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"But We Took You To Stately Homes!" - Survivors of Dysfunctional Families

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It's January 2013, and the Stately Home is still open to visitors.

Forerunning threads:
December 2007
March 2008
August 2008
February 2009
May 2009
January 2010
April 2010
August 2010
March 2011
November 2011
January 2012
November 2012

Please check later posts in this thread for links & quotes. The main thing is: "they did do it to you" - and you can recover.


Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.

This is a long running thread which was originally started up by 'pages' see original thread here (December 2007)

So this thread originates from that thread and has become a safe haven for Adult children of abusive families.

One thing you will never hear on this thread is that your abuse or experience was not that bad. You will never have your feelings minimised the way they were when you were a child, or now that you are an adult. To coin the phrase of a much respected past poster Ally90;

'Nobody can judge how sad your childhood made you, even if you wrote a novel on it, only you know that. I can well imagine any of us saying some of the seemingly trivial things our parents/siblings did to us to many of our real life acquaintances and them not understanding why we were upset/angry/hurt etc. And that is why this thread is here. It's a safe place to vent our true feelings, validate our childhood/lifetime experiences of being hurt/angry etc by our parents? behaviour and to get support for dealing with family in the here and now.'

Most new posters generally start off their posts by saying; but it wasn't that bad for me or my experience wasn't as awful as x,y or z's.

Some on here have been emotionally abused and/or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesn?t have to be any) they fall into.

NONE of that matters. What matters is how 'YOU' felt growing how 'YOU' feel now and a chance to talk about how and why those childhood experiences and/or current parental contact has left you feeling damaged falling apart from the inside out and stumbling around trying to find your sense of self-worth.

You might also find the following links and information useful if you have come this far and are still not sure whether you belong here or not.

'Toxic Parents' by Susan Forward.

I started with this book and found it really useful.

Here are some excerpts:

"Once you get going, most toxic parents will counterattack. After all, if they had the capacity to listen, to hear, to be reasonable, to respect you feelings, and to promote your independence, they wouldn't be toxic parents. They will probably perceive your words as treacherous personal assaults. They will tend to fall back on the same tactics and defenses that they have always used, only more so.

Remember, the important thing is not their reaction but your response. If you can stand fast in the face of your parents' fury, accusations, threats and guilt-peddling, you will experience your finest hour.

Here are some typical parental reactions to confrontation:

"It never happened". Parents who have used denial to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy or anxiety will undoubtedly us it during confrontation to promote their version of reality. They'll insist that your allegations never happened, or that you're exaggerating. They won't remember, or they will accuse you of lying.

YOUR RESPONSE: Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean it didn't happen".

"It was your fault." Toxic parents are almost never willing to accept responsibility for their destructive behavior. Instead, they will blame you. They will say that you were bad, or that you were difficult. They will claim that they did the best that they could but that you always created problems for them. They will say that you drove them crazy. They will offer as proof the fact that everybody in the family knew what a problem you were. They will offer up a laundry list of your alleged offenses against them.

YOUR RESPONSE: "You can keep trying to make this my fault, but I'm not going to accept the responsibility for what you did to me when I was a child".

"I said I was sorry what more do you want?" Some parents may acknowledge a few of the things that you say but be unwilling to do anything about it.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate your apology, but that is just a beginning. If you're truly sorry, you'll work through this with me to make a better relationship."

"We did the best we could." Some parents will remind you of how tough they had it while you were growing up and how hard they struggled. They will say such things as "You'll never understand what I was going through," or "I did the best I could". This particular style of response will often stir up a lot of sympathy and compassion for your parents. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult for you to remain focused on what you need to say in your confrontation. The temptation is for you once again to put their needs ahead of your own. It is important that you be able to acknowledge their difficulties without invalidating your own.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I understand that you had a hard time, and I'm sure that you didn't hurt me on purpose, but I need you to understand that the way you dealt with your problems really did hurt me"

"Look what we did for you." Many parents will attempt to counter your assertions by recalling the wonderful times you had as a child and the loving moments you and they shared. By focusing on the good things, they can avoid looking at the darker side of their behavior. Parents will typically remind you of gifts they gave you, places they took you, sacrifices they made for you, and thoughtful things they did. They will say things like, "this is the thanks we get," or "nothing was ever enough for you."

YOUR RESPONSE: I appreciate those things very much, but they didn't make up for ....

"How can you do this to me?" Some parents act like martyrs. They'll collapse into tears, wring their hands, and express shock and disbelief at your "cruelty". They will act as if your confrontation has victimized them. They will accuse you of hurting them, or disappointing them. They will complain that they don't need this, they have enough problems. They will tell you that they are not strong enough or healthy enough to take this, that the heartache will kill them. Some of their sadness will, of course, be genuine. It is sad for parents to face their own shortcomings, to realize that they have caused their children significant pain. But their sadness can also be manipulative and controlling. It is their way of using guilt to try to make you back down from the confrontation.

YOUR RESPONSE: I'm sorry you're upset. I'm sorry you're hurt. But I'm not willing to give up on this. I've been hurting for a long time, too."

Helpful Websites

Alice Miller

Personality Disorders definition

Follow up to pages first thread:

I?m sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out. I personally don?t claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will receive a lot of wisdom but above all else the insights and advice given will 'always' be delivered with warmth and support.

Happy Posting (smithfield posting as therealsmithfield)

I have cut and pasted this because I think it is fab. Just in case anyone misses the link.

More helpful links:

Daughters of narcissistic mothers
Out of the FOG
You carry the cure in your own heart
Help for adult children of child abuse
Pete Walker

Some books:

Will I ever be good enough?
If you had controlling parents
When you and your mother can't be friends
Children of the self-absorbed
Recovery of your inner child

Midwife99 Mon 11-Feb-13 22:08:07

It's def worth doing. Our local GPs recommend them as NHS waiting lists so long.

Theveryhungrymuma Mon 11-Feb-13 22:14:46

I will let you know how it goes! If I can get some I before my NHS counselling starts, even better. I have also enrolled in a local course that runs over 6 weeks, to help with depression and anxiety stress relief etc, its free but won't start until April here. A college of dhs told me about it. Apparently its just a sort of lecture every week. You don't have to speak to anyone there.If anyone wants the name of it to see if its in their area I'll dig the leaflet out, it's run by our mental health team.

Midwife99 Mon 11-Feb-13 22:16:12

Apparently you can self refer for CBT free in most areas too

Theveryhungrymuma Mon 11-Feb-13 22:19:54

Oh that's good to know cheers midwife! I'll look into that tomorrow! Is anyone watching my mad fat diary on e4?

FairyFi Mon 11-Feb-13 23:43:21

I have found the support, understanding and advice here second to none in understanding the toxins I suffered at the hands of my 'relatives' (now distant NC).

An extremely difficult thing to do [going nc], and comes from a place of trying to help the sufferer in response to examples of toxicity, many of which examples quoted on here are recognised as acknowledged 'classic' and therefore elicit this response. Nobody has to act on these well intentioned remarks which are merely acknowledging the support to do so.

I am really sorry your mother would think it helpful to you in some way to draw up and post a list to you fo your failings as a mother sad, and that she never listens and how you would never have her as a friend.

I think it is very clear how people are struggling with the toxic effects of parenting affecting their daily lives now and how it is not helpful to try to just forget all that has been endured all the way thro life until now and its stil happening, nothings changed! These things that have very often affected our identities.

If you have found a resolution for your difficulties & struggles you outline with your mothers relationship with you, rather than having to take this last ditch attempt and drastic step as the only way to having a better life, I am pleased for you.

FoxtrotFoxtrotSierra Tue 12-Feb-13 14:27:40

Does anyone else feel like they get away, or think they can manage the madness and then get sucked back in again?

I had a bit of a rapprochement with my toxic mother before Christmas - she asked why I thought I was treated differently from my sisters and I explained, citing specific examples, why I did. She seemed to acknowledge it, and although Christmas itself was difficult (mostly because my younger sister is an entitled, demanding lump) I thought we had reached a balance in our relationship.

I found out last week that she's been slating me to all and sundry again. Her current take is that I'm "ashamed" of her, which I think is either an enormous projection, or her way of saying she's ashamed of me. My older sister was told this, and also that I never call (I had called twice that week, and spoken to her) and I was slagged off for not sharing some information about my weekend - information that I had actually shared.

This got me thinking a bit. Is it normal for a normal mother to get huffy because I didn't tell her I was away for the weekend (I did, but that's not the issue I'm trying to get at)? I wasn't going to see her instead, it didn't put her out, I don't live in her house (or anywhere near her) and it really didn't affect her. Surely it's not worth having a tant over? I just don't get it.

I get so hurt with the backbiting accusations, particularly as they aren't made to my face so I can't defend myself. That they're based on lies stings more. I just can't trust her. I'm honestly not ashamed of her - I don't like her and I don't trust her, but I don't feel ashamed. I don't think I'm explaining it well.

I don't know what to do now. If I confront her she will deny and diminish - coming out with her favourite phrase "well I don't remember it that way" and I'll feel even worse. Sitting here now, I feel too upset to let it drop. How do you guys manage?

Midwife99 Tue 12-Feb-13 15:01:21

Detaching & going extremely low contact is how I manage. I have almost zero contact with my brother & aunt too so there is no family dialogue. My cousin, however, I communicate with almost daily & she is the daughter of a toxic mother & the same family issues totally understands & we support each other. I think the only thing you can do it withdraw.

fresh Tue 12-Feb-13 15:09:07

Foxtrot I sympathise, when you find out this sort of thing has been going on it's infuriating. This is 'triangulating', and is classic behaviour for narcs. They say one thing to your face, and then something else to another person, and then watch the chaos unfold. It's like being a puppet master for them, and of course it keeps them centre stage.

My only advice is to try (and I know how hard it is) not to react. If you hear something that she's said to someone else, just say 'no, that's not how it was, mum likes to mislead' and then move on. Don't defend yourself or explain yourself to the third party. Don't play the game.

How you deal with your Mum over it is more problematic. You will never get an acknowledgement of her bad behaviour from her, but you can flag up that you've rumbled her and leave it at that. And try to limit contact if you can - you're right, not telling her about your weekend plans is absolutely your business.

The key is don't react to what they say, react to what they do. i.e. don't get caught up in refuting the lies, decide for yourself whether you want a relationship with someone who lies about you - and if you do, on what terms.

unschoolmum Tue 12-Feb-13 18:41:59


I'm new too. I have been working on healing myself from severe childhood emotional neglect for the past 6 months. I have read most of Alice Millers books and Susan Forwards Toxic parents which I found extremely helpful. I am still too entangled with my parents but felt strong enough to send them a ‘confrontation letter’. I thought I was pretty ready to handle to worst but did not pre-empt the depth of their narcissism. They have already told me I will not be left their property when they die and that they plan to leave it all to my brother. However, in their reply to my ‘confrontation letter’ they confirmed that they would leave my daughter and NOT my son a small trust. They have a difficult relationship with my son (aged 11) who does not want anything to do with them as he thinks they are nasty. However, how am I going to deal with the legacy of one child receiving a trust at adulthood and not the other? I never imagined they could be this callous. Somehow I have to negotiate the pain (and possible conflict) that is going to inflict on my children. Any advice?

Midwife99 Tue 12-Feb-13 19:46:53

Hi unschoolmum - how old is your daughter? Could you ask her when she is old enough to consider sharing her inheritance with her brother? How does she feel about your parents?

marissab Tue 12-Feb-13 22:25:16

Hi unschool, are you my twin??? I am a homeschooler who's in a nearly identical sit to you. My son has been left my mums entire estate and my dd nothing. It's awful isn't it? He will inherit around 200k abd theres no way we can give our dd the same. It breaks my heart. Why would they do this? I am completely cut from the will. It's like as if they're saying "i'll still make your life hard, even when i'm dead". I try not to think about it. Theres nothing i can do. But what will my dd think when ds inherites everything? He will be wealthier than us as well. I don't begrudge him but my poor dd. It's awful. It's just another way to wield their power over us.

unschoolmum Wed 13-Feb-13 08:37:28


My daughter is 9, spirited, kind and fair. We are considering asking her to share it with her brother. She is the only one in the family that can get on with my parents although she does find them difficult. She has always dealt with their 'comment' by saying things like "I'm sorry you feel that way Granny". It makes me laugh because they have never been able to make her bite.

Marissab,my son is on the autistic spectrum. My parents have never been able to bond with him. My Dad pinned him down and beat him when he was four. As a result my son does not love them and does not talk to them. I agree that they are using their inheritance to continue to punish me and my family after they have gone. It is hard to accept I will be left nothing but that they choose to give one child money and not the other is cruel beyond belief. At least it confirms beyond all doubt that the abuse I received as a child was real and just as evil as any kind of abuse. The home education is an issue for them and certainly has played a part of my disinheritance. They do not approve, they are critical and disrespectful of the decisions I have made. I spend all my life explaining and defending myself. But not anymore. I am not interested in their opinion. They were terrible parents!

marissab Wed 13-Feb-13 09:30:08

Hi unschool. My son also has ASD. He's an aspie. My mum doesn't 'get' home ed at all. She constantly asks what i've taught him. My dad said he would grow up an 'Imbecile'. He was their favourite ( hence why he stands to inherit) but as he's spproached teen years, he has naturally become a rude stroppy pre-teen, like all others. My mum keeps on and on about getting him meds. She's started refusing to take him places coz he shows her up. She thinks meds will make him 'normal'. This is another source of friction between me and my parents. I am a bad parent apparently, he's not ASD, it's my parenting etc. Etc. Sigh.

unschoolmum Wed 13-Feb-13 15:42:16

Hi Marissab, have you asked your son to share his inheritance. In a way I am lucky that my daughter stands to inherit and not the other way around as my son's autism make him less able to share. My parents, also have told my daughter that her brother is not autistic just naughty. They are poison and I have very little to do with them. I would not allow them to look after my son since my work with Alice Miller and Susan Forward. My parents also constantly interrogate my daughter about what she has learnt and assess her English and Maths. My Mum used to be a teacher so think she knows best! She is also a narcissist so does know best! I have received many letters and emails stating that I have failed and that I am a bad mother.

Salbertina Wed 13-Feb-13 15:57:45

Goodness so many similarities! My mother also a teacher --know-it-all and i have 1 if not 2 dc with adhd. Its all about the parenting apparently. Adhd is an invention of lazy parents and silly modern teachers...My sister concurs and when we meet about every 1 or 1 years, dsis likes to assume big sister role on such occasions and tells me what to do w my kids. Laughable, really, she's not even a parent grin and biscuit to them all!

marissab Wed 13-Feb-13 17:15:51

Salbertina my son is also hyper and tics and barks sometimes. This is mu fault coz i'm not strict enough apparently. So my son barks, coz i'm not strict! It's rodiculous. I bet you heard the old chestnut " if he was here for a week, i'd have him sorted out". Yeah right coz they're amazing parents and a great role model for my son.

unschoolmum Wed 13-Feb-13 17:55:59

Salbertina and marissab, I feel for you, it is so hurtful when a child’s different needs are blamed on you.

My mother told me that my son was fine until he was 5 as it took 5 years of my bad parenting to destroy him. When he wasn’t talking at 3 my Dad told me not to speak to him or respond to him unless he pronounced his words properly. My Dad has sent me emails about how to prevent my son becoming a gangster. They have locked in him the garden when he was ‘naughty’. They suggested locking him in a room until he learnt to write. Now they say he uses his ‘special needs card’ to do and get whatever he wants. But my son doesn’t care what they have to say, he hates them, he doesn’t care that they are his grandparents. He thinks they are bad people and can’t understand why I talk to them or see them. I think he has a point! He used to swear at them and say nasty things but now he simply does not speak to them. They are unable to look at what they have done to create this, they simply tell me I have turned him against them. Ironically, my brother who is 44, is most likely to be autistic too. But, my brother is a mirror of their values and opinions. They are leaving everything to my brother except a small trust for my daughter. But the sacrifice he has made is a deep enmeshment with them to the point that he has never had a partner.

In terms of punishment, we do not punish our children at all! We raise them with a philosophy of discipline without punishment. My sons anxiety, swearing and depression has subsided substantially since we adopted this approach.

VivaLeBeaver Thu 14-Feb-13 10:48:57

Right after my mum was rude to me last weekend and I took dd and walked out. I've had an email from her. She says;

Am sorry I upset you & certainly didn't mean to.

Is T coming to Dales or not - has she decided? I need to do a booking if so.

Would T like to go out for day near her birthday?


First thoughts were its the first time she's ever said sorry. Second thoughts are she's not actually saying sorry for her behaviour. Third thought were if I cave in which I can see me doing I'm going to go back to the same cycle. She'll be on best behaviour for a bit and then start up again.

GoodtoBetter Thu 14-Feb-13 10:57:02

That's EXACTLY what my mum does "sorry I upset you, didn't mean to"..oh that's alright then, obviously I am over reacting/can't take a joke etc etc...minimises it all. Or "I'm sorry you feel that way"...i.e she's not sorry at all but feels she has to say something. Always the onus on me to brush it under the carpet and pretend it never happened.

IncogKNEEto Thu 14-Feb-13 11:38:03

Viva if my mother were ever to apologise <not happened in the past 40 years, so won't be holding my breath!> that's exactly how she would word it.

I have had the 'I didn't mean to hurt you/upset you said to me but always with the underlying feeling of 'you overreacted - again'. I also get the one line about not meaning to upset me, then straight into another subject which just confirms how little our feelings matter. Ho hum.

I agree with Goodto it is designed to brush it under the carpet, if it's not important to her then it's not important, so can be ignored now as the 'apology' should be enough.

I would just stick to your guns about what you think is best for T, and just repeat this, calmly, ad infinitum until she gives up.

IncogKNEEto Thu 14-Feb-13 11:43:13

Salbertina and Marissab I agree with unschool it is so hurtful to be blamed for your children's additional needs sad how bloody dare she say it is because of your parenting. Luckily, for your children you consider your parenting's effect on your children, unlike her, and it is only because you are considerate thoughtful people who are able to look at themselves that this sort of barbed comment hits home.

It is their loss, it sounds as though your ds has already got the measure of your parents unschool well done you for raising him to be able to see beyond the surface of such toxic people at such a young age, it has taken me nearly 40 years!

IncogKNEEto Thu 14-Feb-13 11:53:39

I don't have any suggestions what to do re: inheritances, I have no idea what my mother plans to do with her money <there's not a lot> but I don't care either way, I may feel differently if it involved using my children to get at me, but it's not a tactic she uses, as I suspect she knows I'm not bothered!

MIL on the other hand threwatened to cut BIL out of her will unless he divorced his wife! He just laughed and said 'do what you like, I love SIL and I'm not divorcing her!' so she upped the ante and threatened suicide instead shock as he says, he's still waiting, and it was a few years ago...

BIL and SIL have no contact with MIL, neither do I or DC, DH is still in limited contact, but mainly due to MIL having unrestricted access to dsd, he feels it wouldn't be of benefit to dsd if he went NC as his M would make it very difficult (she already badmouths me to dsd sadangry).

unschoolmum Thu 14-Feb-13 18:44:43

VivaLaBeaver, I suspect it isn’t really an apology and agree that accepting fake apologies can weave you back into the unmeshment that has caused so much pain. I have spent my adult life hoping that they will change and hang onto any glimpses that they really love me. I have lived my adult life convinced that the right combination of words can somehow make them see the truth. But this of course is a fantasy. My approach now is only to do what does not make me ill (headaches, migraines, stomach aches etc). For example I can manage to send my Mum a birthday gift but I can’t handle going to their house or having them over to mine at the moment.

IncogKneeto, thank you for your kind words about my son. I think that many toxic parent only have their inheritance as their last weapon of abuse as they become increasingly more frustrated by our ability to be indifferent to their nasty comments and actions.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 14-Feb-13 20:19:51

Viva I'm going to go against the grain and say that your mother's apology is at least phrased correctly: she does say "I'm sorry I upset you" rather than the usual crappy narc "I'm sorry you're upset"

But you know her best.

All these posts about inheriting and disinheriting really make me shake my head: they'll use any means to undermine and control, won't they?

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 14-Feb-13 20:23:05

Question: Have any of you gone from no contact to low contact?


Don't want dramatic reunion.
Don't particularly want parents back in my life at all, actually, but also don't want the drama of being NC.

Any low-key method to regain superficial contact with people you don't like and want to keep at arm's length?

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