Specifically, this quote:
As you read, allow yourself to admit the ever-present malevolence that is demonstrated in nearly every interaction with your narcissist mother. This is not a person who wishes you well.
I have a really hard time accepting when someone wants to do something nice for me. I feel like I have to “pay” them back. For example, my friend wants to take me out to dinner to thank me for dog sitting her dog one night. I didn’t mind doing it at all, her dog is very sweet & affectionate and fun to spend time with. My friend and her family are very kind to me, always making sure I have holiday plans and extending invites to their holiday gatherings. She stopped over & kept me company when I was recovering at home for some minor surgery. Her dad even made my favorite dish for dinner when I watched their dog. I feel they’ve already done more than enough for me and I’m glad to have the chance to reciprocate by watching the dog.
It’s only within the last couple of years I’ve started to put together why I feel strange when people are nice to me. When dealing with my mother, even the “good” interactions often had an agenda. When I was in grad school, I had car trouble. My mother offered to give me her savings she had been putting away for a move. I was in my early 20s and living on my own at the time. There was sufficient public transit so that a car was more of a convenience than a necessity. I thanked her, but refused to accept. Because even that early on, I realized she had a tendency to use gifts against me when she got angry. To call me ungrateful, etc. Plus I knew that she was afraid of relocating and I would be “blamed” for her staying where she was unhappy if I accepted that offer. Not only did it have strings, they were ropes which would cut off circulation! She did eventually relocate and is quite happy with where she lives now vs. where she had been living. She met my stepfather in her new location. If I’d taken her up on it, she would have used giving me the money as an excuse to get angry with me for her not relocating. Also, I felt as a self-supporting adult, I shouldn’t be taking money my mother needed for her own future for my own convenience. If I lived somewhere where there was NO transit and I needed a car to get to work/class that might have been different.
It was very odd, she’d make generous offers like that, but there was another side. In contrast, when I started college, my father asked me if he should send the child support directly to me or if he should continue to send it directly to her. I told him I didn’t know and I’d ask her. Cue raging tirade about how just because I’m not living at home doesn’t mean the utilitiy bills are any less, etc. Yet, when I’d come home for Christmas and the 2 Summers I was silly enough to come home for, she’d claim the electricity bills were higher. Umm yeah, never mind that’s when people tend to get higher bills because of Christmas lights and air conditioning. But it was an utter contradiction. If my being home makes the utility bills higher, wouldn’t my being away at school make them lower?
She would promise money at school and then back out. I wanted to share a phone with my roommate and 2 of our neighbors next door. This was in the 80s when cell phones weren’t readily available or affordable. She insisted she would be too worried if I didn’t have a phone in my room. She insisted she would pay my half of the basic service part of the bill (split with my roomie) out of the child support. Calls to her were on her calling card, calls to my dad on his. I was responsible for long distance calls to my friends and other relatives. Of course, when the bill literally came due, I got a sob story about how hard it was to make ends meet as a single mom and I had to pay for it from my work study job, sometimes with help from my dad. Honestly, I didn’t mind paying because I’m sure it is hard being a single parent. But if I was paying for it, I should have had the decision whether the phone and its associated costs would be split among 2 of us or 4. Plus, it was an unexpected/unanticipated expense because she’d promised me she’d pay for it and then backed out.
Junior year, a relative on my mom’s side got engaged and had asked me to be a bridesmaid. This is the cousin my mother has compared me with unfavorably because said cousin is prettier (partially because she has blonde hair & blue eyes, which is my mother’s preferred ideal for some reason) and “nicer”. My mother was thrilled at the prospect of me being in this cousin’s wedding party. And my other offered to pay for my dress, shoes, etc. I accepted based on that offer. Needless to say, my mother changed her mind. I tried to back out, but my cousin offered to pay. She and her husband to be were just starting out, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking money from them.
I think my mother finally did pay on that one, but I think I also ended up kicking in some unplanned money into expenses for it. My cousin has a shoe size close to mine, so she was nice enough to give me some shoes she’d used for a bridemaid dress so that I could get them dyed to match the dresses she had for her wedding.
When I moved into my current home, I was in my 30s. My mother & my stepdad offered to pay for the carpeting I was having put down. I had already picked it out and was planning to buy it on my own, as I didn’t anticipate the gift. I thought how nice! When I told her the price, she criticized my carpet choices saying they were too expensive. Without knowing about boundaries, I set one with her. I told her I really liked the choices I’d made and I was going through with them. If she wanted to give me an amount she was planning on towards it, that was fine, if not, I appreciated her thinking of me.
She ended up giving me the whole amount, which I thought was quite generous. But looking back at it now, there was the way it was presented. Both of my step-sisters are married. My brother wasn’t married at the time, but is now. I forget the exact wording, but she presented it along the lines of well, since we’ve already given the girls money for their weddings and we plan to give your brother money for his, we’d thought we’d give you money for the carpet since it doesn’t look like you’ll be getting married anytime soon. She even said if I ever did get married, she’d deduct the amount of the carpet from any wedding present!
I didn’t see it then, but wow! First she tried to criticize my choice of carpet by implying I was overspending on it Then she diminshed an adult milestone I’d achieved (home ownership) by pointing out what ones the others had accomplished (my stepsisters getting married and my brother’s eventual anticipated marriage) and I hadn’t! She also let me know which one she valued more by telling me she’d deduct the carpeting cost from any future wedding gift.
And when the stock market had trouble shortly after, she’d make “jokes” about how she & my stepdad wouldn’t be able to afford retirement and would come sleep on my carpet since it was comfortable and they paid for it!
She also made a big point of telling me to clean/vacuum it frequently. As if I hadn’t been doing that chore for the household since I was about 11 or 12!
This had been brewing in my mind since last weekend. The carpeting I picked is stain resistant and varies in texture and pattern. So it’s worn pretty well for about a decade. It’s only started to show wear in the last year or so. A good steam cleaning and I’ll probably get some more use out of it. I was thinking about what a good choice I’d made and I recalled the whole incident.
The weird thing, at the time I was grateful. I didn’t realize just how I was being undermined and insulted. Even writing this out, I’m feeling more intense feelings at being insulted like that.
That’s how messed up parents like this are. They will use a gift or good gesture to tell you how unworthy they think you are. Of course, when they brag about their good deed, they won’t mention the undermining or insults. Or how they pocketed the child support when you were in college. Everyone will think they are parent (in this case mother) of the year.
I had already started realizing how my mother’s good deeds/gestures made me wary of other people’s good deeds/gestures. But reading the Narcissists Suck blog entry really helped me put it together. Gifts and generosity have been used to control and insult me. I couldn’t even necessarily depend upon those deeds/gestures to be followed through. So I feel a need to be “even” with people in the good deeds/gestures department. And I have a hard time accepting the good deeds/gestures.