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"But we took you to stately homes!!!" - Survivors of Dysfunctional Families

(1000 Posts)
DontstepontheMomeRaths Fri 19-Dec-14 17:30:22

It's December 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
July 2014
October 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:

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."

incogKNEEto Fri 19-Dec-14 19:48:10

Hello all, thanks for the new thread Dontstep smile

Not posted for ages as all has been quiet here, NC with M going very well up until today. Got cards for dh and I, and dd1 in the post, made me feel shaky when I saw the writing, but as I was about to light the stove anyway I used them as extra kindling!

Very pleased with myself, and my emotional progress, as I haven't crumbled at all, I ignored the fb friend request sent a few moths ago (& blocked) and the email that followed the fb blocking, never read it and it's gone forever now as I've changed email address.

Still worried she'll turn up/leave presents on the doorstep for DC as she did last year, but if she does I shall take them straight to the charity shop as I did last year!

Hope everyone is doing well, or as well as possible in the circumstances, and that the run up to Christmas is peaceful for you all smile, will go back and read the end of the last thread now.

GoodtoBetter Fri 19-Dec-14 19:55:20

Hi everyone. Well done on the burning, Incogkneeto!

Knackered and got a cold but at least I've finished work now for Christmas. Going to bed in a bit.


Meerka Sun 21-Dec-14 16:19:01

God I hate writing Christmas cards.

For some reason they hit right to the heart of the emptiness of Christmas after Mum died. Christmases with her were happy and full of expectation and warmth. Afterwards .... emptiness.


GoodtoBetter Sun 21-Dec-14 17:54:38

hugs and thanks for Meerka.

My solution to Xmas cards is that I never write any. People don't bother with them in Spain so the whole idea has sort of fallen off my radar and I'm quite grateful for that.

Meerka Mon 22-Dec-14 18:44:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ShadowsShadowsEverywhere Mon 22-Dec-14 18:50:32

I'm having a bad day and this thread has just popped up and I thought "why didn't I think of posting again, that'd help!" so here I am. I post sporadically. I'm no contact with my mother.
Bloody Christmas means she's been trying to get in touch. I've had emails that were hard reading and it's all going round and round and round in my head again. I've had to cut off vast swathes of the family who buy into her bollocks that I'm a mentally unstable lying fantasist. It's all just a bit shit. I'm usually fine but it's been all these emails that have got to me.

Chiggers Mon 22-Dec-14 21:43:47

Is it OK to come back to the thread? Totally unsure of what to do. My beloved dad is dying and mum is just bitching about him constantly. I am exasperated with her constant sniping about dad and there's no give in her about it.

I've tried to tell her, tactfully and bluntly that it's not a great thing to be bitching about a dying man who has done nothing but love her, to which she replied "Well he obviously doesn't if he won't even speak to me". I have to admit that I lost the fucking rag with her and told her that I didn't want to speak to her until she could be civil about dad.

This is a woman who told DH that if my dad wasn't so ill, she'd have left him. Now, there is nothing mum did to trigger dad's many medical conditions, so she isn't responsible for anything, in that sense. It seems that she doesn't care about him dying, yet she doesn't want to be seen as the bad woman who left her dying husband. ATM my brain is in a bit of a WTF meltdown trying to study/revise as well as having to cope with this. I feel like telling her to go fuck herself, but I know that would have her phoning my DB's and bitching about me to them and many others (neighbours mainly).

As much as I acknowledge that my dad wasn't perfect, I know he is very remorseful for the way he treated me. Unfortunately mum blames me saying that I drove her to smack me as I was such a difficult child. My friend once witnessed one incident between me and mum and she came to the conclusion that mum was angry as I was showing her how not to parent (I'm relaxed about being a parent and, although my kids don't get everything they want, I have a loving relationship with them, to the point where I can tell them that they're being irritating without them taking offense, as they know I love them). My friend says that the way I parent my kids shows my own mums parenting (or lack of) skills up, and that she is unable to undo what has been done).

I just don't know what to do and would appreciate some views on the situation. I'll be back I the morning as I've to take the dogs out and am heading to bed as I'm knackered. I apologise for the rant, but it helps to let it all out. I hope everyone here is doing OK smile

Hissy Mon 22-Dec-14 21:49:22

thanks for new thread!

Meerka Mon 22-Dec-14 21:58:26

shadows it's just shit, isn't it. Really is. Can you ask your other half or a very good friend to read the mails first? or either block her, or set up the email client so that her stuff goes into a separate folder and you can either delete or read them when you're full of feisty.

chiggers I really understand how you are feeling! there's no dignity for the dying is there? no grace in the face of the end. I think the best you can do is step back from her emotionally and cut her off if she starts in again. Even to the point of walking away physically. It may not have been that bad a thing to loose your rag with her.

Your mother clearly has issues with you.

Would it help to adopt your professional face with her? to treat her like a really damn difficult client and use the same strategies? Is that a possibility, at least for a while until your father has passed on? It will buy you time.

Beyond that, if she's so angry it will be a matter of enforcing good behaviour by walking away when she goes too far, unless you can actually talk to her about what's wrong ... I'm guessing you can't though. But for now, it's a question of holding strategies until your father has passed on and you've had time to adjust afterwards.

SpidersDontWashTheirHands Mon 22-Dec-14 22:03:22

Got cards for dh and I, and dd1 in the post, made me feel shaky when I saw the writing, but as I was about to light the stove anyway I used them as extra kindling

Snap! Mine came in an envelope written by my father who enclosed a curt message. I guess that means I'm in trouble for going NC with my mother. She wrote the cards and a cheque. I was really upset by it but felt better after I burned the lot.

I find being contacted by her quite intrusive. I've made my decision and I'd like her to respect it.

Chiggers what a horrible situation. I have always hated the way that my parents say awful things about each other and have tried to draw my sister and I into their arguments. I try hard (don't always succeed) to treat DH with respect and kindness.

Dragonfly71 Mon 22-Dec-14 22:37:16

So glad I read this thread tonight. I am in the middle of a Christmas card debacle too. Dm and ds are NC but ds has sent non personalised card to her. Shit hit fan big time as this upset her. And because I am not NC I dealt with fall out. This thread helps me realise I'm not going mad. Thank you!

MoreSnowPlease Mon 22-Dec-14 23:03:33

Can I join please?

Just coming to realise that my dad is a horrible person who I don't think I want to even talk to again. Parents split when I was 7ish. Very bad split, basically both spent my whole childhood and adulthood using me and my siblings as pawns in their game of hate for each other. My mum had apologised for all the huey she caused and is lovely, really lovely now she helps me so much with dc. My dad on the other hand, I have never heard yet the words sorry in his life. He had a massive culture of blame going on, everyone else does something wrong;, never him, he also expects people to thank him over and over and bow down to him basically. If he doesn't want to hear something he may have done wrong he just walks away or turns it back on me. I am so annoyed with him and it all came to a head recently and I decided just to stop talking to him. Not to punish him but just because everytime I do I feel worse about myself and I can't keep doing it.

Dragonfly71 Tue 23-Dec-14 07:54:41

Just read my post, it's dsis not ds.

HellKitty Tue 23-Dec-14 08:07:27

Agree about the email blocking and Chigs, just cut her out and be there for your DF. I hate people like that!

We have to have DM this Christmas (I'd rather have a turkey though! Ba-boom!). She 'suggested' initially that we all travel over on Christmas Day - 60 miles away. Not happening. She then claimed my DB would come to hers for the day. I imagine that was the first he'd heard too. When all this emotional blackmail didn't kick in she miraculously got her stupid dog booked in at the kennels for over Christmas. How many kennels have free spaces this time of year??! So she's coming here.

Great. We're picking her up Xmas eve and dropping her back Boxing Day. I picked the days (yay me!). The only thing that keeps me going is that she has to go to DBs next year grin

The DCs are playing games Grandma Bingo with her stock phrases and all of them and DP have promised to never leave her alone with me for a second. I think I can do this!

Hope all your Chrimbos will be happier!

SpidersDontWashTheirHands Tue 23-Dec-14 09:52:29

Sounds awful Kitty. Sounds like you've got a supportive DP and children.

dawntigga Tue 23-Dec-14 10:31:49

Waves to the troops.


Mrsgrumble Tue 23-Dec-14 11:27:08

Hello, this thread was suggested to me after I posted last night.

I am joining because of long term hurt caused by my mother. Too long of a Story to fit here but she is not a true mother to me. All of my life she has criticised me, feined mysterious illnesses whenever a big occassion occurs in my life, she likes to point out my flaws to dh and when he questioned her on it - she said she wanted to commit suicide and got my father to shout a him. One of the most hurtful periods in my life. It took me a long time to meet someone and be happy yet she spoils everything.

If the Christmas presents aren't expensive enough for her, she throws a big tantrum, I could go on.

What's hurt me the most and probably why I am posting is I recently had a new baby (already have a small toddler) had a section and dh has taken time off. When he went out of the room 'you don't know how lucky you are - I had nobody'

Then all smiles when he comes on. Sometimes I think I am going mad because everyone loves her and she tells them I am awful dad selfish. I always clean and visit a couple of times per week. Even heavily pregnant she expected it. I have put up some boundaries and limited contact between visits.

Despite having a baby she has said 'darling I am here - ring me' but I won't ring her - she knows that. Then baby has been sick yet she will ring asking me to get groceries for her and go over (30 min) so dh would have to load babies and drive over yet she is too lazy to call us. It has hurt me so much, she hasn't been to see the baby in ages and only then because we called. Never mind offer help.

It's hard to love her

Meerka Tue 23-Dec-14 11:36:50

She sounds like a true 'taker' and manipulative with it.

This is a bit controversial but actually, you don't have to love her. You don't have to cut her off, you can support her to the extent that feels right to you, but there is no mandate that actually, you have to love your mother or father.

People are predisposed to love their parents strongly, but if there is nothing but take take take and no give from the parent .... it's not surprising that love withers. Takes two to have a relatinship. It actually takes so little emotional effort from a mother to trigger off the love of a child, but if that effort isn't there ... it won't trigger.

Also, love can be killed off. Quickly or by slow erosion.

It does hurt. flowers.

Keep working on the boundaries and not doing more than you and your husband think is reasonable, together. Btw, cleaning her house when you are heavily preg is not reasonable at all. When the baby was sick, could she not have asked a neighbour for the groceries? You're not her servants.

Have a read of Mothers Who Can't Love by Susan Forward. Quite interesting.

Hissy Tue 23-Dec-14 11:51:35

Dragonfly "And because I am not NC I dealt with fall out"

because you are NC YOU dealt with the fall out?? WHY?

Tell your DM that you are not getting involved. More fool your Dsis who should be NC, but isn't because she broke it to send a bloody card, which YOU suffered for. Stuff that!

Hissy Tue 23-Dec-14 11:56:42

Mrsgrumble Glad you came over!

please just STOP. Stop the shopping, stop the driving, just stop. let her sort herself out. Let your DH defend you and act as a filter.

she HATES you, resents you and wants to ruin every spark of happiness you have in your life.

kalidasa Tue 23-Dec-14 15:12:18

I don't think I really belong here but I am really, really struggling with my mother's behaviour at the moment. She is refusing any help or support at such a difficult time for us: I am severely disabled and have been in bed/hospital continuously since mid-May. It has been a difficult year for her as well but she is incapable even of acknowledging that she can't be there for us, if you see what I mean, and instead constantly downplays our situation. I am just beginning to see that this is part of a long, long history of refusing to acknowledge difficulties I am having. I have had a lot of difficulty myself with attachment which I am aware suggests there have been problems with her from the beginning, since attachment difficulties generally go right back to infancy. I have a toddler DS myself and am due DS2 next month so this stuff all feels really raw at the moment.

I tried several times to write a long post explaining the situation properly but got upset, so sorry this is a bit of a pointless post! I guess it's a difficult time of year for lots of people. Just wanted to check in really.

GoodtoBetter Tue 23-Dec-14 15:44:50

That sounds hard, kalidasa. Welcome. I think I remember your name from the HG threads when I was pg with DD in 2011?

Hissy Tue 23-Dec-14 15:48:09

My love, the fact that they deny us any space to need help/assistance/sympathy is so upsetting. It'll be batted away somehow as her 'denial of your condition as she can't bear to see it' but we know that's bollocks. we know we'd be there for our kids... think about it.

surround yourself with people who DO want to care. Stop expecting her to step up. when she has never ever done so.

i know how hard it is to give up on them, it really, REALLY hurts.

kalidasa Tue 23-Dec-14 16:06:49

Thanks both. Yes goodtobetter DS was born in November 2012 and I was v. ill all the way through with him too (though it's actually been worse this time) - I don't think our pregnancies overlapped but perhaps if you popped in afterwards you would have seen me. With both pregnancies I've thrown up the entire way through and actually it took a few months after DS was born before the nausea completely went (quite unusual) so I feel like I've been on the HG thread pretty continuously the last few years!

I recognise meerka from the HG thread as well. Quite surprising as it's not a very common condition. Perhaps there is a correlation between difficult mothers and HG?!

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