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"But we took you to Stately Homes!" Survivors of Dystfunctional Families

(986 Posts)
Meerka Wed 20-May-15 17:33:58

It's May 2015, 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
March 2015

Dec 14- March 15

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."

IKnitSoIDontKill Thu 21-May-15 20:47:46

Thanks all. Dp is coming with me, and has been a great help fielding calls from my mother re funeral arrangements.

We'll be flying out and back the same day (it's about an hours flight) so will be on the same plane as my parents. As we don't drive we'll also have to share a car with them. It will be awful. I think I am just going to keep them at arms length as much as possible, repeat the line 'now isn't the time to talk about this', and drink an inhuman amount of gin.
I am also really scared of flying. sad

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 21-May-15 21:43:07

Hi all,

New to this thread and it's been very helpful in having some lightbulb moments about my family! I've gone to therapy which was good despite the therapist being not the best and am now trying to work things out on my own which is a bit daunting. I'm not very good at trusting what I feel about someone - I convince myself that I'm being over sensitive (as I've been told of course) or too stubborn to listen to 'advice' from them all or too independent or whatever. Too something basically, the something that's wrong with me is conveniently always shifting and hard to pin down...

So one thing I'd like people's advice on is about my Dsis. It is finally sinking in that she really is not very nice, either to me or our DB. She guilt-trips me all the time - my house is too cluttered and it might stress out my dd, I live in the wrong area and that's bad for dd, my car is too small and not safe for dd. It's never ending.

She criticizes me for hoarding - which i absolutely don't do, of making my life revolve around ex-DP, which I don't do - but he minds dd a lot as he only works part-time so I do have to work around that as that arrangement suits us both. When I defended my slightly messy house recently on the basis that I work full time and have a very demanding toddler (among many other things...) I actually got eye-rolling. She offered to pay for a cleaner which is nice but, really, the level of mess doesn't bother me, it doesn't bother dd (she's 3) so why should I solve a problem that we don't have just to make her happy?

I get the patronising praise too. I'm such a good mum - from someone with no kids who tells me what I'm doing wrong for dd all the time, hmm. And how all her friends and her boyfriends family all feel so sorry for me (because of both my idiot exes cheating on me - I really know how to pick them...) It's like I'm supposed to be grateful for that or something? That people I've never even met feel sorry for me?

Anyway she's been putting on major pressure for ages for me to move to live nearer to where she and boyfriend are based, across the city. To make it easier for her to visit dd, because she lives in a nicer area and because her boyfriend's large family (who I've never met) all apparently want to 'adopt me' and she thinks that would be a good support network for me.

I have been working on finding a place, partly because she does love dd and she does help out babysitting and with housework when she's here and it is a long trek for her out to us. Partly because the school setup nearer where she is looked better for dd.

But now I'm thinking that keeping my distance, or getting some distance back, might be much better for me. I like living where i am, I think I have schools etc. sorted. It's more expensive to move where she is and I can't really afford that as a single mum. And I have no interest whatsoever in being adopted by some strangers family. I'm old, I dont need a new family, I manage just fine with dd and she seems to forget that I've already joined and lost two sets of in-law families (not married but long-term relationships) thanks to my nasty cheating exes and I have absolutely no interest in hanging out with someone else's in-laws!!

But dd will be an only child and I'd like her to be close to her cousins - Dsis is planning on having kids in next few years. And I have really no one else around who can babysit or help out at short notice. DD is clingy to me and has only ever been minded by people she knows.

My DM is the original source of this stuff - she is still a pain but she's mellowed a lot with age and she adores dd so she behaves better these days. But it's like as if because of that Dsis has started taking on her role. I feel bad for her because she's so obviously not happy. But.. .she's really mean!! I notice the contrast now because I have two normal, nice, sane female bosses who I talk to and the difference between how they react to things and how my family does is just amazing.

I was always worried that I'd turn into DM but now I'm starting to think my poor Dsis has:-( She's my baby sister and I always tried to protect her from the mess when we were kids. So now I feel awful thinking of keeping her at a distance. I can explain away my decision to stay where I am to her on lots of practical grounds, but deep down I'll know my real reasons and I do feel bad for it.

God this is an essay sorry I never can write short!!

I think I know it would be best for me and dd for me to keep our distance. But the habit of looking for approval dies hard doesn't it?! So what do you all think? Should I stay put or move?

Theymakemefeellikeshit Thu 21-May-15 22:26:02

Pollyputhekettleon Do not move! Fine if the move is your idea but she is manipulating into this and you will not be able to keep any kind of distance. She is becoming your mother already - that won't get better.

If you listened to my mum I am surprised that I have never been on How Clean is Your House and your DS sound the same.

You only live across the city. Not like it is miles away but far enough away when you need it to be.

But the habit of looking for approval dies hard doesn't it? I could live in a mansion and earn a million pound a year and my parents would still be slagging me off

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 21-May-15 23:22:20

Thanks they- you're right. I catch myself sometimes tidying up and I can't work out who I'm doing it for. I feel like there's an invisible camera watching me! Ironically Dsis was always the one with a bedroom like a bomb site but that's all forgotten now apparently. There's always something they need to fix about me. And it's true, there always would be something.

Meerka Fri 22-May-15 09:09:11

Dear sweet god stop your plans for moving now.

Anyway she's been putting on major pressure for ages for me to move to live nearer to where she and boyfriend are based, ..... To make it easier for her to visit dd, because she lives in a nicer area and because her boyfriend's large family (who I've never met) all apparently want to 'adopt me' and she thinks that would be a good support network for me.

Patronizing much?

There's always something they need to fix about me

Some of these things you posted sound nice and helpful on the surface but when you add in the rest, it sounds more like your sister is absolutely dead set on controlling your life and playing sweet-mean for a very long time to come.

Until she backs off and stops trying to control you you are absolutely right to keep your distance. 100%. Believe me, it's not worth living under the control of an apparently-friendly but actually very stifling person.

I'll go further and say that it is essential to keep your distance for another reason: Your daughter.

Your sister is already telling you how to bring her up and everything you're doing wrong (according to her). She wants to foster these strong links with her bf's family (do they want to foster the same links, I wonder? hmm ). But it sounds to me like actually there's a good chance your sister will try to slowly horn in on your daughter and make herself the primary decision-maker in her life.

I think you need to very quietly distance yourself for your own sanity and your daughter's, even though it has to hurt to quietly step away from your little sister that you love. But clearly your instincts are shouting louder and louder at you here. It'd be wise to listen to them, they're there ot protect you.

Pollyputhekettleon Fri 22-May-15 10:28:04

Thanks so much meerka. Yes it's definitely about dd too. I tend to neglect myself martyr mummy style so now I consciously try to separate my needs and hers and balance them in a way that's good for us both. But both dsis and dm are so needy with dd sometimes. Especially dsis- If dd's not in the mood to give her hugs etc she makes a face and half sulks and I find myself explaining about how, you know, she's 3, she's busy doing her thing, but she loves you really... Then dsis rolls her eyes and acts like of course she understands that and I don't need to explain. As if I'm imagining her taking offence but I bloody know I'm not. Why would I?

I think I'm doing ok protecting dd from their nuttiness. I'm almost always there and I shut them down straight away if they ever stray into doing their thing with dd. and I talk to dd about it in private when she notices an odd reaction or a sulk etc and I explain it in 3 year old terms. She's a pretty assertive and empathetic little dote so I think she'll be ok. But yes limited supervised visits is enough for us both and I don't want to spend years making excuses to avoid visiting if she lives nearby, and that's what it would end up being. Need to steel myself now to quietly back my way out of this so is great to get backup that it's not a crazy decision:-).

Pollyputhekettleon Fri 22-May-15 10:34:06

Sorry she doesn't just act like she understands about dd etc, she says she does and that there's no need for me to go on about it etc.

Meerka Fri 22-May-15 10:34:27

no, it's not, not from what you've described.

A good way to decide if people are good to be around or bad is to observe over the course of time if being around them makes you feel more positive or more negative, even drained. That holds even for family, though you do tend to give family more leeway.

I think it's fairly clear that it's both positive and negative iwth your sister because you love her, but that the effort to maintain your own adulthood is too high. By telling you what to do all the time and by criticising you, she's trying to take that adulthood away and make you dependent.

You're a grown woman with a daughter; you've survived a breakup and you're surviving independently. You don't need anyone making you less than that especially someone who is acting in a way that destroys your self-esteem.

Phoenix0x0 Fri 22-May-15 10:46:37

polly I agree don't move. If you do your sis would wear you down.

You sound lovely and very strong...maybe your sister feels threatened by that?

Thank you Meerka for creating this thread and for posting those links.

I looked at the FOG link and then at mother ticks most of the traits of this.

Meerka Fri 22-May-15 12:22:03

The thread is usually posted by one of the regulars who happen to be around =)

The FOG is very interesting isn't it? very powerful too. Hard to break free of though the clarity that comes when you're out of it is lovely. (work in progress for me, that is).

The children of someone with BPD tend to have a very hard time, partly because it can sometimes be a characteristic of BPD to smother a child and impose the parent's reality on the child. Or more succinctly, you're not allowed your own feelings and emotions or thoughts. Hope you are okay, phoenix

GoodtoBetter Fri 22-May-15 14:35:37

Yes, the FOG is so powerful I think because it becomes so ingrained...almost like a part of you. My mother was the smothering type of narc and it coloured my entire life really. (now NC)

Theymakemefeellikeshit Fri 22-May-15 19:59:21

This will so out me if my friend is reading this but I created this name purely for this thread.

Were talking about disappointment. How we can be disappointed for our DC but this is different to being disappointed in them.

My DD had an awful time at college and didn't do as well as she could have and even before exams over her dead body was she even going to consider uni. I am disappointed for her that she hasn't had the chance to go to uni but wouldn't even say to her I am disappointed for her in case she misundertood. I have always told her i am proud of what she achieved.

My mum who had no idea what my DD had been through said 'I am so disappointed that you aren't going to uni' This means 'disappointed in her'. Still gobsmacked at this comment.

pocketsaviour Fri 22-May-15 21:53:12

theymake Yes, it's an interesting distinction.

I have always been very clear with my son: "I love you and always will, but I don't like your behaviour/choices."

I feel fully justified with that... seeing as he was selling drugs confused Thankfully he saw the light and is on a much better path now!

Iknit I'm sorry about your Grandma. How are you feeling now? When do you have to travel? Although a couple of drinks can make you feel calmer, please don't drink too much as alcohol is a depressant, it always makes me feel even lower.

Welcome polly and let me join the chorus shrieking "For gods sake don't move!!" I would just tell your sis, "I've had a good think about it and decided I'm happier where I am. I love this house and neighbourhood."

I would also work to reduce contact if you can, and never let her have your DD unsupervised. She sounds incredibly manipulative and your DD doesn't have those defence mechanisms yet.

What you said about your sis sulking and pulling faces if your DD doesn't go to her reminds me of something my dad once did. My sister and I were at the kitchen table with him and for some reason we both had our teddies with us (so must have been pretty young.) He pulled a sad face and said "Daddy's sad cos he doesn't have a teddy. Can I have yours?" - to my younger sister. She shook her head and clutched her teddy tighter. I said "Here daddy, you can have mine" and held my beloved panda out to him. He snatched it off me and said "You've lost that now, gullible fool!" and walked off with it. He did shit like that a lot. He said it was to toughen me up. sad

I sometimes worry that it's made me too careful of my things. I'm not very good at sharing.

pocketsaviour Fri 22-May-15 21:54:42

Iknit sorry if that sounded really patronising about drinking... You are an adult and I'm sure you know what's best for you!

GoodtoBetter Fri 22-May-15 21:56:48

Bloody hell pocket! shock what a cunt! and what a fucking weirdo too!!!

Booville3 Fri 22-May-15 22:07:36

There are a lot of awful parents/ relatives out there, I was nc with my mother for about 6 months 4 years ago then contact gradually resumed I am now at the point where I feel nc is the only way forward again but if it happens again it would be indefinitely & there is something stopping me bit sure if it's fear or what I know I feel uncomfortable around her, I know she is obsessed with my eldest ds & not at all interested in my younger two children, I know she often appears to tolerate me - what is holding me back from telling her once & for all I've had enough of her interference of her thinking I should still follow her orders I've run my own home, had 3 dc's & a partner & worked either full or part time in a professional job for 10 years now so why am I still unable to stand up to her???

Booville3 Fri 22-May-15 22:08:56

Pocket what an awful man, makes me very mindful with things I say/ do with my dc's!!

Woozlebear Fri 22-May-15 22:12:43

I'm a long time lurker and occasional poster on older threads.

I don't have the energy at the moment to describe my situation, but the whole not being real to your family thing really chimes with me. I had this exact conversation with dh last night. My parents only care about a fantasy cardboard cut out idea of a daughter. They may as well never have met me.

On a separate note I found out I'm pregnant last week and still haven't told my parents. I'm married and 33- no reason for them to be negative!! But I know that somehow their reaction will spoil everything for me. They will be guaranteed to do one of the following:
Object on the most crazy grounds imaginable
Pretend to be happy but be all tight lipped and fake and weird about it
Make it all about them
Get upset out of jealousy (my mother is now so screwed up she does this openly. She recently told me she cries every time she visits me because she's so envious of my nice life with my nice husband. Yes the life that only became nice after I stopped doing what you wanted me to do. And the nice husband that you spent a year trying to get me to NOT marry. Deranged witch.)

They're literally incapable of having a normal reaction to anything in my life ever. I moved house fgs and my mother got upset because she liked my old house. It was the same area and had no practical impact on her whatsoever. I lived there 2 years and she visited maybe half a dozen times for an hour or so.

So I'm putting off telling them. It's so fucked up.

Booville3 Fri 22-May-15 22:31:05

Woozle do not let her ruin this for you do not! Easy for me to say but I am so bloody sad that I let my mother ruin the same special time in my life, it became all about her - I don't know how many dc's you plan to have - 1/2/3 - the likelihood is you won't have this moment very often in your life if your mum can't share it in a positive way keep her at arms length & bask in the joy of it with you lovely DH & his family (if they are nice)!

Theymakemefeellikeshit Fri 22-May-15 22:37:31

*I have always been very clear with my son: "I love you and always will, but I don't like your behaviour/choices."

I feel fully justified with that... seeing as he was selling drugs confused Thankfully he saw the light and is on a much better path now!*

My DD is now talking about evening classes. If I had spent the last few years saying how she had ruined her life and how disappointed I was in her I doubt she would be considering going back now.

Pocket Of course that was his justification for doing what he did

Boo makes me very mindful with things I say/ do with my dc's I am very mindful to the point of paranoia. It shouldn't be like that.

pocketsaviour Fri 22-May-15 22:50:45

Absolutely theymake it's all about, at this age, supporting them but not pushing them. Glad your DD is looking into evening classes. I think the college/mainstream school environment can be pretty brutal. I left at 16 and never went back.

No we shouldn't have to be so worried over what we say to our DCs. But I suppose I'd rather be over-concerned and second-guess myself than repeat the mistakes of the past.

One thing I try to do is let go of the mistakes I made with my son. There will always be mistakes. No parent is perfect. The fact that we're all so concerned about getting things wrong is, in itself, a good sign. But beating myself up for those past mistakes is just pointless. I have got better at this over the past few months.

Theymakemefeellikeshit Fri 22-May-15 23:21:59

Woozlebear Congratulations!

Booville3 is right about not letting her ruin it but that is easier said than done! My DD and I still remember every word. I had driven 2 hours to tell them.

Suggest you phone her so you are at home with DH. If mobiles had more common when I was pregnant with 2nd DC I wouldn't even had telephoned I would have text!

Funny though when I was in labour the hospital (I still love that midwife) had to tell her she would not be allowed in if she turned up. All of a sudden she was the caring mother. My labour was not proceeding well and as a few have mentioned in previous posts some parents love the drama

Theymakemefeellikeshit Fri 22-May-15 23:36:46

pocket I am trying to get the balance right of not being too pushy so she doesn't think it means I am disappoineted that she didn't do it 2 years ago and not looking totally uninterested.

I shouldn't be feeling like this

PeppermintCrayon Sat 23-May-15 04:58:07

Thanks boo but I don't feel brave.

pocket it would make sense if you are more insecure about your belongings as a result of that. I'm really sorry he did that.

Woozle it sounds like putting off telling them is the best thing for you right now. Congrats btw!

Right now I just feel pretty awful and grief-filled. I read a post on MN earlier by someone saying how hard it was losing their lovely dad in their early 20s and honestly I would have gnawed my own arm off to give them if if meant they'd swap with me. This might sound ridiculous given I've been NC for a while now but it is only just dawning on me that I don't have any parents and I basically never have done.

Can I just take them back to the shop already please?

Dontunderstand01 Sat 23-May-15 06:46:28

started a thread but was advised to post here... I do love my oarents very much. My mum uses emotional blackmail, and definitely favours my sister but she can be loving and really pull through for me on occasion. Anyhoo... heres my op

I will try to be brief but also not drip feed...I moved away home over 10 years ago. I visit my parents (who are fit, well, wealthy and mobile) at least 4 times a year, sometimes for a weekend, sometimes a week. They recently moved nearer to my Dsis and her kids, in a very expensive part of the uk which we could never afford to live in. I call dm 3 or 4 times per week, text most days. She looos sfter Dsis children for one or two days per week whilst dsis works. Dm is retired, ddad still works.
I often hear from my dm how much she misses me, my son, I often end up feelibg really guilty that I dont see them. But, they don't visit me often, once a year usually for one night. I asked them to visit this half term but they said there was 'no point' as I am going to them in june.
I want to help establish what in my mind are good boundaries/rules to live by, so I can reassure myself I am trying to see them and help them see ds, but also not running myself ragged trying to please them...
we live about 4 hours drive away, have a 1 yr old baby, I work 3 days per week, husband fulltime term time. I think: calling 2/3 times per week, texting several days a week, sending picsof ds regularly, and visiting once every three months as minimum, always either at christmas or just before.
Is this 'good daughter' material , or would you expect more? If I was your dd what would you want/expect? I hope this makes sense... I am feeling frazzled

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