I just emailed my (estranged) mother

Background: about three years ago I finally couldn’t take it any more and essentially sat my mother down and explained as well as I could that I felt like I needed to protect myself from her, and that I did not want any contact with her anymore.

A somewhat predictable shitstorm of drama and guilt-tripping ensued, which, among other things, proved to me that our relationship really was dysfunctional.

(And I do mean dysfunctional, really bad stuff, no way to work through it. She’s, frankly, very messed up in the head. I truly believe she may be clinically psychotic, and at the very least she’s a heartless bitch who’s quite capable of being thoroughly evil. Also narcissistic beyond all imagining, manipulative, etc. etc.)

However, the ensuing break from her was absolutely the best thing for my mental health. I cannot stress that enough. I don’t mention it to a lot of people because the usual reaction is along the lines of wailing “But! Butbutbut, she’s your motherrrrrrr!!!” But I know it was truly the right thing for me to do, to protect my own mental health. (Or what was left of it.)
Anyway: I got a voice message from her a couple of days ago. Instead of the usual crap (guilt trips, manipulation, wildly inappropriate job suggestions, etc.) she left me a politely phrased and very reasonable request, for some additional info about a recipe I’d emailed her years ago.

I literally can’t think of the last time she made a reasonable and politely phrased request. Maybe never. It blew my mind, completely. Part of me thinks :dubious: what’s she up to now? What’s this new game she’s playing?

But part of me sort of wanted to, I don’t know exactly, I guess reward her for good behavior or something. I was NOT going to call her back, I didn’t want to talk to her or hear her voice … but I texted her the details she needed and even included a little bonus tip. Later on, I left her a voice mssg (thanks, SlyDial!) asking if the recipe turned out OK, and she texted me back saying it did and thanks.

This is how NORMAL people communicate. This is not ever how my mother has communicated. So I’m totally weirded out and baffled.

But today, I sent her an email. Just a short note, but it’s the first time I’ve initiated contact with her in a long time. I’m still not sure if it was the right thing to do - she’s so delusional, she might think the whole estrangement was just one big mistake and everything’s fine again and she can go back to being a psychotic bitch all the time - but it felt like the compassionate thing to do, at least.

You know you may be in for another shitstorm but you never know. Sometimes life is easier after all the hatchets are buried.

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t just back off again if she freaks out. But congratulations on a few moments of normality in that relationship. :slight_smile:

I’ve seen similar screwed-up-ness with my father-in-law and understand the whole “but s/he’s faaaaaaamily” pressure. Sometimes, family are also crappy excuses for human beings, and you have to protect yourself. Good on you for carefully setting boundaries.

I broke off all communication with my dad many years ago and I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty. I would feel wary if he initiated normal communication with me because the relief was so great when he wasn’'t in my life anymore that I would be afraid that I would hate to go through another cycle of pain involving him.

But maybe the chance of a good relationship is worth it

I get the “but she’s faaaaaaaaaaamily” pressure ALL the time. Thankfully my SO doesn’t agree with that shit.

Take your few moments of sanity and run with it! You can always withdraw again later.

She may have actually learned that you really won’t take a bunch of crap from her anymore. If she behaves normally, great, if not just cut off contact again.

Sometimes they really do never change though and make sure you aren’t setting yourself up to be hurt again.

Just remember, the moment she puts a toe out of line, you need to shut her down. Absolutely do not give her an inch or allow her to do anything that might lead back to the old game playing. Protecting yourself comes before pleasing your mom.

Hey, thanks for the support, guys. It’s nice to be able to share something like this with folks who understand. I appreciate everyone’s input. I feel very wary about the whole thing.

Maybe your mom relaized that if she wants a relationship with you she is going to have to be civil. Chances are it is ‘you that changed’ and she knows her boundaries. If it is just a temporary thing do what you did last time and just cut it off. I hope it lasts. She sounds much better.

How typical. Posting just half the story in hopes of eliciting sympathy or some reaction when there’s clearly more to it than you’re including in your post. How is anyone supposed to give you Warm Fuzzies or sensible feedback if you’re going to leave out crucial details such as what was the recipe?!

Sheesh. :smiley:

You might found out that she’s been in therapy or some such the past 3 years and is finally getting her life back together. Either way - good luck!

I broke off contact with my mother over 10 years ago when she moved from unstable to scary and I made the decision that there was no other choice to protect myself and my family. I was surprised, actually, at how little I felt afterwards, and I very rarely think about her anymore, and then only fleetingly. I could feel more compassion for her very real unhappiness if it weren’t for her also very real evil.

In any case, purplehorseshoe, follow your instincts and listen to your gut at every step. Maybe your mother has changed enough for you to have a decent relationship with her, and maybe not. You’re a good person to let the door crack open cautiously, but if you start to feel thrown by anything she says or does, don’t think twice about slamming the door shut again.

The Recipe That Might Salvage Our Relationship:

Easy Quiche

Unroll Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust. Add cooked bacon, spinach, etc. and then pour in eggs plus milk*. Bake till just barely still jiggly in the center.

*3 eggs plus 1 1/2 cups cream, or cream and milk

Her question was whether or not she would need to pre-bake the empty pie shell first. I guess you could, but my response to her was not to bother. I never do, and those pre-made crusts are damn near foolproof anyway.

It would really be odd if food - homemade in particular - would up being some sort of saving grace, because, frankly, Martha Stewart she ain’t. In fact, back in college when I made my very first quiche - homemade from scrach crust included, not the shortcut - and proudly told her about it, her response was, “Why would you waste your time with that?” Utter derision in her tone.

Let’s just say that I learned almost none of my mad kitchen skillz from her. Whenever I’d ask her how to make the couple of dishes she can really nail, her response was always the same: “I’ll never teach you how to make flan/rolled steaks/kopytka/pierogi, because this way you’ll always come home to visit and eat mine.”

Well, that plan sure backfired, since I haven’t been by to visit in years … and in fact, I won’t eat flan either. Like meatloaf, Mom’s version is always the best, nobody else’s tastes quite right anyway, and now flan is so indelibly associated in my mind with the hurt I felt when she said those things, that I won’t eat flan because just thinking about it makes me sad.

(Also, she learned the Brazilian style of flan, and around these part of Texas, what you get is a Mexican style flan, which is similar but not quite the same.)

Damn, she took flan from your life and you’re considering a reconciliation? I take it back; you’re not a good person, you’re a saint!

This would be my advice, too. You’re not salvaging your relationship; you’re (very cautiously) moving forward on a new one.