My parents live with me and my mother is extremely manipulative when we're alone together. How do I handle her manipulative behavior?

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Mom is 80 years old & extremely manipulative. Both Mom & Dad (83) live with me. I told Dad she was manipulative & he said she couldn't be. Classic example: we went to dinner and Mom was using her walker. She was fine during dinner, but walking out, she got within 10 feet of the car, started crying, stating she was in agony, couldn't go on and wanted her wheelchair. I had to move the car, get the wheelchair out and wheel her 6 feet all the while she was moaning. We got in the car, and I said, "so, we're going home?". She was perfectly happy and said, "no, we're going to costco". She was able to get into Costco fine with the walker, and puttered around for a couple of hours in the go-cart. She moans and groans and cries when we insist she walks for exercise (20-30 feet walks) if it's just the 2 of us, but if there's company, she's quiet as a mouse.

Dad say's she can't think manipulatively, and refuses to confront her on this behavior.

Am I nuts or what?

Answers 1 to 10 of 28
Try to get her complaining on tape -no your not nuts, ya might get that way in time tho- tape, so Dad can hear her--good luck
Your dad sounds like he is codependent upon your mother and so enmeshed with her emotions that he can't see it because that would be too painful.
Does it matter if your father understands his wife is manipulative? Even if he sees it, he will probably support her and ask that you do whatever she manipulates you to do. My guess is that the real issue with you is being annoyed at her manipulation. I can understand that! People who manipulate, usually win, because they will go to lengths that we will not go to. I found it easiest to just accept it (every now and then I blow! but mostly, I just accept it and then it doesn't bother me. )
Just laying down and accepting manipulation is not healthy for either the manipulator or the manipulated unless of course one has a need to be dominated and enjoys the pain. My own approach is to let them know that I see their game, but it is their game and I refuse to play otherwise I just get out of the room.
Top Answer
Please forgive me for saying so but your mother sounds as if she was acting like a whining child when she couldn't walk ten feet further to the car. Perhaps she REALLY couldn't but if that was the case, why did she want to go to Costco? Your mother should have been taken home. That's what one would do with a child that said it couldn't walk any further to a car but then wanted to go to a toystore. I may sound mean and nasty but I think you have to " call her" on this manipulation. If you had taken her home and she sulked, so be it. Sulking won't kill either her or you; she would have lived to see another day and you would have been pleased with how you handled the manipulation. If she had asked why you wouldn't take her anywhere but home you could just have said that you were so concerned about her since she said she was in SUCH AGONY and could not finish the walk to the car that you thought it would be uncaring and irresponsible of you to take her anywhere but home.

You have to outsmart her if she starts what, to you, looks like manipulation. Don't ask your father to sort this out. I think you did right to move the car and get the wheelchair because there WAS the possibility that your mother WAS in agony. But when she asked to go shopping, then you needed to stand up to her and say that since, in the previous few minutes, she had been in such agony you couldn't possibly consider taking her to Costco. Perhaps your mother has reached the stage where she thinks more like a child than an adult and therefore needs you to act like a wise mother. Please let me know what happens if she acts in a similar way again and you act like a wise mother dealing with a child instead of you being your mother's dutiful child trying to keep her happy. Good luck.
Definitely don't ask your father to sort this out because he will probably deny it. Also, I've found that paying attention to my gut feeling lets me know when someone is trying to manipulate me much quicker than my brain figures it out which by then is usually too late. Manipulators use chaos, etc. to accomplish their goals so that we are not in tune with our feelings enough to know when they are putting on the manipulation game with a load of guilt while cracking the whip of fear and obligation.
I have the same experience with my mother-in-law and successfully have done what LCS has suggested. I call her bluff. I have taken her home and told her since she is so ill, then she needs to be home resting. then she does not try it again for a while. either she forgets so just tries her antics again, and again I call her bluff. My husband was siding with her until I let him take care of her 1/2 the time. Over time he has realized-it is just the way she is and has always been. He now calls her bluff also and being an only child, this was hard for him at first
You didn't mention anything about whether your mother has always been this way but, I assume, since you are writing about it here in this forum, it may be a more recent development. You also didn't comment on your mother's health, but her manipulation may be a symptom of something else. For example, my mother has advanced Parkinson's Disease, and one of the first signs of something being drastically wrong with her were personality changes along with some coordination problems and a general slowness in her overall mobility. That was in 2004. For the past year or so, my mother has been very manipulative along the same lines as your mother, and such "events" are becoming more and more frequent, now numbering at least three or four times per day. As frustrating as it often can be, it helps a bit to remind myself that it is not my mother but her illness that is causing her to be this way. I still point out to her that I know that she's manipulating me when it's really obvious (and insulting), but it's less stressful on us both if it doesn't become a major issue leading to an argument. The way I see it, life is too short, and time with our parents is running out; let's enjoy as much time with them as we can before our time together ends. I wish you patience and love. :-)
You have to learn to take things away...if she wants her wheelchair ONLY at certain times when it is inconvenient, tell her it will be easier for everyone involved if you just take the walker away and "we will only be using the wheelchair from now on". I realize you want to discuss things with your Dad to get feedback, but obviously he isn't wanting to see or CAN'T see the reality of it, and YOU are the one having to care for your Mother's needs, so, my advice, if she whines about ANYTHING, take it from her and say there is no need for it any longer if it gives her pain. You have to show tough love at times, even to your own parents that we are all suppose to honor and respect.
Manipulation is probably normal. My dad told me he felt "pathetic" bc he was forced to rely on mom and me (his daughter). IMHO, you will gain peace by putting this all in perspective. I recommend against being defensive, tape recording, etc. That behavior serves only fuel the fire and build walls in this new family dynamic.

Keep your eye on the ball . . . these people need you. And you are doing God's work by helping them and caring for them. Any peculiar behavior is nothing more than noise.

Slow down and recognize that you are in the role of the responsible adult. I know that is an uncomfortable place to be bc your parents will always be just that!

Cherish your time with them. Roll with the small stuff . Try to put yourself into the place of your mom and imagine her fear and thoughts.

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