A part of loving well includes guarding your own heart against continued hurt, pain, bitterness, and more. Healing starts in our hearts. We cannot force, even our mothers, to change or grow. Only God can do that restorative work in their lives.
Moms matter so much. The mother/child relationship greatly impacts our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. When this relationship is strained, we suffer. Even when we have a wonderful mom, she will never be perfect, so grace and forgiveness are vital in keeping this relationship healthy.
When our moms become unsafe due to their own limitations, trauma, hurts, or other unhealthy patterns of behavior, a part of creating a healthy space for this relationship includes strategic boundaries.
We can love well while protecting our own well-being. A part of loving well includes guarding your own heart against continued hurt, pain, bitterness, and more. Healing starts in our hearts. We cannot force, even our mothers, to change or grow. Only God can do that restorative work in their lives.
What Is Narcissism?
We all are narcissistic. In its healthy form, it's just a sense of self-worth or self-love.
When narcissism becomes unhealthy or pathological, it grows into a sense of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for others, and a constant need for praise and attention. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is one of several personality disorders. NPD is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. A key part of this disorder is that behind this facade of abundant confidence lies a very fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as in their relationships, work, spiritual life, school, or financial affairs. Those that struggle with a narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they're not given the special admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and they may be difficult for others to be around.
5 Ways to Work Towards Healing in Your Relationship with a Narcissistic Mom
1. Pursue Your Own Emotional Health
Chances are that if you've grown up with a narcissistic mom, you may have some personal wounds that need to be attended to. It's very hard to offer forgiveness, empathy, grace, and understanding to someone from whom you are carrying an unresolved wound. Pursue your own health, and find a trusted mentor or counselor to help you unpack how your interactions with your mom may have added stress or an improper view of yourself. You need strength, hope, and confidence to be able to approach your mom in a healthy way.
2. Pray For your Relationship
From a Christian worldview, deep, lasting healing and change happens when the power of the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives. Only God has the power to break the chain of sin and death that are at work in this world. Romans 8:26-27 says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
When we bring our hurts to the Lord, we don't even need the "right" words. He knows our needs and is able to intercede on our behalf. God can repair the things that feel impossible, and as you come to Him, you will find that he begins by changing your heart first.
3. Set Healthy Boundaries
Anytime you face an unhealthy relationship, setting proper boundaries is vital. Some examples of healthy boundaries look like allowing space for your autonomy in order to avoid codependency. Your mother's issues are not yours, and while you care for her and want her to find health, you are not in control of her and her choices.
Show empathy and allow space for everyone's emotions. Your mother's feelings and struggle may feel unreasonable but trying to empathize with where she is coming from helps bring tenderness to your relationship.
Asking permission is a good boundary to keep in your relationship. It's okay to expect your parents to ask permission to speak into your life, and you can show respect to your mother by asking before you speak into their situations. This helps avoid bitterness or unwelcomed comments or interactions.
Determine limits that work for your relationship. These limits may change over time, but if you are in a season when you feel very triggered by the interaction with your mom, then it may be good to set greater limits on how you interact. If you are feeling healthy and able to empathize well with your parents, you may be able to make more space and time for them in your daily life.
4. Depersonalize Your Interactions
One of the huge struggles that come with being in a relationship with someone struggling with a mental illness is that they don't often have full ability to control their actions which can be very hurtful to those closest to them. It's helpful to remember that her actions result from inner turmoil and are not necessarily about you. She may be projecting onto you long-term hurts that have nothing to do with what you have done or your existence in her life. This is not an excuse for bad behavior but rather a way to help build empathy and understanding in your own heart when processing things that can feel very hurtful.
5. Avoid Engaging in Arguments
Those who struggle with narcissism lack the ability to see the point-of-view of others. Engaging in arguments with a narcissist only leads to hurt and frustration. Often if you engage in an argument, you may find that she attempts to rewrite history, twist your words, and invent facts to support her side of the story. Stepping into a conflict can be like walking into quicksand. Wisdom says to avoid these kinds of toxic interactions. If you find yourself facing an argument, take the opportunity to step away and avoid getting entangled in a very difficult conversation.
James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." If you are struggling to find the wise way to heal your relationship, go to God, he is faithful to show us the narrow way forward. Enlist the help of trusted pastors, mentors, friends, and counselors. Healing this vital relationship is worth the work. May God make a way forward for you and your mom.
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.