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Should I ask DH to reconcile with my parents?

(53 Posts)
FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 05:32:28

(Have NC-ed for this one - am not a new poster)
My parents and I fell out shortly after the birth of my DS. They came to visit early when I asked them to wait a while and got offended over a range of small imagined slights (mother didn't like where her card was displayed, that MIL got to see DS first because she lives closer, father annoyed we didn't cook for him, DH didn't greet him warmly enough etc). They blew up at me in my house about 1 week after I'd given birth and shouted at me, had a blazing row. DH stood up for me and tried to intervene and they shouted at him and insulted him too.

We were both really shaken after this event and found it really upsetting and stressful. I asked my parents to cut their visit short and go home. They were shell-shocked too as they are used to having their tantrums now and again and people just putting up with it. They apologized later over the telephone but I told them their behavior was totally unacceptable. My DH said to me that he didn't want to see them again.

After about six months of frostiness, I began to patch things up with them and speak on the phone now and again. I sent them photos of my son and cards, presents for birthdays etc. mostly out of a sense of guilt.

Things were complicated for me also because my father got very sick a year ago and was in ICU. He made a full recovery but could easily have died and I felt awful that the last time I had seen him we had fallen out. It felt like a judgement on me. Since that time, I have tried to maintain good relations with them because they're my parents and they're not going to be around forever - so basically out of guilt.

Anyway, we're now planning a visit home. DH is not from my country but is happy to base ourselves there for the visit as he likes it there and it's too much hassle to country-hop when we're coming a long way. We can meet up with my sister and his parents are going to come over too.

I feel i have to meet with my parents when I'm there. I don't enjoy the prospect of it as it's going to be stressful but I want DS to meet them and I want to normalize things a little. DH says that he has no interest in meeting with them, is worried that if I meet with them on my own they'll attack me again and says in general that this is our one holiday in the year so we shouldn't stress ourselves out with them.

We agreed in the end that I would go and meet with them for a couple of days along with my sister. He still has misgivings though and is worried for me. I don't know what to do. I will meet with them because I have to but I would rather that DH was with me really for moral support.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 06:22:06

Yes, I think you should talk about meeting them again if it's important to you that you do so. Most families have bust-ups but, unlike with other people, they're often short-lived and forgiven rather than allowed to turn into a massive grudge that goes on indefinitely. That's family life.

If it's important to you to remain in contact and if you want them to meet your son, then put that to your DH and say you need his support as your life-partner in making that happen. It's just a couple of old people we're talking about here.... not a Bengal Tiger. Two wrongs don't make a right. As adults, as a team, you can and should stand up for yourselves and have each other's backs. Think through a few possible ways the visit will play out, reduce it to one day rather than two and, if anyone tries to 'attack', then you don't tolerate it and you leave straight away.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 06:23:51

Should add. Don't ask him to reconcile with them because he's clearly not ready to forgive. Ask him to accompany and support you ... very different and something he should agree to.

BadSkiingMum Fri 12-Jul-13 06:32:38

I think that the fall out after the birth sounds like some of the strange familial adjustment that can go on around that time.

Vivacia Fri 12-Jul-13 06:37:44

I think you need to accept your partner' decision. So long as he's not trying to prevent you going I think you need to respect his decision not to go. He can support you without having to negate his own feelings.

If you are only meeting your parents though out of feeling guilty and having ongoing guilt then this is perhaps not a good idea for you to meet them. Many children now adults of parents who weren't actually all that good at all as parents (because said parents were too critical of their children and or too self absorbed within their own selves) do often feel FOG - an acronym for fear, obligation and guilt.

Do you think your parents feel guilty?. I daresay not, well not now anyway. And what if these two blow up at you and or your sister again?.

Do your parents really expect their way to get their own way all the time?. People can be unreasonable and difficult anyway regardless of culture, age or creed. I think you still find them very difficult to deal with and without your DH there to back you up, you could so easily cave in to any demands they make of you. You both did well to throw them out last time around because they were being totally unreasonable and histrionic in terms of behaviours (throwing wobblies over cards is what unreasonable people do). Fortunately for you as well, your DH does support you with regards to them, that makes it easier.

You would not tolerate any of this from a friend and family are truly no different. I am only sad that they are not actually the kind, decent and nice parents you so want them to be. It is NOT your fault they behave like this.

Look at your reasons as well for why you want your DS to meet them?. Is it really out of societal convention?. What if they were to start on you via him?. They could also turn on him as well or try to buy his affections. This can happen, its not beyond the realms of possibility here.

BTW how does your sister get along with them?.

What have your parents actually done to try and repair things or has this really only been one way on your part?. How did they respond to your assertion that their actions were totally unreasonable?. I think their response is important, did these two really take responsibility for their own actions or did they look into blaming you and your DH again for their unreasonable behaviour?.

Do you also think their apology was genuinely meant or just said to you for the sake of it?. If you are happy with the level of contact you have now then I would maintain this level.

If you do meet with them (and if you are only really meeting them out of a sense of both guilt and obligation I would really think again) I would keep the visit short and not stay overnight. You need to have and maintain firm boundaries with regards to your parents, this is vitally important. Boundaries too must be stuck to as well as maintained.

However, if you feel that they are too difficult for you to deal with then they are too difficult for them to be around your vulnerable and defenceless child.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 06:54:08

I think it's pretty normal for families to want to patch things up and forgive. Even if the motivation for meeting up is guilt, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Often someone has to hold out an olive branch and give it a shot or families end up not talking to each other for very silly reasons for years on end.

This pair are said to have 'tantrums' but they've been firmly stood up to by the OP and her DH, lost access to their DD and grandchild for several months and, unless they're really stupid, they're going to be very wary of a repeat performance.

I think the OP and her DH are actually in a stronger position than they give themselves credit for.... and should capitalise on it.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 12-Jul-13 07:02:32

If you were saying that you wanted to patch things up because you love them and miss them and want them in your life and they're good people who love you too and this was a terrible thing that was a one off and your life is poorer for not having them in it...

I'd say go, make it up, life's too short.

But you say guilt (more than once). you say 'have to'. You say 'judgement'

You describe selfish people who didn't care what you wanted or needed and expected the world to revolve around them and you say that this is how they have always been and you have put up with it, walked on eggshells around them and this is the first time you've stood your ground and look what happened!

If they get you on your own then yes, they probably will try to break you down and put you back in the place at their feet where you are supposed to be.

I agree with your husband. Based on what you have outlined here. It's not worth it.

And you have to ask yourself not if your child deserves grandparents, because every child deserves a werthers original sucking pipe smoking cake baking Grandparent grin but does your child deserve them. With the way they are and how they treat people.

I have experience of this type of person. I remember my dad's mother sitting at the bottom of the garden sulking because I had somehow offended her.

I think I was about 8. hmm

I remember the 'headaches', the taking to the bedroom, the sulking, the writing horrible horrible letters to my parents if they didn't toe the line. I remember the invoice sent to my uncle when he didn't do as he was told - the one that listed everything they'd ever given him and done for him. I remember the time they let themselves into his home when he and his wife were on holiday and redecorated to their taste!

Best thing I ever did was binning the lot of them when I was 16.

Your child seriously doesn't need horrible people in his life. Honestly he doesn't.

If you want to make up with them cos they're good people and you love them and you truly want them in your life, then go for it.

If you are doing it because you feel you have to, out of duty or obligation or some idea of blood being thicker than water or some such nonsense - then I'd say don't inflict that on your family!

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 12-Jul-13 07:02:52

hmm I have GOT to start writing shorter posts.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 07:35:43

These people live in a whole other country, we're talking about a one or two day visit and mostly the relationship is conducted on the phone. It's hardly like they're going to be living in each others' pockets, interfering with each other's lives on a daily basis and if, by making this trip, the OP can go home feeling like she at least tried to facilitate better relations, I don't see the problem. I think everyone should keep a sense of perspective rather than leaping straight on the 'no contact' bandwagon. 'Jaw jaw rather than war war'?

WinkyWinkola Fri 12-Jul-13 07:40:49

If it makes you happy, go for it.

But is this behaviour their norm? It sounds dreadful if it is.

I'm all for family but if my family behaves badly, they get very short shift from me.

Personally, I couldn't care less who you are to me but you behave well towards me and mine or that's that. Life's too short.

Having said that, if your parents are showing signs of trying to make amends (or are you doing all the running?) then give them another chance.

Don't let them make you or your ds unhappy though.

I would like to know some more about the exact nature of the parents apology; it may have well not been meant and perhaps even along the lines of, "well we've now said sorry to you so what more do you want ?".

Emotionally healthy families want to make up, emotionally unhealthy and dysfunctional ones at heart want to continue the same old patterns of behaviour.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 08:05:23

Which means the OP is emotionally healthy.... surely? Having grown up in a home where we were distanced from great swathes of my DM's family I can see both sides of the argument. The person causing all the problems was pretty awful it's true, but the situation was made far worse by the 'Allied Pacts' which meant that no contact with one automatically excluded lots of others. Those who had married into the family, like the OP's DH, had no motivation to change matters. So with no-one talking and no-one backing down it became like one of those ridiculous neighbour disputes where, forty years down the track and with the original troublemaker long dead, no-one can actually remember what the original problem was.

JessicaBeatriceFletcher Fri 12-Jul-13 08:27:20

You say you have tried to maintain good relationships with them (for whatever reason). I'd like to know what efforts THEY have made with you after their apology before being in the "go see them" or "don't go see them" camp.

As things stand, I think your DH is behaving admirably. He defended you at the time and is obviously being protective of you. I think in his shoes (as they insulted him as well as you) I think I'd be behaving as he is - not having a problem with you going if you wish but not wishing to go himself.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 08:38:51

Cogito - I feel myself drifting towards your point of view. No, as others point out, my motivation for meeting them is not a good one, it's mainly guilt or FOG but also a ridiculously blind optimism that they will love my DS somehow and be nice to him and be that Werthers Original grandparent. I know that. On the other hand, I tried the 'no contact' thing facilitated by us living far away anyway, something that i have never done before with them, something that is totally 100% against my culture and values, and look what happened? My father almost died.

Atilla so glad you have posted back as I love your advice to people on here, it is always sensible. Their apology was partly genuine at the time in that they really did regret having ruined their visit to see their first grandchild by throwing a tantrum. At the same time though I could tell from talking to them that while they knew that it's unreasonable to scream and shout at someone in their home, deep down they seemed to think I had 'brought it on myself' by being such a difficult person(!). I have a very short fuse, you see, and get too impatient, apparently (pot calling kettle black).

I asked them once: 'would you have liked it if my grandparents had come into the house after my eldest brother was born and screamed at you like that?' My father said 'well, no, but we never gave them any cause to fall out with us". That reply said it all to me.

It is hard to explain but basically my father is a very selfish person. His needs always came first in our family and we spent much of our childhood overshadowed by his temper. My mother is his enabler saying 'oh, you know Dad, he gets contrary now and again heh heh'. When I was a teenager, he was horrible to me. As an independent adult, he had learned to respect me and we had found a way to relate to each other, or so I thought.

The bust-up after the birth was like a flashback to my teenage years. They talked to me in my own house like I was 14 years old again, despite me being the mother of my own child at that point. It all revolved around them getting the wrong end of the stick, convinced I was snubbing them or disrespecting them. I was really hurt to realize that they thought so little of me or knew me and my DH so little that they thought I would be like that. The whole thing just brought home to me that in their eyes they still didn't recognize that I was a grown woman and all my work at building a more mature, respectful relationship with them had been a waste of time.

On the other hand... when my DH travels on business, they are the only people who always call me. They call me to check about my DS when he's sick. I know they miss me and would love to see DS. I don't get anything much from the relationship with them anymore though as the relationship I thought I had with them was obviously just a sham as they had not really changed at all underneath the facade of niceness.

Sorry this is getting to long...

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 08:48:11

Your father nearly dying wasn't a consequence of the bad feeling, of course. Purely a coincidence. But sometimes, it takes that 'life's too short' crisis moment for everyone to drop their pride and hurt and start talking. I know my DM took it as a personal slight for a long, long time that I moved to the other end of the country. She felt I was rejecting her specifically rather than - what I was actually doing - making a better life for myself. Even now when I visit their house (that I have not lived in for 30 years) she refers to it as 'coming home'.' It's a case of doing what you feel is best and maintaining your self-respect at the same time.

JessicaBeatriceFletcher Fri 12-Jul-13 08:49:13

1) The fact your father nearly died has NOTHING to do with your going 'no contact' with them for a while. One was not the cause of the other.

2) You say your father is selfish and your mother is an enabler. He was horrible to you as a teenager. Your DS doesn't need grandparents like that.

3) Your final sentence I think says it all: "I don't get anything much from the relationship with them anymore though as the relationship I thought I had with them was obviously just a sham as they had not really changed at all underneath the facade of niceness"

You wouldn't allow this to continue if they weren't family. If friends were like this, you'd have no more to do with them. They say you choose your friends but not your family. True. But you can choose not to have anything more to do with your family. In your case, I wouldn't bother with them. Sorry if that sounds harsh.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 08:50:49

And yes, Atillia re what you say about their apology - I think ultimately they just want to continue their old dysfunctional ways of behaving.

Re how my sister gets along with them, she just lets them continue in their usual pattern of behavior. It's harder for her because she's single. They regularly come and stay with her and treat her house like their own holiday home, complaining about things and criticizing her. She puts up with it because she feels she needs them more. There is a slightly unpleasant element in my family in that none of my siblings has got married or had children except me. The others all still behave like teenagers, emotionally immature. It's like they're trapped in my parents' emotional jail or something. It is really not a healthy family set-up but when I think back about my childhood, I can't really put my finger on anything too egregious. It's just weird, like my parents wove their own little bubble around us as kids and only I have broken through it fully.

One other thing: my DH is under a huge amount of pressure in his job and is the sole earner right now, working very long hours etc, so this is also an issue as he feels he doesn't have the emotional energy to deal with any strife on his only 10 days of vacation this year. I do feel for him in that way and want him to have a relaxing fun holiday not be harangued by a pair of lunatics.

Just questioning whether I have the mental strength to deal with being harangued by the pair by myself! I am thinking I will meet with them but ask them to come up and stay with my sister (which they do love to do anyway!) so we only meet in her house with her around. Then at least I have an ally in the room. It just seems so dysfunctional though that my DH will never see my parents again. He is right, I know, but I just wish he wasn't.

ComtessedeFrouFrou Fri 12-Jul-13 08:51:26

I know it's hard but you must try to disassociate your DF's illness with the disagreement - you DID NOT cause that and you must not say "look what happened". The two are completely unrelated.

I totally get that you want to try and make something of whatever relationship there is - its tough to think of family ties being broken forever. And guilt isn't necessarily the worst reason. But it mustn't become the only reason or you will go round like this in circles for years. If you have a warm, happy reunion with your family, great, perhaps you can put the hurt and upset behind you. But don't hesitate to pick them up on their behaviour if they start trying it on again.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 09:01:41

Thanks Comtesse and Jessica: rationally I know of course that the two events are not related. Irrationally in my superstitious brainwashed by my religious nutter parents brain however I feel like this was a judgement from god. This is nonsense as I am an atheist now but that's how it feels. 'Honour thy father and mother' etc.

I am carrying a huge ton of guilt around with me and I would like to be rid of it. Don't know if this visit will get rid of it but at least I might be able to wipe the slate clean so if my parents do get sick again or die then I can say - hopefully - that we parted on good terms.

ComtessedeFrouFrou Fri 12-Jul-13 09:44:12

Ah. Now we start to get to the crux of it. Amazing how a splash of religion can be a weapon to bludgeon your offspring with, isn't it.

The key tenets of most major religions is mutual respect and tolerance. Sounds like a little mutuality on your parents' part wouldn't go amiss.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Fri 12-Jul-13 10:01:42

I agree with your husband. I think he is very wise to have chosen not to interact with your parents anymore, and he is also very wise to let you make your own decisions. I understand why he is worried about you being with them for 2 days. I am too. You are still fueled by misplaced hopes about what kind of parents/grandparents they could be. But they are not: they are selfish people, and they are not a positive factor in your life, and unlikely to be one in your son's life either.

It's ok not to see people whose company you find difficult or unpleasant. Even if they are related to you.

Lweji Fri 12-Jul-13 10:54:18

Thinking of your DC, I would visit but not stay with them.
As things are, why don't you see them for a meal, then stay another few hours if it goes well?

Lweji Fri 12-Jul-13 10:55:56

On the other hand, I have had bust ups with my mother, including one when she visited 2 weeks after DS was born.

We get along and I can even spend a couple of weeks on holiday with them.
I think it's doable, but I think it works out best when you've told them loud and clear that you won't put up with their tantrums.


Your father's stay in hospital and the disagreement they had with you are not connected in any way. You fully need to believe that. Your parents chose to act as they did towards you in your home because this is fundamentally how they are personality wise. You did not cause them to act the way they did, they did that themselves. Emotionally stable people anyway (and those not into histrionics unlike your mother) do not moan about the placement of cards for one thing. Your dad is still selfish and your mother is still his willing enabler. She will continue to put him above you as children now adults and this is still happening.

You go to them even at your sister's house at your emotional peril. Your sister won't be able to back you up because she is in FOG still herself and your DH will not be there to protect you from their onslaught once they get going. They do not like you because you are not theirs to control any more. they likely still see you as "difficult". All these behaviours are par for the course when it comes to such inherently difficult and toxic people.

Meeting such inherently toxic people out of a mix of guilt and societal convention (parents would like their own child to have a nice and stable relationship with their grandparents. However, not all grandparents however are nice and loving and it is certainly a mistake to assume or even hope that they will behave better around your son) is a bad move and I can certainly see why your H has backed off completely from wanting to see them again. Protecting your own mental health and sanity is far more important.

I would also suggest you read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward and "Children of the Self Absorbed" by Nina W Brown.

Thank you for your kind comment written earlier, I felt quite humbled reading such nice words.

Counselling for your own self re your relationship with your parents may prove invaluable to you.

ENormaSnob Fri 12-Jul-13 11:12:37

I think you are nuts allowing your ds to meet them tbh.

I totally agree with your dh.

They are horrible.

This is from which you may also find helpful:-

A percentage of the general population is dysfunctional and/or abusive. That percentage, like everyone else, has children. Then those children grow and have children of their own. The not-so-loving grandparents expect to have a relationship with their grandchildren. The only problem is, they’re not good grandparents.

Many adult children of toxic parents feel torn between their parents’ (and society’s) expectation that grandparents will have access to their grandkids, and their own unfortunate firsthand knowledge that their parents are emotionally/physically/sexually abusive, or just plain too difficult to have any kind of healthy relationship with.

The children’s parents may allow the grandparents to begin a relationship with their children, hoping that things will be different this time, that their parents have really changed, and that their children will be emotionally and physically safer than they themselves were.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, because most abusive people have mental disorders of one kind or another, and many of these disorders are lifelong and not highly treatable. (Others are lifelong and treatable; however, many people never seek the necessary help.)

The well-intentioned parent ends up feeling mortified for having done more harm than good by hoping things would somehow be different — instead of having a child who simply never knew their grandparents and who was never mistreated, they have an abused child who is now also being torn apart by the grief involved in having to sever a lifelong relationship with the unhealthy people they are very attached to.

If your parents were not good parents and you are considering whether or not to allow a relationship with your children, consider the following factors, as well as others, before deciding:

•Have they fully addressed their issues in SKILLED long-term therapy? (A few weeks or months is nowhere near adequate if your parents regularly mistreated you).

•Have they been treated for all the root causes of their dysfunction or abuse?

•Have they sincerely apologized and made amends for the hurtful things they did? Not just said, “I’m sorry”, but really talked it all through with you over many hours’ time?

•Are they very different people to you from the ones you remember?

•Do you currently have a healthy, functional and stable relationship with them?

•Do they respect your choices and boundaries as a parent? Do they follow your requests about how you want your children to be treated and to behave?

•Would you recommend your parents to your best friend as babysitters without any hesitation or worry, and feel comfortable giving your word that they’d never harm your friend’s child, without any doubt?

•Have you worked through all of your feelings about the mistreatment you experienced through your parents?

These are just a few of the important questions to answer. The best plan is to work through the matter with a therapist of your own, who has no bias toward trying to “keep families together” despite the presence of mistreatment.

FrauMoose Fri 12-Jul-13 11:22:00

I grew up with only a grandmother, who I was fond of. Both my grandfathers and the other grandmother died before I was born.

Although my parents have not behaved well towards me, I did want my grand-daughter to know who her maternal grandparents were. (If I had cut them off, she would - like me - have grown up with just one grandparent, her Dad's father.)

I think it is sad when children have never seen grandparents due to family difficulties which they cannot understand. (Maybe too it can make children frightened that if they disagree with their parents, they will be cut off.)

Although my parents behaviour towards my daughter was not always well-judged, my father was and mother is affectionate towards her.

Had they behaved abusively towards her, then I would have either drastically limited their contact with her, or cut it off altogether. But by and large it has been good for her to know who they were.

CinnabarRed Fri 12-Jul-13 13:01:14

I am entirely with your DH on this one.

I'm sorry, it must be very hard.

FriskyHenderson Fri 12-Jul-13 13:31:44

You sound like you want to/will be seeing them anyway. Accepting that, can you look for ways to mitigate the potential for disaster?

It seems your sister will not be your defender - she will side with them because it's safer for her. So how can you avoid a situation where they (all) can blow up at you? Can you stay in a hotel rather than their home; only meet in public places?

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 20:47:38

Thanks to all of you for your replies. They've been eye-opening! I half-expected everyone to post that I was being selfish and how could I be so heartless to even think about not seeing my DF when he had almost died etc. Shows you how out my synch my values are.

Thanks for your link to that advice, Atilla. I had to laugh reading your questions. I can answer none of those questions with a confident 'Yes'. I would like to see a counsellor about them because it weighs on my mind a lot and I did read the 'Toxic Parents' book based on an MN recommendation previously. I am a little wary of counselors because I saw one in college who actually tried to put the blame on me(!) for the problems, saying that my mother had a hard life so I should feel sorry for her. THat was the worst because all my life my parents would pile on the guilt about how my mother had a hard life and she only wanted the best for us. Her mother died when she was young so she would always get teary-eyed whenever any 'mother'-related song would come on the radio and would always cry 'I had no mother to tell me anything' etc. Even after the post-birth bust-up she stood at the door of my house screaming at me 'I had no mother!!' and that the next time I'd see her would be at her funeral etc. I still feel slightly sick thinking about that. Part of me wants to meet with her when I visit just to prove her wrong!

Most of the time I don't think about them that much to be honest so it doesn't intrude in my life. Part of my motivation for meeting with them when I go home is to just be able to draw a line under the situation and decide finally 'OK, they are horrible people they have learned nothing, I was stupid to ever make contact again' and then not visit home again.

I won't be staying in their house anyway if I did visit or even in my home town. I haven't stayed a night in their house in nearly 10 years as last time I did it was the Christmas before I got married and they just shouted at me then and accused me of making their lives difficult by insisting holding my wedding nearby (don't ask).

They give me a bloody pain in my head thinking about them to be honest. I just want to be able to draw a line and move on. Don't know why I think meeting up with them will help with that though...

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 20:53:44

That's interesting FrauMoose that your parents were able to treat your DD well. I would like for that to happen with my DS but so far I haven't seen much sign of that being the case. He is just a toddler at the moment and they are in their mid-70s and we live abroad so at the very most he would only ever see them once or twice a year. Most likely they will only live for another 10-15 years, if they're lucky, so he wouldn't really have that much contact with them, even if they were awful to him.

I had that kind of relationship with my grandparents (father's parents). They were nice people, no drama or histrionics like mine, but we saw them rarely as they lived further away and after the age of 80 couldn't travel well. My grandfather died when he was 90 and my grandmother at 93, when I was 12 and 15. They didn't have much influence on my life really but I was glad to have known them.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 21:09:07

Someone mentioned that this is a type of familial adjustment that sometimes happens when you have a first baby - I don't think there is much more to it than that and even if there were, you don't live in the same country anyway.

I think you should go and see them, ask dh to support you in that, don't read too much into it other than they are a different generation and slightly self-obsessed. They may not be your best mates but you can still chug along and do the family thing and hopefully it will make things better in the long run.

The religious feelings you are having is simply your conscience - you know deep down that breaking a family line - burning the bridges - is going to cause a lot of pain and make you feel a bit rootless. Rules within religions usually promote a structure whereby loyalty and support for each other is upheld - for obvious reasons. And even if you're an atheist you will understand that these things are important.

If they are 'toxic', then that's hard but they are still your parents and as long as you are aware of their ways you should be able to get maintain contact without too much pain.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 21:12:40

x-post - your mother sounds like a character in a book - hillarious and scary at the same time. Perhaps you should write about her?

WinkyWinkola Fri 12-Jul-13 21:48:10

Horsetowater, familial adjustment after a baby is born? Read that again dearie:

"Even after the post-birth bust-up she stood at the door of my house screaming at me 'I had no mother!!'"

Are you crazy? The mother sounds bloody deranged!!! This isn't going to stop.

If any relative did that to me, regardless of my physical status, post birth or whatever, I would never see them again nor would my children.

Sheesh. The shit some women accept as normal from their mad relatives. It amazes me.

Op, I really think you need to protect yourself from these bonkers people. And your child.

Mumsyblouse Fri 12-Jul-13 22:09:53

I think it is up to you what your relationship is with your parents and really your husband should support you. If a minimal contact, flying one day visit every couple of years makes you feel better, then why not do that? My husband has similar parents and he has gone through stages of having little contact, but in general we keep some limited contact with them and in the main they've been good (if limited) grandparents, and I do think the children benefit from knowing the wider family in a superficial way, I would not leave them to care for them on their own or anything like that, but they are affectionate, buy them presents pat their head and then we leave. It's not a deep relationship. I would stand against shouting though, no shouting around my children ever, so I would just make it clear that any sign of trouble and you are out of there.

Some people do prefer to cut off altogether and feel much relief from doing so but others don't- it may be FOG driving it, but it's whatever works best for you and your children.

Mumsyblouse Fri 12-Jul-13 22:11:38

And- I follow my husband's lead on this, if he wanted to cut contact, we would, if he wants the odd visits every now and again, we do that.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 22:46:09

Winky some people are just more crazy than others. It doesn't mean they are evil and should be shut out of our lives forever.

What is this 'normal' of which you speak?

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 23:54:18

Winky: It's not about accepting shit behavior. You're putting the blame on me there. If you've grown up with histrionics and tears and self-pity and melodrama all the time then it's just normal to you so you're conditioned to accept it. Same way children of alcoholics are conditioned to see their parents drunk all the time, something I couldn't imagine since my parents are teetotal, for example.

Mumsyblouse - the way you describe your family's relationship with your parents-in-law is all I would aspire to. A visit once a year, some presents, exchange Christmas cards and so on. If they ever shouted at my DS or started any drama with him, I would cut contact definitely.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 23:56:32

Funny you should mention that horsetowater! I am in fact writing a novel at the moment, a humorous one with a put-upon daughter who has a crazy pair of religious extremists for parents grin.

Laughter can be therapeutic sometimes...!

WinkyWinkola Sat 13-Jul-13 00:10:09

Horsetowater, screaming at someone like that is not normal behaviour. At all. It is abusive.

And op, absolutely I understand that family experience makes everything relative, so to speak. Hence your posting on MN for other opinions.

My opinion is that your parents sound utterly dramatic, selfish and childish. Your dh has pretty much got them sussed.

WhiteBirdBlueSky Sat 13-Jul-13 00:44:22

Probably no harm in meeting up with them, but a few days would be pushing it I think. I would say an afternoon or one day max is enough to extend an olive branch and tentatively establish a relationship. However 3 days is too long for everyone to remain on their best behaviour. You can't keep it superficial for that length of time and then you're back to square one.

Should your husband come? Depends how likely it is that he can keep a lid in his resentments and not inflame the situation.

cleopatrasasp Sat 13-Jul-13 01:13:31

You see, to me Mumsyblouse that just sounds like a false relationship that only survives because it operates within very limited parameters. Your children's grandparents are not the people that your children think them to be since they have been given an edited version. I can understand why you've done this but I think it's very unhealthy.

OP I'm sorry you've had such an awful time with your parents, the way they've behaved is really not anywhere near normal, they are not harmless eccentrics. I am also of the camp that believes you should not put up with any shite off people just because they are relatives. Generally, the people that bleat on about enduring hideous behaviour because the people involved are your parents/grandparents/siblings etc are people who have had the luck to have functioning, 'normal' families. They seem to be unable to comprehend that not everyone is so lucky and that the fact that you don't has nothing to do with you or your efforts. Things are not going to magically improve if you keep trying or try a little harder. Your parents are dysfunctional and, frankly, unpleasant, that is not your fault and you can't change it.

This kind of dysfunction just bleeds from generation to generation if you let it so if you won't protect yourself from it then maybe you should think about whether it is your job is to protect your child from it. Thinking logically, why would they treat your child any better than they treat you? That just backs up the idea that their behaviour towards you is all your fault again. Allied to this, it quite often happens that grandparents like this use their grandchildren to hurt their 'errant' child.

forgetmenots Sat 13-Jul-13 02:59:21

OP it's completely your right to have whatever relationship you wish with your parents - I personally worry you're trapped in the fear, obligation and guilt cycle and would be unsure about how able you would be to prevent them being nasty to your dcs, but only you can know that.

Your DP can support you in many ways however, it is also his right not to have a relationship with them. he (like you) is under no obligation. You might find someone who isn't 'involved' actually a better support than someone who grudgingly turns up to events to show face. I've been in your dp's position and he will likely be unwilling to be an enabler to further crap by going with you.

Family Strife

At college though you ended up seeing a crappy counsellor who gave you duff advices and excuses re your mother's toxic behaviour to boot. Such people ought to be struck off any counselling register because they are not fit to practice.

Moving onto present day though you ideally need to see a therapist who has no bias at all towards "trying to keep families together" despite the presence of mistreatment. Not all counsellors are good (the one you mentioned is a prime example of poor) but counsellors generally are like shoes, you need to find someone that fits.

I also note that you answered no to all the questions posed in the lighthouse blog re toxic grandparents. That should be your line in the sand re such people, not going to visit them to give them one last opportunity (to kick off at you again, your sister won't be able to defend you because she is also mired in FOG).

horsetowater Sat 13-Jul-13 12:47:20

How weird is that OP that you are writing a novel!

It is a great way to ensure you are looking at them with perspective and detachment. I think that is the key - you are leaving the door open but you're not going to get yourself dragged into a process of making them behave differently or analysing or worrying about their behaviour. They are who they are, smile and move on and be who you are.

Cutting them out of your life is damaging in the long term although many will completely oppose that view. You can't live your life comfortably knowing that you have cut your family out. It will come back years down the line and the conflict will reach your children when they grow up and ask questions about the family they have 'missed out' on.

WinkyWinkola Sat 13-Jul-13 13:28:46

Equally, Horsetowater, the op's dcs may ask her why she exposed them to her parents knowing full well that she had a
miserable childhood and they made her dcs sad too.

Family doesn't give you a ticket to being vile indefinitely. Ever.

cleopatrasasp Sat 13-Jul-13 15:46:40

Complete nonsense horsetowater you have absolutely no idea that the OP 'cant comfortably' cutting family off. Plenty of us live a ridiculously happy life having cut off dysfunctional relatives many years ago.

I really dislike it when people try to guilt others into continuing dysfunctional and harmful relationships under the guise of persuading the person being abused that they need to be the bigger person and just take the abuse. You don't. Life is short and there is no need to put up with bad behaviour from people just because you share genes.

FrauMoose Sat 13-Jul-13 16:28:55

Personally if after I had posted a few paragraphs of information on my circumstances - and then had a bunch of strangers seeking to instruct me on how I ought to behave towards my parents, protect my children and to judge the competence (or incompetence) of any counsellors I might have seen - I would probably judge that quite a high proportion of those strangers might have abusive/abusing tendencies..............

Mumsyblouse Sat 13-Jul-13 16:59:18

cleopatra I prefer my children to have their grandparents in their lives, as they are not abusive to them, and so does my husband. You don't have to have deep soul type relationships with every family member, heck, I don't have them with half my own family, but we muddle along, happy to be part of a larger group and I would not take them away from that unless it were very detrimental to them. Cutting off his parents would have the most enormous fall out (as they are from a different culture) and would effectively cut them off from this half of their family; given there's lots of lovely family members that would be a shame.

I think the advice- cut off all contact and don't look back works for some (and if they were actively awful to my own children I would) but not for others- who are you to say that some polite and nice interaction with their grandparents (who are not out and out nasty, but complex human beings themselves) is wrong?

A counsellor who has a bias towards keeping the family together despite the presence of mistreatment is a poor counsellor to my mind. Also this counsellor put the blame on OP and went onto say the OPs mother had had a hard life so OP should feel sorry for her!.

cleopatrasasp Sun 21-Jul-13 01:30:22

Well you could judge that fraumoose but that doesn't mean you would be right.

Mumsyblouse thank you for explaining that. I can see from what you have written that you have very valid reasons for your decision and whether I would choose to do the same in your shoes I don't know but I can see that you are a loving, reasonable mum doing what you feel is best. smile

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