How to Set Boundaries with a Difficult Mom

Uncategorized Nov 27, 2018

“My mother is a narcissist.”

I hear it a lot. I can understand why some people feel that way about their parents or others in their life who have left them hurt.

I’m going to keep using “mom” as an example here, but these are guidelines you can use with anyone in your life when you’re making rules and setting boundaries. Let’s take a further look. …

If you’re new to setting boundaries, or setting them with a new person, it can be tough and a little scary. But let’s think about how we approach that. You might say something like, “I’m in a process of personal growth, and I’ve made some changes. Our relationships is important to me, so I want to share them with you.” Then explain what you’ve discovered about your character traits, attributes, likes and dislikes.

“But my mom will just say I’m just being selfish, that I don’t love her …”

You can still set the necessary limits.

You may need to establish new ground rules for you and your mom. This might mean telling her:

  • You’ll leave the house if she yells at you when you disagree with her.
  • You’ll have to hang up the phone if she can’t stop nagging because you didn’t visit enough last week.
  • You’re the parent of your children, so you want her to operate with the grandkids the way you ask her to.
  • You want her to try and listen to what you’re saying, instead of telling you what you’re thinking.

Some moms control by dominating. Others do it by not listening. Still others control by guilt messages or withdrawal. But setting necessary limits is a major issue in dealing with your mother today. In addition, it’s also a more sensitive subject, as you’re not only confronting mom’s hurt, but how she hurts others. Rely on the support of friends or family allies for tact as well as for determining if you’re developmentally ready for this.

You may want to tell her, “I’d like a closer relationship with you, but I know we have problems and conflicts from time to time that can distance us from one another. When this happens with my friends, we talk them out, get them resolved ad become even closer. I’d like to have that connection with you. What do you think?” If mom’s agreeable in principle, let her know how difficult it is to disagree with her sometimes and how that distances Then ask her if you can both be free to be yourselves, as good friends are.

A great deal depends on mom’s willingness to look at herself. If she is able to, you may have gained a friend. If not, she’ll react defensively. In any case, you’ve done your part to improve the relationship, and you may simply have to leave it at that. This doesn’t mean you will allow her to control you again. It does mean keeping your limits but not nagging her about the issue.

Need a safe place to relate to others about this topic? Join one of Dr. Henry Cloud's Boundaries Peer Groups. 

Boundaries with Narcissists
Boundaries with Parents

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