Q I’m 25 and have lived with my mum and brothers all my life. I want to leave home and share a flat with my boyfriend, We’ve planned it all out and the money side of things should be OK.
When I told my mum she went ballistic! She accused me of not respecting her values and betraying her and the family.
My brothers are all younger than me and I have helped her to bring them up, but I want my own life now.
She’s been guilt-tripping me by saying that the boys will be worse off if I go and she can’t cope on her own. It seems like she wants to keep using me as an unpaid child-minder and not to have a life and maybe children of my own.
My boyfriend is keeping out of it because he’s seen my mum’s temper and says I have to make the decision for myself.
It’s hard because my mum is also crying, sulking and telling the neighbours what an ungrateful daughter I am. I don’t think I am, I just want to make my own life away from her and the boys.
She said last night that if I leave she’ll never speak to me again and I won’t be welcome in her house to see my brothers ever again.
I’m torn between my mum and my boyfriend. What can I do?
A Your mum is thinking and behaving in a childlike, selfish and manipulative way. She has come to believe that making others feel guilty is a good way to make them do as she wants them to.
You aren’t responsible for easing her fears or her need to have things ‘her way’. She has to become aware of what she’s doing and be interested enough to find out why – and to change it when she realises the effect it has upon you (and other people).
She might never become aware of her behaviour – especially because it’s worked well for her in the past, and so she’s unlikely to want to change it.
We see this in children who’ve been indulged and given what they want when they want it; and those who have learnt to play the ‘victim’ too. They understandably become ‘programmed’ to keep up their behaviour because it brings them the rewards they seek – attention and gratification.
She is using emotional blackmail to manipulate you – and this has to be challenged and stopped.
It’s time for you to create and hold onto your boundaries with her – which will be easier to do when you are absolutely clear about how far she can go, what you will allow and what you won’t.
I can understand your boyfriend backing off from challenging your mother – it’s not his fight. As long as he supports you and understands how difficult this all is for you, your mother and your brothers.
You haven’t mentioned your father so I assume he isn’t in the picture and in his absence mum has relied upon you more than she should have done.
She will have to fill in the gaps for herself when you leave (assuming you decide to do this and to make a life away from her home). She will have to adjust and it will be all the easier for her if she accepts the changes and continues to allow you into the family home and to see your brothers.
Is there another family member who could have a chat with your mum and give her a different perspective? This might help her to see how scared, selfish and bullying she’s being towards you.
Without her consent and blessing for you to fly the nest you’ll have to hope that in time she’ll become softer and less manipulative. Unfortunately there are no guarantees there though!
She’s been extremely fortunate to have your help in bringing up her sons and some appreciation wouldn’t go amiss either!
The emotional umbilical cord has be cut for you to breath and thrive by yourself.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)