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Struggling with DM - again

(121 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

christmaspresentaibu Mon 19-Feb-18 15:56:03

I've posted here about my relationship with DM and her behaviour previously. It all blew up around September/October last year and I thought we'd got to a point where DM understood that she couldn't keep putting pressure on me to drive home and see her and DF all the time and texting/calling/messaging constantly - I'm doing a PGCE and live about an hour away from them.

After much crying on the phone and my DF driving up to see me and cry in his car on the first day of my PGCE about how my behaviour (not seeing/talking to them as much as they'd like) was affecting them, I thought I'd finally got through to them that I just don't have the time or the brain capacity to deal with them. Through my PGCE safeguarding training and talking to colleagues, I've come to realise that their behaviour (this year just gone and lots of incidents throughout my childhood) probably constituted emotional abuse. I actually dropped everything one Sunday before Christmas to go to their house and 'have it out' - DM crying on me, asking me to hug her and tell her I loved her, after all which she goes 'I know you hate me.' Just the whole thing was awful.

Despite all this, I went to stay with them for a few days at Christmas and then DP and I drove down to see them again for the evening about three weeks ago.

Since then, I found out that DM and DF have visited the area where I lived but gone home without telling me. I also have to instigate any contact at all now - so it's one extreme to the other. I sent DM a small/token gift I'd thought about and chosen to show her I was thinking of her, but when I messaged her last night to ask whether she liked it, her response was 'it would've been nice to see you last week but never mind' (schools in our area were on half-term but I had PGCE assignments and planning to do, plus wanting to spend time with DP and my friends).

Am I doing something wrong here? I'm trying really hard to weigh all this up in my head (I don't really have anyone to talk to who understands, apart from a colleague at work who has similar parents). Am I being a shit daughter? I'm trying to come to terms with their behaviour and still be kind to them, while at the same time do the best I can in my training, look after my mental health and enjoy my relationship with DP. Nothing I do for them is ever enough.

If anyone can advise me on this (again, sorry), I'd be really grateful. flowers

Troels Mon 19-Feb-18 17:04:11

You aren't doing anything wrong. Stop contacting them.

christmaspresentaibu Mon 19-Feb-18 17:15:06

Thank you for replying, Troels.

I'm not sure whether it's that simple - it'd leave my DF bearing the brunt of DM's rage (which he does already, being the only one living with her), but also my DSis will be stuck as a sort of go-between. Our relationship has already become strained due to DM over this past year. It'd also hurt my grandparents, who know about what DM has been like recently but don't know about all of the incidents when we were growing up. sad

CMOTDibbler Mon 19-Feb-18 17:27:44

Your DF gets to choose to stay with your mother. Your sister gets to choose to be (or not) a go between. Your GPs get to decide how they feel.

You - you get to decide whether to engage with your toxic mother and enabling father, and whether protecting your own mental health is more important that how your sister and GPs decide how to feel.
You could also maintain contact, but refuse to entertain any nonsense but this is much harder when you are used to the FOG as it takes lot of strength to put words in the fuckitbucket and not engage with it all

DawnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 19-Feb-18 17:37:50

Hi, we're moving this thread over to our Relationships topic at the OP's request.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 19-Feb-18 17:47:26

Christmas

What the other respondents have written to you.

Its not you its them. Its not your fault they are like this, you did not make them this way.

Your parents have not fundamentally altered since your childhood, such disordered people do not change. They also do not apologise nor accept any responsibility for their actions.

Stop contacting them in any way, you are still seeking your mother's approval and that is something you actually do not need. Not that she would ever give you her approval anyway because she is abusive.

Your DF has remained with his toxic wife for his own reasons; he has also failed to protect you here from his wife's excesses of behaviour. He is a weak enabler of a man and is her hatchet man to boot. Theirs is a codependent dysfunctional relationship and you are better off well out of that.

People from dysfunctional families like your family of origin end up playing roles. Yours appears here to be one of scapegoat.
Leave them all to it, your sister as well. They have made choices here and protecting your own mental health I would argue is far more important than helping them to maintain their choices. You bloody well matter even though you likely think otherwise.

Read and post on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread and deal with your fear, obligation and guilt re them through seeing a therapist. You need to find someone who has no bias about keeping families together despite the presence of mistreatment. I would also suggest you read "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward as a starting point.

christmaspresentaibu Mon 19-Feb-18 17:48:09

Thank you, Dawn.

That's true, CMOT, but I'm scared they'll all choose DM instead of me, because really I think I'm worried that I'm the narcissist and making this all about me. It's getting harder to maintain contact but I don't want to hurt anybody else. I do like the 'fuckitbucket' though!

I think it's all hitting home a bit too much at the moment - why does DM want to carry on hurting me? It's not like she particularly seems to enjoy seeing or hearing from me when I do meet up with her or talk to her, yet she always wants more. And why didn't DF protect us when we were younger? He said (during the crying in the car episode) 'but I used to come up to your room and give you a hug and tell you I loved you', but he didn't stop her saying or doing anything. And actually I don't remember him doing that either. sad Fuck this is making me feel a bit shit! But thank you for your replies. flowers

Greenicicle Mon 19-Feb-18 17:48:36

At some point one of them will be widowed. And possibly at sime point you will have kids. Then this crap will be doubled I promise you.
The key here is self protection. They refuse to understand your point of view and punish you with a massive guilt trip. I know its easy to say but take control. You only get one life and its yours. See them as often as YOU want to. As soon as the whinging starts, LEAVE. On the phone, as soon as the whinging starts, end the conversation nicely but quickly and HANG UP. Hopefully they will start to realise that the whinging is the problem. Good luck

mrsreynolds Mon 19-Feb-18 17:51:06

I would urge you to read toxic parents by susan forward
And get yourself over to the stately homes thread

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Mon 19-Feb-18 17:52:28

because really I think I'm worried that I'm the narcissist and making this all about me.
Honestly grown adults of grown children driving to see them and sobbing in the car about not getting enough of their attention and time is not ‘normal’ behaviour. flowers

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 19-Feb-18 18:03:16

Your mother likely has an untreated, and untreatable, personality disorder. Emotionally healthy people do not behave as your mother has done.

If people "choose" your mother they are the flying monkeys whose opinion should be ignored as well because they are not at all interested in hearing your side of things. They also do not want to rock the boat with your mother.

I do not think you are narcissistic at all; if anyone is a narcissist here it is likely to be your mother. Women like your mother as well cannot do relationships but always need a willing enabler to help them; in this case that is your dad. He has failed you completely here also. You in turn have been trained by her since childhood to serve her.

Please read the Stately Homes thread on these pages and look at the daughters of narcissistic mothers website.

christmaspresentaibu Mon 19-Feb-18 20:01:29

Thank you all flowers

Sorry Attila, I missed your first post (x-post). I think I'll cool contact with DM and DF for now, seeing as even when I do contact them, that's not right either. It's interesting but probably not surprising to any of you that all contact to The Family must go through DM and she's mortally offended if, for example, she hears from my GM that I have had a travel vaccination instead of being informed in person hmm. I never really hear from DF at all, which does make me sad. It feels to me like he just defers to DM completely and he's just glad when I contact her, maybe because it makes his life easier for a while? But he doesn't seek to get in touch or find out how I'm doing with my work or course or DP. But then neither does DM, it's only really about how little I visit. In an infamous email before Christmas, she told me (paraphrasing) that if she walked in front of a lorry tomorrow, then I'd regret not seeing her more.

I try not to admit it but I wish DF had left DM when we were little, so that then we could have at least had split time between them and some hope of building a proper relationship with DF. During the crying-in-the-car, he wondered aloud why he'd had us. sad

We've always described being around DM as 'walking on eggshells' and DF has always said she 'doesn't do emotions', as though that's a part of being a parent or being a person that you can opt out of?

Thank you for the book and thread recommendations. I've got Toxic Parents and spent a while ticking off aspects that I recognise in DM and, to an extent, in DF as well. I also found this online which describes really accurately a lot of DM's behaviours. I can tick off nearly all of those, thinking back over the years.

I've seen a lot about 'grieving for the parents you wish you'd had/you never had' - on a practical level, can anybody advise me how to do this? At the moment I think I'm wallowing and not doing myself (or poor DP!) any favours. If anybody has any coping strategies or grieving-and-getting-out-the-other-side strategies, I'd be really grateful to hear them.

Is it normal to think the problem must be with you? I wish my life wasn't like this. I'd love to be from a normal family that I could share with DP.

Cricrichan Mon 19-Feb-18 20:22:42

Hi op.

Your mother sounds like dh's mother and she's a narcissist. Nothing you do will ever please her. It's not about that, it's about attention and making you feel bad.

So don't bother. You'll be badmouthed and made to feel guilty regardless of how much or little effort you make. You're in a tough place but for the sake of you and your dh and future children go non consent. The woman doesn't love you or have any interest in making you happy. It's all about her.

christmaspresentaibu Mon 19-Feb-18 20:57:41

Sorry to hear you have to deal with this in your MIL, Cricrichan.
flowers

Yes exactly, it's damned if you do and damned if you don't, isn't it? I'm speaking to a friend IRL just now (I don't normally open up to friends about this because it's so weird I worry they'll think I'm mad), but she said that it's just pure manipulation and DM is essentially laying a trap to catch me out.

I wish I knew why she was like this towards me and not towards DSis. I know she blames me for her post-natal depression (I cried too much hmm), maybe it stems from that?

RunRabbitRunRabbit Mon 19-Feb-18 21:36:57

Golden child (sis) and scapegoat (you).

My advice for getting over it is to firstly stop the contact. They keep reeling you back in.

Secondly come to terms with your DF being equally abusive as her. It manifests differently but he has let it all happen. He could have made it stop.

Thirdly, and this is tied to stopping contact, try to stop thinking about them. Whenever you do, swap it round somehow into thinking positive thoughts about what you want your life to be like (without any reference to them, just you, DP, friends, children etc). Or just distract yourself with crap tv or MN or some such thing. Get space in your head away from them.

OnTheRise Tue 20-Feb-18 08:14:02

Your mother sounds a lot like mine. My father used to phone me and tell me I had to phone her more often, visit more often, stop being rude to her when she was the one being rude to me... it was awful.

No matter what I did it was never good enough, or often enough, for them.

Once I recognised this, I also recognised how toxic it was interacting with them. So I rationed myself. I told them I would speak to them every Sunday afternoon, and if they phoned at any other time I would either not answer, or say that I didn't have time to talk but was looking forward to speaking to them on Sunday as arranged. And then hang up.

It worked well for me, as it meant I didn't feel guilty when I ignored their calls. And I could prepare for speaking to them on Sunday: I'd make a cup of tea, make sure I had something arranged which meant I'd only have twenty minutes or so to talk to them. That sort of thing.

OP, you are never going to win with your parents. They will always have a reason to find fault with you and to excuse their own behaviours. They favour your sister, but I bet they'd deny that. You can't control how they behave, you can't control how others think of you, but you can control how you behave and react to their nonsense. Work out what you can and can't cope with. Set boundaries, and enforce them. Don't get dragged into their dramas.

I have found CaptainAwkward very helpful in dealing with my difficult family. You might find it helpful too.

Lottapianos Tue 20-Feb-18 08:32:31

'At the moment I think I'm wallowing and not doing myself (or poor DP!) any favours'

You're not wallowing, you're trying to come to terms with your parents' extremely suffocating and clingy behaviour. It's hardly surprising that you're giving it so much thought. People can be very quick to start telling you to move on and put it behind you - we're talking about one of the central relationships of your life. It's not that simple.

You asked about how to manage the grief. Identifying the process as 'grief' is a good start. You're not moaning, you're not wallowing, you're grieving. Go easy on yourself. I was in therapy for years and found that having professional help was absolutely invaluable. I echo what others said about distancing yourself from your parents. NOTHING will ever be good enough for people like this. You cannot win by continuing to play their game. Lots of us on here have had similar experiences so please keep posting if it's helpful

UpSideDownBrain Tue 20-Feb-18 12:43:49

OP - once you grasp that you will never be able to make your DM happy, it does get easier to live with.
I'm in the same position with my mum - nothing I do is ever good enough and I hit the same wall as you about 2 years ago.
My DM has rolled out exactly the same lines (is there a script?)
She has accused me of hating her.
She now refuses to come to my house because I asked her not to bring visitors round during the working day without calling to check it was convenient - I work from home and she assumes I should just drop everything when she want to bring an aunty round for tea.
She has accused me of cutting her out my life because there are a couple of hours on Xmas day when we do not see her.
She has cried because I have not invited her to events at the DC's school that haven't actually taken place.
She has accused me of breaking up the family because I finally stood up to a family member who was treating me badly.
She has told lies to other family members to make me look bad.
I see her very little now and I am much happier. But I doubt it has made any difference to her state of mind because she is always going to be unhappy. I think she actually enjoys it, so in her own weird way she probably is happy.

WhiteVixen Tue 20-Feb-18 13:04:47

If you are sat there trying to work out if you're a narcissist, then you're not a narcissist. Your mother is one, and as such cannot see anything wrong with her behaviour. It's definitely not you.

christmaspresentaibu Tue 20-Feb-18 13:12:54

RunRabbit yes we've definitely been cast in those roles from an early age. DM has always said that DSis was so much easier as a baby than I was, but also that she had me to entertain her, so at least that gives me some credit?

There are endless examples, though. DSis has been allowed to study her subject of choice at university (DM and DF pressured me to study MFL and then voted for Brexit hmm). She didn't have to have a job during her exams (although admittedly my boss cut my hours so it wasn't anything like the commitment it could have been). She's generally been allowed much more freedom to do her own thing - whether it's because she's younger and I'm older, or because she's 'good' and I'm 'bad', I don't know.

It's a really good point about limiting the amount of time/space they have in my brain, thank you. I downloaded a meditation app last night to try and give my mind a bit of peace!

OnTheRise - snap exactly! That's what DF did to me last year, when I was at a point where I was starting to realise the extent of this, I think, and starting to limit contact. They knew exactly what I was doing and retaliated and it all blew up in the autumn. I'm really glad you've found some peace and headspace by limiting your calls! At the moment I'm just using text to communicate with DM because I can't actually face phone calls. sad Maybe with a bit of time and space, I'll be able to tolerate calls again, I think that keeps her on-side and easier to deal with!

Lottapianos, that's such a lovely post, thank you flowers I might print it out to look at when I'm finding this especially hard! And I will keep looking into therapy too.

UpSideDownBrain, sometimes I really think there must be a script! How can all these mothers be saying the same things and acting the same way? How did they get like this? The strange thing is, DM hasn't previously had a good relationship with her own mum - she would always moan when DGM phoned and not want to talk to her, drive past the end of her road without visiting her. So as far as I can tell, DGM did her own thing and visited DM's town too without visiting her. It's a really stupid cycle, it looks so petty and childish written down, but I think it was one of DGM's ways to stop being manipulated by DM?

A lot of your stories are really familiar! I'm so sorry you've had to go through this too. I think our mothers do thrive on the drama and hurt and upset. I remember DM being quite good when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend (as an aside, she'd told me five years previously that he'd go to uni, forget about me and meet somebody else - so I clung to him and went to his uni and generally held on for a long time after I should've let go and got on with my own life). But when things are happy, like now with my DP, she hates it. It seems to boil down to - she enjoys me being in a difficult situation but finds me being happy (if it's away from her?) really hard to cope with.

Sorry for waffling so much, it's really useful to get some of these things out in black and white, and I hope it's useful to all of you sharing your stories too. flowers

OnTheRise Tue 20-Feb-18 13:16:50

OP, I used to limit my calls with my parents: now I have no contact with them at all. I haven't seen them in more than four years and although it's really sad, it's also lovely as I don't have to put up with their poison anymore. My children prefer it too. It's by far the best option for us.

My mother loves seeing me being upset. I had a boyfriend in my teens who was a bully and a liar: she encouraged me to see him and when I finally broke up with him she used to invite him round to our house, especially when she knew I was going out with anyone else, and tell him all my secrets. She's a vile woman. And your mother sounds a lot like her.

It's difficult being NC but it really is good, too.

christmaspresentaibu Tue 20-Feb-18 13:27:56

WhiteVixen, thank you, that's really reassuring. I go over and over things in my head trying to work out if it's me who's wrong. I think I can be quite selfish and lazy etc., so it's good to know I'm probably not a narcissist to boot!

OnTheRise, I'm sorry that you had to take that step with your parents but I'm glad NC worked for you and your family. My feeling at the moment is that DP and I can withstand this if we go low-contact, but NC would only be on the table if DM and DF's behaviour harmed my hypothetical/potential children in any way. DF is already fearing that he might not see his future GC because of this. sad

Lottapianos Tue 20-Feb-18 13:32:49

'she enjoys me being in a difficult situation but finds me being happy (if it's away from her?) really hard to cope with.'

My mother is exactly the same. She especially loved it if my sister and I were going through crap with boyfriends and would be positively triumphant if a relationship ended. I think she found it very validating because it gave credit to her theory that all men are bastards and will let you down in the end, she didn't have to tolerate our happiness anymore, and it put her into the role of rescuer and supporter, but only on her terms.

It was ALL about her. It always has been. She is simply not capable of holding anyone else's feelings and needs in mind, in the same way that a 5 year old child is simply not capable of doing the same. That's a really disturbing and upsetting thing to realise about your own mother, the person that you hope would be your biggest supporter and cheerleader. Ultimately though, it has been helpful to realise how things really are, and it has helped me to let go of the hope that she will change and I will get what I need from her.

But like I say OP, it has been years of grieving to get to this point. There is no switch you can flick to make yourself 'get over it'. You can learn to accept how your parents are but it's a long, extremely painful process. Ignore anyone who urges you to 'move on', 'don't dwell on the past' etc. This is your past, and your feelings, and your unsupportive parents. The 'moving on' can happen in time but you can't force it.

AnneElliott Tue 20-Feb-18 13:39:54

It's not you op - it's them. And as others have said, your father is also to blame.

I have a mother who is similar and I actually blame my father more. As I suspect my mother has some sort of illness, whereas my father went along with it all for a quiet life.

I limit contact and restrict discussions to purely superficial matters. My mother is actually an ok grandparent to DS, but that's because she knows that any bad behaviour and she so t be seeing him. I'm not having him treated like I was.

Lisette40 Tue 20-Feb-18 14:16:20

So right Lottapianos

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