How can I get my Mom to stop saying inappropriate things to me?
July 3, 2013 8:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I get my Mom to stop saying inappropriate things to me? My Mom has said on done inappropriate things in front of my my entire life.

When I was nine or ten she used to say things about sex in front of me. I remember one time when I was about eight her receiving oral sex from my dad while I was sleep on one end of the couch and she was on the other. Obviously with all the activity going on I woke up but pretended to still be asleep. It wasn't until years later I realized how inappropriate that was to do in front of a child that was the age I was.Fast forward a few years later at twelve I remember one time her saying that some guy was hot and then saying she got wet and getting tissue and actually wiping down there in front of me.Now that I'm an adult it seems to be getting worse, if it's possible. She has repeatedly talked to me about her masturbating and how sometimes it's been better then sex. And just the other day I was talking to her about how I had this teacher that all the girls liked and I wonder was he still teaching and she started asking me did he make me wet.I told her I'm tired of her saying things like that to me and then she tries to make the situation better by saying that's the way she think about men and that she saw Obama on TV and that she just wanted to lick him all over and his face and I started crying. I know it sounds immature but this has been getting so bad recently and I don't know what to say to get her to stop.

She was sexually abused by her Dad when she was a little girl. I don't know anything about it other than that because she has never talked about it but, I've been wondering for the past few days if that has anything to do with how she acts.

I'm just so tired of it. How can I make her stop?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stop talking to her the moment she says something like this. "Mom, I told you I don't want to hear that sort of thing from you, and every time you talk like that, I will end the conversation." Repeat this until she learns.

If she doesn't learn to be appropriate, you might consider whether your mother has a mental illness and cannot help herself. If that's the case, the best you can do is just extract yourself from any of this type of conversation.
posted by xingcat at 8:13 PM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

You can tell her that you're worried she has a mental illness, because her bizarre oversharing is so out of character and so wildly outside the bounds of normal behavior. Maybe if she's trying to posture for you with the sex talk, realizing that it makes her look like an insane old woman might make her stop.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:16 PM on July 3, 2013

She has incredibly poor boundaries. Thus, you need to be the one to set the boundaries- AND enforce them. State them clearly- Mom, you cant do X. I will, sadly, have to not talk to you or not be around you if you do X. Then, you do have to follow through with the consequences and stick to them.

And yeah, to armchair diagnose (which is bad, so don;t do it) its distinctly possible her actions are related to her dads actions.
posted by Jacen at 8:16 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Not a professional in anyway, but if her own father had such bad boundaries he sexually abused her, your mother just might really understand where the boundaries are when talking to her own daughter as she never saw healthy examples of what was right and wrong from her own parents.

That's not to say you need to put up with what she is doing. Jacen gives very good advice, you need to set up boundaries for yourself and stick to them. You don't have to be mean or angry when you do it, just firm. Just say "No that is not appropriate, it makes me uncomfortable please stop talking about that" and then be willing to leave the room, house or whatever if she keeps talking about it.
posted by wwax at 8:32 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

The short answer to your question is that you can't make her stop. She's a different person who is not under your control.

The long answer is what other people are saying: boundaries. You can set the boundary that you will not talk about sex with her. When she crosses the boundary you end the conversation. Every time. If she wants to talk to you, she'll shift her conversation topics. Note: for this to work, you have to be ok with the possibility that she won't talk to you as much/at all if she can't talk dirty to you.

Have you discussed this with a therapist at all? Because that could be very helpful to you.
posted by medusa at 8:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ugh, how awful.

Unfortunately, you can't make anyone do anything, most especially, you can't make your parents stop doing the crappy shit they've been doing to you your whole life.

You can:

1) Limit your time with her. Decide before you visit/pick up the phone how long you will talk and hold yourself to that. If it' helps, make sure you have somewhere you have to be after. You have the option to tell her why you are doing this or not, but you are in charge of your time and you have the right to stop talking to her no matter how she feels or reacts to that.

2) Make boundaries and limits with her. Saying things like, "Mom, I don't want you talk to me about your sexual feelings or sex life. It feels very uncomfortable and I don't like it." You don't have to engage further after that, and if you do, it may just encourage her or cause a fight, but it is unlikely to convince her. With time though, she may grow more accustomed to this boundary.

3) Talk to others about this to gain a sense of perspective and sanity. Posting this question is one way. Talking to a trained therapist would be a really, really good way. You grew up with someone with crazy, inappropriate boundaries. It's likely you have an unclear sense of what is "OK" from people close to you because of that. Hearing from others will help you establish a set of normal behaviors to expect from your relationships.

By the way, you do not sound immature. I would cry in that situation too. It's a very powerless, overwhelming bad feeling that must feel very familiar from your childhood and you are having a very understandable, sane, mature reaction.
posted by latkes at 8:51 PM on July 3, 2013 [24 favorites]

Holy crap this is awful. Your mom goes way past normal parent boundary pushing. You could have ended your post with the "my mom had oral sex several feet away from me when I was a child" and that would have been enough to convince me that she is inappropriate. I am not sure exactly how you should deal with this because you have endured your mom's behavior for a long time, but I just wanted to tell you that you are not "immature!"

The trouble with people who push boundaries is that they have no concept of the fact that other people have different concepts of what is appropriate. When you push back they accuse you of being immature, sensitive, silly, etc. It is sort of like a child who has no concept of other people's feelings.
posted by radioamy at 9:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another thing to consider when you set boundaries with her is to realize that you won't be able to get her to see things from your perspective. Your best tactic is to tell her that her talking about sex makes you uncomfortable, and that you want her to stop. She doesn't have to agree with you or understand why you are uncomfortable, but maybe you can convince her to do it because she loves you and you made the request.
posted by radioamy at 9:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yes, you can't make her do anything.

... talking about sex makes you uncomfortable...

I would go with something like this instead:

"Mom, I don't want to talk about your sex life."
"Mom, I don't want to talk about sex with you. That's something I want to talk about with my partner/friends/doctor only."

...and change the subject or end the conversation. I fear if you just say that you are uncomfortable just talking about sex in general it could make it worse or turn into a "Why not! Sex is natural, this one time...[intimate details that you don't want to hear to try to make you more comfortable]." talk, which is right where you started.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:36 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

It would make me cry, too, if I were in your shoes. Yikes.

It's OK to do whatever you need to do to protect yourself from your mom's extremely inappropriate behavior. My suggestion would be to always have an exit strategy in place, and to up and leave when she does or says something hyper-sexualized. You've told her it makes you uncomfortable. If she chooses to continue, you can choose to not participate.

If her behavior doesn't change, you might considering cutting contact with her until she is willing to treat you with respect and care.

What she is doing is 100% boundary-busting, and not OK behavior from anyone, much less a parent. If you need a little help with boundary-setting, you might consult with a therapist to help sort things out. Sometimes it's hard to see how flat-out wrong parental behavior is without a little outside, professional perspective.
posted by nacho fries at 10:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

How old are you? If you are a minor and still living at home, please contact a family doctor or school counselor. What your mom is doing is not ok. You cannot stop her, but you can take steps to protect yourself.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:21 PM on July 3, 2013 [24 favorites]

Yes, what snickerdoodle said. If you are a minor living at home, please find an adult you trust who you can discuss this with.

My mother was like this. It's a form of abuse, and you shouldn't have to put up with it.

If you're an adult and no longer living at home, just draw a firm line and end conversations immediately if she gets into this stuff. It may mean taking some time out of contact with her.
posted by alms at 11:03 PM on July 3, 2013

From an anonymous commenter:
If your father had been saying and doing these things to you I think it would constitute sexual abuse, not a mere question of 'boundaries' or 'being inappropriate'. I'm sorry, I don't know what to suggest, particularly since I don't know how old you are or where you are, but I think that is how you should approach it. In the same vein - your reaction is not unnatural or excessive in any way. Do not feel guilty about it. Abuse passes through generations; this helps to understand the perpetrator, if not forgive them.
posted by taz at 12:14 AM on July 4, 2013 [33 favorites]

Nthing that this is a form of abuse; if you are a minor at home, please contact a trusted adult, such as a teacher, counselor, or doctor.

If you're an adult, I agree with all the advice about drawing very firm boundaries with your mom. I'd also strongly advise you to seek out therapy -- not because you've done anything wrong or are immature (because you haven't and you aren't), but because therapy can help you understand how this sort of extreme behavior has affected you, and also can help you in carrying out a strategy for setting boundaries and detaching from your mother as necessary.

You can't make your mom do anything, but you do have some options to help yourself. I wish you all the best.
posted by scody at 12:28 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you are a minor, what everyone else said.

If you are an adult, you just might consider showing her this post.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:14 AM on July 4, 2013

When she starts, tell her ONCE that you will not listen; if she continues, WALK AWAY. Do not stay and listen, do not stay and discuss WHY you won't listen, just walk out every single time.
posted by easily confused at 2:40 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

This sounds so horrible for you. Please don't criticise yourself for getting upset. I agree with your instinct that this is probably a symptom of her own abuse but that doesn't make it ok. It is abusive of her to behave in this way towards you even if she can't see that. If you are a minor please reach out for help. Any professional will see this as the abuse that it is. If you are older now then protect yourself in other ways, through boundaries and distance from your mother and through therapy if you feel it would help.

Well done for identifying this as the issue that it is. Growing up in a situation that is unhealthy can make it really hard to see what is normal and healthy and what is not. This is not ok behaviour and you are brave to tackle it.
posted by Dorothia at 3:25 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you have the time to, please listen to this episode of the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast. It's an interview with a therapist, but the interviewer winds up talking about the abuse he suffered from his mother, and it sounds completely, exactly the same as what you are going through. I think it will help you, at least in realizing that this is NOT ok and that it's more common than people think.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:07 AM on July 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry you're experiencing this, as it is a form of abuse in itself. Others are right to suggest you maintain healthy boundaries, and are firm in closing down or exiting any situation you are uncomfortable with.

However inappropriate sexual behaviour is a common trait among sexual abuse survivors. How would you feel about addressing your mother's abuse with her? Not in terms of details, but along the lines of "Some of your words and behaviours are very disturbing and upsetting to me. I believe it might have something to do with what you went through as a child. Would you like me to help you find a therapist who you could talk to about it? I think our relationship would be better, and I would be happier, if you were able to learn better ways of dealing with it." And by all means find someone you can talk to as well. Take care.
posted by billiebee at 7:19 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not a boundaries issue. This is an abuse issue.

If you want to keep talking to her (and it's entirely fine if you don't) you need to present an ultimatum:

"This behavior ends any conversation, ends any interaction; phone, in person, online. continued behavior of this kind ends all contact between us."
posted by French Fry at 7:21 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

You are not immature, it's your mother who is immature and a lot of other stuff too as already mentioned above. You are very normal.
posted by Dansaman at 7:23 AM on July 4, 2013

The fact that it makes you cry makes me wonder if she's picking on you - something for you to consider.

I agree, you need to set and enforce the boundaries. Start by, next time she shares inappropriately, saying Mom, I don't want you to share your sex life details with me and/or Mom, I don't want to share my sex life details with you. and change the subject right away. Have a mental list of subjects, like What was Grandma Jones like? or Have you seen this great youtube video? Next time it happens, you remind her Mom, the sexytime details have to stop. Once you've set the boundaries, you enforce them by leaving. Leave the room, leave the house, hang up the phone. Mom, I'm not going to listen about your sex life. I'll talk to you later and out the door you go. I'm not willing to hear about your sexual details, talk to you tomorrow, Bye and hang up the phone. The name for this technique is extinguishment or extinction, and it works. Specifically, you deny the person any reinforcement for the undesired behavior. She may also experience some unpleasant consequence because she likes to be with you, and you leave.

You might also want to encourage her to get some therapy regarding the sexual abuse,but that depends on your relationship with your Mom.
posted by theora55 at 9:24 AM on July 4, 2013

Now that I'm an adult

Just dropping this in there for responders who missed it, and are wondering if the OP is a minor.
posted by nacho fries at 10:11 AM on July 4, 2013

My mom used to try to talk about sex with me (she was also abused by her father, for what it's worth). Mind you, it was when I was 30. Nevertheless, I found it disgusting and upsetting - it made me feel kind of violated. I got her to stop by asking her to AND insulting her, the latter of which worked most of all. I told her that it was totally innapropriate behaviour and I didn't want to hear about her sex life. She complained that adult mothers and daughters should be able to talk about these things and that there was nothing wrong with it. I said 1) I do not want to hear about it, 2) these are things you need to talk about with your friends, not your daughter (to which she said that she had no one else she could talk about these things with - and I said "That's your problem, not mine"), and 3) your behaviour her is a total disgrace and it makes me respect you less. That made her cut it out.
posted by kitcat at 10:15 AM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Thank you for all of the responses.I haven’t implemented any of the advice given here yet because I certainly don’t want to bring of sex with her out of the blue but it will come up again with something I am talking about sooner or later. I listened to the entire podcast that was mentioned and I enjoyed it and I plan on listening to other episodes of this podcast.The person that said that I probably don’t know what’s ok from other people was right and it was admittedly very painful to read that someone could perceive that from this situation.I am not a minor as I said in the main post I am very much an adult over the age of twenty one.

I have to say that I was surprised at the responses and felt like people we’re going to think I was over reacted and this was semi normal behavior.It hasn’t been until the last several months to year that I’ve thought this behavior was wrong and borderline sexual abuse.I’ve always just thought my Mom was kind of crazy,eccentric just being herself or whatever other excuse I gave her.I plan on updating this thread whenever this comes up again about what happened.Thanks again.
posted by sundaytea at 5:59 PM on July 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have to say that I was surprised at the responses and felt like people we’re going to think I was over reacted and this was semi normal behavior.It hasn’t been until the last several months to year that I’ve thought this behavior was wrong and borderline sexual abuse.

I just want to say, OP, that anything that makes you uncomfortable is valid. Your feelings are always, always valid. What you mom did (and does) is abuse. Try not to talk yourself out how you feel. Or, at least, catch yourself when you do. Think about why are you trying to talk yourself out of the way you feel. Sometimes the reason is really obvious but insanely difficult to face, so you just keep telling yourself that you're "probably just over reacting".

I lost touch with my instincts from childhood through part of my adulthood because they were sort of trained out of me while growing up in an abusive atmosphere. That's not uncommon for survivors of childhood abuse. The way to get back in touch with your instincts is to honor your feelings. If something makes you uncomfortable and you find yourself second guessing yourself or trying to talk yourself out of feeling the way you do, just stop and allow yourself to think about why you are going against your own instincts.

The therapist in the podcast asked Paul at one point to imagine that the abuse were happening to another child. That he needed to treat himself as one would were they caring for and protecting another child that was in his very situation. That is a good exercise to try. It helps one get out of their own way–past denial, ambivalence and lack of instincts–and really see what happened to them in their childhood.

Another way of doing this is to ask yourself what you would think, feel or do if your mother were treating your child (real, imagined or "future child") the way she treated you. That silly little device alone has cleared up many, many things for me. It's painful to face, but much less painful than the alternative, imo. The boundaries I needed in the past are there now (even if only symbolically in some ways) because I put them there.

I hope you do update, us, OP. I'm really sorry for what you've been through. I hope this askme has helped. I wish you the best.
posted by marimeko at 7:29 PM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm not a therapist but I would definitely consider this behavior a form of sexual abuse- it falls under the category of non-contact sexual abuse- and I worry that it can affect your ability to enjoy your own sexuality. It might be helpful for you to talk it over with a therapist, perhaps your local domestic abuse services can recommend someone.

Your mother needs some serious counseling and she may not being to discuss her behavior in any rational way with you until she does. You may need to cut her off completely for a while if she can't acknowledge that her behavior is abusive, and I hope that you are not financially dependent on her.

I hope it all works out for the best.
posted by mareli at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2013

This is the first time I've ever told anybody this, but my Mom was like this too, though I do not know if she was ever sexually abused herself and honestly, I'm terrified to ask. It's such a weird thing because there's no social archetype or whatever for it, like there is for males who do such things. I feel like I took care of myself pretty well as a kid, my mom always used to tell me I was being "prissy", when I expressed my disgust. I was unaware that anything was really wrong - I just thought she was being gross and weird. Coming to realize as an adult that it was actually abuse is hard to process. And further complicating things is the fact that I still love her and care about her, you know? She's still my mom and there was always something in me that felt deeply sorry for her and for the child she once was (she has issues with depression and other things as well). It's definitely not as easy as just saying, "You're an abuser. I hate you," and then cutting off all contact. I also know it would kill my kindly and strait-laced father who never had any inkling.

I guess I don't have any useful advice, but maybe it'll help to know you're not the only one who's had this experience. I think it's helped me to get it off my chest. Oh and I think you sound totally mature and normal too.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:58 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whatever you wind up doing, focus on shutting it down. Do not get dragged into arguing about it, justifying your preference, etc. View any action on your part that keeps the topic open as a bad thing. Keep your eye on the goal of shutting it down. Do not get distracted or derailed by trying to get her to understand why, care about your feelings, mollify her sense of hurt, etc ad nauseum. Rinse and repeat.

I was a victim of sexual abuse. I don't always know where to draw that boundary, in part because buttonholing people and crying on their shoulder helped save me. So I behave a little like someone who is bipolar or an out-of-the-closet gay and I am prone to oversharing. But I know that about myself so there are things I do to account for it. For one, if my (adult) kids tell me "we don't really don't want to know" then it stops there. I always try to err on the side of "this might be something I maybe shouldn't discuss with you" and let them decide if they want to hear it.

The way your mother keeps talking even after you said "I don't want to know" is extremely inappropriate and a form of abuse. As a victim of sexual abuse, I actively encouraged my kids to set boundaries and feel free to tell me to shut up. Since your mom isn't doing that, you need to step up and draw that line pretty firmly. And please do not feel bad about it. The odds are good that it will help her for someone to set more appropriate boundaries. Poor boundaries is part of the legacy of abuse and helps victims get revictimized over and over, sometimes for life. Setting a better example for her is one of the kindest things you can do for her.

I will also add that I have never talked to my kids about anyone or anything "making me wet!" I will talk to them about relationship stuff but my sexual activities and preferences are not something I discuss with them. However, there is a grey zone where it is hard to say where relationship stuff ends and sexual stuff begins and it is that grey zone where I sometimes say "I don't know if I should discuss it with you." If your mom insists she has no one else to talk to about this stuff, if you wish, you can mention that people discuss this under anonymous internet handles online all the time and encourage her to enter the 21st century by looking to the internet for an outlet but leave you the hell alone. Not your problem. Or you can just skip to "Leave me alone. Not my problem."
posted by Michele in California at 4:26 PM on July 5, 2013

Hi, my mother has bipolar and while she wasn't quite that explicit as yours, her behavior wasn't far off. I'm surprised that no one here has mentioned emotional or covert incest, which this sounds like. You don't need to be physically touched to have experienced incest. I highly recommend talking to a therapist.
posted by desjardins at 10:19 AM on July 6, 2013

No news is good news right.My Mom has been doing this a little less.I tried changing the subject and that seems to have help.The first time after I posted she did it I just completely cut her off and changed the subject and the worked well.The second time I tried changing the subjects but she was relentless asking me to please let her finish I just changed the subject and got up and walked away and she hasn't done anything so far since.
posted by sundaytea at 7:56 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

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