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How to deal with my mother's behavior/personality

 
 
Hank12
 
Reply Thu 13 Oct, 2016 08:06 am
The relationship between my mother and me is strained at best. We don't live together, but every time we meet we just rub each other the wrong way. My biggest problem with her is that she's a terrible know-it-all. The other day, during a visit, the topic of shoe size came up. "You're a size 7," she said. "I'm a size 8." "No, I'm pretty sure you're a size 7." I mean, what? I'm 25 years old, I know my own shoe size. She thinks she's the smartest thing ever (even proclaiming as much) but when I ask her straightforward questions she typically replies that she "can't be bothered to remember every little thing." It's either being adamant about obvious falsehoods or "you're stupid for thinking that I know that" with her. On top of that she makes disparaging remarks about my college degree and often mocks any display of at least semi-intelligent thought from my part. Everytime I bring up these problems with her she gets upset. She'll either turn all quiet and mopey, accuse me of something similar (and often not even applicable) or threaten to go home. She's the only family I have, so there's no buffer or lightning rod when we're together. I'm getting real tired of her behavior and I'm not sure how to deal with it. Trying to talk about it leads nowhere.
 
jespah
 
  5  
Reply Thu 13 Oct, 2016 08:20 am
@Hank12,
I'm sure you realize arguing about shoe size is silly. Just say, "Yes, dear." And then move on. Who the hell cares? It is utterly unimportant. When you buy shoes, you buy the right size, right? And if you ever go shoe shopping with her, have the clerk measure you so you get the right size. Don't think about it any more.

Do this with other trivial arguments. She sounds lonely and possibly embittered. So let her say that Howdy Doody was the greatest television program of all time or latex gloves give you herpes or Kanye West really has a PhD in physics. It doesn't matter.

Intervene when it's important. When is it important?
  • When it affects health and/or safety for either of you
  • When it affects finances for either of you (e. g. step in if you think she's being scammed)
  • When there's a question of legality
  • Something else I may have forgotten - but recognize the levels of importance I'm talking about here. If she thinks robins speak German, who cares?


And in the meantime, consider that some of this might be an early sign of Alzheimer's or dementia. Have you had her in for a physical recently? If not, then insist on that. Don't frame it in terms of intelligence or arguments; frame it in terms of understandable concern for her health.

If it turns out she is utterly fine, then you do know some people are just jerks, right? Sometimes those are people we are related to. So be it. Deal with as much as you can take and put limits on your interactions. You have yoga class or a date or a train to catch or the meter is running or whatever it is, that little white lie which limits your time together and saves your sanity.
Hank12
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Oct, 2016 10:40 am
@jespah,
Of course it's silly and unimportant, and the shoe size thing was just a very basic example of where every other conversation ends up it feels like. It's not so much about the kookiness of her claims, but about her often baseless convictions and a lack of appreciation, or sometimes even blatant disdain, for my opinions. Even when something comes up that pertains to my field of study and I'll say x and she'll claim y, and I'll explain that y is false for a number of reasons, she won't budge or get angry because I'm quick to "shoot her down". It's as if she thinks these reasons come from some snotnose kid, instead of an adult who actually knows what he's talking about. So this happens from topics ranging from shoe size to science to the weather. It's tiresome, but I'm not sure if having less conversations or just saying amen to everything is the answer. Also she's in her early fifties and has a job, she's not some rickety old lady.
saab
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Oct, 2016 12:16 pm
@Hank12,
Jespah gave you a very good advice.
Thank goodness it was not a close friend or relative, but a neighbour.
He was just like your mother.
If I said Good Morning - what a nice day.
He would say No,it is going to rain later to day.
I then would say Wonderful we need rain.
Agree with her in a positive way.
If she says you have shoe size 7 agree or even say Yes my feet shrunk.
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  3  
Reply Thu 13 Oct, 2016 01:14 pm
@Hank12,
Alzheimer's can have an early onset in one's forties. Mini stroke, depression - those are possibilities as well. Certainly a checkup can't hurt.
Hank12
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Oct, 2016 02:47 am
@jespah,
Thanks for the replies so far, but I'm not sure you're quite getting the issue. I don't think it's Alzheimer's, she's always been like this, even when I still lived with her five years ago. It's just that now that we live in different cities and we see less of each other, it feels like the disagreements relatively make up more of our time together. The stuff like "I can't be bothered to remember every little thing" is not a sign of forgetfulness, but a mechanism to shift the attention from her not knowing something (remember she's the smartest thing ever) to me being stupid for even thinking she should know something so insignificant. I'm not sure how you envision me broaching the subject of a medical checkup to a woman so stubborn I can't convince her of my own shoe size. That said, she's already seeing a therapist for unrelated issues so at least there's a professional in the mix. Although she always shuts down any inquiries into the matter, so I'm unclear as to how that's working out. To give you an idea, she'd much rather complain about her lack of money, other people's "excess" of money, or tell long and winding stories either about petty arguments with coworkers or about how someone complimented her on a job well done. So I think your initial assessment of lonely and embittered is probably right.
jespah
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Oct, 2016 09:40 am
@Hank12,
Then she's lonely and embittered.

So since this isn't a new thing, the only new thing going on is that you're tired of it.

This is your mother, not the debate club. Your interactions by definition will be different with her.

Everyone on the planet has someone they have trouble having a civil conversation with, but they have to deal with that person. Consider whatever triggers you and gets you pissed off when you talk to her, and keep those topics off-limits. And, as I said before, give yourself an out and somewhere to be, so this crap doesn't drag on and on. Become good at changing the subject.

Practice these helpful sentences:
  • That's fascinating. Please pass the peas.
  • I really don't think it's fair to discuss Elmer's weight when he's not here to defend himself. Did you hear he got a new cat? (adjust accordingly whenever a topic you want to be off-limits is brought up)
  • Hasn't the weather been spectacular/awful/unpredictable? Have you seen the autumn leaves/new shoots on the trees/snow/neighbor's prize petunias/chipmunks? (adjust accordingly but talk about the weather and nature, pretty safe subjects most of the time)
  • I just started taking a yoga/scuba diving/pottery/painting/English class and I'm having a lot of fun with it (adjust accordingly; also useful when you need to make a quick getaway, as you have to practice or study or classes are about to start or you need to pick up supplies, etc.)
  • Gee, that apple pie looks great, but I promised Margie I'd clean her gutters and it looks like I'm late already. Maybe next time, and thank you. It does look scrumptious (adjust accordingly, but the concept is you are able to ditch but without hurting her feelings, particularly if she put some effort into something or other)


Of course you can figure similar things out on your own.

But remember two things:
1) You don't have to talk about anything you don't want to, so don't bring up unpleasant stuff. But the corollary to this is, you have to talk about something, so be prepared with some subject matter and
2) You don't have to be held captive forever. Put a time limit on visits and enforce it. The corollary to this is, in particular if you are called at the most inopportune times, start initiating the phone calls and visits and take back your own schedule.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Oct, 2016 09:43 am
@Hank12,
Why do you spend time with her?

There's no need to.

__

If you want to spend time with her, either do things with her that don't involve much conversation ... i.e. see a movie or go to a play /sporting event ... or just nod and don't engage in conversation.

You're a grown-up. You can learn to manage this in one way or another.
0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  4  
Reply Fri 14 Oct, 2016 04:49 pm
I had similar problems with my mother. I was unable to do what jespah suggests. Could not and would not let things go. Everything I did was wrong. In some respects everything I was was wrong.

The only real peace I had when she was alive was when she did something that so infuriated me that I refused to speak to her or have anything to do with her. The most peaceful time.

If you can't do what Jes suggests, I suggest that you avoid her as much as you can. This is not gonna get better.
chai2
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Oct, 2016 05:09 pm
@Roberta,
Yep.

Exactly right Roberta.

I'm not a believer that just because someone is your biological family, this is some requirement you must interact with them.

I knew great relief when my father died, and when my mother finally bought the farm I was very glad she finally put herself out of her misery.
0 Replies
 
izzythepush
 
  2  
Reply Sat 15 Oct, 2016 04:13 am
@Hank12,
You can't do anything about it other than make sure you don't repeat the same mistakes. I don't get on with my dad, he sounds a lot like your mum, but I get on famously with my own kids. I adopted a little rule when they were growing up, when an issue arose I'd ask myself what my father would do in that situation, and then I'd do the exact opposite.

Worked a treat.
chai2
 
  2  
Reply Sat 15 Oct, 2016 10:11 am
@izzythepush,
Good advice izzy. While I don't have kids I've found myself self doing that in other situations. It put things in perspective.
izzythepush
 
  2  
Reply Sat 15 Oct, 2016 10:39 am
@chai2,
Thanks, you can't do anything about family, other than tolerate them, it's what we're given, and parents are too set in their ways to change.

I don't get on well with my dad, but he's a saint compared to his mother, so there is that.
0 Replies
 
 

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