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I never wanted to be anything like my mother and when I left for college I made a vow to myself to remove myself from the toxic bindings that held our relationship together. Never being able to please my mother was the trial of my childhood. My mother was not nurturing, or caring, or even very nice. As an adult I have set strong boundaries with her and have disconnected. Since she is much more concerned about herself than me, it seems to work out mutually. At this point, I have not seen my mother for five years. I give her an annual call on Christmas, which is painfully superficial and that’s it. The reality is that I will never have a relationship with my mother and I have come to terms with that. However, my father passed away last year and now I’m wondering about my mother. I haven’t wondered about my mom ever. I know the same day in day out manipulation. But, I feel sorry for her. I’ve been thinking for a few months now that I should reach out and check in. I’ve come so far in disconnecting with her, but will this be taking a step back?
Dear Toxic Mom,
A woman can be a mother, and not be a lovable person. Love can hurt, and feeling unloved, especially from a parent can be the worst kind of hurt. Something that seems so natural like love between a mother and daughter doesn’t add up when the one person who is supposed to love you without condition doesn’t. You made the decision to cut her off and it’s been positive in your life.
We do not get to choose our biological parents. The idea of unconditional love from parents and unbreakable bonds of blood are not always the case as you have experienced. You are not alone or crazy for feeling like this. Disconnecting from someone who caused you great pain in your childhood is healthy, even when it’s a parent. You are an adult and equipped with a life that you have more control over; control to cut people out and control to choose the family that you want. This also means that you can choose to open those doors to conversation, or keep them closed.
If you re-initiate contact be prepared for the uprising of feelings that may follow.
Your decision to not talk to your mom does not have to last for a lifetime. If you re-initiate contact be prepared for the uprising of feelings that may follow. It may work and it may not work. You may be incredibly disappointed and regret reaching out, or you may be unexpectedly pleased.
If it isn’t successful, then please do not blame yourself for the attempt. You have to deal with her the same as you would any other difficult person you come across in your life; directly. You have found a life apart from her and are doing just fine. Don’t think of it as a step back but rather a step forward in hope.
Dear Toxic Mom,
It sounds like your mom was never the supportive mother that you needed or deserved. You always wanted someone more loving, more understanding, more giving but that just wasn’t what your mom was able to give you. My guess is that the space you created between you and your mother was necessary. It allowed you the safe space you needed in order to take care of yourself emotionally and to become the person that you are today. But things have changed. Your father passed away and now you’re worried about your mother. It’s like you have a little feeling in your gut to reach out.
I’m curious about where this gut feeling is coming from. Is it simply a feeling of obligation? It is coming from a place of pity for your mother? My guess is that it is also possible that a part of you remembers a time when your mother was the mother that you needed. A time when she was a loving and caring mother in your life. That it just might be possible that a part of that old person is still left inside of her.
That doesn’t mean that you have to process all your old hurts or become best friends, but reaching back out could be just as helpful to you as it could be to her.
Although I know that the two of you got to a really unhealthy place, a place that neither of you truly wanted to be, she probably loved and cared for you at some point in her life. While I don’t believe that you have an obligation to her if you feel really unsafe in reaching back out, I do think it could be healthy and restorative to reunite some day.
That doesn’t mean that you have to process all your old hurts or become best friends, but reaching back out could be just as helpful to you as it could be to her. You will always be her daughter and she will always be your mother. Where the relationship goes from here will be up to you.