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

(1000 Posts)
DontstepontheMomeRaths Thu 14-Aug-14 21:52:23

It's July 2014, 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
August 2013
December 2013
February 2014
April 2014

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:

Homecoming
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

ifuknow Wed 22-Oct-14 18:59:45

Humpty I'm feeling much better, freer and lighter as you say. I'm finding it difficult to limit my time with her, she's slept most of the day but as soon as I mentioned going, she wanted to get up and go to the TV lounge which was a right bloody rigmarole. I know that sounds mean but I've been here for almost 8 hours and I'm tired.
Good for you maintaining NC with your DM, yes it's hard accepting that she's not going to be the GM your DD deserves, especially if you have friends with wonderful (normal) mums.

Hissy Wed 22-Oct-14 19:03:56

Good you're uncle is lost.

he sided with her from the outset, and his exchange has just been him rubbernecking.

ignore. think swan. think serenity.

let them both go.

and I still want to kick your DB arse

Hissy Wed 22-Oct-14 19:04:53

your not you're.

smartdumbphone

GoodtoBetter Wed 22-Oct-14 20:17:54

I'll talk to the therapist about it on Tuesday. God alone knows what DM has been telling my uncle. That she's tried everything probably. Really tempted to write to him and just say "She behaved atrociously and has made no further attempt to contact me since I last spoke to you and has never apologised for any of it". But I expect it's pointless.
I've asked Dbro not to forward any more of it, it serves no purpose really.

GoodtoBetter Wed 22-Oct-14 22:03:28

<channels serene swan> and breathe....

behindthescentedcandless Wed 22-Oct-14 23:21:13

Back again after a lost password, etc.

df has a big birthday coming up next month, and my siblings are coming home for it.

unfortunately things have deteriorated drastically between me and df. I am far from perfect but I have recently decided that I can no longer deal with his behaviour. I am thirty something years old and have spent so much of that dying for his love and approval. I now understand I am not going to get that, and what I am going to get is random outbursts of fury and hate, as well as continuous low level rudeness and contempt.

the really bizarre thing is that I have managed, in spite of these years of mental and emotional abuse to have a happy life with a nice husband and a good job. I have a good relationship with my two kids.

I always felt as though my dad hated me. This was so difficult to process that I convinced myself for years that i was imagining it. I have now decided I am not. He does hate me, but it isn't personal, he has nothing but hate and contempt for everyone, although he will put on a convincing show otherwise. Now I feel less emotional and more coldblooded, I feel pure shock at some of the things he has said to me.

going nc is not an option as my mum minds my kids. I see him approx. Once a day. I have reduced contact since an incident a week ago when i phoned to ask my mum something and he screamed and ranted and raved in the background. I was on a lunch break from work and following the encounter I was deeply upset and traumatised. I know that sounds silly, but this is the effect this man has on me after a lifetime of terrorisation. It was that feeling, the fact that this person can make me feel like that, me, a happy, confident, successful woman who has travelled the world and who has a happy content life, can be reduced to a puddle by this emotionally violent thug.

the by product ofnthis reduction is that I dont talk to my mum and I feel myself withdrawing from her which I dont want to do.

then there is the birthday issue. I dont actually want to see him but I also dont want to create drama when the whole family are coming over.

thanks for letting me vent.

GoodtoBetter Thu 23-Oct-14 07:13:16

Hi candles. Can you sort out childcare so your mum doesn't have the kids and you don't have to interact with your dad so much? Then she could come and see you without him. I don't see how things can improve if you keep seeing him so muchsad

GoodtoBetter Thu 23-Oct-14 08:40:43

Going out in a bit for a hair cut and to see a friend and try to stop myself replying in anger to my uncle. Still really pissed off.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Oct-14 08:57:06

Sorry to read that GoodtoBetter, your uncle though is and always was one of these winged monkeys.

Channel your serene swan impersonation indeed and swim away from this man and your narc mother.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Oct-14 09:07:26

Behindthescentedcandless

I would certainly find alternate childcare as a matter of course. If your cannot deal with your dad (and your mother has chosen to stay with her H for her own reasons, you cannot ever rely on her to protect you from him) its the same deal for your both vulnerable and defenceless children.

GoodtoBetter Thu 23-Oct-14 09:36:25

Thanks Attila. Still itching to reply. angry

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Oct-14 10:41:15

I would not reply although you are itching to. No good will come of it because the respondent is not willing or able to actually listen to the message you're imparting.

GoodtoBetter Thu 23-Oct-14 10:50:23

I know, I know. I want to write back "She was utterly horrible to me and she has made NO attempt to apologise. If she's so desperate to see her GC, why doesn't she at least try to make amends?" But he's probably been told all sorts. But then again the fact that he's probably been told all sorts makes me angry and makes me want to write even more to say...SHE WAS A BITCH AND SHE'S NOT EVEN SORRY!!!!
Argh. Sometimes I think I'd feel better for writing that but then it will just bring more shit on my head and anyway...I don't really want her to apologise atm as it would be bollocks and then I'd have to have some contact with her. Still have that urge to scream at my uncle IT'S NOT ME BEING THE BITCH HERE!.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Oct-14 10:55:32

I learnt yesterday that FIL's tumour is inoperable and care will now be of a palliative nature.

I feel quite detached about it all, infact I feel very similar to how I felt when my Nan (my dad's mother) died which was not a lot to be honest with you. I did shed some tears when shed died but they were for my dad rather than me. She was not very nice over many years to people that I really care about and also said some really nasty, critical things about others. Even now I do not feel much of a sense of an actual loss.

If any of you good people out there do pray and I am not at all fussed what religion you are, please pray for my DH. He's the one I'm really worried about going forward. I'm further along this dark road than he is.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Oct-14 10:57:25

GoodtoBetter,

May I suggest that you write it all down on a piece of paper and shred said paper afterwards. Its a cathartic exercise.

Channel your inner swan!!

Hissy Thu 23-Oct-14 12:33:28

Attilla ((((hugs)))) and a PM from me. xxx

Hissy Thu 23-Oct-14 12:40:55

GoodtoBetter My love this is the bit you have to dig deep for. this is the bit you have to go through.

Feel the anger, express it and let it out. Find out why you are angry and give yourself the permission to express it. It is a phase you need to go through one way or another. you can't skip this.

I learned this when recovering from the abuse;

We have always been told that we had no right at all to be angry and it was what we deserved. this is what kept our abusers/tormentors enabled to hurt us time and time again. BUT we have a right to be angry about terrible things done to us by others. we really do.

We didn't make the choices they made, we wouldn't be able to. This incidentally is what fuels their hatred of us, that we are 'Good' and we are 'Nice', Better and Nicer THAN THEM this is why they glory in our downfall.

It's not you, it really isn't. When you see that you have no power to influence how they treat you, when you feel that anger it creates and process it and let it go, you will start to heal.

be kind to yourself love, this is the shit bit. it will pass.

thebrideishighbutimholdingon Thu 23-Oct-14 13:06:36

Attila Sorry, I don't pray, but I'm thinking of you and your DH. I hope that he can come to terms with things in the time remaining.

Good I completely understand why you want to reply to your uncle, to set the record straight, but no good will come of it. You thought previously that he might be reasonable and prepared to see both sides of the argument, and you sent the factual record of the behaviour which led to the NC. Having read that, he is still completely under your M's influence and on her side. Therefore any rant from you now would just be more evidence (to him) of how unreasonable you are being. Ask your brother to stop forwarding any more like this; it's not helping you.

candles Attila speaks sense, as always. If your father is carrying on like that, then it surely can't be good for your DC to be spending so much time in his presence. I don't know the back story but assume your DM won't cross him in any way, e.g. by doing the child care at your house rather than theirs? I think you're right that if you don't go to the birthday celebration then it will be portrayed as all your fault that you have spoilt it for everyone... it's up to you to decide which is the lesser of two evils - if you don't see your siblings often, can you put up with them thinking badly of you? Or can you speak to them before the event and explain the circumstances? Or are they totally taken in by him and don't understand your problems with him?

thebrideishighbutimholdingon Thu 23-Oct-14 13:11:06

ifuknow I'm so pleased for you that the hospice place has been sorted out and I hope you can now get some perspective on things. You've done everything you possibly could, and put up with more than most people would have done. You did everything in your power to meet her wishes to die at home, and she is one who made that impossible. Be gentle on yourself.

ifuknow Thu 23-Oct-14 16:20:44

Attilla not religious but sending some positive vibes across the ether to DH. You're in for a bumpy ride, best wishes to you.
Thanks Bride I'm doing fine, the staff here are fantastic, ttreating DM like the Queen Bee she thinks she is!

citytocountry Thu 23-Oct-14 16:50:01

I am rather afraid to post on here, so please be kind, but I have just come across the thread and it seems like rather a revelation to me.

In a nutshell my mother is just horrible to me. I have three children and, having had them and realised what unconditional love is, and having married a wonderful man from a "normal" supportive family I am left reeling about how I was treated as a child, and still am as an adult.

She has just been to stay with us for four nights and has done nothing but criticise me and undermine me. Its almost as if she is envious of me. She criticises anything that isn't done the same way as she did (e.g. parenting styles), anyone who holds different opinions, tries to play off me and my sister, says cruel things to me when my DH isn't around, and plays my children off against each other.

Also everything is always about HER e.g.

- I was previously divorced. First question to me - what did YOU do? Me: he slept with my friends her: well that's probably your fault. No love, sympathy or help.

- My DH broke his arm last year which means we missed a wedding. Everyone was so supportive and sympathetic apart from my mother who said "that's so stupid of him - what will everyone think if you don't come, you'll have to leave him and come alone)".

- revising history (my drug addicted, abusive father apparently now "wasn't that bad a dad - you're making it up").

I could go on.

I cried constantly on and off throughout the weekend. I have no idea what to do now. I am angry and sad and confused, and far too scared to say anything, which I know is completely pathetic as I am normally quite bolshy in RL.

So - IS it me? And is there anything I can do about it? Would writing a letter help (I suspect not)?

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Oct-14 17:13:43

citytocountry

Welcome!. Never be afraid to post here either!.

Its not you, its her. It is not your fault she is like this, you did not make her this way (her own family of origin did that).

Did she invite herself to your home?. Regardless I would now stop all future visits by her to your house; your children and your good self get nothing at all positive out of it. Such people do not change, the best thing you can do here is to keep her well away from you and your own family unit. If she cannot or will not behave then she gets to see none of you. She was a toxic parent to you and is basically a poor influence on your children now. If you find her too difficult/toxic to deal with its the self same for both your vulnerable and defenceless children. Societal convention is not a good enough reason to keep such a dysfunctional relationship at all going.

Your mother reads very much like what a person with a narcissistic personality would do and say. Such toxic people do re-write history to show themselves in a better light.

Would suggest you read the resources at the start of this thread particularly the toxic parents reference, Children of the self absorbed and the website entitled Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.

What you can and must do is maintain both a physical and mental distance well away from your mother. Raise your own boundaries re her because they are far too low currently.

And no, writing a letter to her would not help because she would use your words against you, send in her own winged monkeys (other well meaning and ignorant relatives) to put pressure on you and make it all out to be your fault. These people always want the last word and feel they cannot be anything other than right. If you did write a letter, on no account send it.

thebrideishighbutimholdingon Thu 23-Oct-14 17:17:35

citytocountry Welcome to the Stately Home and no, it's not you, it's her! Writing a letter might very well help you to crystallise your thoughts - but I'd recommend that you don't send it to her. Check out some of the links and books recommended in the first thread e.g. Toxic Parents

I'm sure someone wiser than I will be along soon with some good advice.

Looks like we need a new thread very soon.

citytocountry Thu 23-Oct-14 17:29:05

Oh, thank you for replying so quickly smile

She invited herself to my home (this happens about two or three times a year). My DH has already said we are never going to go and stay with her again as she is so utterly hideous when we are in her house (we live 250 miles apart so long stays are the only possible way for her to see the grandchildren). I would never have agreed to such a long visit, but she announced that she had booked train tickets as she wanted to see the grandchildren (not me!) and that was that.

My DH once range her just after I had had one or another of the babies and told her she couldn't come as I couldn't cope (I had terrible PND) and we have literally never heard the last of it. WW3 would break out if we banned her from coming, although part of me is so beyond all hope now that I'm frankly not that bothered.

My lovely sister thinks she is quite bonkers (her own mother, my grandmother is also bonkers and there is an enormous family feud there) and toxic. She lives nearby put limits visits to a quick cup of tea etc. Thankfully we realised quite early on that my Mum basically lies and tries to get us to turn against each other so now we compare notes and laugh about it.

But - I am SO SAD that my children will have no grandparents on my side to enjoy. And SO ANGRY that she doesn't love me. I'm not sure I will ever get over it really.

I've ordered the books, thanks.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Oct-14 18:16:11

Again it is not your fault C2C that your mother is the way she is, your sister and you did not make her that way. Your mother made the terrible choice not to love, her behaviours are all characteristic of someone with NPD.

It is NOT possible to have any sort of a relationship with a narcissist and you will all get on just fine without her. Are the grandparents on your DHs side emotionally healthy, if they are see them instead.

Re your children I give you this excerpt:-

"You will find that the children will eventually stop mentioning the loss of the narcissist grandparent if you are not bringing it up. If you are talking about your Nparent in the hearing of your children then you are inviting them to keep talking about it, too. I can not over-emphasize the need for your explanation to a younger child to be calm, pragmatic, measured and short. Long explanations make you look defensive which will tend to peak the interest of the child and prompt him to push the issue. You can gauge what is appropriate information depending on the age of the child. If the child is older and has experienced or witnessed the Ngrandparent's nastiness in action then you can say more.

Young children are not known for their long attention spans. This works in your favour. With younger children you have the advantage of distraction. It is easy enough to get the child's mind off onto another track. Every parent has done the distraction routine at one time or another. "Mommy, I want to see Nasty Nan today!" "Honey, we aren't going to see Nasty Nan today because we get to go to the park and eat ice cream." (Make up fun time on the spot if necessary for this distraction.) "Yay!!" says the kid and off we go. Subject changed, kid distracted. In time, Nasty Nan will fade from memory. Any bonding that may have occurred will dissipate in the process of time.

Remember, you are the parent. You're older and therefore more experienced which is the point of being the parent. The child is dependent on your good sense and protective wisdom. You're smarter than your child; use that to your advantage (such as using the distraction method). You are the final authority. This is not a negotiable issue. Kidlet doesn't get to decide on this one because they lack the understanding, wisdom, experience and good sense that, hopefully, you have. So don't look like you're unsure or open to quibble. You'll undermine yourself if you look anything but firm and resolved on it. Use your advantages as parent to smooth the effects of the cut-off. Over time this will all quiet down. Kids tend to accept what is. It will happen more quickly if you follow the above advice.

Most of all, do not operate from a fearful mindset. Don't be afraid of your children's possible, or actual, reactions. Don't be afraid that you are depriving them of something important by cutting off a set of grandparents. You are only "depriving" them of bad things. Reassure yourself with that truth. Family is not everything. Blood is not binding. You are escaping the Mob Family. What should connect us is how we treat each other with love and respect. This is always a good lesson to teach our little ones. If any part of you is unsure of your decision then, for Pete's sake, don't show it. Your resoluteness will go a long way toward reassuring your children that you are acting in everyone's best interest. If your children know that you love them, they are going to feel reassured that this decision is also based in your love for them. They will find an added sense of security to know that you, as their parent, are willing to protect them even at the cost of your relationship with your own parent(s). Rather than being fearful, see the plentiful opportunities in this. You are protecting your children from someone whom you've experienced as being abusive; you are reassuring your children that you are in charge and are watchful for their best interests (creates deep sense of security); you can teach healthy family values which include that family doesn't get a pass for abusive behaviour; you can strengthen and reinforce the healthy relationships in your extended family. Kids are less likely to feel like there is a void in their life if you fill it with good things.

Cutting off from your narcissist parent is a good thing. No need to act otherwise. Your children will sense it is a good thing by how you behave. Model how you want them to respond and it is likely they will imitate. Don't be afraid of their questions. Kids are amazingly resilient and well-equipped to handle truth. Parents are supposed to protect their progeny. If your child doesn't agree with how you go about that don't worry. They will often disagree with your decisions for their best interests. Nothing new there. It is your job as parent to make the tough decisions. If you know it is the right decision then proceed with confidence. Showing confidence is a quality of leadership. As a parent you are supposed to be a leader. Lead...and they will likely follow".

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