You’ve identified that your mother is a narcissist. Maybe you’ve known this for several years, or perhaps you’re just now putting the pieces together. Either way, you have a fitting label for all the chaos your mother has added to your life. As a narcissist, she puts her needs before others, and she seemingly has no problem manipulating others to get what she wants.
It’s not surprising that her childish behavior can leave you feeling incredibly frustrated, sad, and even confused. At times, you may find yourself wistfully longing for the mother you never had. You might also wonder if it’s possible to maintain a healthy relationship moving forward.
It is possible to go low contact with your mother? This approach aims to keep your mother in your life without her trampling over your needs and boundaries. Although it’s a balancing act, it can bring you a sense of clarity and peace. Let’s see if this method is right for you.
What Does It Mean to Go Low Contact With Your Narcissistic Mother?
Depending on who you ask, low contact has different meanings. Essentially, it refers to reducing physical or emotional contact with your mother by upholding strong boundaries. A successful low contact approach entails having a relationship that meets your needs- instead of just hers.
Only you can decide what low contact truly means to you. Some popular examples of boundaries in a low contact relationship include:
- Choosing only to see your mother during specified occasions.
- Avoiding discussions about designated, sensitive topics.
- Prohibiting your mother from coming over to your house.
- Avoiding answering excess phone calls, text messages, or emails.
- Only spending time with your mother if other people are present.
- Ending the conversation if your mother starts becoming hostile or unreasonable.
Boundaries are the foundation of a low contact relationship. These boundaries refer to your emotional, physical, and financial limits. When dealing with a narcissist, your boundaries are essential. Without them, you will likely feel bombarded, disrespected, and resentful.
Deciding to go low contact requires you to be conscious and careful with your decision. For instance, if you’re used to giving in to your mother’s demands to appease her, it may feel impossible to change the cycle.
When Should You Consider Trying Low Contact?
Sometimes, it’s not practical (or even desirable) to avoid all contact with your mother. For instance, you may live with her. Or, you may have a tight-knit family, and a no contact approach might strain or disrupt the cherished relationships you share with others.
Moreover, you might simply want to have a relationship with your mother. Even if you know that it won’t resemble the stereotypical parent-child dynamic, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have your mother in your life.
Finally, some people hope to cut contact with their mothers- at some point. Going low contact acts somewhat like a trial run. You can see how it feels to reduce your communication and closeness to determine if you want to continue moving forward with your decision.
It might be worth considering going low contact if:
- You continue to feel disrespected by your mother.
- Your relationship with your mother is negatively impacting other relationships in your life.
- Your mother uses sensitive information you tell her against you.
- You feel smothered or overwhelmed by your mother.
- You feel a constant sense of dread and angst because of your mother.
- You continue to tolerate emotional abuse.
Going Low Contact With A Narcissistic Mother If You Are Living In The Same House
If dealing with a narcissistic mother is one thing, living with her can feel like a complete nightmare. If you live with your mother, consider the following tips.
Consider Which Information You Want to Stop Sharing
If you opt for a low contact approach, you may need to have an off-limits topics list. Off-topic items may include anything that’s overly sensitive, controversial, or emotionally-charged.
Having these guidelines serves several benefits. First, it reduces the chances of you becoming frustrated or overly reactive with your mother. Second, it doesn’t give her as much “power” over you. She can’t use what she doesn’t know.
You may also want to keep a working list of safe topics in mind. These topics could include current events, the weather, upcoming travel plans, etc. Choose topics that don’t trigger intense emotions for you.
There is no need to share these lists with your mother. Narcissists believe they are entitled to any information they deem necessary. She won’t understand why you would even consider withholding anything from her. Instead, if she broaches an off-limits topic, stay firm and tell her, I’m not talking about that right now.
Schedule and Prioritize Your Alone Time
Keep yourself busy. Make it known that you are spending time alone and that you will not tolerate being disturbed. If possible, try to leave the house as often as you can.
Anticipate that your mother will try to occupy your attention. She will probably guilt-trip you if you suddenly reduce your contact. Continue reminding her- in a calm and seemingly non-reactive tone- that you are busy.
Stop Challenging Her
Narcissists thrive in drama, attention, and chaos. They love a good argument. They love getting under people’s skin and seeing what happens. Maybe the two of you have spent most of your life in a power struggle.
Unfortunately, the dynamic is rigged. Your mother has set the rules for the game, and she knows how to win. It’s your job to stop participating and step away from the game altogether. Instead of arguing or trying to defend yourself, consider acting bored or nonchalant when she starts trying to disagree with you.
Paradoxically, you can also shrug and tell her that she’s right. Initially, this strategy may irritate you because you’re letting her “win.” However, narcissists love flaunting their successes more than the success itself. If you remain completely non-reactive to her reaction, you actually come out on top.
If you’re living with your mother, you need loved ones who can affirm and validate your feelings. It’s not uncommon for the narcissist’s gaslighting to make you question your reality or sanity. If you’ve been living with your mother your entire life, these effects may be even more amplified.
Reach out to safe people, but be careful about sharing your feelings with people who might disclose your thoughts with your mother. Consider seeking therapy for unbiased support and guidance.
How Do You Set Boundaries With a Narcissistic Mother?
Setting boundaries often feels challenging in any relationship. However, when you’re dealing with a narcissist, these boundaries can become ten times harder.
Be Specific With Your Boundaries
You need to be clear, direct, and assertive with your expectations. Don’t say something like, I’m so busy that I don’t have time to see you as much. Instead, consider saying, I can commit to meeting for lunch once a week.
Anticipate that your mother will try as hard as she can to bend your rules. This is part of her narcissistic nature. Anticipate that she will react poorly, throw a temper tantrum, and or guilt-trip you into returning to the usual status quo. She’s used to getting what she wants- the idea of something not going her way feels impossible.
Continue to reinforce your boundary. This is the hard part, but it’s the most important part. I can commit to meeting for lunch once a week. The more you sound like a broken record, the better. This method continues to reinforce your boundary.
It may take several weeks or months for your mother to truly realize you aren’t changing your mind. Once she (begrudgingly) accepts that reality, she’s more inclined to move onto something else.
The more you remain emotionally available for a relationship, the more your mother will try to take from you. It’s a common trap that many adult children find themselves stuck in.
Keep involved with outside hobbies, interests, and relationships. Staying busy has several benefits. First, it’s crucial for your mental health to stay connected with other people and passions. If you spend most of your time with your mother, this allows you to have a break.
Second, when you’re busy, it’s harder for your mother to swoop into your life. If you’re rarely home, she has less of an incentive to drop by unannounced.
Avoid Emotional Reactions
In a healthy relationship, expressing vulnerability and sharing your emotions can strengthen your bond. Telling someone how you feel- even when it’s scary- can result in powerful validation and deeper connections.
This isn’t the case in relationships with narcissists. Narcissists thrive on pushing your buttons and eliciting a reaction. They can’t understand someone else’s emotions, particularly if the emotions don’t match theirs.
They also don’t assume personal responsibility for making mistakes. In their minds, they always do things right. If an issue arises, it’s because you caused that issue to arise. If you tell your mother that she hurt your feelings, she may respond by:
- Telling you that you’re overreacting.
- Insisting that she never said or did that.
- Giving you an insincere, fake apology.
- Blaming you for making her act that way.
- Acting hysterically (crying, screaming, throwing a temper tantrum)
Therefore, it’s usually best to avoid having an emotional reaction. Don’t feed the drama. Don’t tell her that something was offensive, inappropriate, or mean. It will only result in more chaos.
Consider Spending Time Together in Public
Being in each other’s homes can cause excess discomfort and stress for you. Homes are inherently personal, and it may feel harder to leave- especially if it’s your space.
If you’re going low contact, consider switching to spending time together in public. This may mean meeting at a coffee shop, restaurant, or a park. As a bonus, your mother might even have better behavior since she’ll be around other people.
Don’t Explain Your Intentions To Your Mother
You don’t owe it to your mother why you’re embracing a low contact approach. She won’t understand why you’re “rejecting” her. Since narcissists lack empathy for other people, your mother won’t be able to relate to your feelings or intentions.
If she addresses your change in behavior, keep your reasoning concise and limited. A simple, I’ve been busy should suffice. Don’t give her more information than necessary. Chances are, she will use that information to try to manipulate you.
Expect that she might make a big deal when things don’t go her way. This is normal- narcissists spin and contort situations to fit into their perceived narratives.
When Should You Consider No Contact?
Ultimately, it’s your decision to determine how much communication you want to have with your mother. It’s okay if your needs change over time.
A no-contact approach sounds exactly as the name suggests. You stop all forms of communication with your mother- no matter how much she protests or tries to engage.
You might want to consider taking a no contact approach if:
- You continue to struggle with implementing your boundaries.
- Your relationship continues to trigger immense anxiety, stress, or depression.
- Your relationship places excess strain on your relationship with your own family (such as with your partner or children).
- You’re still spending excess energy worrying, thinking, or recovering from narcissistic abuse.
- You no longer wish to have a relationship with your mother.
Some people cut contact at once. Others move to a no-contact approach more gradually. They may spend several years embracing a low contact relationship before deciding it’s time to stop communication.
Final Thoughts on Protecting Yourself From a Narcissistic Mother
Awareness is the first step towards change. Allow yourself to reflect on your relationship and how it has impacted you. Give yourself time to think about what you want moving forward.
Setting boundaries with your narcissistic mother is vital for your emotional well-being; it’s also an integral part of having healthy relationships. Whether you opt for a low contact or no contact approach, choose the method that best honors your needs and desires.
Sources Used For This Article
- ‘My life felt like a cage without an exit’ – narratives of childhood under the abuse of a narcissistic mother. (2018). Early Child Development and Care. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03004430.2018.1513924
- Starbird, A. D., & Story, P. A. (2020). Consequences of childhood memories: Narcissism, malevolent, and benevolent childhood experiences. Child Abuse & Neglect, 108, 104656. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104656
- Melinda. (2020). HelpGuide.org. Helpguide.Org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder.htm
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Traits, Tests, Treatment. (2020). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9742-narcissistic-personality-disorder