Elenor is a 29 year old woman, who is very upset about the relationship with her mum. ‘I always tried to do my best, I crave a compliment from her and I sooooooo want her to love me. Yet, I feel misunderstood, rejected and a ‘bad girl’. That is what I take away when I have seen her or spoken to her. How can that be? I have tried so hard and she never seems to grasp what I am saying.’ Elenor elaborated on the relationship and the way she and her mother communicated.
She gives an example of a recent fall-out and how they dealt with it. Elenor and her mother had an argument over the phone about, of course, Elenor not living up to her mum’s expectations and she got so angry she slammed down the phone.
Thinking it through she decided to write a letter and explain to her mum how this conversation (and lots of others in the past) made her feel worthless and she wondered if her mother knew the effect of their interactions on her. After the letter was sent, she waited eagerly for a reaction. Nothing happened. So, Elenor decided to call and make an appointment to discuss the letter. However, every time she mentioned the letter, her mum said, ‘oh yes, that letter. I don’t even know where it is now’ and ‘another hysterical outburst from your side’. Elenor left completely deflated and sad. Her hopes and expectations of at least having an interaction were trashed, again.
I compared her situation to a tennis game. She was taking the service, but her mum saw all the balls as out, so she did not return. On other occasions when her mother played the ball, she would volley them totally out of reach. So, Elenor could not return, even if she wanted to. Her mother did not want to play, and as you can’t play a tennis game by yourself there was nothing happening. Elenor could go on forever, playing balls over the net, but it would never result in a real game.
Do you feel that sometimes in a relationship, when you try everything you can to engage the other person, to get them to understand something or to create an exchange, you are the player who is offering the balls, but never gets any of them returned?
Tips on how to play the game with someone who doesn’t want to
If someone doesn’t want to engage, you will notice that they are either dismissive, judgmental or not interested. Notice that!!!
Check who is doing ‘the work’….. If that is you, I would recommend you stop trying so hard and wait and see what happens. Most likely nothing. Notice that!!!
Think through what you want to gain from the interaction and do a reality check. Elenor wanted to feel understood and connected to her mother, however, her mum wasn’t interested so it was never going to happen. No matter how hard Elenor was trying.
Change your expectation and accept that the other person doesn’t want to play with you…
After years of a very bad relationship with my mother I have decided to not have a relationship and cut the cords. No more tennis for me. It was a tough decisions and the process was long, but I am in a better place now.