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Parents- I have lost all sense of perspective and need collective MN wisdom(23 Posts)
This is going to be a long post...apologies...
The crux of the problem: my parents want me to visit them. I do not.
The wider reasons behind the problem: I left home at 18. Now in my mid 30's, my parents have never visited me. I have lived all over the world, and now live in a city about an hour and a half away from them and have done for the best part of 15 years. They have never seen any of the homes I lived in, met any of my friends, or traveled to see me. They are both able bodied and drive, and have access to transport. I went home in between terms when at Uni, and once I'd left, I went when I could afford it, and then as regularly as I could. I met my ex and took him to meet them. Neither side really liked each other, and were vocal about this, which made further meetings difficult, so they didn't happen. After 6 years, I broke up with the ex and parents were (surprisingly) very supportive. I last visited them about a year ago. Recently, a great surprise was to discover they were coming to 'my' city, yet didn't bother to tell me, or organise to meet up. I did manage to schedule some time off work to go and meet them, as a surprise.
The truth of the matter: I am convinced DM is narcissistic and DF very much her enabler. Neither has any social life, or friends. They live in their own little world, with just the two of them for company. They don't have any hobbies. I don't think they have a happy marriage, but would rather stay together and make each other miserable as it's 'what they know', rather than divorce. I am an only child, so no siblings for support. No other family. I find going home to be a depressing, upsetting experience that usually results in a train ride back in tears. We don't really ever do anything as a family, maybe a tedious day out somewhere boring (like a garden centre, my idea of hell), and we generally eat at separate times, in separate rooms, having separate meals. We don't really 'talk'. DF goes to the pub evening, DM watches TV by herself until she goes to bed about 9pm. I think they are both bored and lonely, and that's why they want me to visit. But when I do, I sit in my room, alone, as they are not really interested in interacting with me. I can't talk about the majority of my life as they have little to say about it or are very disinterested. If it's not about her, DM is very dismissive and belittling about it. She will look to find the negative in any situation. I am used to not telling them anything - if I tell them I went on holiday the first thing they will say is 'why didn't you visit us instead?'. I don't want to talk about my new bf as I strongly suspect my parents will be somewhat racist. I don't talk about work as 'why don't you give it up and come and work in our business and live at home?'. Neither has been in 'typical' working environment (i.e an office where you have to abide by HR rules and policies, annual leave quotas, where you can't just do what you want, but have performance reviews, and deadlines and pressure) for over 30 years or more. They have their own business, which they run how they want. I don't talk about friends as they don't know any of them, so there is no frame of reference. I also try to avoid the news as they can come out with quite bigoted views. If I talk about things I've seen or been to, I get blank looks and silence. As they rarely leave the house, and if they do it's a very small world- shops, library etc, they have nothing to talk about, or tell me about some neighbour I've never met. They live in an area which is not a place I grew up in, just somewhere they moved to a few years ago, so I don't know anyone. There is absolutely nothing to do, the most exciting things nearby are a post office and a phone box, maybe a cow or two. Deep countryside.
I am regularly, (several times a week, by phone/email/text message) harangued into coming home. Any problems I have are always ended with 'well...if you'd come home, we could talk about this' or 'this is your fault, if you'd come home we could have sorted this'. I get beleaguered text messages 'when are you coming home?'. I want to say "NEVER!". I feel like a library book they order but don't actually want to read, something they can recall at a moment's notice. I work a full time job, with not huge amounts of annual leave. If a problem kicks off on a Friday, then bang goes my weekend. I work around 8am-6pm, and its rare to get a lunch break. I eat a salad at my desk. If I offer to come home for the weekend, they say 'that's not enough time, there's no point in coming home just for 2 days'. But I don't want to use precious annual leave on what will be a miserable experience.
How I need MN help: I just don't know what to do about the endless demanding messages to 'go home'. I know that to make two parents happy, I could go. But it would make me very unhappy. I also know, from experience, it would not stop the demands. They would cease for a couple of days then start again. They will not be happy until I live at home. (Which will not happen). I have tried numerous ways of explaining why I don't want to go home. They seem to either 'not hear' or to ignore my explanations. I have tried being honest or forthright 'why can't we just speak on the phone? why do I have to go home?', which they ignore. I have tried explaining that I have small amounts of annual leave, which they conveniently forget. I have tried being vague 'oh, I don't know when I'll next go home'. I have tried reversing it 'well, I can't get time off work, but why don't you visit me as you've NEVER done that?' which they either ignore, or give some odd explanation for.
I have never done things like...go shopping for clothes or had a spa day with my DM. Or gone to an art gallery with them. Or had a holiday since I was 13 with them. All the things that other people seem to do with their parents.
So...what do I do? The thought of going home to make them makes me feel low, useless and depressed. I feel isolated and minimised at home. I feel like they are judgmental strangers. A few years ago DM casually told me that I was a 'mistake' baby, but once they had me 'they loved me'. I went to boarding school from 4-18 (with times of being a day girl), and hardly ever saw DF as he was always at work. When they describe me to other people, I don't recognise the version, as they seem proud. But when they are with me, I get the distinct impression I am a huge disappointment. But I can't put my finger on why, or what it is they would prefer me to do. I realise I have spent a lot of my life trying to please them, and I just can't do it anymore, which is why I don't tell them anything about my life. For example, I was recently honoured at work for something, and received written praise/comments from colleagues. Both parents' reaction was 'oh they must hate you, showing them up like that' or 'teachers pet'. If I send them a gift (mothers/fathers day/birthdays/xmas) it often goes unacknowledged. But if I forget their wedding anniversary (an event that took place before I was even born!), DM is perfectly capable of sending me to Coventry for months (which I find quite a relief, actually).
Please...what should I do? Thank you, grateful for any wisdom.
I just want to repeat this phrase back to you: 'I feel like a library book they order but don't actually want to read, something they can recall at a moment's notice''. In reading your post, to me it feels like this is the crux of the issue, you need to stop being that library book that is so easily picked up and put down again. You are their daughter love. You are their only daughter. Regardless of how your mum tells you you came into the world, you are their precious child If they can see that, you need to find a way to. Listen to your instincts, listen to the part of you that cries on the train after you see them, listen to why it hurts that what they say about you to other people doesn't ring true for you.
I write this out of some personal experience, but I feel like you need to strengthen your boundaries with them (which you clearly already have but perhaps there are some emotional boundaries that need to be more clearly defined) and find a way to support yourself, entirely independently of them. I wish you the very best of luck, and I wonder if you have ever had or considered any therapy that might be able to support you in a process where you seem so very isolated. But you are absolutely worth it, you are entitled to see your own intrinsic worth, even if they can't.
You will probably never please them - even if you went and lived with them they'd probably find things to pick on. And they're probably never going to change. I think all you can do is keep them very much at arm's length, see their silly games for what they are (and I think you already do) and refuse to play ball. You need to get your emotional support from elsewhere and accept the fact that they'll probably never be the 'normal' (is there such a thing?) parents that you wish they were.
I have never done things like...go shopping for clothes or had a spa day with my DM. Or gone to an art gallery with them. Or had a holiday since I was 13 with them. All the things that other people seem to do with their parents.
I've never done any of those things either. I don't think many people do this with their parents - I think they're the exception rather than the rule.
What you can do is learn from them how not to live your life and you can throw yourself into YOUR life and keep them at a distance. Be honest with yourself and when it comes to them - be selfish, in the best meaning of the word. Do as much as you want to and no more. You're not a bad person for not wanting to put up with their awful behaviour; and neither are you a strange person. There are a LOT of people on MN who have difficult relationships with their parents - you are definitely not alone. But you must look after yourself.
I'm sorry to hear you're suffering over this op. I have a very messed up family of origin (in my home country, far from where I am) who also spent years trying to get me to visit, and I've resisted and will continue to resist.
I realise I have spent a lot of my life trying to please them
I know you have. It comes through in your post loud and clear. If it helps you, you've my permission not to continue in this vein. You're an accomplished, successful, independent adult. You don't have to do ANYTHING that you don't want to do -- and you have NOTHING to prove to these people.
It's sad that they're unhappy but that has nothing whatsoever to do with you. You're the child, you're not responsible for them.
I have tried numerous ways of explaining why I don't want to go home.
This explaining thing - this is you still trying to please them. You can stop doing this, though. They don't need to understand and approve of your reasons for doing what you choose to do. You can just say No, or ignore requests to come home.
My advice (short of not seeing them ever again -- which, honestly, you're also allowed to do. I feel you're not ready to do that yet, though):
Set aside 30 mins a week. An innocuous time, say last thing on a Thursday night before bed, or first thing Sunday morning if you usually do something distracting and enjoyable for most of Sunday.
Set up their contact details on your phone and in your email to "silence" any communication from them. E.g., set up emails so they go to a hidden folder and you don't get an alert for them. Change settings on phone to remove alerts for their messages. Change FB/social media settings so that they can't message you - if they ask, you've had to for work reasons or similar (then change subject - again, you don't have to explain ANYTHING to them, and if you do, they don't have to approve of your reasons).
Use the 30 mins a week to check all messages from them. Now -- you've got to be disciplined when you do this. Skim the messages for action items, like you're looking at meeting minutes. Are there any task requests? (Actual tasks -- not attempts to emotionally manipulate you.) If yes, decide consciously how you're going to address each one, and draft a quick, friendly email with the info. If no, ignore.
This includes ALL appeals to emotion and duty. They keep appealing to your emotions and sense of duty because it works. You need to stop making that work for them.
You could even create a standard email template to send back to them, where you just fill in the blanks each week. No need to get embroiled in anything.
Bulk buy generic presents and cards for them every year on Boxing Day. Write all the cards and wrap and address all pressies in one day.
Plan 4-6 weekends a year when you will go up and see them, for 2 nights at a stretch. Tell them which weekends. They'll complain and try to manipulate. But you -- you don't explain anything. You just keep it light and polite and say, "If any of those don't work for you, let me know and I'll take them off the calendar." "It'll be two nights. Wish I could stay longer, work's so busy, such a shame!" etc.
It's so important for you to disentangle yourself from their emotional appeals. These people don't like you and make you feel shit. There is zero reason to keep engaging with them. It's like pouring energy into a black hole. They're never going to be the parents you deserve -- they're never going to make you feel good -- so you've got to just limit how much time and energy you spend on them.
Take care of yourself. Invest in yourself. Those weekends that you could have spent at theirs....? Spend them on yourself. Every human being needs love, support and understanding. You're not getting that from your parents, and you never will, so it's OK, even sensible, to give up trying.
You're an adult so you don't have to visit if you don't want to.
Attempting to diagnose them is unlikely to be helpful and unlikely to be accurate.
If it makes you unhappy seeing them, then don't go.
No is a complete sentence. Keep telling them that.
It's not 'home' if they've moved to a random area where you know no-one. I'd be going even more lc with them.
I am lost for words. I hope you get a lovely mother in law who will cherish you. I would say that if inheritance isan issue you might want to keep contact but in a boundaried way that protects your emotional wellbeing if that is possible. However you mght then be lining up older parent issues later.
You've had some great advice there OP, it's choking me so I think I needed to read it all too. You are worth so much more. I hope you can see that.
It's not your home, it's their home.
Ignore the bad stuff/arguments/texts/whatever, only go when you want to go and for how long you want to go.
I haven't stayed overnight at my parents' house since I left home, if I did it would be no more than one night any more would be intolerable.
Go if you want to, and stay only as long as you want. Visiting for the weekend a few times a year if far more than most adults I know would do, if your parents can't be happy with that then it's their problem
I don't know if this would work but you could tell them that from now on you would like to alternate visits with them - you visit them first - you then leave 'the ball in their court'. If they say anything, then you say it's their turn.
I wasted years of holidays being made to visit inlaws who found visiting us 'inconvenient' even though they had the time and ability. Don't fall into that trap, try and set some boundary about it - maybe plan some of your annual leave for something good so you genuinely have none left!
They sound like horrible manipulative, toxic people. It sounds like their relationship with you is so far removed from a typical, loving parent-child relationship, it would be best if you kept them very much at arms length. I bet you still feel desperate to please them and pander to their crazy requests (look up Fear, Obligation, Guilt) but I don't think you can ever hope for "normality" from them, sadly.
thestamp talks great sense. There's a book called Toxic Parents which might help you emotionally and practically when it comes to dealing with them. I really feel for you.
Thank you so much for your replies. Yes, I have tried therapy, I've tried a few different types and they keep giving me CBT, which I don't feel helps much. I have got the Toxic Parents book, and another one called 'Will I ever be good enough?', which are very helpful. I just keep hoping that one day they will be interested in me, but I don't think that day will ever come. And then I feel guilty because there are people out there with far bigger problems than 'my parents want me to come home'.
But you DO have a problem bigger than "my parents want me to come home", don't you? Don't minimise things! They don't want you to visit them because they love you and miss you (and if that really were the case, they would *visit you too*). They want to control you and assert that control at every opportunity. They're toxic.
Maybe tell them u have got a new phone number. Give them a false one and let them harp on to a poor unsuspecting random!! Don't feel bad that u don't want /need them in your life. I left my very odd mother behind some years ago and all it gave me was a sense of freedom.
Boarding at 4? 4? That's inhuman. Say no. Get talking counselling so you stop deep down expecting them to be proper caring parents. I speak from experience. Focus on you and your need to be happy, healthy and balanced.
I wish you hope.
Kardashianklone, I haven't, obviously, lived your life, but I know your script. You wrote a very long message to us, in which you disclosed a lot of personal information, and non of us have read it and thought that you are attention seeking or exaggerating. Own what you wrote, like JinkxMonsoon said, don't minimise it. Non of us are saying that other people don't have harrowing childhoods, but this is about YOU now. We are talking about you. We would like to try and support you. Your story reads of someone who deserved more.
My parents are odd too. Mother borderline / narcissist, dad enabler/ normal, still traumatised from their marriage and its breakdown (15y later)
Made me homeless before AS level for no reason for 4wk in order to sabotage exams
Secretly left my dad without telling him only telling 15y old sister stole the money & moved otherwise of contra for no reason
Never spoke to my dad again
Told me endless lies about my dad causing me to fall out with him & stop uni funding
She didn't find uni so ended up living in hostels after rent ran out doing finals
Moved to other side of country with her sister, 4y later secretly moved away and didn't tell sister. Then cut her off. Even when aunt had stroke wouldn't contact
Manipulated me Ito financing her since I was 24 & making her a paid housekeeper / childminder in my
All culminated in her starting 5 court applications over last year. 3 to get our 3 children aged 2-6 to stay overnight along with her for weekends and all holidays. Cost us £8k to defend
Attempted to bankrupt us due to obscure right on title deeds. Cost us £11k to defend
Get away while you can. I bent over backwards to accommodate a dM who has never ever said anything nice to me (lots cruel) and look where I am. Been 2y from hell
Just to say .. My MiL is wonderful. Had her since age 20. My real mother. So kind positive generous injuring. She married to lovely step dad. And my husbands dad is nice and normal and his step mum. My aunt is lovely too.
You will find other mother figures. Life will look after you. Watch and see. You cannot fix this. Accept it. Therapy and soon EMDR to erase trauma are helping me. PM if u like. I'm early 30s.
Nobody is perfect we all have our flaws
No family is perfect
I believe every family have their own rituals and quirks
Some families spent every weekend together and for them that is normal
Some families spent no time together and that is normal
Some families spend a little time together infrequently
I would suggest that you dont have to visit - your choice
Similarly, their choice to visit you
Suggest if you visit stay for a couple of hours
If you visit why dont you meet them on "neutral ground" eg book a meal out or suggest going to a local event eg carnival, fete
Going to visit probably also costs you time, money, effort, emotional conflict that they may not have taken into account
Family, friends, colleagues will make excuses not to visit that is a part of life
As an independent adult you have no reason to move back to live at home - so ignore
Communication, I would keep it open, but keep your responses "generic"
I think that you feel some pain/conflict/guilt
I think you need to be happy with the choices that you make in your life. If you need to say "no" be happy with the choice that you have made, because it is your choice to make !
I would completely accept they are not going to visit you. Its not going to happen so let it go. I would completely accept they are never going to emotionally support you. They haven't got the capacity for whatever reason. So cold hard look. They are who they are. I think the idea of marking in a few weekends a year when you will visit. And forget everything else. Make it like visiting a distant relative. Take some magazines, your kindle and chill out in your own room. Maybe find a nice wood or riverside walk and do it each day. Expect nothing then you can't be disappointed. I had major problems with my dm growing up. I had situations where l stopped the car on the way home to be physically sick. Then someone told me that depression and pain lie in the space between reality and fantasy. I had to face reality. She was never going to be that mum. Funny since then l visit and no fallout for me. Actually now l laugh to myself at her antics and we get on ok in some mad peculiar way.
Most of the time just go on with your own life. It sounds like a pretty full one.
I know that to make two parents happy, I could go. But it would make me very unhappy. I also know, from experience, it would not stop the demands. They would cease for a couple of days then start again.
I can only say this. My DH is low contact with his mother, they have phone contact only (for good reason) where she often asks him to visit. He knows that if he visits he will still get nagged to visit, no matter how often he went it would never be enough. He hasn't seen her for 4/5 years and hasn't willingly visited for 15. I'm not saying you should go no contact, but I'm saying if going makes you miserable, don't go (and when you do, go on your terms, for the time period you want).
They will moan regardless, so you might as well please yourself because they won't change whatever you do.
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