Dealing with a narcissistic mother can be an emotionally taxing and complex experience, especially when you’re an adult trying to assert your independence. Unfortunately, this relationship can be filled with manipulation tactics that make it challenging to establish your own boundaries and sense of self. And you aren’t even aware it’s manipulation because you’ve been experiencing it your entire life.
Let’s explore ten common manipulation tactics that narcissistic mothers use to control their adult daughters. Recognizing these tactics can help you break free from their hold and foster your emotional independence.
10 Manipulation Tactics Narcissistic Mothers Use To Control Their Adult Daughters
She Will Guilt-Trip You
Mothers may use guilt to make their children feel responsible for their happiness or to manipulate them into doing what the mother desires. She uses this as a way to get you to act according to her demands. As children, we are wired to want our caregiver’s approval. Narcissistic mothers use this to their advantage. Ultimately, it leads you to feel like you are responsible for your mother’s feelings, which means you can’t express yours.
She’ll use Emotional Blackmail
Narcissist moms might threaten to withdraw their love or approval if you don’t comply with their wishes. Perhaps you have dreams of pursuing a career in another city, but when you tell your mother, she’s shocked and disappointed. Instead of sharing in your happiness, she tells you, “How could you do this to me? You know I won’t be able to cope without you here. You’re abandoning your family.”
She ensures that you and everyone else know that she is extremely distressed and will do her best to make you feel guilty and responsible for her reaction.
She will Gaslight You
Have you ever tried to bring up a sensitive topic with your narcissistic mother, and she responded with statements like, “I never said that,” “You must be imagining things,” and “You’re too sensitive.” She will tell you that you have a bad memory or you’re overreacting—invalidating your feelings.
Over time, you start to doubt your own memory and perceptions, even though you remember the situations clearly. Gaslighting distorts reality in her best interest, and it can significantly undermine your self-confidence and independence.
She will use Triangulation
Narcissist mothers may pit siblings against each other, creating a dynamic where the children vie for her approval and affection. She can also do this with other family members to manipulate any situation to cater to her.
This can be especially traumatic if you decide to speak up for yourself. She will turn you into the enemy while she becomes the victim.
She will use the Silent Treatment
The silent treatment is an emotionally immature way to handle any situation. While there is value in stepping away, the silent treatment is a means of control. It creates anxiety in you because she withholds communication and affection to hurt you. If your mother has ever used the silent treatment to get you to change your mind or to get what she wants, she’s abusing you.
Her Love is Conditional
You may be made to feel that love and affection are given only when they meet specific conditions or expectations. This can lead you to chase achievements and accomplishments as a way to feel that love. You look to your success as a value of your self-worth. This means that failure of any sort is deeply painful because, deep down, you believe it means you aren’t worthy of love. A deeply flawed and broken mother has made you believe that you must earn love, and that is absolutely not true. You are worthy of love just as you are.
She will Compare her Children Openly
Mothers may frequently compare their children to others, fostering a sense of competition and inadequacy. “Your brother just got a promotion; when are you going to get a promotion?” “Can you believe what your brother did now?”
A narcissist mother will gossip about anything, including her children. She will often use this as an opportunity to make you feel ashamed or guilty about how you measure up against your siblings. Instead of encouraging her children and supporting their individuality, she will pit you against each other. So not only do you feel alone because of your relationship with your mother, but your sibling relationships will suffer, too.
She will overshare and make you responsible for her needs
You may know more about your mother’s marriage (and relationships) than anyone else. Even when you’re a child, you may have felt like your mother’s therapist. That affair that your father doesn’t know about? She told you. This type of emotional manipulation is called parentification or emotional incest. It profoundly impacts your well-being and ability to have intimacy in your adult life.
A narcissist mother doesn’t practice boundaries, and this type of behavior can lead you to grapple with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, as you were forced into a role and responsibilities for which you were not emotionally prepared.
She Takes Financial Control
Narcissistic mothers can exert power and manipulate their children’s choices and actions by controlling finances—from taking your paycheck when you were still in high school (or even now) to forcing you to back a loan that she took out for you.
Does your mother routinely try to get involved in your financial decisions? You may find it difficult to change because you want to maintain your mother’s approval and avoid conflict. As a result, your mother continues to limit your ability to take independent actions.
She will Isolate You
Some narcissist mothers isolate you from external influences because this ensures you stay dependent on her. She will openly reject and judge your partners and may even accuse them of trying to “steal you away.” She can’t fathom not having you under her complete control. This leads to her having emotional outbursts and feeling guilty for wanting to pursue any other relationships. You may even leave a relationship to appease her because you feel like it’s not worth the pain. You feel like you have no other choice. I assure you, you do have a choice.
Recognizing these manipulation tactics is a huge step in breaking free from a narcissistic mother’s control. It can be incredibly difficult and painful because you are trying to go against your core programming.
This will cause cognitive dissonance, and moving through all these difficult emotions is very hard to do alone. Find professional help and trauma-informed support on your journey to make it easier.
If you grew up with a narcissist mother, I would highly encourage you to take this brief quiz to find out.
Adult daughters can regain their independence and emotional well-being by establishing boundaries, seeking support, and practicing self-care. Remember, you have the right to assert yourself and lead a life that reflects your own choices and desires, free from the grasp of manipulation.