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The Good One (aka the Golden Child)

(65 Posts)
black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 10:40:13

I had a situation recently that I am struggling to get my head around, and I’d appreciate help in understanding what happened from others who’ve lived in malfunctioning families.

It is so long, I’ll put in the next post.

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 10:43:55

We are now in our 40s. I was the black sheep / the wild one / the one who never seemed to get it right. She was the good one / the one whom Mum could rely upon. I don’t think other people saw me like this btw. I was never in trouble at school. I always worked hard. Tried to be polite and considerate etc but whatever I did that was good counted for nothing and if I got drunk once, then the narrative was that I always got drunk.
I stayed the black sheep for about 30 years though. When I’ve been hurt and I sometimes asked my sister to console me by just acknowledging what had just happened, she never would. She was witness to it, but she’d either turn her back or join in condemning me.

The main problem was obviously with my mum but I thought we resolved that two years ago when she apologised for what she’d been doing. I was not 100% convinced that she meant it for more than a few minutes, but I took it and held onto it, and we’ve never mentioned it again. Things have been much better between us since.

In fact, they were so good, I agreed to go for a weekend away with her. My sister then asked if she could come too, and we went away last weekend.

Things were ok at first, but then my sister started saying critical things about me half-jokingly, but Mum took up the bait. Then, it was just like old times. I was being scolded for everything: my driving, when the milk jug slipped and I nearly spilled it and for my (apparently, ill-informed) views. I even had things that my sister had said attributed to me, if my mum did not agree with them.

On Sunday evening, we were having dinner together and my sister started talking about how we each had our fixed role in the family and nothing could ever be done to change it. I was the wild one and she was the good one, she said. She acknowledged that she had played up to it.
Then things got worse and Mum and I had a big row. She was calling me stupid and ill-informed when I just suddenly had had enough. I told (not begged, more ordered) her to stop and to “shut up”. So, we are back at square one, but this is about my sister.

Later, my sister tried to tell me off for how I had spoken to mum. Her view was that I could have handled it much better. I thought about it, and quietly told her that she also had to stop believing the untruthful version of who I was. I said that it was never true in the first place, but now I am in my 40s its just beyond ludicrous. I said if she didn’t, then I would cut her out of my life. If she stopped then, I’d be glad to have her as my sister, but only if it stops now.

She seemed really hurt. Just before we parted, she asked me to say that I’d been over-tired and angry and I hadn’t really meant it. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t answer. (I just started to cry.)

I honestly don’t understand what is happening. It is as though she cares, even though she spent most of her life making me out to be some sort of dissolute waste of space whom she was ashamed to be associated with.

spanky2 Tue 09-Jun-15 10:53:28

Get the book called Toxic Parents. In toxic families there is a pact where everyone has their place. This is not normal. Post on the stately homes thread. You will find support there and realise you are not alone. Trust your instinct on this one. Their behaviour is toxic and not normal. I come from a mother who has narcissistic personality disorder and a psychopath father. Sometimes I wonder how I made it out of my childhood alive! I do understand, it's not you.

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 10:56:32

Thank you. I will. But may I ask first: is the golden child also a victim?

spanky2 Tue 09-Jun-15 11:16:22

Yes as they end up entitled, there are other problems but I can't remember them. In my family the role of scapegoat and golden child would switch without warning which was really confusing. I was mainly scapegoat, like you! It is all abuse as it isn't love or nurturing. Although golden child won't accept that as they've been brought up to blame the ills of the world on you. It is a very complex issue.

PeppermintCrayon Tue 09-Jun-15 11:45:07

I think they are also a victim in that they haven't had good-enough parenting but the scapegoat has it worst in my opinion. In some families it is one child's job to be in the wrong. It was mine too; I feel a bit like I've resigned from a toxic play. Didn't want to play my role any more. flowers

pocketsaviour Tue 09-Jun-15 11:53:19

Yes the golden child also suffers, but the isolation that the scapegoat feels is horrific.

Golden children often end up trapped in the same dynamic with their own children as they cannot see what was wrong with their family of birth, since they feel they "have nothing to complain about, I always had plenty of praise and love".

GC often get used as a replacement parent or best friend, which leads to horribly inappropriate conversations/acts. In my case my dad made me the GC and he then basically replaced my mum with me and sexually assaulted me repeatedly. When he eventually got found out and left, my mum then put me in the role of BFF/husband and I got to hear all about how shit their sex life was. JUST WHAT I NEEDED, THANKS MUM.

It's taken me nearly 30 years to fully realise the extent of the damage. I cut my mum out of my life about 6 months ago. My sis (who was the scapegoat) and I actually have a very close relationship as we jointly talked about those roles we were forced into and decided we utterly rejected them.

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 12:18:02

pocketsaviour -if that's what your parents did to the golden child, God help the others! That sounds horrific. I am so sorry for what you've gone through.

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 12:22:40

I am struggling to get my head round three things:-
1. Why my sister felt the need to stir things up again, after two years of peace. It was the first time we've all been together in three years, so she hadn't been part of the peace. Didn't she like it?

2. Why was my sister upset at the thought of not seeing me again, given that we barely see each other anyway (we live hundreds of miles apart) and she's always treated me like someone she strongly disapproves of. She's slightly younger than me and has frequently said that she deliberately made certain life choices because she didn't want to be like me.

3. What will happen now?

BarbarianMum Tue 09-Jun-15 12:26:26

My brother was the golden child, I was the black sheep. He was (and is) way, way, way more fucked up by our upbringing then I was. What looks like favouritism is just the cover for a different type of innappropriate relationship and (imo) one that is much harder to break free from.

Having said which, I only had toxic parent not 2 - maybe that makes a difference.

BarbarianMum Tue 09-Jun-15 12:32:07

The thing is - if you stop being the black sheep, then she stops being the 'good' one. Suppose you'd gone away just with your mum and your mum had had a great time? Where would that leave her?

It maybe that her ego is all tied up with being better than you. Likewise, if you disappear, she loses that contrast: not the good one but the only one.

Ultimately, does it matter why? You can't fix her, or your mum. Do what is best for you - and I'd suggest not seeing them together would be a good start. I would strongly recommend no or minimal contact with your sister, if you think you are ready for that.

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 12:34:18

I know I suffered more pain than the Golden child, although I think one of my brothers may actually have suffered most. He was the clown.

In my family its a generational thing. My Mum suffered severe emotional abuse when she was growing up that makes her almost kindly by comparison with her own family.

One benefit of being cast as the black sheep is that I am determined not to let my own children be tainted. The abuse stops here, with me. I will not pass it on to the next generation. My sister, on the other hand, thinks there was no abuse and so she has her own scapegoat child.

shovetheholly Tue 09-Jun-15 12:39:07

I think the answer to your first question is that your family - including your sister - cannot accept who you are now - they have put you in a role. That role is to be the 'cause' of all of the problems in the family. That's the meaning of a scapegoat: you become a convenient reason for 'dumping out' all the toxicity in the dynamics that they themselves create. You enable them to avoid taking responsibility for things that they do that are 'wrong'.

It is important that you recognise that you will probably never get them to acknowledge your 'true' self. I am sorry. It is a grief that does not go away.

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 13:00:57

I know its the child in me talking now, but I never was the person they said I was! I remember telling my friends that my mother didn't like me because I was a rebel and they laughed! I was just so quiet and nervous and keen to do the right thing that it was always an undeserved title.

I imagine that people think that there's no smoke without fire, but in my case, there really was no fire.

I won't see Mum with my sister for a long, long time. Maybe never again. Another, similar trip was proposed at the start of the trip when things were going well, but I suspect that Mum and I are no longer in a good place to contemplate it. Mum will think that she's hard done by, because I told her to shut up.

I can cope with Mum. It doesn't hurt much at all. I know she's screwed up inside and completely in the wrong with how she behaved to me on the trip (we met some distant relations, who don't know me at all, and she tried to belittle me to them - telling half truths from 30 years ago. It got so bad that one of them started to defend me!).

Its my sister who has thrown me. I was surprised to realise how much she wants the abuse to continue, to the extent she encouraged mum to start it and kept it going whenever Mum flagged. What really gets me though is that she seemed not to want to lose me.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 09-Jun-15 13:08:56

After so long not seeing you, your sister couldn't resist baiting you in front of the parent ie looking for approval. It worked so no wonder she is distraught at the idea of never having another chance.

She is repeating the same favouritism, divide-and-conquer games with her DCs you experienced growing up. And I agree, without a scapegoat to compare with, a Golden Child can't shine.

Are either of you still in contact with your brothers?

Meerka Tue 09-Jun-15 13:13:50

is the golden child also a victim


1) they are told what to think, that they are the good girl, they have the pressure to look up to and they very often adopt the same thought patterns as the parent, becuase they are the good girl and just like their parent. this is the most dangerous thing of all, when they adopt the same thought patterns and behaviours.

2) they also know exactly what happens to someone who isn't Golden - because they see how the bad girl is treated, and who the hell would want to be on the receiving end of that. So they have the carrot of all the rewards, and the stick of what happens for not conforming. it's a powerful teaching technique.

3) Some people break free of it later on but it usually takes years and sometimes they come to feel secure in the parent's regard. If it's suddenly withdrawn - then suddenly their eyes are opened.

Occasionally the golden child and scapegoat are able to keep on being friends all the way through.

Sometimes people never break free of it. They're at a higher risk of repeating the pattern then, though again not everyone does.

1. Why my sister felt the need to stir things up again, after two years of peace. It was the first time we've all been together in three years, so she hadn't been part of the peace. Didn't she like it? Could be habit. Simple and powerful as that. Could be she doesn't even realise what she was doing. She's had a lifetime of training in it after all, and probably no one to shed any light on her own behaviour.

2. Why was my sister upset at the thought of not seeing me again, given that we barely see each other anyway (we live hundreds of miles apart) and she's always treated me like someone she strongly disapproves of. She's slightly younger than me and has frequently said that she deliberately made certain life choices because she didn't want to be like me.

She may genuinely love you ... at some level. Really.

there's also a nasty little habit in the human soul of, when there is a victim around, hating to see the victim escape. She might be genuinely upset about that.

It could be either. Or a bit of both. Or simply that she doesn't really realise, like I say.

3. What will happen now?

You decide that. You get to decide.

At a guess you might decide to sever contact with your mother. Her apology was only skin-deep. it took very little time for the old patterns to resurface.

Equally it could have been that she really tried to do better, but with your sister picking at you, the old patterns were too strong.

I think you have to look at the possibliity she will always tend to fall back on getting at you, even if she apologises again and really tries to do better. Whether you can forgive that is something for you, really.

your sister? Suggest you take time to think, really think about this. You could communicate by email and try to talk honestly with her, if she genuinely does not wish to loose contact.

Whatever else you are quite right in not putting up with being the scapegoat and victim.

okay this is well too long! essay over. Good luck, blacksheep

MyGastIsFlabbered Tue 09-Jun-15 13:25:10

I would say the golden child is a victim but doesn't see themselves as such. I was married to a golden child so I can only go on my observations. ExH is one of the most arrogant people I've ever met. He thinks he's Mr Wonderful and really can't understand why I left him (it's a fairly recent split). He's very emotionally stunted and he's still very much tied to his mother's apron strings. One of the major problems in our relationship was that he always put his parents first over me and the children.

But neither he nor his parents will admit they ever made mistakes in his or his brother's upbringing.

I'm sorry you had a toxic family.

Longtalljosie Tue 09-Jun-15 13:32:24

I think your sister was jealous. She's been used to not having to worry about sibling rivalry because she grew up constantly being told she was the good one. But now she's living far away and your mum sought a relationship with you (even to the extent of a weekend away she had to ask to join). She wanted to put you back in a place where SHE felt comfortable. It was all about her, not you...

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 13:37:56

We are both in touch with both brothers. I get on better with the brother who was the clown. He's a genuinely nice, decent person who'd do anything for anyone. My sister tends to treat him like he's not very bright, which is grossly unfair.

Our other brother is the youngest. He was the baby of the family. (I notice there is no baby of the family role in toxic family descriptions but that was his role). He can be very selfish, but he and my sister get along very well.

I told DH what happened at the dinner with the extended family. Mum is always so desperate to impress them, so she's an idiot for behaving the way she did towards me. DH said they must have felt like they'd come into a scene from Abigail's Party! We certainly didn't present as a family unit that you'd want to spend time with. (Its supposed to be a secret how messed up our family really is, but for reasons I cannot understand, Mum and my sister felt that demonstrating their dislike of me was going to impress the others.)

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 14:31:28

There must be 100s of times that my sister has been annoyed with me for causing arguments.
It really did not matter whether I had started them or not. Even whether mum had hit me or not. (I was nearly 30 when she stopped).
It was as if someone had stabbed me but all my sister cared about was that I'd got blood on the carpet!

I've been completely conditioned to think she hated the rows between me and mum even more than I did and that she blamed me for them.
I guess thats why I am so surprised that she'd want to start them again.
I feel that I've had 2 years off from the toxicity. Its been lovely to have the peace. I will keep my distance from mum for a few months and I am really not that upset about her because I knew what she's like already.

Its more my sister who has left me reeling a bit. I guess she was lying all those years when she said she wanted the rowing to stop?

Meerka Tue 09-Jun-15 14:33:04

maybe she did but she sure wasn't slow to blame you for them, whoever started them.

spanky2 Tue 09-Jun-15 16:20:13

If you stop being the scapegoat, it challenges everyone else's position in the family. This leaves the others fighting for you to get back in line. It can get really nasty, because the more you become your own person the more threatened they become. This is explained in detail in the book Toxic Parents. Stay true to yourself. It is hard, but worth it. You don't deserve to be treated like this.

black5heep Tue 09-Jun-15 16:39:21

Thanks. I am lucky to have a supportive DH and to live far away from any of them. We all live far from each other.
I should be able to avoid interacting if I put my mind to it. The only way I can see this having to change us if mum's health begins to fail.

Thank god I am still not 15 years old and trapped.

spanky2 Tue 09-Jun-15 16:42:51

I have been non contact with my parents for two years next month. Not a happy anniversary but I have only started to become me. I feel like you, how did I ever survived growing up? I guess we are stronger than we realise!

disappointedinfriend Tue 09-Jun-15 16:46:55

I think siblings often get an awful lot out of being the golden child, which explains why your sister was so willing. Exclusion is a very powerful tool in knitting a family unit together - and it is within that unit that the resources (emotional, practical, financial) lie. Ensuring that you are firmly locked out is a way of ensuring that this preferential provision for them continues. However, it comes with its own responsibilities and its own burdens.

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