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Controlling Parents (possibly long)

(37 Posts)
MeadowHay Sat 20-Aug-16 19:13:31

This is a difficult topic for me so please bear with me and I apologise if the post comes across confused. I'm not sure how to start so I will just tell you about myself, it might be a bit rambly.

I'm in my early twenties. I'm married and have been for over 2 years, my husband is the same age as me. We are in-between places to live at the moment so have been staying at my family home where my parents and two younger siblings still live. We've been here about 2 months now and we should be moving into a new flat in about 2-3 weeks, which is in a different city.

I get on with my parents mostly ok. Actually I'm fairly close to my mum and we get on most of the time, I'd say about 80% of the time, and when we argue it mostly stays calm and civil and then isn't talked about again after it ends. I think it's quite a normal mother-daughter relationship? My dad and I get on ok most of the time too, but it's probably more like 60% of the time, and I wouldn't describe us as being close. When we argue my dad has a big temper and can quickly became very mean and insulting, and also holds grudges and remains angry and wound up for many days after even a relatively small bout of bickering. I don't think this is very normal?

I want to remain having good relationships with my parents because I do love them and they are good parents. However they have done many things that I disagree with - I imagine most people can identify with this, I imagine that is normal? I'm talking mostly about when I was a teenager because I have had mental health problems since childhood. I believe their poor reactions to that directly resulted in me still suffering today, but I understand things aren't black-and-white and they had a tough time of it too and didn't know what to do. Anyway that's one issue that I still find hard to deal with, but the biggest thing is that they still try to control me now that I'm an adult. The only reason I get on with them mostly ok is because I compromise. A lot. There are many things I have to forgo when I'm around them to keep the peace, they are not really big things, but when they all added up together it feels that I constantly have to pretend around them and that they don't accept me for who I am. Some of the things I have to censor around them, for example: my religious views, the way I dress, the way my husband dresses and his religious views too, I'm "not allowed" to drink alcohol even outside of the house nor am I "allowed" to go to clubs, I'm "not allowed" to smoke even outside of the house - to the extent that I have to carefully monitor tagged photos of me online because if there is an alcoholic drink near me in a photo it would cause such a massive fall out it would take months for my parents to calm down (has happened before), I'm told off for swearing online, I'm told that should me and DH get a dog soon like we are planning to do that my parents won't visit my house, I'm told that I'm "not allowed" a tattoo (they freaked out when I was 19 and got a helix piercing - by that point I was already engaged and financially independent of them).....the list goes on.

I don't know what I'm asking for really I just want to know how far I should compromise, how far is reasonable to censor myself and how far is not? I don't want to be disrespectful to them and their wishes and I can't change their thoughts and opinions on things however conservative they may be, but it is suffocating sometimes for myself that they cannot just live and let live. I feel that therapy might be useful to explore my issues with them further but I find that in counselling the counsellors will not really tell you what you should do - for obvious reasons, but I feel that is what I want, I want someone to come and tell me what to do! I want someone to tell me who is being unreasonable in each circumstance, me or my parents, I want someone to guide me.

Sigh. Sorry, maybe somebody can just have a chat with me or something?

LewisAndClark Sat 20-Aug-16 19:18:31

You should repost this in Relationships, or ask for it to be moved.

They are horrendously controlling and it's not a normal amount of parental concern. They sound deeply dysfunctional.

Ginger4justice Sat 20-Aug-16 19:30:44

No it's not normal. I realise this might be a bit scary but are you looking for someone to tell you what to do? A counsellor or someone on the Internet? Because really you are a grown up. An Actual Adult. You don't have to do what you don't want to do. You can choose the boundaries you have with other people. You don't need someone else's permission or opinion to find your relationship with your parents wrong.
If I were to give you my opinion I would say that it is no where near normal but that it will be very hard to change while you are still looking for other people to tell you what to do. And maybe that is worth working through with a counsellor.

MeadowHay Sat 20-Aug-16 19:36:00

Oops, this was supposed to be in relationships! I have no idea how I managed to make it end up in donor conception blush. How do I ask for it to be moved??

The problem is I know that in theory I can sod them and do what I like, I can put my shorts on and they can't do much about it to stop me - but the fall out would be immense. I don't want my parents harrassing me every 5 minutes about how sinful/shameful/disgusting etc my sense of dress is while I'm staying with them, possibly they could even have sent us off on our way and refused to let us stay...maybe the answer is to really cut any dependence I have on them at all though and not stay with them but then when we do get on we have fun times together, like we do normal family things like go out for meals, watch films etc and that, it's not all like messed up, but that's mainly because I'm always censoring myself like I say.

Argh I don't know. I feel like really inadequate and stupid either way.

PaintingPolly Sat 20-Aug-16 19:38:49

Your parents sound impossible. You need to start establishing boundaries. They should have no say in whether or not you get a dog, what you wear or what you drink. They are infantalising you.
In fact, get a dog! It might buy you some peace.
If you don't put some boundaries in place their interference will threaten your marriage and they'll trample all over your wishes when you have children.
As a PP said, you should get this moved to relationships, you'll get some fabulous advice there.

PaintingPolly Sat 20-Aug-16 19:40:52

I think you report your post and ask for it to be moved.

MeadowHay Sat 20-Aug-16 20:26:38

It has been moved, phew.

Thanks for the help so far.

sarahnova69 Sat 20-Aug-16 20:59:30

Well, from reading your post the good thing is that you are out of your parents' place soon. May I make a suggestion? Do not move in with them ever again. If you currently take their money, I would start developing a plan to wean yourself off it - start putting it in a savings account you don't touch. As long as you depend on them, they will use that to keep you a child.

No, their relationship with you is not "normal" - not in this country anyway. Whether or not it's OK - like a PP said, the point is that it's not OK with you.

You're not happy with it. That is all that matters. You are forcing yourself into a little box, you are tying yourself in knots so that you don't get photographed with an alcoholic drink that ISN'T EVEN YOURS (that is VERY not normal, BTW).

I can understand why you want someone to tell you what to do. You've been told what to do your whole life, so it feels safer to you than the alternative. And I'm contradicting myself, because I did tell you what to do at the top of my post there - but only to the extent that I WOULD advise you to make sure you have your own space and don't depend on their money, so you can be an independent adult (good for most of us) and figure out without their overbearing influence who you are and what you want. Are you seeing a therapist currently? Stick with him/her. If not - I'd think about going back, but try to avoid a therapist who tells you what to do, even though it feels safer.

tl;dr Get your own space. Make your money your own if it isn't already. Figure out what YOU want, with help if possible.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 20-Aug-16 21:15:10

Hi meadow

1) You Aren't Responsible For What Your Parents Did To You As a Child, They Are

2) You Are Responsible For What You Do With Your Life Now, Your Parents Aren't

You wrote it yourself:-
"The only reason I get on with them mostly ok is because I compromise. A lot"

These people were not good parents to you when growing up and they still are not. They think you are incapable now. This is one of the hallmarks of such controlling parents and such behaviour is abusive. Its all stems from wanting power and control. Such people never apologise for their actions nor accept responsibility for same.

They have never given you any real consideration whatsoever

I would suggest you read "If you had controlling parents" written by Dr Dan Neuharth. An excerpt is below:-

Healing from growing up controlled has three steps:

Step One: Emotionally leaving home by separating from the hurtful aspects of your upbringing, parents and family role.

Step Two: Bringing balance to your relationship with your parents.

Step Three: Redefining your life.

Emotional healing is like physical healing. If you cut your finger, you clean the wound and protect it from infection with a bandage. If you break your leg, you set the bone and wear a cast to protect from further trauma. This allows your body’s natural healing process to work.

It’s the same with emotional healing. When you’re emotionally wounded by a controlling childhood, "cleaning" the wound means facing your true past and speaking about it. And the "bandage" or "cast" that protects these wounds from further injury is emotionally leaving home. This doesn’t necessarily mean a physical separation from your parents, but it may entail letting go of counterproductive links with them and your upbringing.

You cannot mend a broken bone faster by telling it to "heal quicker." Healing a broken leg means wearing a cast, which can make walking difficult. Similarly, emotional healing may mean changes in habits that at first feel awkward.

Like physical healing, emotional healing can happen 24 hours a day without conscious effort. You may not know exactly how a cut heals; you just notice that each day it gets a little healthier. Similarly, people who begin emotionally separating from a controlled upbringing frequently notice over time that they develop more positive values and a greater sense of freedom, often without knowing precisely how.

Emotional separation opens the way for you to bring balance to your relationship with your parents, whether they are living or dead. Emotional separation also permits you to redefine your life and yourself in terms of who you really are and where you really want to go, not in terms of your parents or your past.

Recognize that psychotherapy may not always be a comfortable process, but it needs to be a safe process. In choosing a therapist, it may be helpful to call two or three therapists and schedule an initial visit with each before deciding whom to work with. Some people may prefer to work with a male therapist; others with a female; some want a younger therapist; others like an older therapist. Some therapists tend to listen and say little; others freely give advice

I would also contact BACP and see if they can help. Such people are like shoes; you need to find someone who fits in with you.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 20-Aug-16 21:18:51

Also read the website called Out of the Fog and consider posting on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" on these Relationship pages.

If you do become parents I would keep your children well away from your parents because they will do similar emotional damage to them as has been done to you. I do not write that at all lightly.

MeadowHay Sun 21-Aug-16 00:03:02

Thanks everyone.

I am not seeing a therapist at the moment but I was seeing a counsellor for about 8 months in 2014, she was really good and helped me a lot with the severe mental health problems that I had at the time although I'm not sure if she will still be at that practice anymore as she was a trainee at the time. I can look into it though and I can also speak to my GP about what may be available on the NHS though I don't hold my breath on that one.

I don't think it's fair to call my parents abusive really, I mean I can see why someone might say that and I guess you probably think that it's like a denial or a stockholm-syndrome type thing me saying they are not lol but I just don't think it is as straight-forward as that. My MIL for example has clearly been abusive to DH since I've known him and never really does anything nice for him, but I think it is more nuanced with my parents. I really do not doubt for one moment that they really, truly believe their behaviour is in my best interests and that it is driven by love and care. But that obviously doesn't make it "right", and doesn't make it any easier for me. But I'm not sure branding them abusive and refusing to let them see my future children would be helpful in any way. In fact I'm actually partly looking forward to their relationship with my future children because I know for the most part they will be fantastic grandparents. It is just the remaining small things that they make a huge issue out of that will be the problem - actually it's far more my dad that is the problem as well out of the two of them. I'm just rambling again though now, sorry. I do really appreciate everyone's help and advice.

DH and I are not financially dependent on my parents but we do definitely benefit financially from them a little, for example being able to stay with them for two months whilst we found ourselves a place means we haven't had to pay rent or bills for two months and we have been able to store all our things here as well etc. And just little things like my mum looks after our pets when we are on holiday, she cooks for us every night while we're here, my dad gives us useful information and has just arranged a work-experience placement for me etc. Like I wouldn't say we are dependent on them because we could cope without all of that, but at the same time they are kind and helpful to us. In fact my dad is our guarantor for our new flat and I'm not sure we would have been able to get anywhere without one - I'm a student and DH is currently unemployed (although it's looking like he should be in employment very soon fingers crossed!).

I am glad someone brought up a reference to cultural differences accross countries too. This is something else that I'm concerned about because my dad is from a different country with a completely different culture, and my mum is British but has basically adopted the vast majority of his cultural beliefs, and they have a mentality that their behaviour is completely normal and fine and anyone else from the culture that my dad is from would agree. Whether that is true or not, I can't really say, I have limited experience with that culture, but anyway it does make things more complicated I think.

I will look into the books and website recommended. I will also show DH this thread and get his thoughts. It's all a bit ironic because I know I'm coming accross as really weak and lost on here, which I am when it comes to this, but for the most part I'm actually a very headstrong and adventurous young person despite my parents' attempts to stifle me.

Fashionablychallenged Sun 21-Aug-16 00:14:37

Well, I would distance yourself from the parents if I was in your shoes. Not immediately. Step by step. By the sounds of it without stating the obvious I can figure out your fathers nationality. Never go back to his country after you're married and put them behind you. I've had friends who have been killed after being tricked into visiting the cesspots of so called countries!

After you get into the new place- get a dog as it will improve your quality of life... The quality of life will be more improved by a dog then your parents relationship.

When they stop visiting, or stars verbally abusing you or on social media etc. Delete them and anyone that agrees with them. I hope you and your DH are in the same mental space/ religious views. You can't save your mother from her foolishness so don't hang around to save her from your dad. Save yourself.

Fashionablychallenged Sun 21-Aug-16 00:16:39

They will never change. So don't look back once the changes are made. If you and DH are both working and self sufficient... That's all you need. I'm glad that you're in a loving and supporting relationship. You're both not alone. Enjoy your lives and journey together.

Fashionablychallenged Sun 21-Aug-16 00:18:57

My first comment was harsh. I just meant you two should keep some distance between your parents. You don't have to tell them everything. If you they ask you why you're not sharing information with them... Just say you don't know. My cousin uses that excuse and works like a charm with her parents. They are not as bad as yours.

HerdsOfWilderbeest Sun 21-Aug-16 00:19:01

Sounds awful. Definitely get a dog, especially as that means they won't visit.
Get a tattoo as well if you want!

PaintingPolly Sun 21-Aug-16 11:25:21

You can't see it but I'm afraid they are toxic. Google FOG, fear obligation and guilt. Read up on and try to think about how you feel you can't be yourself around them, how you are tiptoeing around them. That in itself is not healthy. I understand that the language being used is too strong for you but you do need to start thinking about your interactions with them.
Start by not telling them everything, keep information back. You are not a child and have the right to make your own decisions.

MeadowHay Mon 22-Aug-16 14:44:46

Cultural differences are clearly an issue because it's not nice coming here for help and then having part of your identity being called a "cesspot of a so-called country". That is a really horrible and offensive thing to say and I would suggest in future if you really want to help someone you could try and avoid using comments that basically come accross as racist. I am very proud of my heritage thank you very much and I'm pretty certain that it's not where you think it is either.

I should also say that I'm fairly certain that they are mostly bluffing about not visiting if we get a dog. I'm sure they will visit once they get over it. I had a big dmc with DH last night about all this and we are sort of negotiating a plan of action together to improve things. I think really I just need to push my parents more because I don't push them very often and when I have there has been huge awful shitstorms but they always get over it eventually.

Also I'm not sure if I actually want a tattoo but maybe some time. DH is totally against it as well though lol, not that that would stop be if there was one I really wanted.

I definitely don't tell my parents everything, I agree that what they don't know won't hurt them kind of thing. I do things they wouldn't agree with (e.g. drinking alcohol, going clubbing, wearing shorts god forbid lol, going swimming, I didn't tell them when me and DH got together etc), I just don't bring them up, which is not a big deal, it's just the feeling like I have to cover my tracks all the time or lie about things which is annoying. Like I don't mind not telling them every minute detail of my life, but I don't like having to say I'm going somewhere other than where I'm actually going when I'm 22! Just all feels a bit ridiculous.

Will look up FOG.

Thanks everyone.

Atenco Mon 22-Aug-16 15:06:12

"cesspots of so called countries" whao.

It mostly sounds like your parents don't realise that you have grown up, OP.

I think maybe once you have moved out start letting them see, little by little, that you are your own person. Loving parents eventually accept that their adult children do things differently.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Aug-16 15:22:57


People from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds can be controlling. Culture therefore really has nothing to do with them being controlling. Your mother has basically gone along with what you dad thinks because it is "easier" for her to do this (she may well live in fear of your ill tempered dad). Their parents probably treated them (particularly your dad) in not too a dissimilar manner, pound to a penny their own childhood was abusive in nature. Your mother stays with her H for her own reasons and in a straight fight would pick him over you. She will always put him first.

Re your comment:-
"But I'm not sure branding them abusive and refusing to let them see my future children would be helpful in any way".

Why do you think this?. Ask yourself that question and honestly too. It to me says that you are still very much in a FOG state when it comes to them. Would you agree that your parents were not and are not good parents when it comes to you?. You have to ensure that no alcoholic drinks appear in any photos, they have not "allowed" you to do swimming nor have they "allowed" you to get a tattoo (not that you are actively planning on getting one but you know what I mean here). Your body your choice. Not theirs. Emotionally balanced and well adjusted parents do not put such restrictions at all on their now adult children.

Do you also not think that they would want to undermine your own authority as parents by criticising your own parenting skills and using your children to get back at you?. These people will never be decent sorts of grandparents to your children, they are not built that way.

The rulebook of familial relations really does go out the window when it comes to dysfunctional families of origin like yours. You have to detach completely and raise further your still all too low boundaries. You need to move out and that is thankfully happening soon. You will then need to stay away. They will never let you be your own person; as an adult they still think you as being somehow incapable and need their "help" i.e. them to control you. Their actions are not at all loving ones.

BACP rather than the NHS would be of more use for you to contact; sessions are limited on the NHS (no more than 6 usually) and waiting lists are a mile long. You really do need to see a therapist asap regarding this dysfunctional relationship. I would state as well that it is not your fault they are like this, you did not make them this way. They have and continue to affect your mental health because of the ways in which they behave. Controlling behaviour is abusive behaviour; it is about wanting power and control over the other person in this case you.

You and DH will only be able to improve things but you two not having a relationship of any sorts with your parents. That is hard to accept and you do not want to believe it but there is only one direction your life will take with your parents going forward and that is down. They do not want to change things, these people have also never apologised nor accepted any real responsibility for their actions. They think they have never done anything wrong with regards to you. Your own mental health says otherwise.

Do look at the links recommended along with reading that book by Dr Dan Neuharth.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Aug-16 15:28:29

Do not accept any more money from them particularly when you move out; this money is not ever given to you without strings of obligation attached to them.

Also would suggest you find another pet sitter; do not let your mother do this any more either.

Many people have had rotten non ideal childhoods for all sorts of reasons and yet they do not take out all their frustrations and rages on their children as a result. They basically took the low road and continued with what they know. Your parents have utterly failed you and their actions have left you with MH issues pertaining to their controlling behaviours.

MeadowHay Mon 22-Aug-16 18:47:27

I agree with a lot of what you have said, and disagree with a lot of it as well - it's funny because you are telling me to be my own person, to ignore my parents telling me what to think or do, and then you are a stranger on the internet are also completely ignoring any time I disagree with you as well, which is exactly what my parents do!!

I disagree because in my mind someone who is abusive is motivated by malice or other such bad things. My parents are not motivated by malice or anything bad, they are motivated by love, concern, the desire to keep me safe, and the desire for me to have a heavenly afterlife. You don't believe me and I can't convince you because you have already made up your mind about both me and them through a snap judgement on an internet forum. Their motivations do not excuse times that they have indeed failed me, but I don't believe anyone is perfect, I don't believe anyone can say they have been a perfect parent. And I know they are essentially good people, they are just misguided and I agree 100% with the poster who said they just don't realise I have grown up. For what it's worth I'm the eldest child and my parents have always been and continue to be far more open-minded and less restrictive with my younger siblings. I am their PFB and it's only their cultural/religious beliefs that mean that pick those specific examples as issues over others ones. Ignoring the cultural context is naive. I am assuming you are white British because I am pretty confident if you were not you would already understand that. People do not live in vacuums and behavioural norms are dictated by each culture and society. So what may appear controlling to one person is the obligation a parent has to their child to enable them a heavenly afterlife to another. It's sadly not as simple as you are making out - if it was I wouldn't really be in this predicament in the first place!! DH is n/c with his dad and step-mum, and very limited contact with his mum. She is extremely controlling and always has been, is emotionally abusive, motivated by selfishness and malice. But my parents are not like his mum. It is a very different kind of situation.

I appreciate everyone's concern and effort to help though.

OliviaBenson Mon 22-Aug-16 18:57:56

Ok but to take the shorts example, what is it about wearing shorts that is so bad? It's so far from normal, I cannot think there is a loving reason behind it.

You having to censor yourself all the time is terrible. I think one day you will realise that you can't change them and go no contact. But you clearly aren't there yet from what you have just said, you are minimising their behaviour big time.

madgingermunchkin Mon 22-Aug-16 19:16:02

I would hesitate to call it abuse, but it most definitely is and unhealthy power balance.

My advice is sit tight for now until you are in your own flat, compromise, play nice.
Once you are in your own flat, then you can put a bit of distance between you. Stop informing them of things you know they will disapprove of for a start. If they say anything, or start to have a go or whatever, end the conversation. Tell them "it's not up for discussion" and hang up.

It will get worse before it gets better, but if you don't do something about it now, then it will just get worse full stop. And next thing you know, they'll be telling you how to raise your children.

Atenco Mon 22-Aug-16 20:48:31

The thing about adult children is that by the time they are adults, us parents should have taught them enough for them to take responsability for their own decisions. But it is not easy as a parent to switch off so many years of guiding and correcting.

MeadowHay Mon 22-Aug-16 22:40:56

I don't tell them about things that I know they will disapprove of, sorry if that wasn't clear. Like I said, I do things I know they disapprove of e.g. go swimming, go clubbing etc and I don't tell them. I wouldn't purposefully bring up something that I know would upset them, that would be pointless, if not a bit mean on my part. But it is the fact that I have to actively do things that I dislike more I suppose, like changing my clothes around them or whatever.

Also I know it probably sounds bizarre to most of you the example of wearing shorts. But in my dad's cultural/religious beliefs men and women are not supposed to wear shorts, it's seen as "immodest" and a sin. Obviously I think that's bullshit, and to you lot it seems ridiculous as well, but my point about cultural backgrounds is that obviously here in the UK many more people will think "that's soooo extreme and silly though" whereas in the country where my dad is from, some people would still think that but other people would think "yep, that's true, and it's a dad's duty to protect his children and make sure they don't commit sins so they can go to heaven" <- that's basically what my parents are always thinking. I know it sounds stupid to us but to them it's not and to a lot of other people it's not as well. It's not a case of "I don't want anyone seeing your legs because I think they're ugly so you're not allowed to wear shorts" for example. It's much more complex than that, which I actually think is harder because if it were more straight-forward and nasty then I would think I would probably be not N/C but at least limited contact like DH and I are with MIL who is horrible lol.

Also I'm slating my parents loads, because they can be difficult to deal with obviously, but at the same time I have no desire to cut off a relationship with them and am always in fear of them cutting off the relationship because I do love them and benefit from the relationship. We DO have lots of nice fun times together, always have done! We are actually all going on holiday together soon and I'm really looking forward to it! They can be great company. It's just sometimes I am feeling trapped and like I have to pretend to be someone I'm not so I don't upset them which is frustrating.

I do definitely believe they will tell us how to raise our children too which is one of the reasons I'm seriously assessing the boundaries in our relationship now because I need to ensure our parenting rules are followed in the future and not undermined.

We might be moving sooner than expected and my parents have got a bit of a shock and my dad is upset to be having us move away again. I did try to bring up clothing rules being an issue here to my mum earlier as one of the reasons why we could never be happy to live here all the time and my mum was just like "well all families have to have rules when they live together don't they?" and I was like not rules about things that don't have an impact on anyone else, no :S My mum is much easier to talk to about things than my dad so often I speak to her and she channels the message back to my dad. Sometimes progress is actually made this way because my dad gets really upset sometimes when he realises how unhappy he's made me. It's just a long road sometimes.

Thanks everyone for taking the time to read all these super long posts, I really appreciate having somewhere to come and ramble about it.

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