What are the obligations of an only child toward an emotionally abusive elderly parent?

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My mother has been emotionally abusive toward me since I was a teenager. I left home at 18, borrowed money for college, and moved several states away from my parents. My mother pursued me (she once drove to visit me at school and actually kidnapped me, driving me back to her home) but every time I had anything to do with her or went to visit, things quickly deteriorated into criticism of my career, my appearance, my finances, my interests, my friends, and, eventually, my husband. Understandably, over the years I have told my mother less and less about my life. To my shock, when she was 70 she moved halfway across the country to the city where I live and rented a condominium there. She was offended not to be given a key to my house, though when I invited her over it was constant criticism of my furniture and my housekeeping and how I was wasting money. She would invite me to her place and ask me not to bring my husband (who I love very much) because "he makes her sick to her stomach." The only reason had any contact with her was because I wanted to see my father, whose life she controlled. After my father died, there was about a year when we got along. Then the complaints about what a terrible daughter I was started up again. Fortunately, she then bought a condo in Arizona and moved there to be closer to some friends. I now visit her four times a year, during which time she criticizes me (often in front of other people) and urges me to divorce my husband "because he's a loser." He is amazingly patient will all of this, even though this means that all of my vacation time from work is spent with my mom — he and I make do with long weekends. My husband and I both went part-time last year and are semi-retired, but have hidden this from my mom because she is so critical of what she insists is our terrible financial situation. We are not rich, but have good careers, plenty of money, and a nice house with the mortgage paid off. When I tell her this, she demands to see our tax returns so she can see how much we make. That of course, is none of her business. I am tempted to just walk away from her now, while she is still healthy. She has plenty of retirement savings, so all she really needs from me is a target for her meanness. I've been to counseling, but am still not sure. My father, who I loved very much, would have wanted me to put up with her. Sometimes I tell myself that well, I only need to see her four weeks of the year and the rest of the time I can just pretend it's all a bad dream. I realize I'm fortunate compared with people who have mothers and mother-in-laws like her who end of moving in with them. Ideas?

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You do not owe her anything. Take care of yourself.
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One more comment - I wanted to add that in the last few years since I moved 3,000 miles away and implemented Minimal Contact with my abusive narcissistic parent, I have been MUCH happier. The pain and scars are still there, but I have much less chaos, pain, and drama in my life and I'm mostly happy and peaceful. I'm able to think about my relationships, my future, and have peace of mind. I was always upset, crying, angry, chaotic, and feeling sad and worthless when I was in contact with my mother and visiting all the time. I was anxious all the time and couldn't sleep. Now that I cut the chord, I don't have to take anxiety meds, I can sleep better, and I'm not angry, crying, or upset. I'm happy. It might take you time to adjust if you cut contact with her, or stop visiting her so much, but once you adapt to the change, you'll stop feeling guilty because you'll feel so free and happy that you won't WANT to go visit and you won't do it out of guilt, fear or obligation. You'll be perfectly content in your decisions to not visit after you've settled into your new peaceful life WITHOUT her.

You can be too!
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I personally think you need to go to No Contact or Minimal Contact. If you feel like you need to visit occasionally, go for a long weekend.

I personally spent all my teens and my ENTIRE 20s trying to live with that type of situation that you describe, and it got WORSE AND WORSE the older I got (and she got). I was spending hundreds of dollars for changed plane tickets when she messed up my flights, $$$ on hotel rooms in the middle of the night when she kicked me out of the house (after I flew 3000 miles to visit and it was arranged that I was going to sleep at her house), and generally getting screamed at, belittled, criticized, and she was always telling me I had a bad career or she hated whoever my long-term boyfriend was at the time and he was "never welcome in HER house" because she hated him, repeatedly.

I put up with this for the entire decade of my 20s and now that I'm 32, I refuse to play into this drama anymore. Try taking yoga. They talk a lot about "letting go" in yoga class. You learn to "let go" of thoughts, actions, people, relationships, and feelings that "no longer serve you". I have learned a lot from this and am finally able to start letting go of abusive, toxic relationships with my parent, and as a result, it becomes easier to stop being a "people please" and to subsequently let go of other toxic relationships with friends or others in my life. I used to feel extremely guilty for not "doing enough" for my mother or "visiting enough" but at some point, you HAVE TO CUT THE CHORD. You are NOT OBLIGATED to anyone (well you have to take care of children if you have them). Just the fact that you feel "obligated" means this is UNHEALTHY with your mother. Truly healthy relationships do not make people feel obligated. In healthy relationships with boundaries, love, and respect, the parties involved WANT to help each other, do things for each other, spend time together, etc, because they love and appreciate the other and they are doing it out of love, not guilt.

I know how hard it is to get rid of the brainwashing you have with your perceived obligation to your mother. I know that she is "the only mother you have" but honestly, would you rather have peace and love in your life, or drama, pain and hurt? You DO have a choice, and even though it's painful to cut out familial relationships (parents, siblings, etc.), if they are abusive and mean CONTINUALLY and do not respect you or your boundaries, and make you feel worthless or unloved ALL THE TIME, there is no real point in trying to relate to them or have them in your life.

I would say in your situation, if your mother needs money (which it sounds like she doesn't at this point), you have no obligation to her. If she ever needs you to help support her, you can do that within reason, but you are not obligated to visit, hang out, be her friend, try to socialize together, etc. PROTECT YOURSELF!!!!!! This means emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually, financially, and in any other way you can think of. Please do not give up - you can do it!
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The only moral obligation a child has to a parent is to help them if possible should they fall into destitution. If your mom has assets, you have no obligation at all - I would break off all contact with such an awful sick evil person. If you father loved you he would tell you the same if he could. It is bad for your, your family and actually bad for her. You see, unless she is not able to control her behavior, what she is doing if evil and no one should aid and abet that..
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I'd visit her twice a year for two days each time - no way would I spend a week with her.Tell her ahead of time the minute she starts in on you or your husband, you're out of there. Then stick to it. If she starts, LEAVE and don't come back.

At this point, you've lost your sense of boundaries and what is normal behavior. Your mom's comments aren't acceptable and shouldn't be tolerated. Warn her, then take action. If she can't stop her attacks, quit seeing her and let her live her life. Your first priority is yourself and your husband, NOT your mother.
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This is harsh.....Your first responsibility is to your husband. You need to get back into counseling and find out why you are continuing this extremely toxic relationship with the woman who gave birth to you! I would take the husband with me, he obviously has problems as well.

Sell the house, move across country, get unlisted phone numbers and block her phone number. This nonsense has to stop.
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Stop all contact with her. She is sucking the life out of you.
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*Yolanda* I'm trying to figure out approx. how old you are and how old your parent is. We have a lot of parallels in our situations -- I'm an only too, my dad passed away a long time ago, remaining family members are in their 80's.

Anyway, you said she is healthy and has retirement savings. Has she got Long Term Health Care and a good Medicare Supplement policy? If so, this is good. It's less likely that someone will call you in the future and say you "must" take her in and take care of her. Do you have a Regular POA and Medical POA for her? Those documents can be helpful. Even if you are not POA, if you know who is and trust them, then you can direct some calls and concerns to them without having to go do this at your mom's house. Mine would call (I live in another state) and say she had to "talk about business" but it was usually a ruse to get me into conversation -- most of it her "rant" for the day. She would create situations to get me to go there to "fix" things -- and then she had me trapped and at her biddng. Don't do this -- don't fall for it. The 'net has helped with a lot to do some things long distance. You do not need to go to her just to get hurt. Let folks who know you both how hurtful this is. I used to go thinking that family members, friends, aquaintences all were expecting this of me. Not always so, only in her mind! They did not think that I was a horrible human being for not being there all the time. It took decades to finally understand this. I wish I had not wasted so much time. Set boundaries and stick to them and if 4 visits a year isn't working under this current situation, then scale back to less. Some of us have just tried too much and all for naught. Your family, your finances, etc, are YOUR business. If you have an obligation to her for something, then make a one-time reparation and walk away. Don't be tricked by her words. HUGS.
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You use the term "emotional abuse". Would you be so tolerant if your mother were physically abusing you?

I know, she's your mom and you feel that you have certain obligations to her but when someone treats us with so little respect and in such a cruel manner as your mom has treated you I think your obligations are to yourself and your husband and not to your mother.
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Your obligations to your Mom are nothing.

She seems to have a life. I'd let her live it. Without you.

I wish my mom didn't live right behind me. I am an only child, also. At least you have distance between you.

Your husband comes first. And as I type that, I realize that I have to say something the next time my mom says something about him. She doesn't like him because he stands up to her. Same with my daughter. And she talks negatively about them all of the time. It's up to me to stop this. So I understand the position you are in.

Sharon
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