7 Seemingly Innocent Things You Should Never Say To A Toxic Mom
If you've ever felt like there are certain things you can't say to your toxic mom because it always results in an argument, you're definitely not alone. When dealing with a toxic person, there's no telling what might kick off a disagreement, or how they might twist your words. But there do seem to be a few topics that cause more problems than others.
By keeping these topics in mind and avoiding them whenever possible, you might be able to have healthier conversations with your mom going forward. That's not to say you should walk on eggshells, however, or even that you have to continue speaking with her at all, if you think doing so creates too much stress in your life.
But by giving yourself more space, and glossing over certain areas, you may have more luck maintaining a relationship with her. "Keeping a healthy distance from a toxic mom includes implementing what I call Detached Contact," Shannon Thomas, a therapist specializing in psychological abuse, tells Bustle. "We achieve this by staying aware of exactly how our mom chronically hurts our feelings, giving her limited information about our life, and finding support in healthier people."
It can be a tough adjustment to make, but it's often worth it if you're tired of getting wrapped up in her toxicity. Here are a few things experts say you might not want to talk about with a toxic mom, in order to maintain your peace of mind.
1. An Argument You Had With A Partner
If you'd like to vent about an argument you had with a partner, it may be a good idea to call a friend — instead of your mom. One reason is she may hold onto it, and really struggle to forgive your partner.
"A toxic parent will tend to view people in all-or-nothing terms and may come to despise your partner over everyday squabbles they hear about," clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky tells Bustle.
Even if you've long since forgotten about the disagreement, your toxic mom might stew in this news, possibly even on purpose. And that can create problems down the road for you, your partner, and your relationship.
2. Family News
If your cousin is having a baby, or your brother is having a bad day, let them be the ones to reach out and tell your mom. As Dr. Odessky says, it's often not a good idea to "share innocent family news that you heard of first."
For many toxic moms, hearing news secondhand — even if it's something small — can really knock their ego, Dr. Odessky says. And that can lead to arguments. While it's obviously not your fault if she takes it to heart, it still may be healthier to steer clear of situations like these.
3. Your Personal Goals
When it comes to toxic moms, it's often best to avoid talking about anything too private or personal, including your goals for the future. Not only do toxic people tend to use personal stuff against their victims, but they can also twist it and make it all about them — which can really hurt.
"When you have a conversation with a toxic mom it's important never to say things that you feel are very personally raw," Dr. Odessky says. "A toxic parent will not respect your vulnerability around these topics and may use them against you or bring them up to hurt you when they feel hurt."
If you think your mom might throw this information back in your face, protect yourself and keep it private. Or, go to a trusted friend, other family member, or even a therapist and talk to them instead.
4. How To Argue In A Healthier Way
If you're having an argument with your toxic mom, it may not be wise to try to get her to fight fair. "One of the biggest trademarks of a toxic human is their inability to take responsibility for anything," mental health expert Alicia Raimundo tells Bustle.
For example, Raimundo says it won't do much good to suggest the issue you are dealing with is partially her fault. And it's definitely not a good idea to hint at how she might be able to argue in a healthier way. While it may seem innocent to point out where your mom is going wrong in a debate, doing so might only make the situation worse.
5. Anything About Her Appearance
Do you like your mom's new haircut? Or think her outfit could use a bit of color? Even if you'd really like to share your thoughts, it may be better to keep them to yourself. "She will see this as criticizing her," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. Toxic people have a way of twisting even the most well-meaning words around in their head, so avoid this topic at all costs.
6. The Details Of Your Day
If you have a toxic mom who likes to mettle in your life, even small things — like your daily schedule — should be off limits to her. As Hershenson says, "It’s best to be general in terms of plans as she may likely intrude." Don't give exact times and locations for things, especially if she has a history of showing up, or involving herself in a way that's inappropriate.
7. Saying "Yes" When You Don't Mean It
It can be hard to turn a toxic mom down, and maintain healthy boundaries with her. But it's crucial that you do it anyway. "It’s important to set boundaries and say no when you mean no," Hershenson says. "The best thing to do is set boundaries. Say no, don’t engage in negativity, and set limits with her." That way, she knows where you stand, and you can feel more comfortable turning her down, or saying no.
Even still, it can be tough to deal with a toxic mom, and even tougher to maintain a healthy relationship with her. You never know what might result in an argument, or what might lead to a toxic comment, so it's best to keep her at arm's length. Speaking with a therapist can be a great place to start, not only to learn how to better engage with her, but to undo any negative thought patterns she may have imparted onto you.