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

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It's March 2013, 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

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 you 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 defenses 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 behavior. 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 offenses 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 behavior. 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 realize 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:

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

"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 (smithfield posting as therealsmithfield)

AnAirOfHope Mon 29-Apr-13 10:53:30

I can never imagen treating my children like that. I can never not care about my children the way they dont care about me.

The worse tjing is i have told my mum what i think she knows i think she is a shit mother and still she does not change and never will.

BenFranklinGates Tue 30-Apr-13 13:28:51

Hello everyone. I have posted before about my decision to go NC with toxic family after an incident earlier this month. May have been small but it was the thing that finally made me decide I had had enough anyway, they didn't seem to get the message and had been bombarding me with texts that are pretty much denying any wrong doing and asking when I was coming over.
That was about the extent of their effort and it has thankfully tapered off.
But just this very morning, after a trying few hours of DS1 playing up spectacularly on top of everything, out of the blue I get 3 long messages from my SIL who we have not heard of or seen since she moved away without saying goodbye 2 years ago!

It was a sales pitch touting custom for her new bloody job!!
Needless to say I was shock.

I asked her not to text again (succinct and not sweary) and it has set her off big time. I've turned my phone off and I am resorting to buying a new SIM as soon as I can get to the shops.
I am literally shaking with rage at her attitude.
Once again, its all our fault, we never make the effort. She lives several hours drive away making it nearly impossible for us to visit (petrol is a limited resource in our house) and has bragged on bloody FB about visiting our home town several times, each time we knew nothing about it and she never phoned or stopped by. She didn't even notice when DH and I unfriended her because of her inane instagram/food fetish and the fact that if she replied to a post it was usually to insult my DH.
And not in a good natured big brother kid sister way either.

When she lived here she had a pattern of behaviour that would involve no contact for several months and then she would fall out with her boyfriend or have some kind of crisis of conscience about family and come around, stir things up, then disappear again.
My husband was the primary carer of his sick mum for 8 years and we eventually got evicted from the family home of 25 years to pay for care home bills at the end.

SIL knows all of this and still thinks that she is hard done by.
Sorry to rant but I am sick of people trying to squash my pride with their opinions about what I should and shouldn't be doing with my marriage, work, kids etc. Especially from people who have none of those things themselves.

It has occurred to me that a lot of the trouble started to ramp up when my MH issues worsened, almost as if all the toxic people in my life were jealous of the fact that I was getting some attention, with intensive visits to hospitals and therapy and the like.
In fact I am so confused by the reaction of all of them I'm starting to wonder if I am the problem.
What are the odds? Narcs on both sides of the family? Please tell me I haven't done something to wrong these people...I don't know what to do anymore. I'm about to bloody well give up.

AnAirOfHope Tue 30-Apr-13 13:37:02

Getting a new SIM is a good posative move so is telling SIL where you stand.

I think when you feel confused having space to get your head together is a good thing.

AnAirOfHope Tue 30-Apr-13 13:39:36

Also no its not you its them.

Family is ment to help not make things worse. You should be able to tell them what you need without fear of being verbaly attacted.

Just bookmarking.

Saw my Mother yesterday. She brought up Dad again and I feel so frustrated, she literally brushes it all under the carpet and seems to have forgotten everything he's done. To her it's so simple; play happy families and pretend nothing happened. But nothing's changed. He would be awful, as usual to my kids if I saw him, negative, say horrid things, get angry etc. Life is so much better now I no longer see him. She is so co dependant on him. She basically said I'd see her more if I went to hers and saw Dad too and then she mentioned it to DD. Which made me very cross. I'm doing this to protect them from him, as well as for me. He's a bad tempered bully. Something she normalised years ago. It's not normal to threaten your children...

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 03-May-13 18:12:00

bumping for mrskenyon.

mrskenyon Fri 03-May-13 18:26:59

just need an outlet to tell my story, any comments appreciated.
i cant really see a way forward, they cant seem to treat me like they would a normal person, if i am with husband, they are lovely, if alone, they treat me like cr**. i simply dont understand.

looking back at childhood, there is so much i dont understand - why was my father so violent to me, eg smashing my head against walls, hitting me too hard, i was petrified of him, i was always the black sheep of the family, everything was my fault, my sister was holier than thou - to their face. they let me go out with a 17 yr old when i was 12, and a 21 yr old when i was 15, who beat me up, fractured ribs, smashed head etc.

i just thought violence was how you resovled things, cos that was how my father had treated me. where was my mothjer in all this???? where was she????

luckily for me i got out of the abusive relationship, went to uni, have had a lovely life, two precious children, finally got to anger management myself, as i am determined not to pass on this horrific temper to my children. my father never took responsibility... it was only when i had my children, that the memories of my fathers violence resurfaced. i called him on it, he said he didnt' remember. i still forgave hjim, over and over, he walked me down the aisle, we continued normal family relations.

but last couple years, when i see them, afew times a year, there have been two huge arguments, they treat me with no respect, its just awful

so right now, there is a sort of estrangement, if i am honest, i think that is being true to me, to let go of them, and their weird detachment from me. but it causes such pain in my heart, how can it be that me, i, am estranged from my parents? i have always wanted a close loving relationship with them, wld love to be able to call mum every day to talk to her, she is not interested in that at all/...

my husband says to be here, now, celebrate my family, my life, let them go, but i just cant quite do that, feel so much greif inside my heart.

sorry for so many words, thank you for reading...

So much rings a bell with your post Mrskenyon. My Father is a bully. I am treated completely differently from my 4 other siblings. I was always the scapegoat and my Mum never stopped my Dad from verbally or physically abusing me in anger and rage.

I went NC with him a year ago. Unfortunately I still try and see my Mum but it's not easy.

My Mum isn't interested in me really. She see's me once every 6-8 weeks and spends all her time talking about her and Dad and guilt tripping me into recommencing contact and bringing up the past.

I used to try and arrange things for us to do together, I longed for the Mum/ Daughter relationships others had, but she'd either agree but then never get back to me on a time or just show complete disinterest in my suggestion to meet and do something nice.

I try not to think about my Dad as sometimes I begin to well up with tears. It shouldn't be like this.

I've had an e-mail from my Mum this morning telling me what Dad did wasn't that bad and how some Fathers do a lot worse.

I'm speechless. Threatening me and his constant insidious criticism of my parenting, striking my son when only 18 months, telling him he was just like his father, telling me I need to smack them more, being this angry cloud who controlled the whole room and everyone trod on egg shells is normal apparently.

Oh and it's not very Christian. Protecting myself and having boundaries isn't Christian apparently.

I've never said anything unkind to him, I just stopped seeing him as I found it so stressful.

Her e-mail has affected my whole morning from the moment I read it, I've wanted to cry and I've shouted at the kids sad This is exactly why I went NC and see Mum rarely. She always brings up Dad. Despite asking her not to. I'm so upset. One e-mail and I'm a wreck.

Goodness knows what the parents at soft play thought, as I spent so long writing her a reply on my phone and not watching my kids. I shouldn't have but I had to respond and state my position firmly. I shouldn't have replied at all sad

Poor DS who I think is Aspergers, his assessment isn't until the end of May got really agitated as he picked on my stress levels.

Oh did I tell you that Mum said if he'd known about DS struggles perhaps he wouldn't have behaved the way he did. Oh so it's ok to hit a small child if they're NT is it? Mind boggles.

But there's no way their 45 year marriage would've survived if she didn't enable him. She's part of this.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 04-May-13 15:28:26

Your mother has certainly enabled him for her own selfish reasons and she gets what she wants from their own dysfunctional relationship.
I'd cut all contact with them as of now tbh.

I can understand why you replied but doing so could just give them further ammo to be used against you. Be prepared for more minimising on her part and a backlash.

I would keep your children away from the pair of them, they do not deserve to be a part of their lives and would likely not bring anything at all positive into their lives.

She'll come back with tears and all 'poor me'. That's what she does. And she always brings up what I was like as a teen. Always.

I was having a nice day, been to the cinema, then soft play. Her e-mail completely threw me.

It began as she's disappeared off my Facebook friends list. I hadn't noticed. She'd added a blocked e-mail address to her profile (her joint e-mail with Dad), so fb blocked her. Of course it would. I wouldn't want e-mail notifications going to a joint e-mail he reads that mention me. I wasn't sure what e-mail he used so I put in his personal and joint one. This was a year ago. To make sure he was blocked. But the issue with Mum has only just cropped up. So I had e-mails accusing me of unfriending her and how she needs me hmm They then reverted to how what Dad did wasn't that bad and surely it was more stressful trying to avoid him on fb.

What planet does she live on?

I didn't want to stop contact with her as well but I said in my e-mail that she's alienating me further. You maybe right but I'm not sure I could cope with NC with both and my 4 brothers recriminations if I did sad They all think I'm unreasonable already for a whole year of not seeing him, despite his awful e-mails and texts physically threatening me. They're all in on it. I hate this sad

Yes the poor me e-mail arrived at almost midnight, it's quite spectacular and very very long. I'm amazed at how she can link her upbringing difficulties to why it's ok for Dad to threaten me. It's like she didn't read a thing I said and has rewritten what happened.

Apparently she has to chose between him and me. I'm not grasping this tbh. She shouldn't have to, she should be free to visit me if she wants anytime.

Their marriage is codependant and I do sometimes wonder if he passed away what would happen. I hope she'd have a sudden raging social life. Anyway, I'm undecided how to respond, if at all. All I want to say is that this isn't about her, it's about me.

FairyFi Mon 06-May-13 10:12:16

I think you have started on that road already MrsKenyon. I am sad that you have had to suffer them all your life, but it sounds like you are already making that move emotionally, even though you haven't said the words to them yet. I never did say any words.

The grief that you have started to be aware of, was huge for me, but it has put the necessary emotional distance between us.

I think your DH has a good attitude towards the situation, but it isn't so easy to follow that thread. This is huge step for you, but you know what will be the right thing for you. You talk of there being nothing in your relationship but pain.

Keep strong, and know this is about their abuses, and their responsibility, there is nothing to blame you for. You are taking responsibiilty for your life and self. take care xxx

Bedtime1 Mon 06-May-13 15:30:52

An air of hope - your childhood sounds bad however why did you ask your parents to give you money for your rent?

To others it's very hard the wondering when they are going to ring or what they are going to say, making you feel nervous.

I have fallen out with my dad. It's been like this for months. In contact then no contact. I am starting to think that if I speak to him or meet up then I am enabling him to treat me like crap. He is a bully- snide digs but it's more than that and more than banter. He actually is cruel, that's why I think he is a bully. It's hard to see sometimes as I question myself wether I'm too sensitive, I also go down the route of thinking not everyone's perfect, people have their off days, people are grumpy somedays, people have banter or little digs, am I just too sensitive. Then I think no this is more than that. It's cruel and I guess I am making excuses for him. How much are you willing to put up with from people? Eg what is acceptable to have a relationship with any person in your life and what isn't? I always wonder where the boundaries are because no one can be nice all the time and if I went down the route of expecting people to be nice all the time then that would mean I would have no one.

What do you think just wondering? I mean we all say nasty things sometimes. I'm just trying to get this straight in my mind, possibly because I've had so much crap for so long I'm not sure how people should treat me. Does this make any sense to anyone?

I do know though dad goes to next level as everytime I speak or see him he starts an argument. I know now I shouldn't engage and walk away or put the phone down. However I am starting to feel should I give him that chance to have a go?

I'd ask you if he adds anything positive to your life?

He knows the digs upset you I think but keeps persisting on doing them. Someone who deliberately upsets you consistently, is not a loving Father. And it's damaging for your self esteem and confidence.

It's hard to see the wood from the trees and I think we're all guilty of minimising it at times, as sometimes it's easier than an argument.

FairyFi Wed 08-May-13 08:21:01

I think if your r/s with your dad was good you would be able to say to him that some things were this serious for you and making you have such doubts about your rs overall bedtime that he would be upset by that. Very much so. A normal reaction would be to acknowledge he does that, be upset that he'd hurt you, and want to make it better. However, if he's using your personal traits against you, i.e. finding particular things about you that he can hurt you with to undermine you, or say things to goad you, that is abusive. The telling thing is in his reaction really. Have a look at the links above, normal people actually listen to what their loved ones tell them, especially if its something upsetting.

He is goading you from the sounds of it, to give him an opportunity to get angry at you? Some just won't ever give up and its their sole purpose in life to get others upset and get their kicks from that.

I have siblings that put up with my abusive father, but they can control themselves and manage to behave like that to certain others. Normally keeping their abuses for the 'chosen' ones. However, thats not always the case, some are just plain obnoxious all the time! grin

FairyFi Wed 08-May-13 08:25:12

this but they can control themselves and manage to behave like that to certain others should read

but they [abusive parents] can control themselves and manage to behave like that [pleasantly] to certain others

still not sure that makes sense! My abusive father, for instance, is charm and grace to the last to the rest of the world, and I'm not sure he treats my siblings the way he lies to me and goads me continually.

mrskenyon Wed 08-May-13 19:45:57

thankyou for your kind responses..

just feeling so much grief, so much pain around it all

keep having the urge to call them, to make contact, cant bear the reality... i know deep down that speaking with them never meets my need, they are so often harsh, rude, critical etc... yet i also know there are lovely moments too...

they have been away on holiday, while they were away i felt such peace, life gently flowed , ssince my sister told me they returned, so has my anxiety, sense of loss and being rejected... even tho i should be rejecting them.

they have NO photos of me as a baby. mum once told me she wished she had never had children. how stark is that, to tell me that....

i want their respect, their friendship, they support and love...

i feel like a drifting boat suddenly, no anchor of family, its as if they are dead, but i know they are not/..

how do i move on from this sad place? how do i simply let it all be.....

I wish I had the right words to say. I'm so sorry.

Oopla Wed 08-May-13 21:00:12

Sometimes I think what I didn't have I work three times harder to provide for my family.

I'm sorry they didn't give you what you needed. You deserve that mum and dad.

Remember that feeling of life flowing, that is your right. That's where you want to be. Let them go. Let it be xxx

mrskenyon Thu 09-May-13 11:48:49

thankyou for replies, its all so exhausting
it feels like i have been in denial for decades
so suddenly i am facing the reality

thinking about changing my surname, still carry my parents name,
its time to let that go, any suggestions of beautiful surnamesa ppreciated!!!!!

Despite being divorced, I kept my married name, as I preferred it.

I feel like my whole family are in denial still. They all minimise my parents failures and my Fathers narcissistic behaviour. The longer I am NC with him, the more astonished I am that they all excuse it. They're all culpable and I refuse to be part of his drama triangle anymore and be the scape goat.

You're sounding stronger today. It's so hard.

I have good days and bad days about it all. I wish my family could be what I long for. It's painful. Sometimes when my DD asks why we cannot go to Grandma's house I have to fight the tears, that my own Father loves me so little and that my Mum allows him to treat me so badly.

MillyMollyMandy78 Fri 10-May-13 21:59:18

Hi, badic summary of my situation...
Mum is a narcissist. Had 30 years of abuse, lies and emotional blackmail eg countless suicide threats and tantrums if doesn't get her own way. Things have got much worse the last few months and have had enough of the drama.
Sent mum a letter saying no phone calls or visits until she learns to behave better, though she never will.
Dad is a complete enabler. He phones and tries to leave messages eg whaat exactly has my mum lied about? Does not seem to believe me about the lies (even tho he has caughht her out many times telling lies, and my two siblings have both stated her lies are a major issue.
My sister has also cut contact for similar reasons.
I only withdrew contact yesterday and know it was the right thing to do. However, I am still very upset, and even tho dad's actions don't surprise me, they hurt. I know he contributes to the problem, but he does try to so the right thing and i love him very much.
I want to remain on good terms if possible with dad but how do i handle the situation. If i list all the lies etc she only comes back with denial/ excuses for each one, as gone over all these issues many times before. But if i refuse to back up my accusations with specific examples, it looks like i am just making sweeping statements and it is me that is lying. So how do i handle this?
Also anybody have any tips on getting through the first few days/ weeks of almost no contact (ie only letters/ emails with mum at mo, tho intend to go fully no contat when the time is right for me).

jessjessjess Sat 11-May-13 01:26:46

Sorry for posting and not responding to others. Having a very very hard few days. Have sort of gone almost NC, basically not making any effort to contact them. My mum occasionally texts me. My dad hasn't bothered to get in touch at all.

I need to ask a question which is going to sound ridiculous but I don't know where else to ask. Is scrambled eggs, bread and butter a good enough dinner for a child of about 9 or 10? It's just my mum sometimes used to go away for work and I have memories of my dad not really feeding me properly - she left stuff and it was like this family joke that he didn't bother making it. But I would have wanted the stuff she left and not been able to say so. I don't feel able to ask anywhere else on the board.

I have disordered eating as an adult and don't tend to bother making proper food for myself if I'm in on my own, but will eat whatever DH cooks. I'm only just realising why. My therapist says I need to matter more to myself and expect to matter more and I just think: but I didn't matter to my parents. I nearly drowned once and my mum was completely unphased. She let me go in the sea when it was choppy even though I couldn't swim. Got stuck on the wooden thing between sections of the beach. Lifeguard pulled me out. Nobody ever believes me when I say she didn't seem bothered. They insist she must have been in shock. People who live in this lovely la la land where parents would never hurt their children.

I have read the other posts but feel like I have nothing useful to say to anyone. I'm sorry. It's not pathetic that this is all bothering me now, is it? Am I supposed to be over it now I'm an adult?

Keep strong, all of you. You're better than your parents.

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