Note: Mumsnetters don't necessarily have the qualifications or experience to offer relationships counselling or to provide help in cases of domestic violence. Mumsnet can't be held responsible for any advice given on the site. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

If I confront the elephant in the room, it will end badly

(46 Posts)
hermioneweasley Tue 05-Nov-13 22:05:34

I am gay, in a happy long term relationship and we have kids.

My father has never really come to terms with it, but we don't talk about his lack of acceptance. His difficult in many ways - not just my perception but all in the family agree. I have the most difficult relationship with him though because of the sexuality issue, and I don't pander to him as much as the others do.

Parents always stay in a hotel when they come to stay, but next visit all are booked up. Email exchange I say why don't you stay with us. Mother replies "your father coesn't feel comfortable, let's leave it at that"

I don't want to leave it a that. He does something hurtful/offensive/attention seeking every couple of months and we have a big blow up. I am sick of appeasing and enabling his shitty, selfish and controlling behaviour.

I want to email back and ask exactly what he's uncomfortable with, but I think it is very likely to blow up badly.

Do I suck it up?

I am just so sick of being hurt and swallowing my feeling for the sake of family harmony, I don't feel like letting this one go.

FolkGirl Tue 05-Nov-13 22:11:25

I'm not surprised you don't feel like letting it go.

FWIW, I would confront the elephant. And I have done. But then I'm now NC with my mother and my father and I had nothing of a relationship when he died.

That's not because I'm a confrontational person at all, not in the slightest, it's because two very dysfunctional people found themselves together in unfortunate circumstances and, without the wisdom of MN 40 years ago, married and had children they were neither prepared for or equipped to parent appropriately.

But that's by the by.

If you have reached the end of the line, I think it's time to do something about it.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 05-Nov-13 22:16:34

No you shouldn't suck it up. When someone is acting in an unreasonable manner and trying to bully you, you have to stand up to them... not appease them or appeal to their better nature. Don't e-mail back therefore but don't invite them round any more either. Family harmony is vital but, in your case, the family in questiion is your partner and DCs... not a nasty old man that can't see past the end of his nose. Good luck

tribpot Tue 05-Nov-13 22:21:13

Actually you can't really ignore the elephant in the room. Since there is nowhere else to stay, either they stay with you or reschedule. The polite thing to do would have been to have rescheduled at once. They chose not to do that.

So WTF are you meant to do before this visit? Become straight? That would be an extreme way of ensuring your guests' comfort wink

Personally I think you write back and say: I find your refusal to stay in my house with my family hurtful and small-minded. However, it is your right to be both of those things and mine to choose how I react to it. I'm no longer prepared to ignore your prejudice to keep the peace. I suggest in future we meet on 'neutral ground' and I want no repetition of your offhand rudeness about me and my partner (I assume you're not married as you didn't mention that in your OP).

I'd also be tempted to work in the slogan "We're Here, We're Queer, Get Used To It" but that may be taking his education into gay history a bit far for one day!

I wouldn't let this lie. It's not for the sake of family 'harmony', is it? It's to indulge his ridiculous prejudice.

hermioneweasley Wed 06-Nov-13 07:32:12

Thanks for the advice. Sorry to post and run last night. Good advice and much to think about.

PTFO Wed 06-Nov-13 10:16:59

mmm, I have to say that normally I would confront the elephant head on, however..Your dad has a set view. rightly or wrongly that's HIS view. Its clearly HIS issue though. I don't think that's ever going to change. He's not going to suddenly change his view that he has set all his life and be accepting and move on.

So I suspect its either a showdown with the same response you have rec'd all your life and no change in his behaviour, just a massive fallout. Would it make you feel better?

or you accept that's his view, ignore and have them in your life.

I understand its hurtful that they wont stay with you but for your df to stay with you has this issue thrust in his face, he's probably imagining the worst of course! Is it poss to talk to your mum?

Anniegetyourgun Wed 06-Nov-13 10:40:23

I'm intrigued to know what "the worst" that he's imagining might be hmm Are his daughter and her partner going to sneak into his room in the night and inject him with gay? He's in the same position as any father who doesn't like his DC's choice of partner, ie suck it up or stay away. His choice, but also his loss.

FolkGirl Wed 06-Nov-13 10:49:59

I suppose the worst he could imagine is that they might be having sapphic sex in the same house in which he is sleeping.

That's not a reason for being super sensitive to his feelings IMHO.

wakemeupnow Wed 06-Nov-13 10:53:43

You could confront him.. but it doesn't sound like he'd change his mind. Depends if the confrontation will make you feel better for coming out and expressing how you feel or hurt because it may have no visible positive outcome...
My dp have been very dissapointing in the past. I've found that lowering my expectations to zero means that I get less hurt and am even sometimes pleasantly surprised.

Quoteunquote Wed 06-Nov-13 11:09:42

www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/parents_and_carers/8431.asp

www.fflag.org.uk

down load the guide and get the leaflet, and ask him to read them,

I hope he realises how generous you are being maintaining a relationship with him.

MadeOfStarDust Wed 06-Nov-13 11:12:47

What is the outcome you want -

for him to be accepting and supportive and want to stay with you....?

That will not happen - not ever - so get over it, accept it and you will be much happier... you cannot change how others are - but you are in charge of how you react to their actions.....

you can have a relationship with him or not, you can merely tolerate his presence in your life for the sake of your mum... you don't have to like it, or him, or the way he feels and reacts

people like that do not change that much. You know he is like that, he knows your life and sexuality and is not comfortable staying with you and a partner of the same sex ... so what is the elephant in the room

Offred Wed 06-Nov-13 11:19:57

Parents or not I wouldn't want someone so prejudiced having such a close relationship with my children. As far as I am concerned I think his opinion is wrong but no-one can prevent him having it. He is not, however, entitled to impose his prejudices on other people.

You are entitled to expect basic respect as a person.

If he cannot get over it and your mother doesnt stop enabling it I think you should cut them out of your life completely, I genuinely think it is a child protection issue amongst other things.

I think I would respond to the email saying "No, I'm not prepared to "leave it at that". I think we are all aware what you mean when you say he "doesn't feel comfortable". You are not prepared to properly articulate your prejudice because you are aware it is wrong but you're not prepared to let it go either and I'm afraid we cannot go on in this fashion.

I'm believe I have spent too long tiptoeing around these ridiculous prejudices because he is my father and I love him. I won't do it anymore. I'm entitled to be loved and respected for all that I am. I am happy. If you cannot love and respect me for who I am, rather than who you would like me to be, then you cannot be part of my life or my children's lives.

I don't want them to be given the impression that they, or I, should be in any way ashamed and for that reason I feel, sadly, that we all need to be protected from this kind of prejudice."

Overcooked Wed 06-Nov-13 11:29:01

I agree with pretty much everyone else, surely at some point your kids are going to pick up on his prejudices and that could be really hurtful for them.

I think you need to ask him exactly what his problem is and how he can work to accept your relationship in order to avoid a complete break down of your relationship with him.

hermioneweasley Thu 07-Nov-13 08:57:26

Thanks for the responses, they are really helpful in clarifying my thinking.

I know he's not going to change, but at the moment it's all hidden. The comment is just "your father doesn't feel comfortable staying at yours (let's leave it at that)". Well what exactly is the issue? Is my house dirty? My towels not fluffy enough, or is it (as I am assuming) something to do with my relationship.

I know my mum is desperate not to confront this and keep things smoothed over, but I feel I am at least owed an explanation of exactly why he's not comfortable. Then it's up to me, suck it up, meet only on neutral ground or cut him out. Cutting him out would mean not seeing my mother again as he doesn't allow her to do anything without him (their relationship is a whole EA thread in itself!).

Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

Spidermama Thu 07-Nov-13 09:15:32

Sounds like he's a list cause but you value your relationship with your mum. I'd be tempted to open up to her about how hurtful and toxic his attitude is. If he really 'won't let her ' see you without him then she might well agree with your assessment if the man.
He sounds nasty. I'm really sorry. Life cannot have been easy for you. I think I would want to cut him out and move on actually. Therefore bringing up the elephant in the room may bring this about and be cathartic for you.
Toxic Parents is a good book for you to read.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 07-Nov-13 09:16:39

I don't think you have to wait for the explanation in order to make your decision. Pre-empt it with a face-to-face conversation and maybe even lay the problem at his feet. ... 'I'm told you're uncomfortable staying at my house and I can't think why. Since I'm not about to change anything about my family, how do you suggest we get past this?'

Peekingduck Thu 07-Nov-13 09:29:14

I'm going to disagree with some. They've come up with a solution, a way to "get past this" in that they are staying in a hotel. But - they still want to see you as evidenced by the fact that they are coming and paying to do so. So the door's not shut is it?
If he's pleasant enough to your family when they are there, then surely you have some middle ground? Apart from anything else, if you wade in and chase him off you're going to lose your Mum as well.

Preciousbane Thu 07-Nov-13 09:29:17

One of DH best mates is gay, he has never come out to his parents which is terribly sad.

I think that you should write down how you feel about it all and then speak to your Mum in the first instance. I can't imagine how hurt you must be.

I find with any huge issue it is easy to become upset and flustered writing it down and reading it out to her means you can get everything across you need to.

My FIL is racist, I'm mixed race. He was tackled about his language. I told DH he would never see our dc. I'm sure we haven't changed his mind but at least he behaves himself. He would not consider himself a racist though.

I do need to know if your towels are fluffy now, mine aren't!

Offred Thu 07-Nov-13 09:36:56

Beware thinking your mum doesn't share his opinions and is just being controlled. My parents have (I suspect) a similar type of relationship. One thing I grew to realise is that my mum is happy to deliberately emotionally (and when we were kids physically) abuse us to keep her relationship with my dad and on many things, she shares his views as well as enabling them. I don't think it is wise to view your mum as a victim that you need to save or keep an eye on or someone who is on your side. Yes, she's being abused by him but you are their daughter and it is important you recognise that they are BOTH abusing you. I go through the same regular cycle of worrying very much about my mum, feeling close to her, thinking she will be supportive of me and then being sold down the river by her. It is really upsetting and pointless.

BeCoolFucker Thu 07-Nov-13 09:45:16

It sounds like your Mum is in the middle here. Would it not be better, rather than email your Mum, phone your Dad and ask him directly what it is he feels uncomfortable with?

He may well change - sometimes people need to be actually forced out of their so called "comfort" zone to realized that their "discomfort" was entirely imagined and in actual fact not there. The thought of whatever it is in his head is currently huge to him, but clearly it is much much much worse in his head than the actual reality of life. When/if he confronts this, he could well see the light so to speak and change. Maybe he won't, but I have several gay friends where something similar has happened within their family.

And it's human nature/quite common to build things up in our head, cause ourselves massive stress, to find reality is actually not what we imagine at all, or much easier to deal with than we anticipated.

Currently it sounds like he has some massive imagined but real to him problem with your relationship/living arrangements, your Mum is in the middle, and "protecting" you from each other, which although well meaning isn't actually helping in the long run. You have an opportunity here to push his buttons and force a change which could well be for the better.

MillyMollyMandy78 Thu 07-Nov-13 09:46:55

I agree with the views of everyone else here, but i just want to give u something else to think about before you confront your dad on his views. It sounds as though you have a fairly good relationship with your mum, but consider the possibility that as your dads enabler, she will always back him, over you, no matter what happens. I went NC with my abusive mum earleir this year, and was fully prepared for this, as knew that she would not change her ways after i confronted her and asked to be treated with basic kindness and respect. For the next couple of weeks, my dad tried to get me to go back on my 'demands' and to 'leave it at that'. He realised that i was not prepared to be treated as though i did not matter anymore, and after he realised that he couldn't pressure me to change my mind, he also cut contact with me. I was always a daddys girl and truly believed we had a good relationship: i was not prepared to lose him completely in the process and that really hurt. I agree that you should confront your dad, but just ask you to consider that you may lose your mum too. I don't say this to geft you to back down, just so that you prepare yourself for this possibility

deepfriedsage Thu 07-Nov-13 09:54:01

I agree with a pp, they have compromised by staying in a hotel. I think some people just can't deal with certain things in your case it is sexuality. You either accept them as they are, or you cut them out.

olgaga Thu 07-Nov-13 09:58:33

By the sound of it, the only outcome will be that you will make life more difficult for your DM.

tribpot Thu 07-Nov-13 09:59:00

Surely if your mum were truly desperate to avoid confrontation it she would have come up with a socially plausible reason for why they couldn't come that weekend. Rather than a bald 'your father will not stay with you, end of' statement. She's not wanting to smooth it over - at least with you - she wants you to collude with her in appeasing your father's insane prejudices.

I'd be tempted to take BeCool's idea one step further and phone your father as if the conversation with your mother had never happened. Invite him to stay. And when he says no, ask him why. And then when he says it would make him uncomfortable, ask him if it's because you're gay. But at least it will be an open discussion.

Offred Thu 07-Nov-13 10:21:01

The op isn't responsible for her mother's choice to stay with an abusive man olgaga. That's a really unhelpful post IMHO.

I also don't think it is acceptable to tolerate homophobia by saying things like "some people just don't feel comfortable with things like this" deepfriedsage. Those people may never feel comfortable with homosexuality, they still don't get to have their prejudices enabled and tiptoed round because they are damaging and unacceptable prejudices.

Don't think you'd have said the same if the issue was racism rather than homophobia.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now