Dependent on My Controlling Mother

Reader’s Question

I am in my 20s, have just graduated from university and am searching for a job. Unfortunately, the current economic situation has made it difficult to find a job quickly, so I live with and depend on my mother financially.

I don’t know how to cope with my mother, whose behaviour is out of control. She is very controlling and emotionally unstable. She tries to control my every step, always telling what to do. What’s worse is that she’s always dumping her bad emotions on me. I often end up crying after talking to her. She instigates conflicts with me, and if I don’t go along with everything she tells me what an ungrateful daughter I am, that she sacrificed her life for me, and that I’m as cold-hearted as my father. If I don’t do everything she wants she threatens to cut off financial support.

I have never caused my mother or my family any problems and graduated from university with good marks. I don’t have problems with my mother as long as I’m entirely submissive to her. But she still finds various reasons to find fault in me. Our entire family knows how controlling she is. One of her relatives once told me that I would have to get away from her as fast as I could and live on my own in order to maintain a sense of balance — but I don’t have enough money to do that now.

I need to know how to deal with her behavior while living in the same house with her. I need to know how not to let her hurt me emotionally.

Psychologist’s Reply

At her age, and given her personality, your mother is not likely to change. And you have discovered first hand the costs of being in any way dependent as an adult. You have essentially two options. You can continue to depend on your mother for financial and other support and run the risk of her disapproval if you don’t meet her demands, or you can declare your independence.

An independent life is the goal of adulthood but has never been a bed of roses. There are many challenges to face, but all can be overcome if you are of the right mindset. Right now, you seem to be thinking in black and white or all or none terms. You don’t see options. You seem to think that if you can’t find the right job and quickly, you have no choice but to stay with your mother and depend on her. What you don’t see are all the other options ranging from part-time work to sharing living expenses with someone else. Your problems are not unique and have been faced by many others in similar positions. Take some cues from others who have overcome similar circumstances and start thinking positively about all the possible options.

Your mother is who she is and you’re probably not going to change her. There’s no point in blaming her for your unhappiness, either. It’s best to start preparing yourself for an independent life. And from what you say, the sooner, the better.

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