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Feeling stifled by parents 'love' - need to set firm boundaries. LONG!!(80 Posts)
I don't really know where to start with this as there is a lot of background but I shall give it a go.
I am at a point in my adult life whereby I have finally snapped and realised that I need to establish some strong boundaries for my parents (and possibly whole family) otherwise my emotional well being will suffer. They have always been generous, loving parents who would drop everything to help me if needed. I have always had the unsettling feeling that they live their lives through their offspring (now all in our 30s) and I don't see how this is a healthy dynamic for anyone involved. Despite being the oldest, my parents have always been more relaxed with their rules for my brother and sister. I still feel that I am expected to tow the line. I always consider their feelings in everything I do, which is crazy! I am my own person but I can't seem to gain the independence that I crave.
There is a lot of background to this but briefly, I left my exH over four years ago due to EA, I was at a real low point emotionally and suffered terrible anxiety. I worked hard to rebuild my life and my confidence and following a 2yr course of citalopram (which I've been off for 18m) and two courses of counselling, I better understand myself and have been feeling stronger than ever for well over a year. I'm in a great relationship and have a job which I enjoy. DD is happy and I am so proud of her. On the outside it looks like I have a fabulous relationship with my family but it is just stifling. People always comment on how close we are but the truth is we a much to close. We have a facebook messaging group ffs! I never meant to settle in my home town but we are here and so the only way to create some distance with my family is to set some firm boundaries. I know what needs to be done but I feel so guilty about hurting my parents feelings. I feel like a pathetic child right now!
During my counselling I confided that I found my parents to be controlling and stifling and my counselor told me these are really strong words. I was so confused that I had ended up with an EA man but delving a little deeper I realised that DF (who can be incredibly engaging and lovely most of the time) has at times displayed these characteristics to my DM. At that time he was making her miserable but they've since worked it out. He can be controlling and this past year I have realised that he tries to manipulate me on all of my decisions.... everything from how to maintain my garden to my fertility! And I know he is aware he is doing it, I just don't think that he's realised that I am now aware of it too. My mother is excellent at laying on the guilt to the point where she practically pleads with me to do things her way. They are not constantly like this, they also dish out the praise... a little OTT sometimes. This is lacking a lot of detail but I just want to give an overview without losing anyone!
I am aware of my own faults in all of this. They are very involved with DD and she adores them. I do speak with them too often, mainly updates on DD, and I realise I depend on them emotionally. The thing is I often come away from our conversation feeling guilty or stressed. A bit like a child who hasn't had the opportunity to explain themselves properly! I am a classic people pleaser but it's gone too far for too long.
My sister can be a real b@tch. She has done some really rotten things to me in the past, like sabotage important life events, humiliated me in front of my friends and lectured me on my life choices.... "you are still in rented accommodation because of your poor life choices not because you were in an EA marriage and had to start again" was a classic! My friends and DP don't like her and don't understand why I keep in touch. I do it because my parents have literally pleaded with me "it's so important that sisters are friends, please get on with her it's so important for you and for us that you get along. If you don't get on it will break our hearts. We've invested too much.... I've been losing sleep over this." My counselor explained we are opposite people and I relayed this to my mother but to no avail. She seems to be in cahoots with them at the mo, which is not the status quo as she has really hurt them in the past. It's her talent!
My brother has just returned from a year away... literally turned up with his wife on parents doorstep one afternoon while everyone thought they were still on the other side of the planet!? I've spoken with him a couple of times since, in attempt to arrange to meet up and I was told "I'm busy for the next week pretend I'm not here!" It was a bit abrupt but I respected his wishes. The next night my sister and her family were round my parents with my brother and his wife for a BBQ that my family wasn't invited to. Without going into details (this is already an essay) it was clearly orchestrated by my sister to leave me out. I'm used to her doing this but I've always been close to my brother so this one hurt. God this seems so petty!
I expressed my feelings that my family should have been invited us and clearly that was a mistake because I've gone against the tribe! DB and DS haven't spoken with me and I received an incredibly patronising and manipulative email from parents demanding an apology. So far this seems incredibly petty but I'll now get to the point...
I am involved in a very serious court case at the moment. It's been going on for a year. I stopped contact between DD and ex-H as her behaviour became increasingly challenging and she seemed drained and emotionally exhausted for days following contact. Aware of exH's EA and MH issues I don't take chances. At this time his then Girlf contacted me (we had met once) for help as he was abusing her and she was scared. She needed advice. She contacted the police. It was very serious harassment and manipulation. I took DD to GP to see nurse for check over due to concerns over EA and she had an infection down below. Nurse told me she had been sexually abused. This is a parents worst nightmare. We were referred to SS and DP (my rock) and I stayed strong and did what we had to do. Of course I updated my parents and eventually sis and bro. Parents have been supportive but it's been hard on them. ExH took me to court over contact, we've been battling it out since last summer. I was advised to drop allegations of sexual harm due to lack of evidence (non of the professionals were willing to provide statements), which I did but I haven't dropped allegations of EA. They now have contact supported by family. It's a very complex case and been incredibly testing but I have managed to stay strong (I've had my wobbles) and maintain stability for DD. Throughout the process I have continued to feel undermined by my parents need to take over to the point where they are adding stress. We have the penultimate hearing this week, the other side are asking for unsupervised overnights. I told my parents I am contesting the cafcass report, applying for a full psychological analysis and hiring a barrister for the final hearing. They know money is tight due to legal fees. The email they sent told me they expected an apology for the other day, that I shouldn't take my stress out on those who love me unconditionally and they are going to provide "a little bit of money to secure the best future for DD. We will cover the cost of everything." That's thousands of pounds, not a little bit of money. I was fuming! I didn't ask for money and they know it's my archilies heal.
They sent me another message the following day asking if DD and I wanted to stay over. I replied that I needed some space. They then sent further messages at 1am (they stay up drinking most nights and get themselves worked up about all sorts of issues) demanding information that they could have googled themselves. They then told me they are going to pay for Barrister. "You don't have that kind of money." I thanked them for their offer but told them I couldn't accept. They told me they wanted to help. I told them "Don't worry, I am handling it". "Don't push us away!" It's just too much. Why can't they just give me some space.
This probably doesn't make them seem as bad as I feel that they are. They are stifling me at a point in my life where I very much need to act like a grown up. How do I get them to understand this? I'm at breaking point with our relationship but don't want to hurt them.
Nothing sensible to say, but the sound horrific
I think the incident with your brother was astoundingly shitty.
Stop trying to be fair. They aren't.
Don't want to read this and run. Cut all contact if you can it's not worth the stress. If you must have contact, limit the information they have, stick to short sharp statements and just repeat. ie thank you but no - not needed. Keep strong.
Are you the family scapegoat? If so, which of your siblings is the golden child, is it your sister? I think you are right about needing boundaries. Its a shame you are having to deal with two such big issues at once.
i'd go nc with all of them and get on with your life with dd move away if you can, live in a tent if you have to. build yourself esteem and start to day towards a guilt free and happier life.you deserve it.
Thank you all... I needed that! I've been wondering if I am the problem.
I suppose I could be the scapegoat. My brother can do no wrong (despite some shocking behaviour in the past) and my sister has done everything 'the right way'.
I wouldn't want to cut all ties.
Just wanted to add my support and hope you can detach yourself from some of this. Can you remove yourself from the FB group and blame a technical hitch? Or say your account was hacked?
I especially empathise because I am embroiled in a long, difficult and draining legal case which is nothing like as awful as yours ( still very awful) and I have learned to be extremely sparing with information. My dh and a couple of very close friends get chapter and verse and some get brief sporadic updates ( if they ask). Some, even very close family seem to have forgotten or are very dismissive and I shut them down if it ever comes up. My MIL has said some astoundingly stupid things and is only interested in the size of any financial settlement. So she gets the bare minimum.
Sorry for derailing. Lower the contact, concentrate on any good things in your life and sometimes friends are better than family.
Matilda, sorry that you are also going through a difficult court case I agree that providing highly edited information us the way forward.
They can't leave me alone! I've just had some missed calls and messages. Grrr.
"Are you the family scapegoat? If so, which of your siblings is the golden child, is it your sister?"
Those were my initial thoughts as well. If I were you I'd read up on personality disorders. Even if your parents/siblings don't have full blown disorders, the advice about managing people with them and the roles in families that they create will still be very helpful. I highly recommend the outofthefog.net web site. It's very eye-opening.
OP from now on you and your little family are going to be busy. Very, very busy. Much too busy to answer phone calls or emails.
I know what my answer would be to their demand for an apology but that might cause all ties to sever completely. How about "Apologise? For what? For being upset at being excluded from a family BBQ after brother has been abroad for so long? Quite frankly, I think any apology should be coming the other way."
Fully expect the ties that bind to get tighter by the minute. They're desperate to reel you back in. The offer of money is very persuasive. As if that would fix everything. Well, no it won't, it would make everything much, much worse. You're very wise for politely declining it
I come from a similar family, I'm also the eldest and a held to a far higher account than my siblings, who can do no wrong. I have limited contact with them now, which still feels liberating and surreal as they were here daily. I think it's doing us both good.
If I were you I'd try to separate the legal case from the relationship issue. You seem in no doubt of the mutual love they and your daughter have, so accept the money for the legal stuff and tell yourself you're doing this on her behalf.
That will give you a sense of control and you can be secure you're getting your child the best legal representation too.
Puff, I've heard of FOG but didn't realise it was in relation to personality disorders. I doubt anyone in my family has one but I've often wondered if exH does.
Bitter that's a great response! I may use it. And yes, DM hasn't left me alone all evening. She's just sent a msg saying I love you.... full on guilt trip! I feel so bad but I really can't face her. DS has sent a fake sympathetic text saying she has heard from DM I've had a crap few weeks but oh there's nothing she can do to change that. It was quite bizarre. It's tempting to ask her what she's referring to. It's like we're on different planets.
Laura I really can't accept their money as it would give them more control. I have time and the means to sort out funds. It's so important that they can't feel empowered over me, I have to be strong.
Thank you so much for the replies, it's really helping.
Are you sure it would actually give them more control? Or would it just add to your FOG?
I'm wondering if they could simply settle the invoices and you make the decisions? I know that's easy for me to say, but at this crucial juncture, don't cut your nose off to spite your face.
The way the email was worded... apologise and we'll relieve your financial pressure.
So no (to be polite).
I won't be manipulated anymore. That is the issue, not the money.
That sounds horrific dreadful really dreadful. I second taking the money esp for a barrister for your daughters future. If you don't win due to legal representation and your EX gets unsupervised overnights you would never forgive yourself. Personally I try to would separate your family dynamic from your legal one and then after the court case with a positive outcome get some more therapy around your families terrible behaviours (s) I wish you luck
I hear you. But if the money isn't the issue, make the right noises and take it anyway to keep your girl safe. This hill isn't the one to die on right now.
I can manage my money to afford the legal costs. I don't need their money but it will be a struggle. DP and I totally accept that. I would never, ever take any action (or inaction) to jeapordise the chance of winning the best possible outcome for DD. We have already spent thousands and have agreed that we will keep going until she is 18 if necessary. Please don't confuse the issues! In fact my parents already understand my position on this as I have told then previously.
I just feel so sad now that my family dynamic is so unhealthy and it took an EA marriage to figure it out. I also feel guilty for not replying to my mum but I did ask for space just yesterday. I'm very conflicted emotionally.
Your message reminded me of two of my best friends' families. They are both the oldest girl in the family with a younger brother and sister.
It's not that your parents have bad intentions towards you, it's that everyone is used to you taking the flack (being the scapegoat.) If it's a pattern established from when you were a very young child, nobody, especially your parents, give much thought now to treating you in exactly the way you've always been treated: IE that you don't normally kick up a fuss when excluded/boundaries busted, so they will just carry on doing it for an easy life. They've got you all where they want you. Nice and controlled. With everyone in their roles, and then at the centre of things.
Your bro and sis have picked up on it from your parents and so it continues.
It's unfortunate as it could have just been created by you being less assertive as a child or more willing to compromise for the sake of more dominant people.
Try and change your role. Assume the same rights as everyone else. Their reaction to that will tell you whether you come from a close family or a toxic family.
And sorry to hear about your twat of an ex. That's going to get you down and make you even less assertive. Your parents are subtly given you the message that you/your life creates problems. That's not true.
You're going through a lot, I hope you can create some distance. I relate to a lot here. I'm the oldest and my parents are well-meaning and generous but they can't fathom that I can make decisions that they wouldn't have made and that that's ok, not 'awkward'. At lunch today I listened to my brother tell the parents that they were good parents. Well, my self esteem was in the gutter and I ended up with an abusive man! I know that that is not their fault and that upset them, but they used to tell me how I felt.
I have been trying to erect boundaries too. My parents let themselves in and out of my house all the time. They offer to pay for something my son needs and it's hard to say no, but then, if I'm not grateful enough they'll say I'm being awkward, and the way to correctly show gratitude is for me to do what they want me to do. They have upset me so much in the past but always make me feel bad about having upset them. I discuss things too much. I try to put forward a case for doing something, or not doing it. I've got to learn to just do what I want to do and not put forward a case to them for their approval and keep selling the idea. Just do what you're going to do and shrug if they keep trying to subtly (they think) manipulate you.
Also, the gp who told you that your dd had been sexually abused, can you not get it on record that your dd had an infection. I would not back down on that claim. EA is so hard to prove. I would be very reluctant to stop telling the truth. There may not be a LOT of proof but there will be some. If you can't prove the EA your xh may get residency. I think (and sorry to be another person doling out advice) including the sexual abuse is important to tell the full story. And if you're not believed and you don't win, at least in the future he'll know that it's on record that that allegation has been made.
I don't understand why your brother is being such an arse. How horrible to be excluded from the BBQ.
I am sure they will try to put the money into your bank account. They want to have the power and you are wise to recognise that. Can you open a new bank account and transfer things over?
Plan what information you are going to give them before you talk to them. Jot it down. Then stick to the plan. If they ask you afterwards why you didn't tell them, just say they have enough to be worried about without your concerns.
The phone calls and contact at 1am have got to stop - that's not even vaguely sociable!
Chanel my DF used to let himself into my house all the time but now we've moved in with DP it's stopped! What does that tell you? He went and got my keys cut and passed the the spares around the family! Did the same to my sis and her DH! I've never used hers, it's such an invasion of privacy! Needless to say the only people with keys for our home now are DP and me!
Just thinking through all the intrusions I've endured as the dutiful daughter. I must be crap at setting boundaries.
Anti I agree a plan is needed. I've ordered couple of self-help books for inspiration.
You're not crap at setting boundaries, you're just in a situation where others are crap at understanding boundaries. Now you recognise that, you can do something about it.
As Maya Angelou once said "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, you do better". Stop beating yourself up about your past - which is not your fault. Focus on the present and the future.
I have a similar relationship with my family, except that I'm the middle child and youngest dd. I'm definitely a people pleaser and my dm uses guilt to get her way, whereas my df used to use name calling and aggression to control. He's mellowed with age though.
Things were always my fault though. Still are, and nothing I do is ever good enough, yet I'm still trying to get their approval. They've never praised me and they've never said that they love me.
They used food as a reward/affection, so you can imagine the relationship that I have with food.
I'm sorry that I don't have any answers; I just wanted you to know that you're not alone. Also, you're doing an amazing job trying to protect your dd: keep keeping your focus on her and try to distance yourself from the rest of it.
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