Shayne on You: But she's my mom!

Dearest Maggie,

First let me say that I absolutely adore your books. Now down to business. About five years ago I was in a relationship that I thought of as abusive. The guy had a loud and starting-to-get violent temper. We were living in a house that my mother owns and as I tried speaking with her about the situation she would get upset and say things like “The wedding is the only thing making me happy!” The only thing I wanted at the time was the support of my mother when I told him to leave. Well the straw that broke the camel’s back came one morning, when he hit my 9 year old daughter. I could have taken him demeaning me, but not hitting my daughter. I told him to get out. He said that my mother said he didn’t have to leave, even if I kicked him out. Well, that night after he left for work. I packed two baskets of clothes and I left. Every time I tried to talk to my mother she gave me guilt trips and turned my thinking very dark and negative to the point that I didn’t want to be here anymore, so I quit talking to her.

 Since then I have reopened the lines of communication and even see my parents and siblings every other week or so. The problem is that I am engaged to a wonderful man. He completes my thoughts, my dreams, and he calls my now 14 year old his daughter. However, between everything that is going on with trying to patch the connection between the family again, I can’t invite my mother for a few hours because she will purposely pick fights, or downright try to anger either me or my fiance. She has gone so far as to say that everything that I have done since I was introduced to my fiance has been a mistake and that she doesn’t understand how I could be so stupid.

 How can I keep trying to rebuild this bridge between us when every time I start to get close she fires off another shot to hurt me or those that I am trying to build a family with? I just don’t know what to do anymore.

 Thank you for listening.


Dear T.,

You didn’t “think of him” as abusive. His temper wasn’t “starting to get violent.” He abused you verbally, mentally and emotionally. He abused your daughter physically. Abuse is abuse. You did the right thing in throwing him out, and I’m really glad to hear you’ve found a new relationship that makes you so happy now!

Your mother is a problem. I can hear all the moms out there firing up their pens to tell me I have only heard one side of the story, but the thing is, you perceive her as a problem, so she is one, to you. And you’re the one I’m focused on here. I can only address the issues you’ve asked me to.

So here’s the big revelation that should help you feel empowered. Your mom can’t pick fights with you if you refuse to fight. She can’t give you guilt trips if you refuse to feel guilty. And she certainly can’t turn your thinking dark and negative. Only you can do that.

Whether you continue your relationship with her is up to you, of course. I imagine you want to keep the connection for your daughter’s sake, though if your mom is as negative as you say, you’re not doing your daughter any favors by keeping that sort of influence in her life. The thing is, though, the nature of the relationship, the terms of it, are up to you.

She’s abusive too. Just as much as the former guy was. And like him, she’ll keep dishing it out just as long as you keep taking it. So my advice to you is, tell her you won’t take it anymore. Tell her that if she wants to remain a part of your life, and of your daughter’s life, she needs to stop the behaviors that she’s exhibiting. Tell her that you refuse to have such negativity around you, so she either needs to let it go and be pleasant, or just stay away.

(I probably don’t need to add that this will be much easier if you’re not still living in her house, but I assume you’re not.)

“But she’s my mother!” some would say. Well, she’s also just another human being. If you wouldn’t let a stranger abuse you, you shouldn’t let relatives. Shouldn’t they treat you better than others do, rather than worse?

I say tell her to knock it off or take a hike. I have no tolerance for abusive people, related or not.

And now, the deep, esoteric, “you create your own reality” stuff. Take a really clear look at yourself while you’re rebuilding this new life. Make sure you’ve let go of all the baggage from the old one. Take a look at where your thoughts are, and listen to yourself. Notice if you are mostly positive, or mostly negative? When you talk, are you mostly complaining, or mostly rejoicing? Are you mostly discussing what’s wrong with your life, or what’s right with it? What do you discuss more, this wonderful new relationship you’ve found, or your miserable mother?

Why do I ask? Because it’s a good way to reveal where your focus is. And whatever you focus on, you get more of.

If you really want your mother to stop being such a pain, start noticing the good parts of her. Talk about those, especially to her. When the bad stuff comes out, ignore her, ditch her, walk away. Don’t fight it or argue about it. That only feeds into her nonsense. Don’t make it the topic of discussion among your friends or with your new love. Let it go. Just turn yourself off like a robot, and leave her presence and put her garbage out of your mind. Respond only to the good stuff, if she shows you any.

She’ll either turn into your best friend, or she won’t be able to stand to be near you. Either way is better than the current situation, though.

Good for you, by the way, on getting free of an abusive relationship. A lot of women don’t, and it takes guts. So take heart in knowing that. If you could stand up to him, you can stand up to your mom.

Good luck,


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