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Has my dad been abusing my mum for 35 years?

(67 Posts)
picklypopcorn Mon 25-Apr-16 16:46:32

Sorry guys this is an absolute epic of a post!

So I've always known my Dad is a bit of an arse but recently (since reading up on mumsnet about abusive men generally!) I've started spotting patterns in his behavior which have me convinced he's actually been abusing my mum for years. I can't wrap my head around it and think I need to write it down here, am I seeing things that aren't there or should I be talking to my mum? (they've been married 35 years if it's relevant!)

These are the things that worry me:

Mum is incredibly intelligent, she has a phd and had a very successful career, but I remember throughout my childhood my dad making out to me and my sister that her opinions on politics and things really didn't matter and were worthless because "she doesn't understand". He also has a brain on him but since I've become an adult, I've realized a lot of the facts and figures he used to quote at us are just made up (I've since had to realign my entire world view because I used to believe everything he said hmm). I think he was always insecure about my mum's intelligence and almost verbally battered her into submission over things, so she just stopped sharing her opinion?

You can't disagree with my Dad. If you have an opinion that he doesn't share he will spend hours ranting at you about why you're wrong, then he'll sulk for days over it. He's done this with Mum throughout my life and I now don't actually know what my mum believes in, what her political leanings are, even whether she votes labor (a big deal in our house as my dad is a very strong labor supporter). The first time I ever voted when I turned 18, I voted Tory because I knew it was a single, silent act of rebellion against him and a bit of a middle finger to him and his daily "car lectures" about everything that was wrong with the tories grin. He is very interested in politics and becomes very sullen and stroppy if he reads something on facebook that upsets him. He has regular facebook rants at strangers about their views on politics yet does not do any kind of activism or ever contribute to any real life debates, nor does he support any charities.... Although if you asked him you'd think he donated his entire net worth to charity monthly and was single handedly responsible for every political march and strike since 1970.... hmm

I've never actually heard my mum share an opinion on anything, that's wrong isnt it? It's down to really simple things like whether or not she enjoys something, she won't share unless explicitly asked.

He tries to convince her she's losing her marbles in her old age (she's only 63 and COMPLETELY with it). Like if she misplaces something it becomes a huge deal or if she puts something away and he doesnt know where she's put it, he can strop about it for days and days because "she wont accept she doesn't know what she's doing". My nan (mums mum) has dementia and he often comments "You're going the same way"

Since she retired, my mum barely spends a single minute in the house if she can help it. She's got an activity of some description to do every single day and is very involved with the local community. They rarely do anything together and Dad (also retired) takes very little interest in anything that she does, unless there's a chance for him to show off by going with her. For example, she plays music with a local band for retired people but Dad thinks he's the better musician, so when he goes along mum says she spends the whole time cringing as he shows off and talks down to all the other players. She finds his company around other people excruciatingly embarrassing. So do I!

I've only really discovered my mum has a personality since I moved out of the house and started meeting up with mum without dad for walks and things. We get on really well but while I was at home with them I never remember my mum ever enjoying anything or really talking to us about her life/ day/ opinions and feelings. She's always been a bit socially awkward (something I've inherited!), more shy than anything and has relied on Dad to make friends etc for the both of them. Since she retired though she now has her own friendship group and loves them all to bits, but Dad spends a lot of time sharing his opinion about them all being "a bunch of old dears"....

I remember some vicious fights and arguments when we were kids and thought this was normal until I met my DP, and his family don't argue like mine did. I very clearly remember one night hearing my dad call mum a "silly bitch" through the bedroom wall, I must have been about 7 or 8 but I've always remembered it.

I don't think he's ever been physically violent because when I was 15 I said to my mum that she should leave him, but she defended him and I got a bollocking for suggesting it. Her main defense of him was "he's never hit me or you!" hmm

My sister went off the rails as a teen and never really pulled herself back, she's maintained for years that Dad is a bully but I've never really seen it or listened to her, mainly because my parents have always told me she's "troubled" and "a black sheep". We're all still in contact and since mum retired my sister has come back into the fold a lot more. We are closer now but it can still be strained.

We are all amicable and talk a lot, there's no daily struggles between the family or anything... but I'm starting to think my mum has been brave facing her entire life and we as kids were none the wiser? It's starting to become really difficult to communicate with my Dad, DP says I'm "stiff" around him and cold. I find I have no affection for my Dad really and struggle to converse with him without becoming anxious. I haven't aired my thoughts to DP yet and haven't put this into words before.

Thanks for reading, I'm not sure what I'm after here, has my dad been abusing my mum for 35 years? If he has, how do I process that?

AnyFucker Mon 25-Apr-16 16:48:37

Yep, sorry

My dad has been abusing my mum for more than 50 years.

Arfarfanarf Mon 25-Apr-16 16:52:34

It certainly sounds like it.
Your poor mum.
What an awful way to live.

picklypopcorn Mon 25-Apr-16 16:52:39


Huh... well that's kind of that then isn't it? How do you come to terms with it? Did you talk to your mum? did it help? Are you in contact with your Dad?

SmallBee Mon 25-Apr-16 16:53:19

It doesn't sound very good does it.

Have you tried talking about it with your Mum when it's the two of you?

picklypopcorn Mon 25-Apr-16 16:58:47


I'm not entirely sure, certainly not recently no. I remember just before I did my GCSE's though that I told her not to stay with him because of me and my sister. I've told her I think he's horrible to her but she usually brushes off the comment with a "oh well it's just him!" sort of comment confused I almost don't feel qualified or armed with the right information to challenge her on it if that makes sense? It's their marriage afterall and as a child of that marriage I guess I don't see everything?

DippyHippy2016 Mon 25-Apr-16 17:01:36

Didn't want to read and run. Have you tried to talk to your mum about it since noticing? I'm guessing not as you would've mentioned it in your OP but you could do and support your DM if she decides to leave? Best of luck!

Marchate Mon 25-Apr-16 17:05:52

She has acted as a woman of her (and my) generation would. We grew up enlightened enough to recognise that physical violence was a reason to leave. Not enlightened enough to spot other types of abuse. It was the 'wife batterer' we feared. The other monsters got away with extreme cruelty if they kept their fists to themselves, sadly. I guess they still do

BlossomCat Mon 25-Apr-16 17:09:49

Yes, your Dad sounds like a bully.

Lottapianos Mon 25-Apr-16 17:10:04

Yes OP, he sounds highly abusive and their relationship sounds extremely unhealthy. Whatever sort of family you grow up in, it seems 'normal' to you because its all you've known. Its very unsettling when you realise as an adult that all is definitely well in your birth family.

It sounds like your mother is also seeing it as 'normal', probably because she's lived with it for decades now. Very sad indeed. My MIL has a similar situation with nasty and overbearing FIL but hates him for it and certainly doesn't make excuses for him. I don't know which is worse actually for the children of the marriage. Either way, these people are adults and if your mother won't entertain any conversations about his behaviour, I don't know that theres anything you can do. I'm so sorry though OP, its terribly sad to watch

DoreenLethal Mon 25-Apr-16 17:13:58

I don't think you are both socially awkward, you have just been brought up/living with a complete abuser for years.

SeventyNineBottlesOfWine Mon 25-Apr-16 17:15:32

Op my parents are similar I feel.

My Mum would then often take her frustration out on me.

As a child I spent years walking on eggshells so as not to upset him. He had an explosive temper and could be incredibly hurtful when he wanted to be.

I have spoken to my Mum about it before. She blames herself and says she should have laid boundaries when they first got together but now seems resigned to allowing herself to be treated like that.

Sometimes she will deny it's as bad as it is, other times she accepts it but blames it on his character.

He also likes to feel superior and will call my Mum stupid and an idiot if they have a differing opinion. He'll blame her for his mistakes by saying "Well you should have......"

Unfortunately I have no advice to give on how you can deal with this. I just wanted to let you know I understand.

AnyFucker Mon 25-Apr-16 17:25:24

I have watched my mum put up with verbal abuse all my life

My mum is medicated to get her through the day

I stay in low contact with her for her sake. I deliberately visit when I know he is not around. I am civil with him when I cannot avoid it eg Xmas and birthdays.

She left him once years ago and got her own little rented house. He enticed her back because the house was a mess and he bought her a kitten.

I have told her I don't want contact with him, I don't want to "sort anything out" with him before he dies (they are both in their 70's) and that the way he also treated me throughout my childhood means I cannot ever forgive him

She tells me he is "mellowing" now. Too little, too late.

I am sorry, op. It's a horrible feeling to think how much better things could and should have been.

FuriousFate Mon 25-Apr-16 17:38:18

He is definitely abusing her. I agree that in some ways, it is a generational thing. Can you help her now? Get her reading Mumsnet? Encourage her to leave him? She could have another 30 or so years of an amazing life, her choice of life, if she could only see that the way he treats her isn't normal. It's tough though as I imagine she's so conditioned by him that she can't see the wood for the trees. flowers

Just wanted to say that a lot of your post resonated - I also remember going to a boyfriend from uni's house and being shocked that no one shouted. As in, calm and polite discussion was the norm. Who knew?!

FuriousFate Mon 25-Apr-16 17:40:51

Any flowers for you too. I hate the whole 'sort things out before they pass' line. What happens if you don't want to? What happens if what happened in the past is beyond 'sorting'? My DM is very fond of saying things like 'he was still your dad' and 'I'm still your mum', as though that trumps all. Erm, no.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 25-Apr-16 17:48:12

Sorry but your sister is correct. Your dad has been emotionally abusing your mother for the entire length of their marriage (and likely before that as well). Your mother has stayed with this man for her own reasons and out of fear of him too.

She has created a life outside of him for her own self and remains married to him again for her own reasons, perhaps "respectability" and the notion that abuse is only ever physical in nature.

She will not change her position and it probably got drummed into her years ago by her own parents that "marriage is for life" or "you've made your bed" nonsense. This is her life now for the rest of her days.

I would not be at all inclined to see either of them to be honest with you.

ImperialBlether Mon 25-Apr-16 17:56:28

OP, when you were writing all that out, did you find it became clear that your dad was abusing your mum? It seemed as though you snapped at AF - undeservedly, in my opinion - were you angry when you'd finished typing it out? It can be very hard to come to terms with.

picklypopcorn Mon 25-Apr-16 18:24:35

Yeah I was angry, still am a bit generally and yes it became clear as I was writing that it isn't right.

The day my grandad (mums dad) passed away, we went round to see mum, and dad grabbed my DP to show off about something he'd bought, mum said it was inappropriate and wanted to be a family together and dad went nuts at her... She was grieving and we all (dp, me, sister) all told dad how far out of line he was. He didn't speak to us until the funeral 10 days later confused. He spent the funeral talking about the death of his brother (5 years ago) and saying how tight with money my grandad had always been... It was really inappropriate and just weird.

The more I think, the more examples of this i can find sad

I never want to cut contact with my lovely mum, she's done nothing wrong and i want her to have us there to help her somehow?

It's just dad, I'm not sure how to feel?

blinkyoullmissit Mon 25-Apr-16 18:28:30

Very very unfortunately it took my DP, myself and his family for his mum to die to realise his dad had been manipulative, controlling and abusive all through their relationship.

franke Mon 25-Apr-16 18:41:07

Despite her situation, your mother has built herself a strong circle of friends outside the home, away from your father. It may be that they continue to drift apart and live separate lives in the future. Or she may even find the strength to leave him eventually. I don't really see what you can do other than be the supportive daughter that you're being. Urging her to confront ugly truths about her life may only push her away.

AnyFucker Mon 25-Apr-16 18:47:01

Op, when I asked my mother why she stays even though he belittles and verbally abuses her and did the same to his kids while we were living there, she just shrugs and says she "loves him"

There isn't much of an answer to that. I can see you love your mum and are probably very conflicted about how she chose to stay with an abuser

Personally, there is a lot I also can't forgive my mum for too. She had the chance to get her kids away. She acknowledges our childhood was blighted by his behaviour and his actions but she stayed because she loved him

That's a tough pill to swallow.

Badders123 Mon 25-Apr-16 18:52:52

Have you ever asked your mum - If she became reliant on your dad - God forbid - if she became ill or disabled and not able to leave the house - what then?
Has she given that any thought?
I have seen first hand the abuse a "carer" can dole out sad

AnyFucker Mon 25-Apr-16 18:55:32

And conversely, imagine doing the caring for a spouse that has treated you like shit all your married life

Wiping the arse of a man like him ? <shudder>

LifeBeginsNow Mon 25-Apr-16 19:09:03

We've all been there too. No physical abuse (although I did walk in on a situation once which I'm sure was either leading to something physical or it had just happened).
I feel a little messed up from years of this emotional abuse and didn't leave home until I was quite old as I was worried about leaving mum. She bore the brunt of it and it really was no life at all. Struggling for money (he was an alcoholic too) so that she never bought anything nice for herself and felt bad about what we went without. Endless lectures about whatever had just been on the news (usually immigration was his big concern. Not that he ever really went out of the house). My mum didn't have an opinion on anything either as she knew it was better to just sit there and shut up hoping that he'd pass out drunk at some point.
As I got older I tried to stand up for myself but it lead to some horrendous situations (soaking my mattress with water so I couldn't sleep on it. Putting a hammer through my tv - that was a horrible thing to walk in and see). I tried to pour the drink away but just knew it would escalate so I rarely did anything but hide in my room or if I was in the firing line, just sit there and nod.
In the end mum had to get a job as he wasn't capable of running his business. This lead to more tension as he didn't like her being away from home. She loved it, although she always worried about what mood he would be in when she got back.
In the end it took his death to free us all. As upsetting as it was at the time, I think we are all a lot better off. Mum has a new lease of life and we don't live under a black cloud. I'm glad he wasn't at my wedding (he'd have got drunk and sulked) but I am a little sad he won't see my son. It feels like a waste of a life to go through that much rage and depression for so long but there was just no helping him. If he was still here, I would have moved mum out and built her confidence up. I hope your mum soon sees what's happening, but for the meantime, take comfort that she has hobbies and new friends. Her confidence will build and perhaps she'll see the light.

Badders123 Mon 25-Apr-16 19:31:31

AF- quite

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