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

(992 Posts)

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It's almost May 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
February 2014

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

I wanted to add near the beginning of the thread a description of hoovering, which AttilaTheMeerkat often types. It is such a wise thing and worth stating on here:

"Some toxic people will let you leave a relationship without caring one bit. They never really cared about you, and if you don’t want to be used and abused anymore, they’re simply on to the next person before you can say, “Bye!”

Others, however…

Others hoover.

The toxic hooverer doesn’t truly care about you either — they just want to keep you around to feed on emotionally, and when you decide to go no contact, they don’t plan on letting you get away that easily.

Many hooverers have traits of borderline, narcissistic, antisocial or histrionic personality disorders. People with Dependent Personality Disorder may also hoover.

Hoovering is manipulation to gain control over your choice to distance yourself, and typically takes the following forms:

Ignoring your requests to break off the relationship and attempting to continue on as if nothing has changed.

Asking you when you’re going to “get over it” and return to your past actions.

Sending you a fake apology to give you hope that things have changed.

Trying to trick you into contact by saying someone needs you, is sick, or in trouble.

Triangulating with others, communicating things to you through them.

Saying they’re worried about you, concerned about whether you’re okay, need to know where you are, etc.

Sending unwanted cards, messages and gifts, sometimes gifts for your children, as they know you are likely to feel guilty about keeping a gift from your kids. Don’t allow this – exposing your children to manipulation is far worse!

Returning old items you left behind.

Baiting you with drama games.

Contacting you about “important” things they “forgot” and suddenly have to tell you.

Don’t Fall for Hoovering Tactics

Attempts to pull you back into a toxic relationship are not valid expressions of caring and concern — they are attempts to regain control over your behaviour. Beware — hoovering attempts are often disguised as caring, loneliness, hurt, desperation, fear, illness, and other things designed to play on your sympathies and pull you back. Abusers know that pulling on heartstrings works very well. (In the case of BPD, it may be simply out-of-control emotions and fear of abandonment more than an attempt to control you per se; however you will likely still feel that you are not being allowed to end a relationship you no longer want).

If your wish to end a relationship is not being honoured, whatever a toxic person thinks will work best on you will be what they try, so when one angle doesn’t work, they will try another, and another, ramping up their efforts until it seems they might never stop. Typically, hoovering DOES stop if the person being hoovered does not fall for the hooverer’s tricks.

The sooner the person being hoovered completely ignores everything and does not respond to anything at all in any way, the sooner the toxic person finally understands that they do not have the control. Some toxic people may still make the occasional attempt on holidays, anniversaries of events, etc. Don’t bite the bait. Simply ignore any attempts.

If you have already made it clear that you do not want a relationship (or if it’s obvious) then DON’T ever contact the person doing the hoovering to tell them to stop again, or how angry you are. That is a reward. They will be thrilled to receive your attention and pleased to know that their efforts have paid off by snagging you, so they’ll be contacting you even more!

Harassment

If you have told someone you do not want contact, and they continue to bother you, the police can assist you. If you ever feel that someone you are trying to break off a relationship with may be capable of more than simply annoying you mildly, contact your local police for assistance. They are well-accustomed to dealing with skillful manipulators and have many smart ways of handling them, so do not hesitate to ask for help. (And remember, you have nothing to be ashamed about; you’re not the one behaving badly, and the police are there to protect you from abuse.)"

GoodtoBetter Sat 26-Apr-14 14:40:47

Thanks for the new thread. Marking my place. will be back later.

MrsSippie Sat 26-Apr-14 14:54:32

I've been sort of hovering over these threads for a while and am now ready to jump in. I have an extremely toxic mother who makes me cry nearly every day. It's just getting worse as we all get older and oI am finally having counselling to try to get me to cope with her. On tablet at The moment but will come back when I am on a bigger machine - can't deal with these tiny modern things grin. I am going to read the top posts now.

Ha! Eagle eyed Goodtobetter! I wasn't going to post link on the old thread until almost full to avoid confusion grin

Welcome MrsSippie.

MillyMollyMandy78 Sat 26-Apr-14 15:36:20

Marking my place for now

Appletini Sat 26-Apr-14 15:45:42

Hi, I'm a long-time lurker posting for the first time. Went NC with toxic parents and brother last year, not really in contact with any other relatives. I know it was the right decision for me, but I just feel so sad that I had to make it.

More and more lately, I'm noticing how often people talk about their families and I'm also starting to properly see how bad things were and how much I've missed out on. As a kid I was subjected to so much toxic stress and, as I'm seeing now, I was never treated like I mattered. Quite the opposite in fact.

I'm seeing a counsellor but I just feel so weighed down by it all. And very jealous of people with nice families.

GoodtoBetter Sat 26-Apr-14 16:16:48

Was it Milly with the DBro who can't see the toxicity? Hissy mentioned me as my Dbro was arguably more aware than me (although he didn't know about "toxic" parents). Why didn't I see it? Well, FOG I suppose. I knew she was "difficult" and although I would have said we were close (Dm and me) I kind of knew it was a bit smothering and unhealthy rather than just close.
What made me see? Well, nothing really until she went totally overboard and went for the jugular with DH. And, even then I doubted myself...without MN I think it could have ended in divorce. It was so so so hard to see it for what it was. It was only that after years of her sniping about him I finally posted on MN, expecting people to say he was at fault nd the resounding answer was that she was out of line. Even then...it took another attack from her for the scales to fall from my eyes. Once that had happened there was no going back, but even then it was terrifying. I was terrified of her and her reaction and wondered if it wasn't me that was the problem. Total classic FOG.
So, I understand why he wants you to "comply" and sort of tow the line. And I don't think you can make him see the light until they push things or do something awful to HIM. And even then, it's a long road.

Meerka Sat 26-Apr-14 17:12:01

hello mrssippie

appletini quite a few of us know what you mean. when everyone else seems to have loving families, it hurts like hell to be outcast from belonging to a sane family, not loved for who you are and the target of true nastiness. It makes a lonely situation even lonelier when you see other people going home for christmas or their parents visiting.

The only upside is that at least you are no longer being actively hurt and damaged by the destructive people. Friends are never the same as family, but at least you can choose sane, decent, warm people to be around!

Give yourself time to be sad and to grieve. It can take a long time.

Appletini Sat 26-Apr-14 18:15:16

Thanks for your kind words Meerka. It was actually another MN thread that made me post - there's a thread for those who have lost parents. And I was thinking about how really I've lost mine too, but not in a way other people get - and mine aren't worth missing. Made me feel really sad and shitty. Not sure I'm making much sense sorry.

Was talking to a friend who's NC with his dad and I said about how it's like a loss that's not acknowledged and he said "but I don't want to know him so it's not a loss". Had hoped he might understand all the ways it is a loss you know?

MommyBird Sat 26-Apr-14 21:10:04

Just an update.

I posted on the other thread about my MIL. Don't know if anyone remembers.

Anyway. We got married grin
We had no texts (other than a few days before asking if we was getting married) phone calls, visits. Nothing. It was perfect.

Still nothing from her...hopefully she will leave us alone now.

Meerka Sat 26-Apr-14 21:18:40

oh congratulations mommy, I hope it was a really wonderful day. And it sounds wonderful to have been drama - free! smile

MommyBird Sat 26-Apr-14 21:26:42

I was nervous something would happen.--The champagne helped calm my nerves--

And Thank you! grin I love being a Mrs.

I don't think we will hear from her now. The way she replied to the text she seemed really thrown, like she wasn't expecting the response we got.
Or she will develop a serious illness.

MommyBird Sat 26-Apr-14 21:27:26

*response she got.

i have had wine!

spanky2 Sat 26-Apr-14 21:42:06

Congratulations mommybird!

Congratulations Mommy! smile

EssexMummy123 Sun 27-Apr-14 09:39:19

Just came across this checklist thenarcissisticlife.com/do-i-have-a-narcissistic-mother-21-signs-of-a-narcissistic-mother/
and realised that my mother ticks 20 of the 21 signs.

spanky2 Sun 27-Apr-14 11:21:55

Me too! Thank you as I am having a tough time dealing with the grief of my abusive childhood and their current rejection of me. I confronted my mum about her awful behaviour! Whoops!!

SquidgeOps Sun 27-Apr-14 11:27:26

Hi everyone. I'm new to this thread, and pretty new to MN. I posted a couple of threads over the last few days in the MN Relationships forum. But I'm going to repost them here as I can see this is where I need to be. It feels a bit "me, me, me" to repost them but I really need some support, and I would really like to provide some too. So here follow my threads:-

I need a break from my parents. I've never got on with my mum since my teenage years really. It took me twenty years to realise she is passive aggressive and that I don't have to put up with it. (An early example of this is that I went on the pill aged 18 whilst in a 2 year relationship, and partly because of my periods. When I tried to talk to her about it she was very disapproving. I went to the doctor for the appointment and hey presto she was in the waiting room waiting to see another doctor?! Then she didn't speak to me for a month, even though I was still living at home. Is this normal?!).

We are so different too. I feel like the black sheep sometimes. I'm not saying it's all her and I know I'm not the easiest person in the world. But a lot of it comes from her. We just don't get on. And I'm fine with that now.

I'm 44 now. Have my own family and we are very close. Things have just blown up again and I just need to bow out. I tried to a couple of years ago but was pressured with the "you only have one family, we need to get over this, how could you" sort of stuff and we reconciled, as much as was ever going to be possible.

She makes no effort to meet up, but constantly says "we've not seen you for ages, we've not seen the GC for ages" so it always falls to me. The truth is they have been useless GPs. My DS are 11 and 9. They GPs lost my boys' interest/affection years ago because they have never been hands on GPs. Now they say can the GC go stay for a few days in the Summer hols. But the DCs don't want to go. But they keep asking. And it's getting really awkward and embarrassing. I will not force my children to go and stay with them for a few days against their wills. So I tried to say they get a bit bored (my parents mostly stay in watching TV all day every day with a weekly trip to the supermarket. My kids are very capable of entertaining themselves for hours on end with Lego etc. but still...). So I said maybe they could come for a night and see how they find it. But of course I'm being mean/unfeeling/callous etc. (not said, but defo implied. In fact I would rather she say it so that we could have it out, but it's just sitting there bubbling away).

I just don't know how to go NC and maintain it. I don't actually want to hurt her/them. I don't mean them any harm. I just find the relationships so difficult and always with stuff bubbling away/unsaid/implied.

SquidgeOps Sun 27-Apr-14 11:28:45

Thank you so much for the replies so far. OMG though Dutch1e, I love your post. But as I read it I was simultaneously reading it and thinking "I couldn't possibly say that to my mum" and imaging how awful she would think I was.

Once she called me "pure evil". I was 6 months pg with second DC. First DC was 18 months old. He was born 13 days late via emergency c-section after 5 days' induction. He was 9lbs 8oz. I was devastated to have a c-section. I couldn't talk about it for a year after. I never considered that I would one. I have size 10 feet and my whole adult life she told me I would have babies no problem. I stupidly bought into this.

So, DH was working away at the other end of the country Monday to Friday. DM had come to look after DC1 and I had a consultant appointment to discuss the birth of DC2. I so badly wanted to try a VBAC. There was no reason anyone could figure out as to why I could not have DS1 vaginally. But in this appt the doctor told me I should book in for an elective. He brushed off all of my well researched questions. I came out of the appointment, locked myself in the maternity ward loo for 15 minutes and sobbed my heart out. Midwives were knocking on the door. It was awful.

I called my DH who was as I said working up north. I sobbed to him and explained. I drove home. Unknown to me he, knowing how my DM doesn't listen/doesn't understand/doesn't try to see things from my POV, called my DM to warn her that I was very distressed and upset at being strong advised to have an elective. He was trying to be helpful. He wanted her to be supportive. He was aware he couldn't be there for me so he needed her to be.

So, I walked in the door, still sobbing, to be told basically to pull myself together. She didn't understand. She said "but your SIL has had three c-sections and she was fine with it" and generally unhelpful stuff like that. What I actually needed was a hug, and for someone to LISTEN. They may have been irrational thoughts, but they were MY thoughts at that moment. I asked her to leave, very politely in the circs ("please can you just go, I really can't talk about this at the moment"). DS1 was there. She wouldn't leave. In the end I raised my voice and shouted, "please will you just go". She called me pure evil and left.

(I now know that the main thing was that my boys were born happy and healthy - I tried a VBAC with DS2 but that also ended up in an emergency c-section).

I should add to that they see ME as always causing problems. I have this huge issue with being unfairly judged. So every now and then I will be confrontational when I feel they are being all snidy. This c-section upset they would have seen as me being difficult/making a drama out of nothing. Which feels all very unjust to me.

I struggle to think of my mum as a bad person and I don't want to hurt her. But I realise I have a long way to go regards seeing things for how they are.

SquidgeOps Sun 27-Apr-14 11:29:00

The shit has really hit the fan today in terms of me finally realising that I just have to deal with this issue from my childhood, and talk to someone about it.

My brother abused me when I was about 8, sexually. I think for a couple of years. He is 2.5 years older than me. It was full sex at times. I don't remember how it started, and I don't remember how it ended. I don't remember him actually forcing me in terms of holding me down and I feel bad saying he abused me. He was young too. I find it hard to accept he knew what he was doing. Once during a family get together my cousin who I think was about 4 years older than me also got involved (not full sex).

Once my mum walked in (we shared a bedroom) and we were both semi naked (not doing anything). She said "I don't know what's going on but it doesn't look very nice" and she turned around and walked out. It wasn't mentioned again. The impact of her not getting to the bottom of what was going on is not lost on me.

I've only ever told two people. My first proper boyfriend whom I was with from 16 to 20. He badgered me about who I lost my virginity to. In the end I caved and told him. I told DH about 5 years ago after a family row. I told my best friend today. My overriding emotions are shame and disgust. I look at my DCs (same gender) and they're the ages we would have been at the time and it's horrific. But in many ways I have learnt to accept that it happened and I can't change it. In a way I think we were kids - it must happen sometimes, surely.

But it makes it very very hard to be an active member of my family. That's not the whole reason why we don't all get on - my mum has not been the sort of mum that I hoped I had had. I want to opt out of family life really. But I feel I can't. They don't let me. The guilt is too much. And it would be unfair of me to leave/disappear without them knowing about this, but there is no way I would ever, ever tell them. It would tear the family apart. (Plus I'm remembering the time I turned up aged 27 on Christmas Eve early evening covered in mud with ligature marks around my neck after my then boyfriend who was very drunk tried to strangle me on the ground down a dark country lane. My dad's reaction was to be cross because I had disturbed the peace at their house).

Plus as I said I don't see my brother as the villain. He's not a monster. He was a child too. We hung out together in the following years and our early 20s with a group of friends as we grew up in a small village. We never discussed what happened.

My family is dysfunctional. It's hard to finally realise that. They are not deliberately evil though. Just different to me. I think. I don't know how to go NC. Not in terms of the actual mechanics of it (although I found the reply regards how you actually do it very enlightening). But how you actually do it without feeling any sort of guilt, or worry that something awful might happen to them and you might regret it forever. But as I said in an earlier post, they won't allow me the space I need (for example, insisting the children go and stay when they have put no effort into building a relationship of any meaning with them and the children don't want to go and bloody well stay).

How do I do it in that sense, without divulging the pain and shame I have carried for over 30 years? Or how do I have some sort of a relationship but keep them at arms length when they badger me so much.

Thanks for reading and sorry if the subject of this post offends anyone.

MillyMollyMandy78 Sun 27-Apr-14 11:42:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SquidgeOps Sun 27-Apr-14 11:43:51

Apple I know exactly how you feel. I feel I grieve almost daily for the family I didn't have. I feel surrounded by women who have on the surface great relationships with their families. Spa days with their mothers, big family style Christmases etc. It breaks my heart and you're right, you do seem to tune in to it more.

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