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Shielding kids from dysfunctional DGPs

(12 Posts)
momjeans Sun 16-Apr-17 09:56:59

I'm staying with my elderly DPs with my two young DCs. My eldest is 3 and is now beginning to pick up on the low level sniping, name calling, spiteful behaviour between my DPs that I grew up with as a child (and hated). They may be aged now but their utter contempt for one another hasn't diminished with age. I am beginning to realise I can't let my DCs be exposed to this kind of toxic environment, and that I need to start making better choices about staying here (we live overseas so visits are often 10 days or so, during which time my blood pressure rises to dangerous levels).

My DM is a brilliant granny and the DCs love her. The problem is my deeply flawed and damaged DF, who i am coming to realise has emotionally and financially abused her all her life and reduced her to a passive (and passive aggressive) prisoner in her own marriage. They come from strong religious backgrounds so divorce was never an option. My DF now has serious health issues which might mean my DM has to care for him in the coming years, and of course she is horrified about this. She has no independent finances, and they are having to sell their home of 40 years because he failed to plan effectively for their later years (blew their pension funds on dodgy deals which lost all their money).

I am caught in the crossfire of this awful situation and my DCs are beginning to find the tension upsetting. Should I not visit for a while until they have sorted their house & financial issues out? There's literally nowhere else for us to stay nearby as it's a location where hotels and b&bs cost £££ and we are on a very limited income. My DCs love their DGM but I feel I need to shield them a bit from what appears to be a 50 year marriage hitting the rocks.

Has anyone else dealt with this kind of situation? It's like reliving all the trauma of my childhood over again, except with my own DCs in tow.

mrsBeverleygoldberg Sun 16-Apr-17 10:03:54

You have to protect your dcs otherwise they will suffer emotionally. It is your mother's choice to stay, not yours and you don't need to try to protect her. Look up enabling parent online. Her choice to stay meant you suffered as a child so don't feel sorry for her. All adults have choices. Your dcs don't. Let them get on with it. If you want to meet your mum could the two of you meet in the middle, somewhere public? Skype your mum?
Protect your dcs from these toxic people. I would stop the visits until your parents can behave in a decent

RandomMess Sun 16-Apr-17 10:24:38

Invite your DM to come visit you on your own?

I would restrict contact to skype otherwise.

bert3400 Sun 16-Apr-17 10:32:51

Practical advice ...Have you looked into AirB & B ...often a lot cheaper than hotels ?

momjeans Sun 16-Apr-17 10:35:22

Thanks for the advice. we don't Skype much at the moment but I will increase that and decrease physical visits - stop them altogether for the next 6 months whilst they face up to a significant health issue and the house move. DM does come and visit us occasionally but is unhappy about leaving my DF unattended for too long in case he collapses (health issue which is ongoing). We also have to pay for her flights as she can't afford it.

I used to lie in bed hearing them fight as a child and wishing he would die so mum could bring us up alone. It was that bad. I caught myself feeling the same way today. I wish DM could be liberated from being a virtual slave and whipping post for him, but she has no fight in her (her own mother was a controlling bully too). I feel so sad for her, for me and for the DCs caught up in this situation.

We have no contact with my DPs family so if I do reduce contact with my DPs that will cut the only access to extended family my DCs have off.

Elanetical Sun 16-Apr-17 10:36:44

I can't help but I have an enormous amount of sympathy. My DM is a wonderful grandmother but I'm currently NC with my father as he's a destructive nasty bully. It means DM sees much less of her DGCs than both she and I would like, which is very sad. But I can't risk exposing my DCs to my father.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Sun 16-Apr-17 11:06:10

I don't expose my DC to it, except in very small doses, with lots of conversation before and after about what is wrong.

It is very important to me that the cycle of abuse is broken. I won't let my DC be trained to smooth over abusive behaviour​.

Remember, your mother is an enabler, you want to think of her as lovely but she kept you in that situation. Her religion is not a valid excuse for allowing abuse to perpetuate. Maybe that realisation will make it easier for you.

PastaOfMuppets Sun 16-Apr-17 11:16:16

So much sympathy for you, MomJeans, and unfortunately no advice.

I remember my DM telling me years ago that the time my DGM came to visit and stay with our family - some hours' flying from her DH, who was my DM's stepdad - was my DPs trying to convince her to break away from her physically, financially and emotionally abusive 'D'H. It didn't work - DGM felt like she would be too much of a drain on her only child's life and family. I am so sad that my otherwise fiercely independent and very strong DGM returned to such a man. My DB and I never suspected anything like that growing up, no idea how they hid it. A long time later, almost 10 years after he'd died, my DGM died and at her funeral service so very many women quietly told my DM and me that my DGM had saved their lives, sheltering abused women and never ever breathing a word. (My DGM couldn't keep a secret to save a life, but evidently could keep one to save someone else's.) Cleaning out the house we found a massive shotgun under her spare bed.

I wish so much she could've left her husband and hope that you can convince your DM to consider leaving your DF. Could he go into a treatment facility and she live with you? If divorce isn't an option, might separation? Are there any close relatives who might be able to house her until things settle?


momjeans Sun 16-Apr-17 11:54:56

Thanks PastaOfMuppets. There must be so many women of her generation, poorly educated, no career of financial independence to speak of, marrying young & then kept a virtual prisoner for the rest of their married lives through a mixture of fear of stigma and complete hopelessness as to how they'd survive. There is literally no way she'd leave him now. They are part of a close, oppressive family who also keep each other's secrets and a community that knows the ins and outs of everyone's business. She'd die of shame if they knew the abuse my F has meted out on her over the years. I suspect some people have guessed it's an unhappy scenario, but their generation is notoriety tight lipped about marital strife. Did I mention F had an affair with his secretary when DM had four DCs under 10?

I've been in therapy on and off for four years, and this has come up a lot. I know she's an enabler, and I challenged it on her last night. She veered between rage at me "sticking my nose in" and abject misery. But ultimately it was useless. She's resigned to her fate, and she's going down with the ship.

I've had to completely assess the "happy" childhood I thought I had. It was all based on a huge lie and at the heart of it was a deeply abusive relationship. I'm only just coming to terms with what that means for my own relationships and how I proceed from here. Thankfully I married a man who is the polar opposite of F - kind, humane, loving and fair. He has had a rough ride from my father-hatred issues though.

mrsBeverleygoldberg Sun 16-Apr-17 14:29:21

They can leave. Don't excuse the fact that they chose to stay with an abuser. By doing nothing they condone the abusive parent and let the child and themselves be abused.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Sun 16-Apr-17 16:53:59

Your original question was about whether you should avoid them for a while until they sort out the finances. I'd say yes definitely avoid them for a while.

SandyY2K Mon 17-Apr-17 08:49:20

Lots of sympathy to you and I think it's best to avoid and reduce visits until they have accommodation sorted out.

I also agree with the Air B and B comment upthread. You can get some really cheap places on there.

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