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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."

OnceAMeerNotAlwaysAMeer Tue 17-Nov-15 10:55:55

okay, this is the new thread Stately Homes Nov without the spelling mistake in the title, hopefully!

Please post there rather than here, ones posted here could get missed now.

<warm welcome and cups of tea for everyone, those who know they belong here and people who are just peeking in>

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 17-Nov-15 10:35:54

Hi Meer

Would you mind starting the new thread please; I ask only as I am never seemingly able to properly transfer the links over.

Thank you.

OnceAMeerNotAlwaysAMeer Tue 17-Nov-15 09:20:52

chicken, when it came to my oldest son and hard questions, I tried to answer in an age-appropriate factual way

"well, Granddad says mean things to Mama and about Mama. When people act like that, you try to talk it out and be friends. When they carry on being like that, you have to walk away. It's not a good way to speak to people"

Sometimes there are no easy answers and you just have to say what the situation is and let them think it over.

I do think that brushing things over and not facing them in an age appropriate way is not a good idea. It teaches children there are secrets and I think that it's a good idea to teach children that some behaviour is not acceptable. Honesty is (usually) better than brushing things under the carpet.

--- Atilla might you care to start a new thread? or shall I?

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 17-Nov-15 08:52:48

No pk I am not a therapist.

prettyknackered Tue 17-Nov-15 08:19:30

Attila I don't mean to sound rude but you say exactly the same thing to everyone. Are you a therapist yourself?

Chickenpie1 Mon 16-Nov-15 21:54:29

Thanks!! I best get some reading done and get myself sorted!

Theymakemefeellikeshit Mon 16-Nov-15 21:41:12

Just because you don't work doesn't mean life is not stressful. I don't know for sure but I imagine you feel under more pressure to make DC's lives perfect.

I am not looking forward to some difficult conversations with them about this in the future!
At the risk of stressing you out even more the future may come sooner tan you think. Children are very perceptive. My DD wasn't much older than your eldest when the questions started.

Chickenpie1 Mon 16-Nov-15 20:37:27

Thanks They, I guess you're right, they probably don't like her that much, her house is full of pictures of their cousins and not them which they must have noticed, I am not looking forward to some difficult conversations with them about this in the future! I was looking at it from the perspective that she is the adult and its up to her to engage with them and blaming them for not liking her is in my mind crazy!

It's funny to think I feel stressed when actually I don't have the pressure of work at the moment but I guess I am quite stressed and have set myself quite high standards I suppose. I just feel very frustrated with myself when I find myself telling them to calm down or I'm getting annoyed at them when I realise I'm doing it because I wasn't allowed to show emotion and I can't understand why I find their emotions hard to accept/validate!
In my professional life I work with people with dementia and am usually the calm person that can sit with someone challenging for hours and build a connection. I'm not used to these feelings, it's like being a parent has triggered some nerve in me that automatically gets angry. I don't like myself very much at the moment.

Workinprogress2015 Mon 16-Nov-15 20:22:02

I posted this in relationships but think this is its rightful home...

It's been so cathartic getting some of this stuff out

Theymakemefeellikeshit Mon 16-Nov-15 20:07:09

Hi chicken

says that she doesn't think my children like her
in all honesty they may not like her very much as she is not bothering with them. If she is spending so much with your sister's DC your DC will soon realize that they are low down in the priority list and like her even less. My DC have been there and don't find their grandparents very likeable and know they will never be able to compete with their cousin.

It is hard not to be intolerant when you are stressed. When mine were younger the excited and happy noise could go right through me. At times could find it worse than them fighting! When you feel like this is there time to sit with them and watch a DVD so you can all chill. Cuddle up together on the sofa.

Chickenpie1 Mon 16-Nov-15 19:35:40

Thank you, I will check out the book. My sister is definitely invested in being the golden child although I think this puts her under a lot of pressure and I don't envy her relationship with my parents at all, they may do a lot for her but she has to put up with a lot of interference and judgement.
I feel quite sad about my dads role in all this. He was my hero growing up and I do feel really disappointed that he can't be there for me!
I've cried a lot today but actually feel loads better for getting this off my chest. Thank you so much

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 16-Nov-15 16:21:21

Toxic Parents written by Susan Forward may be worth reading initially.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 16-Nov-15 16:20:36

People from dysfunctional families end up playing roles.

I wondered where your dad was in all this. Your dad is the bystander and weak too. As you rightly surmise needs someone like this needs his wife to idolise; he probably acts also out of self preservation and want of a quiet life. He is likely to be her hatchet man and he cannot be at all relied upon either. He certainly did not protect you and your sister from her malign influences. He has also failed here along with your mother.

Think your sister is further trying to curry favour with your mother by painting you as the bad guy. What role do you think she plays in your dysfunctional family of origin; I am thinking along the lines of the golden child (a role itself not without price although your sister is unaware of that).

No there is not going to be an easy fix but with the right help and support from this board and outside you will go forwards.

Am sure your children think you are a good mum to them. You are not planning to act the same ways as your own mother did to you as a child and that is great in its own right. There is insight and empathy there which is what your mother does not have.

Keep posting here too.

Chickenpie1 Mon 16-Nov-15 16:05:00

Thank you Attila, it is really good just to hear someone say that I am not like my mum. My dad says all the right things to me but never seems to do anything, I think he worships my mum and does not want to upset her. My sisters a bit the same really, she complains about my mother all the time and expects me to keep her confidence although I have recently realised that everything I say to her gets back to my mum. I don't like conflict so am trying to keep a bit of a distance from all of them. The thing is they make me feel like I'm the one with the problem all the time. So I am trying to just have a very superficial relationship with them.
I have tried counselling a couple of times but always given up after a few sessions because it made me so anxious. I didn't really think about getting someone who was the right fit! I've never really discussed all this properly before. I used to have quite a stressful job that consumed all my time to think and then over the last year I quit and with the girls at school now I'm thinking about it all more and more and trying to understand why I feel like a bit of a mess and why I find it hard to parent the way I want too.
I will have a look at resources above, I have to say there are a lot of links there and I was a bit overwhelmed but I will look at them. I really want to feel better and be a better parent. I'm just a bit scared that things will get worse before it gets better! There's not going to be an easy fix is there! Thank you, I know some of the posters are having a really difficult time with parents worse than mine but it has helpe to be able to write all this down

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 16-Nov-15 14:46:44

chicken pie

Your mother was not a good parent to you and is now not surprisingly a rubbish example of a grandparent figure to your children. I would keep well away from your mother and adopt a low contact position with her.

Your mother may well have had an awful upbringing herself but it is not justification for her behaviours then or now. It was and remains still unfair to blame you for all her inherent ills. She also favours your sister and her children over you and yours. She did not or perhaps never wanted to seek the necessary help so you have copped it instead.

You do not mention your own dad in all this; where is he?.

Re your comment:-
"I am irritable a lot at the moment, I am not very tolerant of my children's moods, including excited and silly, or anxious and sad. My mum always made me feel that I should keep my feelings in and shouldn't show any emotion and I don't want to make my children feel this way but I find myself struggling to cope with their feelings".

Your second sentence has led onto you feeling like you do in your first sentence. You can break this pattern but you will need to find a very good therapist to work with. It may well be that the first person you see is not the right one for you, you need to find someone who fits in with you. You are not like your mother, you want to change and make changes for your own self. That shows me you have insight and empathy; two qualities your mother sorely lacks.

I would read all the resources at the start of this thread and seek out a therapist you can work with. BACP may be able to help you in this respect as well.

Chickenpie1 Mon 16-Nov-15 14:18:42

Hi, I hope you don't mind me posting here, but I have been a lurker here for a while and you all seem so understanding I thought you might be able to help me. I am the oldest of two daughters, shortly after my birth I was rehospitalised and I wonder if my mum didn't really bond that well with me. She didn't have a very maternal mother herself and her father died when she was a child and I think this is something my mother has never really dealt with. Anyway I grew up with the belief that I was not good enough and second best to my sister.
My mum has high standards which she made clear I don't feel I live up to. I am quiet and a bit reclusive, I am quite different to her in this way and she doesn't understand me. I made friends with other people that were similar to me and my mother did not like them or my subsequent boyfriends. Everytime I did anything wrong she would say that this must be all her fault as she is obviously such a bad mother. I clearly remember as a child a realisation moment when I realised that everyone in our family did everything they could to make her happy. I learnt to say sorry all the time in order to appease her. I feel that my mum loves conditionally and this is dependent on my agreeing with her point of view.
I am beginning to see how this has impacted on my relationships for example when I argue with my partner (which isn't often) I always assume I am in the wrong. I am also quite defensive as I am worried that if I don't do the things I think he expects I am worried he won't love me (this is completely irrational but somehow I still belief it, just writing it is making me so anxious.)
Things with my mum came to a head recently, my DDs, 4 and 7 are adopted and my mother is having a hard time building up a relationship with them (they have lived with us 3years now) I pointed out to her that maybe she should come and spend more time with them (she babysat/sits my sister DDs from babies 3 days a week as my sister works) however when I pointed out that she only sees my girls every 3 weeksish, she denies this is a problem, says that she doesn't think my children like her and that I am bullying her into spending time with my children. My husband and I are financially ok and I have never asked her to babysit regularly because I know my sister needs my mums help and also I don't really want my mum making them feel how she made me feel. I suppose my questions to you all is a) I am really anxious all the time, I am my own self fulfilling prophecy I feel rubbish so I don't do much and then I feel bad that I haven't done much all day. I was wondering if anyone had any advice into how to get out if this spiral?
And b) I am really worried that I am failing as a parent. I am irritable a lot at the moment, I am not very tolerant of my children's moods, including excited and silly, or anxious and sad. My mum always made me feel that I should keep my feelings in and shouldn't show any emotion and I dont want to make my children feel this way but I find myself struggling to cope with their feelings. I don't really understand this either, surely I should want them to show these feelings when I couldn't. I am turning into a shouty irritable mum, the opposite of everything I want to be and I don't know how to change. Can anyone offer any advice, or any books that might be helpful for me to read. Sorry this is so long Thank you

OnceAMeerNotAlwaysAMeer Sun 15-Nov-15 13:14:31

M went NC with me because I wouldn't apologise for things like getting upset when she hit my kids. Today she turns up with a bag of goodies for the kids. I opened the door only to ask if she was ready to apologise to me. She just looked blank, as she does. I said ok then and closed the door. She stood there silently for about an hour.

Jeeze, cherrypicking

bloody hell.

passion I hear you. Used to work in the disabilty field and saw several people who were big banner posters for disability rights ... but their own disabled child got very little attention.

it sounds like there's more going on than that though, if you had to fight a child protection case from SS sad that sounds absolutely horrendous.

Never apologise for posting. The forum's here for you, any time.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 15-Nov-15 10:36:33


re your comment:-

My dad is 'nice' but useless - the most he's ever said is that she's becoming more like her own mother was and that he found her 'very direct' when she was alive, but that neither of them can or could help the way they are. He basically said its down to me not to get upset by it because 'she doesn't mean to hurt anyone'.

An Enabling Father is one who panders to the Narcissistic Mother, who facilitates her abuse of the children, who worships completely at her altar and expects the children to do so too. Or perhaps he does not worship as much as fears her; but the result is the same: he is her sidekick, making sure that she is kept happy no matter the cost to his children.

Your dad is also her hatchet man here and cannot be at all relied on to help either. Like many such weak men as well he is a bystander who has acted out of self preservation and want of a quiet life. Such men too often need a woman like your mother to idolise. That comment he made to you shows his own need to show that he had chosen a good wife, what he has done here is also a form of gaslighting because it certainly does not tally with your own experience. That comment of his above is basically telling you, “I don’t want to rock the boat here so you need to suck it up”.

And yes they did prime you to go onto have an abusive marriage of your own. We after all learn about relationships first and foremost from our parents.

GoodtoBetter Sun 15-Nov-15 09:05:42

I want her to see what she's lost and change her ways.
It will never happen and you do need to accept it. Unfortunately I have managed to accept it but I can not deal with it.

Totally understand that, it's where I am partly too. And it hurts that she doesn't even seem to want to see what she's lost. Just totally ignores us. I mean, that's good, NC is a relief, but still fucking stings that my own mother would prefer to leave the country and never see me or my kids again than try to apologise for being a total bitch and slagging me off to all who'd listen.
Makes me question myself sometimes, you know?

CherryPicking Sun 15-Nov-15 08:13:45

I know, TheyMakeMe, they've been worse than useless tbh. What strikes me is that yesterday she barely said anything and there was no emotion the whole time she was standing there. Just totally blank, waiting for me to fill in the blanks with my own emotions. Just like my ex used to do - weirdly enough. I think my parents primed me for an abusive relationship, I really do.

Theymakemefeellikeshit Sat 14-Nov-15 21:02:45

I want her to see what she's lost and change her ways.
It will never happen and you do need to accept it. Unfortunately I have managed to accept it but I can not deal with it.

She even tried texting me afterwards saying she was about to get on the train home but if I was prepared to 'help her understand' why I was upset she'd come back and chat after the kids were in bed.
She knows why -this is an excuse to wheedle her way back in.

Why do we have to accept the hideous behaviour because 'you know what's she's like' or 'she doesn't mean to hurt anyone'

I am so sorry you are having do deal with a break up on your own but they will be of no help to you.

Theymakemefeellikeshit Sat 14-Nov-15 20:52:13

pretty tiredness will make it harder for you to deal with things. Do not let your DH's actions cause you to go back to your parents. As others have said it may be that he is still getting used to being a dad. Give him a chance but you may get the point where you have face up to the fact you will be better of without him as well. I hope that is not the case.

I know when I was a SAHM I was aware of not having money and if you feel that this will interfere with you making a rational decision is it possible to squirrel some away. I don't mean hundreds of pounds each week and it may take you a while but it will be your running away fund. I have not long started a fund - not for running away but for something that is worrying me and it has made me feel more relaxed to know have it

And the advice regarding documents is well worth remembering

I repeat - do not go back to your parents. You will never hear the last of it.

CherryPicking Sat 14-Nov-15 20:13:08

Thanks Attila hoovering is about right. She even tried texting me afterwards saying she was about to get on the train home but if I was prepared to 'help her understand' why I was upset she'd come back and chat after the kids were in bed.

My dad is 'nice' but useless - the most he's ever said is that she's becoming more like her own mother was and that he found her 'very direct' when she was alive, but that neither of them can or could help the way they are. He basically said its down to me not to get upset by it because 'she doesn't mean to hurt anyone'. It's all just bollocks really. And I'm so alone - my abusive marriage ended and there was no emotional support from them. I'm struggling with 3 kids on my own - I need parents like I've never needed them before - but not enough to put up with this shit.

Thanks TheyMakeMe I did reply to her text but only to say I wasn't interested.

And what do I want? I want her to see what she's lost and change her ways. But that's never going to happen, I just need to accept it.

Theymakemefeellikeshit Sat 14-Nov-15 18:23:25

Cherry You did the right thing. Do not engage with her at all. You do not need to justify anything to her

Theymakemefeellikeshit Sat 14-Nov-15 18:17:54

passion like most of our mothers it is all showing the world how perfect and caring they are yet they behave like shit towards us.

I sorry you are having to through it again but keep strong and you can get back to where you were before this

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