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Should I ask DH to reconcile with my parents?

(53 Posts)
FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 05:32:28

(Have NC-ed for this one - am not a new poster)
My parents and I fell out shortly after the birth of my DS. They came to visit early when I asked them to wait a while and got offended over a range of small imagined slights (mother didn't like where her card was displayed, that MIL got to see DS first because she lives closer, father annoyed we didn't cook for him, DH didn't greet him warmly enough etc). They blew up at me in my house about 1 week after I'd given birth and shouted at me, had a blazing row. DH stood up for me and tried to intervene and they shouted at him and insulted him too.

We were both really shaken after this event and found it really upsetting and stressful. I asked my parents to cut their visit short and go home. They were shell-shocked too as they are used to having their tantrums now and again and people just putting up with it. They apologized later over the telephone but I told them their behavior was totally unacceptable. My DH said to me that he didn't want to see them again.

After about six months of frostiness, I began to patch things up with them and speak on the phone now and again. I sent them photos of my son and cards, presents for birthdays etc. mostly out of a sense of guilt.

Things were complicated for me also because my father got very sick a year ago and was in ICU. He made a full recovery but could easily have died and I felt awful that the last time I had seen him we had fallen out. It felt like a judgement on me. Since that time, I have tried to maintain good relations with them because they're my parents and they're not going to be around forever - so basically out of guilt.

Anyway, we're now planning a visit home. DH is not from my country but is happy to base ourselves there for the visit as he likes it there and it's too much hassle to country-hop when we're coming a long way. We can meet up with my sister and his parents are going to come over too.

I feel i have to meet with my parents when I'm there. I don't enjoy the prospect of it as it's going to be stressful but I want DS to meet them and I want to normalize things a little. DH says that he has no interest in meeting with them, is worried that if I meet with them on my own they'll attack me again and says in general that this is our one holiday in the year so we shouldn't stress ourselves out with them.

We agreed in the end that I would go and meet with them for a couple of days along with my sister. He still has misgivings though and is worried for me. I don't know what to do. I will meet with them because I have to but I would rather that DH was with me really for moral support.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 12-Jul-13 11:12:25

Counselling for your own self re your relationship with your parents may prove invaluable to you.

ENormaSnob Fri 12-Jul-13 11:12:37

I think you are nuts allowing your ds to meet them tbh.

I totally agree with your dh.

They are horrible.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 12-Jul-13 11:16:18

This is from which you may also find helpful:-

A percentage of the general population is dysfunctional and/or abusive. That percentage, like everyone else, has children. Then those children grow and have children of their own. The not-so-loving grandparents expect to have a relationship with their grandchildren. The only problem is, they’re not good grandparents.

Many adult children of toxic parents feel torn between their parents’ (and society’s) expectation that grandparents will have access to their grandkids, and their own unfortunate firsthand knowledge that their parents are emotionally/physically/sexually abusive, or just plain too difficult to have any kind of healthy relationship with.

The children’s parents may allow the grandparents to begin a relationship with their children, hoping that things will be different this time, that their parents have really changed, and that their children will be emotionally and physically safer than they themselves were.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, because most abusive people have mental disorders of one kind or another, and many of these disorders are lifelong and not highly treatable. (Others are lifelong and treatable; however, many people never seek the necessary help.)

The well-intentioned parent ends up feeling mortified for having done more harm than good by hoping things would somehow be different — instead of having a child who simply never knew their grandparents and who was never mistreated, they have an abused child who is now also being torn apart by the grief involved in having to sever a lifelong relationship with the unhealthy people they are very attached to.

If your parents were not good parents and you are considering whether or not to allow a relationship with your children, consider the following factors, as well as others, before deciding:

•Have they fully addressed their issues in SKILLED long-term therapy? (A few weeks or months is nowhere near adequate if your parents regularly mistreated you).

•Have they been treated for all the root causes of their dysfunction or abuse?

•Have they sincerely apologized and made amends for the hurtful things they did? Not just said, “I’m sorry”, but really talked it all through with you over many hours’ time?

•Are they very different people to you from the ones you remember?

•Do you currently have a healthy, functional and stable relationship with them?

•Do they respect your choices and boundaries as a parent? Do they follow your requests about how you want your children to be treated and to behave?

•Would you recommend your parents to your best friend as babysitters without any hesitation or worry, and feel comfortable giving your word that they’d never harm your friend’s child, without any doubt?

•Have you worked through all of your feelings about the mistreatment you experienced through your parents?

These are just a few of the important questions to answer. The best plan is to work through the matter with a therapist of your own, who has no bias toward trying to “keep families together” despite the presence of mistreatment.

FrauMoose Fri 12-Jul-13 11:22:00

I grew up with only a grandmother, who I was fond of. Both my grandfathers and the other grandmother died before I was born.

Although my parents have not behaved well towards me, I did want my grand-daughter to know who her maternal grandparents were. (If I had cut them off, she would - like me - have grown up with just one grandparent, her Dad's father.)

I think it is sad when children have never seen grandparents due to family difficulties which they cannot understand. (Maybe too it can make children frightened that if they disagree with their parents, they will be cut off.)

Although my parents behaviour towards my daughter was not always well-judged, my father was and mother is affectionate towards her.

Had they behaved abusively towards her, then I would have either drastically limited their contact with her, or cut it off altogether. But by and large it has been good for her to know who they were.

CinnabarRed Fri 12-Jul-13 13:01:14

I am entirely with your DH on this one.

I'm sorry, it must be very hard.

FriskyHenderson Fri 12-Jul-13 13:31:44

You sound like you want to/will be seeing them anyway. Accepting that, can you look for ways to mitigate the potential for disaster?

It seems your sister will not be your defender - she will side with them because it's safer for her. So how can you avoid a situation where they (all) can blow up at you? Can you stay in a hotel rather than their home; only meet in public places?

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 20:47:38

Thanks to all of you for your replies. They've been eye-opening! I half-expected everyone to post that I was being selfish and how could I be so heartless to even think about not seeing my DF when he had almost died etc. Shows you how out my synch my values are.

Thanks for your link to that advice, Atilla. I had to laugh reading your questions. I can answer none of those questions with a confident 'Yes'. I would like to see a counsellor about them because it weighs on my mind a lot and I did read the 'Toxic Parents' book based on an MN recommendation previously. I am a little wary of counselors because I saw one in college who actually tried to put the blame on me(!) for the problems, saying that my mother had a hard life so I should feel sorry for her. THat was the worst because all my life my parents would pile on the guilt about how my mother had a hard life and she only wanted the best for us. Her mother died when she was young so she would always get teary-eyed whenever any 'mother'-related song would come on the radio and would always cry 'I had no mother to tell me anything' etc. Even after the post-birth bust-up she stood at the door of my house screaming at me 'I had no mother!!' and that the next time I'd see her would be at her funeral etc. I still feel slightly sick thinking about that. Part of me wants to meet with her when I visit just to prove her wrong!

Most of the time I don't think about them that much to be honest so it doesn't intrude in my life. Part of my motivation for meeting with them when I go home is to just be able to draw a line under the situation and decide finally 'OK, they are horrible people they have learned nothing, I was stupid to ever make contact again' and then not visit home again.

I won't be staying in their house anyway if I did visit or even in my home town. I haven't stayed a night in their house in nearly 10 years as last time I did it was the Christmas before I got married and they just shouted at me then and accused me of making their lives difficult by insisting holding my wedding nearby (don't ask).

They give me a bloody pain in my head thinking about them to be honest. I just want to be able to draw a line and move on. Don't know why I think meeting up with them will help with that though...

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 20:53:44

That's interesting FrauMoose that your parents were able to treat your DD well. I would like for that to happen with my DS but so far I haven't seen much sign of that being the case. He is just a toddler at the moment and they are in their mid-70s and we live abroad so at the very most he would only ever see them once or twice a year. Most likely they will only live for another 10-15 years, if they're lucky, so he wouldn't really have that much contact with them, even if they were awful to him.

I had that kind of relationship with my grandparents (father's parents). They were nice people, no drama or histrionics like mine, but we saw them rarely as they lived further away and after the age of 80 couldn't travel well. My grandfather died when he was 90 and my grandmother at 93, when I was 12 and 15. They didn't have much influence on my life really but I was glad to have known them.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 21:09:07

Someone mentioned that this is a type of familial adjustment that sometimes happens when you have a first baby - I don't think there is much more to it than that and even if there were, you don't live in the same country anyway.

I think you should go and see them, ask dh to support you in that, don't read too much into it other than they are a different generation and slightly self-obsessed. They may not be your best mates but you can still chug along and do the family thing and hopefully it will make things better in the long run.

The religious feelings you are having is simply your conscience - you know deep down that breaking a family line - burning the bridges - is going to cause a lot of pain and make you feel a bit rootless. Rules within religions usually promote a structure whereby loyalty and support for each other is upheld - for obvious reasons. And even if you're an atheist you will understand that these things are important.

If they are 'toxic', then that's hard but they are still your parents and as long as you are aware of their ways you should be able to get maintain contact without too much pain.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 21:12:40

x-post - your mother sounds like a character in a book - hillarious and scary at the same time. Perhaps you should write about her?

WinkyWinkola Fri 12-Jul-13 21:48:10

Horsetowater, familial adjustment after a baby is born? Read that again dearie:

"Even after the post-birth bust-up she stood at the door of my house screaming at me 'I had no mother!!'"

Are you crazy? The mother sounds bloody deranged!!! This isn't going to stop.

If any relative did that to me, regardless of my physical status, post birth or whatever, I would never see them again nor would my children.

Sheesh. The shit some women accept as normal from their mad relatives. It amazes me.

Op, I really think you need to protect yourself from these bonkers people. And your child.

Mumsyblouse Fri 12-Jul-13 22:09:53

I think it is up to you what your relationship is with your parents and really your husband should support you. If a minimal contact, flying one day visit every couple of years makes you feel better, then why not do that? My husband has similar parents and he has gone through stages of having little contact, but in general we keep some limited contact with them and in the main they've been good (if limited) grandparents, and I do think the children benefit from knowing the wider family in a superficial way, I would not leave them to care for them on their own or anything like that, but they are affectionate, buy them presents pat their head and then we leave. It's not a deep relationship. I would stand against shouting though, no shouting around my children ever, so I would just make it clear that any sign of trouble and you are out of there.

Some people do prefer to cut off altogether and feel much relief from doing so but others don't- it may be FOG driving it, but it's whatever works best for you and your children.

Mumsyblouse Fri 12-Jul-13 22:11:38

And- I follow my husband's lead on this, if he wanted to cut contact, we would, if he wants the odd visits every now and again, we do that.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 22:46:09

Winky some people are just more crazy than others. It doesn't mean they are evil and should be shut out of our lives forever.

What is this 'normal' of which you speak?

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 23:54:18

Winky: It's not about accepting shit behavior. You're putting the blame on me there. If you've grown up with histrionics and tears and self-pity and melodrama all the time then it's just normal to you so you're conditioned to accept it. Same way children of alcoholics are conditioned to see their parents drunk all the time, something I couldn't imagine since my parents are teetotal, for example.

Mumsyblouse - the way you describe your family's relationship with your parents-in-law is all I would aspire to. A visit once a year, some presents, exchange Christmas cards and so on. If they ever shouted at my DS or started any drama with him, I would cut contact definitely.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 23:56:32

Funny you should mention that horsetowater! I am in fact writing a novel at the moment, a humorous one with a put-upon daughter who has a crazy pair of religious extremists for parents grin.

Laughter can be therapeutic sometimes...!

WinkyWinkola Sat 13-Jul-13 00:10:09

Horsetowater, screaming at someone like that is not normal behaviour. At all. It is abusive.

And op, absolutely I understand that family experience makes everything relative, so to speak. Hence your posting on MN for other opinions.

My opinion is that your parents sound utterly dramatic, selfish and childish. Your dh has pretty much got them sussed.

WhiteBirdBlueSky Sat 13-Jul-13 00:44:22

Probably no harm in meeting up with them, but a few days would be pushing it I think. I would say an afternoon or one day max is enough to extend an olive branch and tentatively establish a relationship. However 3 days is too long for everyone to remain on their best behaviour. You can't keep it superficial for that length of time and then you're back to square one.

Should your husband come? Depends how likely it is that he can keep a lid in his resentments and not inflame the situation.

cleopatrasasp Sat 13-Jul-13 01:13:31

You see, to me Mumsyblouse that just sounds like a false relationship that only survives because it operates within very limited parameters. Your children's grandparents are not the people that your children think them to be since they have been given an edited version. I can understand why you've done this but I think it's very unhealthy.

OP I'm sorry you've had such an awful time with your parents, the way they've behaved is really not anywhere near normal, they are not harmless eccentrics. I am also of the camp that believes you should not put up with any shite off people just because they are relatives. Generally, the people that bleat on about enduring hideous behaviour because the people involved are your parents/grandparents/siblings etc are people who have had the luck to have functioning, 'normal' families. They seem to be unable to comprehend that not everyone is so lucky and that the fact that you don't has nothing to do with you or your efforts. Things are not going to magically improve if you keep trying or try a little harder. Your parents are dysfunctional and, frankly, unpleasant, that is not your fault and you can't change it.

This kind of dysfunction just bleeds from generation to generation if you let it so if you won't protect yourself from it then maybe you should think about whether it is your job is to protect your child from it. Thinking logically, why would they treat your child any better than they treat you? That just backs up the idea that their behaviour towards you is all your fault again. Allied to this, it quite often happens that grandparents like this use their grandchildren to hurt their 'errant' child.

forgetmenots Sat 13-Jul-13 02:59:21

OP it's completely your right to have whatever relationship you wish with your parents - I personally worry you're trapped in the fear, obligation and guilt cycle and would be unsure about how able you would be to prevent them being nasty to your dcs, but only you can know that.

Your DP can support you in many ways however, it is also his right not to have a relationship with them. he (like you) is under no obligation. You might find someone who isn't 'involved' actually a better support than someone who grudgingly turns up to events to show face. I've been in your dp's position and he will likely be unwilling to be an enabler to further crap by going with you.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 13-Jul-13 08:01:27

Family Strife

At college though you ended up seeing a crappy counsellor who gave you duff advices and excuses re your mother's toxic behaviour to boot. Such people ought to be struck off any counselling register because they are not fit to practice.

Moving onto present day though you ideally need to see a therapist who has no bias at all towards "trying to keep families together" despite the presence of mistreatment. Not all counsellors are good (the one you mentioned is a prime example of poor) but counsellors generally are like shoes, you need to find someone that fits.

I also note that you answered no to all the questions posed in the lighthouse blog re toxic grandparents. That should be your line in the sand re such people, not going to visit them to give them one last opportunity (to kick off at you again, your sister won't be able to defend you because she is also mired in FOG).

horsetowater Sat 13-Jul-13 12:47:20

How weird is that OP that you are writing a novel!

It is a great way to ensure you are looking at them with perspective and detachment. I think that is the key - you are leaving the door open but you're not going to get yourself dragged into a process of making them behave differently or analysing or worrying about their behaviour. They are who they are, smile and move on and be who you are.

Cutting them out of your life is damaging in the long term although many will completely oppose that view. You can't live your life comfortably knowing that you have cut your family out. It will come back years down the line and the conflict will reach your children when they grow up and ask questions about the family they have 'missed out' on.

WinkyWinkola Sat 13-Jul-13 13:28:46

Equally, Horsetowater, the op's dcs may ask her why she exposed them to her parents knowing full well that she had a
miserable childhood and they made her dcs sad too.

Family doesn't give you a ticket to being vile indefinitely. Ever.

cleopatrasasp Sat 13-Jul-13 15:46:40

Complete nonsense horsetowater you have absolutely no idea that the OP 'cant comfortably' cutting family off. Plenty of us live a ridiculously happy life having cut off dysfunctional relatives many years ago.

I really dislike it when people try to guilt others into continuing dysfunctional and harmful relationships under the guise of persuading the person being abused that they need to be the bigger person and just take the abuse. You don't. Life is short and there is no need to put up with bad behaviour from people just because you share genes.

FrauMoose Sat 13-Jul-13 16:28:55

Personally if after I had posted a few paragraphs of information on my circumstances - and then had a bunch of strangers seeking to instruct me on how I ought to behave towards my parents, protect my children and to judge the competence (or incompetence) of any counsellors I might have seen - I would probably judge that quite a high proportion of those strangers might have abusive/abusing tendencies..............

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