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I just wanted some help. I’m 18. Lately I have been really confused if my mother is overtly controlling or I’m just a frustrated teen or it is dysfunctional household. I really don’t know where to start.

  1. So since I was young I have always been slapped as a form of discipline and I’m still slapped, punched or even choked (for like five seconds)[the choking started around 2 years ago]. I think my mom didn’t really meant to hurt me but I think she only did this to like instil a sense of fear.
  2. Even I was around 10, I had not studied for a test and my mom was mad at me and scolding me so while scolding me she suddenly started throwing stuff at me, I clearly remember she threw a pen then a notebook and a glass. And the glass directly hit my forehead and I got two stitches. Every one else was told that I had slipped on my own. This was the only time i was really like physically hurt by her. (Even tho she did not mean to)
  3. Now, she constantly mocks the way I speak even though I have clear speech and then continually critiques my weight and how fat my hips are. She even showed me her pictures and told me that she was the “slimmest person”. I even have stretch marks and she makes fun of them and once even told me to not wear bikinis. Then once she was talking to her sister and she thought I was asleep but I heard it. She said that my little sister is more beautiful and all that she can see on my face is my wide nose and I’m not pretty.
  4. She makes me wear the same clothes as my little sister (who is 7 years younger that me). A couple of times I have told her that I don’t want to wear the same clothes but she says that she paid for it and that I’m ungrateful. And one day she even told me that this was the last time I was “rebelling” against her and if I say anything against her I will face the consequences. And then one day we were having the same conversation and she hit her head twice on her own palm very hard and I have never talked to her about it again. She has also said that you can’t wear shorts because papa said no and also said that “I know you want to wear organ displaying clothes” (whereas all I ask for is my own individuality because I am really interested in fashion)
  5. I’m not allowed to go out. Like hang out with friends. Since I was 14-15 I always wanted to but my mother had often mentioned in conversations that she does feel the need for friends to hang out after school if they stay together in school anyways. Even If I go out I have tell her everything ranging from the people and even come back and show her the pictures. For example, I went to my best friend of 14 years birthday and 1 house into it she started calling and asking me when I will be back.
  6. I am also not allowed to have social media. I don’t have any Instagram. The only thing I have is Snapchat that keep logged out all the time and is hidden so she does not know about it. The chats I have with friends, I delete as soon as possible because my phone is only given to me for study purposes. Whenever I talk on call she just comes into my room and sits there and listens to all of it and then afterwards asks about what I talked about.
  7. I am also not allowed to date. Because girls with “honour don’t date” (I don’t know what this means either ).
  8. She also constantly tells me that she does not make me do many chores so I should be thankful and just study. On times she has also mentioned that she was married away at 21(she had and arranged marriage) so I should be lucky that I have this opportunity.(am I am grateful but idk sometimes things just don’t add up)
  9. She is not very supportive to the lgbt+ community even tho I tried to sit her down and talk about it. She also not supportive to inter caste and inter – religion marriages. It is not that I have just given into her rules, I have tried to sit her down and tried to give my own reasons for not liking some stuff that she does but she always evens the conversation but saying that I am a rebellious teenager and then warns me if I don’t change my ways she will see herself. So at this point I have just given up and just say ok to everything because I can’t argue or talk anymore and so came here to make myself understand first.
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  • Thankyou so much ! I’m sorry for sounding so entitled in point 8 but what I meant to say was that having “opportunities” to study and having my own financial independence after. Well I think is not because I am lucky but I think it is my right to have my own take on life atleast once. And I also do sometimes worry for my sister. Something I can clearly see at right now is that she tells my sister too that she is fat. A lot of times when I’m alone with my sister I have tried to instill into her that she is beautiful and she should be affected. But I personally think that the negative words said
    – Sarah
    Jun 29 at 11:36
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    You don't sound entitled in 8. Parents should support their children's education. Your mother is wrong to make it sound like a privilege. Your priority should be to get you and your sister out from your mothers control. Which country do you live in? Are there any relatives who might help? Jun 30 at 6:04
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    Please note that to some degree, what is considered "normal" parenting is sensitive to cultural morality. Because you mention "inter caste [..] marriages", I suspect that your culture is notably different from a general Western culture, which means that the answers you receive might not fully match your own culture. You may receive better quality anwers by specifying where you are from (culturally speaking, not exact location).
    – Flater
    Aug 20 at 13:10
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On items 1 and 2: corporal punishment is a controversial issue that I won't get into here, but punching, choking and throwing things are definitely over the line. This is not discipline, it is child abuse. The big red flag is that the cut to your head was explained away with lies. If this was actual discipline she would not have felt ashamed of it.

Take a look at this page on how to discipline a child. Note the emphasis on clear limits, talking calmly, and clear notice of consequences.

Now compare it with the Cycle of Abuse, where a period of growing tension ends when the abuser suddenly tips over into anger and violence, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm before the cycle begins again. Think about the those slaps. Where they delivered as a calm response to continued naughtiness after a warning, or were they part of a sudden outburst of anger? A slap as a consequence ("If you do that again I shall slap you.") might be considered reasonable, but if it happens suddenly because she has lost her temper then that is abuse, not discipline.

In item 2 you say "even tho she did not mean to". This is something that victims of abuse often say. They are always finding excuses for the abuser. "They didn't mean to hurt me". "It was my fault for making them angry". Does that sound familiar? If someone hits you it is their responsibility, not yours. If you are injured by them it is their fault, not an accident. The first thing you need to do is to stop making excuses for your mother's bad behaviour.

3. Now she constantly mocks [things about me].

That is psychological abuse. A mother should be loving and supportive. Constructive criticism and guidance is fine, but not mocking.

then one day we were having the same conversation and she hit her head twice on her own palm very hard

That is emotional blackmail. It is not acceptable behaviour. She presumably feels she can't hit you any more, so she hits herself instead to punish you with guilt. And it worked. So one thing you need to do is to make sure that next time it doesn't work. If she tries that one, respond calmly with "I'm not going to stop you hurting yourself. But it's not going to change anything". And then wait for her to stop. I expect that once she discovers it doesn't work she will try something less personally painful.

I won't go through items 4-7 individually, except to say that while some of them might be appropriate for a 13 year old they are definitely over-controlling for an 18 year old. Especially making you share clothes with an 11 year old.

Incidentally, how does she treat your sister, and any other siblings? If she abused you, she is probably abusing them. You need to think about your siblings as well as yourself. I'm sorry for the abuse you have suffered, but one of the things now is to ensure that your siblings don't suffer the same way.

8, She also constantly tells me that she does not make me do many chores so I should be thankful and just study. On times she has also mentioned that she was married away at 21(she had and arranged marriage) so I should be lucky that I have this opportunity.(am I am grateful but idk sometimes things just don’t add up)

One thing that children learn from their parents is how to be a parent. Its quite possible that she is simply treating you the way that she was treated as a child because in her experience that is what parents do. If she was married off at 21 without much say over her husband then it is certainly good that she is not planning to do the same thing to you, and her wish for you to study, and then presumably get a good job, is the one good thing you have to say in what is otherwise a pretty dire indictment. (And I would second her advice on this, because financial independence is the first step to getting out from the poisonous environment she has created).

From your references to arranged marriage and caste I infer that your parents are from India, although you don't say where you live. Under Indian law you are now a legal adult. Most other countries have the same age of majority. You can find a job and move out, and your mother can't stop you. However that doesn't solve the problem for your sister and any other siblings.

Normally I would suggest trying to have an adult-adult conversation with your mother in which you lay down some ground rules and try to reach an agreement on how you are going to live together. However I have a nasty feeling that any such conversation would go downhill pretty quickly unless you can be very strong. You would need to stay 100% calm while sticking to your guns, and it would not be surprising if you can't do that.

I think this calls for professional help. Depending on the country you live in, you may be able to involve social services. Like I said above you are now an adult, but your sibling(s) still need protection. You may also be able to get leverage over your mother by threatening to involve them. However that can easily turn into just another move in the ongoing game that you and your mother are playing. If you tell us where you live we may be able to point you in the right direction.

Where does the money in your household come from, and who controls it? I'm guessing your mother controls it absolutely, but can you get any? Money can be an important lever, and control of money is often a part of a controlling relationship.

You might find ideas from Transactional Analysis useful in understanding how you and your mother interact. Your item 9 in particular sounds like what TA calls a "crossed transaction". Think about whether you and your mother are taking the roles of Parent, Child or Adult in this conversation.

Finally, its likely that one day you will be a mother yourself. Think about what I said earlier about how parents learn from how they were treated as children. Look for some other models about how to be a mother.

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You are not mistaken. This is dysfunctional, controlling, and abusive - on many levels.

In both US and UK, and probably many other countries, this would be illegal assault and abuse to an adult. In the UK, also a criminal offence of controlling coercive behavior. When you were a legal minor, it would have been child abuse. It's that serious and real. Its not a "grey area" or ambiguous, at all.

Ive had friends and a partner who suffered this kind of thing. It takes years to believe its possible, and real, and not "just you". Abusers learn that abuse includes making a victim believe its not abuse, or its appropriate, or its not such a big thing, or for your "own good", or its the other person thats at fault. Don't blame yourself.

What to do? Im not sure. The long term answer is move out as soon as you can. Find some other place safe, and just take what matters to you, and go somewhere else. That's not always easy. Ive never been in that situation, so I cant advise specifics, although I've made some suggestions at the end of this.

That said, this may help considerably......

  1. Add to the question, what country/state you're in. The law, and the social or other networks, that may help you, vary a lot by location.

  2. If you're in the UK, read this. If you aren't, read it anyway, as background, although it wont legally apply to you. Its the UK Crown Prosecution Service's (CPS) charging guide for police, for the crime of coercive controlling behaviour, which outline what constitutes that crime in the UK, and other relevant information about it. It may give you an eye opener, and show how serious it is.

This is the definition that the guide starts with. It may sound disturbingly familiar...:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour

  • When your mother slaps, punches, or chokes you, thats physical assault. Its a crime everywhere. Being a mother, or that you arent being "really" hurt, or if she "didnt mean to", does not change that.

    Its a criminal act. Its assault.

  • When she threatens to assault or harm you, or makes you fear even briefly, that you just * might * be imminently assaulted (even if it doesnt happen), that's also still a crime. I dont know what it's called in other places, but it's a crime.

    Its a criminal act as well. Its putting another person in fear they will be imminently assaulted (even if only for a moment and even if physical contact didnt actually happen)

  • When your mother physically assaults you. When she tries (and succeeds) to instil fear or threatens you with "consequences". When she mocks how you speak, undermines your self belief (looks and weight and stretch marks). When she makes you wear humiliating or unsuitable clothing (unsuited for your age or that humiliates or distresses you). When she tells you that you are "ungrateful" or "rebelling" if you don't agree with what she wants. When she tells you that you should be "thankful" and "grateful" for the way she treats you and the few things she lets you have. When she insists you tell her everything/show pictures when you have seen with friends. When she "gaslights" you (look it up or ask a friend, it means trying to convince you to doubt what you yourself feel and believe).

    Those are all coercive behaviours.

  • When at 18, she stops you seeing friends and hanging out. When she calls you inappropriately, to disrupt or to order you home. When she forbids you to have social media, chat to friends, and forces you to hide communications with your friends. When she insists on monitoring and listening in to all voice calls. When she feels free to enter your room whenever she wants to, and deprives you of reasonable privacy for your own life. When she says you are not allowed to date.

    Those are all controlling behaviours.

The CPS guide continues....

In many cases the conduct might seem innocent - especially if considered in isolation of other incidents - and the victim may not be aware of, or be ready to acknowledge, abusive behaviour. The consideration of the cumulative impact of controlling or coercive behaviour and the pattern of behaviour ... is crucial.

The guide specifically advises investigators of this kind of abusive behaviour, of a list of common examples of criminally abusive coercive controlling behaviours to be aware of. They include, no surprise:

  • Isolating a person...
  • Monitoring their time
  • Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear..
  • Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless
  • Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim
  • Threats to hurt
  • Threats to harm a child
  • Assault
  • Family 'dishonour'
  • Limiting access to friends
  • ....... (Others Ive left out, go read)......

You didnt mention money, but that's on the list too, if she limits or controls it and insists on knowing how you used it, or stops you accessing it by yourself.

All of which means.....

You are doing exactly right. Checking for yourself and sensing things arent right. Its way way beyond "just a bit dysfunctional". I wish there was an easier solution. All I can say is, right track and horribly sorry you have to escape this, and dont have the caring parent anyone should.

If you need more specific help, please ask here, or a suitable support place, or friends, or especially, past teachers. (Your past school will probably feel supportive and have trained people to at least help you know where to look for help, and they'll know you well).

It will really help to get good answers if you edit the question to say what country/state you're in, too.

Take care to hide this, too! Good luck!

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