Jealousy or Mental Illness?



I had a very disturbing conversation with my mother Friday evening.  It brought back a flood of emotions from my childhood.  Her jealousy and contempt was laid bare, and she wasn’t even talking about me.

I have a very beautiful, vivacious, intelligent niece.  She excels at most everything she does, and is in accelerated classes in school.  She is a pleasure to be around, sincere, sensitive and sweet, not a malicious bone in her beautiful presence.  She was the target of my mother’s vitriol during dinner Friday night.

Our Friday evening dinner consisted of the usual, meat, carbohydrate and vegetable.  The vegetable was broccoli.  My mother did something I had never seen before: she dumped blue cheese salad dressing all over her broccoli.  I made the comment that the blue cheese on the vegetable was something new.  She told me that my niece, A, had introduced her to it, and she LOVED it.

She then said, that after the first time she had it, she sent A a thank you email for telling her about it.  She angrily said that A had never responded to the email.  My mother was beyond angry that she didn’t get a thank-you for the thank-you.  (This is the same person who will send you a card, and if you don’t immediately call and thank her for it, she gets extremely annoyed.)

At this point, the diatribe that my mother launched into has disturbed me since.

She told me that she had asked A if she had gotten her email about the dressing.  A said that she does not use email, she uses Instagram and Snapchat.  Nevertheless, she thanked my mother for sending the email.

My mother then sneered, and with a perverse smile on her face, she informed me that she likes to DIG at A about the email.

“I like to DIG her, I DIG at her every time I see her. I ask her about it every time I see her, just so I can get to her.”   DIRECT QUOTE.

I was stunned beyond speech.  I scrambled around in my brain for a response, yet came up completely empty.  HOW does one respond to something so disturbing?

As I tried to go to sleep that night, the conversation kept swirling around in my brain.  I couldn’t reconcile the contempt, hostility, and malicious hatefulness that I had witnessed emanating from my mother

All of the feelings from my childhood came flooding back.  Her contempt when my father paid any type of attention to me.  My confusion as a young girl as to why my mother would be SO angry with me, when I had done nothing but try to have a normal father daughter relationship.

The longer I thought about it, the pieces began to fall into place.

My mother had begun to refer to my brother, A’s father, as her HUSBAND.  Therefore, A was the competition that I had been.  A was no longer a niece that she should lavish love on, she was the rival for the affection that my mother felt should be showered on her by my brother, her husband replacement.

So, tell me, is that jealousy or is that deranged?   download

I know what I think.




11 thoughts on “Jealousy or Mental Illness?

  1. Oh, Lord. This is really hard stuff. Even more difficult when you realize there is little, if anything, to be done about it. I’m sorry you are having to deal with this kind of stuff. I personally know how hard it is to have our parents not be parents. It really sucks.

    • Thanks John. This has been a particularly difficult summer. Me and my crazy mother, and my husband trying to wrench the keys to the car out of his father’s 99 year old hands. Hence me riding up and down the east coast like I am going to the supermarket.
      So, if you take a trip to the Hamptons and see a small silver Honda, with no discernible driver, get off that road!

  2. I’ve been reading about parentification and narcissistic personality disorder, and what you describe sounds like it fits the pattern. I’m so sorry.

  3. Your mother sounds so much like mine that I wonder if I have a sister that I did not know about. No advice here. Just cyber support.

  4. Oh yes, triplets maybe? I also have a narcissistic mother and only recently found the label for it. She too sends cards and expects an immediate call (but never picks up the phone to call herself). Ugh, I could go on! This conversation is so familiar to me. Good for you for starting to shine light on it. Carry on!

  5. I heard a speech from a philosopher I listen to often and he talked about mothers who “trade” their husbands in for the son. It is very toxic for all involved and can cause quite a lot of mental issues down the road for everyone else. It sounds like a much much deeper problem than jealousy.
    During my wedding, my wife and I received a gift from my aunt. My mom had the idea to do our thank you cards at the actual wedding which seemed odd and a little strange to me but I was like “okay fine, whatevs” not the end of the world. Anyway, 6months later I saw my aunt at another wedding and I guess she had been stewing over the absence of a personal thank you card and completely ripped a new one into my wife and I. I was astounded and in shock really. I guess for me, if I give someone a gift, whether a wedding, birthday, Xmas or just because- I don’t need so much as a skittle in return. I give it because I want to give it. Anyways, I don’t think the issue with your mom had anything to do with an email. Sorry I’m ranting. Have a good week. 🙂

  6. I would say mental illness because the scenario that you describe seems to pass the realm of jealousy, especially the way your mom seems to have baited your niece, refers to your brother as her husband, and lashed out at our innocent, unsuspecting niece. I suspect my mom was jealous of me as I was growing up too, but like you, I am only now beginning to see it. Thank you for sharing this post.

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