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Old May 15th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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Dealing with passive-aggressive mother

Guys, I need some help, and I need you to ask me some questions since the backstory is so damn long and my thinking muddled.

My mother is terribly passive-aggressive. As I've gotten better in my NG dealings, I realize that most of my problems with being P/A come from her. I've been very good at stopping at this myself, as it's vastly improved my interactions with the rest of the normal world. I love it.

However, it's put a strain on how I deal with her. It's the only way she really deals with things. Her bullshit really sticks out. The good news is I can recognize it and dance around it, but it does tick me off a lot.

So, we had argument on the phone lately. I'll spare you the backstory, but here's the main argument.

She doesn't really come up to visit me anymore because I don't formally invite her. To her, I should pick out a date, call and say something "Would you like to come up and visit on X? We'd love the pleasure of your company."

I admit that I don't do this. Mostly, because I tell my immediate family they have an open invite. Stop by anytime you want, call me up, and we'll make room. In the case of my mother, she needs to take time off 3-4 months in advance due to her job, whereas my schedule is a lot more flexible - I can take days off with no notice most times. In my mind, having an open invite for her to visit is me acknowledging the constrains of her schedule, and being totally open to what she wants.

I'm totally confused why she expects this of me, because she doesn't do the reverse. If I want to come visit, I usually don't get an invitation, instead I'll call up and say "Hey, I have some time to visit around date X, will you be around?" Why is this a one-way thing?

The big issue is due to her P/A nature, she won't come out and SAY this, unless I bring it up. Instead she does her P/A think like not calling me, saying "Oh, I was *JUST* going to call you" every time I do call, and lots of other weird little acting.

This last Thanksgiving, she invited me to visit, and I had to refuse because we were staying home this year and inviting a few friends. I made the grievous error of saying "You can come if you want", which in my mind was friendly... it meant "We'd love to have you visit, but we can understand if you don't, since it's a long trip, and Dad hates driving and traffic, if you don't want to come, we won't feel snubbed". Apparently, she interprets it as meaning "I don't give a crap if you show up or not, because I have no interest in our relationship". She railed on me on the phone about this, saying "Can't you tell the difference?" but I didn't dare tell her that maybe it's her paranoid interpretation that was wrong.

I don't have this problem with my wife's parents (when they were alive), and in fact, her whole extended family. Very easy-going people. As a result, visiting my parents is now fraught with stress, and visiting my in-laws is relaxing and fun.

I don't know if she's just wants to be overly formal and I should really adjust my dealings with her and only her, or if she's being manipulative and I should stand my ground and refuse to be manipulated. I don't know what end is up.

I feel manipulated, but I could be wrong. After I talk to her I'm really freaking confused.
I always must think: Am I delaying gratification, or am I denying it completely?
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Old May 15th, 2011, 06:26 PM
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That's what many mothers are like.
Your description reminds me a lot of my own mother, may she rest in peace.

You recognise that this is a manipulative game. With anyone else, you may be able to fix that, or you may be able to walk away. With a mother, probably not. In my opinion, the best you can hope for is to get to a point where this stuff no longer upsets you, it just strikes you as funny.
Because, it is the material for a sitcom, lets face it.

Now, on the other hand, I can see that "you can come if you want" is not a very gracious invitation. If someone was inviting me, I'd like to hear that they'd be really pleased if I could come, and they'd appreciate the effort I'd be making in travelling all that way.

I'd say make some adjustments... but the main thing is, once you recognise what's going on here, you can laugh about it.

> I'm totally confused why she expects this of me, because she doesn't do the reverse. [...] Why is this a one-way thing?

A mother-son relationship is never going to be symmetrical.
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Old May 15th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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Yeah, "You can come if you want," doesn't come across as inviting. I know what you were trying to say ("It would probably be a hassle for you to come here, but I'd love to have you").

As far as an "open invitation," some people just aren't comfortable with that, and even though they don't necessarily want you to roll out the red carpet for them, they want to be asked (even though on the reverse side, you have an open invitiation to visit her). I think this may be a case where the man should lead no matter WHAT the relationship might be.

My mom? She comes to visit us on occasion (and isn't bashful about calling to see if such and such date will work). My mother in law is the same way. I know it can be a burden for men to always have to take the initiative and lead, but I think that's just inescapable sometimes.
I've got news for you, pal. You ain't leadin' but two things right now: Jack and Shit! And Jack left town...
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Old May 15th, 2011, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by OffTheCuff View Post
My mother is terribly passive-aggressive.

......I'm totally confused why she expects this of me,
I think that passive-aggression is a fear-based way of going about things. Maybe it's often a fear of rejection. These fears & vulnerability come out the most with people we care about.

Once you approach it with this in mind, maybe a combination of humor and changing the way you're addressing this stuff could be combined with . . . some ignoring of her behavior. I'm not a "planner", so I'm offering advice I'd have a hard time with, myself. But you could set some dates with her, with your parents, and, leading up to the dates, be proactive about letting her know you're expecting ("wanting") her to come to your home. The humor part could be just bringing her MO out into the open. Finding ways to easily and lightly bring these undercurrents of what feel like manipulation to you out and talking about them. This either will sound viable to you, or not. My sister was often successful using humor with my mother. I . . . couldn't get far enough away. Buttons get pushed, I hear ya.
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Old May 15th, 2011, 08:16 PM
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OK, fair enough. I really am not the house social director, I rarely invite people to visit. (Actually, in my head, inviting people from afar to visit is an imposition, as they have to travel to be here when I want. In my mind, offering to visit seems so much more friendly ["Hi, we'll be in town, want to get together?"] , since you are not asking them to shell out so much cash, time, and vacation to visit you. Perhaps I believe this because I think I'm not worth visiting?? Who knows.)

The problem now is I find myself not wanting to visit any more to reduce my exposure to all the negativity.

Here's an example. When I do visit, she has this compelling need to fill up the day with activity "for the kids". She'll schedule trips and play with the kids and leave no downtime for anything, and with three kids under ten... you'll never tire them out. They're always ready for more, more than a lady in 60's can give out. Anyway, she'll overcommit herself to such a degree that it exhausts her, and when that happens, she gets into her P/A thing where she needs someone to rescue her from the kids before she blows up or collapses from exhaustion.

So, the vacations are great fun for the kids, but not so much for my wife and I.

Why does she overcommit? I think know the reason why. Her mother committed suicide when she was a kid, so she has this pressing need to "give her kids the relationship she never had". This should sound familiar. Giving out of suffering, rather than abundance, only transmits that suffering. Covert contracts, giving with strings, etc., etc.

This really means I want to spend less time with her, but maybe it's forming a bad feedback loop where the less time we spend with her, the MORE activity she tries to cram into the time that remains. A possibility.

So, how to improve this? Invite her to visit formally, more often? I get the feeling she'll come every time and then start expecting something in return ("Hey, I drove out all they way to see you...") and, of course, not tell me what she wants. Probably, that will be visiting her, but I just don't have the vacation time to burn doing that so often. So frustrating.
I always must think: Am I delaying gratification, or am I denying it completely?
My BFEs - kick my ass, please.
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