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

(1000 Posts)

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It's February 2014, 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
January 2013
March 2013
August 2013
December 2013

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 up, 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 your 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 defences 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 use 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 behaviour. 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 offences 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 behaviour. 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 realise 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

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:

Homecoming
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

This final quote is from smithfield posting as therealsmithfield:

"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

LookingThroughTheFog Tue 11-Feb-14 17:42:25

Thanks for starting it, MomeRaths. I've been wanting to post a minor Gah all day, but didn't want to start a new thread (feel like a newbie).

Anyhow, Colleague pricked her ears up on hearing that I dropped my Maiden name like a shot because of not wanting anything to do with Dad or his family. Apparently I should get over it and talk to him, because I'll only ever have one father.

I refrained from telling her to go and take a running jump. My colleague who gets it stepped in and deflected her ire (she's had similar pointed comments about her relationship with her mother).

It makes me tired though. It seems like there'll always be people out there thinking that we cut our parents out happily and willingly and it's not an effort or a struggle and it's not a decision that we make over a lifetime of hurt.

So Gah.

Anyone is welcome to start a fresh one and we can all add in links etc later. Wouldn't want anyone to be without this support.

I was out last night blush And work etc is all a bit manic right now. Sorry again blush

Looking I don't even bother talking to people at work about my family. They don't get it at all and it makes me so frustrated and angry. They don't mean to I suppose, but they'll never understand.

I bet her ear wigging and then putting her oar in, made you feel a bit angry too.

Rant away.

LookingThroughTheFog Tue 11-Feb-14 18:00:57

It frustrates me no end. She's known that I haven't spoken to him, but I don't generally talk in the office, so she hasn't had an opening to give me her important opinions before. I'm usually quite careful, though I know she talks to a couple of my colleagues who do know about stuff about me. Fortunately, they are sensible people, so don't pass to her details of my therapy when she asks.

Actually, I'm getting cross about her again! Who does that? Who asks a colleague for details of why another colleague is going to therapy?

She's a weird one and no mistake.

Meerka Tue 11-Feb-14 18:23:56

it's very lonely when you have a shitty family. Isolating. you have the horrible experience in the first place but it also separates you from much more normal family life and (speaking for myself) separates you from most other people a little bit, except the ones who as you say, get it.

Sounds like she thrives on other peoples misfortune Looking

Bedtime1 Tue 11-Feb-14 20:42:04

Thanks don'tsteponmomeraths

HesterShaw Tue 11-Feb-14 21:13:22

DB and I were only saying today how impossible it is for "normal people" to get it.

He phoned her for the first time in about a year this evening. I'm afraid I must have been the catalyst for that. He poured out a lifetime of anger and hurt. She tried to protest but eventually listened, breaking down in tears and saying sorry. He told her she needs to do the same to me, but apparently the reason she and I aren't talking is because I "misconstrued" her behaviour. Speaks volumes doesn't it?

I found out something awful. When DB was in hospital after his suicide attempt, he was lying in his bed, staff busying themselves around him, neck in three pieces, and she told him she was ashamed of him. She meant for taking up the doctors and nurses' time after a self inflicted injury, but who does that? Jesus.

HesterShaw Tue 11-Feb-14 21:14:05

Your colleague sounds bizarre, Looking.

BadBadPuss Tue 11-Feb-14 21:18:22

Hello all, have lurked for a long while. Both myself and dh have had revelations recently following an argument with his family, more precisely his DB. Now it all becomes clear that he is a twisted covert narc. I always had a niggling in the back of my head about him, I even googled a couple of times thinking he was on some kind of spectrum. But he completely lacks empathy. I had even googled psychopath!

Anyway, dh had confronted him not realising this missing link of the jigsaw. Of course, db went on the attack, verbally, via email and through their parents. To cut a long story short, now I'm worried about what he could do. Once dh realised that he was a narc and that he would never win, he 'appologised' via email with the view to backing off slowly and not antagonising him. Dh has told me some chilling stories from his childhood and I do believe that he could easily not be here today if things had gone db's way and I don't say that lightly.

There is so much to this, I'm afraid of boring everyone. Since all this, there have been a couple of dodgy incidents on line, which could just be us being paranoid. I also don't want to give too many details either, not that anyone would recognise me but still...

Anyway, I guess I'm after some kind of reassurance (as much as possible) that I am being paranoid! We have decided to avoid db, which is quite easy because he lives in another country. However,we visit the IL's on a regular basis so I'm sure info will be going back and forth. We are going to make excuses not to visit when we know he is going to be there also. MIL is, I think the term, the enabler but also she has had her own MH issues and their childhood was pretty traumatic.

All this coupled with the fact that since the revelation, I realise my Dad was a narc (but less sophisticated and pretty stoopid actually). And both me and dh have realised that we are actually liberated from all the crap. I emailed my own db today with some info. I hope it helps him too.

Sorry am rambling. Any thoughts please?

BrennanHasAMangina Tue 11-Feb-14 22:05:13

Not sure if I'm in the right place but I've had a terrible row with my mother. It was about something relatively trivial but it just all came out...all the times she's done similar things in the past, her emotional detachment and utterly selfish, narcissistic behaviour. We usually just sweep disagreements under the rug but this time I've just had it and had to tell her that I was done with it all. I feel adrift. A strange combination of relief and grief. We're moving overseas in a few weeks, so terrible timing but it's kind of wrapped up in that as well. Sorry, not very coherent. Am having wine. Just needed a vent.

BadBadPuss Tue 11-Feb-14 22:14:50

Brennan - how strange, we are about to move too. Maybe it's not bad timing but very good timing. I'd hold on to the relief if I were you!

BrennanHasAMangina Tue 11-Feb-14 22:40:40

You might be right Bad. I'm sure there's something to do with our moving wrapped up in her behaviour but we've never been close and she's disinterested in my children, so it's not that. It's more like this constant need to rain on my parade or throw a spanner in the works, so to speak. I know lots of people that have done big moves and had nothing but support and positive encouragement from their families, pride and promises to visit etc. We haven't had any of that...it's all doom and gloom and hand-wringing and telling us that she "can't sleep for worrying about us" (completely irrational).

Your BIL sounds like a nutter...what a relief he doesn't live nearby and sounds like your DH did the right thing by trying to diffuse things. Probably best to not engage in any kind of discussion about him or the situation with your MIL as it's bound to get back to him. In my situation, my Dad is the enabler...he's a pretty smart guy but he's let her get away with absolutely outrageous behaviour in the past and must think it's normal.

Hissy Tue 11-Feb-14 22:52:06

Oh I had the tearful goodbyes and godawful St Christopher pendant

Didn't stop her ignoring me for 2-3 weeks at a time if she knew I was struggling/homesick/being abused by 'im indoors.
They luuuurrvvve the drama, but their drama only. Not ours. Never ours.

BadBadPuss Tue 11-Feb-14 23:07:48

God so spot on Hissy and Brennan! Yes the move has shaken shit up with DHs family because ILs had helped us out financially.

Brennan - yes BIL is a nutter! And he's way beyond help. It scares me what dh has told me. My intuition has been right all this time. But seeing as it was family, I'd discounted it! Shit!

BadBadPuss Tue 11-Feb-14 23:09:16

BIL had used gas lighting along with MIL - perhaps not consciously. So all the things that happened - DH thought he was imagining/forgetting, very very scary

BadBadPuss Tue 11-Feb-14 23:12:01

Sorry BIL used gas lighting consciously but I think MIL used it unconsciously. Very tangled web. And then I have my own family shit to sort out. However, it's relatively simple in comparison.

birdmomma Wed 12-Feb-14 07:11:23

Both times I have done big moves, once down to Cornwall, and then on to New Zealand, my Dad has attempted to exert financial control and then finally engineered a massive falling out, right in the middle of the stress and planning. Big moves seem to upset toxic parents a lot.

Do you think it's because you're breaking away from their clutches so to speak? And it'd be harder to exert control over you, if you're further away?

Or because the move is about you, not them?

Off to do the School run shortly and then work. Be back later.

Meerka Wed 12-Feb-14 08:31:57

BigBad, I don't discount what you say. There are some truly dangerous people around and some very, very subtly evil people .. thankfully not as many as some would have you believe.

If you really believe that your BIL could have tried to put your husband in a situation where he did not survive, to speak plainly, and if he's vengeful, then I think you have to be extremely careful. Not that he'd try anything like that now, but the poison campaigns that such people wage can be life-destroying anyway.

You and your husband need to commnicate with each other every step of the way, even apparently irrelevant things. I also think that it may be necessary to go non-contact with anyone in his family who is close to his brother. That includes his mother, who may not be deliberately malicious but who will pass information on. If there is genuine risk of BIL attacking you to make your lives miserable, you have to think self-protectively and very carefully.

Be ready for on line attacks yes; and for rumours etc. For financial problems.

Also, if you can, take the view that this may well be unnecessary. What's that old proverb? "trust in God but tie your camel up first".

I'm sorry not to be more reassuring but very sadly, this malicious behaviour does very occasionally surface and given that you reallly believe your husband might not have been here and that there are incidents that have made your blood run cold, I think that you are better off being sensibly-cautious.

Meerka Wed 12-Feb-14 08:33:41

mome I personally think that people moving away from toxic parents is a threat to their perceived dominance yeah. I suspect that one of the tricks they use to themselves if someone tries to break free is that "they'll learn and come crawling back eventually and won't they be sorry and listen to me then" and someone moving away is seen as making that less likely

BadBadPuss Wed 12-Feb-14 09:02:12

Thanks all. I think the reason it's all kicked off is that ILs have helped us out financially and someone said up thread, the move is about us not him.

We were considering going non contact with the whole family as my DH knows that he will just blurt stuff out, honest to a fault. I think that if we back away slowly and don't antagonise him then we should be ok. We are being very vigilant. DH this morning said he's scared.

I think though that he wants to protect his position in their family. I've always wondered why he visits home so often, it's because his DM will put up with his shit. FIL will not intervene. He has hit FIL before, when he was about 60 odd and he was in his 20s. I asked DH why and he said that FIL has disagreed with him. He plays MIL like a fiddle and piles guilt on her to keep her in her place. We know that when FIL dies (he's elderly now) he will move in on MIL and just completely control her. He will convince her to change her will and he'll get the lions share if not all cutting out DH and his DSis. It's scary shit.

I would like to talk about what he did to DH when they were young, just getting up the courage.

Meerka Wed 12-Feb-14 09:12:05

bigbadpuss, questoin: is there any chance at all that he will recognise you on here somehow? If there is, then be careful posting. If not, then post away smile

again, I do believe you because I know that while it's thank god rare, there are a very few people who behave like this and they usually get away with it because they are very clever at it. It's hard to even see what's going on, unless you know the signs.

Have you spoken to SIL? does she have the same feelings? Im not suggesting you could band agaisnt BIL becuase I don't think you could; but if she's a sensible person she might be able to see what's likely to happen and you can support each other. If she's likely to fall under his influence too, keep well clear.

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