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Eating Hurt Feelings -- Issues with my mother

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Old 07-07-2013, 05:10 PM   #1
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Default Eating Hurt Feelings -- Issues with my mother

What do you do if someone hurts your feelings and won't even acknowledge it? My 79 yr old mother gave me "the look" and told me to "put down that cookie" when I was with her the other day. It was so mean spirited, and I just stared at her. She didn't flinch. I walked out and seethed. This is my normal pattern. I just can't tell my mother to "go to ****", like I'd like to.

She said/thinks I threw a tantrum about the cookie "kicking and screaming in the middle of the floor tantrum" -- keep in mind that I didn't say anything. I just walked away.

Yes, we have discussed before that what I eat is not her concern, and that her comments on my weight and progress and food choices are not helpful. I've talked with a therapist, and a lot of my emotional issues stem from lifelong problems with her, but of course I can't tell her that.

And, I'm a Christian, I know I should honor my mother, and I have all of my life. I'm just finding it hard right now. She insists that she can't even talk to me -- that I'm too sensitive. Maybe I am, but that's the way I am. She has told me all my life that I'm too nice, and I realize that she was just reinforcing the fact that she isn't nice. She says what she thinks and says that she's "earned the right to say it."

She is a widow and I have built my life around her for the past 20 years since my dad has been gone (I'm single and live 30 minutes across town). She has no life or activity other than me. If I didn't call her every day and see her every weekend, she wouldn't have any contact with anyone. My niece visits maybe once a month, and my brothers call her only once every two weeks. She has one friend who calls occasionally, and the yard men. pph!

We've had a tiff like this before. She said something to hurt my feelings and I told her she did. She was indignant that I would say that to her. I asked her, "Didn't your mother ever say anything that hurt your feelings?" And she said, "If she did, I sure didn't tell her about it." I said, "Mom -- If you stepped on my toe and I said, 'Ouch, that hurt.' What would you think?" She said, "I would think that you shouldn't have been in my way and under my feet." How mean is that?

The last time, she insisted that she wasn't going to change - that she's too old to change. Things just blew over, but I'm not sure about this time. I have called her every 3 days to just see if she's OK. She got into the part about the tantrum the last time, and I just said, "Mom, I just called to see if you're OK" She said she was and goodbye. Keep in mind that I'm CALLING her. She hasn't called me. She has a history of very rarely calling me.

I just hate this. It has me all torn up. I feel like I can't be heard, and I have to be something I'm not when I'm with her. I feel like a little kid, and I'm a GROWN woman! I'm trying to hold onto my "food sobriety" -- it's really hard. This issue remains front and center, and I just know some really good carbs would make me "feel better."

Does anyone have advice for dealing with family members while trying to change your life? I have no one to talk to about this.
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:00 PM   #2
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Yikes! My only advice is that you need to have boundaries about how you are willing to be treated by the people in your life and when those boundaries are crossed, be prepared to do something about it.

My mother is one of the most manipulative people I know, but when I was in my 20s (and in cognitive therapy because I thought I was worthless thanks to my mom) I set boundaries for myself. When my mom comes close to crossing the line I remind her that I'm an adult and how I expect to be treated. After cutting her out of my life 2-or-3 times (for several weeks, 3 months on one occasion), she believes me now.

I'm 40 now and haven't had her come even close to crossing boundaries for several years now. My poor sister on the other hand could have written your post almost word-for-word. She's 35 and didn't start asserting her boundaries until about a year ago. It's been ugly...

If she's been treating you this way for 40+ years it isn't going to change overnight. It's going to be hard for her and probably even harder for you. You Re probably going to need the help of a therapist if you truly want to make the change happen.
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:00 PM   #3
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I am so sorry! I honestly have no answers, I can not even get my own answers with dealing with my elderly parents.

Remember that bad eating WILL NOT help in any way and WILL NOT make you feel better. The opposite will happen. It will make you feel even worse. Do not let bad foods control this situation or control you...you are the boss.

It is very sad when loved ones are cruel. Even if you know in your mind that you can not change things your emotional side wants to. YOU are a good person. Do not let her make you feel any other way. You take care of you. Eat healthy and exercise your behind off. Take all your emotions, anger, and pain and put it toward working on that even harder. I know you can do this.

You have been doing an amazing job already. 350 to 213 lbs! That is totally AWESOME! Start writing in a journal if that helps. Read inspirational books. I know you want to care for your mom and that you want to make sure she is okay but you might have to step back and put a bit more distance between the two of you. Your health and well-being is number 1.

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Old 07-07-2013, 06:16 PM   #4
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Oh dear! I don't have any specific suggestions but it sounds like your mother thinks she can treat you however she wants because she's your mother and that maybe you tend to let her, again because she's your mother. It also sounds like she's very resistant to changing the dynamic of your relationship, probably because she is fine with things the way they have been for your entire life. (I will point out that I don't think this is unique to your mother. Its hard to redefine relationships once a pattern of what's acceptable has already been established.)

I guess the question for you is how far are you willing to go to change the dynamic between the two of you? Are you willing to make an issue out of it or maybe stop calling every day if she's being mean or talking about your weight in an unsupportive way even if that means she goes a few days (or a week) with out talking to anyone but the yard guys? (That may seem harsh at first but she has a phone, she can call someone, like you, if she gets lonely). Once she realizes you're no longer at her beck and call and that she is not the center of your life anymore she may put in more effort to improving the relationship.

Ultimately she may never change so you may need to try to find some new coping strategies. You might try talking to your brother about it depending on how close you two are. He may have some ideas on how to deal with her (his solution may be only calling every two weeks). As for myself, if someone had given me a look and told me to "put down that cookie" I would have shoved it my mouth and smiled at them, because who are they to tell me what to eat (plus I love a good cookie)!

Good luck with it and remember, every time she tells you you're too nice, that you'd rather be too nice than too mean!
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:40 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by SuperHeroTeacher View Post
Yikes! My only advice is that you need to have boundaries about how you are willing to be treated by the people in your life and when those boundaries are crossed, be prepared to do something about it. .... If she's been treating you this way for 40+ years it isn't going to change overnight. It's going to be hard for her and probably even harder for you. You Re probably going to need the help of a therapist if you truly want to make the change happen.
Thanks for replying -- that word boundaries struck a cord! I have a book on boundaries! I've never read it, but heard about it at church and found it second hand. Must. go. find. it.

Yes, I discussed our last tiff with my therapist, and she kept bringing me back to the fact that I can't change my Mom. I have to work on things I can change. I kept thinking... if only she would come to see a therapist with me, then maybe she could see my point of view. I don't see that likely to happen, since she thinks she has "a right" to behave however she wants.

Sadly, I think of setting boundaries in comparison to training a dog. If she does X, then I do Y. Maybe you're right, maybe we just need time away from each other --which seems cruel on my part, but I don't see another way.

This may seem like a dumb question, but since, obviously, I have very few boundaries ...you didn't tell your mom that you were setting boundaries, did you? I'm thinking it would be something that she would just learn through my behavior, right?
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:02 PM   #6
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... As for myself, if someone had given me a look and told me to "put down that cookie" I would have shoved it my mouth and smiled at them, because who are they to tell me what to eat (plus I love a good cookie)!
Oh, Spetty! Yes, that's what I should've done! Why do we always think of the good responses afterward?! I love it. I'm going to keep something like that in mind for the future.

You're also right about our relationship being this way for a long time. I was a later in life baby (the youngest and only girl) and we've discussed how I always considere(d) her "the mother", when some mothers are more close in age to their daughters and in competition or less respectful in their roles. (I've been feeding the monster!)

She knows I hold her in respect and value her opinion of me TOO much - we've discussed that. She always says, "Why do you care so much what I think?" And I say... "Because you're my mother." (What I feel is that she should be always supportive and unconditionally loving, but she's not -- never has been -- but that's not something we discuss.)

sigh.... Thank you for replying and understanding. I already feel better. I think this is a turning point for us. Whatever I do now will affect how our relationship goes forward.
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:02 PM   #7
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There’s a difference between honoring your parents and subjecting yourself to emotional abuse. You can still treat her with kindness and charity, but when your time together turns ugly, it’s time to go. I think you did the right thing by walking away after she made that cookie comment.

Honestly, from what you’ve written she sounds like a bully, and the fact that she has few people in her life is likely because of that. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. It also sounds like she’s a pretty big part of your life, and it may be time for you to distance yourself a little. Spend time doing things that you enjoy, meet new, positive people, take up a new hobby! Giving yourself some distance doesn't have to be cruel, it can be healthy for your relationship with your mother and healthy for your mental health.

Stay strong, and avoid the carb-o-licious foods that are tempting you. They may make you feel good at the moment, but you deserve lasting happiness!
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:09 PM   #8
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I didn't tell my mom right away. We had an argument over the phone and I stopped taking her calls for several weeks (we live in different states, so she couldn't just show up on my doorstep like she does with my sister).

When I finally did take her call I told her that I would not continue a relationship where I felt my feelings were constantly being disregarded as invalid. At first she denied that she ever did such a thing, but I had a list of examples that I provided.

I think it was a lot easier for me than it might be for you for a few reasons. 1.) we lived in different states, and 2.) I had a one-year old and 3-month old at the time. No relationship with me means no relationship with her only grand kids (at the time).

Best of luck to you!
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:09 PM   #9
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...Remember that bad eating WILL NOT help in any way and WILL NOT make you feel better. The opposite will happen. It will make you feel even worse. Do not let bad foods control this situation or control you...you are the boss.

... I know you want to care for your mom and that you want to make sure she is okay but you might have to step back and put a bit more distance between the two of you. Your health and well-being is number 1.
Thanks, Aspen. I needed to hear that! You're right,and I know that eating will not help, but it's an old response to an old hurt. I just have to get through it!

I'm off to look up that book on Boundaries... I think it's just what I need.

Thanks for caring. You guys are great! I was beginning to think I was crazy, and I'm glad to know that others have these kinds of family issues, too.
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:22 PM   #10
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I would stop calling her everyday. I would call once a week and that is all. I would not tell her I am going to do this I would just start. She may have a lot to say about this but I would ignore her as best I could and continue with a once a week call. Ask yourself why your brother calls so seldom. Hmmm, I have an idea.
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Old 07-07-2013, 10:29 PM   #11
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I don't have much good advice, but you are definitely not alone with this issue. My mom has always been disapproving, judgmental, and hurtful towards me. About a year ago she said something completely awful to me, the kind of thing you hear and think "how could a mother say that to her child". The end result of that situation? I told her how much her statement hurt me, and apparently telling her that *I* was hurt caused *her* to be hurt. So I became the bad guy because I hurt her by telling her how much she hurt me. Figure that one out.

Like I said, not much advice because obviously its a struggle for me as well, but I definitely feel your pain!
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Old 07-08-2013, 12:33 AM   #12
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I told her how much her statement hurt me, and apparently telling her that *I* was hurt caused *her* to be hurt. So I became the bad guy because I hurt her by telling her how much she hurt me. Figure that one out.
THIS IS MY MOTHER!!! Like i said before, I don't have this problem anymore because of the boundaries I set 15+ years ago, but if my sister dares to point out something my mom has done to hurt her feelings all the sudden my mom's the victim!
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Old 07-08-2013, 01:47 AM   #13
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Awshucks, I am probably going to take a different tack to the other posts on here and advise you to look at your side of the relationship. You say in the original post that you are in contact with her every day and every weekend you spend 30 minutes getting to her, 30 minutes returning home and whatever amount of time you are there with her.

This indicates to me that you are seeking something from her specifically and are willing to put a large amount of time and effort into seeking it from her. You have told her and to be quite honest, unless her ears are only painted on for show then she has heard you. It would appear from what she has said and what she does that she may not be capable of providing that to you, nor may she know how to show what you are asking for.

At this stage you assume that she does need the daily contacts and regular visits from you in order to have a quality of life. That if you do not provide this you are actually doing less than your duty. Have you ever asked your mother what she actually needs. Does she need you to assist her with her shopping, cleaning house, personal hygiene or can she attend to these herself. Do you assist her with getting to and from social events that would otherwise make her unhappy to miss. What does she actually need and are you the best person to provide it.

Once you know this you will have a better idea of what you need to do to met your ethical standards. You can then free up time and heart to concentrate on transferring your emotional needs from gaining her approval to seeking approval of yourself, by yourself and for yourself. You can break what you are seeking into it's component parts and look for it from within, from your work, friends and other family. It may not come in the package you want from her, but will be available to you from other sources.

The pressure will also ease from her to understand your needs and how to provide them (or resist defensively as she seems to do), this may make your relationship easier if not better. Neither of you will be under pressure to live up to standards that cost so much to acheive.

In our lives we have very little control over other people and what happens to us, we only have control over how we react to them.

None of this is meant to be a criticism of either of you, but if you cannot met each others needs, you will never have a happy relationship. If you cannot meet each others needs, then you have to change what the needs are! You have control over that if nothing else. It was a long lesson learned for me. I was never going to gain my mothers understanding of who I am, so I learned to look for that elsewhere (fortunately successfully) and just looked to find what I could enjoy in what was left of my relationship with my mother. It's not much, but we do get along better now than when I had expectations of what I should be able to get from her. Now her snide remarks just slip away to the side and she makes far less of them as there is no longer any reaction. The other day she even laughed .........!
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Old 07-09-2013, 12:16 AM   #14
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Electro, Thanks for replying. There is wisdom in what you say. I think you're right that I might be seeking something that my Mom is just not able to give. And, I know I'm messed up! Would I have such an emotional eating problem if I wasn't!? I have a lot of self searching to do.

Because I spend so much of my time devoted to her, I don't have much of a life outside of seeing her and my work. I need to remedy that. I've wanted to for a while, but didn't know how to do it without "taking away" from her. It's become habit, now.

She was the only daughter in her family, and was the caretaker for my grandmother. I remember it all from when I was a kid. I know what her mother expected from her, and I think I have to provide the same to my mother (although she's in much better physical health.) But, I was only a kid... maybe I had a skewed view of things.

Maybe I need to ask her just what it is that she NEEDS from me. Maybe I'm assuming that she needs more than she really does. (I think that may be the case.) I know that I would want more interaction with others than she organically has in her life, but maybe that's OK with her.

I've always thought I was blessed to have a "good relationship" with my mother, and it is good, although she can get on my nerves sometimes! I really don't want things to be like this between us - not over a cookie!

She's holding out... I know she won't extend the olive branch. If there is to be change, it's up to me. I know I'll reread your post again and again to help me work this out. Thank you again for replying (from the other side of the world!). Your words are very helpful.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:00 PM   #15
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Default Sorry you are being treated this way!

Hmm, I guess I have it pretty good, as my Mom would never say things like that. I do have a friend though who has a mom like yours. It has been a constant stress for her all of her life. I really have no advice, but she should not treat you like that! Hope things get better soon with her!
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