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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 26 April, 2018
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Dear Fifi: I don't feel like my mother likes me. How do I get over that?

Tuesday dinnertime! Dear Fifi time.

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I feel like all I use this introductory paragraph for is to discuss the weather but: hello, the weather. It’s officially gloves and hats weather out there. That’s for sure.

If you’ve got something slightly more interesting to ask me than what’s going on with the weather, then hit me up. I read every single question and will help you if I can.

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Dear Fifi,

My mother is the queen of passive-aggressive behaviour. She loves to play favourites among her children and is constantly telling me I’m obviously unhappy with my career, lifestyle and boyfriend. It’s like an attempt at gaslighting. I’m actually pretty satisfied with all three of those things.  She wanted different things for me, I went down another path. I’m doing really well at work and my boyfriend is really supportive.

I can’t not talk to her as we’re a small family but anytime I try tell her she’s being rude, which I only do when truly pushed, she flips and I’ve to cut my visit short. We’re talking shouting about me being crazy and in need of psychiatric help, while I just stand there. It’s happening more and more of late. I’ve been to therapy about it all before, so my coping mechanisms are good, but it is still taking a toll. I feel she dislikes me as a person. How do I get over that?

I’m sorry to hear this is happening to you. It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and that many things in your life are going well at the moment, despite the fraught relationship with your mother. And fair play for seeking out counselling and coping strategies for this issue.

Was your relationship with your mother always this way? And is your relationship with your siblings okay? Is anyone else worried about her increasingly erratic behaviour? These are questions for yourself to mull over, to try and see if there’s a pattern or shift in your family dynamic.

However, it might just be the case that yourself and your mother don’t get along at this point in time. She may have something going on at the moment that has put even more of a strain on your already challenging relationship. Don’t write this off as a forever situation.

And try not to second guess how she feels, for your own sake – I’m sure she loves you, but liking close family members is an altogether different kettle of fish. Do you like her right now? Not necessarily. This is a bond that adapts across our lives, and at times it will fray and other times it will be strong.

It’s a cliche to say she nags because she cares, but there’s possibly a tiny grain of truth in it – especially as she is mostly preoccupied with your life decisions. Comparisons to your siblings may sting, but never put down to malice what can be explained by ignorance. She may not know how deeply these negative comments affect you. That doesn’t make it okay, but it might explain it a little.

Rather than tackle her behaviour when she is already having a go at you, have you tried raising your concerns at a neutral time? Maybe even in a neutral place. If possible, change the framing – see her outside of the family home, talk about things other than work. You’ve gotten into a toxic relationship, so try your best to break that and make it new. Don’t wait until a fight to tell her how you feel. Tell her when you’re both calm.

At the end of the day, if you’ve tackled this through therapy and made several good faith attempts to keep the peace without any breakthroughs, you’re entitled to cut back on time spent with your mother if it is negatively affecting you.

Don’t feel guilty about reducing or stopping visits if you need to sometimes. Put yourself first if your mental health is affected. Do your best, but don’t push for unrealistic goals at the expense of your sanity. You don’t have to cut her out entirely – it’s not all or nothing. Reduction at times of particular stress may be enough to cope.

It’s a sad but true fact that not all of us will have close relationships with our families. Scratch the surface, and every single family in Ireland has more going on than meets the eye. You’re not alone.

Acceptance of this situation will be difficult, but it might bring you the most peace. We can’t change how others treat us and, with families, sometimes we have to accept as much bad behaviour as we can bear if the other option is losing them altogether. But by all means, don’t bear too much of it. Best of luck.

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Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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