Whether you've always had a bad relationship with your mom, or it's a newer development, dealing with toxicity in your life is never fun. It's draining, dramatic, and upsetting to be around, so the sooner you can learn how to handle your toxic mom, the better.
This means learning how to diffuse arguments and knowing when to walk away, but it also means accepting that you two have a toxic thing going on. "Not everyone is cut out to be a parent, an authority, or take responsibility for themselves — even mom," spiritual empath Tracee Dunblazier tells Bustle. "If you're the child of such a person, that's the first thing to remember ... Learning to accept and process your disappointment, anger, or grief about the person they are will go a long way in creating the space for communication with them."
Once you've come to terms with it — which will take time, and may even be an ongoing process — you'll be better equipped to look out for yourself. Because this is what it's all about. You can't fix your mom, and you can't tell her what to do. But you can take care of yourself. Read on for some ways to do just that.
1. Give Her A Chance To Change
If your mom has been toxic for forever, it may feel like a lost cause. But you should still give her a chance to change. "Many people are beyond this point, but if you have never had a sit down chat with your mother about how her behavior affects you, it might be something to start with," NYC-based licensed psychotherapist Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT tells Bustle. "If that doesn’t work, you will at least feel better that you tried."
2. Limit The Amount Of Time You Spend Together
Whether you're visiting her or just talking on the phone, make an effort to limit the amount of interaction you have with your mom. "Back off slowly," says Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, LCSW-C, author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring for Your Loved One. "For example, if you usually see or talk to your mother daily, pull back to five to six days per week." This will allow you to have a relationship, without it being too intense.
3. Remain Confident When Talking To Her
Toxic moms aren't always the most respectful. Yours may try to cut you down, mess with your head, or draw you into a fight, which is why it's so important to stick up for yourself. "Be confident in your right to say things like, 'If you'd like to have a conversation with me, don't speak to me this way,'" Dunblazier says. You should also practice the word "no," which always comes in handy when demanding respect.
4. Work On Setting Up Some Healthy Boundaries
If you've been dealing with your toxic mom since the dawn of time, it may be difficult to tear yourself away — much less have the guts to set up healthy boundaries. But that's what you gotta do. "Becoming less codependent is a process of recovery," psychologist Dr. Alicia Meyer tells Bustle. "Boundaries are so important, but developing the internal self confidence to set those boundaries is necessary first."
5. Keep Things As Respectful As Possible
Nothing throws gasoline on the proverbial fire quite like disprectful language. So, when dealing with your mom, try to keep things civil. "Addressing your mother with respectful communication is the first step to setting boundaries with her, no matter her condition," Dunblazier says.
6. Get Thyself To A Therapist
As you know, dealing with a toxic parent is difficult. And that's why going to a therapist may be your best bet. "Working with a therapist would be my number one recommendation," Meyer says. They can offer you advice and coping skills, as well as a place to vent and unpack all that's happened in the past.
7. Consider Cutting Off All Communication (At Least For A While)
If things are particularly toxic, it may be best to avoid talking to each other. As Meyer says, "I do believe that sometimes it is necessary to cut off communication. In cases of abuse this is certainly appropriate." Not only will it allow for peace, but the space can give you time to work on yourself as well as how you plan to handle the relationship going forward.
8. Remind Yourself That You No Longer Have To Make Her Happy
The days of making your mom happy are over, so give yourself a mantra to serve as a reminder. "[Say to] yourself over and over and over: 'This is my life, and I may love my mom, but I cannot let her manage, influence, and bring my life down,'" says clinical psychologist and radio host Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. "Say it in the morning, say it midday, say it before you go to bed." Hopefully it'll stick.
9. Remember This Has Nothing To Do With You
While it can be tempting to blame yourself for the toxic relationship, it's important to remember that it's got nothin' to do with you. "[Your mom is] doing the best she can, and her best is not good enough," psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW tells Bustle. "This takes the pressure off you thinking that if you only do something differently that she will change. It’s important that you not absorb or internalize her toxicity or you will carry it around for life."
10. Decide How You Want Your Relationship To Be
For years your relationship with your mom has been on her terms as she raised you, took care of you, etc. But now that you're an adult, it's up to you to figure out how this relationship will be. "Identify what an adult relationship with your mother looks like on your terms," says licensed marriage and family therapist Jeremiah Gibson. "Make clear with your mother topics that are on-limits and off-limits." And go forth from there.
11. Remember You Can't Change Her
Sometimes the most important thing to remember is that you can't change your mom. I repeat, you cannot change your mom. She's an adult, so unless she seeks therapy her toxic ways are likely here to stay. All you can do, as Gibson tells me, is monitor your own emotions, create boundaries, and take care of yourself.
When dealing with toxic people, that's really all you can do.
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