Dear Annie: My mother and I have had a poor relationship for years. She is self-absorbed, demanding and consistently hurtful. She seems to find great amusement in upsetting me and takes every opportunity to do so.
On one occasion, I was talking to my family about an individual whom I particularly admired, and my mother interrupted me to explain that I only knew about him because “they mentioned him on a television show.” When I told her how embarrassing that was for me, she retorted, “It was a joke, and if you were offended, that’s your problem.” On another occasion, I had just completed my college degree and was showing my diploma at a family gathering. My mother shouted repeatedly that she needed everyone’s attention and finally said, “My son just got his degree.” Not only did she again embarrass me, but her behavior stole my thunder, and she ignored my pleading for her to stop shouting. This kind of behavior is typical of her, and I am tired of it. I have tried to discuss it with her, and she refuses to accept that she has done anything wrong. I finally decided to sever all contact. I have no desire to associate with someone who tries so hard to hurt me and make me feel small.
The problem is that the rest of my family berates me for being “mean” to her. They expect me to maintain this destructive relationship. How can I explain to them how horribly she treats me? – Frustrated in Indianapolis, Ind.
Dear Indianapolis: We can see that your mother is difficult, but instead of cutting her off and being the family black sheep, we recommend finding a better way to deal with her. You seem very sensitive to her comments and behavior. The best way to convince her to treat you better is to respond differently. Get some counseling and work on this. If you can change the dynamic between you, you will be less resentful and hurt.