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Trying to work out if my family is normal or not

(20 Posts)
QueenofDreams Wed 29-Jun-11 00:16:01

It's hard to get my thoughts together on this. I feel like I'm being silly when I think of my family as dysfunctional. Like I'm just imagining things. DP thinks my family is abusive and can't stand them. There are so many little things that I don't think I could even list them all.

One thing that really stood out was a link about scapegoat/golden children on the narc mothers site. I don't think my mother is a narc, but I definitely feel that I was the family scapegoat growing up. Sister and brother both golden children. My sister was the talented one. My mum always goes on about how musical my sister is, and how hearing my sister sing always made her cry. My brother is the 'technical genius'. He still lives at home and doesn't work. Has real delusional ideas about what his nonexistent career will be. He will not start at the bottom like the rest of us mortals because that is beneath him.

Me? I'm the one who is academically clever, but not much good at anything else. Both my parents would always undermine me, say I had no common sense, that I would never be able to look after myself. I was called fat and ugly growing up. Everything I ever did to try and please them was never good enough. When I was about 10 I made a point of washing up anything I used so my Mum wouldn't have to do it. After a few weeks, my mum was complaining about the washing up, and I pointed out what I'd been doing and her only response was 'Yeah? well who has to dry it and pack it away?'

My Dad accuses me of abusing him when I was a teen. I spent my teen years bending over backwards to please him. He made my life so unhappy shouting at me all the time, accusing me of stuff I hadn't done. Whenever I tried to tell him I hadn't done what he was accusing me of he would just scream 'don't be defensive!' at me (arch-crime) He pushed me into making a really bad decision - a relationship with a MUCH older man who had a taste for teenage girls. I still have mixed feelings about that as although the man is very obviously a predator, he was the only person actually supporting me at that time. As a teenager I did not drink, do drugs, go partying or have friends. In fact, I went to school, went to church, did bible study, ran the sunday school etc (dull dull dull). Everything revolves around my Dad, he never pays attentions to anyone else's feelings yet people outside the family always say how wonderful and understanding he is.

There is so much more. I live a long way from my family, although my Mum always tries to guilt trip me into moving closer (not going to happen). There are issues as my parents don't like DP (he's an atheist, they're evangelical bible-bashers) and he has started to pick up on this. Last time my mum was here she got into a sulk and did aggressive driving with my DS and then 6 week old DD in the car. DP says there is no way he will ever let her drive my children anywhere again. My mum keeps trying to convince me to leave DP and go live with her and Dad. One notable example was mentioning that DP was so stressed with work and her reply was 'well leave him then' hmm.

I guess I'm just trying to figure out if they are totally dysfunctional. They are my normal I guess, but they make life so hard! I don't even know if it's all of them, or one of them. Or maybe I'm also a headcase and I don't even know it! mainly I just wanted to vent I guess.

DooinMeCleanin Wed 29-Jun-11 00:19:39

No that is not normal at all. Poor you sad. Do like spending time with your parents? There is nothing wrong with limiting the time spent with them. Your family should be the ones who make you feel best about yourself. They should not be picking you apart.

AmberLeaf Wed 29-Jun-11 00:25:19

They are your normal...or at least they were!

They dont sound very good for you/your self esteem.

I think your DP has a point, but i dont think you are a headcase!

garlicnutter Wed 29-Jun-11 00:32:51

May I suggest you stop thinking "normal" and ask, instead, whether your family is functional?

They sound "normal" to me, if my benchmark is my own family. Luckily, I know that most families are kinder, more considerate, respectful and caring to their members. Learning the truth of that has been quite difficult. I still stumble.

It's sad that you were so put upon, and put down, as a child. I'm sorry to hear it. Such a shame to keep on trying to 'get it right', isn't it, when your assigned role was to be wrong? Soul-destroying; not too good for your confidence either sad

If you're looking for "The Narcissist" in your family, it seems you might start with your brother. Finding oneself too good to begin at the beginning is a fairly classic symptom. A disordered child generally follows a disordered parent (or two), so it's likely your family comprises quite a collection of disorders, all playing out a repetitive emotional dance like one of those vintage clockwork toys.

Question is: now you've spotted the dance, and your part in it, what are you going to do?

Eurostar Wed 29-Jun-11 00:33:43

They sound like they don't deserve you. I congratulate you from moving away from them. None of us are really "normal" but I'd say that their treatment of you sounds like they are self-absorbed. Your Mum sounds blaming and self-entitled, so some narc behaviours at least.

Does your DP treat you well generally?

garlicnutter Wed 29-Jun-11 00:37:39

I'm so glad you asked that, euro, I was wanting to but apprehensive.

QueenofDreams Wed 29-Jun-11 00:37:52

dooin I like it for the first day or so (sort of) It's nice to see them because I don't see them often. BUT last time we visited was two years ago and my sister visited once in the week we were there. My Mum, Dad and Brother all sat upstairs glued to their computers. Me DP and Ds downstairs freezing because my Dad is too tight to put the heating on. We wondered why we bothered, as it cost us over £200 to get up there and it was a massive waste!

Also, if I spend more than a few days in their company sparks start to fly because we start rubbing each other up the wrong way.

Haven' seen my sister in over two years and that doesn't bother me. She's an overbearing bully and always has been. I've always been told 'drop it' 'leave it' 'stop being so hard done by' etc when it comes to the stuff she does. Most spectacular moment would be after my first pg ended in miscarriage and she told me 'you're going to keep losing babies until you get married. This is something that God wants you to do RIGHT'

DP's view of them being abusive mainly stems from them having used physical punishment when I was growing up. His family are very against spanking, so he's horrified at the idea of being given a thrashing with a coat hanger and the like. Although I don't see them often, my mum is on skype every day. She even bought a webcam so she can see my kids. She's a complete recluse so she's always messaging me.

QueenofDreams Wed 29-Jun-11 00:45:04

euro DP and I went through a seriously rocky patch when DS was tiny. He got made redundant, we were all three ill with vicious colds for about 6 months, and DP's new job was very all consuming. So we argued a lot and there was some name calling on his part some hysterical shrieking harpy behaviour on my part. All much better now and yes he does generally treat me well.

However, I have realised that I seem to echo some behaviours of my parents that always annoyed me in them, so I'm trying to address that for my part eg getting huffy and not telling him why - a classic of my mum's, she can keep up the silent treatment for days!

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 29-Jun-11 07:40:31

OP you have my sympathy: I relate to a lot in your posts.

Is there any way you can obtain/afford therapy to try to untangle how you feel about your family, how your upbringing affects your thinking and behaviour today, and identify which conditioned behaviours you want to let go of?

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 29-Jun-11 09:14:42


They are your "normal" yes but your birth family are totally dysfunctional and emotionally unhealthy. You need to distance your self mentally from them or they will continue to drag you down.

I would suggest you also take a look at "well we took you to Stately homes" thread on this Relationships pages; that is for children now adults of dysfunctional toxic families.

You may also want to read "Children of the Self Absorbed" (cannot unfortunately recall author) and Toxic Parents written by Susan Forward. Both could help you as would counselling for your own self; you need to untangle your own feelings here and you have every right to be angry. BACP have a list of counsellors and they would not charge the earth.

People from dysfunctional families end up playing roles; your siblings were the favoured golden children (a role not without price also) and you were and remain the scapegoat for all their ills. Your abusive parents utterly failed you all and continue to do so. One or both of your parents acted as bystander; these are people who act out of self preservation and want of a quiet life.

Many children who were raised by such dysfunctional parents (and all your post btw is characteristic of what happens within such emotionally unhealthy and dysfunctional birth family units) have FOG - fear, obligation, guilt.

Now you know all this, what are you going to do?. If this were me I would completely cut them all out of my life but that can be easier said than done due to FOG. I would certainly have counselling.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 29-Jun-11 09:16:51

You mention being thrashed with a coathanger; that's assault by any other name not just to say abusive behaviour. You could press criminal charges against these people who did this to you.

Anniegetyourgun Wed 29-Jun-11 09:18:47

My folks did spanking - and far too hard/unnecessarily at times I believe - but that's one (bad) thing, thrashing with a coat hanger is quite another. That alone would make me wonder if your family were quite all right in the head. All power to you for not following their example.

For the record, a parent who loves you would never, never call you fat and ugly, even if it was true, and would be proud of the things you were good at, not put you down for anything about you that wasn't perfect. They would thank you for any chores you did voluntarily even if you didn't do them quite right.

ps Am thinking that about your dad encouraging you into a relationship with an old pervert is totally creepy.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 29-Jun-11 09:19:10

"My brother is the 'technical genius'. He still lives at home and doesn't work. Has real delusional ideas about what his nonexistent career will be. He will not start at the bottom like the rest of us mortals because that is beneath him".

That also sounds uncannily like my BIL who btw is also a narcissist.

mummytime Wed 29-Jun-11 09:29:04

"His family are very against spanking, so he's horrified at the idea of being given a thrashing with a coat hanger and the like."
I was spanked as a child, but even the most extreme pro-spanking groups I know, evangelical christians who use a special "paddle" would classify hitting a child with a coat hanger as abuse. This is the type of abuse which has no grey area. Spanking is one thing, hitting a child with a coat hanger (or electrical flex etc.) is another.
Talk to your doctor, and get some counselling. Stay away from these evil people.
You are wonderful, and don't let them harm you any more.

Jux Wed 29-Jun-11 09:30:27

Not normal, no. Abusive, yes. angry for you.

Playdohinthewashingmachine Wed 29-Jun-11 12:49:20

Here is the NSPCC document on "definitions of child abuse".

I was a bit freaked when I read this and recognised my childhood, because I thought my family was normal.

QueenofDreams Wed 29-Jun-11 16:16:30

Thanks for replies everyone.

Councelling seems like a good idea. Someone said to 'untangle' my thoughts about my family. A very accurate way of putting it I think. I swing from resentment to being worried about them. For some reason I don't feel like I can cut all contact. I think partly this is due to having a decent relationship with my mum these days as long as the physical distance is kept and I don't engage in certain topics. I have struck a sort of balance with my dad whereby I say hi, we exchange 'how are you/I'm fines' and then end the conversation.

Attilla you are right about Fear/Obligation/Guilt as well. When I was younger I felt that I was being groomed to be the one who would stay home and look after them in their old age.

castlesintheair Wed 29-Jun-11 16:25:59

Totally agree with other that this is not normal.

I only managed to cut my dysfunctional/toxic/narcissistic family out of my life by having counselling. I recommend psycho-dynamic in your case: it is extremely gruelling but you will come out the other side at least able to deal with Attila's aptly named 'FOG' even if you cannot shed it completely.

biryani Wed 29-Jun-11 17:38:45

So much if this sounds familiar. My mum was always like this - and, try as I might, I was never good enough. I'm an only, but your brother sounds typical of his type - I have a cousin very much like this - spoiled and attention seeking. he never left home either, and lives on benefits now.

I put up with a lot from my mother because I never thought a mother could possibly treat a child like this - I was also told I "could be pretty if I wanted to be" - and even on her deathbed she was having a go. It was only when I became an adult that I realised that she meant to undermine me.

I think conselling should work for you and will help you articulate the negative effect your family has had on you. I hope you make the changes necessary to make your life better. Incidentally, i don't think there is any such thing as a "normal" family, so try not to be influenced by the lives of others round you whose families look "normal" as there is probably lots going on that is hidden under the surface. Good luck to you.

OTheHugeManatee Wed 29-Jun-11 17:55:27

Your DP is right. Your family sounds horrible. Poor you sad

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