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

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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

pumpkinsweetie Mon 26-Aug-13 16:26:01

*they didn't

HellesBellesThinksSometimes Mon 26-Aug-13 16:37:29

Thank you both. They have the amazing ability to make me feel that I am being unreasonable.

I just can't keep having a relationship with my parents. There are no boundaries, as far as they're concerned, and I feel like a bad person when I'm with them.

Hissy Mon 26-Aug-13 16:39:29

Helles, stay strong. Your boy is fine, he needs to be independent if he's happy to be so!

Their réaction needs to strengthen your conviction, not weaken it!

Yeah you've changed, you take your own decisions now, and they are for the good of your family.

pumpkinsweetie Mon 26-Aug-13 16:49:01

Gosh the inlaws must have been literally stalking me on fb as they have pretty much noticed my sly customizations already by doing the same to all their posts/photos, i suppose it's to score points, oh well no more irratating quote pictures aimed at me on my timelinegrin
Lets just hope this hasn't set them off for trying to harass dh at work...

Hissy Mon 26-Aug-13 17:07:54

Use their lunacy against them.

Look around you, do other people you know live like this?

No, they don't. Not the happy ones.

Pumpkin, you need to set the boundaries, if they say anything tell them you have no idea what they're talking about.

Then just dismiss the subject in thé future.

pumpkinsweetie Mon 26-Aug-13 18:29:07

You are right other people don't live like this, i need to do what i need to do to keep them out of our lifes for good without obsessing over it.

Hissy Mon 26-Aug-13 21:42:04

You need to have the courage in your convictions.

Your H needs to be onside, and you do need to take all steps to control access to you all by these people.

pumpkinsweetie Mon 26-Aug-13 23:15:50

I think dh needs help to come to terms, realise his parents are both toxic. Again tonight he has said he feels extreme guilt towards his mother and says he feels awful his mother cannot see the dc. He even said he feels he is missing out on showing off his girls to his mother. But i tried explaining to him that of course he will feel guilt but it's all made worse by him not seeing it how it really is. When i said mil is as bad as fil, as she allowed the abuse to him from fil and she has emotional abuse towards him & our dc. He has said again he fails to see what mil has done wrong & feels stuck in the middle.

I'm guessing all of the above spells out how he isn't onside at allsad
I thought he had listened saturday, i thought we were getting somewhere...

How do i get him to stop blocking the truth out, he can love her, he can feel guilt but why won't he just admit she is toxic. Can he not see his own mother allowed him to beaten, he wants to show our dc of & have them around people like that. Really starting to feel anger now tbh, i try and support him but he needs to start dealing with the fact both his parents are toxic and feeling in the middle of us both is part of it.

I'm fed up and excasperated he feels in the middle when i feel as if i'm losing a battle that will soon not be worth fighting if he doesn't man up and deal with her.
I said he can still see her but if she mentions dc he must learn how to say no, ignore and realise the guilt shouldn't be on his part.

Mil birthday is fast approaching, i suspect a large woh is me from her to him. I hope he deals with it rather than rowing with me, why does he want our children around her. What is wrong with showing his kids off to those deserving people and actually starting to put them first in his head.

He said they haven't contacted him today, im wondering why he has starting to say this shit and think he must be lying.

How do i deal with this, how do i spell it out, his mother, father and one of his sisters are toxic, no good for our children and he must give up on this fucking fantasy of any of this family being anywhere normal enough to ever be around my children.

tangerinefeathers Mon 26-Aug-13 23:27:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HellesBellesThinksSometimes Mon 26-Aug-13 23:37:34

Thanks TangerineFeathers, I think they will try the "everything's normal" approach over the weekend. This time, though, they will have to accept that I'm out of this drama triangle. I've tried asking them to behave like normal parents. I've tried modifying my own behaviour. I don't want to any more. And I don't need to any more. They can like it or lump it.

pumpkinsweetie Mon 26-Aug-13 23:40:13

That's the sprit Helles which dh would get to this stageconfused frustrated tonight

pumpkinsweetie Mon 26-Aug-13 23:40:24


HellesBellesThinksSometimes Tue 27-Aug-13 00:08:02

pumpkin, it has taken 35 years, an abusive marriage, a nervous breakdown and about 50 hours of therapy. Reading back, it doesn't seem like he's ready. Yet. Too many conflicting emotions probably.

All you can do is keep your children safe and be there for him when he is able to come to terms with it. If you push him, you will become the bad guy.

The thing that pushed me was seeing my friends with their parents and what their relationships are like and accepting that I will never have that and not being prepared to risk my improving mental health by being around people who have such a negative impact on me.

pumpkinsweetie Tue 27-Aug-13 06:58:02

Thankyou Helles, i'm trying not to push him, but it is so hard when i suffer too from him enabling them.
Since me & dc went non contact, all ils keep doing, is pushing, pushing, pushing for contact and i was starting to feel harrassed by my landline ringing all day and dhs complaining of his mother not seeing dc.

I'm not expecting much, i just want him to stand firm they will not be seeing the children instead of playing his dms guilt trips out to me which of course don't make me feel guilty as i know i'm doing what's best, but i'm constantly having to explain myself in return to him when he comes out with the "mum's done nothing wrong" "she's not getting any younger" & the typical "mum's been crying, i hate to see her cry". I try not to sound harsh when explaining to him she has done things wrong, she isn't someone i want my dc around & he will agree for a very short while and the next day week i'm explaining myself again.

How do i put it softly that his mother is toxic? Is there a different word to describe it? I have even thought of showing him my old threads about her behaviour but if i do that he will see all this too...

HellesBellesThinksSometimes Tue 27-Aug-13 08:29:37

I don't know pumpkin he really does need to get there in his own time. I didn't listen when xh tried to tell me about dm. Of course, he was trying to control me too so that was a bit different. No wonder dm and xh didn't get on!!

Has he been for counselling? Seeing a stranger's reaction really made me realise how abnormal my family is. Was, my family is ds and me now. Also, realising how little I tell wider family and friends about dp's was a strong indication that everything is not right.

I feel so much sympathy for you both. The thing is, your dh's parents have had decades of practice at manipulating him. They are at the root of his deepest beliefs about himself and the world. He cannot see them as they are. It's not that he won't, he can't - it isn't possible. He's been conditioned to their 'normal'.

Try not to make it about feelings. Make it about facts. Maybe write down (less emotional) as factually as you can, all the things that have happened that mean il's cannot be allowed to see dc's. Just keep referring him back to it.

This will be very difficult, don't row about it. He'll be trapped and it will you v them rather than il's v the facts, as it should be. Make it clear that you love him and, because of the harm your il's have done to him, they should not be allowed contact with dc's.

Get your anger out on here instead. It's understandable to be angry.

pumpkinsweetie Tue 27-Aug-13 08:57:15

Thankyou Helles this is why i come on here because i'm angry and frustrated but i obviously don't want him knowing that or he really will feel in the middle. Thing is i don't stop him seeing them & i'm quite happy for them to phone eachother, it's just that every visit/phonecall he gets sucked in all the more.

I have tried telling him in a factual way, sometimes he listens, but other times i get denial and guilt trips.
He even went completely against me last month by taking my 3yo to the supermarket to meet mil, i was at my wits end worrying the whole time incase fil was there or mil saying nasty things to my dd. And i got threatened last week by him saying if he left me he can do what he wants and take my dc round thereshock

My dm dealt with him saturday, having had enough of him treating me like this. He came home we talked, it was calm, thought we were getting somewhere re non contact between mil & dc staying as it is but after last night it seems like our talk was all for nothing.

HellesBellesThinksSometimes Tue 27-Aug-13 09:06:37

I really would try writing everything down pumpkin it would at least save you having to repeat yourself over and over.

Would he not consider counselling? The situation is clearly putting a strain on your own relationship - particularly if he's making threats about leaving. Some relationship counselling would at least give you a safe place to express yourselves.

If he hadn't been so totally brainwashed by them, he would be able to compare your defence of your childrenwith his momother's enabling of his abuse and realise she was wrong. <hugs>

pumpkinsweetie Tue 27-Aug-13 09:29:36

He won't consider counselling or seeing a therapist, he says they are quacks. I have tried pointing him in the right direction, ie telling him of books and websites that he can research when under the fog but so far he hasn't done either.

For 10 months he was coping ok with me & dc going non contact, except from at Christmas when it became apparent he was being pulled again. But most of those 10months were bliss and our relationship went from strength to strength but upon allowing one visit in May we have gone completely backwards again.

I shouldn't have went ahead with that visit as it opened it all up again and mil expected to see dc again because i allowed it that one time.
I don't know why i went ahead tbh, i think it was guilt, the pressure and my dm even thought it was a good idea at the time. I however very much regret it and wished i hadn't given in daydreamingly thinking things would change when obviously they never will. 3 things went wrong with that visit, mil was dropped of by fil of whom came right into my door, she bought my niece with her and dh was visably withdrawn and snappy the days leading up to and after the visit.
Mil again didn't follow my boundries set, yet even now dh denies she did any wrong doing.

Phoenixwoman Tue 27-Aug-13 09:34:47

Pumpkin, its so hard to believe that your own parents could treat you that way and not love you. It's taken me years to come to the point of just googling what might be wrong, I've spent a long time thinking about it, reading this thread but never contributing, discussing it with dh etc.. It even took me a while to post on here in case I'm found out. I'm terrified she'll find my kindle and see the book I've bought on toxic mothers. It's bewildering how much control there is even when I don't live with them, I'm almost frightened in my own home.

One piece of advice I've read is to make a list of all the things they have done over the years so when you start to waver and get sucked back in or doubt your own feelings (because it's easier to feel loved even if it isn't real) you can review your list and remember reality. That's one of my aims of the week, to write my list.

I totally see why you're frustrated with your dh, my dh has his hand in his mouth constantly when discussing my family. It's so hard to hear the criticism/truth from him, sometimes it's easier to blame him for his opinions than it is to blame their actions. I totally see where your dh is coming from.

pumpkinsweetie Tue 27-Aug-13 09:45:00

Hi phoenix what strikes a chord with me is you being frightened in your own home, i think dh suffers from this. He is almost on tenterhooks, especially at Christmas, i think he is scared they could turn up at anytime and tbh so am i, i have my blinds closed the majority of the time.

AlisonClare Tue 27-Aug-13 10:39:21

I'm relatively new here and just caught sight of this thread - I have a lot on my mind re an uncomfortable relationship with my parents and am feeling very low today. I think that I undersand that it's OK just to write it all out - might make me feel a bit better anyway.

I'm the firstborn of 5. My mother, emotionally immature who only knew how to get her own way by having temper tantrums and throwing things around, my father an enabler who I now think didn't really want children at all. My mother favoured my brother who, as a boy, was good looking, intelligent, sporty and a bully. He is now a complete mess, living a dissolute and self destructive life.

Diaries from my teenage years record entire horrible conversations - my attempts to make light easy conversation with my mother, who would randomly take offence and a shouting match would ensue. My endless resolutions to 'be a better person'. My Dad tellng both me and my brother that we were a disappointment to them - at that point I was on track for three good A levels, was deputy head girl, was in demand as a babysitter locally, did more than my fair share of housework (my brother did nothing), competed at county level in athletics and was responsible for the training of the younger girls at the local athletics club. I'm not sure what else I could have been doing.

Dad paid unnecessary attention to the bodies of me and my sisters - emphasis was put on being slim and he would often ask us to stand still so that he could look at 'how slim we were'. My younger sister became dangerously thin. I don' think he ever crossed any boundaries, but I knew that he never hugged from the heart. As a compassionate adult, I can say that he has an unintegrated/immature sexuality.

Somewhere around the age of ten I made a vow that I would be a better mother than my mother. No surprise then that I started a family with almost the first man that I met - older than me, charismatic and an alcoholic. He too was the eldest in a dysfunctional family. A lovely man, actually, but anyone who has lived with an alcoholic knows how exhausting that can be.

He died when our children were 12, 10 and 7. Previously my feelings about my parents were that I wouldn't be free to be me until they were dead. Now another thought crept in - panic that I no longer had a buffer between myself and my parents. That was the frist real red flag I had that the relationship wasn't good.

Over the last few years, I've had little choice but to accept help from both sides of the family in the bringing up of my children - both sides are toxic. I've monitored the contact and, for the most part, certainly with regard to my own parents, they've been better with my children than they were with me. It has exhausted me though.

A few years ago I met a man and happily began to discuss marriage. I realsied that my dream of a big wedding was under a cloud because the last people that I wanted to be there were my parents. Apart from anything else, none of my children would be happy with this, so - being quite a practial person - I addressed it head on. I wrote all my feelings down, including an apology for 'not being the daughter they wanted me to be' - what person form a normal family would ever write that?? - and sent it to them. I wanted things to be talked out and mended. My Dad read it first, told me he wasn't going to let my Mum see it as it would upset her too much. I had to go and visit to get more a response from him, and all he would say was that I was 'difficult'.

This was a little over three years ago. Since then, the relationship that I was in has come to an end and I feel that I'm falling through the cracks in life. Things seem to be dropping away from me left, right and centre. As I taught my children to love my parents, the don't understand my feelings at the moment. I feel exhausted and misjudged. Mum and dad celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next month. I'm going to be hard pressed to even send them a card.

I've kind of decided to 'absent' myself from my life - to just go through the motions because it seems that whatever I do, some stuff from my childhood seeps through and spoils whatever I have in the present.

Phoenixwoman Tue 27-Aug-13 11:00:33

Pumpkin - it's true, I'm always on tenterhooks that she'll pop in unannounced. Perhaps she'll pick up what website I'm on or what dvd I'm watching and make a snide belittling comment on it to make me feel like an idiot. I'm terrified she'd find me on here and stalk me, hence lots of name changes and I try to swap details like dc ages or dp/dh etc... So frightened to be my own person. She's got some other family members on it too, probably without them even knowing what they're doing.

AlisonClare - I completely understand I've kind of decided to 'absent' myself from my life - to just go through the motions because it seems that whatever I do, some stuff from my childhood seeps through and spoils whatever I have in the present. So sorry for the loss of your dh and having to deal with two sets of toxic parents.

LadyFlumpalot Tue 27-Aug-13 11:01:09

Hello, am new here. Just been lurking recently as have just finished CBT and one of the things that came out of it was that a lot of my low feelings stem from a lifetime of feeling unloved and, well, pretty useless.

Mum once said that I'm just like my father and it's hard to love people like me. She regularly jokes that if me and DH split up, DH is welcome to go live with her and I can go fend for myself.

She loves and adores my son but makes it clear he is the only reason she sees me. For example - she doesn't work Fridays so we used to spend the day together. However, DS is about to start nursery on a Friday (his 15 hour place) and my mum has just completely kicked off about when she will get to see him. I suggested we could do nice grown up stuff together and she just went "nah it's alright". sad

Crikey, sorry about the essay, that was cathartic!

AlisonClare Tue 27-Aug-13 13:19:34

Thank you Phoenix

bellasuewow Tue 27-Aug-13 13:53:57

Alison Clare we have a lot in common I went through this, I read toxic parents and I was surprised at the guilt I felt and how I felt a burden had lifted once I could see this, I think we all go through a long period of time of thinking our lives were normal it is hard to realise and then come to terms with how dysfunctional our parents were and that we were abuse din various ways. I have the confidence to realise and deal with that now but it still affects me. I am no contact with either of my parents and they have certainly not been beating a bush to my door.

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