My mother has been threatening me on and off since childhood. If I didn’t do what she wanted when I was a child she would say I couldn’t go to a party or even celebrate my own birthday when it came around. When I finished uni she threatened that if I left home before I got married – I’m nearly 60 and in those days you didn’t – she would write me out of her will. More recently she’s said that if I refuse to do her shopping she will tell ‘everyone’ that I don’t care if she starves to death. On and on the threats have gone. Despite being irrational and completely over the top they still sometimes wound me.
Fortunately mostly I can cope. It’s a bit like surfing a verbal wave every month or so. The change came a few months ago when I became a grandmother myself. It somehow made me decide that enough was enough and I would no longer put up with her threats.
I told her so quite calmly and simply. I know she is furious but I suspect she is also rather afraid.
I am not sure of what to do next. Can you offer some ideas?
It is not easy to stand up to a bully but it sounds as if you have found a way. You have also sensed it’s made a difference in your mother’s behaviour. So stand your ground and capitalise on your progress. Think about the sorts of demands that she is likely to make and work out your boundaries. For example if she doesn’t ask you politely to do something, you won’t be available. You could also decide in advance what tasks you are willing to carry out and those that you feel are unreasonable. Prepare some careful and calm replies to potential scenarios so you can talk gently but firmly to her. If, for example she starts threatening you, tell her you are ending the phone call or offer to drop round to see her later. It might also help if you could find someone who could share some of the responsibility for her shopping and other needs.
Try not to worry if she threatens to bad mouth you to other family members or even neighbours as they are likely to know what she is like. If they do take her side, have as little to do with them as possible and tell yourself it is their loss.
It must be wonderful to be a grandmother and feel the joy of a loving relationship.