How to Recover From a Controlling Mother

Growing up with a controlling and/or domineering mother can suppress your masculinity and leave you stuck feeling and acting like a boy in a man's body. My mother was the dominant figure in my family of origin, and with a passive-aggressive father and two relatively dominant older sisters, it was a disastrous recipe for my developing masculinity.

A controlling mother creates a relationship dynamic that will undermine your confidence in yourself as a man unless you take steps to counter its effects. So here are some steps to take to help you recover from growing up with a controlling, dominant mother:

Recognize that Your Mother is Controlling

Did you have a controlling Mother?

Did you have a controlling Mother?

The first step to dealing with a problem is to recognize that it exists. It took me a long time to even see that my mother was controlling. It wasn't until I did The Landmark Forum in my mid-30s and they started talking about how controlling most of us are that I had this insight.

When I was a child, my mother used a physical leash to control me; partly for my own safety, and partly for her convenience. As I got older, verbal stoushes with my father made it very clear that the masculine point of view wasn't welcome in our household. My mother would fight tooth and nail every time, because to her conceding anything was a weakness. She controlled my father, and by extension the rest of the family including me. Even now during phone conversations, my mother decides when the conversation is over. My sisters and I sometimes joke about her idiosyncrasies but it's not funny: growing up around this sort of behavior from a mother cuts deep into a man's psyche.

Understand That Control Is About Anxiety

Controlling people act the way they do in order to manage their own inner anxiety. In fact, most dysfunctional behavior is the result of unacknowledged anxiety. Your mother may have had your safety in mind when you were a child, and felt that she needed to control your natural boyish spontaneity and exuberance in order to keep you out of danger. But her own inner anxiety about the world is likely to have magnified that danger out of proportion to reality. Children learn the most powerful lessons by making mistakes, and sometimes this involves getting hurt. Controlling and “protecting” you may have robbed you from these valuable lessons and undermined your confidence in the process.

It is natural for a mother to worry about her children, and if your mother was an anxious person to begin with, attempting to control you was probably easier than dealing with her own emotional baggage that made her anxious. Bear in mind though that if your mother controlled you, she may be so self-controlled that you'd never guess that deep down the problem for her is anxiety. If you met my mother, you wouldn't think she had deep seated anxieties; you'd probably just wonder why she's so aloof and critical, or you might get her when she's in a good mood and just think she's friendly but head-strong. Underneath it all, anxiety is the problem.

Start Expressing Your Feelings

Controlling people act the way they do because deep down they are afraid. In addition to controlling other people, they tend to have harsh judgments about themselves and to control their own behavior. This is most evident in the way they express their feelings. I have very rarely seen my mother cry, even at funerals for people she truly cared about. Our society tends to uphold such stoic behavior as a sign of great inner strength, yet it's actually highly dysfunctional. Crying releases tension and allows us to heal our emotional wounds. Doing so publicly gives permission to other people to follow suit, which is healing and compassionate for everyone who attends. Stoic people put the breaks on this natural healing process for themselves and everyone around them. They broadcast the message “It's not OK to be emotional”. And since we are all emotional creatures, that really means “It's not OK to be who you are”. These people are a pain in the ass.

If your mother was emotionally contained, chances are you took this trait on too. You probably even magnified it. That's likely to give you double trouble, because an emotionally constrained mother will have had difficulty bonding with you during your childhood, and this will leave you with a deep wound. You're likely to be carrying a great deal of grief about this if you haven't dealt with it yet, and the way we process grief is by expressing the emotions that underlie it... which is impossible if you're emotionally constrained. The way out of this paradox is to start chipping away at the problem by expressing how your feel at every opportunity. See Step 12 in Confident Man for more on this.

Stand Up For Yourself

At some point, you need to start standing up for yourself and live life according to your rules, rather than the rules of your mother. A controlling mother doesn't drop the rules just because you've reached adulthood. She changed your diapers, and annoying though this thought maybe, in her head you're always her little boy. She'll keep treating you that way until you start thinking and acting for yourself, and taking responsibility for your own life.

Women actually love men who stand up to them and part of her is actually waiting for you to start doing this so that she can stop worrying about you. But another part is deeply enmeshed in the idea that you need her to tell you what's right and wrong so that she can keep you on the straight and narrow. Trouble is, her straight and narrow will wreck your life because you're a man, and she's a woman and we see things very differently.

If your family are like mine, your siblings may not have dealt with having had a controlling mother, and may conspire with you to play games like keeping secrets from your mother in the hope of avoiding conflict and her harsh judgments. You can't control your siblings, but it's time for you to take the lead and start telling the truth about what is going on. Your mother needs to start letting go and dealing with her fears by herself, and that's not going to happen until you start being a man and standing up to her.

Take Some Time Out

If you're a particularly sensitive guy, you may need to take some time out away from your mother's controlling influence before you can learn to stand up to her. Travel overseas for an extended period, or even live in another country out of her reach for a while. Keep in touch, but don't fall into a rut by establishing a structured pattern in the way you communicate. Start talking to your mother on the phone because you want to, rather than out of obligation. If you never feel like you really want to talk to her, taking a break from communication will allow these feelings to surface. She may resent you in the mean time, but that's normal especially in a mother who lacks self-awareness as you individuate.

In my family, Christmas day was sacrosanct. Our mother would begin planning it months ahead, and be so stressed out on the day that nobody could really relax and enjoy it. One year I headed up the north coast on an open-ended motorcycle road trip and decided not to return in time for family Christmas. Mum got over it eventually, and the rest of the family actually missed me rather than taking my presence for granted. Best thing I ever did. Nowadays, Christmas day is more relaxed and much more fun for everyone.

Be Honest With Your Father

If your father has been under your mother's thumb most of your life, he may turn out to be a worthy ally in the battle against the control of your mother. My father has been pandering to my mother's whims most of his marriage, and certainly all of my life. He really values the opportunity to talk with me about what's real without the interfering presence of his critical wife, my mother.

It's a bit weird because he doesn't really see just how negative an influence she is on him, and still describes her as “the best thing that ever happened to me”. Well that's great for you Dad, but it's not so good for me having a cold, critical, emotionally shut-down woman as a mother. That kind of thing has a damaging effect on a man. Being able to talk about these sorts of issues with my father has helped me to deal with the effect of my mother on me, and shrink her overbearing size in my subconscious.

Forgive Your Mother

Forgiveness is a highly misunderstood concept, so let me explain it in this context: Forgiving your mother means breaking the emotional attachment that you have to her and the harm her controlling behavior has on you. It doesn't mean letting her off the hook, it means letting her do what she does without it having an emotional hold over you. This requires you to deal with the feelings you have about your interactions with her in the past, allow her to do what she likes in the present, and set a course in the future where you do what's right for you regardless of the impact on her.

Start taking mental notes of the times when you change your mind or behavior because of the thought “what will mum think/do”, as these are clues to areas where you are still emotionally enmeshed with her. Forgiveness is about being free of this emotional dependency that allows her to control you. Once you see it this way, the notion of forgiving your mother for the things she's done that have hurt you, becomes a lot more appealing. There's a whole chapter in The Confident Man Program Guide about this: Step 8.

Heal Your Shame

Teaching you to be ashamed is one of the best long-term strategies a mother has to control your behavior. It's better than reprimanding you each time you do something she doesn't like, because once you're taught to be ashamed, you start reprimanding yourself internally and she doesn't even have to be around to do it. This can cover anything from having emotions and the way you feel, to your male sexuality and sexual appetite.

The problem with being shamed is that it damages your psyche deeply, and the effects go on long past the point where they may have been useful. To release yourself from the internal control of shame, you need the support of other people. You simply can't do this alone, because shame is all about fear of other people discovering the truth about you and so they are essential to the healing process.

Find yourself a supportive group of men that you can trust, and start telling them about the things you feel ashamed of. Sex is a ripe area of shame from your mother, as is masturbation, addiction to drugs/alcohol/pornography, relationships, affairs and any kind of failure or mistake you may make in life. Join a mens group that focuses on expressing feelings. Confess the things you're most ashamed of, and hear other men do the same, in a supportive environment where you get unconditional love instead of judgement. Sharing your story heals your shame and helps you break free, so I encourage you to post about your experience of your controlling mother in this forum thread.

See Step 13 in The Confident Man Program Guide for more on how to heal shame.

Notice When You're Being Controlling

Finally, we can't help but take on the behavior of our parents even if we found it abhorrent. Sometimes we promise ourselves never to be like them, without realizing that the other extreme is almost indistinguishable: A pledge to be the opposite of someone who is controlling means we're still controlled by them and their behavior because we must always do the opposite instead of being free to choose for ourselves.

If you had a controlling mother, there will be times when you yourself are controlling; either of yourself or of others. You need to suspend your judgment about this long enough to recognize when you do it, and decide whether it reflects the kind of man you want to be. It may be a bitter pill to swallow that you engage in exactly the sort of behavior that you hate from your mother. In my case, the person I controlled was me. Somehow this seemed more noble than to afflict someone else, but it's not; it's still controlling. Breaking out of this has taken a long time for me, and it's still a work-in-progress, but the sooner you start the sooner you'll get there. Let yourself cut loose and live a little.

Repressing jealousy, envy, anger and hatred can all lead to controlling behavior on your part. The solution is to acknowledge and express these emotions directly, rather than letting them influence how you act. You may have a belief that these emotions are somehow socially unacceptable. When you start expressing so-called “negative” feelings, other people will identify with you because they have them too. Stop pretending that you're perfect because it makes you come across as a robot that other people, women especially, will have difficulty relating to.

Question Your Religion

One of the easiest ways for powerless parents to control their children's behavior is to send them off to church and have them indoctrinated with a set of rules and regulations, backed by a God who sees and knows all, damnation for eternity if you get it wrong, and a sense of guilt that keeps you in line. Once you internalize this, your mother doesn't have to worry about controlling you so much any more to stop you straying, because you'll do it yourself.

If your parents did this, it's probably because they believed in the religion themselves and thought it was for your own good. They may even still believe in heaven, hell and eternal judgment if they've never questioned it nor acknowledged the damage it's done to themselves. If your mother thinks it's OK for God to be fiercely judgmental, then she has no reason to question her own self-righteousness. She's just being Godly. But it's really just another strategy to assuage her anxiety about you getting into trouble, and hurting or possibly embarrassing her.

Organized religion both attracts and produces judgmental, controlling people; that's what keeps it organized. Everyone involved gets to avoid dealing with the underlying problem of anxiety by being controlling of self and others. Fundamentalists are the obvious tip of this iceberg.

If you still believe that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell, it's time for you to grow up and start questioning what you've been spoon-fed. Then the next step is to release yourself from the shackles of the psychological harm it's done to you. See Step 10 in The Confident Man Program Guide for more details.

Want to talk about it? Click Here for Coaching via Skype.


About Graham Stoney

Graham struggled for years with low self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence before finding a solution that really worked. He created The Confident Man Program to help other men overcome similar problems and live the life of their dreams.
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53 Responses to How to Recover From a Controlling Mother

  1. avatar Msmimi says:

    I agree that there should be some tangible steps to break free from controlling behavior. I think you outlined some important steps. I would add though that not every religious practice is centered on preventing individual freedom and as you outline this I ask that you consider being reflective of that.

  2. avatar Dragonfly says:

    Hi there Graham,

    I can totally relate to what you are saying. My mom is a total control freak and cannot let anyone in this house do anything that is different from her own sets of rules. It was a struggle living with her for a quarter of my life but because I am very rebellious and fight hard for my freedom I consider myself lucky. I fall short from time to time, I fall hard and injure myself but I got up. Unfortunately, my siblings are more of mommy's boy and girl and so they learn to play safe. Obeying to her every rules and needs and always staying in the comfort zone and staying by their fences, being afraid, worried and anxious. I don't have such issues until I fall short and hard that her words starts coming into my head, her critical words like ''I told u so", "you never listened", "you idiot", "you are inadequate". That kept me stucked and ruminate about my problems and kept me in depression. Until one day, I met a man who came into my life doing the exact same thing my mom did to me, I finally came to awareness that how her behaviour could have such a huge impact in my selection of man. Indirectly, she had engrained her ideal of a person (herself) into me. After months into the relationship, my inner compass was a mess so is my brain. From there, I learn that I wasn't happy because that man wasn't what I wanted. The main point here is that Sometimes we arent aware of the impact of such control parents behaviour may affect us until we interact with people only then we realized. No matter what happens, may anyone fall short, got hurt really badly, forgive the person who brought you up in such a dysfunctional family (nobody can choose who their parents are), forgive yourself (learn to learn and accept your individuality) and establish healthy boundaries and healthy self confidence and self esteem. FYI, although the man that I mentioned is very controlling and critical, I know he is a loving and nice man. He just needs to know how to deal with his behaviour in such a way that he won't hurt others and himself. I wish him well and pray he learns from his mistakes. Likewise, a controlling and critical parents are not mean people and I understand that they bring u more harm than good because of their behaviour. There is also a very useful way that you can live with them that is by practicing mental toughness. I hope anyone who faces the same situation as I am could be inspired and get some directions to the path of healing and thanks Graham for sharing such good insights. Cheers mate

    • I'm totally with you! It is amazing how we unconsciously attract people who help us relive painful experiences (like a controlling parent); which either gives us more suffering, or an opportunity to heal by dealing with the issue so we can move on. You're right that the people who wound us aren't evil; they're just damaged and dealing with that the best way they can. Fortunately we can choose to deal with it ourselves more productively. Cheers, Graham

  3. avatar Lee says:

    my mother never said not to date in High School but she behaved in every which way that didnt support it and hence I never dated in high school.. This carried into college and I hardly dated there. I would "get lucky" and make a girl my girlfriend immediately.
    Now in my 40's Im still struggling with how to behave with the opposite sex and really, people in general. I feel like I lost out on the opportunity to grow with my peers and hence, I feel like Ive been left behind in a lot of ways.

    What can I do now to get over these internal struggles? I dont even know "how" to date in the sense of: What to do on a date. how to plan a date. what to expect on a date (currently I have no expectations and usually end up going home alone) What is a good number of dates to go on during the course of a week?

    I have a good job, my own home, I live alone... I feel as is time is running out and I have no clue on how to "get into the game"

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  5. avatar Todd Kelley says:

    The article was good except for the comments about religion. Many intelligent people believe in God who have also questioned their faith. The impression I got from the article is that religion is just a group of judgmental and controlling people, which, ironically, seems rather judgmental.

    • Thanks for your comment Todd. I agree that many intelligent people believe in God, and that questioning what we have been taught is no guarantee that we'll arrive at the truth that sets us free. Religious indoctrination cuts deep and often we can't even see the full effects until we've recovered our sense of self. While there are also helpful teachings in every religion, the issue I'm focussed on here is the damaging way in which these teachings are often passed on to us and the healing required to recover. Cheers, Graham

  6. avatar Jane says:

    Both of my parents are controlling, but my Mother is beyond hope. I've spent over a year in therapy, in Codependents Anonymous, and yet I still feel like the crazy and fragile one whenever I'm with her. Seriously, I have no desire to be a parent because I had to take care of her for most of my life. Cutting her off was a huge shock to her system. That forced her to change, and oh she hated it. But I refused to explain myself, refused to reinforce her fishing for complaints. Refused to go along with my parents triangulating bullshit. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and it was done largely alone. At age 35 I have no desire to date, no career ambitions, but I am self-sufficient and certainly don't need my Mother.

    • Hey Jane. Thanks for your comment. Recovery from a controlling parent can take time; let alone two controlling parents! Good on you for the work you've done so far. If you're open to a little feedback, your lack of desire to date and lack of career ambition could be based on you rejecting your father's energy, given how controlling he was. Seek to connect with healthy masculine energy in yourself, and in men you meet. Good luck! Graham.

  7. avatar Stella says:


    My boyfriend's situation is a little different, in the sense he does not see any control or abuse. He left a great job and moved across the country to be closer to his parents. They live 4 hours away and come to his place every month and stay 3 to 4 weeks. He calls them every day and talks to them in another room. When they come he's not allowed out.. he doesnt see it that way he just says it's not right to leave them. I see him one night a week when they are here and I can't go to his place without an invitation from his mother. If we have vacation plans and they decide to visit he cant say no to them and we have to cancel. This past easter his mother came to stay in his/their apartment and wasnt in a good mood so I couldnt spend easter with them because he says its not right to leave them alone at easter. He's destroyed several relationships because of this and he always says the other girls didnt understand his relationship. We spoke about moving in together and had some neighborhoods in mind. I then am told his parents chose something new for "all of them". He says he doesnt agree with the idea that his house is not their house as well. I broke up with him because I realized that living with him would be hell and I wouldnt have any say.. for example I said that if we live together, his mother will have to smoke outside.. she's a chain smoker.. he said no, we have to respect the way she lives. She also makes him move the tv out of the living room when she visits so I mentioned the fact that when we live together the tv will not be moved because it's not her decision to make. he said no, we will have to live the way she wants. I find this very disturbing...

    • avatar Stella says:

      He's 39 years old btw...

    • Ouch! I get how disturbing it is living with a man who is still under his parent's control, but won't acknowledge it. If you've broken up with him, all I can say is: good call. Send him a link to this article, and move onto a guy who has grown up a little. Cheers, Graham

  8. avatar Andrea says:

    you can still enjoy her endearing traits if you learn how to manage the less desirable ones

  9. avatar Kareena Bhatt says:

    So refreshing to read this !!

    I was with a guy for 4 years, it ended about a month ago. Almost everything you have written, I have seen and experienced and recognized, but unfortunately, HE is in denial or too ashamed to accept fully. I am 31 now, and he is 33. Both his parents hold him accountable for smallest things, they call him multiple times daily, sometimes I can hear in his voice that he just wants be left alone but his mother would never stop talking. He had no qualms about telling me not to call him at work because he is too busy but he was always too affraid anywhere at anytime to not pick up her phone. I had noticed that he even turned off his phone whenever we would go out on dates(but he would make it seem like phone was out of battery) but I knew it was because he was avoiding their phone call so that he doesn't have to answer why, when, where, what ?? !!! I'm Indian, He is African American, my culture being much more strict than his, I was stunned that he very openly asked me to move in with him, but was never able to tell his parents about it. In 4 years, his parents never tried to get to know me, talked to me or invited me over. I too call my parents daily but we talk about normal things. I couldn't grasp the fact that someone could literally have something or someone to gossip about literally everyday for minutes and hours. In 4 years that we spent together, he never took me home, he never introduced his family to me even over the phone because it was obvious that he knew his mother wouldn't accept me because I am not african american myself. I never voiced my opinion on this because I knew it would call for disaster but I wanted to be with a MAN OF HIS OWN OPINION. I hated that whenever we had arguments, she had to know all about it. She asked him personal intimate questions that I wonder if he realized that it isn't appropriate. I don't want his mother to know who says "I love you" the most and who sleeps where. Whenever we argue, he gives her the smallest details of everything. Eventhough I had NEVER talked to her, I felt like she was always in the room with us. Couple of times his mother called while we are intimate, and he even tried to pick up the phone -- WTF !!!!

    But sadly, he knew if he was to lie or cheat or hurt me in any way, he always had his mother's backup. 4 weeks ago, we had a small fight about religious differences (which I knew was out of no where and there was some selfish act that he needed to accomplish by taking a freedom of few days from me).....when he couldn't make me angry enough, he put his parents on the phone and they all started talking about me as if I was not even in that room. His parents had no idea what our fight was about but I could hear their advice and I was just disgusted. 1 week later, he booked his ticket to go to his Frat party for 4 days, money that he said he didn't have came up from nowhere. Bought I-phone and new cloths and shoes and flew to Texas to party because his parents said it was ok for him to do so. Mind you, this was suppose to be his tax return money that he was suppose to be buying my ring with - lol.

    Glad to hear that some man recognize it, accept it and change it. But unfortunately, some of us get dragged into this mess where these men controlled by their mothers eat us up alive whenever convenient. She also has reversed her role very manipulatively. This 65+ year old woman put her husband's business on the line and charged thousands of dollars on credit cards -- if not paid her husband's house and business could be taken anyday. So who ends up paying this mess ??? Ofcourse THE OBIDIENT SON. While he pays hundreds every month to her credit card bills, I waited for 4 years for a ring that he could never save any money for --- Mind you, I had specifically told him, I am fine with a $5 ring but I think more than the money, it was the mother's acceptance that he was waiting for and which he never got.

    I wish his mother knew that because of her manipulative possession of him, her son has turned into a porn addict, hires prostitutes online and he rather live this bistandard life than stand up to her and let her know who he rather end up with. She tells him to take breaks from me, to leave me, and then directs him to who he should be with...I kept my mum for a long long time but their relationship has devastated me in every way possible. He complains about her to me but he never had any courage to stand up to her because she is the poor mother who has Arthritis, Hypertension, Big credit card debt and her husband never kept her happy....I'm sorry but are these really the reasons to control your child to where they have no thoughts and opinions of their own ???? Both my parents have several health issues but they want me to go out there and win the world so they can feel pride.

    Trust means respect. If you don't give that freedom to your children, you don't respect them and you don't believe in your own upbringing. You have made him promise that he must go to the church every sunday but what if he doesn't want to ?? Your son pretends to be a Christian but yet he has his stash of porn and the bible you gifted on the same table. He is confused and lost but he keeps working hard to be accepted by his parents and feels no obligation to his future life partnar. She wants him to buy a house with a guest room separate from the house so she can stay with him forever but what if his wife is not so keen on this idea ?? Its almost like she doesn't want him to get married, she wants him to fix what her husband supposably didn't do for her but to me, thats just playing a part of victim to control him. They are 4 siblings, he is the only single one today since we broke up, and him being the oldest son, he is so controlled by her. She chose his career, she tells him he must work out daily, she tells him he must go to church every sunday, she tells him he must never move in with me, she tells him when he needs a break from me, she tells him where to invest his money, and I was just sick and tired of this. I had to run away. 4 years of pretending to be someone's future wife when you know you are never going to be that person's wife was enough !!!!! I'm drained, I'm tired and I'm sick of crying and fighting for my respect. If he hasn't grown up at 33, there is no hope it seems. His mother is SO GOOD AT HER GAMES, no way I can compete with her and I don't feel like wasting my time on this.

    When we first met, we met overseas. He couldn't afford to talk to her everyday, but I knew it from the beginning he was mama's boy because after knowing him for 2 weeks, one day I decided to count how many times he says the word "MOMMY" in one day -- That day it was 29 times !!!! And I even told him about it. God help me for spending 4 years with ears started to bleed.........last time when I heard,
    "Mommy, I am so sorry I never told you how sad I have been. Mommy, I do'nt want to raise your blood pressure but I can't be in this relationship anymore".......I could have puked........DRAM QUEEN........!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    He told me I was CONTROLLING and I almost wanted to laugh every time. It was almost like his frustration with his mother's behavior was being taken out on me. Even the simplest question like "when will you be home" annoyed his so much that he literally would scream to where entire block could hear him. But he quietly yet annoyed answered questions after questions of his mother. I felt bad for him at times, but then I realized that if I pitty him, once again I don't respect him. And its hard to respect someone when you know they have no opinion of their own. They have no judgement of their own. They have no future goals and plans and dreams of their own, and if they do, they don't have the courage to display or to work on them. I could feel his suffocation but I couldn't deal with the fact that he never made an attempt to break the walls and let loose even just for one day. As a woman all we want is to feel that our men can protect us, cherish us, love and respect and there is nothing wrong with loving and respecting your parents but you must give that space to the one you claim to love. If I am willing to give you that place that was held by my father for all these years, then you better make it worth it. Because unfortunately, we all know that one day our parents willl no longer be around and thats when all we have is each other. You must learn to let the woman feel like she is the part of the family....because as I told him, this emotional poison ruins everythng now and in the future. Because even when I forgive him today, I will never forget that I had no space of my own !!!!

    • Hey Kareena. I hear just how frustrating being in a relationship with a boy-man who is still under his mother's control must be. No wonder you're so angry with him. Another side I didn't mention in the article is that the controlled man's anger at his mother gets displaced onto someone else because being angry with mommy feel too terrifying to contemplate. Often the hapless victim is the man's partner, who ends up getting poor treatment because all his unresolved hostility towards his mother comes out in your relationship instead. Sorry you had to go through this; I hope what you've learned will make it easier to avoid these guys in the future. Glad you found the article helpful. Cheers, Graham

      • avatar Daphne says:

        I am sorry, but he is not your partner. You are being pushed in the child/mother role. I hope you can break free and heal. How devastating to date a child! I have had controlling parents (and more than that) and of course that has influenced me and my choices. My father is out of the picture and my mother now understands that I am no fool, and most certainly not hers. Here are the facts, take it or leave it is my attitude to her. Now that she's very old, she depends on me and seems to understand that a) she has nobody else and b) I don't f her around.

  10. avatar April S. says:

    I am hoping that someone will give me some insight as to whether or not I fit in the "controlling" mom category, because I have an adult son that swears I am and whom I feel is deliberately sabatoging my relationship with his younger brother, with whom I have had an exemplary relationship with for most of his young life (he is 16 now). Unlike my relationship with my adult son which has not been so great, as when he was 25, I insisted that he either go back to school (he got kicked out of college) or move out of our home and get a job and support himself finally (he had a girlfriend that came over frequently and they would lay in bed all day and I did not want that influencing his baby brother ~ as they are 16 years apart) and he has held a grudge over that ever since then (8 years ago.) My adult son is very passive aggressive and does things just for spite quite frequently.

    Over the past two years he has given his younger brother weed, multiple weed pipes, introduced him to strippers when he was 13, that gave my teen lap dances. I have witnesses that say that they saw my adult son blow weed in my younger son's face multiple times before he ever reached his teens. I am furious that no one ever bothered to tell me until now.

    My adult son was arrested twice for growing weed and I got him out the first time, but left him in jail for almost three months the second time and he has never forgiven me for that either.

    So last year my adult son's wife asked me if she could come get my teen to take him to get snow cones. He was 15 at that time and although I had pretty much always allowed him to go places with her before these incidents, after the last event which involved court, expulsion from school and the placement in an alternative school for 7 weeks, I had started becoming less lenient with both her and my adult son, so I said "No".

    Then after an hour of begging and pleading from both her and my teen, I gave in and asked my daughter in law to call me immediately when she arrived to pick him up so I would know what time he left home. That day, she drove him to a motel, gave him something called "Purple Chronic" and tried to seduce him. My teen son overdosed and ended up in the emergency room. NO ONE called me. The doctors had to wait until my son revived so they could get my number from him. As soon as I got to the emergency room, my adult son and his wife ran off without a word.

    CPS got involved (she told them that I dropped my son off at that hotel with her) and a long arduous ordeal began then with me debating whether or not to file charges against her and alienate my adult son altogether, as well as have my younger son have to testify in court against her, or to try to get everyone in counseling and try to hold my family together. During this period, I was struggling to pay all our bills in this pitiful economy, dealing with health issues and handling it all alone (single mom).

    In lieu of filing charges against my daughter in law, I basically blackmailed them into paying for my teen son's counseling and a promise that she too, would seek counseling (she admitted that she was sexually abused as a girl).

    Immediately after this, my teen son's grades started dropping, he started missing and skipping classes and chronically over sleeping. And I was so overwrought with all that had happened and all that was still not resolved (my adult son is in complete denial that things happened the way my teen says they did, and the wife denied remembering what happened) that I did not notice a lot of VERY red flags. We started arguing and fighting over every thing. I started being hyper critical and complaining constantly about stupid little stuff. I had OCD as a younger woman and although I have learned how to cope with it to some degree, when I am stressed out I go into a cleaning frenzy and exhaust myself and then nit pic when things get messy again. To say that I was stressed out from everything is putting it mildly. I got my teen in counseling, but I did not have insurance for myself, so even though he was being treated, I was not. I felt like I had been in a war, suffering from PTSS with no one to turn to. And my behavior became almost manic, fearful for his safety every time he walked out the door. I began to self medicate with wine almost every night after my teen went to bed because I could not sleep without worrying that he was sneaking out a window or getting high on something that might harm him. Everything was suspect, from cleaning products in aerosol cans to anything that might remotely resemble a pipe... and I continuously checked in on him, sometimes (many times actually) without knocking on his door. Eventually, my teen just ran away. If he came back he would just take off a few days or weeks later and ALWAYS seemed to end up at his adult brother s automotive shop. But my adult son would continuously lie to me about knowing where he was, so I would stay up for days without eating and make myself sick with worry until I would just drive over there to find my teen there. Then my adult son would ALWAYS say.... "Oh, he just got here." But many friends of my teen would tell me that he had ALWAYS been there the whole time.

    Each time I begged him to come back home and agreed that I was perhaps not handling things appropriately, but each time he came home he became more and more defiant and sometimes even cussing around me and posting a lot of crap of Facebook. Some of it was true and some of it was not, but all of it was very hurtful to me. He also started sneaking out at night and leaving our home doors and windows unlocked and in some instances even slightly ajar in multiple areas while I was sleeping. He admitted that he was smoking more weed and when he was here, he refused to come out of his room much except to grab something to eat or go to the bathroom. Checking up on him (he was still only 15) I caught him sexting (about 12 times) and finally took away his IPAD ~ only to catch him with it again a few days later (he snuck in my room and got it) I got so angry at him that I told him I could not trust him anymore and I took the door off his room. I have done this before when he brought weed in our home and I found it in his room or caught him hanging out of a window smoking it and had explained to him that in order for him to have privacy, he had to earn my trust back. He says I went to far. That no mother should remove their 16 year old son's bedroom door.

    I say he broke my trust over and over and over and over again until I lost it. He says I am too controlling because I want to know where he is (he has ran away again and is living in the back of my adult son's shop, where my adult son and his wife ~ yes the one who tried to seduce my teen and overdosed him ~ live with two other tech's) because he can smoke weed now and hang out with motor heads and go to the drift races and car races and meet other "cool" people.

    I love both my son's, but I am only still legally responsible for the 16 year old. Yet the 32 year old son is passive agressive and ADHD and says I am too strict and controlling and that is why he ran away. Please bear in mind that every instance where my adult son gave him drugs or pipes or even the overdose incident, neither he nor his wife EVER STEPPED forward and offered to take responsibility for my teens legal fee's, court costs, transportation back and forth to alternative school or even so much as gave him some support by showing up at court for him. I got stuck with it ALL. And now they are who he wants to live with.

    I have cried myself a river of tears and I am now alone in a 4/2/2 home with two dogs, one that belongs to my teen that he maybe comes to see twice a week. He seems so different and he tells me not to We are in counseling once a week but I think it may be too little, too late.

    My adult son gave him a "job" at his shop doing oil changes and grunt work for about $2 an hour / 12 hours a day. My teen has quit going to school at all now and is talking about just getting his GED, like his brother. I feel like my adult son is angry over what happened with his wife and his brother, and may be taking it out on his baby brother by passive/agressively working him so hard that he can barely keep his head up when he gets off from working there with him and he is very touchy and grumpy because he is so tired. But my youngest looks up to him and needs a strong male role model in his life now at 16 and thinks my oldest can do no wrong ~ and I believe my oldest is just taking advantage of my teen's niavete' as there is a lot of sibling rivalry and jealousy and my oldest son has admitted to it many times before.

    I have tried using threats to inform the commercial building owner where my son's shop is that he has 5 people living in the back which is against all city ordinances, to no avail. My adult son says he has tried to get my teen to come home (I do not believe this as he has never ever supported me as a parent to my teen and has expressed jealousy over his baby brother numerous times) but if they evict him, he will be homeless and jobless and then I will have to live with that guilt. If I don't do something soon, my youngest son's life may very well be on the line and I will have to deal with that guilt too.

    I am so tried of walking this thin line between what is best for my teen and what is best for my adult son. I now wish that I would never have "bargained" with them as far as counseling was concerned and just filed the charges. Maybe then they would not have continuously interfered in my parenting of my younger son. I am still considering it even now as the statute of limitations has not run out and I have the police report, the toxicology report and witnesses, so my youngest might not even have to testify.

    Suffice it to say that I am at my wit's end. My youngest tells me that it is time to let him go and let him grow up. But he is truant, exhausted, failing to complete his drivers license course, failing school, failing to complete his community service and the drug awareness class all while my oldest son allows him to "work" at his auto shop all day and party every night.

    So please, please read this story and someone tell me if I am too controlling or just a concerned and desperate mother. Because I am so tired of all the guilt and worry and tears. I only wanted my youngest to finish school before moving on. And before he overdosed, he was very well on track, great grades, lots of friends, a fun kid to be around and the light of my life. Now I feel like I almost do not know him anymore. And I am beyond heartbroken. He recently threatened me by saying if I did not "back off" and let him live his life that I would lose "another son". Something that my oldest son loves to say in the singular when he wants to hurt me and something I used to allow myself to be manipulated by. But I am tired of that and this time I told them that I was not going to lose another son ~ that THEY were going to lose a mother.

    So tell me.....controlling...concerned.... or just plain crazy??

    • Wow April, it sounds like a really difficult situation for you and I feel rather inadequate to give advice as I don't have children of my own. Your sons sound like a real handful and I hear that you really love them and are doing the best you can with very limited support. What springs to my mind goes back to control being about anxiety, and learning to deal with your anxiety while allowing your sons to make the mistakes they need to make to learn the lessons they need to learn. I can only imagine how heartbreaking this must be for a mother to see her sons making destructive mistakes, but sometimes this seems to be the only way we really learn. It would also be great to find some positive male role models in their lives, as boys need a man to push up against so they can learn about other people's boundaries. I get that this isn't easy as a single mom and you might be able to find a mentor by contacting a group like The Mankind Project. Mostly though, I think you need to start looking after yourself more independent of what's going on with your sons; I've found Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helpful in dealing with my own anxiety and learning to let go more. I really hope things improve for you. Cheers, Graham

      • avatar April S. says:

        Thanks for the suggestions Graham. I actually made sure that my teen had a "Big Brother" from a mentoring program here locally since he was 10 years old. But he has turned his back on him too, saying he is too "old school."

        I will look into this program you suggested. I think at this point though, that you are right. I need to start looking after myself and not allowing their issues to consume my every waking moment. I am paying attention to my reactions and responses to them so I will recognize any triggers and instead of the "knee jerk" reaction I normally have, I am taking time to breathe and collect my thoughts and observe myself so that I do not continue to perpetuate this cycle. Then I am responding firmly, but cool headed without any demands, just statements of fact. I feel I am making headway with my teen, but none with my adult son. Perhaps the issues are too deeply ingrained for him and me....I do not know. I can only work on me and make every effort to be the best person I can be personally, and pray that time will heal that relationship.

        I will aslo mention the Acceptance and Committment therapy to our counselor and see what she says...

        Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

  11. avatar Cut McFeely says:

    Are you for real with this noise? Some of us remain "stoic" because any slight evidence of emotion invites Mummy's invasive lunge like a lonely, perverted shark who smells blood. Lots of rape victims are stoic, too. . .you gonna paint them with that clueless brush of yours?

    • I'm not suggesting you should be emotionally vulnerable in the face of a mother who continues to be abusive and controlling; that's why I recommend taking time out and cutting the emotional ties to a controlling mother. The problem is taking that stoic defense that was necessary for protection from our mother into other relationships where it compromises our ability to relate to other people. Healing the trauma allows you to drop the stoicism and be emotionally free. I'm a little uncomfortable with you comparing this to a rape victim but if the trauma of their experience remains unhealed, it's likely to affect their ability to experience intimate relationships too. Cheers, Graham

    • avatar Daphne says:

      I understand you, weakness makes the controlling even worse. Whether for real or the "little voices" in your head. Controlling people are on the look out for prey. Having said this, if you can, find a safe place where you can relaese a bit of the anger and hurt. You're a human not a robot.

  12. avatar Christina in NY says:

    I just found this article and I am pretty much losing patience with my controlling parents more and more these days. I am an adult woman that turned 30 this year and has been looking for a job for over 10 months. The problem with my situation is my parents think, because I am dependant on them for shelter and food (I pay my student loan bills and medical insurance payments myself), they should tell me what to do and that I should absolutely listen to them. I am engaged to a very emotionally healthy man who, like you describe in your article, has grown up and doesn't have the same controlling situation with his parents. Whenever I bring up that I am going to visit him, my mother explodes emotionally. She tells me I'm sabotaging my job search, who will take care of them/make dinner when I'm away (I cook and clean for them while I live at home), I'm rejecting my parents, my fiance is telling me what to say to them, and, my favorite, they paid for my college education and they're not going to let me destroy my future by joining in a relationship with "that person".

    Every time I call them while I am away from home visiting my fiance, I always get the guilt trip about how miserable my mother was running a business by herself, how she and my dad are too tired to cook at night, and that my fiance and I should live apart for a year or two while we pursue different careers (also meaning no visiting). And I'm a spoiled brat for wanting to get away and perhaps do something enjoyable with him while I'm away from home (like visit a museum or visit a new city).

    I really haven't learned how to enjoy anything, I always feel like perhaps I'm missing a call from my mother or she will berate me for wanting to experience life. Always, she will tell me that doing anything I find enjoyable, like watch movies, read books for pleasure, travel, or crafts, are wastes of time and for "stupid people who depend on others for entertainment". I wish I was lightly paraphrasing what she actually said, but that's exactly what she has told me in the past. My fiance can see how tense I get when we go out on a little excursion, like I want to go home early or I'm jumpy. I honestly don't feel like I can enjoy life because she's constantly trying to drag me down emotionally into the dumps she inhabits. She's dissatisfied with the way my father just quit his job after a nervous breakdown and has refused to work even 10 years later. She thinks that all men are like this and she constantly tries to tell me that she sees some of these negative qualities in my future husband. In our early days, she did everything to make me dump him and she even threatened to kick me out of the house during my senior year of college and not help me pay for tuition. She never made good on those threats, but I feel that she has damaged my perceptions of my relationship, though, not enough to make me call anything off. I just feel that she's tainted it. I don't want to feel guilty for being happy.

    I have never been to counseling for this problem, part of it being she has always instilled in me that counselors and therapists make you hate your mother. After reading your article, I think I may have to figure out a way to get counseling for my situation.

    • Hey Christina, thanks for sharing your story. With all these controlling mother stories, I'm starting to think that maybe my mother isn't so bad after all! But like yours, my mother has disdain for counseling and I think fears my judgement of her just as much as she judges me. The underlying problem is that counseling and therapy expose the intense emotional pain that the controlling person is trying to avoid: that's probably the real reason she doesn't want you to go. Facing your pain may cause her to feel hers. Pretty selfish really. But you deserve to be free, and to be happy. I think your line "I don't want to feel guilty for being happy" pretty much sums it up. When you become free and happy, it's going to trigger your mother's pain so unfortunately you can't always expect her to support what is best for you. It's all part of the growing-up process for both you and your mother. Good luck! Graham

    • avatar Daphne says:

      Is your name Christina or Housekeeper? Sure you need to help out, but being jerked around is something different. You have no income or not enough, so now you're game and hunting season is open. They shoud be interested in whether your fiancee is caring and loving, without sticking their noses where it doesn't belong. They sound to me as if they see you as a liability instead of an asset.

      I guess that your childhood must have been rough. So you're already "prepped" to feel anxious and to obey. I hope you will find your own place soon and that a caring therapist will guid you to become an adult, something that your parents don't seem to want you to be.

  13. avatar IamDetermined says:

    Graham, great article. I just exited a relationship with a 32 year old guy cannot really call him a man. We were together for 7 months, 6 months happy or so I thought. I am 45 and divorced. His parents didn't approve of my age and marital status. We moved in together into his place (I've never lived with anyone outside of marriage)around the 5th month and were planning to marry. His mother did everything in her power to divide us and she succeeded by rallying the entire family against me and our relationship. We were planning our wedding. Little did I know they were planning a coo and they ambushed him - broke him - he has never gone against his parents wishes and he said he he wasn't sure if he was ready to marry and needed time to think about things - I thought it best that I move out - to give him time to think and now he has turned his back on me, and now refuses to speak to me. I discovered this week that he has an active profile on active for over 3 weeks. Something inside me prompted me to check. I was sick to my stomach and decided to just walk away permanently. Placed my stuff into storage and I have no apt yet - sleeping on a friends couch. At 32 he still allows his mother to navigate his life and now relationships. I was angry but now I just feel sorry for him. Until he realizes it's his life and not hers - he will never be happy in any relationship that she choses for him.

    • Sounds like bad news for him, but a close save for you. If a man hasn't grown up enough to detach from his mother, I can't see this changing magically just because he marries. Whenever mum still has emotional control over him, she'll be the one pulling the strings; and I can only imagine how crazy this would have sent you. Well done for trusting your intuition. Your last sentence pretty much sums it up. Cheers, Graham

  14. I have no doubt that my parents do love each other to the best of their abilities; they just don't communicate their feelings very well. I did try "gaming" my parents one night by teasing and neg'ing them and was amazed how well it worked. Felt pretty weird to me, but they really dropped their guards and were actually fun to hang out with for a change. After initially looking to my father for advice, I've now been slowly educating him on being a man. I am lucky he's still around. Cheers, Graham

  15. avatar Matt says:

    I wouldn't say my mother was controlling to the point that some mother's obviously are but the part you wrote about controlling through anxiety certainly makes a LOT of sense when it's layed out in front of me like that.

    There are now a handful of childhood moments where I now reflect on and think 'ahhh - that makes sense' when I consider that her actions and words were coming from a place of anxiety verses anger.

  16. avatar Nick of time says:

    This really is a big eye opener. Again, my mother dominant, father passive aggressive, I have lived with an underlying pain I was reluctant to process. I decided, about 2 months ago, to see a therapist to confront some anger, anxiety issues I have been having. I was not aware of the direction of my anger. I assumed, maybe myself, for making mistakes, not following through on promises to self, failure to mature as much as I and others would of liked, even though I am happily married, have a good job and a majority of the trimmings that go with it.

    The therapist focused in on my childhood and parental relations right from the get go and a few home truths came upto the surface. It is amazing how much stuff I have been bottling up for this long. I feel on one hand; relieved to say the least, like a weight has been lifted off, like I no longer have to validate them to recieve love in return (more specifically i have no desire to). I feel on the other hand, ungrateful. Afterall no one's perfect, they have raised me up to be a decent human being, fed, clothed, helped me achieve my career goals through financial support.

    They are not bad people but I will not defend or absorb their immaturity's any more.
    I am dissapointed, angry, upset and in a land of ambiguity half the time. That being said, I feel proud of myself for doing something good for me.

    To cut a long story short, I have alot of thoughts going through my head right now, but ultimately I'm glad I read your posts on here. You have the clarity and leadership I dream of myself one day, and good for you. I will stay tuned. Any useful tips for a guy just starting down this path would be truly appreciated.

    • Hey Nick. Sounds like you're on the right track; my only tip would be to keep doing what you're doing and allow the feelings to come up without getting stuck on those thoughts that make our head spin. My experience of emotional healing is that it takes time. Initially a lot of feelings come up in one hit and then over time you get to go deeper into more subtle areas. It's amazing how much our unacknowledged feelings drive our behavior. The work you're doing will profoundly benefit your wife and any children you have now or in the future. Always be true to yourself and your emotions. Great work! Cheers, Graham

  17. avatar YouGotToBeKidding says:


    I just finished reading through a few of the articles and "Graham's Story" and felt very connected to the experiences you describe.
    However there are major differences (such as your financial and academic success) and, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. If there is one thing I have come to believe is that the mental jiu-jitsu our divergent (the self-confident man and the scared man-child) selves are always finding a very reasonable explanation to justify our beliefs, either positive or negative.
    Like others here I have a controlling, emotionally abusive mother that, if pressed for time, I would simply describe as sociopathic.
    However, unlike many of the other posters here, I have, during my late teen years and early adulthood-hood, distanced myself both physically and (I thought) emotionally. But that separation came at a cost of a lack of continuity in my life; both from personal and professional perspectives. From my state of mind I interpret my 20s and early/mid 30s as a constant distraction and misdirection from what I believe to be a pathological fear of ANY kind of commitment -professional, emotional, etc. I am in a state of permanent impermanence and, 10 years ago, re-entered my mother's life in the belief that the financial help (rent free in exchange for work around the house and rental properties and sharing the house with roommates that would cover the mortgage and utilities) would help me catch up in my educational and professional development. I was 33.
    Now I am turning 45 and consider myself underemployed and over-educated (I have 2 BS degrees and am under way on a Masters Degree, and make enough to have a new $20K car, a $5K motorcycle, a few toys, travel yearly and not have any debts -but I do not feel fulfilled at all and have no social life outside of my travels to see friends I made in my teens and 20s). I live with my mother and rationalize the fact in very cogent ways. However, what I don't express to others (but I do to my mother, go figure...) is that this is due to this pathological fear of being responsible for my life and this extremely profound and all-encompassing lass of self-worth. Read the entry for "Avoidant Personality Disorder" on Wikipedia, it explains it to a "T".
    Guilt, shame, insecurity are all part of the equation and I am utterly unable to differentiate what is part of me and what is part of my mother in me.
    To add to my fears (I believe I will end up in a homeless shelter or committed to a mental institution eventually), when I try to talk to her about inheritance there is a cloud hanging over the conversation - you see, all my childhood I heard "I pay for your food, clothing and school, you owe me respect" and "Paying for things is the only way I know how to show love"-. Yet, now, when I try to speak about it I am constantly denied information, unless there is a fight about how much I contribute financially to the house (I pay commercial rent rates, more than my "split" on utilities and do a lot of work around the properties) and hear threats of "forget about any inheritance" and "you are so selfish. I had to raise you and pay for everything myself ".
    I guess that this is also where I let people know that my father left her when I was 1 month old, my first stepfather left her and her current husband also left her, all with the same complaint about her being "full of anger".
    Well, after this expansive setup, my questions really boils down to these points:
    - How can one change basic beliefs about themselves and the universe if the "belief mechanism" is failed? To me it seems that it's like trying to operate on your own damaged brain.
    - How to free yourself from the influence when that influence extends to things you have no control and which seem paramount to your future well-being? I dream of winning the lottery and being able to never have to speak to her again. Yet I do not believe that I have, on my own, the capacity to be self-sufficient without severely committing (to a home, location, job, etc.) or diminishing my quality of life (and all the end-of-the-world scenarios those thought bring about). How does one become free of an abusive relationship when you are (for real or not) dependent on that relationship?
    - No person is an island unto themselves. I believe we define ourselves largely by others reactions to us (or our interpretation of others reactions). How does one free oneself from the "mother filter" we have developed?

    -If it wasn't clear, this is a rant, but I do appreciate any responses I get to it!

    • Thanks for the question; I can see how painful this situation is for you. I think it's time for you to cut the apron strings with your mother. As you point out, merely being physically separated doesn't break the emotional attachment; but I think it can help. The first step is to become financially independent of her. If you have no track record of successful commitment, it's no wonder you're fearful of it. You're just following in the footsteps modeled by your father & step-fathers. You need some separation from this situation so you can learn to be a man, and part of that is being self-sufficient. Wishing for a lottery win or inheritance is boy thinking. As a man, you don't need them.

      You're right that this process is like doing brain surgery on yourself, and the key ingredient is to take action to work towards having a life that you love, one small step at a time. Start small by finding a job you think you'll enjoy doing. Get your own place. Get a partner who meets the intimacy needs you're currently seeking from your mother. Get some therapy. Get some supportive male friends who will listen to how you feel, but not to your bullshit. Get a life of your own that you love living and your mother issues will slowly fade into obscurity. Get some guidance. Get my book. Learn to express how you really feel. Take action every day towards this new dream, and watch your confidence and happiness grow.

      Start making small commitments. Start by committing to yourself. You're only afraid of committing because people have pushed you to commit to things you didn't want. Start doing the things you want to do, and forget about what your mother thinks. You'll learn to love it over time. Good luck!

      • avatar YouGotToBeKidding says:

        I just "re-found" my bookmark of your site and was pleasantly surprised to see you reply.

        Paraphrasing Tony Robbins: "We all know what to do. Humans can do a lot, but what we will do is completely different". Quoting Morpheus: "I can only show you the door, but you are the one that has to walk through it"

        One only has to watch an episode of "Hoarders", "Addiction" or "Celebrity Rehab" to see how damaging one can be against oneself. Those people -and myself, of course- are like bad characters in a horror movie, constantly running into the forest or the abandoned house to investigate what the blood-curling noise is. And we are also our own audience,screaming at ourselves "why the F are you going there without the guns/cross/backup?!"

        It is hard to know what action to take. I know I am not the man I would like to be when my choices are based on "what would be less dangerous/risky/damaging?".
        When I feel good about myself I always make choices based on "would this be a good thing, a story to pass on? Would I be proud if someone close to me did this?"

        But it is hard to trust your own thinking; that old "self-administered brain surgery" dilemma and all... I believe the totality of the human experience can be summarized into 3 facets, in order of one's ability to control or influence them:
        1 - Actions
        2 - Thoughts
        3 - Emotions
        Anyone can see the inter-connectivity of this tripod and how it relates to you [very good] advice.
        I need more audience to my own horror story. Either that or start living a better script.
        Again, I apologize for using your site as a journal. I hope that my own experience can add some value to the wonderful content you have created.

        • I believe Tony is referring to a 4th facet: our intuition; which is buried underneath our emotions. I sense that like many of us, you're over-analysing and that's a way of keeping us stuck in our head and away from our painful feelings. If you could think your way out of this, you'd have done it by now. The important thing is to allow yourself to feel: both your joy and your pain. This is the key not only to healing the past, but also to accessing your intuition about the future. I'm happy to discuss more; this would make a great topic on the forums. Cheers, Graham

    • avatar Daphne says:

      Leave! Run for the hills! She paid for your clothes and food? WOW! Noble prize runner up! I figured, now I am 43, that I only need one good friend: myself. I have the brains and the determination.

      You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders; use it to heal yourself with the help of a therapist who cares. If you need psychiatric help, take it. There is no shame in needing pills. I know :) You can only take as much and then...snap. Take action before you would end up in a looney bin.

      So can't you really afford a place of your own? Maybe with trustworthy roommates?

  18. avatar Steve R says:

    John, I just got off the phone with my mother who was berating me because I had not responded in a timely fashion to an email, which made her ashamed and disappointed. I went to my computer and looked up "how to deal with a controlling mother". Your article looked interesting so I began to read it, and as I did my eyes opened up as if you were speaking directly to me! I would love to speak with her about these things, and also with my father, but her defense is locked down tight: she is a psychologist of many years, and would just discredit anything I had to say. She also insists that my father would not want to talk to me about anything on an emotional level (he really doesn't like to be dragged in between us), and therefore I shouldn't bother. I also run the risk of making her angry, which is VERY easy to do, and then I worry that I'm hurting her. Just writing this really exposes to myself the psychological mire I exist in... Advice?

    • Hi Steve. Awesome question; I had a similar thing happen to me recently. Our relationships with our mothers can have a huge influence over us. My reply was too long for a comment, so I wrote this article for you on How to Handle an Argument with Your Mother. Let me know what you think. Cheers, Graham

    • avatar Daphne says:

      For all I care she is the Queen of Sheba :) Was the email important? How long did it take you to answer? Was it so important that she needed to tell you through the phone what a jerk you were for not answering in time.

      Do you still have a curvy?

      My mother, years ago when I was about 30, thought that when she called me in the evening I needed to answer. That I had worked and was hungry was not important. Now I am talking about unimportant calls, just her wanting attention. When I told her that first I wanted to eat and thenw e could talk, she blew a fuse. She thought I was her lady in waiting.

      Now I am 43 and I don't take this kind of crap anymore. The fact that she depends on me must be the reason she's not so apeshit crazy anymore. She also has a therpaist which I forced on her for many years now, maybe that does some good. Even though that woman called me when I had no contact with my mother. I could have gotten her license removed as this is a sin. A therapist is NOT allowed to call people whose therapist he/she isn't. She wanted me to understand that my mother really loved me. When I proceeded to tell her a few things that she had done to me, she become quite silent. This person is an enabler and my suffering didn't mean much to her. Then again I wasn't paying her "therapay" bills...

  19. avatar Dennis Teel says:

    interesting article.the section regarding religion however seems like it was a personal attack . i became a believing,yes in heaven and hell and so on..had nothing to do with my parents however/.i firmly believe in heaven and hell and yeah,in jesus,etc..i was sold pretty much by what the article says but the personal attack on religion made me wonder if you're one of these people that believes kids in church =brainwashing parents.that's an extreme accusation if that's the case.

    • Thanks for the comment, I appreciate your feedback. If my opinion felt like a personal attack, then it sounds like there's an insecurity there for you to explore. Which is a good thing, because identifying our insecurities allows us to deal with them. Insecurity and fear dramatically undermine self-confidence. One of the problems with the Christian beliefs in heaven and hell is that they're a way of avoiding the primal fear of death and it's absolute finality. Of course Christianity isn't alone in this; almost all major religions have this shortcoming. Avoiding our deepest fears is ultimately counterproductive because we never really get to deal with them and the subconscious impact they have on our self-confidence. We are all brainwashed as children by parents, society, religions, etc; just as our parents were. The journey of building confidence is about getting back to our true core selves and living with greater authenticity. Great to hear from you!

  20. avatar Nicki says:

    Hi John, I'm a married adult woman in her early 30s with a super controlling family (mom, elder sister and dad (although now to a lesser degree). As the middle child, I've grown up trying to be perfect and keep everyone's feelings intact and please everyone, while they have shredded my heart to bits. I'm quite confident in my non-familiar life (work, lots of friends, activities, travel etc.) but when it comes to my own family, I feel trapped. Through my husband's support, I've been speaking out a lot more and trying not to bottle my feelings, even though the guilt factor - the wanting to be better, to take the high road (sans high horse), the setting myself up to higher standards is killing me. Just wanted to say I learnt a lot from your post, so thank you for writing it. I'm going to be reading the bits I've highlighted freq

    • Thanks Nicki, glad you found it helpful. I can certainly relate to feeling trapped in my family. You might also relate to the post Forget About What Your Family Thinks Of You.

      • avatar Nicki says:

        Hi Graham,
        Thanks for the post. I found it really helpful, specially "My family don’t really seem interested in getting to know me at a deeper level. When they ask me what I’ve been up to, their inquiry never seems to go very deep; it’s always kept quite superficial." That is so true of my parents, particularly my mother! Whereas, to keep them entertained, informed and "off my back" over the years I had involved them in my life, introduced them to my friends and their parents (where feasible), I realized they really didn't care very much. My father is far more interested than my mother, but even then more in the non-emotional stuff. I studied economics and so we talk about politics, economics, religion etc. more than about emotional stuff, although over the years we've started to talk about feelings. But he's an old fashioned "life is tough, get over it" kind of man.

        I have done things differently over the years to create distance because I realize as much as I love them, my family is toxic for me. But it's still hard to let go of the guilt I feel (and am also made to feel sometimes) regarding how much more I could do for them. I've stopped getting dragged into their fights but my two sisters (older/ younger) are at different points in their journey, so some entanglement is inevitable, considering I'm the only child in the same country (and within 10 minutes drive too).

        Anyway, long story short, you're absolutely right. I have to stop seeking validation from them, and also start to have realistic - not sky high - expectations of myself. I'm only human and I can't be perfect all the time. This need to be perfect all the time, at the expenses of my own feelings and taking all their crap, comes from the family's attitude "there is no room for failure". While I have been able to understand the damage that philosophy does, it's tough when it's been ingrained in you since infancy.

        • I'm totally with you Nikki; we're on a similar journey. The guilt and perfectionism stem from the childhood feeling that if we can just be good enough, our parents will love us. The truth is that our parents loved us regardless, but they just weren't able to communicate that in a way that we could feel as a kid because they were unable to express emotion and love is an emotion. No amount of being good was ever going to change that. You might also find this article on overcoming perfectionism helpful. You're on the right track!

  21. avatar doctor steve says:

    this is one of the most accurate descriptions I have ever read. I am not a real doctor, its just a nickname, but I have suffered all my life from a dominant mother passive father family. I substituted my name and life into most of these categories and it fit. not quite all of them to a " T " but close enough to be scarily right. amazing stuff.

  22. avatar John says:

    I am an adult male in his mid 30's who is dealing with a very controlling and critical mother. I have been completely financially independent of my parents since my early 20's, and do not have any children. I have one sister who has two children. My mother is critical of my weight, anything I purchase, clothing, house, anything!! I have tried to take over some of the family holidays to make things easier on my mother, but the tension when she comes over to my house is unbearable at times. My mother is also very critical of my sister and her family.

    The most recent event occurred at my fathers birthday party several weeks ago. To celebrate paying off a large amount of student loan debt in full, I purchased something special for myself. I didn't even mention the purchase to my mother, but she noticed it that evening (an expensive ring) She started critiquing it immediately!! She was even muttering under her breath, as she ran into her bedroom at one point!!

    My mom sent me an apology email the next morning, but I sent a response saying that I was tired of the nonsense, and that we needed to talk about her put downs and controlling behavior. She has not responded as of yet, nor will my father get involved. My sister said my Mom came down on her about something this past weekend, but did not mention anything about me.

    I don't understand why I constantly need or want her approval at this point in my life. In the last year or so, I have put some distance between myself and my parents, but it really hurts that I can't have a good relationship with them at this point in my life. My Mom controls many of the family gatherings, so when I am at odds with her, I don't see the rest of the family.

    Any input?

    • Hey John,

      I feel your pain! There's something uniquely strong about the mother/son relationship which becomes really painful when mother won't let go. Your mother is probably playing out some old emotional wound of her own which makes it difficult for her to detach from you. Her criticism is just another way to control you so you won't abandon her. It's self-defeating and infantile on her part, and it has a huge effect on you. Those emotional ties can be damn hard to sever when your mother is unwilling to transition from an adult/child relationship to an adult/adult one. Most likely you've been wounded in the past by her criticism too, leaving a part of you feeling that you need to please her at all costs; hence your emotional response. However, I get the sense that you're actually on the right track here.

      The way out is to keep attacking the problem on all levels: do whatever you can to heal the emotional wounds that keep you stuck trying to please her, learn to detach from her emotional drama so that you aren't triggered by it as easily, develop your communication and relationship skills with other women so you can transition to healthier relationships with feminine energy, and allow yourself to feel and express the anger you feel towards her for the way she has treated you. In short: learn to stand up to her. I deal with these in more detail in the Confident Man e-book Steps 12, 8, 16, and Skill 2 respectively.

      Women of all ages put men to the test all the time. In a sense, your mother is just testing you, waiting until you can learn to pass the test. The secret to passing the test is to stop being fazed by it. Laugh off her next criticism, or throw it back at her playfully. I recently realised that the things my mother criticises my father (and myself) for are the very things that make a man masculine, powerful and attractive. Nowadays when she criticises something I do or something I wear, I know I'm actually on the right track. The irony is that once you learn to pass the test, women stop throwing them at you so much: If you learn to stand up to her criticism and not get upset by it, she may stop sending it your way. Another book I highly recommend that talks about this dynamic between men and women is The Way of The Superior Man by David Deida. It's a definite must-read for all 21st century men!

      You're on the right track... Don't give up!

    • avatar Daphne says:

      My input: give her something to complain about :) Tell her about your new ventures as a crack dealer and that you will move to Colombia with 3 whores. Maybe she would approve of that?

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