What to Do When Your Mother Betrays You

tearsI remember the day like it was yesterday and yet it’s been over 30 years ago. I was only 10 or 11 years old and I was feeling down. I would easily cry and often spent my time worrying about things that no child should ever have to worry about. Those years were tough ones for me. I wondered where God was when things were so terrible and questioned whether or not He would help us through the horrible events that were occurring within our family. I felt like I was in an unending nightmare and no one was going to ever save me. Sexual abuse had invaded our family and left most of us kids wondering how we were going to survive the repercussions of allowing it to come to light. Night terrors haunted my sleep and tears flooded my days.

I longed to draw close to my mother during this time and yet she kept her distance. She wasn’t an overly affectionate woman to begin with, but during this time it seemed she was even less so. It hurt to feel completely shut out.

Fed up with my despair, my mother took me aside one day and demanded that I tell her what was wrong. I started to cry. She asked again, “What is your problem?” Through my tears I quietly responded, “I don’t think you love me as much as you love everyone else.” Tears streaked down my cheeks and embarrassed, I brushed them away.

My mother took one look at me, removed my glasses, and then proceeded to slap me across the face over and over again saying, “I love you just as much as everyone else!” When she finished she told me to go to my room to sit on my bed so I could think about what I had just said. I sobbed and sobbed into my pillows. Her reaction was all the proof I would need that I was right… she didn’t love me as much as she loved everyone else.

My mother was always one to volunteer in our classrooms as room mom and she ran us everywhere for scouts or gymnastics or volleyball. From the outside she was very involved. From the inside things were different. Her heart was guarded and our true needs were often ignored; some of us more than others. As I got older I would see this time and time again. Still, she was my mom and I loved her. I wanted us to have a good relationship and so I worked at it tirelessly.

But then, when I was 30, something happened in our family that made me sever ties with her. She refused to stand up for what she knew was right and instead let me take the blame for something that was clearly not mine to take. My heart was broken and I knew I could not allow her to hurt me in this manner anymore. For several years I just stopped trying.

One day she called to say she had cancer. I’m sure you’re thinking at this point in the story I am about to say her cancer changed everything, but that’s not how it went. During her battle with cancer I did my best to check up on her, but because we lived 800 miles away, calling was all I could do and so I called often to check up on her. She would eventually be declared cancer-free. I hoped her brush with cancer would help her understand what was truly important. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Our relationship was civil, but strained.

I lost our sweet Joseph in March. I called to tell her he was gone and she showed no emotion. When I told her we planned to bury him on our land she questioned the legality of it but never once offered her condolences. In the months that followed she didn’t call to ask if I was doing ok. I was devastated. When she finally did call to wish our son a happy birthday I asked her what was going on. I told her how hurt I was that our loss didn’t matter to her. My heart poured out with every word I spoke. I couldn’t stop myself. Peppered with anguish and despair, I asked her some very hard questions. Most importantly I wanted to know why she had always treated me the way she did and why I was always pushed to the back burner.

That day I heard words I never thought I would hear… “You’re right, Michelle. I did. I am guilty of everything you are accusing me of. I had no choice though. The circumstances of our life just meant that I had to choose and I chose the others over you. It was necessary.” There was no apology, only recognition of the hurts she had heaped on my heart. Now I knew… it was necessary.

forgivenessDespite the hurt, that day I decided to forgive her. I didn’t forgive her because she asked me to or because she had admitted she was wrong. She did neither of those things. I forgave her because I knew if I didn’t I would never begin to heal from the hurts she had caused me. I vowed to try again to have a relationship with her. That was June.

In November my mom called to tell me that her cancer was back and that it was bad. The doctors hoped they could give her 3-5 more years. I told my husband she would be gone in a matter of months. We lost William in December and a week and a half later my mother entered into hospice care. I went to be by her side and help take care of her. I spent as much time with her as I could but eventually I had to leave to take care of my own family. She died shortly after I left. She died surrounded by my other siblings and my step-father. My brother was the only one besides myself that was not there. I’ve often wondered if she waited until we left before she died. I’m not sure. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

I tell you this story because I learned a few valuable lessons throughout the years and I hope they will help you as well. Perhaps you dealing with a toxic relationship with your own mother and you just don’t know what to do about it. I’d like to offer you some advice…

  • Love her even when she’s unlovable. Try to have a relationship with her. Be kind and respectful even if she is not. Talk to her to find out why she acts the way she does. There may be a story you don’t know that could help you understand her.
  • Pray for her. There is true power in prayer. Ask God to open her heart to you. Ask God to bless her. Pray that she opens her heart to God.
  • Give yourself permission to leave the relationship if it truly is toxic. Just because she is your mom doesn’t mean you should have to endure abuse, neglect, or hatefulness. We are taught not to challenge our parents as a sign of respect but we have to remember to respect ourselves too. If your relationship is toxic you can (and should!) cut ties without feeling guilty.
  • Forgive her. Don’t wait for her to ask you for forgiveness, just grant it to her. You cannot heal if you are holding onto to hurts from the past. When your heart is full of hate, despair, or worry you have no room for God’s love. Empty your heart of those hurts and allow God’s love and forgiveness to heal you.
  • Remember that God will provide you with other earthly mother figures that will help you through when you need it most. Really look at your life to see who those mother figures are. I promise they are there. Cherish them!
  • Turn to our Holy Mother. As Christ hung suffering on the cross He gave us the gift of His mother. “Woman, behold your son!” and then to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” By giving His mother to John He also gave her to us. He knew we would need her. Turn to her in your time of need. She understands all that you are going through. She loves us and wants to help us. She longs to cradle you just as she did Christ as a baby. Run to her loving arms!

We don’t expect our mothers to betray us, but sometimes they do. Sometimes because of their own life circumstances they are unable to give us what we truly need to grow and they are unable to be the mothers we need them to be. We have to trust that God has a plan to use these struggles to help us become the people He knows we can be. Practice patience, love, and forgiveness. You will find that your heart will begin to heal from the hurts inflicted upon it. It will take time, but He will heal you.

Thank you, Father for the gift of our Holy Mother. Help me to cling to her when I am in need of consolation, love, and hope. She is not only the mother to Your Son but she is our mother as well.

mother mary 1

10 Replies to “What to Do When Your Mother Betrays You”

  1. I can’t even put into words how much this has helped me. I too have struggled with a relationship with my mother…. my brother has always been more important, I struggle constantly. I needed to read this today! Thank you so much and God Blessyou!

  2. What a timely post… I wrote this on my FB Status the other day — “Thankful for a God who doesn’t hold past mistakes against me… doesn’t throw them in my face. Thankful for a God who reminds me not to do that with my child or anyone else. So blessed.
    Probably the hardest thing for anyone to do is trust after a wrong done. But if we accept an apology, we must move on – for our sanity.
    Can I get an AMEN?!
    And cheers to all my imperfect friends who are forgiven and whom I love dearly!”
    And a friend asked me “What if there is no apology and even if there were one, I don’t know that I could truly have forgiveness in my heart. What if the wrong done is in the distant past but it is something that is still causing me suffering to this day. How do you fully forgive (forgetting isn’t an option). Am I in the wrong for not forgiving a person that is not at all sorry for his actions? I just needed other points of view, because this causes me great ambivalence at times. The rest of you please chime in if you have a point of view or suggestion; this has really been on my mind.”
    Here was my response – “I think sometimes people confuse forgiveness for acceptance. For instance, my mother was a violent alcoholic, is bipolar, etc. She essentially terrorized our childhoods and parts of our adults life. HOWEVER… I had to forgive her because fear and hate of her was killing me. I do not accept what she did. But I went to counseling for years to try to understand it. And while some say she has changed and I am happy for her. I do not care for her to be in my life or that of my child. The counselor said there is no need to wait for an apology that will never come. Choose to forgive and live your life. You may or may not want that person in your life. People may think you mean or unforgiving… But they are confused… Forgiveness does not mean acceptance. It does not mean you will forget. It doesn’t mean you have to let that person back in. It just means you are no longer controlled by it. That you realized that perhaps they are mentally ill and there will never be an apology and they can’t help it… or their life-circumstance made it to where they are incapable of being nice and real and the things you need them to be. Not forgiving and moving on is about YOU not them. And I have to tell you – I only know this through my Faith. Without my beautiful faith, I am nothing.
    Also… if I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive. I care a lot about people. I get hurt a lot by people. I feel that some people, many people, don’t see the other side of things. They want to be right and they want to be forgiven, but they never stop to listen to others OR forgive others. And I don’t want to be that sad person who has no light in their life.”

    You are not alone. I am glad you forgave her. I know how hard it is.
    We are so blessed to have Our Mother Mary!

    1. Thank you, Emily for comment.I wrote about forgiveness two years ago at Lent and mentioned some of the same things you have mentioned above. Forgiveness is sometimes hard to give but when we look at how often our Father forgives us it’s hard not to extend it to others. What a tremendous gift forgiveness is… both to others and to ourselves!

      If you’d like to read what I wrote about forgiveness you can find it here:

  3. Oh my! Very,very hard to read! I’d like to add one more step, if I may be so bold: educate oneself to people’s mental illnesses. It is so very obvious your Mom had Borderline Personality Disorder, a vicious mental illness. But knowing the diagnosis helps, it puts things into perspective. It is a very important puzzle piece. In retrospect one can look at a behavior and have those “aha” moments, and say to oneself, “Oh THAT is why she did THAT”. My Master’s Thesis was on this topic, see the FB page Matriarchal Terrorism, it helps.

  4. Blessings to you Michelle!

    An incredibly emotional and overwhelming story that left me breathless so many times. Your expression of your feelings were pristine. Raw, honest, painfully truthful. I truly feel that this story will help so many people, starting with your complete dependence upon His gentle and guiding love for you.

    Also, as someone who has dealt with infertility and had to painfully accept a life without children, I too have turned to God to direct my life per His Will, not mine. Reaching that final realization was a long and painful and angry road but my blind faith and blind trust has blossomed.

    Our blessed Mother Mary shares in our sorrows and wraps Her children in Her most loving arms.

    Peace in Christ.

  5. This was a difficult article to read, as I’m sure it was to write. Having traveled a similar journey, I have grown to also appreciate that I am who am today, because of the journey I traveled. I’m confident, Michelle, that you are the mother you are today, because of that journey. You show such love, patience and compassion for your children, husband and friends. You are truly an inspiration to all that know you. God bless you for the courage to share this painful experience so publicly. May your words help another who is struggling. Peace be with you…always.

  6. Michelle, thank you SO much for sharing your story. I needed this, after another desperate internet search on what to do when your own mother betrays you. (looooong comment ahead, be prepared haha!)

    This year my relationship with my mother changed drastically. I took away the blinders I had put in front of my own eyes for so long, and I began to see her for who she is. A woman who has been emotionally unavailable my entire life, a woman who emotionally neglected and abused me. A woman who betrayed me so many times, even multiple times this year in ways I did not expect. She has showed me just how far she will go to protect her ego, and to keep up the apearance she wants the rest of the world to see.

    I turned 24 this year. I am filled with so much sadness, anger, loneliness, and intense mental pain. I began to let in a life-long build-up of pain, and it is overwhelming. It consumes me whole most days. My heart is broken into a million pieces, and I don’t know how to get myself together. I don’t know how to find forgiveness for the sake of my own peace of mind. It hurts my soul even more knowing she is the only family I have.

    In about 1,5 months I will move out into my own apartment, as I still live under her roof. I feel like it’s going to be my new chance at life. My life has been filled with a lot of abuse as well, but I am sick and tired of it. I had to miss out on so many things due to a life-long time of abuse. The question if I want to keep my mother close to me yes/no is something I have been pondering about, and it weighs heavily on my heart as I still feel love for her despite all that she has put me through. I guess that’s something I will have to figure out along the way.

    Over the past couple of months I have been telling her how much she has hurt me in my lifetime, and how much she is still hurting. I told her in which ways she has, and still is, hurting me. How lonely I’ve felt my entire life, and how her neglect, abuse and betrayel effects me as a young woman. I poured my heart into those words, just like you did towards your mother. My mother’s responses have been very dissapointing, which give me less and less hope that she’d ever want to change.

    Literally a couple of days ago, after I had shared more of my inner pain towards her, I could finally say what I have been wanting to say my entire life: I want a mother who is there for me, who wants to be there for me. A mother who loves me unconditionally, who supports me unconditionally. Not a mother who’s only there for me when she pleases. If you can’t be that mother, or don’t want to be that mother, then I need to really come to terms with it now, and move on.

    Again, her reponse was very cold-hearted. She told me she is who she is, and that she will never change. I should find a new mother, in her opinion. When I said to her that, if she was being serious, it would be over for good. That I did not want a mother with such an attitude in my life. Eventually she said she would “think about it”, but I refuse to get my hopes up.

    It’s a mess. Dear goodness.

    So again, thank you for sharing your story Michelle. Reading your words made me feel less lonely. I am going to take your lessons along which you’ve learned. I am going to try to apply them to my own life, to see if they can help me. I am so grateful for finding your story, words cannot explain.

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