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Dear Amy,

I need help communicating to my mother. She has extremely low self-esteem. She has spent her entire life telling others and herself that she is stupid and acts that way most of the time. However, I find that when she wants to deny a fact of our history together she lies like a crafty old scoundrel and uses my fear of her, and my fear of backlash from my siblings to keep me quiet. I am frustrated because I seem to be the only one, (besides my fiance), who sees this pattern AND wants to not fall into denial like she has. I can't have an honest conversation with her about anything. Every time I see her we eventually we come to something that will turn into a confrontation if I disagree, whether it's a mischaracterization of who I am or of events in my childhood. At the same time she tells me I'm very bright, she almost always tells my I'm wrong no matter what it's about. My educating myself and my making an effort to change my life makes her become more of a shrinking violet. She seems to feel threatened by anyone intelligent and assertive.

How do I get through to this women without the backlash from the rest of my family and her companion? I seem to be the "black sheep". I have to bite my tongue at every corner. The problem is she's approaching seventy and having health problems. I feel pressure to resolve this either with her or without her. I don't want to cut her out of my life, but I have to say that the further away from the family nexus I have lived, the better I have felt about myself. I don't know what to do. Is there any information on this subject that doesn't have the title, "I hate my mother", or some such thing? I don't hate her nor do I want spend the rest of my life angry with her for being who she is. I just do not want to live a lie in order to protect someone else's sensibilities at the expense of my own. I have remained silent for to long.



I'm sure you know mother/daughter drama is an age old dilemma. In fact, so much so that my co-author and I devoted an entire chapter in our book, Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism & The Future to this struggle. The chapter is "Thou Shalt Not Become Thy Mother," which is meant to be interpreted a little tongue and cheek, though not everyone, especially mothers have interpreted it as such. (In this chapter we actually reference about a dozen books that take on this very topic.)

I have a great relationship with my mother and she has worked so hard to provide things for me. While I think she is simultaneously happy and proud of me and the fact that she could provide those things to me, I also sense moments of jealousy that I had more opportunities. You seem to be experiencing some of this with your mother. And though I can identify these things and analyze them in my own way, I'm also not the best person as I have my own insecurities about addressing some things with my mother. Like you -- or so it seems -- I have the conversation in my head and all the things I want to say and when I go to say it to her, I freeze. Maybe you can write her a letter and say some of this. One thing I would be careful of is to not to put your feelings into her words or to say anything is other than your perspective, it's just how YOU feel. For instance, I feel like you are insecure. I know that I and others have a tendency to project our feelings and thoughts in a communal way. I realized this when I started publishing pieces. I would say "....and the grass was green and the sky was blue..." and someone would argue with me saying they didn't agree that it was a beautiful day and I would say I didn't say that -- but to them those descriptions add up to a beautiful day. I hope that all helps and I hope you find a way to communicate these feelings to your mother. The other approach is that, just as we have added to family through in-laws, remarriages, adoption, etc... we shouldn't be overly dependent on biology as family. I don't think this applies to you and your mother, but just because they are your siblings and you share blood, doesn't mean that you have to have that type of relationship. Good luck and I'm glad that your fiance is there to support you.

Take care,



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