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How can I interact healthily with my parents as an adult (toxic family)

(15 Posts)
totallycleverusername Wed 06-Jul-16 20:45:54

To make a long story short, my childhood wasn't the best. It wasn't the worst either, but my parents had trouble treating me with respect. In fact they continued to behave disrespectfully and like I didn't have boundaries until I got enough as an adult and started to very seldomly see them.
It's been a while now, and at least one of them seem to be behaving better these days. I'd like to see them again.
Now - how can I possibly do that without a) become triggered, anxious and nauseous like last time and b) turn into a child again mentally?
I wish it was possible to keep it light and be an adult interacting with her parents in an okay way. They have good sides, too. And they're family.

Can someone relate? Any advice?

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 06-Jul-16 21:00:58

Totally,

re your comment:-
"It's been a while now, and at least one of them seem to be behaving better these days. I'd like to see them again.
Now - how can I possibly do that without a) become triggered, anxious and nauseous like last time and b) turn into a child again mentally?"

Short answer is you can't. They won't let you either.

What was your childhood like at the hands of these people?. You lowered your contact with them for very good reasons.

Why do you want to see them again given their past behaviours; such people do not change. What do you want to achieve from meeting them?. A heartfelt meant apology or their acknowledgement of wrong doings; you will not receive either.

What "good sides" do they have?. Is that solely their public face they want to show to the outside world?. They being family also is simply not a good enough reason to see them, particularly if they have the ability to make you triggered, anxious and nauseous.

I would read the "you cannot communicate with batshit" and "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages.

pallasathena Wed 06-Jul-16 21:35:52

Yes you can overcome those fears by setting clear boundaries. Don't complain and never explain, because in doing so you give away your power.

Be assertive, believe in yourself and congratulations for overcoming some serious barriers in life. If you go into a reconciliation with a clear idea of your expectations and personal boundaries intact, things could very likely change for the better.

And if they don't, at least you've tried.

totallycleverusername Wed 06-Jul-16 21:59:30

Thanks for replies -

Attila -
My childhood at their hands? They never beat me, they gave me food and clothes and toys etc. They seemed to do their best and care about me. At the same time the love and interaction aspect was umm…weird.

My father; everything is about him and others should just go along with what he wants. No questions asked, just orders. Might rage if you have a problem with his behavious and also do something minor he dislikes, like being a little late. He can be very nice and funny if no problems occur. I really cut down on contact with them after I had read some emotionally abusive behaviour check list and saw how he used just about all of them on me when angry. Ranting, blaming, never saying sorry. Again this is only one side of him, but still a side. My mother had serious issues with anxiety and didn’t seem to know how to emotionally interact with her child properly, problem with closeness. It’s a bit hard to describe. Overbearing and distant at same time. But also well-meaning and caring. She has been contacting me recently and has been nice and ”normal”. That makes me hope some kind of good interaction would be possible. But it’s also so awkward because it is hard for me to imagine a normal type of parent and adult child relationship with her. Whatever normal is. I mean how do normal familes interact? Lol. I do think they do not get anxious and angry and so on when they meet.

They’ve previously been treating me like I’m so young and not a capable adult and like I should just be available to them whenever - but I have also been part of the problem since I’ve felt stuck like that with them. Felt like a kid.

Why do I want to see them? Because they’re family and have their nice sides I wish for some sort of okay relationship….
it feels sad and unneccesary to avoid them if they can behave? It’s my parents. I haven’t managed to create a family of my own yet so it’s them.

I'm not expecting apologies, just want some to meet them without drama or feeling crap.

pallasathena
-Don't complain and never explain, because in doing so you give away your power.

Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean here?

springydaffs Wed 06-Jul-16 23:29:31

Don't expect anything. Keep your expectations at zero.

Not easy to pull off. in my case I've had years of therapy, done lot of courses (still do), read lots of books. I'm not of the opinion, as many on MN jump to, that because our parents gave us a hard time that NC is the automatic recourse. It's not called the nuclear option for nothing and can be disproportionate ie can cause awesome, and longstanding, pain. Two wrongs and all that...

However, if parents are 100% toxic then, yes, NC is the only recourse without question. But, like your parents, my parents aren't 100% toxic. My parents are very damaged, therefore damaging, people. They have no idea how much damage they have caused - they are also incapable of recognising, or accepting, the damage they've caused. In order to accept any of the damage they've caused they'd have to face the damage done to them. They are incapable of that for a variety of reasons, a lot understandable and justified.

It's taken so long to get to this point. I keep control of all contact - for a long time I didn't stay long, sometimes 5 minutes. I don't get upset because that just opens me up to more damage; if I am beginning to feel even vaguely triggered, I leave. I don't tell them why I'm leaving, I lie. I keep everything as level as possible - for my sake.

imo they will want to see you, to see you're alive and 'ok' and to have some general updates. They are incapable of anything more than that. If you're having a hard time don't tell them - it will open you up to more pain and damage. Give them completely sanitised updates - lie if you have to.

In short, don't expect them to be the parents you want and deserve. They clearly aren't that. It takes a long time to accept that - and to accept them.

wobblywonderwoman Wed 06-Jul-16 23:32:17

Springydaff...your post strikes such a chord with me

Imbroglio Wed 06-Jul-16 23:35:09

Do you mind my asking how old you are (roughly!) and whether you have your own family?

Whether you can have a relationship going forward depends on a lot of things. It's possible to rub along with people who have very different views and who have parented differently from how you would parent your own children, though it might always be a matter of keeping visits short and limiting phone calls etc.

Lots of people find it helpful to have some counselling to help you to get past some of the stuff that being with your parents throws up for you.

springydaffs Wed 06-Jul-16 23:51:56

we need to stick together eh wobbly!

I do need to add that I am very hot on boundaries - thanks to courses and books ... and practise. I won't accept being shouted at eg. If that happens, I leave - I don't shout back or strop. I may say something completely to the point (without getting upset or sharp) but it's what I do not what I say that has the most impact: they want to see me, however briefly, and they've got the drift that I won't stay if I'm not happy about what's happening. In that sense, I'm the one with the power - which I refuse to abuse.

Aussiebean Thu 07-Jul-16 06:05:27

Keep all conversation centred on them. How are they doing? What do they think about something in the paper.

Tell them nothing about yourself. Life from now on is fine. Everyone is fine.

Don't ask for advice (unless you know what they are going to say and are happy to do it) any big decisions should be shared once done and irreversible. That is if you feel like you have to tell them. Ie moving. Most other things don't tell them.

If they start talking out something that upsets you, tell them and say you will leave if they don't stop. Then follow through. Hopefully this won't happen much if you focus all there attention on themselves.

Good luck

springydaffs Thu 07-Jul-16 06:31:11

That's it exactly Aussie.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 07-Jul-16 07:39:33

"Why do I want to see them? Because they’re family and have their nice sides I wish for some sort of okay relationship….
it feels sad and unneccesary to avoid them if they can behave? It’s my parents. I haven’t managed to create a family of my own yet so it’s them.

I'm not expecting apologies, just want some to meet them without drama or feeling crap".

I will tell you now that will not happen because they are not built that way. They will also not apologise and they cannot as people behave decently towards you. It is not your fault they are like this. Both your parents are emotionally damaged; it is likely that their own families of origin did that to them. "Because they are family" also is simply not a good enough reason to see them. Your mother failed to protect you from your dad when you were growing up; she has stayed with this man for her own reasons. They are and will never be the nice people you still so want them to be, you are going to have to let that thought go. You probably still want their approval too.

If you still want a relationship with them at all then you will have to accept nothing from them because they will really give you nothing here. They are not interested, as springey rightly states it will become sanitised updates and no real info on your life. If you do go onto have children it will be very similar for them also, I would keep any children you do go onto have well away from your parents.

Do not expect anything from them and keep your expectations at zero (that is also pretty much par for how life is within any toxic family structure as well). That's no life for you though.

What boundaries do you have with regards to your parents?. It may be very difficult to achieve these to start with mainly because you've been actively encouraged by your parents not to have any or to assert yourself in any way. The relationship with you and your parents (particularly with your domineering and emotionally abusive dad who demands compliance at all times) was and is all on their terms; controlling behaviour like they have shown is abusive behaviour. They still think you are incapable even though you are an adult with your own life and thoughts. Speaking to a therapist may well help you in that regard; it is a long process and one which a lot of people need outside support with.

Again what nice sides do they have?. They may well have given you material stuff but emotionally they gave you zip and left you with a whole raft of emotional spaghetti head that you now need to untangle. You were not put on this earth to be continually abused by the very people who were supposed to love and cherish you the most. They have used you instead as the scapegoat for all their inherent ills. You would not have tolerated such treatment from a friend, family are no different.

springydaffs Thu 07-Jul-16 10:22:47

Family ARE different. imo.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 07-Jul-16 12:20:36

No they're not springeydaffs, they are no different from other people in terms of how a person should be treated. Why should toxic behaviour be at all tolerated just because these people are "family" Family are not binding.

Sometimes “family” simply means that you share a bloodline. That’s all.

springydaffs Thu 07-Jul-16 14:57:33

iyo, Attila.

I agree that no-one should tolerate abusive behaviour, regardless who is dishing it out. That doesn't necessarily mean NC. It is a very grave step to take because of the often decimating pain for, especially, the parent who is cut off. Imo it should be the very, very last resort. We are discussing here how to manage a toxic family dynamic. Sometimes - rarely imo - there is nothing for it but NC; however, the majority can perhaps try to find a way. It is costly... but NC isn't always a piece of cake, either. Despite the hype.

If I cut my mother off it would kill her - I'm not exaggerating, she's very old. If she wasn't old I would be handing her tremendous agony if I cut her off. Yes, she made some awful mistakes but she is a very disordered, damaged woman and she loves me... but in a hopelessly disordered way. I'm not going to punish her for that - it's my job to sort out my shit. I'm an adult. My job is to protect myself when I KNOW what they're like.

I sometimes wonder how the NC brigade would fair if their kids did it to them. 'That wouldn't happen to me! I'm a good parent!' would no doubt be the response. To that I'd say 'think again'. No parent is perfect and with NC trending across the globe it makes it much more likely than in the past.

665TheNeighbourOfTheBeast Thu 07-Jul-16 16:52:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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