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Setting Boundaries

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When my last relationship ended, it ended very badly. So badly that I had to get the legal system involved. I am not one to expect pity from anyone, least of all my family. However, I have finally come to expect that if someone can’t be supportive that they keep it to themselves.

I have worked very hard on setting boundaries with everyone in my family. And I have also cut out everyone that does not respect them. Friends, family, everyone. Except my mother.

It is a hard decision to become an orphan. My mother was very abusive growing up, but she was also the only parent I really had. It is no exaggeration to say I grew up in a single parent home despite the fact that my father came home every evening.

I do not share any of my issues with my family. Mostly because it is safer for me to keep it private. Anything said in my family can and will be used against you. Forever. It can be very lonely, but I would rather be alone than hurt.

When I told my mother that I was going to therapy she immediately showed an interest that aroused my suspicions. There was an eagerness that felt unwholesome.

She began asking for all sorts of details about my therapy sessions. What did I talk about? Did I ever talk about her? Didn’t my therapist agree that I had Autism (as she had always maintained)?

I told my mother that I had no interest in discussing my therapy with her. But she would not drop it. She began calling me a few times a week, trying to get me to tell her. And I realized that it was time to set boundaries with her.

I told her that I would not be telling her about my therapy. When she wouldn’t drop it I gave her a choice, we could either change the subject or I was going to hang up on her. She continued to try every time I spoke to her unless I made the ultimatum.

So when I told my mother about my ex and I breaking up, she had no idea what had gone on in our relationship. She never liked him. In fact, the only boyfriend she has ever liked was the physically abusive ex husband.

Despite not liking him, she immediately informed me that it was my own fault that our relationship had ended. I couldn’t argue with that. It was my fault. I had decided to stop being abused and ended things.

But, then she went on to tell me that it was my fault for being with someone abusive. This is a sticky point for me. Yes, it is my “fault” in that I chose to date him. But I don’t feel I should take responsibility for my own abuse. He chose to abuse me, I did not choose to be abused.

And I left as soon as I could. It took me longer than I would have liked, two years. But the important thing was that I left. I realized what was happening. I ended the relationship, and I got help by beginning therapy.

But instead of being supportive, she began to tell me that I was at fault for every bad thing he did to me. Because I had stayed too long. Because I had moved in with him too quickly. Because I let myself be abused. This is coming from the same woman that stayed with my father for 30 years and is now married to another abusive man.

I did not choose to mention those things. I don’t think it is fair to blame someone for the abuse done to them. I don’t believe in blaming the victim.

That is when I knew that not only was I right in not trusting her with the details of my therapy. But that she would never respect my boundaries. I am not even sure she believed I deserved boundaries.

The last time we spoke she was particularly nasty and accusatory with regards to me being in an abusive relationship. And I hung up on her. That was over a year ago.

Since then I have spoken to her three or four times. Very cordial, very short conversations. To tell her Happy Birthday, Merry X-Mas, Happy New Year. Nothing more.

But lately, as I have progressed through recovery and healing, I feel my attitude towards her softening. I wonder if a year was long enough for her to learn her lesson. To know that I am serious about having my boundaries respected. I don’t know.

But I think I want to try…


6 responses »

  1. YOu are so correct- he CHOSE to abuse- that is not your responsibility. I wish you luck with this situation. WE are always driven by hope, aren’t we? We hope that others are progressing and engaging in self-reflection as we are. Who knows if your mother is ready to engage on a healthier level or not- that will be her choice.

    • Yes. It’s hard to not have the desire to connect with her. But I also know that I am not willing to give up all the gains I have made to have her in my life again. I am cautiously hopeful.

  2. You can of course only try, and stop contact at any moment necessary, as you have had to in the past. Wishing you strength and calmness.

  3. You did very well to set the boundary with your mother. That was a hard thing to do.

    You are also doing an excellent job of keeping your anger in check, and realizing that if you were to take the same tone with your mother in return, it would be counter-productive. That’s really hard to do.

    This is one of those situations where, it’s going to cut you to the bone for the rest of your life, until you can make peace with it and let it go. Family always is like that. It’s so personal and emotional.

    I’m really proud of the way you handled this.

    Unfortunately, your mother seems to be turning her own anger on to you. She’s got her own issues to work out. I know that you want her to be a part of your life, and perhaps even help her, but …

    … you can’t do it at the cost of your own sanity. So, give it a try, but, hold the line on that boundary.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I don’t think you guys realize how much a comment means to me. As far as the anger, now that I am getting better, I can feel the anger creeping in. That’s next on the list of things to tackle.


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