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Writing to a toxic (?) parent - advice?

(24 Posts)
puglife15 Mon 05-Jun-17 23:32:55


Looking for advice for DP. MIL is mean/dismissive about his physical appearance and values, doesn't show much interest in him, badgers us to visit and moans then treats us including DC like an inconvenience, passive aggressively makes comments, often to others present in stage whispers clearly intended for us to hear, favours her other DC (SILs), will often end up in tears during dinner and walk off. Visiting them can leave us feeling tense and depressed. DP comes away feeling like a disappointment.

On the plus side, she can be thoughtful and generous and wants to help fix problems she thinks are fixable. But very much on her terms.

DP wants our DC who worships their GPs and cousins to have a relationship with them, but feels like we can't continue like this and I agree. He's had some MH issues recently and told his parents via email but don't think they have ever asked him about it.

He wants to write to his parents explaining how is making him feel but last time a relative gave MIL some home truths it became all about how badly she'd been treated and how rude and horrible they were to say it.

Please please help me help DP with how best to approach it and salvage some sort of relationship both for himself and our DC, it's very unhealthy at the moment.

ExplodedCloud Mon 05-Jun-17 23:39:37

You can't make her listen, sadly. It will be everyone else's fault, all in DH's imagination, you being a trouble maker or DH being too sensitive. She's not going to roll over and admit it, much less see any reason to change.
I know that sounds harsh and I'm sorry but it seems to be the script.
Withdrawing to some degree is his best bet sad

ExplodedCloud Mon 05-Jun-17 23:40:37

DP not DH, sorry blush

HeddaGarbled Mon 05-Jun-17 23:54:55

Honestly, there's no point writing a letter. It won't work.

There is a way to do this but he needs to be very very tough, and from what you say, I'm not sure he's ready yet:

He stops seeing her. She asks why. He tells her. She cries/argues/throws a tantrum. He puts the phone down/leaves. He maintains no contact. She is conciliatory. He responds. Next time she behaves badly, he walks out, goes non contact again. And repeat. It's like training a dog or a 3 year old out of tantrums but with added manipulation on her part and guilt on his part, which is why he needs to be very very strong. Some counselling might help him do it.

SurfacingTrunk Tue 06-Jun-17 00:07:41

Another one saying don't.

You can't tell this sort of person home truths. They hear it as an attack on their existence and come out either swinging or in full victimhood, or, if you're especially lucky, both.

Why would their father want them to have a close relationship to someone who treats him so badly? That's the issue needing addressed first of all.

Sallyssecret Tue 06-Jun-17 01:01:29

Scary, I could have written this myself but I am the one like your DP! Exactly the same situation with my own mother it's uncanny. She favours my DB and his children. I've often thought about writing her letters or emails but so far have never followed through because she will take it as a criticism and massively over-react, it would cause huge issues within my family with my DF and DB and I don't want to be responsible for it. Last time I tried to communicate how I felt along those lines, during a period where I was suffering with my own MH, she said she wanted to die and took to her bed and it took weeks for her to "forgive" me and start talking to me again. If it was just me and my DH I'd go NC with her, but because of our DD, my DF and DB I just can't cause the carnage that would ensue with my mother!

gluteustothemaximus Tue 06-Jun-17 01:13:58

I wrote a letter. Never sent it.

Then years later I wrote another. They twisted every single word.

Thank god I never sent the first one, where I completely poured my soul out.

Don't. They will never ever see the light, or they wouldn't be arseholes in the first place. Sorry.

puglife15 Tue 06-Jun-17 12:56:12

Thanks everyone. I thought the idea of a letter was a good one when he mentioned it but clearly not!

I'm so upset and angry for DP.

Is there a book or article he can read on this?

Sally and glute I can imagine her acting that way to the letter, twisting it or it sinking her into a massive depression.

What is wrong with her? I mean that literally! Is it narcissistic?

oscareyeballs Tue 06-Jun-17 14:50:54

Don't do it.

You won't be able to change them, and to be honest it sounds like they have other issues.

Reading wise, there's a book called Healing the shame that binds you by John Bradshaw that deals with toxic families that might help

TempusEedjit Tue 06-Jun-17 15:06:26

I agree, don't write a letter. Imagine if your DP's mum wrote to you telling you all about your faults and how you hurt them etc. You wouldn't believe it because you know they are in the wrong, also you'd probably be really pissed off with her as well. However that's how she will feel if she receives such a letter (the fact that she is actually in the wrong is neither here nor there as she won't see that in herself).

You can't change the person, only your reaction to them. Time to distance yourselves from her.

SurfacingTrunk Tue 06-Jun-17 16:50:41

OP look at the Stately Homes thread. There are a lot of books listed at the beginning that may be interested.

puglife15 Tue 06-Jun-17 23:39:29

Thanks everyone. Ugh it's horrible. My parents are very very far from perfect but I at least feel they accept me for who I am.

Counterpane Tue 06-Jun-17 23:55:55

I would take Hedda's advice.

If you don't feel you can go completely no contact, at least stop visiting. She is on home territory so will feel she can behave any way she likes.

Your DC will not benefit at all by being around someone who treats their daddy like shit, whether she is their grandmother or not. She already favours your SIL and her children, so it won't be too long before your youngster gets the second-class citizen treatment too. Don't let that happen.

AndBandPlayedScotlandTheBrave Wed 07-Jun-17 12:06:57

I agree with not sending a letter. It would also be kept like a treasure and pulled out from time to time to use against you.

My mum wrote a letter to my middle (narc) sister about my oldest sister. She saved it for 25 years then pulled it out one Thanksgiving day!

I imagine your mil could bequeathe it to your sil in her will, or publish it online for all the relatives to never know what she would do with it.

puglife15 Thu 08-Jun-17 03:18:14


That's interesting as she is generally much better behaved when at ours.

Except that's extremely rare... Last visit to her she discussed when she could next see SIL and her children at length (right next to me), then scoffed at the idea of visiting us.

Sadly the only time DC see their cousins is when we are at MILs and they really adore each other... It's this not MIL that presents more of an issue in terms of cutting contact.

Millionsmom Thu 08-Jun-17 03:30:12

By all means write it as it feels good to have it clearly 'there' in black and white. Just don't send it though.

I tried the same and my parents would get their mates around to twist and bitch about us.Theyd have a 'lovely' time ripping my DH, DC and me apart. I only found out because DS3 's mum was one of their cronies and his mate told him everything.

Millionsmom Thu 08-Jun-17 03:31:13

*DS3s mates mum that should say.

puglife15 Thu 08-Jun-17 03:44:52

Millions that's awful to hear it from your child too.

I'm pretty sure they already do this and bitch about us, to our face she seemingly hates that we're not identikit lawyers or doctors or very rich and don't live in south west London and hang out with similarly naice people all with perfect kids who aren't allowed to make any noise/mess. (She's a HUGE snob.)

It's not like we're anarchists with cheek piercings, fiddling benefits while teaching our kids new swear words or anything, we just don't fit her extremely specific mould.

Millionsmom Thu 08-Jun-17 04:07:59

My parents have always been the same - I used to think I was just too emotional or overthinking - but my DB actually said to me that it really wasn't me, it was them and that I really did get the blame for everything when we were kids. He was sorry he didn't do more sad he was a kid too!

My parents judge us no matter what we do. I know it really grinds them that we've made a success of our lives. I've gone from being a 16 year old 'whore' (that was the worst conversation with my then 11 year old son. He said grandma had told grandad that's what I was and what was that) with no O levels, living on a council estate to what I am today. My DC never went to prison - her prediction when they were small living on the council estate, their dad out if the picture, you see I didn't beat them enough and maybes my XH had a point, they needed a good hiding to keep them in line hmm thanks mum - my DC are all hardworking adults who are great human beings. A couple even see my DPs once in a while (they're smarter than me, they don't let my DPs get under their skins or into their lives very much), but every now and again my 'D' parents have to have a dig at me or their dad.
Yup, great examples how NOT to be are my 'Dear' parents.

Enjoy your lives OP, it'll really grind their gears to see how happy you are with them not in your lives.

OnTheRise Thu 08-Jun-17 08:20:38

Adding to the chorus of advice saying not to write that letter. The best you'll get is they ignore it. The worst is you'll get abuse back.

It's common for abusive parents to adore their grandchildren, and for their grandchildren to adore them back. But it's also common for those adored grandchildren to become the focus for abuse as they grow older. The abuse starts off almost invisible, very subtle, and it escalates. Please be very careful about encouraging a relationship between your children and their grandparents, and watch out for any tiny thing that seems "off". Be vigilant.

puglife15 Sun 11-Jun-17 16:43:23

Thanks everyone.

We don't have any support emotional or practical (we have few close friends) and in the last year or so we desperately needed it, and it's hard not to feel very resentful when GPs on both sides are helping our siblings and not us. I think we both struggle a lot with accepting that and that makes it even harder to push them further away.

I guess we need to focus on the fact that it's just not going to happen and we don't get anything out of the relationship.

The sad fact is that I think by cutting them off we will lose contact with siblings and cousins too.

puglife15 Sun 11-Jun-17 16:44:47

Does anyone have any advice on managing this so that we can still see cousins and siblings without seeing the in-laws?

OnTheRise Sun 11-Jun-17 18:09:11

Send them one message telling them you don't want to have contact with them from now on. You don't need to go into details: just say something like, "Our relationship has not been pleasant for anyone concerned for quite a while, so I think it's time we stopped trying. Please don't contact me again." Send it in a way you know they like: email, text, that sort of thing. But don't phone, as then you risk them answering the call and drawing you into a conversation.

Once you've done that you stop speaking, emailing, texting to the people concerned. You stop visiting them too. You don't need to make an announcement to anyone else. You screen your phone calls, so you don't pick up the messages they leave.

You carry on as normal with the rest of your family and friends.

If anyone asks you why you're not responding to the people you've blocked, you tell them you'd rather not talk about it and change the subject. Refuse to be drawn. They'll get the message.

puglife15 Thu 22-Jun-17 23:30:12

Update: not that we've had any contact from them bar one phone call (that DH made to them) but I'm basically going NC. Found out today that they've visited a place near us / friends near us, and not bothered to see if we were around / offered to pop in en route or anything. they'll have practically driven within a few miles of our house. Yet they've done a 150 mile round trip this week to see their other grand children. I'm so sad and angry.

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