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Moving on from toxic family dynamic - why can't I get them out of my head?(7 Posts)
I've posted about my family before and received some helpful advice, however, I'm still struggling to deal with issues relating to my family of origin.
This is the original thread, which is quite long - www.mumsnet.com/Talk/relationships/2692617-Feeling-stifled-by-parents-love-need-to-set-firm-boundaries-LONG
So, to summarise... I'm 35 and my parents are over invested in my life. They appear to live vicariously through their offspring (DB and DSis both in their early 30s) but especially through me. For example, when DD was born my DF said "This is great, we get to do it all again!". I left an EA marriage a few years ago and my parents have been incredibly supportive but always with conditions. I often felt like the family scapegoat, more so since I left home for university, when I was 18. I remember a family holiday with 38 of us on my DF's side. I was 27 and living very independently in London. They just kept getting at me to the point that my cousins remarked that DM and DF treat me differently to Dsis adn DBro - and why is that? I couldn't answer.
I moved back to my home town 5 years ago when DD was a baby and shortly after that is when I left my abusive ex-H. I've been through a lot since then but now am in a great place with a fantastic DP and a decent job. I'm beginning to build up my social circle again and do more for myself. Life is good in all other areas except for my family.
I've realised that my parents just don't respect me or my own ability to parent DD. I've been working hard to set some firm boundaries with them, which has been working. I must admit that I still over share at times but I realised that I've been conditioned to do this and so I am still working on it.
Over Christmas they really let me down. We were scheduled to have DD Christmas Eve and Boxing Day this year and so I had informed my parents we were having a quiet one this year instead of going to them on Boxing Day, as is the norm. It's never fun... very strained, food too late for the little ones, sister always manages to make mum cry purely by looking at her, too much alcohol and careless words. It felt quite freeing to finally break free from this obligation! My parents asked if they could visit us on Boxing Day for an hour or so and I told them they would be most welcome. They called again the next day and it was reconfirmed that this was the plan. They were going to bring DD's present (they never give her presents unless they are there to witness her open it).
I called on Christmas Day to wish them a merry Christmas and they were quite hostile to me and rushed me off the phone. I brushed it off and called mid-morning on Boxing Day to find out their ETA and they told me they had never agreed to come! I reminded them they had and I was told they had told me they would try . I kept firm and they admitted they were going to come but only for half an hour. (I must add that anyone who calls either of my parents is automatically put on speaker phone so that they can both hear (but the caller is not always made aware)). Then I was offered a barrage of angry excuses... "We have to cook the turkey, it's going to take three hours, I'm actually not very well, you always come to us for Boxing Day we are so upset you have chosen not to be here.. " At this point I told them (calmly) to have a nice day, said goodbye a few times and hung up.
A little later I received a message from my DSis telling me that DM had called her and flipped out at her. It transpires that DSis and family had planned to visit parents from 3-7pm for Boxing Day lunch and to exchange gifts. DM called shortly after 2pm asking where they were, DSis explained they were arriving at 3pm, DM had expected them earlier. DM then burst into tears "I've already lost one daughter today and now you're falling out with me!" She then hung up. Dsis's phone rings again, it is our DB asking to her to come round please as DM is upset. Dsis explained calmly that her family will no longer be attending as she didn't want to subject her daughters to Grandma when she is in this mood - our DM can be incredibly neurotic. DB told her she had ruined Christmas and hung up on her.
Neither DSis or myself have heard form our parents since Boxing Day. This means that their three grandchildren have not received presents from them - and it has been noticed. I'm annoyed at myself because I let my parents buy one of DD's main presents because I knew it would mean a lot to them to be so involved in her Christmas - why am I such a people pleaser? That has to stop!
Dsis and I have had a heart to heart since and we now see that we are both treated like the family scapegoat. DB can do no wrong (but repeatedly does). DSis told me that she thinks our parents just don't respect my ability to parent and think of themselves as DD's parents. She also told me that when DF took DD (5) and DN (3) out to buy goldfish recently the man in the shop tried to advise him and DF absolutely flipped out at him, as in absolutely tore him to shreds verbally to the point that other customers stopped and looked. He boasted about this to Dsis who asked what the girls did and he said "oh, they just walked away." Oblivious to how badly behaved this was of him.
I'm also concerned about DF's drinking. He has a breathalyzer at home so that he can assess whether or not he's fit to drive as he drinks so much each evening. He never goes to bed before 3am and he works with children and members of the public. Last time we round (early December) for DM's birthday, he was still not fit to drive at 4pm in the afternoon but still insisted on holding baby niece, which made Dsis feel uncomfortable she later told me.
I see the dysfunction in my family, I want to break free from the dysfunction but I can't get them out of my head. I am so hurt about Boxing Day as it just demonstrates their absolute lack of respect. I think they still expected us to go round. They have also hurt DD. I know that I need to completely distance myself from them but it's difficult not to play things over in my head and try to analyse past experiences with them. Truth be told I always thought it was a good thing we were close and I'm almost grieving for what I never had. Dsis and I can't work out if they have always been this way or if things have gradually gotten worse. What if I am just like them and the whole cycle self-perpetuates for DD?
Moving forward have very limited contact with them and only on your terms, certainly don't let them "parent" your DD by buying her main presents etc. you are her Mum, only let them have GP role.
It sounds like you and your DSIS can be allies in this, encouraging each other and doing things without your parents being involved.
Do you have a therapist?
It sounds like you are doing the very useful work if shining a light on your family, and sorting out what's unhealthy, and where you stand.
That's great. It is a process that will take time. A professional is a useful person to help you with this.
Don't beat yourself up for not having figured it all out and reached serenity yet! You'll get there. But it will take the time it takes.
'I see the dysfunction in my family, I want to break free from the dysfunction but I can't get them out of my head'
Absolutely the same here OP. I spend a good portion of each day thinking about my narcissistic parents and sister, even though I fully recognise that I am better without them in my life on a regular basis (I am very low contact with them all). It makes sense - your parents have always been in your life and were the first relationship you ever had. Engulfing parents don't encourage you to become an independent person and get on with your own life, you need to do that for yourself, and its a skill that has to be developed over time.
I could not agree more with RiceCrispie's advice about seeking professional support with this. Separating from dysfunctional parents and drawing new boundaries is incredibly dark, difficult and sometimes scary stuff. I saw a psychotherapist and I can't explain enough how much she helped me to learn to understand my own feelings and the impact that my parents' behaviour was having on me.
I agree a therapist would be helpful. I've been reading about boundary setting and dealing with narcissists but I'm not even sure if my parents are narcissistic or if they just have other issues from their past that they haven't worked through.
I used to want to move away (again) from our hometown but DP pointed out that I should be able to lay down firm boundaries not matter what physical distance we have between us. He is right of course. My Dsis is now at the stage where she wants to leave our hometown to free herself from them - this is where I was a couple of years ago. I'm actually relieved she sees it too as we have always had a difficult relationship but perhaps that's because we were pit against each other growing up. Also she was the family scapegoat throughout the majority of her teens. Hopefully now our relationship will improve. We both understand we need distance but are there for one another when needed.
I went to the supermarket earlier and was anxious about bumping into DF! How to establish some distance when you all live within 3 miles of each other?
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