Hello, My mom is 88, has always been emotionally immature and self-absorbed (no dementia). I've never set many boundaries with her. She doesn't 'get' boundaries. Example- She's always called me and talked and talked(!) about nothing and I've listened. So draining. Over the years, I've asked her to not call so much. I don't even like talking on the phone, am a total introvert. She doesn't stop. She cries when I ask her to stop. I would describe her as on the low end of the narcissistic spectrum. But since January, things have escalated...

In Jan., my stepdad (age 95) and mom got Covid. He died of it. She is ok now, but it affected her heart and kidneys. My brother and I (1 brother, no sisters) have spent SO MUCH TIME dealing with her- doctors, hospital stays, moving her to an independent living facility, doing her finances, groceries, etc., etc. (I live 5 hours from her; my brother, 1 1/2 hrs.) My mom has always been needy and dependent. She expects us to do everything for her now. My brother? Jumps through hoops to do whatever she wants. I help, but I don't jump.

About 6 weeks ago, I reached an 'aha' moment realizing that my mom is a covert narcissist. She has many bad behaviors toward me, but they've gotten WAY worse. (And it's not from grieving.) She bullies me. She compares me to other daughters my age. I've asked her to stop. She doesn't stop. Too, she has always interrupted and talked over me. I've been speaking up for myself the last few weeks. I ask her over and over to stop interrupting me. She's interrupting when I'm asking this! It. Does. Not. Stop.

To everyone else, she's this sweet lady. To me, she's the opposite. I've been calling her out on her bad behaviors lately. She doesn't like it and turns things around and blames me. She yells at me. In July, she went into a RAGE. I hid in her condo bathroom to get away. She hides her bad behavior from others. The rage was when my husband went to do a curbside pick-up. Of course, she stopped right before he got back.

In the past several weeks, I've read 22 books (no kidding!) about emotionally immature, self-absorbed, and narcissistic parents. Wow, did they open my eyes!! They describe my mom to a T. I see patterns now over and over (from decades!). My brother, whom I felt so close to most of my life, is now treating me differently. I'm pretty sure my mom is triangulating. I see my brother is the Golden Child. And I am the Scapegoat. My brother's wife has always treated me passive-aggressively. Now, I feel this united front of the 3 of them against me. My husband totally sees it too. It's distressing and disturbing.

Last night, I lost it with my mom over the phone. She doesn't understand why I don't want to talk to her on the phone and only want to correspond by text or email. I told her I'm treated kinder that way. She doesn't listen though because she's interrupting me! She was yelling at me. And sadly, I was yelling back. I'm so very angry with her. She DENIES all her bad behavior. She denied going into a RAGE in July. Huh?! She denies comparing me to other daughters though she does it over and over. She gaslights. Her answer when I tell her something she said was hurtful? "I never said that!"

I am accomplished in my field, have a master's degree and also play the piano. My mom didn't go to college, has no hobbies, is not musical. (I'm way more like my dad, who passed away 31 years ago. I miss him so much.) On top of everything else, I think she's envious of me too. I have a good marriage, 4 wonderful grown kids, and 4 adorable grandkids. My life is good. Except for the relationship with my mom. It is eating away at me. Too, last night my mom asked 2x why I don't get along with my brother now. I wanted to (though I didn't) scream that she's manipulating our relationship and causing the rift! Everything channels 'through' her, has for many years.

My question- Do I go grey rock? Or should I write my mom a letter/email explaining why I feel so mistreated by her?

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I would follow Brooklyn Barb's advice and just go low contact without explanation. The reason is because trying to explain/resolve/get closure etc., etc with these types will get you nowhere. In fact they LIKE the attention, that is the sickness of a narcissist.

I feel for you because I too have a mother with NPD, and I get the damage they do. But to the outside world, she was just fine. She made sure her children knew to keep her secrets.

It takes a long time and a lot of mental work to understand the damage and get past it. Some things we may never get past, and that's why things like grey rock or no contact are needed-- for your protection. Good for you for being pro-active and doing research to better understand this complex and sick disorder.

You probably read in your research that gaslighting is a common tactic used by those with NPD. They deflect blame, and try to make it look like you are the one with the problem, the one who has a "victim mentality". Stay far away from those types.

That didn't happen.
And if it did, it wasn't that bad.
And if it was, that's not a big deal.
And if it is, that's not my fault.

Good luck loverofbooks, and I hope you will stick around. There are MANY of us here on this forum that get you 100%.
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to ExhaustedPiper
lealonnie1 Sep 17, 2021
Good answer EP! Nothing like advice from a person living in the trenches with a mother who has NPD vs. advice from people with mothers who are sweet little old ladies who don't get the half of it. Thanks for posting the Narcissist's Prayer; it's a good one!
I'm sorry you are being put through such a thing, I really am. Being a victim of a mother like this does not mean you're playing 'the victim'; that's just heaping MORE blame on you instead of empathizing with you over a rotten situation.

Now that you've read so many books on the subject, you know you can't change your mother into who you'd like her to be, same as I can't change my mother into who I'd like her to be. Sad but true. So you have to do what YOU have to do to make YOUR life easier to bear. If that means you write her a letter and mail it, do it. If it means you write a letter and burn it, just so you're able to get those feeling OUT of your head and onto paper *which often helps*, then make THAT happen. Whatever helps YOU through the situation, do it.

Know that whether you tell her vocally or in writing why you feel mistreated by her, SHE will take offense to your words. SHE will be the 'poor soul' who's been mistreated by YOU, because in reality, these women are the ones who are the queens of playing The Victim card, not US. So it's an exercise in futility to try and make her understand your position. They've never made a mistake before, remember? It's always someone else's fault for what's gone wrong in their life. That's how they operate. So if you tell her she's done X Y & Z to you, she'll turn it around and make it YOUR fault. That's the bottom line. No accountability and no responsibility, that's our mothers.

So it's time now to set down some very strong and firm boundaries about what you are willing to do for mother moving forward from here. You'll call her on X day every week or every month; you'll visit on X day every month, or whatever. You'll help pay her bills, or you'll order her snacks from Amazon to be delivered to her ALF, like I do for my mother who lives in Memory Care AL. Decide what you'll do and not do, and that's it. Preserve YOUR sanity the best you can by making rules that you don't break under any circumstances. She'll try to GET you to break the rules, then say AHA! I got her! But you won't let that happen b/c you know better. And that's how you protect YOU. Mother will be taken care of by the staff at the ALF and if you're the POA or the point of contact for her, THEY will call YOU if some emergency happens. And trust me, they will call you.

Just in case you haven't read enough yet on the subject, here's a good article that pinpoints 25 signs of a covert passive/aggressive narc:

I found it very helpful for me, personally. I refer to it often and I like Debbie Mirza's other publications and podcasts, etc. She has some good coping strategies to use, too, which is helpful for those of us stuck in these types of relationships, God help us.

Wishing you the best of luck trying to establish boundaries with your mother and not allowing her behavior to eat YOU up inside. Allow yourself to know you're 'enough' w/o needing her validation of that fact! Sending you a big hug!
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to lealonnie1
bundleofjoy Sep 17, 2021
dear lea,

extremely helpful answer. hug!!!
i hope you’re well and your husband.

i think there is no solution really: only low contact or no contact.

God help us, yes.

they always return to abusing. even during calm monuments, the abuse will always come back.

part of the reason this never stops is that they enjoy abusing us. it’s fun for them, makes them feel good.

…some people feel good encouraging others.
…some people feel good kicking others down.

mothers are sometimes very cruel to their daughters.

loverofbooks, i don’t think you have a victim mentality at all. you are a victim, plain and simple. i also understand you reading about the subject a lot. i did too. reading, just like this website, one feels understood/empathy.

not obsessive. you’re simply in pain, looking for ways out.

these abusers don’t change.
as long as there’s contact, they’ll keep abusing. with low contact = less opportunity to abuse us.

loverofbooks, in general, i think it’s better not to say one is doing low contact. everything you say/do, she’ll use it against you.

by saying less, there’s less to use against you later.

they abused us as a child…then we became adults/left home…then they became elderly/need help…we kindly help/they re-start all the abuse.

courage to us all.

bundle of joy
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My mother is not as bad as yours, but she is a narcissist. I wasn't ME, I was an extension of HER. She was happy to have a girl to dress up and show off. I was a living doll, pretty much. When I got old enough to speak up for myself, that's when the problems began. She began to see I wasn't going to be her clone, and she didn't like it. Has no intellectual curiosity, no hobbies, no activities besides shopping and getting her hair done. Hasn't worked in 53 years, doesn't want to learn anything. She has no confidence in herself (and passed this on to me, and I'm still working through it). 

But any time I confronted her? "I never said that! I never did that!" It makes me insane. Denies, denies.

One thing that has helped is considering how she grew up. Her parents fought constantly. Lots of yelling and anger. I think her means of coping with her home life was to keep the peace. Smile, be nice, be quiet, be pretty, don't make waves! Be a good girl! She survived by ignoring the bad things and pretending they weren't there. I think she lied to herself so much, and has done it for so long, that she's fooled herself that bad things never happened. I can't convince her to face things, so no point in bringing them up anymore. 

That said, I have an issue with "she did the best she could". So many times people confront their parent's wrongdoings, and the parent throws their hands up and says "Well, I did the best I could!". NOPE. Doing the best you could would have meant seeing how you were hurting your kids and at least tried to resolve those issues with yourself. Knowing to not take your anger or issues out on your kids. To not make the mistakes your parents did. Or that your kids deserve an apology.

I also don't subscribe to the "you have to forgive". Some things just are not forgivable. Of course it’s not beneficial to let anger and hate fester either. Maybe one get to a point when they forgive, and that's great. Just saying it's not always required to heal. Accept that bad things happened, that you won’t get the apology you want and need, and leave it behind.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to LoopyLoo
lkdrymom Sep 19, 2021
I agree....'the best you could'...was just not good enough.
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Reading that many books will undoubtedly allow you to find the diagnosis that you're seeking to explain your mom. It might not be accurate (probably isn't), but what's the point of all that obsessing -- to give who she is a label of some sort?

I agree with the poster who said to stop with the victim mentality. It's a label for yourself just like "narcissist" is one for your mom. Again, what's the value in that?

I also agree that you're worth more than all this, and frankly you've wasted far too much of your time obsessing on it.

Just dumb things down to this: As your mother's children, you and your brother are responsible for ensuring that she is safe and cared for and has a roof over her head. Anything else you give to her is just gravy and entirely of your choosing. I suggest you get into some therapy to learn how to actually make this happen, and put the pop psychology books away.

Get some help from an actual professional, and stop arguing with an almost 90-year-old. It's like a dance between the two of you, and you need to learn how to change YOUR behavior, because you won't change hers.
Helpful Answer (10)
Reply to MJ1929

When people ask me about narcissism, I say I have probably watched 500 videos from Dr. Ramani. Their eyes get really big, astounded about how much time I have invested. My narcissistic father died over a year ago, but I am still having to deal with my narcissistic sister over the estate and Dad's house. If you watch Dr. Ramani, she says the videos help you cope with the day-to-day events of dealing with a narcissist. When you first learn of it, you want to do something drastic to let them know you are on to them. However, all your words and talk will not make a difference to them. Their only objective is to control you and when you get emotional, they have successfully baited you. I would call my daily viewing of a Dr. Ramani video just like a vitamin or aspirin regimen. It puts my emotions in the proper perspective, and allows me to move on to the rest of my day.
Helpful Answer (10)
Reply to usamurray
bundleofjoy Sep 18, 2021
“Their only objective is to control you and when you get emotional, they have successfully baited you.”

i agree! hug!!
Shortly before my mother died she asked if she had ever mistreated me. I said "No" so she could die in peace. Should I have addressed her treatment of me then? I think not, but I should have tried to express my feelings before she became so sick. I wish I had done so. Through this site I have learned so much and appreciate advice of others who have trod the same path. However, I still don't know how to grow past the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. I wish I had asked my mom WHY she abused me, taught me that I would never be loved, and never good enough. I doubt she would have answered truthfully, but would have said "I never said that!", just as your mother. She was always right. I still wonder why mothers of baby boomers mistreat(ed) their daughters, and I, too, am so tired of "I did the best I could", or "She did the best she could". Every one of the answers here are from experience, and good advice. I cannot add to them, but extend my understanding and hugs. Back off with less/no contact seems the only answer. Good luck and more hugs!
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Reply to Daisy9
bundleofjoy Sep 18, 2021
big hugs to you!!

why did she do this?

i think because of jealousy. i don’t think she would have told the truth as to why she did it.

why did she do it?
because some people (often a mother) feel good/great kicking others (normally the daughter) down.

1 woman against another woman.

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Yours is a difficult situation. My mom is narcissist’s narcissist and I too did not set boundaries until about 10 years ago but my boundaries were somewhat porous. She was diagnosed with a rare lung disease 5 years ago, dementia last year. When she first got sick I flew to Florida where she lived at the time then brought her up to live with me in Philly for 7 months so I could take her to Temple Lung Center and treatments. Two important details; she is 82 and I have a brother 3 years older than me(I’m 59).
Her health started to get worse and her neuro functions were diminishing but not dramatically. I ended up moving her in with me for 6 months until she went in to a behavioral until for psych med adjustments. They sent her to rehab and every doctor, nurse and social worker told me she needs to be in a long-term care facility. I should add my brother did absolutely nothing to help out prior to her moving in as well as when she lived with me. Nothing. I flew to Florida on several occasions to help her pack and then drove her to Philly with me because she is u able to fly due to her lung disease.
She now blames me for putting her in, keeping her in, and not letting her leave the nursing home she was transferred to. The truth is it was her psychiatrist who suggested she go in, to which she agreed, and then all the docs and support staff her suggested she needed a higher level of care than I can provide at home. She F-ing hates me now with every fiber in her being, and bad mouths me to anyone who will listen. I’m happy to say that everyone she speaks to knows the truth and knows I did everything I could. She was vicious on the phone with me, told me she was going to kill herself and in the note say it was my fault. One time I called she answered Fuck You(sorry for the language). She called me 70 times over one weekend. After much counsel, including some wonderful and deeply appreciated input from people on this site, I ended up going no-contact and it’s now been 9 months. It was such a difficult decision to make and it has taken me until now to understand and embrace the fact I’m doing the right thing. I told my brother back when this happened that I am done with her and will turn her affairs over to the facility where she lives and if he wanted to step up then feel free but, if not, let me know so I could proceed accordingly. My guilt is subsiding but my mental health was taking a major hit and if I didn’t make the decision to go no-contact I’m afraid I would have spiraled down the rabbit hole. The hardest decision I ever had to make. Of course she denies saying anything or the fact she fell down my steps 3 times and in her room 4 times, one time hitting her head on the wall so hard there was a hole in the wall from impact. She says she’s sorry but then repeats the same behaviors. So the question I asked myself was not why does she keep doing this but instead why do I keep allowing it. I am her POA and still work with the facility on her finances and will bring up toiletries and food each time the social worker emails me a list. But I will not speak with her directly and not sure I ever will again. So difficult but my option became clear. It a bad situation and I understand what you’re going through. I think your answer will become clearer and decision easier to make once you’ve had a chance to read some of the feedback you’ll receive on this wonderful site. Good luck and try to remember our time on earth is limited and it’s up to us who we allow in our lives and the toxicity we’ll tolerate. You must make whatever decision you decide based on WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU. Do not set yourself on fire to keep other people warm. 💪🏼👆🏼🙏🏻
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to RobertK1
bundleofjoy Sep 18, 2021
big hugs to you robert, loverofbooks, and everyone!!

i wish us to be free of narcs.

basically, that would mean to not be surrounded by mean people.

i only see as solutions:
…no contact
…or low contact

…or some superhuman ability not to feel pain, when treated badly by narcs.


i wish us well.
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I’m going to give you very real and honest things to think about

Get out of your victim mentality

Learn to forgive your mom. Understand she can only do as much as she knows. When you know better, you do better

She raised you as best as she could, with the resources she had

Instead of focusing on how mom is this or mom is that, focus on you and your healing. Make this about you and what you need to feel better.

You don’t need to justify or explain yourself to anyone. Ally with yourself, love yourself and begin to heal….

I suggest reading into books about the unmothered child. This May provide healing for you in regards to not receiving the guidance or love you’ve ever needed from your mother. Self-love, self-love, self-love!!!

You are worthy of healing. You are worthy of healing. You are worthy of healing!!!!!!

When we stop blaming others (getting out of victim) and lean into ourselves with a grateful heart, true magic and healing can come.

excited for you to take this new journey! You worthy my friend
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to MommydearestMIL
Beatty Sep 17, 2021
I love your approach & honesty.

I wish someone had pointed that out to me aged 17.. aye.. a few bottles of gin & a trip 'round the world taught me instead 😉

My daughter's friend was going through a very hard patch recently & I heard some 'it's coz of Mum' creep in. When we talked about her Mum, she had been abandoned, fostered & brought up to be the farm hand. I felt the penny drop for her & saw the blame then shift onto Granny... we then discussed her life as one of 10+ on a farm & the hardship tales she told. In the end we joked about blaming Eve!

Moving on from *this is what happened/happens* to *this is what I can do now* is such an important step.
If writing a letter explaining why you're 'dumping her' is important to you--go ahead. Let it all out.

But never mail it.

I did this as a part of therapy with my MIL and my therapist had me write the most absolutely over the top letter--and I went into everything..all the things she had taken from me, the pain she had caused my DH, my kids, now my grands...and I kept the letter for a while, but never mailed it.

It was very cathartic. I have since totally divorced her, I do not talk to her, I don't buy her gifts (I made her son look pretty darn thoughtful for 40+ years)! and now I don't even know what she is up to...better yet, I don't care. She is 100% DH's problem, and altho he still tries to 'guilt' me in to spending time with her, it falls on deaf ears.

I have enough to deal with, with my own Narc mom. She has a really biting personality---or she can be a sweet little lamb. This sweet little lamb wrote me a BILL that is in her will--that although I DO get to inherit the same amt of $$ as the other sibs, I FIRST have to pay the estate $1500. My lawyer called that a 'posthumous FU' and said it wasn't legal. But it hurt, badly, b/c I felt like if she really felt I owed her trust money, be upfront about it. I'm very glad I saw this before she died (she's actually still alive) because it was so incredibly hurtful--just when you think the manipulation and hurting would stop when they die--and then something like this happens. Meh. YB, who is POA was told about this and he quietly slipped the illegal 'document' out of the trust.

I often wonder what it would have been like to have a mentally healthy, happy, adjusted mother, instead of the looney I have. I feel like I was parenting my own kids from scratch--b/c I didn't HAVE a good role model.

So-back to the beginning. Don't send a letter. It will only cause more pain.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to Midkid58
TouchMatters Sep 19, 2021
Well. Maybe.
I agree - write a long letter and don't mail it.
Write a very short letter and do mail it - after all the charge is out / gone in the first letter.
By all means write the letter to your mother. Just don't send it.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to Countrymouse
Beatty Sep 17, 2021
You should see my email draft folder! Ha ha
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