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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5762
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I would like some tips for adults about how to stop seeking

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I would like some tips for adults about how to stop seeking emotional approval from parents.
I'm 37 years old, unmarried with no children. I'm self employed and my work is going well.
My mother, who is now 67, is critical of what I do and what I say, often making comments or jokes. I don't make comments back. This has been going on for some years and realizing that I won't get her approval or basic respect, I have slowly but surely begun to withdraw from her company. In my childhood we were close, but now I don't share much of what goes on in my life. I have asked her to be more respectful and we have talked about it, but she doesn't seem to be able to stop herself. (She lives in a conflict-filled and quite angry relationship with my father)
I realize that her opinions should not really matter at this point in time, but I'm still saddened by her comments.
My sister got her first baby this year and I was relieved, because it meant less attention on me, so I could stay in the background. I realize that we are drifting apart, but I see no other solution. I would like some tools to handle this for myself.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 4 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.


It is very difficult to realize that you are not going to get the love and attention you need from your mother. Mothers are the source of comfort, nurturing and reassurance that we all need, no matter how old we get. So when your mother cannot put her own issues aside and takes them out on you instead, the loss is great.


One of the best ways of dealing with your situation is to recognize it as a loss. Just as if someone you love dies or you lose a job, you have suffered a loss. You cannot have that important connection that would fill your life with the love you seek. Your mother still may be around, but she is not the person you need her to be. She is actually being the opposite by abusing you. So you not only have a loss, but you are coping with abuse as well. Mourning your loss is important. You deserve time to feel sad and angry about your loss.


Another way to deal with the relationship is to move away emotionally, just as you did. People often feel guilty because they think that they should be close to their parents, no matter how they are treated. But nothing is further from the truth. If you are being abused in any way, you have the right to remove yourself from that relationship in order to protect yourself. Just because she is your mother does not mean she has the right to abuse you.


You may also want to set boundaries with her. When you need to be around her for family gathering or other occasions, try staying away. If she approaches you, tell her you do not want to talk and leave. If she tries to say anything to you, walk away. If she asks you why you do this, be truthful. Tell her that her comments hurt you and you do not want or need to hear them.


If you can, take someone with you to any gathering that you need to be near her. Not only does this provide support for you, but it can also deter her from trying to hurt you, especially if it's someone she does not know.


If you can, speak with another family member that is closer to your mother, maybe your sister. Your mother needs a check up with her doctor to see if there is something medically wrong to cause her behavior, especially if this was recent and you had a good relationship prior to her behavior change. If she is alright medically, then maybe it can be suggested to her to see a therapist. Dealing with your father and the stresses in her life may be more than she can handle. Talking about her problems may help her realize that she is taking out her feelings on you and she can find better ways to cope.


I hope this has helped you,

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