When you have a narcissistic mother, she drains your energy with her manipulative control tactics. Most experts will advise you to walk away altogether, but there is another alternative. Some people can’t simply go no-contact with their mother, but they might be able to go low-contact. If you’re considering going low contact with your narcissistic mother, there are some things you want to know and you need to be prepared.
There are many reasons why it is difficult to break off contact completely with your narcissistic mother. One of the biggest is simply that she is your mother. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to accept her narcissistic abuse. You can go low-contact instead of no-contact, but it’s important to prepare for that new way of interacting with your toxic mother. Let’s look closely at these 19 steps you’ll need to take to make low-contact work for you.
1. Have a Plan
The first thing to do is develop a plan for how you’re going to reduce the contact time you have with your narcissistic mother. You will need to be honest with her and discuss the boundaries of the time you spend together, but just thinking about that confrontation can be draining in and of itself.
That’s why making a plan and sticking to it can help. You can write out exactly what you want to tell her so you don’t forget anything, and you can also make her a copy so she can’t claim you never discussed this with her.
Having a plan helps you stick to what you want to accomplish, and it gives you a blueprint for how to proceed. Your narcissistic mother will try to sidetrack you, but the plan can help you stay on track.
2. Share the Plan with Her
As part of taking control of your life and reducing contact with your narcissistic mother, you want to tell her that you won’t be spending as much time with her. Let her know what the rules are with respect to when and where you will be able to get together.
She will undoubtedly try to make you feel guilty no matter how kindly you tell her or how much time you will be spending with her. You’ll want to prepare yourself mentally for her guilt trip, so you don’t fall into that trap.
Remember that you have every right to choose how you spend your time, and you also have every right not to be abused. When your mother tries to make you feel guilty, it’s a manipulative tactic aimed at controlling your behavior. Don’t fall for it.
3. Inform Friendly Family Members
There are likely family members who understand your feelings and why you might make this choice. Let them know what you’ve decided so that they can help you implement your plan for low contact.
By letting your allies know, they can work to help you, and they can help other family members understand your decision as well. If they know your mother, they likely have seen her narcissistic behavior. That will make them more sympathetic to your decision.
4. Stick to Neutral Topics
Plan for talking only about neutral subjects when you do spend time with your narcissistic mother. You likely know the subjects that cause problems when you’re talking with your mother. Avoid those topics and choose neutral topics instead.
Your narcissistic mother knows how to push your buttons, so don’t give her the chance to do that by talking about things that are potentially upsetting. Stick to topics that won’t give her any more ammunition to manipulate you.
If your narcissistic mother tries to venture onto topics you know are more controversial, simply let her know that you don’t want to talk about that and steer the conversation back to more neutral territory. By staying with neutral topics, you can avoid confrontations that cause an argument.
5. Make Alone Time a Priority
To really make low contact with your narcissistic mother work, you have to prioritize your alone time. Your mother will try to make you feel guilty and selfish about taking more time for yourself, but don’t buy into that.
You deserve to have peaceful time alone where you can reflect and relax, particularly after having been in contact with your narcissistic mother. Set aside enough alone time for processing your emotions and thoughts, and don’t let her dissuade you from taking that time.
Narcissistic mothers want you to focus solely on their needs, and that’s the problem. You need to focus on what you both need and want out of life, and don’t let anyone knock you off track.
6. Don’t Challenge Her
Your narcissistic mother will likely say all kinds of things to push your buttons. She will want to engage you in an argument and throw you off-balance emotionally. When she gets a rise out of you, that’s when she is in control.
When she says things you know to be patently false, stay calm and don’t challenge her. Just politely end the interaction and leave. Over time, she’ll get the message that you’re not going to argue with her.
Narcissists are nothing if not adept at adapting their strategies, and when your narcissistic mother sees that her confrontational tactics aren’t working, she’ll change her behavior.
7. Build a Support Network
As you’re going low contact with your narcissistic mother, you’re going to need loving family and friends who are on your side. These are the people who will be in your corner and support you through this process.
It’s not easy to change the way you interact with your narcissistic mother. She will fight you every step of the way, and it can become very distressing. Having people who are on your side to support what you’re doing can help you feel more committed to this course of action.
Make sure you have friends you can turn to for support at any time. You may need to call them last minute just to get a quick affirmation that you’re doing the right thing. This will help you stick to your guns so you can have a happier life.
8. Set Strong, Specific Boundaries
With a narcissistic mother, you have to be specific about your boundaries. Narcissists don’t understand the concept of boundaries. Many of them never had boundaries in their own childhood because their abusive parents didn’t let them.
They also see other people as extensions of themselves and don’t understand the need for boundaries. This is particularly true of their own children. That’s why you need to carefully consider what you are willing to put up with and what you are not.
Be as specific as possible. Don’t just say, “I won’t tolerate criticism,” instead try something like, “If you start calling me names, I will leave. If you tell me I’m stupid, I will leave.” These are specific, and your mother will recognize that she has done exactly that. By being specific, you are letting your narcissistic mother know that you’re onto her games, and you’re not going to put up with them anymore.
9. Discuss Consequences
Don’t just discuss the consequences of boundary violations with your narcissistic mother, give her a written copy of them. That way, she can’t claim she wasn’t made aware of what you will do if she starts trying to manipulate or control you.
As you make your list of boundaries, be sure to set the consequence for violating each one. Consequences can be something like leaving when your mother starts criticizing you or hanging up the phone if she is trying to manipulate you.
Let her know the specific consequences for each boundary violation and make sure she has a copy of them. When she violates a boundary, calmly let her know that “As we discussed, I will not tolerate that, and I’m leaving.” Don’t fight, don’t explain, just implement the consequence.
10. Be Unavailable
A great way to keep from feeling as though you have to see your mother is to simply be unavailable. Stay busy so that you don’t feel obligated to visit her. If she asks for you to come by at a different time than when you have agreed to meet, simply say that you can’t.
Having something else to do will let your narcissistic mother know that she is not the sole focus of your attention and you are willing to put your priorities first. This kind of tactic also ‘trains’ her to stick to your plan for contact.
Additionally, it can be a good way to transition to no-contact if that is something you really want to do. It can help you reduce the contact time, and eventually, you can stop seeing her altogether.
11. Don’t React Emotionally
When you’re with your narcissistic mother, the last thing you want to do is react emotionally to something she says or does. Narcissists want to get an emotional rise out of you. First, it lets them know what bothers you.
Once they know what bothers you, they will continue to push that button again and again. It’s how they can control you, but the other thing it does for them is that it makes them feel powerful.
Narcissists like the idea that they are puppet masters and can control the people around them. They will often manipulate people just to see what happens. By staying calm no matter what, you take that ability away from them.
12. Keep It Public
Narcissists are all about their image. They don’t want anyone to think they are less than perfect. This is particularly true for a narcissistic mother.
Not only does she want everyone to see her as perfect, but she needs them to also see she has the perfect family. It makes a statement about her mothering, and she wants everyone to see her as a great mother.
By meeting her in public locations, you can guarantee she will want to put on a show of the perfect family. She will avoid any kind of criticism or confrontation as long as other people are watching.
13. Don’t Show Your Hand
If you let your narcissistic mother know what your intentions are, she will do everything she can to undermine you. Narcissists are very clever at reading people and getting them to do what they want.
The more your narcissistic mother knows about your intentions, the more she can manipulate and control you. She already knows a lot since you’re her child, so don’t give her any more ammunition to work with.
Keep her in the dark so she can’t undermine what you plan to do. She can’t manipulate you and the people around you if she doesn’t know anything about your plans.
14. Use Grey Rock
As Dr. Ramani Durvasula says, narcissists aren’t “going on facts to start with. They’re going on their version of the truth.” That’s why you want to respond to any potentially confrontational statements with the grey rock method.
Grey rock means you behave like a boring grey rock. You don’t respond with any emotion. You don’t defend or explain; you just give short answers devoid of emotion. If your narcissistic challenges you by insisting, for example, that you were supposed to meet her at a specific time, just calmly say, “Well, I’m here now, so let’s get going.”
The more you make yourself an interesting target to a narcissist, the more they will try to manipulate you. They will play more games if they know how to get you upset.
15. Don’t Look for Approval
You’ve probably been trying to get your narcissistic mother’s approval your whole life. It’s not going to happen. Giving you approval would mean she is taking something away from herself – that’s how she views it.
She may sing your praises to other people when you’re not around, but that’s just because she wants them to praise her for raising you well. She needs the approval, and that’s why she will never give it to you.
You have to break free from the need to have your mother approve of you. Be the one who approves of yourself. Live your truth, and that’s all the approval you need.
16. Observe Her Behavior
A good way to break away from your narcissistic mother’s control is to detach yourself emotionally and simply observe her behavior. When you do that, you’ll start to understand the true nature of her own neediness.
You’ll see how she desperately seeks the spotlight and needs a constant supply of adoration. She can’t live without it, and it’s what drives every aspect of her behavior. That’s because she doesn’t have an internal emotional support system like healthy people.
When you see how tragic she really is, it breaks the spell of her control over you. You can see that it really is her, not you, and you can begin to really heal the damage she has done.
17. Take a Break
It’s absolutely necessary to take a break from your narcissistic mother every now and again. Consider it as a vacation from her abuse. Get away from her completely for a weekend or more; however frequently you need to process your emotions.
Healthy children often go days or even weeks without talking to their parents. There isn’t an unhealthy, distorted attachment because they have been raised to be independent. Your narcissistic mother raised you in the opposite way. She wanted you to be dependent on her.
Getting away from that altogether helps you build your own self-confidence. It lets you know that you can live without her. You don’t need her approval or help with your decisions. You can truly be your own support system. Give it a try, and you’ll be glad you did.
18. Walk Away from Confrontation
Your narcissistic mother will try to provoke confrontations as often as you will let her. If you make it a habit to simply walk away every time she tries to get you going, she will eventually learn that doesn’t work with you.
It’s tempting to argue with her, and she will say things that are difficult to walk away from, but if you buy into her argument, she has you right where she wants you. Instead, walk away when she becomes confrontational, and you will effectively disarm her.
If she says something provocative, just say, “Thank you, I’m leaving now.” Don’t explain, don’t defend yourself, just politely leave. That will cause her to change tactics quickly.
19. Consider Therapy
Your narcissistic mother did a lot of psychological damage to you, and while it is possible to heal on your own, you’ll likely make greater progress with a therapist. You’ll also likely make faster progress with a therapist.
A therapist can give an objective opinion that will help you see through the manipulation and control your narcissistic mother used to keep that narcissistic supply flowing. Sometimes you’re just too close to the emotional abuse to see it.
You’ve also become accustomed to it over the course of your life, and that can make you blind to it. A therapist can help you see the abuse, process your feelings, and truly heal the wounds your mother created.
A narcissistic mother is just about the most toxic childhood experience a person can have. Your mother is supposed to be supportive, nurturing, and loving, but a narcissistic mother is exactly the opposite of that. The wounds she created can be healed, but you need to minimize the contact you have with her to truly see the damage she has done. These techniques can help you prepare for low-contact if you can’t go no-contact.
If you’ve got a narcissistic mother and you’re preparing for low or no contact, you need this free copy of my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. It can help you recognize the emotional triggers your mother uses to control you, and it can help you heal that damage. Just click on the link and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
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