When to Stay and When to Walk Away from a Toxic Mother
Leaving a relationship is never easy and the decision should not be taken lightly, but we have necessary relationship endings all the time, friends, coworkers, and even churches. But what do you do when you have to consider walking away from your own mother? Some people have a great relationship with their mother, a wonderful adult relationship that is built upon, mutual love and respect. But some others didn’t get the memo that you’re not a child anymore who needs to obey her every command, therefore creating a terrible strain on the relationship, only to have it turned back on the adult child, as the source of the problem.
All relationships take work. There’s a difference between personality differences, growth trap challenges, and toxicity. Toxic relationships are defined as one that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, attacked, or even avoided. It’s one that leaves you feeling worse rather than better over time, and it’s not marked by a few difficult interactions, but rather a blatant ignorance of the dynamics of a healthy relationship. In other words, toxic people are not safe and there may be physical abuse taking place, but if there are such things as manipulation, guilt, selfishness, gaslighting, and disregard, my friend, you are likely dealing with levels of toxicity.
And unfortunately, in a mother-child relationship, we are taught to accept mom’s word as the gospel. And if you didn’t, there was usually hell to pay, either through rage-filled outbursts or guilt-ridden silent treatment. It wasn’t safe to have your own thoughts and your own opinions. So over time, you likely had to find ways to adjust and in doing so, her behavior almost became normal but just because you were able to acclimate to it doesn’t make it okay. So maybe now you’re at the point where you’re saying, “I can’t take this anymore”, but you don’t know what to do. If the thought of walking away breaks your heart but the thought of staying is too damaging to your mental and physical health.
I want to talk to you today about five questions to ask to help you answer that, dreaded question, should I stay or should I go?
And then we’re going to talk about what to do and how to do it.
#1 – She is abusive.
Abuse can come in many forms, physical mental, emotional, or even financial. And when a person uses you outside of your intended design, its abuse. Now I’m not a fan of allowing children to jump on the furniture, I’ll buy you a trampoline, but my pretty sofa is not a bouncy house. It’s designed to be sat on, not jumped on and when you jump on my sofa, it’s abnormal use abuse.
And when Mom is treating, you like a less than a second-class citizen or is manipulating you out of money or even time, it starts the border on abuse. And this behavior alone is not an automatic cause to walk away, but it will require some serious boundaries to consider staying.
And just as an aside, I do want to be careful abusing the term abuse. Now, for those in a truly abusive situation, it doesn’t do them justice when we call everything abuse. You hurt my feelings. You abused me. I want you to be sure that what you’re truly dealing with is truly abuse and not a convenient, excuse to put you in a favorable light, okay?
#2 – Does she respect your boundaries?
It is extremely difficult to have healthy relationships with unhealthy, unsafe people. And if you’re not sure if Mom is unhealthy or unsafe examine how she treats you when you set some boundaries. Toxic mothers are notorious for needing control and when a no is put in their path, unsafe behaviors begin to emerge. So be on the lookout for how Mom responds when you say, no.
#3 – Is she taking you away from time with God and your purpose in life?
Toxic mothers can pull all the energy from a relationship leaving you completely depleted and unable to focus on anything else. With her constant demands and never-ending guilt trips, you likely find yourself too drained to apply yourself to God’s purpose for your life.
Please note, this is not to be confused with caring for parents that are truly in need. If your mother needs medical care then as her child, even as the adult child you should do all you can in your power and ability to care for her despite the sacrifice. But this isn’t the case with many toxic mothers, even though it can eventually become the case, the older they get.
But that’s for another time when you’re saying yes to your mother requires that you say no to God, you now, have a value conflict and if you’re trying to follow the Lord but it creates conflict with your mother.
But now you feel that you’re not being a good daughter or a son because you’re causing conflict. You, my friend, have a values conflict taking place, and you will want to put boundaries in place to keep her from keeping you from following God’s purpose and plan for your life.
#4 – She is affecting other key relationships.
Sometimes toxic mothers take their toxicity to a whole new level and they may use your spouse or your children to spread gossip as a means to control you. And this is an especially prevalent tactic when you lay boundaries. Many toxic mothers will deduce that if they can’t get to you directly, then they’ll poison you through others. And despite popular belief relationship ties with a mother, do not trump marriage and family.
Titus 3:10 sums this up nicely when it says “as for a person who stirs up a division after warning him once and then twice have nothing more to do with him.”
#5 – Is she making you sick?
When they say stress is the silent killer they are not joking. Toxic people have a way of infecting you, on a slow, consistent basis, to the point where you don’t even know what’s hitting you, and that’s because you learn to adjust and adapt to the ever-changing landscape. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy environment. And I remember years ago when I was in an unhealthy toxic relationship that I thought I had an obligation to, I didn’t realize how much it was eating at me from the inside out. And I went to doctors for everything from hair loss to weight gain to low energy. And they would always ask me about my stress levels. And if my interactions have been extreme with this narcissist, I would have recognized the impact of the stress. But what I didn’t give credit to was the amount of stress that I had grown accustomed to.
It wasn’t until this person was removed from my life did I recognize just how sick I was because of the relationship. Manipulation, gaslighting, stonewalling, criticism, constant criticism, abuse, and disrespect can all erode a person’s confidence and increase depression, along, with a whole host of other physical health issues. Severe and prolonged emotional distress can take a serious toll on your body.
My friend, if any of these are taking place, it is time to seriously consider the relationship. No title in the world justifies treatment of this sort. So if you’ve answered yes to any of these, you now have a choice to make when it comes to deciding what actions you are going to take with mom.
You’re going to have three choices. Full contact, no contact or low contact.
Full-contact is where there are no limitations on your interactions with mom and with this choice, there are only two choices that you that make this option possible. Either you go full-contact, unhealthy, or attempt full-contact healthy. Full-contact unhealthy means that you just continue to operate as if you were giving in to the needs and expectations of mom and anyone else she uses to recruit into her posse.
Full contact healthy can be maintained when you have an open and honest conversation with your mom. When you share your heart and hurts. It’s mutually loving and respectful, not a demand to follow scripture, not a manipulation through victim mentality, expectations need to be expressed and boundaries need to be made clear. And we’re going to go ahead and talk about how to do this in just a few.
And if you are not in a healthy place to have this conversation, I want you to consider working with a good Christian counselor. We are connected with Faithful Christian Counseling and they can match you up with a Christian counselor, anywhere in the United States. I believe you actually get 10% off of your first month’s counseling.
No contact is the extreme choice to cut off all communication with your mother and that means no calls, no texts, and no getting sucked into her manipulative attempts to pull you back in. It is a full-on security mode with extra layers of protection. My friend, it’s extreme, but in some cases it’s necessary. But, what do you do when full contact is impossible because there’s no agreement? And no contact isn’t possible because of other family members or because of your responsibilities?
Well, that is where low contact comes in. Low contact is limited contact when absolutely necessary and it’s always on your terms. It’s where you hang out just as long as your strength, your faith, your patience, etcetera endures, and hopefully not when it expires.
If you’re staying beyond that, it’s likely out of obligation, whether that’s self-imposed or other imposed. With low contact, you don’t engage on an emotional level. You keep it to neutral topics. You don’t share personal information and you deal with your emotional hurts with a professional.
So you can learn how to resist taking her bait in the future. In order to make the right choice, my friend, you will need to have an accurate assessment of the situation, a full acceptance of what is going on, and what you’re able and willing to endure.
Okay, so now that we talked about the reasons to consider walking away and what each one would look like, let’s talk about how to make that happen.
Here are the three steps to take to do all you can to make this relationship possible in a healthy way.
Number 1 – Prepare.
Take some time before talking to mom and make a list of your feelings, your failings, and her failings. And you want to be organized and well-prepared for a conversation like this, my friend, this is not the time to wing it. Preparation will keep negative emotions from ruling the situation and keep you on point for the task at hand, which is building a healthy bridge.
In the preparation phase, you may want to get with a good counselor or spiritual advisor, or friend to rehearse and prepare your heart. Your heart needs to be in the right place. You can’t be in an angry childish, victim mindset and expect it to go well. You will need to be the adult that you wish she was and that she would treat you as prepared by determining your goals for the conversation.
Are there behavioral changes that need to take place on her end in order for you to feel comfortable moving forward in the relationship? No, my friend. This is not manipulation. You are going to want to be prepared and communicate these expectations.
Number 2 – Present.
This is the time that you now have to have a sit-down with mom in person. This is not the time for texts or emails, when you present to her your concerns lead with two things: number one your heart, and number two your repentance.
I know, I know, it takes a very mature person to admit their shortcomings when the other persons are so much more, but this is not only mature, it’s actually biblical. Present your heart, your repentance, your hurts, and your hopes, and whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to get baited.
Number 3 – Respond.
This is the most nerve-wracking of all because it requires you to keep your peace and observe her behavior and response. A person who desires a relationship with you may be caught off-guard, maybe even a little hurt, but they will be more hurt by the fact that they hurt you and they’re going to want to work it out and they’re going to want to work it through with you and make it right. My friend, I do pray that this is the case for you, but you will need to observe that she takes responsibility for her actions. If you have presented in a Godly way and she responded in an evil fashion, my friend, it may be time to consider disconnecting even just for a little while. Maybe just take a little bit of a break for a few weeks or a few months, take what you’ve witnessed back to the Lord and process it properly. Give yourself some time. Just remember if there is no personal accountability, there is no relationship.
And at that point, you will have to evaluate: Do I stay in full contact or move to no or low contact? Understand that she may not get it and she may even blame you. They will truly think that they’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve seen this time and time again. And that’s my friend what got you here in the first place. So, you have some work to do, and be sure to get your hands on our Free Toxic people Survival Guide.
Mother wounds run deep the love-hate relationship that you likely have with your mother is probably very complicated and confusing. You want to love her but the damage that’s been done cuts to the core. And that’s why I created How to Heal from a Toxic Mother: Restoring your Life through Faith. It’s an online course. And this course, is for you, my friend. If you are done, feeling guilty for saying, no, trying to get Mom’s approval, giving into manipulative controlling behavior, and feeling biblically trapped in a toxic dynamic. My friend, if you are ready to heal the toxic mental and emotional thought patterns that are sucking the life right out of you and grab, hold of the future that God has for you that I want to invite you to check out How to Heal from a Toxic Mother Restoring Your Life Through Faith.