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Would it be unreasonable not to contact my parents again?

(42 Posts)
struggling100 Tue 09-Oct-12 15:00:53

I am looking for advice about how to deal with my parents.

They live around 300 miles away from me, and my 31 year old sister lives in the same house. My mother and my sister both suffer from anxiety and depression; my Mum rarely leaves the house and does not socialize, but my sister's mental illness is not so bad that she can't work or go out.

My sister and I are treated in completely different ways. My sister is literally waited on hand and foot: my mother does everything from making her breakfast to doing her laundry. Despite the fact that my sister has an excellent, well-paid job (as does her partner), my parents charge her a very low rent. She has been able to save thousands and thousands of pounds, which she intends to use to buy a massive and luxurious house with all mod cons (she is literally refusing to move out until she can do this). She sees this as a birthright, even though none of my family are especially wealthy. My parents are massively invested in my sister's life - they even tell tales to me when I visit about her work colleagues, whom they have never met. Of course, my sister is always the heroine of these stories. It's weird.

By contrast, my parents offer me no support whatsoever. My whole life, I have had to battle through by myself, and believe me, I've had some very tough times over the years. Four years ago, I got divorced from a man who was emotionally and physically abusive, who isolated me from the outside world and then undermined my confidence. We owned a house together, and I could not afford to rent a place and keep up with the mortgage payments for which I was half responsible. I therefore had to stay in the house, even though I was being bullied and was terrified. Even though I was in physical danger, my parents offered me no help, financially or emotionally. Instead, they made it clear that they did not believe my side of the story. They accused me (untruly) of having an affair and even invited my ex-partner around for tea on numerous occasions. My sister continues to be good friends with him. Not only do I find this emotionally difficult, but it has caused me no end of practical problems. When I raised this (gently) as an issue, all three of them told me that I had no right to control their relationship with him.

I am always the one who calls. I am always the one who drives to make visits. They make absolutely no effort at all with the relationship, and their manner makes it clear that I am seen as a wearisome 'duty'. When I say things, there are exchanged glances and rolled eyes. Sometimes on the phone I can hear them making fun of me. Every thing I say is pored over with minute attention, and twisted to give it the most noxious meaning, when none is intended. I literally can’t do anything right.

When I met a new man after my divorce, my parents told me that he was bound to be abusive and was exploiting me, and refused to meet him for many months. When they finally did come round to the idea, my Mum behaved with absolute and direct rudeness to him. Even now, three years on, she refuses to shake his hand or touch him on the grounds that she is ‘not sure about him yet’.

I was due to get married earlier in the year. When I mentioned this, all my parents could think about was themselves – they couldn’t drive the 300 miles to the venue, they didn’t want to dress up, they didn’t want to eat in front of people, they didn’t want to socialise. I tried to be understanding (I know my mum is depressed), said that they didn’t have to get dressed up or eat, that they could just attend whatever bits they wanted to. This was not enough and I was branded selfish for having a public ceremony. When my wedding was cancelled (my partner had a bout of mental illness and was suicidal, it was awful), my parents could barely contain their joy that they didn’t have to travel.

I am a good person. I work hard, and while I am not wealthy and never likely to be able to afford the kind of lifestyle my sister aspires to, I don't want for anything either. I have never asked for financial help. I don’t understand how my parents can be so completely focused on one child, to the utter exclusion of another. I feel deeply rejected and hurt, and it’s affecting my day-to-day life.

I don’t honestly know if it is possible for me to continue having a relationship with them and bear this pain all the time. If I say anything about it, I know that it will be twisted the wrong way. Does anyone have advice for me?

donnie Tue 09-Oct-12 15:06:18

Hi struggling

I have to go and collect the kids in a minute but didn't want to cut and run without saying something. Seriously? they sound absolutely awful, and very much the sort of people who can only ever drag you down. There is nothing wrong in severing ties if the ties only hurt you.

Maybe you should ask yourself - what would be gained from severing ties? and what would be lost? and if you gain more than you lose that is your answer. You do not deserve to be in pain all the time - you absolutely do not. I think you need to extricate yourself from this toxic situation.

good luck

DuttonsForButtons Tue 09-Oct-12 15:08:25

I think you would probably be living a healthier and happier life if you accept that they are never going to be an enhancement to your life, as family ought to be.
Don't do anything dramatic, like declaring you aren't speaking to them anymore, just stop bothering to contact them.

bringbacksideburns Tue 09-Oct-12 15:11:42

I think you should write it all down in a letter about how they treat you both so differently. How you feel you are never ever supported in any way yet they can't do enough for your sister and that from now on you are leaving the ball in their court and they know where you are.

Then i wouldn't contact them again.

cbeebiesatemybrain Tue 09-Oct-12 15:11:55

You would absolutely not be unreasonable to cut these people out of your life, it sounds like you gain nothing from maintaining contact with them anyway.

Maybe you should repost this in relationships where there are lots of people with experience of this kind of thing, you will find lots of support there.

((Hugs)) I'm so sorry and wish I could say something useful sad

brass Tue 09-Oct-12 15:12:48

All they do is drag you down. They are not going to change. You know this deep down.

Why don't you put yourself first? Concentrate on building a life with people in it who make you feel good about yourself.

They bring nothing to your life so their absence will not be a loss, in fact it will be a gain because you will no longer have the put downs, betrayals and favouritism to deal with.

lepetitchoufleur Tue 09-Oct-12 15:17:26

I agree with Duttons. There's no reason to do anything dramatic, just stop bothering. It sounds like really you already know what you want to do, just need the affirmation that its ok to do it. Go ahead. You don't want to say or do anything you may regret later or burn your bridges, but sounds like you've had enough poor treatment from people who should have loved and cared for you so why invite more? Take a deep breath, close that book and concentrate on the good people in your life.

whatsoever Tue 09-Oct-12 15:17:26

I agree with Duttons, OP. Don't go as far as 'officially' cutting them out of your life but just ease off the effort to contact or visit them. They will either miss you and start picking up the slack themselves, or you will just have very very limited contact with them going forwards. Either way, I suspect you will be in a better position.

Best of luck with whatever you decide to do.

Lottapianos Tue 09-Oct-12 15:22:26

I'm in a similar situation OP. My parents never contact me or come to visit me, but expect me to do 100% of the work in the relationship. They don't take me seriously, don't treat me as an adult, don't value my opinions, don't trust me to make any good decisions for myself. For the first 3 years that my DP and I were together, they acted like he didn't exist - they were fine to his face but would never ever mention his name or ask after him.

My brother gets treated like a golden god and they won't hear a word against him. It's always been the same.

I've been seeing a psychotherapist for 2 years who is helping me to see just how very toxic their behaviour is and how important it is that I put myself first for a change. I am slowly giving up all hope that they will ever change or that they will ever see me as a valid person in my own right. I sometimes fantastise about confronting them about their behaviour, but I know it would do no good at all - they cannot be criticised, cannot reflect on their own behaviour and would certainly never apologise. All it would do is bring a whole load of blame onto my own head.

It would be perfectly reasonable for you to cut off contact with your parents, but this is not the right solution for everybody. Is there a way you could have a relationship with them on your terms? I do think it's important to let go of the hope that they will change and become the parents you would like them to be. This takes time and is extremely painful but ultimately can free you from the weight of their expectations. Keep posting - you will get loads of support on here smile

Whocansay Tue 09-Oct-12 15:27:22

I'm another one who agrees with Duttons. They are never going to give you any joy or add anything to your life. Just stop calling and visiting. Anything you say or write will be turned against you. If they're anything like my family they'll make it into a big drama and enjoy every minute of it. Naturally, it will be all about them and you will be the villain of the peace.

All the best, OP.

diddl Tue 09-Oct-12 15:41:21

From what you´ve written it would seem to be entirely reasonable.

As long as you can cope with it also being unlikely that they´ll contact you.

Ie-you´re not contacting as you don´t want to have anything to do with them.

Not because you´re testing to see how soon they would contact you.

Nanny0gg Tue 09-Oct-12 16:03:06

Are you receiving counselling? Because I think it would be a good idea. And hopefully then get the support you need to cut yourself off from these dreadful people.

I cannot see any benefit from staying in contact.

HecateLarpo Tue 09-Oct-12 16:05:51

Doesn't sound like they deserve to be in your life, tbh. Just because someone is related to you doesn't mean they are a good, nice person deserving of a relationship with you. It's nothing more than an accident of birth. It's very liberating to cut away the dead wood.

ScaryBOOAlot Tue 09-Oct-12 16:11:54

You are worth so much more than this toxic behaviour.

I wouldn't give them the drama of "I no longer want you in my life", but just stop contacting them.

Hope your partner is okay now, and you can rearrange your wedding at some point, without having to stress about how it doesn't suit them.

OrangeImperialGoldBlether Tue 09-Oct-12 16:34:09

I would just withdraw contact. How often do they call you? Do they call if you don't? If they don't, I just wouldn't bother calling again.

They sound awful and I'm so sorry they're your family.

MoreBeta Tue 09-Oct-12 16:48:22

Struggling - it has taken me 45 years to come to terms with my parents behaviour. In nearly 30 years of relationship with my DW they have never been to visit us once and barely make any effort at all when we visit them which is now down to once a year.

They were very rude at our wedding - arrived late and constantly hassled me throughout as they wanted to leave early. I mean we planned to finish at 8.30 anyway for their sake!

I think I now understand it. They are rude and selfish people. That's it. No other explanation will do.

I can't cast any light on the relationship your parents have with your sister - at least mine are equally rude and selfish to my sisters as well.

My advice is to do what I do. Just slowly cut them out of your life. Keep the bare minimum of civility and dont give them the satisfaction of making a drama out of it. Just slowly let the whole thing wither away.

MmeGuillotine Tue 09-Oct-12 17:14:31

Crikey, your parents sound just like my grandparents (who raised me after I was abandoned by my parents as a baby), even down to the making a point of fawning over my abusive ex, refusing to meet nice new boyfriends and refusing to come to my wedding. When my grandmother died she made sure that I wasn't told about her death or invited to the funeral - I didn't find out she had passed away for several weeks.

I used to be so bewildered as like you, I don't think I'm an awful person and I don't think I ever did anything to merit being continually given the cold shoulder or the verbal abuse and put downs.

Anyway, after the funeral incident I just stopped calling, sending birthday cards, writing or acknowledging their existence in any way and you know what, it was fabulous. I've never felt so carefree and gradually my dented confidence began to build up and, helped by my DH, I started to realise that actually I'm not the awful, stupid, pathetic person they made me think I was.

My advice to someone in the same situation would be to just disengage and let them get on with it. Don't make a massive drama out of it, don't feed their negativity, just turn your back on them and get on with your own life.

Good luck - you are worth so much more than this. Oh and hope your partner has recovered enough for you to have your wedding! smile

kiwigirl42 Tue 09-Oct-12 17:28:39

They do not deserve you (you are too good for them) and you sure don't deserve to put up with their shit.
Just do nothing. Don't write a letter - it'll only be used to point out how horrible and delusional you are. Just don't contact them and see what happens - if you are lucky they will just leave you in peace to grow in confidence and make a life of your own.

My DM favoured my brother all my childhood. I moved a long way to escape and stay here because I don't want her involved in DS's life. A comment by her was 'I know you think I favour your brother - its just that he has always needed more attention'. Well thats OK then?

She still gives him huge amounts of money etc and didn't even buy me a 40th birthday present ... and I'm just glad to have escaped.

Pooka Tue 09-Oct-12 17:41:31

Struggling - I'm sure I've heard another poster with similar story, or maybe is you. The parents' collusion with your ex and subsequent rudeness to your dp rings a bell.

I think you have nothing to gain from a relationship with them. They are not on your side.

Yanbu to stop contacting them. If they contact you, then you can deal with them however you want to at the time. But for now, it may be that you just have to accept that they are not up to the job, that they don't deserve you and that their treatment of you is harmful.

struggling100 Wed 10-Oct-12 10:34:07

Thanks for all your responses. It really helps to read that other people have had the same experiences, and to get such good advice.

I feel such a mixture of emotions about this. I’m angry, and I’m really, really hurt. I want to move on and get on with my life, but I feel guilty about cutting off contact, and unable to face what I really believe to be the truth, which is that my parents really just don’t care about me. Part of me feels that maybe, just maybe, if I just persist, they will eventually see that I am valuable in my own right. Part of me feels that morally I should show patience and tolerance, even if they don’t do it back. Another part of me feels that their judgement is right, and that I am worthless and have nothing to offer and should just be thankful for any scrap from the table.

The conflict is tearing me apart. I am miserable, irritable, irrationally angry, stressed, and enormously upset. I also feel absolutely ridiculous because here I am - at 34! – complaining about parental favouritism. Surely I should be over this by now? My partner is trying his best to be supportive, but I’m crying one second and yelling at him the next. I really feel like I’m going to lose it with someone at work or in the street, or somewhere inappropriate and end up a blubbing, angry mess.

I am not sure exactly why this has come to a head now, but I think it might be because my partner and I have decided that we will try for a baby next year. Could it be that this has brought feelings about my own relationship with my parents to the fore? I thought that, having reached the decision to build my own family, I would feel more, not less, secure about this. Does this mass of emotion mean I’ll be a terrible parent? Help!

HappyJustToBe Wed 10-Oct-12 10:45:18

It is not you. It is all them.

I am treated very differently to my siblings and my Dad always says it is because I don't need him in the same way they do. Maybe it is the same for you but instead of being happy that you are doing a good job by yourself they are taking it as an insult? As if you are rejecting them? To be honest you could wonder and wonder why they are how they are but it comes down to the fact that you sound like you would be happier without their input. I agree that stopping contacting them sounds like the best way forward.

You don't sound like you will be a terrible parent at all.

brass Wed 10-Oct-12 10:49:10

not necessarily, it might be that you are beginning to grieve your own childhood in preparation for motherhood. In order to embrace what lies ahead perhaps you are subconsciously accepting that when the time comes you should not expect anything from your family.

It may seem sad now but you got here on your own and you can jolly well have a family of your own without their permission or approval. By not getting on with your life you allow them to continue to dictate your happiness. There is a whole life to be had and it doesn't depend on their say so. You just have to believe this! How much time have you already given to their negativity? How many more years lie ahead? What if you just stopped (without broadcasting it like others have said) and got on with your life?

I suspect they deeply resent your independence as they are thoroughly entrenched in their own co-dependence.

diddl Wed 10-Oct-12 11:16:38

But would you want to be your sister-with your parents maybe knowing your every move?

They all sound unhealthily entwined tbh.

That said-the fact that they have so much to do with your sister shouldn´t mean that they make no effort for you.

But if that´s the case then-as is often said on here-you can´t change that, but you can change how you deal with it.

So accept that it´s all on your terms-and set those terms to suit you.

And if you organise a wedding & they don´t come-it´ll be bloody hard, but as my now husband said to me when my sister backed out with two days to go-we´ll still be getting married-and that´s the whole point.

brass Wed 10-Oct-12 11:31:35

The comment made by another poster regarding independence as an insult to them really rings true for us.

MIL actively punishes us for not divulging the minutiae of our lives whilst favouring SIL who has no sense of boundaries. But this from women who collude in the fact that one was molested as a child and the other did nothing about it but helped to brush it under the carpet. They act as if the sun shines out of each other.

They think I'm the odd one grin with my strict notions of parental duty and responsibility!

Lottapianos Wed 10-Oct-12 11:52:33

struggling100, I can relate to every single word of your last post. I am suffering with depression and anxiety at the moment and it's because of my relationship with my parents. I also wonder whether maybe they are right and that I am not worth having a relationship with, even though the rational part of me knows it's not true. It's the most hurtful thing ever to realise how very unimportant I am to them. My DP also has to do lots of mopping up tears and listening to ranting and at times dealing with a catatonic partner who just wants to be in bed, and I feel so guilty for putting him through it.

I'm 90% sure that I don't want children but my best mate has just had a baby and that has shaken me to the core and brought up all sorts of feelings about parenthood and childhood. I now feel that I don't know what I want and am questioning my decision, even though I feel in my guts that it's not the right thing for me, because I genuinely don't want a baby, but there is a part of me that would dearly love to have a family of my own.

I cannot recommend counselling/therapy enough. I see a psychotherapist weekly and it's bloody hard, gruelling work but she is helping me through it and helping me to come to terms with the overwhelming feelings I have. It sounds so trite but please be kind to yourself - allow yourself as much time for rest as possible, try to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself and try to spend as much time as possible doing things you enjoy. You have spent so much time absolutely consumed with thinking of other people and putting them first. The idea of putting myself first was horrendous to me when my therapist first suggested it, but with practice I'm getting better at it and it's definitely the way forward smile And everyone tells me not to feel guilty for leaning so heavily on my DP because that's just part of being a partner, supporting someone through the good times. I know deep down they are right but I share your feelings of guilt.

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