Meddling mother
October 17, 2012 8:14 PM   Subscribe

How do i stop a caring but meddling mother interfering with my relationships in life?

She's always giving her opinion on how to live, how she would like my house to be?, or at times is a bit dominant controlling. She says inappropriate things to my partners sister, who lives not far, be it right or wrong, then makes matters worse for myself. She fell out with my brother's wife few years ago under similar circumstances, and i thought she would of learnt something obviously not. She said to me if i fall out with him, well so be it, like she cannot keep her mouth shut. I feel like i cannot tell her anything regarding my r/ship now, for fear of it getting back?. Clearly its making matters worse, and causing me a lot of stress to the point my anxiety effects my eating and life and mental health. I get thoughts like shes doing this on purpose, how can one be so stupid?, im not a baby. Just so opinionated and cant she see she is causing more damage than good? any advice would be helpful, i feel like she is bridging a gap between myself and partner, right or wrong and i am forced to take sides. Thanks in Advance.
posted by billbobagginz to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Start here.
posted by erst at 8:16 PM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your mother can only interfere in your life if you let her. Stop sharing information about your relationship with her. If she brings it up, refuse to engage and tell her why.

It sounds like you're creating as much drama in your own mind and life as your mother is. Be a grownup and tell mom to mind her own business. Thank her for her two cents and tell her you have different ideas (about your house, how to live, your relationships, etc.).
posted by shoesietart at 8:31 PM on October 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

She can't form opinions about what she doesn't know, and she doesn't need to know everything. When a person -- even your mother -- uses private information as ammunition, they damn well better lose your trust. Limit conversations to the weather.
posted by griphus at 8:34 PM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

"That's what you would do."

You acknowledge that you heard her, but you aren't in any way committing to follow her advice. Practice saying it. Then say it to her over and over and over.

She won't stop giving advice. You need to stop responding to it in any way other than acknowledging that you heard her. You aren't confronting her and you aren't escalating. It's the verbal equivalent of flag it and move on.
posted by 26.2 at 8:34 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've dealt with this by not saying anything that can be used to cause hurt. In my charitable moments, I realize that she's just overly protective, and even minor complaints turn into "OMG my baby's unhappy!" Therefore, she's not a good person for me to vent to, because she's not impartial, and what I say to her absolutely affects her opinion of my partner.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:36 PM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

i feel like she is bridging a gap between myself and partner, right or wrong and i am forced to take sides

please take your partner's side! i know it's hard but i've been there (on both sides) and not doing so will do long-term damage to a relationship you've worked hard on. if you take your mother's side, she'll never quit doing what she's doing right now whenever you try to be independent of her. you will be lonely and unhappy! if you take your partner's side, you might feel a little sad or guilty, but you will have the rest of your life all to yourself.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:40 PM on October 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

She said to me if i fall out with him, well so be it, like she cannot keep her mouth shut. I feel like i cannot tell her anything regarding my r/ship now, for fear of it getting back?.

1. Set clear boundaries. Tell her that her interference is affecting you negatively, and ask her to stop.

2. Don't give her ammunition. Stop telling her things about your relationship. It's none of her business, she doesn't need to know, and you actually don't want her to know. She certainly has no right to know.

3. Enforce your stated boundaries. "Mum, I've told you I don't want to discuss that with you. So we can talk about something else, or I can leave/hang up".

Do take your partner's side in this. You brought your mother into their life. It is your responsibility to protect your partner from your mother.

Good luck!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:44 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do what teenagers do - hide it and/or lie about it.
posted by wilful at 10:15 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Suggest that your mother enrich her own life and quit trying to live yours. She might join a group, take dance or knitting lessons, help with reading at a grade school, hold preemies at a hospital, the world is full of opportunities to help people who need help,and might appreciate it.
posted by Cranberry at 10:54 PM on October 17, 2012

Operant conditioning. Is this on the phone? As soon as she starts, introduce the consequences: "I gotta go." and hang up.
posted by joshu at 10:56 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you feel like she's doing it on purpose, she very likely is. Call her on it, strongly. Tell her to butt out and see what type of reaction you get. If you get tears and guilt trips instead of an apology, then yeah - she's a narcissist and you can safely ignore everything she says and does. Been there, got the badge.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:44 PM on October 17, 2012

If you're on the phone and she starts in on your partner, your relationship or your homelife, tell her ONCE that you will not discuss those with her. If she continues anyway, tell her the conversation is over and HANG UP. (And don't answer the phone when she immediately calls back!) If you're face-to-face and she starts the same conversation, cut her off and WALK AWAY.

Never bring up your relationship to her: that just gives her an opening --- remember the old saying about giving someone an inch and they'll take a mile? Never give her that inch! Don't talk about it with her, and don't explain more than to repeat "It's none of your business."

Reduce your mother's total presence in your life: do you meet regularly for dinner? Cut that in half. How often do you talk on the phone? If it's daily, cut down to once a week; if weekly, make it alternate weeks. Texts or emails? Ignore at least half. And cut any visits by her to your home WAY down.
posted by easily confused at 2:23 AM on October 18, 2012

Guidelines from someone who has done this since age 8:

1) Become the most boring person you can imagine. You have experienced nothing, done nothing, seen nobody and making no plans.

2) Everything is fine. How is partner? Oh, he's fine. How is work? Work is fine. How is your friend X doing? He's fine? How did that dinner go with the in-laws? Oh, it went fine.

3) Have one or two topics you keep as "safe grounds". With my mother, I talk about dogs and I talk about the weather.

4) When she starts encroaching on your territory, steer the conversation away firmly towards safe ground. Keep one or two anecdotes ready for this situation. If she still doesn't get the message, say "That topic is off-limits" and go back to safe, boring ground.

5) Limit your time with her. You might even want to specify when she can call or visit. If she contacts you outside these times, don't answer the phone (and if you are at home, open the door but say you cannot accept any visitors right now).

6) And finally: your mother is not your friend; she's your mother. Remember this. It doesn't mean you don't love her - it just means you are clear about what role she plays in your life.
posted by kariebookish at 3:18 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

She can't form opinions about what she doesn't know, and she doesn't need to know everything. When a person -- even your mother -- uses private information as ammunition, they damn well better lose your trust. Limit conversations to the weather.

Very, very true. The only thing to watch out for is starting to not tell her things that she will eventually find out about. This will cause these kinds of people to lose their shit and meddle/criticize in the past tense. Forever. There is a sweet spot in every decision or occurrence where her present tense meddling is minimized, and so is past tense meddling. It depends on the person where that is, and you'll have to just figure it out.
posted by gjc at 6:51 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

The questions I asked myself that fudamentally changed a similar situation for me were these:

What do I get out of this relationship?
Is it worth the cost?

It wasn't
posted by French Fry at 7:35 AM on October 18, 2012

Just so it's said, you're correct: some people can't keep their mouth shut.
posted by rhizome at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2012

I agree with a lot of posters saying you can control only what you tell her. Other than that, try to change the subject.

My mom was exactly like this and I fully understand the pain, anxiety, uncomfortableness and well, constant negativity. It never stopped. It didn't help I told her everything but for me, that was because I didn't know how to bond with her in any other way. But now that she passed away, I can honestly say that a postive thing for me is no more anxiety, doubt, uncomfortableness, negativity unless I"m the one producing it. It's a great feeling of freedom. I loved my mom and wanted her to be part of my life but she was completely deficient in a healthy, two way relationship.

So my empathy is there for you, trust me.
posted by stormpooper at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2012

also if she's criticizing your partner's life/house/family, PLEASE unequivocally make it clear to your partner that you're on her(?) side. Give her emotional support, untinged with "well, you know, she's my mother, [excuse excuse]." Think about if your partner's mother was doing this to you-- or if your partner's coworker was doing it to her. It would be bratty, unacceptable behavior, and you would want to protect and comfort her, right? Just because it's your mother doesn't mean she has any more say in the life of someone who isn't her child.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:26 AM on October 18, 2012

Read the article on training humans: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage.

Use substitution: let Mom fuss about what color drapes you should use in the dining room, or whether you should get a tattoo, or the best recipe for pot roast. As it turns out, my manipulative Mom made great pot roast, and discussions of it kept her busy some of the time. And more than one outburst was foiled by diverting the oncoming train: Have you ever noticed the faces in this wallpaper? I've asked some peculiar, trivial questions in the middle of family dramas, to the bewilderment of my siblings. Doesn't always work, but when you go from an impending blowup to I was going to keep these drapes for now; do you think I should replace them? it's a total win.

She wants to be part of your life. She loves you. She is convinced that her way is the only way. So, for small things where she nags you, explain once: Mom, I know you prefer Tide, and I'll bet it does a terrific job. Chris and I prefer to buy hippie biodegradable detergent. and after that: Mom, we've talked about this and the discussion is closed. and immediately introduce a new topic: Did you see last night's game/ reality show/ full moon?

For intrusions: Mom, it's so amazing/ hilarious/ adorable that you're concerned about us having a good sex life. Hey Chris! Mom wants to be sure we're having fantastic sex! Mom, there's no way in this world that I'll be discussing that with you, but I appreciate your concern. Be dramatic. Make the intrusion obvious.

Turn it back to her, and to ways to have a positive experience: Mom, what did you and Dad do about *subject*? What was your mother-in-law like? Mom, tell me how you felt when you were 1st married? It lets her be the center of your attention, and builds a nice experience.

Use gentle, non-mean humor: Boy, you sure want me to come to your house all day on Thanksgiving; are you going to go to Chris' Mom & Step-Dad's *and* Chris' Dad's family's houses for us? Cause somebody has to go. So, you want directions? Chris' Dad's family could use you, your stuffing is the best.

Lots of affection: Mom, we love you (lay a huge hug on her, better, both of you hug her) but you know we're not gonna do everything your way. Nice try though, you big sweetie.

If she's mean, racist, or otherwise out of bounds: Mom, that was out of bounds. I have to get off the phone/ leave now. If she does it at your house: Mom, that was over the line, and you can't say that here. If she persists: I think we should take a break. We'll see you next week.

I had some lengthy breaks from my Mom, and I moved 1,000 miles away to get the distance I needed. But we ended up having the best relationship available. Not perfect, but good.
posted by theora55 at 3:13 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding disconnection and moving a continent away. Works wonders.
posted by ead at 10:03 PM on October 18, 2012

Thanks a bunch of terrific answers cant thank you enough, your all right..this crap has been going on since day dawn, Living my life "I am her baby" male. Funny thing is my brother moved interstate, him and his wife, as my mother fell out with her to abused her. I try to look at it from rational perspective, she has good points shes my mother, but hell the anxiety/frustration/anger she has caused between families is almost sending me near nervous breakdown.

I actually went of my food, went to the GP in tears its BS really. She takes matters into her own hands, without even discussing it with me, and can be very critical. Then there is the warm lovely side everyone loves her, "WHEN" things are going her way or how she likes. She's moved house to and i feel that' she's very bored, out talking to neighbors, a bit lost. But blowing up at my sister in law is not right, (Sis in law lives 5houses down) re my partner to her, she doesn't want to hear it, its inappropriate to in front of people. I told her so, she didn't like it, and as poster above said the "Tears" came on , oh fark guilt's with me.

I realize that some people don't always get along, after the altercation with sis in law, its blame her now she is this she is that!!!!!!, shes not welcome in my home now. Great thanks for adding more stress to my already rocky r/ship which were trying to fix... I say rock we have our own issues working through them. I got to the point last week i just wanted to drive off away from everything, it got to much for me, but i have to be strong and confront her, stand up to her not "EASY" when she's been so dominant and controlling all my life even with me. My dad is old had triple bypasses, and well i doubt will be here in ten years, she says things like What will i do??? who look after me...

OMG!!!!!!!!!! me thinks in my head , are you saying what i think your saying???..... Anyhow i think the best thing to do now is keep some space between i and her, but then course she will get jealous as the sis in law gets to visit and feel left out, you wait and her own words "IM THE BAD GUY HERE".. yes well u did shoot your mouth of to her "sis in law" about my partner negatively so what you expect.. happy days eh families...... Thanks for responses its helping me gain some insight :)))
posted by billbobagginz at 4:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

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