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NC with PIL for 10 years and now we've had a text...

(109 Posts)
LoveandLife Sat 23-Nov-13 09:51:38

We were married for 10 years before DH decided enough was enough and were always walking on eggshells. It was so easy to cause offence. e.g. MIL called when DS1 was 3 days old to complain that the Mother's Day card we sent was too small and there were loads of similar things.

What usually happened was that they would go off in a sulk and after a few days I or DH would call, smooth things over and we'd be back to normal, until the next time.

10 years ago, after MIL was "devastated" because my mum organised something lovely for DH's birthday (mum really loves her SIL smile ) DH decided he'd had enough and we didn't make the usual call. Although there have been occasional (often not very nice) emails since he hasn't seen or spoken to them in 10 years. They haven't seen their GC since they were 2yo and 6mo.

Anyway this week he's had a text. Their Golden anniversary is coming up. Will we go, let them know so they can make the booking? No mention of what the celebration is. No idea if it's just us, immediate family or a huge celebration.

I've said to DH I'll do whatever he wants but that I don't think meeting up for the first time in 10 years, in front of loads of people who (presumably) know we haven't spoken for 10 years is a good idea. If he/they want to reconcile there must be better ways...

He has decided he doesn't want to go and doesn't want to see/speak to them so he's going to decline by text.

He wants to send a lengthy text about why it's a bad idea. I think it would be better just to say no thanks.

WWYD?

Jux Mon 25-Nov-13 17:41:55

There are personality disorders which stem from genes rather than upbringing; mental health problems too. More and more is being discovered about how the brain works. I doubt very much that unconditional love from parents, or anyone else, would be able to counter something that due to genetics.

There are environmental factors too of course. An acrimonious divorce can result in one parent using the children to get at the other parent, which can result in parental alienation - and not always towards the NRP; sometimes it's the NRP who manages to alienate the children towards to the RP. Sometimes children reject the RP because the RP has been forced to allow contact against the wishes of the children, which the children cannot or do not forgive. There are almost as many possibilities as there are families.

If a child is born with a predisposition of some sort, which is then fanned and enabled by environmental factors which may be beyond the parents' control, then that can hardly be blamed on the parents; and yet that child may well grow up to thoroughly toxic.

There is research which shows that parental influence wanes tremendously as the child grows. Can you blame a parent when the things which are hurting their child are completely unknown to them, and the people who should know - a school for instance - do not know either? How many of us blamed the parents for what happened in that nursery a few years ago, where one of the employers was a paedophile? And yet, how do we know how those babies might be affected long term by that experience?

It is simplistic to say that children can only become toxic towards their own parent(s) because the parent(s) were lacking in some way. We're none of us perfect, after all.

OP, I think Springy was just trying to put the other side of the argument. I don't think she was criticising your or your dh particularly, just wanted to help you see all aspects of your options, before you made the final decision - and after all, with an important decision you do want to as much as you can about the subject, don't you? Most of us want to find out everything we can about something and listen to all povs before making a big decision.

Mind you, I see that it is no longer relevant anyway. And your dh was never keen on seeing them again either.

Op, it sounds as though you both did the right thing by going no further with this.
The key is in the message "tell EVERYONE......" Well it sums up exactly why they wanted to see you, so they could show EVERYONE else and parade you all!

RafflesWay Mon 25-Nov-13 15:54:45

love for what it's worth I completely support your DH's stance. I completely agree with those who have said if they fell out with their only DC for just an hour they would wade through Hell to put matters right. I have been NC with my mother and the rest of her family now for 20 yrs plus. I actually saw her walking down the road about 7 years ago when I was driving and can honestly say I felt nothing. She didn't see me thank goodness! I understand those of you who may feel if she dies without making up I will never forgive myself but to be absolutely honest after all this time i feel like she and the rest of the family are nothing to do with me. I did everything I could to keep some sort of relationship going but to no avail. I now just wish them all the best but don't want any contact with them ever again.

Meerka Mon 25-Nov-13 15:25:17

... and bearing the grudge <dryly> oh boy, some people should have mirrored lenses on the inside of their spectacles shouldn't they. Assuming they wear specs.

PTFO Mon 25-Nov-13 15:10:34

Meerka- playing the victims of course!

Meerka Mon 25-Nov-13 14:49:47

Life is too short to bear grudges. So ... er ... where were they the last ten years?

PTFO Mon 25-Nov-13 14:38:11

^^^^What Hissy said spot on.

Where's the effort in of couple of texts. Why not go round and ask if they can have a talk, see if anything could be done to resolve things. We love you and miss you and we are sorry its taken so long....

why has it taken them so long? Id be begging my ds if he refused to talk to me.

Hissy Mon 25-Nov-13 14:13:17

"Ok, we get the message, life's too short to bear grudges and everyone would love to see you but we won't bother you again"

i agree - there is nothing NICE about this message:

Ok, we get the message, = agressive

life's too short to bear grudges = "life's too short for YOU to bear grudges/Get over it already

everyone would love to see you = We need you to make us look good

we won't bother you again" - a pathetic attempt to guilt trip or scare DH into buckling.

Oh yes, not a single word of that message was in any way shape or form an olive branch.

If they had have written, 'Can we talk about this?' it would have been a whole different matter.

There is no contrition, there is no climbing down, only guilt, threats and aggression.

Helltotheno Mon 25-Nov-13 13:48:20

MIL will say "I love you" and then call to berate you because you don't love her enough because of some small slight.

This is pathetic. The whole thing of being jealous of her own children because they had things she didn't have is equally pathetic and whatever anyone's justification for bringing children into the world is, it should never be to compete with them, force your bitterness on to them for the way your life turned out, expect them to 'pay you back' for bringing them up etc...

OP and her DH are absolutely right to stay NC. Are people just glossing over the fact that because OP and her DH didn't ring these people over their latest unreasonable hissy fit, they didn't make contact for ten years? And let's make no mistake about it, it was they who made no contact. It was they who couldn't look at their action and say 'ok were we being a bit petty there? Are we not big enough to extend an olive branch'?

If people want to stay in contact with toxic immature people who place unreasonable expectations on them and did an overall crap job of parenting, that's a personal choice. But it's not for everyone and that choice can't be projected on everyone else.

OP see their action for what it is: an attempt to save face at a family event where they'll undoubtedly have to explain their ten years' radio silence (and that explanation will make them look like arses to any listener if they tell it truthfully).

Only if they come to you with an abject apology and a commitment to change, separately to any event that happens to be coming up, should you consider engaging with them... and even then, only one chance.

LoveandLife Mon 25-Nov-13 12:32:52

Obviously I would prefer never to have been in this situation because of the hurt it's caused DH and I would prefer my DC to know their GPs but I do find it an interesting study in human nature.

I find it interesting that some people feel that the people here who have difficult parents but stand by them regardless fit the FOG Attlia talks about perfectly (or so it seems to me)

I don't accept the generational thing. My parents are old and on the surface, to outsiders maybe look cold. e.g for my Dad to say he loves you there will need to be some really momentous event and I haven't had a hug from them since I was very young indeed. They were very strict parents. However their actual behaviour isn't cold at all. I have always known, even (especially?) as a rebellious teenager that there was nothing I would do that would stop them loving me and that they were thrilled with every little achievement. Not because they told me all the time but because of the way they were. They would drop everything if I needed them and expect nothing in return.

MIL will say "I love you" and then call to berate you because you don't love her enough because of some small slight.

Roussette Mon 25-Nov-13 11:52:49

Hi Attila... don't totally agree with your post! As I said, my parents weren't toxic... they were misguided, useless at parenting and being the stroppy mare I am, I didn't ever ever apologise... I stood my ground and they didn't freeze me out, they wouldn't dare. So my situation IS different to the OP's. It did cause me problems later in life, but hey... who's perfect here... none of us are. I just know how close I am to my DC's and that's all that matters and also am very aware that there are many MNers who went through far far worse than I did.

I just know they were a product of their generation... they both had a cold victorian upbringing and they knew no different. No excuse I know but that's how it was.

Do agree with your last para... when I had DC's I used their parenting as a reverse template. i.e. whatever they did... do the opposite! And it's worked!

Hi Roussette,

re your comment:-
"Perhaps the OP's inlaws are doing their best and they have had sleepless nights and the Golden Wedding is their olive branch and they are hoping against all hope that they can start again with a relationship with both of you"

No, I do not think that is the case at all particularly in light of their last text message to their son. Its always been their way or no way with the OPs ILs. Their text message is truly loaded with trying to further guilt LoveandLife's DH.

I think your late parents treated you appallingly throughout your life and thus failed you abjectly as both a child and adult. They put their own needs first and ignored yours. You tried to have a relationship with them and they never bothered to respond in kind. I bet you were always expected to apologise for supposedly "not measuring up".
No-one told you that you did not need their approval any more. You ended up going back for more of the same from them, that often happens too. Its not your fault they were this way inclined and still is not. Its not purely a generational issue to my mind either although familial dysfunctional relationships do seep down the generations.

Like many adults of such toxic parenting also you sought their approval (which they never fully gave) up until their own deaths. FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) is truly a powerful and damaging legacy left by such toxic people to their offspring.

You do not and would not treat your DC in the same manner as you were because you know what your late parents did was wrong and remains so.

Belize Mon 25-Nov-13 11:07:52

That text is saying everyone would love to see you, not WE would love to see you. Also the bit about life is too short to bear grudges, that's them throwing it back at you (your DH) that it is him that is the problem.

Well done to your DH for leaving it at that.

Roussette Mon 25-Nov-13 10:58:15

Spring's post of 18.23 is very much like I think also. My parents were absolutely hopeless as parents, I also have the therapy bills also. I just gritted my teeth and carried on - they weren't out and out toxic after all.

Then they got very old and died and I was there for them right up until the end, and I am glad I was. I could not have lived with myself if I hadn't been. OK... it was hard, I was still trying to win their approval after all these years but I can hold my head up high and know I gave my relationship with them my all and when my mother was lying on her death bed, I held her and I somehow knew she loved me even though the parenting was crap.

None of us are perfect. Of course 10 years is far far too long but I would not have let it go on so long... I would have done anything, absolutely anything, to have some sort of relationship with my parents, albeit a superficial one. This comes from having DC's myself... I don't get it right, in fact I often get it wrong and who knows what will happen in the future, I just do my best.

Perhaps the OP's inlaws are doing their best and they have had sleepless nights and the Golden Wedding is their olive branch and they are hoping against all hope that they can start again with a relationship with both of you. Parents of a different generation don't sometimes have the tools to talk, engage and they don't know where to begin with apologising because they probably dont know what they are actually apologising for! My parents never apologised for anything, I just accepted they were incapable.

MimiSunshine Mon 25-Nov-13 10:34:50

So that message proves it was all about putting on a good appearance for their party.
And now that you haven't asked how high when they said jump they've tried one last guilt trip disguised as a goodbye.

That message was designed to rile up your DH into replying in order to explain that it's not a grudge (on his part) and why it's been so long. Good on him for not rising to it.

There's no way they'll tell people why you aren't there, but that they "tried", they'd have to admit that you have been NC for ten years and that's bound to shock their guests so they'll just make up an excuse that you're away or something or the kids are poorly so you had to cancel last minute.

livingzuid Mon 25-Nov-13 10:24:19

Goodness what unpleasant people they sound, trying to turn the blame back on your family.

LoveandLife Mon 25-Nov-13 08:10:53

Well, when DH turned his phone back on there was a message saying, "Ok, we get the message, life's too short to bear grudges and everyone would love to see you but we won't bother you again"

So of course now they can tell everyone they "tried" and we knocked them back but DH is happy(ish) with that, he just hopes they're true to their word.

To my mind they haven't tried at all, there was no attempt to actually engage, talk, apologise...

FWIW with whole child/parent debate I think the unconditional love thing is absolutely key. DH's parents very much believe their children owe them for the sacrifices they made when their children were small. They were hard up as young parents and are incredibly resentful about the fact that both their children have been relatively comfortable - mostly because they were 10 years older when they started a family. When we and SIL bought our current (detached!) houses MIL had proper meltdowns about how unfair her life had been compared to ours. To me, that's what you hope for your children, that their lives will be better/more successful/more comfortable than yours. In our case it is definitely this jealousy and resentfulness that has caused most of the issues.

That said, I am not at all complacent that it could never happen to us - we all just do our best as parents and hope for the best

Tabby1963 Mon 25-Nov-13 07:51:09

Interesting debate. It has got me thinking about DH's brother; two people could not be more different in character, yet there is just two years difference in age, DH being older. This cannot just be explained by a difference in how they were brought up, because they were brought up in what seems like the same way, by good, decent people I loved my in-laws grin. DH has an uncle and his characteristics match DH's brother. I found that very interesting when I finally met him.

Nature surely has at least equal weight to nurture.

What makes someone behave in a toxic manner to other people, family or other people otherwise?

TalkingintheDark Sun 24-Nov-13 23:18:07

I just don't buy into it. I believe very much in cause and effect, and I think there is always a reason why people are the way they are, and, like Attila, I think the biggest reason is the kind of parenting they had, and the family dynamics in general.

This isn't always obvious on the surface - parents might appear to be loving and caring to the outside world, they might think of themselves as being so, but there is always (in these cases) some darkness somewhere, some warp in the programme that governs the family dynamics. It is virtually always unconscious, the result of something from one or both parents' own upbringing which they have never challenged, often because it is well hidden and also because to do so is unspeakably painful.

To me, the evidence is in the outcome. If there is an (adult) child who is dysfunctional in some serious way, that is the proof that something was amiss with the parenting. That to me is the prompt for a parent to investigate their own family dynamics in depth and see where this dysfunction comes from. But that is the point at which most parents, IME, choose to blame the (adult) child instead, because it's an easier option.

There is a very deep vein of child-blaming that runs through the heart of our culture, IMO, and we are all susceptible to it; those of us whose lives have been significantly impacted by this tendency are inevitably the ones who have most motivation to challenge it and perhaps have to dig around in the dark, unpleasant truths that some others can conveniently hide from.

(As an aside: Recent scientific studies that I have heard of seem to show not only that environment plays a much bigger role than genetics in the development of personality, but that the kind of mothering you receive actually affects the physical development if the brain.)

Sorry OP I know this is turning into a bit of a thread derail. But I think one thing there is almost a consensus on is that parents who really loved their child would not have let things go for 10 whole fucking years and voluntarily missed out on so much of their DC's and DGC's lives.

And I think that's the main point for me. Why would any child who felt really, deeply, truly and unequivocally loved by their parent want to destroy that relationship, deprive themselves of that irreplaceable, deep nurturing? And even if somehow they did, wouldn't the parent who really, deeply, truly and unequivocally loved their child do anything and everything to restore it to them? Wouldn't that be the single most important thing in your life, bar none?

Because at the end if the day it's not really about good parenting as some kind of task that must be performed to a certain standard; it's just about love and devotion. If you are genuinely devoted to your child, I think they know, however much you may fuck up (and of course we all fuck up as parents, each and every one of us). I do find it really hard to believe that when the love is that strong, it will not find a way, or at least keep on trying and trying. And if it isn't that strong... It's not the child's fault.

I know mine isn't a widely held or very popular viewpoint. But there we go.

Walkacrossthesand Sun 24-Nov-13 20:22:12

Complex indeed, meerka. I've raised 3 DCs, fairness is a big priority, I'm from a 'non toxic' family - but one of my (now adult) DCs is astonishingly self centred, to the extent that relationship with sibs is threatened - I'm sure s(he) would report feeling very hard done by, whereas the others would say it was because s(he) wasn't centre of attention. If s(he) flounces off NC one day, how far will I go in trying to find out what's wrong without yielding to demand to be centre of attention? Meanwhile, I just try to listen, and support. Whether that is recognised/acknowledged, I don't know.

Meerka Sun 24-Nov-13 20:05:28

there are a lot of other influences. The stereotype of children who get in with the wrong gang and go wild, to the great sadness of their parents, is a stereotype becuase it does happen.

Incidents can happen to children that knock them off balance very badly that the parents never even hear about. No parent can protect a child against everything. Some risks happen and a few people get extremely unlucky - and the parents never even know why. I happen to have observed it and was unable to intervene. Im reluctant to give more details publically but may do so if pm'd. It is incredibly sad to think of the parents' unending pain but they were not at fault in any preventable way.

Lastly there seems a general consensus that people grow up due to both genes and environment and there is a notable interaction. There are some 'dandelion' children who survive no matter what without being ground down, or becoming toxic; to me it makes sense that there are a very very few who become toxic no matter how good a background they come from.

Also, although not studied in great detail there seems to be some indication that adopted children can manifest characteristics, including quite rare ones, of the biological parents similar to manifesting rare genetic physical conditonis.

Complex issue, really.

"Some children grow up to be toxic adults - and not necessarily because of childhood, or parenting, experiences".

What other influences then (and I personally think childhood influences from parents and to a lesser extent other family relations play a huge role here) would you also cite as being influential?. Where's any actual evidence for this beign so?.

"To cut off a parent entirely is a huge step and, at the risk of being accused of pumping the guilt, the agony of it for the parent can be immense"

Agony for the parent?. I more often than not read of much guilt on the part of the adult child for cutting off their relative, such people do not and never make such decisions lightly or on a whim.

I think that parents who are very difficult, PITA etc can also be seen as toxic parents. They are toxic precisely because they are difficult and some have untreated as well as untreatable mental health problems or personality disorders.

You would not tolerate such nonsense from any friend; family are truly no different. I think many people carry on with such dysfunctional relationships out of a combination of fear, obligation and guilt towards the parent. All that eats a person up inside.

My Nan was old but she was pretty much demanding all her adult life; great age is no free pass for making the many varied demands of my father like she did. He only saw her out of duty in her latter years and that stance did him no favours at all ultimately.

springytickly Sun 24-Nov-13 18:23:01

Blimey, misunderstood or what. My posts were fair and considered and I was just giving a perspective. I appreciate, from my own experience, that it's an extremely difficult subject - I've got through a fair few thousand of therapy bills to confirm that. My parents are very old - my perspective is largely from that, which I have made clear.

Some people/parents are out and out toxic and the only possible solution is to stop contact, which is as it should be. A lot of parents, though, don't fall into the category of out and out toxic; are perhaps very, very difficult, a major pita etc. To cut off a parent entirely is a huge step and, at the risk of being accused of pumping the guilt, the agony of it for the parent can be immense. I would like to be certain a cut-off parent is in fact out and out toxic before taking such a drastic step. Who isn't deeply offended by their family at some stage?

I honestly wonder if some of yous think your parenting has been so fabulous that it's not a possibility that your children may cut you off. Dear me, it doesn't always go like that.

Final point: Adults were children once. Some children grow up to be toxic adults - and not necessarily because of childhood, or parenting, experiences. When I referred to toxic 'children' I used apostrophes, meaning adult 'children'.

Bowing out.

PTFO Sun 24-Nov-13 16:57:06

Hissy, that's it. Anyone normal would want to know if they can try and resolve any problems.

With my inlaws we asked to meet and chat, they were so 'hurt' they refused to see us for nearly a year and that's after they sent us several very nasty emails (which we ignored). I cant say too much or Ill out myself but one IL didn't even know if they wanted to try and sort things- they were too hurt/how dare you etc etc.- How can they not want to TRY and resolve things so they can have a relationship with their only GC?! whilst we were trying to be open to sort things and discuss and do everything we could to sort things. What we got was "we don't think you'll be there for us if we got ill"....you reap what you sow

I could tell you all sort but I wont out myself though unlikely on here.

Hissy Sun 24-Nov-13 16:41:53

Some of us know springy's other story, and while it's not applicable in this instance, there are children who make their parents' lives difficult, and some who do flounce off without reason.

Thing is, a non-toxic parent, or human being for that matter would always want to know if there was something that could be done for things to be better.

As we know, not all parents are toxic, but also not all (adult) children aren't.

Springy meant well, however it came over.

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