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

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DontstepontheMomeRaths Fri 23-Aug-13 16:00:41

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It's August 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
March 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 your 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 defences 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 behaviour. 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 offences 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 behaviour. 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 realise 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

This final quote is from smithfield posting as therealsmithfield:

"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

GoodtoBetter Fri 23-Aug-13 16:04:42

Marking my place.

pumpkinsweetie Fri 23-Aug-13 17:10:41

Marking my place.

Hissy Fri 23-Aug-13 23:57:48

Me too!

Phoenixwoman Sat 24-Aug-13 16:45:35

Hi all, I think I fit in here and just wanted to share my thoughts.

I've always known something wasn't quite right with my parents, particularly my dm who never seemed to want to spend time with me. It was always a chore and I was told how lucky I was to have any time with what with her being so busy and having to work so much to look after me and my sibling. It got worse as we entered our teens and we really started to realise what she was like and the extent of her drinking as well. Every day was spent worrying about what her next explosion would be about, what foot would I put wrong today. When I got affection it felt forced and insincere, not real. I've never felt comfortable with physical contact with my family and don't enjoy hugs for example but do with my dh and dc.

I've never felt good enough and have workede hard to get good grades, educated, have a career, get married to a lovely man, then have dc, do everything the 'proper' way, all the time desperate for approval and love I never get back. I cry over the dm-dd relationship I will never have because she doesn't want it, doesn't seem to like me. Even as a married adult I would seek approval/advice before making decisions, like a child. My dh would be exasperated by it but I just couldn't make my own decision, be my own person?????

As I have got older and especially following the birth of my own dc I have realised what 'normal' is. I know how it feels to love my dc and want nothi more than a relationship with them where I see them regularly and want to spend time with them. It's such an intense desire to be near them I can't understand why my dm doesn't feel like that for me. I have started create distance between us though it's hard and I feel guilty but she has made it difficult and many of my family have shut me out. She dislikes my dh a lot as he gives me more power over her. She has accused him and others of controlling me as she knows me better than anyone and I wouldn't disobey/go against her as I have done.

I have done some research in toxic parents and it all seems to fit with NPD. I was up reading late last night as it was like a light bulb had been switched on, it all fit, I am a scapegoat, I have all the features of an ACON and I'm starting to finally realise the way I feel (doubt, anxiety, low self esteem) are not my fault. I said realise, actually I think I did that a while ago, maybe I should say I am starting to believe that this is not my fault.

Anyway, I'm rambling, there is so much to say, get out, release and I finally feel brave enough to do that! Sort of anyway. Hope this makes sense to someone and someone can relate????


spanky2 Sat 24-Aug-13 17:40:03

I understand what you are saying .Try reading Will I ever be good enough ? It is so helpful .

spanky2 Sat 24-Aug-13 17:41:07

People don't really understand . I am trying to come to terms with the fact my parents don't love me.

Meery Sat 24-Aug-13 18:06:51

Slightly off topic but just musing how dysfunctional families impact down the generations. I thought i was close to dsis she's the only one who really understands when i have issues with dm. Its the bits that people with normal families dontsee or get that she's onto straight away. We talk alot and get our families together regularly.

Today i found out she got married. Over a year ago. Maybe we're not so close. It hurts.

Hissy Sat 24-Aug-13 19:15:14

Oh Meery! What a shock! sad poor you!

Littleen Sat 24-Aug-13 19:38:46

can relate a lot to you, phoenixwoman - I also keep trying to do all the right things to get some acknowledgement, and never take any decisions without consulting my parents, as I am so desperate for their approval. I'm still unable to break that cycle, so I can't really give any advice sad

pumpkinsweetie Sat 24-Aug-13 19:38:53

Oh meery how upsetting x

Meery Sat 24-Aug-13 19:48:44

Thanks hissy. Im sure I'll be ok in a day or so it's just i so crave a normal family that do normal things that a secret wedding has really thrown me. At least I've been spared a bridezilla occasion.

I guess i just need to speak to dsis to get closure on this and move on.

Pw apologies for ignoring you. Wil reply when I've read your post properly.

TotsAway Sat 24-Aug-13 20:13:11

Hi, posted a thread and someone recommended coming here. It's not about my parents but my PILs, MIL in particular. Without writing a mammoth essay, MIL is quite selfish and has a lot of insecurities/beliefs that have had quite an effect on DH. I don't think she's a narc (although I'm really not sure) but she does put herself at the centre of any issue and relates everything to herself and what she thinks/feels and DH is left with a lot of guilt and very beholden to her. She either loves or hates everyone so the inference is you have to do what she wants else you're in the bad books. She has some weird views on various topics and is very stubborn so won't ever listen to suggestion she might be wrong. She'll throw 'calm' temper tantrums if she doesn't get her own way - so won't shout or rant but will just keep repeating her opinion as fact and getting upset/anxious if she's not listened to/agreed with, so she gets her own way anyway without ranting.

Basically it's very hard for DH to feel he can really live his own life without her always having a little bit of control over it, always pulling the guilt strings when she wants her own way. Usually it's fairly minor, like what half of Christmas Day she gets or DH having to spend 10 mins finding just the right birthday card to please her but it's a 'drip, drip' effect and ends up causing quite a bit of stress over the weeks/months. FIL is generally ok but is very much an enabler so when the shite hits the fan he gets just as bad. DH is slowly starting to be able to talk about and process that their behaviour is wrong, it's not his fault, and think about dealing with it but I want to help him (and me) find where to start.

I looked through the links at the start of the thread but was a bit overwhelmed with all the various terms and ideas so could do with a good place to start and unravel what's going on with the PILs and how to help DH start to unpick it all. Don't want to recommend the Toxic Parents book to him first off (even though I think it might be perfect) as just labelling them 'toxic' would be too much for him atm.

Hissy Sat 24-Aug-13 20:58:45

I was talking about narcissism with my therapist last session.

Narcissism can be on a spectrum, right?

pumpkinsweetie Sat 24-Aug-13 21:56:23

TotsAway the things you mention totally remind me of similar traits my mil has. Especially the wanting control over Christmas, needing an extra special card etc etc. Hating someone if they don't follow her 'ideals'. If dh is like my dh, he was probably is clouded that it's all normal behaviour but still placates her every whim. This itself stresses my dh out for the weeks/months leading up to up to it. It even makes him ill & withdrawn and even short tempered.

I at first didn't notice my mil was toxic until many years after being with dh, even after living with her. The time it became apparent was when we had our children, especially the iminent birth, wanting to take over etc etc. Over time i started to notice my dh was scared of his parents.
In the end it materialized fil had beaten dh as a child and later on fil also started his campaign too.
Mil got worse and pushed her expectations onto my pfb who is from a past relationship, saying in front of her about her eyecolour, origin, and how it is nature not nuture re children. This caused a lot of problems.
Fil became verbally abusive last mothers day because he thought we hadn't got mil a present and proceeded to blow up in my kitchen saying he didn't want to see his ffin grandkids again, fuck this fuck that etc before dh removed him from our home. It was that night dh confided in me about being beaten.

TotsAway Sun 25-Aug-13 08:17:23

That does sound so strangely similar to my DH's situation pumpkinsweetie. DH is so used to MIL/PILs behaviour that although he's starting to realise it's not helpful he still sees it as just what they're like, and yes, feels he has to placate them in everything otherwise he's in the wrong and feels guilty that he's hurt them in some way, and yep, it makes him stressed, moody and a bit short tempered, when usually he doesn't even seem to have a temper he's that laid back.

It's definitely only been in the past 6 months - a year that I've slowly started to realise PILs are toxic too and we've been together for 3.5 years. I used to think they were just lovely genuine people, with a couple of eccentricities but generally sound, would never have described them as toxic but from what I've seen/know now I definitely would. Am pretty sure there was no physical violence in the past (beyond a smack now and then which I don't approve of) but think PILs have used emotional stuff to make DH as scared of them. MIL walked out on the family and lived apart for 2 years when DH was 14, more because she was fed up rather than deeply depressed, and at first I thought this was just a sad event for all concerned but now I can't help seeing it as another example of her saying 'do what I want or suffer'. And I'm seeing that attitude more and more now, from both PILs, 'if we don't get what we want you'll pay until we do'.

Think me seeing it is really accelerating how DH is seeing it, because I don't take it lying down, but I feel terrible that DH is getting 'squeezed' between seeing what I see and not wanting to see his parents as toxic. He tries to placate them and defend their attitude where possible but it's always in a very defeated way, he admits he's knows they're in the wrong but doesn't know what to do. It feels like the whole issue of the PILs is a snowball that's growing, every issue that comes up now DH is realising more and more how dysfunctional their attitude is but doesn't know what to do with that knowledge.

It's very hard because from what DH has told me I don't think they're bad people, they themselves had a lot of issues with their own parents, but their attitudes are absolutely toxic and we can't put up with them. Hoping to find some sort of website or something that talks about the signs of toxic parents so DH could see the similarities and get some validation that what they do isn't just normal parenting, think that's what he's struggling with at the moment.

Phoenixwoman Sun 25-Aug-13 08:33:24

Littleen, I know exactly what your saying. I've started reading Your Not Crazy It's Your Mother and its like reading my life. The description of how ND affects daughters is perfect and the description of toxic mothers has mine down to a tee, even the phrases she uses. DH and I have been reading it together like this shock.

I realised a while ago and have started standing up to them and its caused such a rift in the family. Don't think I've got the strength for no contact but often daydream they would initiate it. Still think I'd come off the bad guy if it happened. However contact is reducing and although the stress and weight of the situation is always there it feels like I have some freedom.

Meery, did your dsis have any family at her wedding? Sorry you feel so disappointed.

Phoenixwoman Sun 25-Aug-13 08:37:38

Sorry another epic post. For those with in laws on here I feel for you. My dh gets so frustrated with me as I bury my head in the sand and 'forget' what has happened over the years to protect myself fr the pain. I can't not have a relationship with my parents, I just can't give up yet, and he can't understand how I would go anywhere near them. All I can suggest is give him time to see for himself.

A good suggestion I read was to write a list of all the bad things that have happened so you can glimpse at it when the guilt appears and you 'forget' what really happened.

Misspixietrix Sun 25-Aug-13 11:28:29

<Marking my place too> will try and keep up this time. Going through a dreadful stage with DM that has had me really upset. Meery what a shocking way to tell you that's really hurtful! sad

pumpkinsweetie Sun 25-Aug-13 11:31:14

Due to last night i will not be posting mil a letter infact everything has had a compete turn around.

Last night my dm & my dh went to a party of an old work friend. My dm got sozzled and told my dh he cannot go on treating me like this & pretty much blurted out i had been talking to her about ils. She said he needs to stop revisiting this as it won't end well and he needs to lay his past to rest etc. Things were mentioned that concerned dhs childhood, he wouldn't tell her how bad it was but went on to say he didn't want to become like his father. He then left my dm after saying he couldn't deal with it and went for a long walk in the rain & cold.

He came back late last night and he has finally opened up a little about the beatings, said it included belts and cigar burns amongst other horrid things but he said he doesn't remember much- i guess he has blocked it out. He then went on to say that he knows his parents are not good to be around the children and although hard i told him and we agreed he doesn't have to be scared anymore or be answerable to any of them & from now on it's best we ignore all calls from them.
We agreed there wouldn't ever be any contact from pil with the dc.

I know it isn't going to be easy but i think we are finally getting somewhere re standing united against them. I think he does need help with this and i know he could fail at any time but unsure of how to help him on his path? I have suggested he reads susan fords book, i'm hoping it will help him.

I have said i will not try to stop him seeing his parents but he is going to stop allowing the harrassment inbetween & have suggested if he cannot let go of seeing them he needs to have a larger gap inbetween to avoid being scared & badgered constantly.

Misspixietrix Sun 25-Aug-13 12:17:21

pumpkinsweetie so sorry about your DH. sad Its good i. A sense however that he is beginning to open up ~

Misspixietrix Sun 25-Aug-13 12:27:24

Just been reading the 1st post again and the one that sticks out to me is the "You're being mean" attitude. I distanced myself completely a few weeks ago after a really shitty time with her. Had her friends up enquiring as "she doesnt know what she has supposed to have done". Apparently causing a text argument 5mins after your Dd has just found out her Df has been blue lighted to Hospital is reasonable behaviour in her book hmm

Misspixietrix Sun 25-Aug-13 12:27:57

*ring up ~

pumpkinsweetie Sun 25-Aug-13 13:15:55

misspixie the "i don't know what i'm supposed to have done" is a line spun all the time by my ils. They also use it in a bid to gather more relatives to interrigate us if their bid to hasn't worked. As you say it's a typical sentence all toxic's use to fool you into thinking they are hard done by.
It doesn't wash with me anymore, the favourite used by mil presently is "i can't sleep" " i can't stop crying" words mentioned in her fb message to me yesterday and the "we used to be friends" - All guiltrips to add on pressure, but i know she made her bed and now she can lie in it as can fil respectively.

GoodtoBetter Sun 25-Aug-13 16:10:17

So, went to see the DM today and it's put me in a right grump. I was in a bit of a grump anyway because the DCs ( 2.3 and 5.5) are being AWFUL atm. It's really really hot here (abroad), we've just given up potty training DD (2.3) after a week because she wasn't getting it and it was too much, being cooped up in the heat. They are constantly fighting, squabbling, tantruming, wailing. Driving me nuts. So, there was a whole big fuss just before we let and then it was hot when we were out in the park. They were fighting over a toy in the park, so I bought them each a little bouncy ball. After a while DS lost his in the undergrowth and started wailing. We had a good look but couldn't find it, so I said there was another one in my bag at home and he could have that one. He starts his foghorn wailing and I just know DM thinks I'm a cold hearted cow, but a lot of it is just noise. I told him to calm down and he could have the one at home and that I'd count up to five to help him calm down and I wanted him to stop making the noise (not even crying, just "waaaaaah!"). She's all, don't worry darling, here come and look at this with me.....
I said to her, "You probably think I'm a right bitch, but the counting helps him calm down". And she said "no, I didn't say that but you're much harder than I was". She did all the, "every child is different, you try your best" bollocks but it really pissed me off the "hard" comment.
It's like a while before we moved out and she said I was "a very shouty mother, I wasn't like that with you" hmm....told DBro that and he laughed like a drain.
A few years ago when I was just pg with DD but didn't know it and feeling down generally (prob pg hormones in retrospect) and DS was getting up really early and being really stroppy and hardwork (about 2.5yo) she had a big go at me saying I treated him like I didn't love him, was always sharp with him, not interested in him. "I just feel so sad for him" she says, like he's some poor neglected mite with an awful cold hearted mother (i.e me).
These comments really get under my skin. I just feel so judged. I don't smack, I didn't shout, if I have to shout or there's a row I always make sure we make up and hug and kiss when everyone is calm. I think I'm generally a good parent, I told her they'd been awful this week and she knows I've had bad period pain, but I just feel she thinks I'm this awful shouty cold tyrant and it's not fair. I said to her, look I don't smack but there are things I won't have, like shouting, that awful foghorn wailing when he doesn't get something he wants, backchat, fighting, hurting other people...and the best way to deal with it is often a countdown.

I know I shouldn't let it bother me, but I feel like I shrink as a parent (especially as a parent to DS) in her presence.

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