Dear Annie: I’m married to “Bob,” a wonderful man, and we have an incredible 3-year-old son. The only problems we ever have are about family.
My mother and I have never been close. The community we live in believes she is an angel of mercy, since she donates her time and money to various charitable causes. Yet she ignores her own grandchildren and treats Bob and me as if we were strangers. It’s been worse since my father passed away four years ago.
Annie I know I cannot change my mother, but I’m not sure how to deal with her. Should I ignore the fact that she behaves this way? Should I continue to bring our son to family gatherings, even if it leads to squabbles with family members? I want to do what’s best for my son. Please advise. —Hilda in Plattsburgh
Dear Hilda: You’re smart to realize you cannot change your mother, but that doesn’t mean your son should be kept away. Continue to visit but remember that the best way to avoid family squabbles is to disengage from the argument. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a fight you cannot win. Smile and change the subject. It is fruitless to expect your mother to respond more affectionately toward you and your child. Accept her as she is, keep those visits short, and maintain your equilibrium. You son will take his cues from you —Annie
Hi Hilda: There are two paths to take.
- 1) Surrender to your programming and do the best you can to survive. Ninety percent of the population deals with abusive parents this way.
2) Opt to transform your life. To do this you begin by formulating the intention that she behaves exactly the way she has been behaving. Mastery is intending what's so to be so—one gets what they resist. Next, and most importantly, choose not to interact with people addicted to abuse. For you to continue to interact with her after reading this reply is proof positive that you also are addicted to abusing and being abused. She cannot heal with you in her life.
The second path, opting to transform your life, includes committing yourself to 50 hours of individual therapy, and then 25 hours more with your husband. Then you and your husband would need to agree upon estrangement from your entire family (except those members who complete the same amount of therapy at your insistence).
Important note: If during therapy you discover that she is in fact an angel, and that you have been the cause of the friction all along, then the estrangement will have worked. You can clean things up later. Until you cut off from her you'll never be certain which of you are addicted to abuse.
Intending another to do and say what they do is a powerful place to come from. For this to become second nature you will have to engage the services of a communication skills coach so as to complete dozens of childhood incidents (interactions-communications) between you and your mother which did not turn out mutually satisfying. Each of these incompletes now trigger automatic reactions. Your mother need not be present for you to recall and complete these incompletes.
You also have too many lies stored away. Your memories of what happened, when it started, is inaccurate, so much so that you’ve lost the ability to accept responsibility for causing the fights you get yourself into. Read: fights you unconsciously intend (start psychically) so as to be right that she starts them.
First: You need to be willing to acknowledge that you are addicted to abuse and that your husband and your whole family are addicted to abuse. You have no choice but to create arguments at family gatherings. You are programmed to do so. Keep in mind, the “nice” relative who seemingly doesn’t argue is the unconscious leader/starter/supporter of these “squabbles.” Your story suggests that you are addicted to this whole drama and that this letter will merely allow you to see that you have no intention of resolving this problem. Proof of this will be in five years when you’ll notice nothing has changed significantly.
Picture if you will the ludicrous image of you standing at the door to a family reunion with a huge club in your hand. This is you. You not only can't see the club, you swear that you're the peacemaker, but everyone knows you're there to fight. We know this is true based upon the results.
An abuse-free environment for your son, though a noble enlightened thought, would require estrangement from your entire family. Because you don't yet have the leadership-communications skills it takes to inspire every family member to do therapy you're confronting the choice of creating a new familial paradigm (a new lineage). It's a challenging but awesomely rewarding curriculum. I'd be remiss if I didn't share with you that I have the thought that you will continue to submit your son to her abuse.
Second: You need to acknowledge that you have been out-integrity. It was unethical (abusive) of you to dump your relationship with your mother in a date’s (now your husband) space. You were supposed to have resolved this one way or another—through counseling or through formal responsible estrangement.
For example: “Mom, I won’t interact with you ever again until you have completed 50 hours of therapy. Good by.”
However, the cow is out of the barn so all you have to do now is;
1) Issue the ultimatum to your mother and all family members.
2) Acknowledge that you and your mom (you having empowered her) have been abusive to your husband.
To submit your husband to such behavior detracts from his aliveness. It’s not a gift of love. What’s worse is you have invalidated him as a supportive person. He'd prefer to know that he has been the catalyst for healing the rift. Instead he now has to acknowledge to himself, you, and all others, that he has been supporting (empowering) you both in abusing each other. This reveals his addiction to abuse. A man who is whole and complete would never attract a woman with such stuff going on in her life. Being whole and complete would allow him to know that all stuff between him and his mother would be his responsibility and therefore he’d know that you are the cause of the friction between you and your mother. As it is he takes your side, (evidenced by his silent support of you abusing your mother) therefore revealing that he has something similar going on with someone whom he blames as you do your mother.
L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics, is reported to have said, whenever you see two arguing, there’s always a third party in the wings pretending to be an ally to one, or both combatants, but in truth is unconsciously intending the friction for his/her own survival. That is to say, your husband has been unconsciously intending this mess. We know this by the results. His passive aggressive support of this abuse keeps everyone’s mind away from whatever he’s hiding.
You already know what’s best for your son. You either want him to grow up being influenced by the woman (your mother) who trained you to be abusive, argue and fight, or not. You either want to teach him to blame you for the fights he starts with you or not. You want to train him to put up with abusive relationships or not. However infrequently she would see him she still has tremendous power. One conversation (actually, one nonverbal communication, one look) with her every year is all it takes.
You need to get clear whether or not your husband can totally support you both in complete estrangement from your mother and all family members. Each family member unconsciously supports her in abusing you. This means neither of you interacting with her until she has completed your therapy requirement. If you elect estrangement then you (alone) must begin therapy immediately because you are programmed to be your mother. Once you send mom to her room for a time out (estrangement) you will have to create another sparring partner, mostly likely your husband, or your son. You’ll have to turn elsewhere to get your fix that now comes from abusive interactions with your mother. It’s a drug.
One last thought. Who in your life would say you are ignoring them, someone who is similarly hurt?
Thank you, Gabby