After many, many years of soul-searching, I have decided to separate from my mother. The grief I have been experiencing is akin to going through a divorce (I have already been through one of those, so you’d think I’d be an expert by now).
It’s different to a divorce though. Even though I’m always connected to my ex-husband through our children, he came into my life when I was already an adult, so I think I was able to see more clearly why the relationship wasn’t working.
But when you’ve had a relationship with someone since birth, and that person is pretty good at convincing you nothing is wrong, it is harder to disentangle yourself.
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it didn’t feel right. The years of passive-aggressive manipulation, the many ways my heart has been broken by her behavior – still I tried to keep the relationship going. After all, losing a parent is significant, and society tells us we should love our parents. It’s hard to go against all of that.
At some point in my late teens I realised my mother’s pattern was one of enmeshment. She was intrusive and demanding, and felt entitled to know everything about me. She wouldn’t let me live independently or have my own thoughts. I thought she meant well though, and felt guilty about abandoning her.
In the end, it was seeing the terrible effect on my children that persuaded me. Even with me as a buffer, my mother’s toxic behavior impacted them.
Throughout my marriage, my husband had complained of the way my mother treated me – undermining my parenting skills and making me generally more anxious than I needed to be. Always assuming the worst, her negativity spread throughout our little family unit like a virus.
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Her nasty comments stung when they touched my children – more than they had when they were directed at me. They started asking questions about why Gran said and did those things, and I didn’t have a straightforward answer. I started to realise I’d been feeling sorry for her, and that had stood in the way of me standing up for myself. But once my children were involved, my inner mama bear kicked in and I could stand for it no longer.