Navigating Life with a Toxic Mother: 7 Strategies for Survival When Leaving Isn’t an Option

Navigating Life with a Toxic Mother: 7 Strategies for Survival When Leaving Isn’t an Option navigating life with a toxic mother: 7 strategies for survival when leaving isn’t an option
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We often discuss the importance of leaving a toxic relationship, but what happens when leaving isn’t an immediate option? Toxic relationships often have a gray area where you become aware of your parent’s or partner’s toxic behavior but are unable to leave due to various reasons, such as lack of support, absence of a solid exit plan, financial constraints, lack of inner strength, feelings of hope, environmental challenges, fear, intimidation, or disability-related challenges.

This position can be incredibly challenging as you are now aware of their abusive tendencies, and once you see something, it cannot be unseen. Living under the same roof with a manipulative and conniving individual, such as a toxic mother, will greatly affect your mental health, emotionally and mentally draining you.

Ideally, leaving the situation would be the best solution, but when circumstances do not allow, it’s important to develop strategies to minimize the damage. In this article, we will explore 7 strategies and coping mechanisms to help you survive and maintain your sanity when you can’t physically distance yourself from a toxic mother or parent. These tips can also be helpful if you are seeking to survive a relationship with a narcissist where leaving is not an immediate option.

Always remember that leaving is the best option, but when you can’t, these tips will help you navigate those difficult times.

1. Set and Understand Your Boundaries

One of the most important steps when dealing with a toxic mother you’re staying with is understanding your boundaries. Write down the things that are within and beyond your control in that household. Identify the things you cannot tolerate from them. If they push you to do something you don’t want to do, you have the right to refuse. You don’t have to say yes to everything they demand or take their baits. Stick to what you can do.

Toxic mothers often nudge and test your limits through their unrealistic demands. Without a clear understanding of your boundaries, you may find yourself constantly bending over backward to please them and avoid upsetting them. It’s important to understand that having boundaries is your personal choice, and you shouldn’t expect them to respect your boundaries. They will most definitely cross those boundaries, but it’s your job to maintain them as much as possible. Having and understanding your boundaries will also help you recognize what’s within your control when negative thoughts arise due to what you’ve done or not done.

By knowing your boundaries, you won’t fall prey to their unrealistic expectations or emotional manipulation because you know there’s only so much you can do. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of boundaries, take some time to research and learn about it.

2. Have Zero Expectations

To live “peacefully” with a toxic mother, you have to let go of any expectations. When you have expectations, you set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. You might expect them to understand your illness, remember your birthday, or provide for you because they are your mother, but that’s rarely the case.

Once someone starts verbally abusing you or treating you with contempt, it’s important to see them for who they are and not as who you wish they were. By lowering the importance, you give to your abusive mother and seeing them for their abusive actions instead of the loving mother you wish they were, you can reduce the hurt they inflict upon you.

Lowering your expectations also means accepting that your mother may never change her toxic behavior, and that’s okay. You’re not waiting for an epiphany or a change in her behavior; you’re simply protecting yourself by having zero expectations.

3. Practice Self-Care

Your self-care starts now, not after you leave that relationship. Self-care means taking care of yourself and nurturing your emotional well-being. Whether it’s secretly doing yoga, enjoying fresh smoothies, journaling, or meditating in your room, do it for yourself. They don’t have to know what you’re doing or that you’re taking care of yourself.

They may call you names, discourage you from self-care, or stock the fridge with junk food, but you must do whatever it takes to protect yourself. The more you prioritize self-care on a daily basis, the more you weed out the negative energy they try to feed you. Don’t allow those weeds to settle in your head. Even when you don’t feel like it, keep doing it. Be consistent, and gradually you will lessen the stressful effects of their daily torment.

4. It’s Okay to Lie

To cope with living with a narcissistic mom, understand that it’s okay to lie as long as you’re doing it with awareness. Don’t feel guilty about lying occasionally regarding your activities or whereabouts. Sometimes, lying is necessary to avoid confrontations and maintain temporary peace. Morality doesn’t apply when you’re in deep emotional pain and your mother constantly hurts you.

You lie to protect your peace from someone who has made your life a living hell. It’s acceptable to act busy even when you’re not, just to avoid them. Use this as a last resort when you’re aware of the consequences. You’re merely surviving and minimizing the damage they inflict on you.

5. Don’t Fall for Their Rare Love Bombs

Once in a while, your toxic mom may have moments of treating you well or doing something unexpected. They may cook for you, buy you a gift, or behave out of character. Due to settling for less, you might exaggerate their generous actions and start hoping for a change in their behavior, only to be blindsided by a bombshell a few days later. Be vigilant and return to the realistic picture of who they are.

When they compliment you or shower you with love, acknowledge it without attributing too much meaning to it. It doesn’t erase the fact that they have been hurting you for like 360 days a year.

6. Build Your Support Network

Your toxic mother may smear your name and label you as a bad or lazy child to your cousins, siblings, and extended family. She may display superficial charm in family functions, and other family members may respect her for it. This isolation can make it difficult to seek support from your family, as they will mostly side with and trust your mother, dismissing your claims.

Even your favorite aunt, who may also be your mom’s close friend, won’t keep your decision to leave the relationship or family a secret. In fact, she may suggest building bridges which will worsen things for you, considering your manipulative mother’s solid façade to the outside world. In short, your immediate support network may be of little help in emotionally or physically supporting you in navigating that unhealthy environment.

That’s why it’s important to start building a solid support network. Seek support from trusted friends or family members who know you well. They can provide validation and emotional support as you navigate the relationship. A reliable support network can also assist you with basic needs or offer a place to stay if you want to start a new chapter in your life. Online forums can be a great platform to share your experiences with other survivors and realize that you’re not alone.

If you can’t afford therapy, look for free resources (check some here) or do a quick Google search for low-cost or free mental health resources in your area. The key is to find someone who can encourage you and validate your experiences, so you don’t lose your sanity when those close to you refuse to believe you.

7. Understand What’s Making You Dependent on Them

The last step is to make a list of things that are keeping you in that relationship. It could be money, fear and intimidation, sickness, guilt, or lack of support.

Once you have that list, focus all your energy on creating a list of things you can do to bridge the gap between staying and leaving the relationship.

If it’s money, start saving up, studying an online course, or seeking funds that can help you exit the relationship. The more you build your financial stability, the more you’ll see leaving as a possibility. If you lack support or a strong network of trusted friends, start building or seeking out friends who can help and even offer you a place to stay during the transition.

By consistently taking these steps, you’ll realize that you can actually survive on your own and leave the relationship. Remind yourself every day of what’s keeping you in the relationship and what actions you can take to bridge those gaps. It’s as if you’re actively searching for an exit, even when you’re unsure of where to start.


Surviving a toxic relationship with your family is not easy, but you can take small steps to protect yourself from further harm and avoid soaking in their negativity. Just because they are family doesn’t mean you have to stick with them or be with them forever. When someone is hurtful to you and brings harm into your life, it’s best to look beyond labels and focus on their actions. Always remember that your mental health and emotional well-being are more important than anything else.

While your mother may have taken care of you in the past or experienced painful circumstances that made her toxic, it doesn’t give her the right to treat you like a doormat. Your awareness of her toxicity gives you the opportunity to break generational cycles.

By rising above abuse and working on yourself, you’re showing your family lineage that it ends with you. You’re creating a loving environment for future generations, including your children, and becoming a beacon of hope for others who may be unaware of what they’re going through. Your situation may be unique or different, but don’t lose hope. Keep holding onto hope and breathing, because one day you will find your way out.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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