The Dark Side of Miscommunication

Communication is good. Communication is what's kept people from killing each other for eons. Okay, maybe communication and restraining orders, but you know what I mean.

What happens when communication fails?

Sadness. Misery. War.

In my case, the loss of a very important relationship.

It all happened very innocently. I said something to my mother and she misheard me. Unfortunately, I didn't know that she'd misheard me until almost a year later. By then, there was so much resentment and hurt built up that our communication skills were zero.

To this day my mom thinks I said what she misheard and there isn't anything I can do to convince her otherwise. It doesn't even matter anymore what I did or didn't say. What lingers is the fact that my mom has removed herself from my life.

We used to be close, my mom and I. We could talk for hours about everything and anything. We would joke that even after spending an entire day together, we still had more to say.

And then that day happened when she thought I said something and it made her mad. So mad that she doesn't call me any more. Ever. I think in the eighteen months since it happened, she's called me once and that was because I left a message asking her to. She didn't call me on my birthday this year and, in spiteful retaliation, I didn't call her on Mother's Day.

I wasn't proud of my decision, but I was hurt and tired of being the villain.

That's sort of the role I've been put in where my mom and sisters are concerned. My oldest sister spent several weeks in SoCal over the summer and I heard a great deal about how freaked out Mom was to see me and that she was afraid I'd yell at her. I felt as if I was solely to blame for the downfall of our relationship.

Okay, it's true when I saw my mom before Christmas last year (nearly 7 months after the incident), I let loose on her and told her everything that was making me upset. I cried, I yelled, I used swear words. I wasn't a nice person. Somehow I felt justified in my anger because my mom had abandoned me. At least, that's how I saw it.

At the end of the visit I thought we'd worked through the BS and we'd be good again. I was wrong.

As my sisters told me over the summer, all I did was make Mom terrified of me. So afraid, that when the four of us met for dinner, she was a nervous wreck. I spent the summer second-guessing myself and wondering what kind of monster I really was.

All of this because she misheard me. Forty-four years of love and friendship wiped away because she thought I said something that she didn't like. It was insane to me that she could just dismiss me and my family so easily, but I refused to believe our relationship was damaged beyond repair. And so I made the effort to connect with her.

In September I took Mom out to high tea for her birthday. It was the first time we saw each other alone since that time last December and I was a little worried how it would go.

We had a great time. We talked like we did in the past and we were able to relax, although it was more restrained than in times past. I could tell she was wary and so I tried extra hard to be sweet, not confrontational at all. Basically, to not give her any reason to fear me. It felt good, but it was awkward, too. Maybe I made it that way, I don't know.

Since then, I've called her a few times, but she hasn't called me. Sometimes I feel like that movie, “He's just not that into you”. Like, maybe I shouldn't keep chasing her because, well, she's just not that into me.

It hurts, but if I'm the only one trying to keep a relationship alive, then at some point I need to realize the energy and emotional toll it takes might not be worth the reward.

The holidays are coming up and I know I won't call my mom to invite her to Thanksgiving or Christmas. I don't want to put her in a position of saying no to me because she's going to my sister's house. Instead, I'll go to my in-laws and plaster a smile on my face, trying to enjoy the festivities with his family.

I'll eat turkey and sweet potatoes, give thanks for the wonderful family I have, but I'll also be thinking about my real family and how much I miss them.

So, in this time of Thanksgiving, I will be grateful for all that I have in this world and that includes a mother who I know loves me, but has perhaps just forgotten how to communicate with me.

Has miscommunication ever severed a relationship with you? How did you get past it and heal?


39 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Miscommunication”

  1. HartfordHartford

    OMG! I am simply speechless. Speechless!
    Ok – first – my heart breaks for you because I can see and feel how desperately hurt you are. And quite honestly, you have every right.
    Your mom should have just called you or approached you after she misheard you and addressed the situation then and there. I don’t care what it was, I don’t care how hurt or upset she was. You are adults with a close, loving relationship and that’s what adults do. They speak up, they are honest, they are forthcoming. They don’t play games!
    Number two, I think when the truth finally did come out, she should have just believed you that you didn’t say what she heard? What’s the deal with hanging on with such a grudge against your own child? How’s that healthy, loving or productive for either of you? I mean, hanging on to that kind of anger and resentment is just unhealthy….why wouldn’t she assume the best in your? What’s the point of thinking you’d like?
    Tameri, I did awful things to my mother. AWFUL! I stole from her, I mistreated her, I lied to her, I said foul things to her, I disprespectd her, I assaulted her. Over and over again! As a teen and AS an adult! And my mother physically, verbally and emotionally abused me until I was about 11 years old. We were very unkind to each other. We had a volatile and violent relationship and WE MANAGED to get past it. We forgave. We choose to see the best in each other. We accepted that each of us did the best we could with what we knew and when we knew better, we did better.
    That’s what you do!
    You’ve made that effort. You’ve reached out. You’ve tried.
    I agree, at some point you are going to have to let go. At some point you’ll just have to say to her “you know, I love you, I want a relationship with you, and I am here whenever you are ready to start over…but I am going to let go and stop trying to force something that you aren’t ready for…but know that my door is always open to you…” and then you’ll need to let go…and hope…and accept.
    You can’t control anyone else unfortunately – all you can control is yourself.
    I have a brother that I never speak to. I tried. I reached out. I tried and tried and tried. And to this day, I have no idea what the issue is. But in the end, I had to give up. The emotional toll it took was too great. I told him I loved him and wished him nothing but happiness. And yes it hurts but…I am simply not everyone’s cup of tea. Shrug!
    I am sooo sorry…I am sending you a huge hug…and if you want to talk more offline, just fire me an email…I wish I had words that could heal your hurt. I wish your Mom would pull her head out of her butt but?!?!?!
    Miscommunications SUCKS!
    And in the end, what’s it matter?!?! What’s it matter even if YOU did say whatever it is she heard. Relationships are hard – no matter what! But unconditional love is about forgiveness. Forgiveness and acceptance. And it takes that level of commitment to always be willing to work it out that makes or breaks relationships.
    I hope someday she opens her heart and releases the anger so that she can let you in once again because…you…are…a…gem! Until then…try to find comfort in your knowing your heart is open and quite honestly, that’s all YOU can do!
    HUGS and luv….MUAH…xoxoxox

  2. Debra KristiDebra Kristi

    My heart goes out to you Tameri. Hartford pretty much summed up everything I had to say perfectly. You are an amazing person. It breaks my heart that your mother wouldn’t make the effort to clear up the misunderstanding immediately. Or even now, do everything in her power to put the hurt behind you both. But you are only human, and you can do only so much. It’s so very sad. She’s hurting herself and hurting you, and as a result you are both losing precious time together. But it appears you have done all that you can do. Now you can only let her know your door is open when and if she’s ready. I know that doesn’t make it any easier. I am here if you ever need to talk. PM me off-line. I’ve been told I am a really good listener.

    Sending tons of healing hugs and love your way!

  3. Tiffany A WhiteTiffany A White

    Oh, Tameri. I’m so sorry for the lapse in communication with your mom. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that my mom wears her heart on her sleeve worse than anyone I know. Maybe it’s their generation? I am usually a very blunt person, and I don’t tend to shy away from calling it as I see it with my mom, but luckily she understands my personality as much as I do hers. I can’t say that I’ve ever suffered the type of miscommunication like you have, but if it helps, I don’t think you have done anything wrong. Honestly, I wish I could hug you right now.

  4. Lissa ClouserLissa Clouser

    Oh, Tameri, I am so very sorry for you. *gives you a great big hug* At the very least it seems you have tried with all that you can to repair the relationship that has been damaged, but I know trying still doesn’t feel the same as succeeding. I hope for you that time will continue to heal things and that your relationship with your mother will continue to improve. I understand that you can only do so much, try so much. But I am proud of you for being the adult and doing your best to make amends, especially for something that wasn’t even intentional and you didn’t even realize had happened in the first place. I’m sending you lots of hugs and good wishes/thoughts!

    I’ve had something similar happen, but no where near to the scale that you have. I had a dear pen pal friend from Europe and we were very very close for about 2 years. We talked consistently, shared everything. It was like having the best friend I’d never quite had at that time. Then something happened (neither of us is really sure what it was exactly) and it abruptly ended. For nearly 3 years. I was heartbroken and had days where I really struggled with it. I don’t think I realized how much that person meant to me until they were gone. But now we’re talking again, we both made the effort to make amends even though we don’t know what caused it in the first place. It’s starting slow, it certainly isn’t what it used to be and we know it will never be the same again. He missed me dating my husband and getting married, I missed him meeting and getting engaged to his wonderful fiancee. We feel like we missed out on a huge chunk of each other’s lives, but it’s something and we’re getting there.

    Keep your head up and do what your heart tells you to do. If it gets to be too much, remember that you have tried and you can always try again when/if you feel ready to. It seems you still love her and you believe she still loves you too, so in the end that is what really matters! May things continue to improve!!! *more hugs*

  5. Marion SpicherMarion Spicher

    Mother/daughter relationships are unique and sometimes fragile. The transition from teacher, disciplinarian, and a long list of other mother traits … to friend … is a difficult one. I always felt a little judged by my mother because I was so very different. Whether she judged or not, I’ll never know, but we did not understand some key things about each other. Eventually, we drew close again and I cared for her in my home for 3 years.

    So many families are fractured by things that cut more deeply to the heart than we can imagine, but insecurity, rejection,fear and pride stand in front of the line as culprits. Forgiveness and healing takes time. If you are able to keep working to reconnect with her, I hope you can do it with compassion for her, rather than thinking of her reaction as a rejection of you. It is impossible for most mothers to reject their daughters, but a mother feeling as though she has failed is common and is a hot button. I don’t remember my successes with my 3 daughters, but I remember many failures, and there must be scores of incidents that they felt and I didn’t know about. Fortunately we are gifted with the ability to forgive. I am comforted to know I did my best. I’m pulling for you both Tameri, with all my heart.

  6. Rebekah LoperRebekah Loper

    Tameri, my heart hurts for you!
    I’ve been blessed, and I have a good relationship with my mother, even if it is awkward at times.
    I’ve had the flip-side of things – making the difficult, but right, decision to limit the interaction I have with my father, even to the point of unfriending him on facebook and ignoring most his phone calls. It’s difficult, because he and my mom are still married, but they’re definitely not happy, and he’s extremely manipulative and verbally abusive.
    I would rather have miscommunication with him, than escaping abuse, because then there would at least be the hope of reconciliation.
    I’ll be praying for you and your mom!

  7. tamikaeasontamikaeason

    Tameri, this breaks my heart. A mother and daughter relationship is so tender and telling- we are shaped or shattered in these moments.

    I will keep you both lifted in prayer.

  8. Kate MacNicolKate MacNicol

    Tameri, I am so sorry. I’ve had a lot of issues with my Mom and it’s one of the most painful things to work through. All your other friends have given wise advice here so in order not to repeat anything they’ve said I’m going to offer another attack. On your blog, it’s evident you love your family, your husband, your children. You talk about love, laughter and family things with fun and passion. As a mother yourself, you would never do this to one of your children.

    During the holidays, I know you’ll feel pain but make certain as much as you can that you are “with” the family you’re spending time with. Don’t go through the motions. Dive in. Be in the moment with the people who love you and the people you’re with. You are the sweet, kind, loving person THEY want to be with. Be you. Love YOU. LOVE THEM. They don’t want you to be sad and kids can tell when you’re going through the motions. During or after the holidays when thoughts of Mom rise to the surface you can think about the good memories YOU MADE with your kids and husband in spite of this bad situation. BE with them, not with her and the pain. You deserve better. I pray someday it gets all worked out but for now, take care of you and your precious family.

    I wish California wasn’t so far away. I wish we had touchy-feelly internet…. Well that sounds creepy, See? Miscommunication. LOL… Anyhooo, it’s just my messed up way of saying I wish I could just hug you to pieces. Hope this helps. Kate MacNicol

  9. Angela Orlowski-PeartAngela Orlowski-Peart

    Dear Tameri, I am so sorry. Relationship between mother and daughter can be so delicate. I have gone through a sad conflict with my own mom a while ago although we have worked out our differences. Maybe with time you and your mom will feel better around each other. I really hope so. Be strong, my dear friend. Tomorrow is another day. Huge hugs.

  10. Coleen PatrickColeen Patrick

    Oh my what a heartfelt story–I wish I had some wise advice. One of my sisters stopped talking to me for almost 2 years over what I assume was a miscommunication. We recently got together and even though it was kinda weird and we didn’t really fix things, i did feel some sort of relief. I hope you can find some peace in your situation!!
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. JulieJulie

    I am so sorry that you have had this rift with your mother and it’s for no good reason. It makes me think something deeper must be going on with her because it is so clear that you’ve done everything you can to repair the relationship.

    I think we’ve all had relationships torn apart for no good reasons, but this one is especially painful. I hope you and your mother can work it out and in the meantime, I’m sending virtual hugs!

  12. Jenny HansenJenny Hansen


    There is nothing harder to bear than a parent who does not see you. The real you. The you that yearns to feel loved and valued by that parent.

    Obviously I have experience in this subject and I can only say that you need to live well and make yourself happy. You can invite the parent to be part of that, but if they don’t want to, at some point it will destroy your hard-won happiness to keep asking. Respect is a two way street between parents and their children and sometimes one party or the other forgets that.

    Have you tried writing a letter? Even if you don’t send it, I find that my feelings come out better through my fingers. Sometimes with parents, it is better to trade letters for a while so that words can be thought over and digested.

    I’m soooo sorry you’re dealing with this pain of loss and rejection. It’s dreadful, especially with the holidays coming on.

  13. patriciasandspatriciasands

    Dear, dear Tameri – I feel terrible that I’m just reading this now. *fanning my face … a touch red with embarrassment …* I’m way behind in my blog reading this week! I can’t offer any better advice than the awesome responses you have already received and am truly touched by the caring and wise, wise words. I’m with Jenny about writing your thoughts. Sending you a hug and all the Thanksgiving karma I can … if you aren’t going to call your mother, why not send her a card and tell her how you are thankful for her and her love and the healing that you feel.
    We’re here for you!

    November 10, 2011
  14. Diana MurdockDiana Murdock

    Tameri, there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said by anyone. I hear your pain, I feel your frustration. I totally get it. Natalie is right about not being able to control others. You can only make peace with yourself and put loving energy out to the Universe. Your mother is going to have to deal with her own demons and reach that point where she can reach out. As you well know, I’ve had to let go of family members more times than I care to count. It sucks, but it’s a necessity. For you, letting go is not only for your emotional health, but for your mother’s. The pressure to perform must be put to rest and coming back together must allowed to rise from a place of desire. At some point it will. In the meantime, cherish yourself and the friends and family who remain in your orbit, drawing positive energy from there. Thoughts become things, Tameri. Focus on how you want it to be with your mother, not how “it is.” This will give you greater peace.

    Call on me, Tameri, or any of us, really, when and if you need to vent and move on. It’s a process. We’re here to help.

    I love you, girl!

    November 10, 2011
  15. LesannLesann

    I read this post a few days ago and have thought about it for a while. Long enough that I wanted to come back and write something. I wish I had something really insightful to share but I don’t. I just feel your sadness and bewilderment and I connect with that. How sad that simple miscommunication can alter a lifelong relationship – but it does and it has, and too often, too easily.

    There are so many wonderful posts here, they’ve left nothing unsaid that you don’t already know – but sometimes wrongs are righted and the world turns upside when you least expect it to. You do what you can, you grieve and let go, and maybe in the end – things come full circle and you find yourself beside that person in a whole new place.

    I do believe everything happens for a reason even though, at times it can be awfully damn hard to accept why. Write it out, that’s what we do.

    November 10, 2011
  16. Virginia RippleVirginia Ripple

    I feel for you. When my husband and I got engaged it was a rough time for me and my mother. Not only was I getting married, but I was going to be moving several hundred miles away to go to grad school just weeks after the wedding.

    A few days before we left, I called my mother to borrow a truck from my dad to pick some furniture. It also meant telling her we couldn’t make it to our weekly family lunch. By her reaction you would have thought I was joining a demon worshipping cult.

    It’s 10 years later and, while we’ll probably never be as close as we were, we’re friends again. It took a lot of forgiveness and understanding and a constant need to remember to trust, but it was worth it.

    November 17, 2011
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