Domestic Violence/Emotional Abuse
QUESTION: Hello! Thank you for taking the time to view this question. I appreciate it. The question is: Is my mother emotionally abusive towards my dad and I?
Im 17 years old and a Junior in a high end program in high school notorious for beating their kids. I get B's and the occasional C, which for the advanced classes I'm in, would be considered average for the program. She constantly complains about how everything i try and do and enjoy, like drawing and reading (for fun) and the time i spend catering my interests in things (like politics or psychology) is a waste of my time- time i could be spending studying and bringing my grades up. She tells me that Im unworthy of doing something as practical and helpful as learning how to drive because if i cant even be responsible enough to keep my grades up (get straight A's) how am i responsible enough to drive. I constantly feel guilty because she complains about driving me everywhere. She complains about how early she has to get up to drop me off and how late i have her up because i'd be doing my homework and she didnt get much sleep because of me and she has to work hard that day to pay for rent and for me and my dad and she comes home and its a mess even though my dad and i cleaned what we could. We dont say anything of course because no matter what she still calls us lazy pigs. She threatens to move across the country because my grades are horrible and the house is a mess and Illinois would be better for her because she wouldnt be here. I dont know if that means because she wouldn't be in the area we live in (which isnt that bad) or because she wouldnt be by us, but.. And also she never acknowledges anything i accomplish anymore. She never attends my concerts, never asks how school was, what i learned.. Which i know is a lot to ask but i guess im spoiled because she used to always ask. She used to but now all she does is complain about how im lazy or how im a pig or how im a liar. I only evade her because she blows things out of proportions. I lie to her to avoid trouble. I'm almost an adult and I've barely learned how to function like one since she insists she needs to see my phone and check my messages and barely allowing me reasonable amounts of time with friends (and dont mention a significant other!). She's gotten better at, she's stopped checking messages for a little while now. I think she's trying, but that doesnt stop her from feeling like shes entitled to basically owning my dad. She dictates nearly everything he does, and she DOES check his phone, which he pays for and is his own personal property. They're divorced and not in relations and she isnt entitled to do it at all but HER excuse is that since its under her roof at that moment, its her property. It also doesnt stop her from being so two faced towards her friends. In front of friends-and other people in general- she acts so friendly and amazing and people tell me how lucky i am to have her as a mother, which makes me sick since the moment after having dinner with friends she comments on how fat i am or how shy i am to eat in front of people, fitted to the amount of food i ate during the meal. She also often times comments on how bad a piece of clothing looks on me. Or how fat it makes me look. Granted, i am overweight, i believe im obese.
There was a point where i believed she WAS mentally abusive towards us about two years ago but whenever i listen to friends of mine vent about their parents it makes me question if my situation is normal? Im not sure.
I still have much to say but i realize this is more than plenty. Thank you for your time.
ANSWER: Hi Emma,
Thank you for your question. I hope that you had a good Christmas! From your description, it sounds as though Mom does respond in some inappropriate ways with regard to calling you names and going through your father's phone. If they are divorced, his phone is really none of her business.
Now, with those things being said, the background of this situation has a lot to do with what you are asking. It sounds like she has severe trust and control issues. If you lie to her, whether or not you are avoiding trouble, you are triggering her issues and creating a lack of trust between you. That makes things worse for you. If you are doing things that you have to lie about, then you might want to consider whether you should be doing those things. Teens tend to have a different view on life than their parents anyway, but if you are violating basic principles of successful living, then you need to look at that.
When dealing with someone who has these kinds of issues, the first thing you have to do is take responsibility for whatever you are doing in the relationship that is beyond the boundaries. "Too much time" is a relative term, so in looking at the time you devote to study as opposed to pleasure, you need to determine if you are or are not spending too much time in pleasure. Everyone needs some pleasurable time in their lives so you do need to include those things in your life. However it could be that the difference of opinion you are experiencing with Mom is what the end product is. She may see you going off to college and becoming a doctor or an architect, which would require really good grades to get into a school that has a worthwhile program for you. If she and your father are spending money to send you to a specialized program, then they have a right to expect a return on their investment, so to speak. If this program is not a good fit for you, then you all need to re-evaluate it and figure out whether you are able to perform up to expectations. If you do not see a high end career in your future, then you probably don't see the need to have a 4.0 grade average, for example. This is something to discuss with both of your parents.
When determining mental health issues, the first thing to look at would be how reasonable your mother is. That does not mean that she agrees with you, but it would mean that she understands your point of view and is willing to agree or disagree with it. The same would apply to you and your father. If she is unable to reason, then you have a problem.
It could be that mom has been so frustrated for such a long period of time that she has no patience. It could also be that she might have symptoms of mental health issues that should be checked out. Either way, the use of derogatory terms and inappropriate use of control crosses the line. It is not healthy discipline, it could be categorized as unhealthy discipline that is not working in terms of producing the results that either of you want.
If your mom is able to be reasoned with, then that would be the first thing to do with her. Sit down and talk with her about what your goals are for your life, for after high school and how you can get there. It sounds like she wants the best for you, she just isn't going about motivating you in a healthy manner. For example, if your father doesn't live in her house, just because his phone enters the home doesn't make it hers. That is an inappropriate use of boundaries.
The issue with obesity is, of course, a very sensitive issue. I truly understand how hurtful those comments would be. They are destructive. You might read some of the boundaries books by Cloud and Townsend. They are helpful in developing responses to hurtful verbal responses. As long as you are in her home (I assume you live with her and not your father), you are subject to her rules. Emotional abuse is much harder to prove, but if you believe you have a case, you can speak to a school counselor about what is going on. You might also speak with your father about living with him, if that is a possibility. No matter what, at some point, you yourself would benefit from counseling just to deal with the issues that you are dealing with in regard to self esteem.
With regard to the symptoms that you mentioned, you might look up disorders such as bipolar, OCD, Borderline Personality disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Sometimes a person can have a certain amount of symptoms that fall into several categories of mental health issues.
I hope this has helped you. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me again.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you! My Christmas was great and i hope your's was as well.
I hope its alright for me to defend myself in this situation regarding trust issues, which we do have. Its a situation where we share little trust for each other. I've given her reason to distrust me and she has as well. Also, i believe that the things i do that i hide from her aren't things that violate the principles of successful living. I do things like go out to shop with friends or go to public events; these things she usually doesn't let me do, which is why i lie to her about my location.
Also, the program i am in at the moment is free, and it is my father that pays for my school supplies. i understand her sudden disappointment in me- I used to be a straight A student and it was easier for me to do my schoolwork and to get the amount of sleep that i needed. Thank you for helping me understand the way she responds to the time i take for leisure. But i don't think the solution of talking with them would work, my dad just tries to do anything to keep her from getting angry and my mother never listens and always assumes she's right. Her favorite phrase is "my way or the highway" or "as long as your under my roof i dont have to care what you think." These are phrases she repeats to my dad as well. I think i can safely say that she is unable to reason. I have tried to reason with her when i was younger and naive and i personally feel like it made things worse. Oh, and to clear things up, my dad does live with us, but he pays for half the rent. And I've had very had experience with school counselors; I know they try and help and have legal obligations, but i feel like they make the problem they are trying to fix way, way worse. I understand that counselors.. my mom.. they mean well and i feel so wrong thinking of them as some kind of enemy.
Thank you for your help, I will check out those books. And sorry, I just realized this response wasn't necessarily a question haha. Happy New Year!
Hi Emma, Thank you for writing back. I appreciate the additional information and am glad to know a little more about how you see different things. As you may know, it is a little difficult to asses situations without knowing a lot about the whole family. As much as I can assess from what you have told me, mom is abusive in her control and her language. If you are not doing illegal things, being disrespectful etc, then it would make me wonder as to what her objections are to having you go out with your friends etc.
I think you will find some answers in the resources that I gave you. If things are really that bad, then it might be a good idea for you and your father to consider moving out of her house. Even if things are a little worse financially, having freedom of choice and a more positive atmosphere might make it well worth it.
Glad to hear that you had a good holiday! I wish you all the best in the New Year!