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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)

lolaflores Tue 02-Jul-13 15:56:16

I just don't feel able to absorb this shit anymore. I feeln emptied out of everything all because of one stupid conversation that I walked straight into. I feel like I have to keep convincing myself that everything I ever thought was my imagination. But it is not.

I'm just coming on to just say that I really wish my parents hadn't crushed my self esteem and self belief so much that I always think it's my fault and apologise constantly.

A work colleague at the moment is being very passive aggressive to me. I feel she doesn't respect me at all and instead of thinking 'so what' I am finding it really upsetting that it matters to me so much what she thinks.

Growing up my Mum would always whisper in my ear when we were out and about how everyone around me thought I was a naughty girl etc and it just won't leave me. Constantly worry what others think of me and long to be accepted. But my perception is so off, I suspect I think everyone hates me when they don't sad

bellasuewow Wed 03-Jul-13 11:56:01

i am reading the Toxic parents book and have ordered the other recommended and am half way through, a lot of it sounds familiar and despite my mind saying 'yes that did happen' my heart is still in FOG. I re read my post and it sounds awful and i am still thinking, could that really be true. I think when i convince my heart then i will be on the road to recovery. I also sound like a scary dragon in my post and to be honest i can react aggressive and confrontaional as a defence as i cannot bear to feel vulnerable. Pumpkin your post about initiating contact really interested me because me and my DH have waivered and discussed this but then not done it because we were afraid of the stress it would bring to our lives, they currently don't have emails phone numbers and address so if they did it concerns me that they would have that access to us. You all sound calm and thoughtful in your posts i think i may still be at the blasting it out of me stage and perhaps a bit in denial about how hurt i really am and how hard it is for me to tell the story because that means vulnerability.

bellasuewow Wed 03-Jul-13 12:10:26

JessJessJess you made a comment about not understanding normal families and wondering why they want to hang out with each other that resonates with me when i watch TV and stuff i don't have an understanding of family relationships in films etc. How do any of you with children cope when you have a child and treat them well do you feel anger that you were not treated in that way or do you find yourself repeating patterns you were taught and feel guilty?

NotQuitePerfect Wed 03-Jul-13 13:22:28

bella I'm afraid to say that I feel angrier with my parents now (I am in my early 50s) than at any point previously in my life.

I try very very hard not to repeat the patterns of parenting within which I was raised - emotional neglect, ridicule, belittling, a general lack of any kind of emotional engagement.

My dc are late teens/early 20s and the awareness of the total unconditional support they have from me & DH - financial, emotional, educational, mentoring & just ordinary listening makes me want to weep for my teenage self.

I left home at 16 to live with a much older man (my former teacher). My parents did nothing to prevent this happening and my mother's contribution was to start shagging him herself.

She has herself down as a wonderful matriarch now. She has simply re-written history.

I will never ever forgive her. We have a very superficial relationship. I went non-contact with my father 8 or 9 years ago. Best thing I ever did (apart from marrying DH & rising our family together).

Having therapy last year made things worse in some way, in that it brought up many unhappy issues from childhood that I have still not been able to resolve.

But being emotionally damaged has not, I hope, stopped me from being the best parent that I can be. I'm sure I've made a dreadful hash of parts of parenthood -we all do! - but history does not have to repeat itself.

meddie Wed 03-Jul-13 14:02:03

Its Mum birthday today. I still havent acknowledged it. Its been a good few weeks since we have spoken after she punched my daughter.
Why do I feel like I should send a card and present, when I dont even like her at the moment. Yet I feel that not sending one would burn bridges.

NotQuitePerfect Wed 03-Jul-13 16:35:07

meddie I wouldn't dream of sending a birthday gift to somebody who had punched my daughter shock!

It's never easy, trust me I know, but you need to get that toxic mother out of your life. Very best of luck, you will find the strength from somewhere - for your daughter's sake as much as your own.

bellasuewow Wed 03-Jul-13 16:57:56

thank you not quite, i tried therapy but i had three sessions she was nice and worked for my husband but i could not let go with her i kept thinking she was thinking i was an agressive mad bitch for complaining and i was too defensive with her. Funny because i have no issue with supporting others and allowing them to let go of emotions and i am quite open minded but don't expect others to do the same for me. I can really see why you would be angrier with them as you get older and wiser. I too went off with a much older man who was married, strangely it was him who showed me individual love care and attention for the first time and i blossomed in that slightly disfunctional relationship. I had no concept that it was wrong as i just did not see myself as a proper person who mattered and others made decisions for me i had such low self esteem i did not question my actions. If they wanted me it didn't matter what i thought i was in the wind. Looking back that is hard to see as i am a very different person now. meddie i sort of know where you are coming from with the birthday card, its that auto pilot no matter how crazy it is becasue you are just so normalized to the behavior and it is so ingrained. It Takes a long time to re learn. some of the stuff i have done makes me cringe like cleaning for my family, they expected it if i visited them but did not thank me for it. I was an obsessive at cleaning but really i was just a clean person and they were all grubby and lazy but whatever i did it had to be turned into a negative.

meddie Wed 03-Jul-13 17:00:10

I know. I havent sent one because there is no way i am going to visit or pretend happy families. She hasnt even acknowledged the incident happened. Yet i am suprised that a part of me feels that i am being vindictive. As well as feeling guilty about the effect this rift could have on my nieces wedding in 2 months. Argggh its ridiculous how the fog can get you.

NotQuitePerfect Wed 03-Jul-13 20:11:49

Yes, the niece's wedding thing is difficult isn't it? I really don't know what to advise about that. Hopefully somebody with a bit more wisdom/articulation than me will be along soon!

It's dreadful because of course you don't want to continue the pattern of guilt/shame/bitterness/neglect with the next generation. And I'm assuming that your niece is completely innocent of all this going on.

But at the same time, you have to make a stand for yourself and your daughter. The feeling that you are being vindictive is learned behaviour, and it is very difficult to 'un-learn'. There are bound to be a few false starts, you can't just completely re-programme the way you have been taught to feel since childhood.

I wish you luck meddie.

Whenever I am in a situ like this I always think to myself "do you know what, I didn't ask for any of this ....." angry

Fucking families hey grin

NotQuitePerfect Wed 03-Jul-13 20:22:39

bella - lots of similarities in our histories (the older man as a 'safe' place of refuge - gah! - the feeling that others could decide for me what happened as I felt utterly powerless and of no importance).

I just cannot believe that I was allowed to leave home to live with my former teacher who was twice my age - in the NEXT STREET, mind! - and nobody cared enough to raise the question that this might not be in the best interests of my general welfare. Not my parents, not an extended family member, not the school in which he still taught and I had just left, or the college at which I was then a pupil. Everybody either looked the other way or just couldn't be less bothered.

I understand the 'clean' thing too! Am obsessed with hygiene and order, to a degree that other people think is unnatural but over the years I have learned that it is their problem, not mine. I refuse to drop my standards to fit in with other (grubby) people smile!

Bedtime1 Wed 03-Jul-13 23:19:55

Have any of you tried some sort of therapy that involves your whole family?

Bedtime1 Wed 03-Jul-13 23:20:15

Eg counselling

NotQuitePerfect Thu 04-Jul-13 16:01:54

Not me personally. Friend did it with hubby No2 & her children from previous.

Didn't work as hubby No2 didn't like what therapist had to say (ie. she didn't 'take his side' against the kids) hmm

bellasuewow Thu 04-Jul-13 16:48:43

meddie in susan fowards book about toxic parents she talks about your feeling of unease or vindictiveness and i think it relates to the fact that you have broken an unspoken truth or rule that you perhaps have yet to know conciously, understand or have acknowledged. Like a spoken truth for me was that i was mad and bad and unspoken was that i was a second class citizen who should serve my betters and my success was not right or acceptable if you break that maybe you feel uncomfortable and wrong but don't understand why sorry if that sounds a bit deep but do catch my drift? not Quite there is nothing unatural about loads of cleaning it is healthy and positive thing to do but it can be intimidating to others as it is a great way to be. I used to be more obsessive and i wonder is it related to control and anxiety (oh god perhaps if we both got better our houses would be shit holes then(smile) about the older man thing that is typical i think of neglect and that is weird what a message to send to a teenage girl what did it say to you at that age, with parents like that that is why when you go nc often i think they don't care and don't pursue you and makes me think my reationship with them was all me pathetically pretending as soon as i stopped bothering then no one did. bedtime 1 my family do not think they need therapy and would never attend a session, my father would never let me call him dad it had to be his first name and would be very scornful about therapy as they are perfect and in denial too much i suspect many other toxic parents are in denial and think they are great parents to their ungrateful mad bad kids!!

pumpkinsweetie Thu 11-Jul-13 11:02:53

Hello everyone just adding the latest saga of ils to this thread so i have a constant reminder of their awfulness!
Hope you are all having stress free times at the moment!

It was mine & dhs anniversary yesterday and as usual ils have to put a black cloud over a special day like they do with all special days. Don't know why i was so suprised, it's the same every year!

Anyway it was a crap day, dh was sulky, distant, snappy and how i tolerated him on our special day i don't know!!! Turns out later in the day upon seeking why he was like this, turns out mil has been begging and slagging in me off by text because me & dc won't attend her bbq saturday-even though she knows quite clearly my dc are not allowed to her homeconfused ever because of fil.
Of course dh had told her no we cannot make it, she didn't like this and accused me of punishing her and got shifty with dh causing his behaviour. She said to him she won't go 4 months without seeing her gc etc etc, although it was infact 10m we were nc! Not only that but the one time i allowed her back into our lifes, she still couldn't put my dc first and went against my wishes by turning up with her other gc to my home!

I have told dh, of all days she cannot leave us alone and has ruined another day yet againconfused
It's my dd birthday soon, i'm dreading her ruining that too!

There is a lot of history surrounding why me & dc went nc and dh always has it in the back of his mind they will change but they never do.
The last and only visit she had, she knew i was to choose the next one, it's only been a month and she is already moaning, i said to dh he can tolerate her all he likes but for now i want to stay nc for aslong as possible. I'm not even sure i want to even see them before christmas, and if i do it will only be to appease dh.

jessjessjess Thu 11-Jul-13 12:17:18

Bafflingly, my mother (who said she didn’t have time to see me) has sent me a list of dates when she and my dad are away in the next few months. I haven’t seen them in ages and I’m barely speaking to them, but she just breezily sent this anyway. It has annoyed me beyond all reason.

AttilaTheMeerkat’s checklist for grandparents got me thinking. My brother lets my parents see his kids, says they do fairly well as grandparents, and makes a point of laying down the law with them – e.g. my dad (who is obsessive about not wasting food, not taking too much food, etc etc) has been told that my brother does not want his kids to have issues with food and he is not to comment on it, end of. Apparently he’s towing this line.

However, I’m not sure I’d want my future kids to have a relationship with them. I’m virtually NC, but they’ll pop up again if we get PG. I’m wondering whether to give them some kind of ultimatum: that they need to acknowledge certain things, and have some therapy, before spending time with my kids. I suspect they will refuse. So be it.

Pumpkin I’m so sorry about your continued troubles. I do think it’s worth seeing a counsellor on your own, if you’d consider it.

TheDrugsDon’tWork thanks for your post. Can’t believe I deleted the book in a fit of denial. I might buy it again. Though confrontation is not something I would consider, I don’t think. Really helpful post, thank you – don’t know why you’re apologising for taking the time to explain it in such depth, it’s not all about you (and it would be fine if it was).

Don’tstep I’m looking up Children of the Self Absorbed now, thank you.

Have just had to stop reading through as I’m running late! Oops. Will read/respond to other posts in due course, sorry to ignore recent posters who need support x

NotQuitePerfect Thu 11-Jul-13 18:25:17

pumpkin your in-laws sound like an absolute nightmare.

Is it permissible to ask why your dc are not allowed to be with your fil?

Empathise totally with the ruining of 'special' days.

My fil ruined our dd's graduation lunch this week by being miserable, snappy and disengaged throughout the whole afternoon. He was tired because he and my mil had spent the previous afternoon/evening entertaining/treating their OTHER grandaughter (dh's niece). Come the following day, our daughter's special celebration, he had run out of steam. And of course so had his wallet angry hmm

pumpkinsweetie Thu 11-Jul-13 18:37:20

Fil is a loose cannon and flys of the handle when things aren't going his way, he has in the past infront of dc when having a heated argument with dh said he hates his gcs and doesn't care if he f***ing sees them again.
This isn't the only time and the reason i cannot send them to ils alone is because fil insists on taking dc to bed for napsshock, obviously this isn't normal!

NotQuitePerfect Thu 11-Jul-13 18:53:25

No pumpkin you are absolutely right, that isn't normal. Well done for being brave enough to keep your dc away from him, it can't be easy.

He sounds like an absolute twunt. My own father once said (about my brother's children - I didn't have any at the time) that they were 'nothing' to him.

What is it with these people?? Heard on the radio the other day a Scandinavian saying about becoming a grandparent - something along the lines of "Even through the most wonderful of meals, everyone looks forward to the pudding. Grandchildren are the puddings of life."

I thought that was lovely smile

pumpkinsweetie Thu 11-Jul-13 19:14:14

Yep twunt indeed, and when mil is trying to get us round there i feel like screaming-she's bad enough but to not even notice how evil her own dh is goes beyond belief!

Love that scandavian saying, that is lovelysmile-shame my ils can't be like that!

Wondering whether dh will be hounded saturday

trapezegirl Sun 14-Jul-13 18:34:29

I've only just got round to joining MN after lurking for a while. I've come to this thread in the hope of some support, or just having someone else see my point of view. I don't mean to barge in though, sorry.

DM always preferred my younger brother, though she insists this was all in my head and I was "just difficult". I got smacked for every little thing while he got away with anything/everything and was never hit. DF was kind of passive and more interested in his job than his kids. He got quite creepy when I reached my teens, though maybe it was all in my head. He used to look at me in this leery way, 'accidentally' brush against my bum or boobs, and once made me kiss him on the lips while he was drunk. I feel completely gross just typing this. Another family member did actually sexually assault me on several occasions and I never told anyone as I didn't think anyone would care or believe me.

I stuck things out at home long enough to get my A levels and went to uni. When I was in my early 20s, DF had some kind of mid-life crisis and left my DM for a younger woman. He made zero effort to maintain a relationship with me or DB and proceeded to remarry without bothering to tell us (we found out through other relatives). I no longer have any kind of relationship with him. Meanwhile, DM expected loads of support and help during the divorce, and basically drove me up the wall.

After several abusive relationships, I met my lovely DH (avoided family crap by getting married abroad). We're now expecting our first DC, which has inspired me to finally go NC with my mother - who hasn't reacted at all well. I just don't want her anywhere near my child but she and other family members seem to think I'm selfish, cruel, exaggerating, etc, so I've basically broken off contact with almost all my relatives (it's no great loss if I'm honest).

I've also been avoiding contact with DB, who is an arrogant little shit. I've made a success of my life, got a degree and a good career but, until I went NC, my DM still treated me like I was somehow less-than. DB hasn't managed to stick at anything and is in loads of debt, but he still can do no wrong in her eyes. Everything he does is right, and everything I do is wrong. I once made the mistake of trying to talk to her about the family member who sexually abused me and she accused me of making it up to get attention, which was devastating. (I'm considering making a historical report about it, but don't feel strong enough to do this yet.) I'm having counselling which is helping a bit, but this is all just getting me down.

Sorry this was so long, and sorry to dump all this on here. I keep thinking maybe I made this all up, and hoping I did, because then it wouldn't actually be true and my family wouldn't be the horrible load of shit it actually is.

Hi trapezegirl. I'm so so sorry for what you've been through. I believe you.

This is a safe place to talk, where you will feel validated and heard and nothing will be minimised. Or told it didn't happen.

It's funny how expecting a child or having one, can polarise things. Seeing my father treat my son badly helped me to minimise contact and a further incident gave me the final push to go nc. I've not regretted it since, but posting here has been so helpful for me when I doubt myself. I hope you find it so too.

I'm in the middle of something but I'll be back later x

trapezegirl Sun 14-Jul-13 19:53:35

Thank you for believing me.

pumpkinsweetie Sun 14-Jul-13 20:59:11

I believe you trapeze!
when we are expecting it makes us realise these people are no good for our children as we want whats best for them & to keep them safe from harm x

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