from college weekly to live with, cook & clean for mom. It’s as if daughter is Cinderella, doing all the work for her selfish mother. Daughter must go to moms doctor & hairdresser & dentist so mom can micromanage daughter. Daughter must cut & color hair like mom. Mom tells daughter she can’t afford to move into a home & lies to daughter so daughter buys her things. Daughter has no idea mom got $500k in a divorce and $2k a month on top of that. She extorts daughter & daughter’s BF anyhow. Daughters self esteem is so low, no one can take pics of her. She struggles to make decisions and is fearful of a lot of things that you & I can do with ease. Daughter got a boyfriend & Mom said how he’ll cheat on her. She tells daughter she can’t live on college campus because of all the crime – too dangerous. Mom’s creepy valentines to both of them were cookies that said “bite me” and “eat me”. Mom told daughter that Dad treats women poorly but that I have Dad wrapped around my finger & that I’m too young for Dad. I’m dad’s play toy. If I do anything for daughter, mom has to one up it. Mom is difficult to deal with, even if mom is personality disordered. I’ve worked hard doing therapy with my boyfriend to break him of things he adopted during his toxic marriage. Especially of allowing his daughter being captive & not allowed to individuate and develop her own life, choices and values. He sees it now, however, I can only imagine how desperate daughter must have felt being so controlled she couldn’t have a normal life. Now daughter is going to get married in the next 1.5 years & Mom isn’t doubt going to use this to thrust herself back into our lives. I can’t stand the thought of it – she’s toxic & I do not want to be around her. I don’t want to deal with her embarrassing & inappropriate behavior, her alcoholism, her chain smoking or her lack of consideration and tact. I’m not sure how I’ll get through it. This woman is truly evil.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Jess,
      Wow, this sounds beyond the pale. And what’s more, there seems to be little you can do about it… directly. It must be so frustrating and difficult to see all of this happening- that poor child. Perhaps she can eventually be able to use you as a role model of another way to be. I imagine that is small comfort now tho-
      Thank you for writing in and letting other readers know how this kind of thing plays out.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
  9. Kelly

    My mum started moaning and groaning in about her mid 50s. She’s now mid 80s. If you ask her what is wrong she shoots a quick, “nothing”. Then I say, “stop moaning then or take this pain killer!” Nope, they make her dizzy. I know she has arthritis and many other things but for the love of god, the world would be a crazy place if we all did that. It’s like having an oversized toddler. The worst part is the moaning replicates sexual sounds and so the home is filled with those sounds all the time. I feel like a cat hanging from the ceiling. My sister lives with her and just bursts into tears when we discuss it. 30 plus years of this is enough. She controls it in public.

    Reply
  10. Lisa

    I’m not sure if my mother is a complete narcissist, but I can totally identify with some of this. My elderly mother, now 85, started an affair when I was in high school (I’m now 52). I had my suspicions, but wasn’t confirmed until I was married with children. My father ended up with Alzheimer’s and she moved her “boyfriend” (who is a total loser and never paid a dime in his own divorce affairs) in with them. The ultimate betrayal in my opinion. Meanwhile, my parents were running out of money and everything seemed to be going wrong (the whole time I never knew about the boyfriend living there). For twenty years I racked my brain to try to help my parents the best I could. But when we found out about the “boyfriend” it was something I couldn’t get over. My father passed in 2007, but she still lives with the boyfriend. She calls me almost daily to complain or ask for some kind of help, because, naturally, everything happens to her and it’s never her fault. And I listen. Then I moved 2000 miles away, but she still calls all the time. I have two older brothers, one of which doesn’t keep in touch with us unless we reach out to him. Myself and the other brother are the ones who have tried to continue to help straighten out her messes.
    About a year ago, after thirty plus years of tirelessly trying to help her and her never acting on any of the solutions offered, she tells me that I have never done anything for her, and that her leach boyfriend has done everything for her. BTW, he doesn’t work, but lives off of my mother’s social security. Since that comment, I still take her calls, but I am so done.
    I don’t even want to talk to her. And of course, that makes me feel like a bad daughter. I’ve tried to establish boundaries, but they never seem to hold, because some “tragedy” always sucks me back in. I’m tired and wish I’d done like my one brother who cut ties completely.
    Sadly, my young-adult daughter hears my conversations with my mother and sees the angst that I experience. I try to tell her that this is not the same grandmother that she grew up with. But I’m really not so sure.
    At this point in her life, she’s partially blind, can hardly walk, hasn’t been out of the house in years, won’t go to the doctor, won’t take any advice, and I don’t think she has much time left on this earth. I feel bad for what she has become, but even worse that she is affecting my mental health.
    How often should I be expected to take her calls? If I cut ties, how do I do that? I think talking to her will only hurt her. But pulling away will do that too. So it’s kind of a catch-22.
    I never thought of her as a victim until I realized that she has always been taken care of, first by my father, then by her boyfriend (if you can call it that). And things always happen TO her and she never accepts any responsibility for the choices she make. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Lisa-
      Although no one can tell you what to do – here are some questions you might ask yourself:

      Has my mother shown me how she is- not taking responsibility for the consequences of her actions, always playing the victim no matter the circumstances, and not being grateful no matter how much I do for her?

      What If I believed this is who she is going to be and act accordingly?

      Ask yourself- Do I keep expecting it to be different this time around? What would I do differently if I totally believed that she won’t change and that she has shown me how she is?

      -Am I really a bad daughter when I set limits on what I am willing to do, or have I just been programmed to feel that way?

      I bet you might have a mindset shift if you turned your observations into questions.

      I know there are no easy answers, but the answers you’ve come up with so far are making you miserable.

      What if you let yourself matter for once and gave yourself permission to act as you see fit (based on your observations) as an adult? What would you change in your response to her?

      I’ll bet you know more than you think you know.

      Best of luck,
      Katherine

      Reply
  11. Brenda

    I needed to read this exact article today. I just didn’t know it. Mom is 96, and fading pretty quickly. My brother and his wife, both in their mid-seventies, live with her, and take excellent care of her but…mid-seventies. There’s a kind of weird co-dependent dynamic going on between them all so that while they care for mom, she refuses to do anything they suggest, and my brother will not stand up to her. He is 14 years older than I am, and our sister is 12 years older than I am, and refuses to have anything to do with any of us. She’s across the country and completely not involved.

    Somehow, even though I was the child she disliked the most, I’ve ended up in the position of “responsible party.” I handle her finances and legalities, and my brother and I make those decisions together so there is total transparency. When she refuses to take her medications, or bathe, or do any of the things she needs to do or be helped with doing, they call me and I come over and sledgehammer her into doing whatever it is. I feel honestly I am not brusque or rude; I just have figured out some ways to get her to do what needs to be done. It is exactly like dealing with a toddler and that’s how I treat the situation.

    The bathing thing has become a major issue and is not at all healthy. Her breathing is increasingly erratic, her blood pressure rises and falls in huge climbs and lunges, her O2 intake sometimes dips. In short, for her to remain at home as she wants to do we need to arrange for some home health care but she refuses. She has to go to her Dr to get approved for that and she refuses to go.

    I’m faced with making some really hard decisions. The appointment with her Dr is tomorrow. She wants me to cancel it. I told her if I make one phone call, it will be followed by another with a social worker to help me navigate nursing home care searching. My brother is prepared to back up the talk, but not the action. For his own reasons he feels really guilty about some of his life decisions, and doing everything for Mom is how he is attempting to atone. But he can’t stand up to her, which is where I come in, and it’s all a messy mess. I learned raising toddlers the first time around that I can’t make a warning of a consequence I’m not fully prepared to back up. And I have no problem following through now, but I can already tell that in the same way that each day in our family was dotted with hysteria, histrionics, drama, crying, and a firm denial of reality, she will NOT go gently into the good night.

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Brenda,
      Thank you for your eloquent story. I think your comment is a great illustration of what standing your ground looks like and that it’s messy no matter what! Good for you in making the best out of a difficult situation. I’m glad the blog helped in some way.
      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
      • Jan

        Oh boy. Did I read your article in the nick of time! I was under the impression I was alone in the world with my aging (95) mother. Everything you’ve written and the comments have ade me feel less anxious about caring for her. She sounds very much like Brenda’s mom above.
        I’m 69 and have more or less been under her thumb my whole life. I’m not ever going to say that I have been the perfect daughter because I’m not.
        The trouble I got myself into mostly was accepting her gift of money to finish paying off what small amount was left on my mortgage, which I was grateful for. I didn’t realize I would be under indentured servivitude for the remainder of her life – or mine lol. But she certainly reminds me of how much I owe her regularly, so I dare not complain.
        She’s living in a residential retirement home now and I am almost daily going to herplace or running errands for her of every sort because “I owe her”.
        She’s now showing signs of dementia and her narcissism is getting worse. I found her a good doctor who wants her in an assisted living home. So today she told me he’s a stupid doctor.
        My brother has more or less washed his hands of the whole situation.
        I was comforted and encouraged by everything written here and I thank you all for that. I guess the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing this situation will not last forever.

        Reply
        • Katherine Fabrizio

          Thank you, Jan, for writing about your experience. Yours sounds so similar to so many I have heard, both here and in my 30-plus years of private practice. Never underestimate the help and validation your story will give others who visit this page.

          I hope you will continue to learn about this Good Daughter Syndrome and begin to let go of a lifetime of emotional servitude (in addition to the physical). It is never too late to find freedom and get your life back.

          Take care,
          Katherine

          Reply
  12. Chuck

    This article was very helpful, and ..yes !! I’m a man, and read this article !! Also a child of a narcissist mother. My mom is 81, and I have to live with her now. I have become disabled. Wow is it difficult to practice the silent treatment with her. She never stops talking. Thankfully there’s head phones and cannibus !! I love my mom but, sometimes I love the garage and backyard more !! I sure wish I could get over the past. I don’t have much friends these days. Yup. I’m still a mess.

    Reply

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