My mother and father are still together after 50 years of marriage. They are good, church going people who are very community minded. They show love by acts of service and are often kind and generous to other people. But the way my critical mother treats my largely passive father is toxic, and I recently took the opportunity to stand up to their behaviour in order to reverse the negative effects it has had on my own life. Here's how it panned out:
[caption id="attachment_2396" align="alignright" width="300"] Standing Up To A Critical Mother[/caption]
Recently my parents and I all attended my maternal aunt's 90th birthday party, along with my maternal cousins, my two older sisters, and all their husbands/wives and families. We spent the weekend in a lovely guest house in the country and since it was a long drive for my aging parents, they asked me to give them a lift there and back. I am a little apprehensive because I know the way my parent's behaviour often triggers me, but I see it as an opportunity to connect with them and spend some additional quality time together.
The two-hour drive to the guest house is relatively uneventful, with occasional friendly chatter and lunch at my parents' favourite cafè on-route.
However, I am starting to notice the pattern in my parents relationship that often upsets me: my mother “corrects” everything my father says, in a way which sounds critical and belittling to me. His reaction is to withdraw and shut down in response to this criticism; a common trait I particularly dislike in myself.
Initially, I just witness what is happening and my internal reaction. But over the course of the weekend as I notice more and more incidents where my father says something that my mother thinks is foolish, wrong or otherwise in need of correction, I become increasingly agitated.
In my ideal world, all the years of therapy and emotional healing that I've had would insulate me from the effect of this and I'd be free to let them relate however they choose without me being triggered.
But in the real world, I'm not that enlightened. Not yet, anyway.