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Don't know if my mother is a victim or what I should do about it

(27 Posts)
jessjessjess Thu 03-Jan-13 12:37:30

This is a hard post to write. Please forgive me if it's long.

My father isn't the easiest person to be around. He's quite controlling and has also suffered from clinical depression in the past, and possibly still does. He was suicidal during my teens. I do not think he is a monster. I think he had a horrible childhood, spent some time in care, and went through some difficult things in his life. I have read up carefully about NPD and this doesn't seem to apply in his case. But I do think he is damaged, and I have gone on to replicate certain elements of my childhood e.g. I spent seven years in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Lately I've been looking again at things from my childhood and seeing that they are not in fact normal. Like when you bite into a piece of bread, then realise it's mouldy, and wonder how you didn't notice in the first place. My mother was always very dismissive when I tried to tell her how I felt, saying things like: "Well don't feel like that then," or "Just let it wash over you." Because she is intelligent and educated I always felt she chose to take the easy route and ignore me (my brother is older and things were at their worst after he had gone to uni). That she chose not to see, or act.

I've recently started therapy and my therapist asked me to consider whether my mum really made a choice. I said no, bugger that, I can tell you 50 things I would do differently if MY husband became depressed after we'd had children. But somewhere along the line something splintered. I read one too many threads on MN written by women whose husbands were EA and who couldn't see how it might be affecting the children, who had posters lining up to tell them otherwise because they couldn't see it. Because they were victims. And then the ceiling fell in and I realised that maybe my mother is a victim and I don't know what the actual fuck to do about it.

My parents have been married for over 40 years. My mother has a very impressive job and is extremely well-known in her field; my father is retired. They have a lot of friends and are are established and respected members of their community. None of which makes for a happy marriage, of course, just that I feel as if I am some insane person trying to cause trouble.

My dad is not some heartless, cruel bastard who sets out to manipulate everyone around him. I don't think it would help to see him as a wholly bad person, but I don't think he is a wholly good either. On the one hand, he is someone who helps me a lot financially, and who can sometimes be really sensitive and helpful.

On the other hand, he will sometimes decide a conversation is over (even if I'm answering a question he has asked) and start shouting at me. Recently, we had a birthday party for my nephew at my parents' house and my dad started talking about Gary McKinnon not being extradited. He often does this: sits there talking about finance, or the news, or other things of zero interest to my brother's children. I told him it wasn't really something we should talk about now and he stopped and glared at me.

My mum has always acted like we should laugh about these things, oh you know how he is, just ignore him. But he isn't some pantomime villain, he is my father. He is in his 70s. He broke his hip last year. He can't cook. He is a vulnerable adult who needs my mum. But does she need him?

Never in my life have I asked my mum if she is happy or if she would prefer to leave, or to have left. Never. Perhaps because I see her as complicit, as choosing to be with him and at times to side against me. Perhaps because she once told me that, if you love someone, you don't give up on them (which is probably the most dangerous thing I learned from her).

Somewhere along the line, I have realised that it is possible my mother is a victim of EA. And I don't know what the hell I am supposed to do about it. I feel like something has shifted and the world is hanging off its axis. It was Gettingbigger's thread that properly broke through.

I have no idea what my parents' marriage is really like or how she has been treated. All I know is that for years she told me to just ignore how I felt, that she always stuck her head in the sand. Which leads me to believe that maybe she isn't happy. But what am I supposed to do about it? I can't just storm in and tear down 40 years of survival mechanisms, so what do I do? Do I stay the hell out of it? Do I try to talk to her and ask if she is happy? Is there a book I should be giving her? Should I do anything at all? Is it any of my business?

I'm sorry; this IS hugely long. Please bear in mind that I'm feeling really shitty about all of this and am probably going to phone and offload to Samaritans after I've posted as I won't see my therapist until next week. I just feel like I've gone through the looking glass. What do I do? Do I do anything at all?

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 03-Jan-13 14:46:45

I suppose I am also worried that at one time she might have wanted help and not been able to seek it.

I like the suggestion upthread of just letting her know that you are there.

I don't think it will change things overnight, but it may lead to some mother-daughter conversations of the kind you've never had yet. (Warning: she may not yet or ever be ready to take on board your feelings, so you may not get a healing two-way conversation. But if you can deal with being a listening ear only ...)

jessjessjess Thu 03-Jan-13 14:57:32

Lueji those are good suggestions, thank you.

HotDAMN I'm not sure if I'm even ready for those conversations, I think I definitely need to speak to the therapist.

Thanks everyone for your posts. Just, when I posted, I felt like the whole world had suddenly shifted and everything was wrong. I felt so terribly guilty.

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