Foot in mouth disease taken too far?
February 21, 2010 5:23 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with an increasingly abrasive mother? (Really long, I'm sorry)

I am really losing patience with my mom. Over the years she has been becoming more and more insulting and closed minded. I know a lot of people deal with parents that have mental and physical illness and substance abuse and I am incredibly grateful that I’m not one of them, but I need help with my basically sane mother.

Here’s the background. My mom is a very dominant personality, a natural leader at the best and a know-it-all at the worst. She has fibromyalgia and suffers from depression; she’s on medication for both and sees a therapist. She has joined up with the Tea Baggers, and idolizes Glenn Beck. She throws pity parties for herself when she doesn’t get her way, everything from pouting to crying and screaming. Every time we go to visit we get at least one of these tantrums. Last summer was the last time we visited, and I don’t want to go back.

I live a 13 hour drive from my parents, and this has made my life better but I still speak to my mom on the phone 2-4 times a week although lately those calls have gone to once every couple of weeks because I can’t stand to talk to her.

She refuses to believe that Global Warming is happening, and is planning on marching on Washington with her other tea baggers in August even though she and my dad have just declared bankruptcy. This brings up another issue. My mom is peculiar about money. She is both incredibly tight fisted and a big spender. She has cheated me out of money when I was a teenager, but I’m sure she thinks that I ‘owed’ it to her somehow. She always complains about being short on money, but every time they get a windfall (inheritance or tax refund) they blow the money on expensive vacations or toys. Our last visit was after my husband lost his job, she convinced us to come visit since he wouldn't have to take off from work. My sister would pay for our gas to get there and then my parents would give us money to get home, while we were there we stayed with them to save on a hotel and so they could feed us. (My sister bought most of the food using her food stamps.) The whole time my mom complained about how broke they were. We had to cash out my husbands 401k to pay bills, so we just decided to pay our own way home and pay my sister back for the money she gave us. My sister didn't want to take the money, but she agreed after I told her to use it to buy school clothes for her 4 kids. My mom just said 'Well that makes me feel better.' Then called me a week after we got home and asked to borrow $2000 to pay for their (2nd) bankruptcy. I told her we didnt' have that much money. We did, but were using it to pay rent and buy food!

My child and I have Celiac Disease, and my dad has been tested but my mom refuses to be. Her doctor told her that he’d never seen an overweight Celiac so he didn't think she has it. A lot of doctors have to be convinced to check for CD, so she would have to really push him to be tested. But in her words “I’d rather die than not eat bread.” I’ve tried to tell her that her fibromyalgia could go away if she was diagnosed and that she could get cancer if she did have CD and left it untreated, but she won’t listen. I’ve sent her lots of research about it, but apparently logic has no effect.

She has been insulting to people in her quest to be right, and doesn’t seem to know when to keep her opinions to herself. Yesterday, I hit my limit.

She sent me an email criticizing the President for putting his feet up on the Resolute Desk. I don’t know if she wrote the email or just forwarded it. I suspect from the style that she wrote it herself. It was a horrible overreaction (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen other presidents in the same pose) and I was incredibly upset by it. I’ve since calmed down, but now I’m writing this Ask Me to ask specifically how to deal with her.

I can’t cut off communication. I’m down to shrugging and rolling my eyes and limiting phone calls. Is there another way to deal with this? She does not take criticism well, so I don’t know how to directly tell her that she is becoming abrasive and pushing me away. If I said that to her she would sulk and pout and try to use guilt to make me feel in the wrong.

What do I do?

Throwaway email
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can’t cut off communication.

In your position, I would absolutely cease to initiate it.
posted by flabdablet at 5:30 PM on February 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

>: I can’t cut off communication.

Why not?

I get along just fine with my parents and I still don't call them four times a week- why should you do so, especially if she's being unpleasant and abrasive?

If you can't cut off communication (and oh yes, you can) you can at least stop initiating it with her. The best way to deal with crazy people is to limit how much they can affect your life.
Let her sulk. Let her pout- but be firm. You won't talk politics with her. You won't argue with her. If she doesn't stop sending you her teabagger emails, you'll change your email and not give her the new one. You can also stop taking her calls.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:33 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can’t cut off communication.

Why not? You have two options here; 1) Just put up with it, or 2) Cut off communication.

No offense intended to conservatives, because that isn't your mom's problem here. Her problem is that she's egotistical and selfish. She just happens to be conservative, but an extreme liberal is just as irritating.

I vote to cut her out of your life like the malignant growth that she is. She's making you and your family miserable and knows it. She gets power over you this way.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:34 PM on February 21, 2010

I see that you said that you can't cut off communication with your mom - but I wonder why? What are you getting out of this other than insults and pleas for money? I didn't speak to my dad for the last 6 years of his life - his vocal conservatism, gun advocacy and racism - not to mention his personal criticism of everyone in his life made talking to him a misery. I regret that he was such a jerk, but I don't regret cutting off communication.

If you really feel you can't stop communicating with your mom, you're going to need to set stronger boundaries with her. Tell her in no uncertain terms that you do not welcome any more political emails, and that if she sends you any, you will block her emails. If she starts a tantrum, quietly tell her that you will speak to her when she's calmer and get off the phone/away from her. If an adult acts like a 3 year old, then sadly, that's how you need to interact with them. You get to decide how much you will put up with, not her.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:35 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

You say you talk to her on the phone once a week or so, can she be convinced to use an online chat program like aim or gtalk instead? Abrasive people seem more tolerable and are more easily ignored in typing conversations. That might be an easy short term fix.
posted by katypickle at 5:35 PM on February 21, 2010

Just stop communicating. Nothing is written down anywhere that says you have to speak to, like or even love your parents. If she's become one of these tea-bagger people she probably has no ability to recognize or respect boundaries, so save your breath. Add her email to your blacklist, stop answering her calls, and go on with your (much happier, less manipulated) life.
posted by littlerobothead at 5:38 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are pictures of President Bush with his feet up on the same desk, if that makes you feel better.

Your mother is afraid. Afraid of change, life, things that she cannot control. The Tea Baggers help her believe that she is a victim, and that things that happen to her are not her fault.

The one thing I can say, and it has come up here often, is that you can't change your mother. I am sorry about how it feels to deal with her bile. It might help if you can just say to yourself, "There she goes being silly again."
posted by Midnight Skulker at 5:39 PM on February 21, 2010

I'd cut down on the phone calls (four times a week? goodness!) to once a week and just not discuss money or politics with her.
posted by orange swan at 5:41 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with the other commenters that you need to set clear boundaries. Easier said than done, but the important part is to be aware of what interactions you're uncomfortable with, and eliminate them. That could mean hanging up or not visiting, or it could mean just avoiding certain subjects (I'm sure others will disagree, but if other steps are too hard for now, this can be a good way to keep yourself sane).

With regard to that email, there was a small piece on Wonkette yesterday about it: offensive email.

Good luck. Family is family.
posted by heliostatic at 5:46 PM on February 21, 2010

If you read past questions about this, you will find thread after thread of people who have cut off their parents and are happier. So, as far as Mefi goes, that's sort of the generic "right answer."

That said, that's kinda because it's harder to give you a more nuanced answer than that without a whole bunch of trial and error or knowing her in person. However, you can probably figure out a more nuanced answer yourself. For some behaviors, the easiest approach will be to accept things as a fact about her and find ways not to let it bother you (e.g., never expect financial generosity). For some behaviors, you will have to set boundaries about what is acceptable to you and then enforce consequences when she crosses them (e.g., mom, if you scream at us during the visit, we will immediately leave).

Your question (understandably) reads like a rant, but if you want to remain in touch with her, there's no solution to the overall badness, only a behavior-by-behavior approach of figuring out the best way to protect yourself. This is kind of a time-consuming process and the sort of thing that therapists are great at helping with, if you have one or have ever thought about getting one.
posted by salvia at 5:52 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Live and let live.

I agree with everyone else that the action to take is to limit your communication with her, but I also note that this opinionatedness problem appears to be a two-way street. You say:

She has been insulting to people in her quest to be right, and doesn’t seem to know when to keep her opinions to herself

and yet here you are, criticizing her politics, spending habits, health care choices...

Dr Phil would probably say you're both "right fighters":
she refused to believe
she won’t listen
I've tried to tell her
apparently logic has no effect

and I think recognizing that streak in yourself might make those limited interactions more tolerable in the future.
posted by drlith at 5:53 PM on February 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

Go ahead and talk to her once a week but when she starts ranting just tell her you have to go. Then hang up.

If you are able to come up with fair boundaries, AND YOU ENFORCE THEM, you can have a decent relationship with her. She's not stupid, she'll learn.

She's the only mom you have. If she's not EVIL, (which altho she certainly sounds annoying, doesn't sound like she goes that far) then it's worth setting up the boundaries and "training" her to respect them.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:56 PM on February 21, 2010

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Set them, and (this is the hard part) stick to them. Every time you cave, you give her more control.
posted by Brittanie at 5:57 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Her health is her health, her politics are her politics, her financial issues are her financial issues.

Your reactions are what you can control, and your reactions can influence her behavior. You need to be polite but firm about the things you no longer want to hear:

Health: "Mom, I love you and I just want you to feel healthy again. Being diagnosed with CD changed my life so much for the better that it's hard for me not to nag you about it, especially because I worry so much about losing you to the cancer it could cause. Would you please get tested?"
*If she still says no, respect her decision.

Politics: "Mom, you and I really disagree about politics. I love you, but it's hard for me to talk to or visit you when we talk about this topic, and I want our time together to be enjoyable. Can we make politics off-limits in our conversation, including email?"
*If she talks about politics, change the subject. If she changes it back, walk out of the room. If she forwards you an annoying email, don't respond.

Finances: "Mom, I love you and I wish we could help but we really need the money. I do worry about your financial well-being, though. Maybe it would be less stressful for you if you and Dad sat down with a financial planner [or whatever profession would help her examine her spending] and came up with a plan."
*If she doesn't, and she keeps spending irresponsibly and complaining, say something akin to the politics request, and stop talking about it with her.
posted by sallybrown at 5:59 PM on February 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Why even talk about hot topics with her? Both my mother and I find common ground about the TV show Survivor (I know, but I can't help it). We chat about that and I slouch off the rest. Just find a happy topic, tv show or cooking or whatnot, never give into an incitement and just zone out the rest. i even put the phone down if I feel badness coming on, and my mother has sometimes wound me up into real panic attacks, now I just avoid the triggers.
posted by eatdonuts at 6:02 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

She refuses to believe that Global Warming is happening, and is planning on marching on Washington with her other tea baggers in August even though she and my dad have just declared bankruptcy.
Um... so what? So what if she doesn’t believe global warming is happening – she’s entitled to her opinion. So what if it’s not the same as yours? Why does that make you angry?
She is also free to do what she wants with her money (or lack of it) even if those are bad decisions and you disagree with them. She’s a grown woman, she can make her own decisions. It’s clear that you are still angry about that money incident from when you were a teenager. That’s a long time to still be fuming over it. Obviously even a small amount of money means a lot to a teenager, but carrying that anger is so not healthy.

Honestly, I couldn’t even follow the ins and outs of the details about your last visit to her. What is your point and what are you trying to get at?

Again, it’s her choice to do what she wants re: her health. You obviously have a lot of resentment that she is not doing what you want, i.e. getting checked out for CD, and not responding to all the research that you are sending her (which she probably sees as meddling and annoying, btw. Something to keep in mind).

You say she’s been insulting to people in her quest to be right, and while you have great ability to relate details, you haven’t provided details about how she’s been insulting. Has she called people (like you, other family members) names? Said they’re stupid and no good, etc.? If she’s insulting the President, I think he can handle it.

She has a quest to be right, but I think you’re on the same quest, frankly. You want to be right about global warming (even if you ARE right, but you want to be right to HER), about what’s best for her regarding her health, about what she should do with her money, about the President’s actions. It just sounds like you want her to be what you want and you aren’t accepting that she has a right to her own opinions and make her own decisions. I think you need to take a big step back and look at your opinion of her, how you talk to her, what you’re contributing to this relationship, and what YOU can do to change your own attitude. You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself.

Also, she has fibro and depression, which are not fun. Have a little compassion. Going to DC with her Teabaggers is probably something enjoyable for her, even if it’s something you don’t approve of.
posted by foxjacket at 6:08 PM on February 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

I also disagree with my parents about two major issues: money and politics. To cut down on the objectionable conversations about these two issues, I just refused to talk about them, to the point of walking out of the room after repeatedly saying that I didn't want to talk about it, and eventually it became less of an issue. You're a grown adult who is entitled to your own opinions, and so is she. You're also entitled to not have a twenty-minute rant about politics/money inflicted on you every time you pick up the phone or walk through the door.

Money is an especially sensitive issue in a lot of families. I stopped taking loans from my parents in college to keep who owed what to whom from dominating our conversations. Only money that can be spared is sent home, with the assumption that it isn't coming back my way. Similar to what sallybrown says, just state your opinion on the money (and other) issues and refuse to be drawn any further.

Focus on the things that you love in common during conversations--your child's progress in school, your other family, whatever else you might share. Tell her that these are the things that you want to talk about, and that you want to take a break from the negative emotionally charged issues that you aren't ever going to agree on. If you two can't connect over something positive, it's going to be hard to get out of the emotional rut that you seem to be describing.
posted by _cave at 6:27 PM on February 21, 2010

a very dominant personality, a natural leader at the best and a know-it-all at the worst.

Like mother, like daughter?

Pardon my candor but maybe the issue here isn't your mother as much as it is, your attempts to manage her and get her to make choices, the way you think she ought to make them.

Or at least in your discussion, you yourself come across as controlling - in this case, you want to control your mother, for her to make decisions the "right" way, which happens to be the way you think she ought to behave.

As she sees it, you're telling her what to believe, how she should spend her money, and how to manage her health. She might very well see you as a know-it-all...
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:32 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't worry so much about how wrong she is and just stop caring about her political opinions. I don't even open email forwards from pretty much any of my relatives. If she brings up politics or money, change the subject or refuse to talk to her about it.
posted by ishotjr at 6:33 PM on February 21, 2010

My sister and I can get into huge fights if we get on the right topics. So I have just learned to avoid those topics, and if she brings up something and I want to make a snide remark or tell her that she is sounding ridiculous, I don't.

You talk about television, the Olympics, the weather (in the "Man, we've had so much rain this week, I hate rain" sense, not the global warming sense). If she starts ranting about something, say "Okay, Mom" and change the topic. Be sympathetic about her money woes, but about as generically as possible. She probably just wants someone to complain at, so let her complain. A lot of times, you may find that you just need to say "That sucks, sorry to hear it" and she'll be satisfied. If she asks for money, just say that you're strapped for money, too. If you have $2000 that is being used for rent/food, you don't really have $2000 to give away, don't feel guilty about it. Don't try to fix anything.
posted by that girl at 6:38 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you read past questions about this, you will find thread after thread of people who have cut off their parents and are happier.

Expanding on salvia's response, MeFi is often very poor for relationship advice IMO. Usually the stock answer to any relationship question is to Dump-The-(you-know-what). It's like asking, "my dog is lying there, coughing and listless, what do I do?" and being told, "ah, it's sick, too late, just shoot it".

Becoming increasingly irritable and suspicious can be an early sign of dementia.

It can also be that, as a person gets older, they accrue a lifetime of hurts, slights and injuries; and if they aren't coping with them as they age, they end up as a crotchety, grumpy old man/woman. Made all the worse by the fact that, they're getting older, their lives are winding down and they are not long for this world, and they know it.

And to boot the relationship between parent/kid changes, where the kid is now an adult, who may even try to treat the parent as a kid.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 7:13 PM on February 21, 2010

You know, your mother already did her job. She raised you and your sister, and now she's a grandma. How she decides to spend the rest of her life is totally up to her. If she wants to do the tea bags and so on and not get checked out at the doctor, that's her right. It's not really your place to teach her what's right and wrong about her beliefs.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep in touch with your mother, even if she annoys the hell out of you, but find things to talk about with her that aren't annoying. Like others have said, as soon as she starts going on about political stuff and her money problems, tune her out, or change the subject. If she refuses to follow you to a new subject, end the conversation. Ignore any political emails. It should be pretty easy to tell right off the bat when she's sent you "one of those" and you shouldn't pay them any mind nor let them bother you. If you stop trying to control her, you'll likely be much more content with your relationship.
posted by wondermouse at 7:23 PM on February 21, 2010

You may not want or be able to (??) cut off communication with your mother, but why can you not limit conversation to topics that don't make you stark raving mad to the point of coming to rant on MetaFilter? (No offense intended, it does sound horribly stressful and all - not saying I can't see why you're ranty about it.)

Be assertive and steer the conversation to milder, pleasanter topics. Do you not have family you can chit-chat about? Or really, anything less contentious than politics? I sort of make it a point to avoid discussing politics or religion more than probably a couple of times a year -- politics more than religion -- so I can avoid getting in some awful argument with the people I care about. I'd rather we just coexisted peacefully and had a connection through the things we have in common instead of fighting about the things we don't.
posted by asciident at 7:28 PM on February 21, 2010

Make an email filter that deletes emails from your mother with certain keywords (global warming, republican, liberal, obama, taxes, etc). Don't worry, you won't miss anything important; it she has a problem or emergency of some sorts, you'll know. It's not worth it to waste your time or energy getting angry about stupid emails.
posted by clearlydemon at 8:54 PM on February 21, 2010

I'm not sure what you can do. It seems like.. no matter how much some people go through in life, they never manage to stop insisting that they know it all and are right about everything, and they can't handle the world not being the way they want it to be. (Even Glenn Beck will say he gets things wrong, though he doesn't exactly care about truth or getting the facts right in the first place. He's just in it for the money.. and he makes a LOT of money.)

Having observed politics pretty closely for the past few election cycles, though obvs this is not a new phenomenon, I kind of get how people who feel rather powerless in their lives will latch onto something, a movement, a candidate, a personality. So this is your mom's thing: the Tea Party movement makes her feel like she belongs to something and is doing something valuable to change the country. I don't know, maybe there is a way for you to read up on the various things the Tea Partiers are doing and consider that some people involved have good intentions and legitimate concerns about the state of the economy, the Wall Street bailouts, the deficit, et cetera. And yes, I am aware that another aspect of it, some might say, is simply hating on Obama no matter what. (And I don't know why they have convinced themselves it's most important to oppose/annoy people who want to do something about global warming, and seem unconcerned about catastrophic consequences of inaction. Ask your mother what she thinks about the Pentagon's plans to deal with the effects, since they take global warming very seriously as a national security issue.) Some of the hate is getting real ugly and sometimes frightening.. Still, if your mother really is being an angry politically-minded know-it-all with whom it is impossible to hold a rational conversation and who doesn't listen to logical arguments.. well, it's not so uncommon. They're just going to be how they are. I think the best you can do is not to let it affect you.

So as far as the political emails go.. I figure, it's kind of sad to get all that upset about Obama putting his feet up on the desk. It's really silly and a non issue. For a lot of the petty angry political stuff, all it tells me is that the person who sends it is trying to pick a fight over trivia, and it's like.. If you can smile and ignore trolls on the internet, you can try to smile and ignore this. They are free to waste their time trolling if they want to waste it. Say "Oh, that's nice" like you don't care, because it is honestly not worth caring about or arguing over, at all. And maybe practice the same thing for her crying and tantrums. Oh, and she wouldn't rather die than not eat bread, come on, that's just more drama, but it's not your responsibility to cure her ailments anyway. She's an adult, and likewise if she wants to be foolish about how she spends her money, that's her right, don't make yourself miserable trying to change her.
posted by citron at 9:23 PM on February 21, 2010

Some of us didn't get the best deal when it comes to parents.

This may sound harsh, but you are all grown up now and there is no real need to be in touch with your Mother. Your Mother raised you, did her job and now you must do yours. No one "needs" parents or siblings once adulthood is reached.

You have very little in common with your Mother and it doesn't sound like either of you respect one another. It might be very smart to take a break from one another. I took a very long "break" from my Mother and I have never regretted it. Later in life we became friends again--but during my "middle years" it was next to impossible to get along with her. Decide what you will and will not put up with and stick to it.

Seems as if your Mother might enjoy the victim role. Try not to take after her.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:38 PM on February 21, 2010

Like others have mentioned, I noticed that you wrote a string of examples that are basically "my mother believes this and I believe this". Forgive me for asking the obvious, but why are you discussing things with her you know are hot-button topics? Why are you reacting to remarks of hers that you know are unreasonable?

Also, I'm not sure why you differentiate between people "with parents that have mental and physical illness and substance abuse" and yourself... you do mention that your mother throws tantrums and guilt trips, and you imply she's always been like that. Those could be attributed to a personality disorder, depending on severity, other behaviors she has, and many other factors. (Personality disorders are not quite the same thing as a mental illness, by the way; a person can be "sane", i.e. functioning, and still have unhealthy, damaging ways of relating to others and to themselves.)

I know I'm repeating another oft-used AskMeFi recommendation, but have you spoken with a therapist about your mother? From what I can glean, when you get to the bottom of things, she doesn't listen to you, and uses manipulation through guilt and anger. However, you don't focus on that, but instead, on disagreements of opinion — so I think you first need to work through your feelings towards her and what you've experienced with her, and then see how your understanding develops; you'll have a clearer idea of any boundaries you need to set, and so forth.
posted by fraula at 1:06 AM on February 22, 2010

I went ahead and got myself a sock puppet for this one. It's my first anonymous AskMe, and I don't want to bug Jessamyn but I do want to reply to a lot of these posts.

Yes, this was really rant-y! I'm sorry. You should see the first version before I edited it down!

Yes, I am just like my mom! I know this. In fact one of the ways my husband gets me to settle down when I'm freaking out over something is to tell me that I'm acting like my mom. That usually shuts me right up.

While I am not currently in therapy, I have had therapy to deal with a lot of my issues with my mom. That may be why these seem so petty.

One of the reasons that I am freaking out over the state of their finances is that I was under the impression that as her heir I will inherit any debt. Is that not right? If I'm wrong, please tell me. I would easily ignore her finances if I won't have to deal with them in the future!

When my mom isn't complaining about her most recent health issue, talking politics, or telling me about the new thing they want to buy we have great conversations. There are lots of other things to talk about, and when she's being 'normal' she is really great.

Communication has been limited lately because I think I offended her. She was needling me a little about not bringing the kids to see her enough, and I told her that maybe if I stopped buying the kids new clothes for the next two years then maybe we could afford to come visit. I know I overreacted, but I was tired of the guilt trips. I never apologized, and she didn't call me again. Two weeks later I called her to tell her something cute that my son did and she acted fine, but she rarely calls me anymore. (She would call me on her drive home from work 2-4x a week and we would talk for about 20 minutes.)

My normal reaction to my mom is to just shrug my shoulders or roll my eyes and let it go. I don't know what it was about that email, but it just really set me off. As much as I'd love to send her that picture of Bush in the same position, I think I'll do the mature thing and just let it go.

I guess what I'm looking for is a careful, tactful way of telling her that she is offending me and pushing me away. I don't know if there is one, but that's what I want.
posted by FootInMouthDisease at 5:38 AM on February 22, 2010

Don't be a fool and make a silly picture something to "take a stand over". That's just insanely juvenile. Just drop it.

Learn to better manage communication with your mother. Put some distance and boundaries on it. Recognize that you're doing it for YOUR health; mentally, physcially and financially. She's an adult and has made her own mess. Don't let her example be your guide. And don't let it be a boat anchor around YOUR neck. Yes, it will be difficult, but why should your life be destined to repeat her mistakes? Set up some limits and stick to them, it will not be easy and your mother will no doubt make it difficult. But for the sake of you and YOUR family you really need to do it.
posted by wkearney99 at 6:02 AM on February 22, 2010

I guess what I'm looking for is a careful, tactful way of telling her that she is offending me and pushing me away. I don't know if there is one, but that's what I want.

Mom, I love you but when you say that about President Obama, that really offends me. Please don't say those things to me, or send me those emails.

Mom, I love you but when you do what you did last week, I feel like you're pushing me away.

Mom, if you're going to keep talking like that around me, I'm going to go back home right now.

(all spoken in a calm voice).

One of the reasons that I am freaking out over the state of their finances is that I was under the impression that as her heir I will inherit any debt. Is that not right? If I'm wrong, please tell me. I would easily ignore her finances if I won't have to deal with them in the future!

Unlikely, unless you co-signed her mortgage or something, but talk to a lawyer. Does she have a will? How is she paying for her funeral? Regardless of the debt thing you may end up having to cover that expense.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 7:55 AM on February 22, 2010

Are you sure your mother isn't (even slightly) mentally ill?

If you are covering up the truth from yourself, this would make it difficult to adjust and re-gain your balance every time there is drama/trauma.

Maybe be honest with yourself about what you perceive and experience? Maybe a little self-insight will make following the good advice above on how to set boundaries easier for you to implement and maintain?

Just a thought.
posted by jbenben at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2010

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