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"But we took you to Stately Homes" - survivors of dysfunctional and toxic families(978 Posts)
It's November 2018, and the Stately Home is still open to visitors.
Oct 14 – Dec 14
Dec 14 – March 15
March 2015 - Nov 2015
Nov 2015 - Feb 2016
Feb 2016 - Oct 2016
Oct 2016 - Feb 2017
Feb 2017 - May 2017
May 2017 - August 2017
August 2017 - December 2017
December 2017 - November 2018
Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.
This is a long running thread which was originally started up by 'pages' see original thread here (December 2007)
So this thread originates from that thread and has become a safe haven for Adult children of abusive families.
The title refers to an original poster's family who claimed they could not have been abusive as they had taken her to plenty of Stately Homes during her childhood!
One thing you will never hear on this thread is that your abuse or experience was not that bad. You will never have your feelings minimised the way they were when you were a child, or now that you are an adult. To coin the phrase of a much respected past poster Ally90;
'Nobody can judge how sad your childhood made you, even if you wrote a novel on it, only you know that. I can well imagine any of us saying some of the seemingly trivial things our parents/ siblings did to us to many of our real life acquaintances and them not understanding why we were upset/ angry/ hurt etc. And that is why this thread is here. It's a safe place to vent our true feelings, validate our childhood/ lifetime experiences of being hurt/ angry etc by our parents behaviour and to get support for dealing with family in the here and now.'
Most new posters generally start off their posts by saying; but it wasn't that bad for me or my experience wasn't as awful as x,y or z's.
Some on here have been emotionally abused and/ or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesn't have to be any) they fall into.
NONE of that matters. What matters is how 'YOU' felt growing up, how 'YOU' feel now and a chance to talk about how and why those childhood experiences and/ or current parental contact, has left you feeling damaged, falling apart from the inside out and stumbling around trying to find your sense of self-worth.
You might also find the following links and information useful, if you have come this far and are still not sure whether you belong here or not.
'Toxic Parents' by Susan Forward.
I started with this book and found it really useful.
Here are some excerpts:
"Once you get going, most toxic parents will counterattack. After all, if they had the capacity to listen, to hear, to be reasonable, to respect your feelings, and to promote your independence, they wouldn't be toxic parents. They will probably perceive your words as treacherous personal assaults. They will tend to fall back on the same tactics and defences that they have always used, only more so.
Remember, the important thing is not their reaction but your response. If you can stand fast in the face of your parents' fury, accusations, threats and guilt-peddling, you will experience your finest hour.
Here are some typical parental reactions to confrontation:
"It never happened". Parents who have used denial to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy or anxiety, will undoubtedly use it during confrontation, to promote their version of reality. They'll insist that your allegations never happened, or that you're exaggerating. They won't remember, or they will accuse you of lying.
YOUR RESPONSE: Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean it didn't happen".
"It was your fault." Toxic parents are almost never willing to accept responsibility for their destructive behaviour. Instead, they will blame you. They will say that you were bad, or that you were difficult. They will claim that they did the best that they could but that you always created problems for them. They will say that you drove them crazy. They will offer as proof, the fact that everybody in the family knew what a problem you were. They will offer up a laundry list of your alleged offences against them.
YOUR RESPONSE: "You can keep trying to make this my fault, but I'm not going to accept the responsibility for what you did to me, when I was a child".
"I said I was sorry what more do you want?" Some parents may acknowledge a few of the things that you say but be unwilling to do anything about it.
YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate your apology, but that is just a beginning. If you're truly sorry, you'll work through this with me, to make a better relationship."
"We did the best we could." Some parents will remind you of how tough they had it while you were growing up and how hard they struggled. They will say such things as "You'll never understand what I was going through," or "I did the best I could". This particular style of response will often stir up a lot of sympathy and compassion for your parents. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult for you to remain focused on what you need to say in your confrontation. The temptation is for you once again to put their needs ahead of your own. It is important that you be able to acknowledge their difficulties, without invalidating your own.
YOUR RESPONSE: "I understand that you had a hard time, and I'm sure that you didn't hurt me on purpose, but I need you to understand that the way you dealt with your problems really did hurt me"
"Look what we did for you." Many parents will attempt to counter your assertions by recalling the wonderful times you had as a child and the loving moments you and they shared. By focusing on the good things, they can avoid looking at the darker side of their behaviour. Parents will typically remind you of gifts they gave you, places they took you, sacrifices they made for you, and thoughtful things they did. They will say things like, "this is the thanks we get" or "nothing was ever enough for you."
YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate those things very much, but they didn't make up for ...."
"How can you do this to me?" Some parents act like martyrs. They'll collapse into tears, wring their hands, and express shock and disbelief at your "cruelty". They will act as if your confrontation has victimized them. They will accuse you of hurting them, or disappointing them. They will complain that they don't need this, they have enough problems. They will tell you that they are not strong enough or healthy enough to take this, that the heartache will kill them. Some of their sadness will, of course, be genuine. It is sad for parents to face their own shortcomings, to realise that they have caused their children significant pain. But their sadness can also be manipulative and controlling. It is their way of using guilt to try to make you back down from the confrontation.
YOUR RESPONSE: "I'm sorry you're upset. I'm sorry you're hurt. But I'm not willing to give up on this. I've been hurting for a long time, too."
Personality Disorders definition
Daughters of narcissistic mothers
Out of the FOG
You carry the cure in your own heart
Help for adult children of child abuse
The Echo Society
There are also one or two less public offshoots of Stately Homes, PM AttilaTheMeerkat or toomuchtooold for details.
Toxic Parents by Susan Forward
Homecoming by John Bradshaw
Will I ever be good enough? by Karyl McBride
If you had controlling parents by Dan Neuharth
When you and your mother can't be friends by Victoria Segunda
Children of the self-absorbed by Nina Brown - check reviews on this, I didn't find it useful myself.
Recovery of your inner child by Lucia Capacchione
Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nazakawa
This final quote is from smithfield posting as therealsmithfield:
"I'm sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out. I personally don't claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will receive a lot of wisdom but above all else the insights and advice given will 'always' be delivered with warmth and support."
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
How you handle the NC depends, I think. Is she round your cousin's very much, are you going to run into her? Then I would suggest just going "grey rock" (Google it - it's a description for how to be boring and make NOD/psychopaths lose interest in you,), remove her and her crew from your social media (you can do it by unfollowing/filtering them off of stuff if you don't want to unfriend), and don't answer her calls. Just sort of fade away. If you don't make it really obvious that you're going NC, you just make yourself boring and unavailable, she'll likely eventually move on. It also deescalates things, doing it that way - I don't know if she would be likely to get violent, but if that is an issue be very careful.
Regarding Christmas, if they want to see you, you plant a big smile on your face and you say "no" in a way that they can't argue with. "We have plans" or "Thanks for the invite, but no " Don't give explanations, as they can pick apart explanations. Is there anywhere you can go for Christmas? Even(!) if it's just going to church, get you away from there for the day.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Oh, Christmas guilt...
December will mark 18 months NC. DM lives in another country. I have no idea who, if anyone, she's spending it with.
The sadness is approaching and I'm not sure what to do to stave it off...
Seems like my only options are guilt and sadness or refreshed anger. Why can't I find any decent middle ground? When does the acceptance part arrive?
(Doesn't help that I just binge-watched the series Parenthood – top tip: do not watch family-focused shows at this time of year!)
ladybee28 18 months is too soon to get over it all, and anniversary dates take a bit longer. I find it helps if I have something planned to do during that period.
I've been contacted by a genealogy company who asked me to help them find my mother as she has an inheritance coming.
My families favourite game is 'you're damned if you do and damned if you don't' and I'm back in the game again! She will need the money, she won't want it because of where it comes from, I will get the blame.
I think I did the right thing, she can be an adult and deal with making the choice about what to do with the money.
@UpstartCrow I know you're right. I do have other things to focus on (DP and DSS are getting gloriously SPOILED this year) but she still slips into the back of my head in quiet moments... first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Can you pass the buck with this genealogy company? Give them the contact details of someone else in your family? (Apologies if there is no-one else to pass them on to, I'm not sure of your story)
Also struggling with Christmas guilt. It’s been just over a year since we saw my mother. can I ask how you explain NC to your kids? We rarely saw my mum but occasionally my eldest who is almost 6 has asked curiously when we are going to see her and I don’t know what to say, I’ve managed to avoid the conversation for so long but I know I owe him an explanation. It’s hard, j don’t want to cause him any pain. Contact has been so limited over the last 3 years I didn’t think he’d notice that much, the 4 year old hasn’t. I’m trying to protect him from pain, I’ve moved away , I’ve made sure their lives are nothing like mine was and I want things to be normal for them. I don’t know how to explain this to him.
I feel guilty myself for cutting contact, then my son asks I wonder if I should just suck it up . But the problem is I can’t forgive my mum for what she did. I disclosed sexual abuse to her as a kid and she didn’t believe me, sent me back to my abusers house, kept them in my lives then went onto lie about all of this. She lies and manipulates to make her self look better in all of this. She left us home alone from young ages, was emotionally distant and cold. Very very emotionally abusive to me as a teenager when I began go struggle and told me I had no reason to be stressed. For years I put on an act to keep the peace, I hate conflict. Bit too many times I’d spend time with them and they’d drink too much and arguments would happen. My kids being born was the turning point and I couldn’t comprehend what happened anymore and seeing her was causing me so much anxiety and pain, not just during the visit but before and after. So I did it. I couldn’t keep up the act anymore, but maybe I should have done. Kept contact as low as possible to keep everyone happy. I’m not trying to cause anyone pain, I’m not trying to punish anyone. I’m trying to protect myself and my kids from a not very nice environment. Sorry that was really long .
How would you best support a partner with a toxic family? DHs mother is a martyr, catastrophising everything (every time she's in a car she 'nearly died') and using emotionally charged statements (DD is 3 months and was unsettled with her, really wanting a cuddle from mum and bed so she went on repeating 'Oh I'm just evil grandma' in a whiney voice). FIL isn't the brightest and the whole family has an over respect of war veterans (great to have done military service but it's obsessive). There is continual talk to dead relatives (my father would have been 125yrs old today, I miss him - his DM is 70). DH has BPD, anxiety and depression none of which is ever acknowledged as if it's a big collective secret. It's the same for his cousin with bipolar. DH feels his sister has always had more more practical and financial support. PILs say they are supportive (they tell the story of DDs birth like their own which of course they love because she was really unwell and they can say how upset they are) but don't actually do anything. For example they'll say they help with DD but actually just watch me do everything. DHs other cousin is very dominating despite clearly financially abusing her mother. All we hear about is how wonderful her kids are as well as how great DHs Dsis is for selling poppies - her and her bf are unemployed and I haven't ever actually met her. Weve been together 4yrs, married 1.DH constantly asks them round for dinner or for his dad to help with DIY (despite his dad being terrible at it) yet then inevitably gets annoyed and disappears leaving me to entertain them. I've said I'd support him going nc but he doesn't want to do this. I've tried to encourage him to contact friends to meet up (he declines invites from friends and then invites his parents round) but he doesn't. We're at a point now where I facilitate PILs time with DD as I'm on mat leave so DH isn't seeing them as much but it often ends in them arriving quite late so they can ambush him. Any ideas as I'm at a loss. I did wonder if it was a golden child scape goat scenario but then surely they'd love to use DHs MH to beat him over the head with? I appreciate he probably feels obligated to invite them round lots but then he clearly doesn't enjoy it. Help!
I'm still in contact with my parents and seeing them at Christmas. They have chilled (a bit) as they have aged, but it's still so hard to forgive them for all the emotional pain.
What is bothering me today is looking around and realising how few friends I have. Part of the reason is that my parents always encouraged me to look at other people as stupid/a waste of time/beneath us. It has been very hard to try to undo 18 years of indoctrination from them. Meeting people is hard, trusting them is almost impossible.
When I hear other people talk about how busy Christmas/new year is, I feel really sad, I have people I meet for coffee occasionally but not more than that.
Hope those of you who are struggling at this time of year are coping today.
LadyBee I’ve been NC 6 months and I struggle with the guilt too.
The problem for me is that I am quite good at putting up a wall against my emotions (I had to learn to do it, as a child), so I am able to put a wall up against the guilt too, but I don’t want to do that because part of the point of going NC was so that I could feel more ‘myself’ and kind of complete and whole and able to access those emotions freely. However, when I do, the guilt comes back and I feel terrible about the NC. A counsellor would probably suggest I ‘sit’ with the guilt and just let it pass, but that’s really hard to do without it overwhelming me and feeling I have to capitulate. It’s a catch-22.
I have found it helps to mentally divide my M into two people. There’s my mum, and there’s X (I use her real name but obviously I can’t put it here). My mum is the person I’d have liked her to be (and actually she was that person some of the time - she’s maybe 20% mum at the most?). X is her real persona, the one with the narcissistic traits who has given me good cause to go NC. Basically, Mum deserves my guilt; X doesn’t.
Explaining it like that to myself helps keep the guilt proportionate, so I don’t have to block it and it doesn’t overwhelm me.
@Napssavelives: it's tough, isn't it? My mother was NC with HER mother for much of my childhood and told me way too much about why. But at the same time, you need to be honest with your kids.
Keeping it age-appropriate, I think you can explain some of your NC, just making 100% sure that there's no way your DS can worry that it's his fault.
If you're NC partly to protect your kids from your mum when she drinks, for example, you can frame it around safety: explain to him that Grandma drinks alcohol that's not good for her and changes how she acts, and when she acts that way she's not safe to be around. You've decided not to see Grandma for a while to make sure DS is safe.
Or, "Grandma did and said a lot of things that hurt me very much when I was little. I want to make sure you're safe from that kind of behaviour, so we're not going to see her for a while."
Keep it true, and keep it short. You'll do great - sending hugs.
@SpareBedroom The problem for me is that I am quite good at putting up a wall against my emotions (I had to learn to do it, as a child), so I am able to put a wall up against the guilt too
Oh, how I hear you on that one!
I like the idea of the 2 'personas' you've described. Thing is, I don't remember so much of my childhood with her that I don't trust my percentages - how much she was great and how much awful. My background worry is that I've blown it out of proportion and I'm 'punishing' her (as she says) unfairly.
And that just breaks my heart.
My mother is like a tornado - unpredictable and powerful and funny and awe-inspiringly beautiful in a lot of ways, and whatever she's feeling fills an entire house. But she's also about 4 years old on the inside, too. Incredibly naive and fragile and scared, and everyone automatically wants to pull her in and protect her. Until she changes again, and then she drains all the energy of everyone around her and explodes in huge torrents of emotion...
She did a phenomenal job of raising me, in so many ways that I'm endlessly grateful for. But she was also incredibly scary and unpredictable.
I never knew who I was getting into the car with at the end of the school day (I learned to be able to smell it within about a second and a half and I can still read the energy in a room within my first breath). Would we be singing at the tops of our voices with the windows down, with 20 tubs of ice cream in the back? Or would she sit in stony, lip-curled silence for half the journey and then slam on the brakes and scream and hurl herself against the steering wheel? Would she cry in silence the whole way home, or would she be chattering excitedly about her latest project?
There were so many versions of my mother, and she denied so many of them (5 seconds after the fact, 5 years after...) that I don't trust myself to judge. I'm just going off something a therapist said to me, which was: "If everything had been fine, you wouldn't be wondering."
And that's probably true. I just wonder if I've wondered too much.
I’m NC to protect them from the at times toxic environment, she has poor boundaries . Also protecting them my protecting myself, seeing her has such a bad impact on my mental health and they need me to be well to be be my best self to look after them. Is that selfish?
Hi all, I’m so sorry that so many of you have toxic parents, I’m glad you’ve found others to help you through it here.
I was recommended to come onto here by a fellow poster after I started a thread about starting the NC journey.
I won’t bore anybody with the details, as I tend to waffle, but it’s on the other thread if you want to know why we’re starting this journey.
My F is currently being ridiculous, and asking for trivial things back (like lightbulbs) which they’ve given to me before, and other things like gifts they gave to us years ago.
It’s their usual trick after an argument, try and get things back so we feel like we’re missing out on things by not talking to them.
I don’t think they understand that this really is it, that’s probably my fault though, I’m constantly being guilted back into the fold each time by my F after my M has had another fit of rage.
They were supposed to be coming here for Christmas, along with my sister, but I don’t want to unblock their numbers for long enough for them to ‘get’ that they’re obviously uninvited. If I did that I know I’d have a barrage of abuse awaiting me.
Knowing them they’ll try and turn up on Christmas Day and we’ll have to ignore them.
Any advice at all on how to deal with this? I know deep down I need to suck it up and let them know they’re not welcome but I don’t want to talk to them full stop.
ladybee I completely get how you feel about not being able to work out what those proportions are. I don’t know how much of what I ‘feel’ is what my M taught me to feel. My M is a master at getting me to take on the shame she should actually be dealing with herself - counselling helped me realise that. The adult me can see that she’s doing it in the present. I have extrapolated backwards and assumed that that was how she behaved in the past, too, because logically it ‘fits’ the complicated emotions I have, but I can’t prove it categorically, because like you I don’t remember well enough.
It’s really tough, isn’t it. I think what your therapist said about the wondering is worth hanging on to, though.
Can I just say as well that your M sounds a complete nightmare. The very fact that you had to ‘read’ your M’s unpredictability and react accordingly is enough on its own - it doesn’t matter whether she was subsequently ‘nice’ mum or ‘mad/nasty’ mum. The fact is, it should have been her responding to the unpredictability of you, the child, not the other way around. You were having to be the adult while she was allowed to be a child - that’s all wrong.
How is your father managing to contact you about returning lightbulbs of all things?. It sounds like he also needs to be blocked here because he is your mother's enabler and hatchet man (so not a nice man at all really). He has also failed you abjectly as a parent here, quite apart from your mother. He must not manage to guilt you back into their dysfunctional fold again. I presume as well that your sister is the favoured sibling (although such roles are interchangeable).
What is your role here in your family of origin?. Your reference to her rages made me think of narcissism; narcissistic rage is quite a frightening thing to behold. Female narcissists cannot do relationships at all so the men in their lives are either discarded or are as narcissistic as they are.
Do not let these people in at Christmas under any circumstances.
Ladybee, my mum is similar except she is not awe-inspiring or amazing - she is basically a bitter, nasty, lonely woman who judges everyone as beneath her.
But the moods! Exactly the same. Will she be lovely and kind and buy me magazines and chocolates today? Or will I get yelled at for existing? Or completely ignored?
I can be a bit moody myself and I am terrified my daughter will say the same about me when she's older. But I try so hard and I never ignore her or yell at her. I hope my moods don't fill the house like my mother's do.
Even now, 3000 miles away from my mother, I can feel her personality bleeding into me. It's like I don't know where I end and she begins. She has no boundaries.
Oh goodness, I have read more about your parents Storm and your mother is her own disordered of thinking horror and alcoholic to boot. Your dad has basically enabled her throughout. Your life at home was never stable.
No contact is the way forward here; ignore any attempts such people make to contact you. Block them all and seek real life support for your own self from Al-anon and NACOA (particularly them as they help adults too).
Its not your fault they are the ways they are; you did not make them that way.
Thanks for the reply. DH didn’t block my F’s number, it was all quite sudden for him, and so my F sent a range of texts to him.
DH didn’t tell me at first, but I got the gist when he started collecting random bits from around the house.
I’ve blocked them both, along with my sister, though I let her know why and that I will get back in touch in the future. She didn’t seem phased.
My F was abusive when I was a child/teenager, physically at times, though hasn’t done anything since I was 14/15. My M always uses this as a ‘remember when I protected you from F when...?’ And I absolutely have no idea what she’s talking about. There was no protection at any point, she just claims I’m wrong and imaging things as I like to ‘play the victim’.
He’s a large man and very intimidating at times, and he had one of those demeanours where you feel you’re always in the wrong.
My sister could be described as the favourite I suppose, mainly as she lives with them, is very subservient and doesn’t have to pay a penny to live there.
The only real bone of contention is that she is a lesbian and they say she’s ‘confused’ and ‘sick’.
We’ve had many falling outs over their disgusting behaviour, and how they treat her, but she just gets in with it and doesn’t bother challenging them.
When it comes to my role, I suppose I’m the sensible and reliable one. Any issues? Storm will sort it! Need to vent? Storm will sort it! Got so drunk you can’t stand, and your partner is shouting abuse at you down the phone and won’t come and pick you up? Storm will take you in!
So, doormat I guess.
Her rages are definitely legendary, the entire family has faced her wrath before.
I honestly don’t know why they talk to her anymore, she’s spiteful and awful.
Just the other day she was calling my auntie selfish and ‘a bitch’, in her own house no less, for not wanting to buy a house with her to renovate and flip. She’s ridiculous.
I know I shouldn’t let them in, and don’t want to, but then they’ll be able to tell everyone I ruined their Christmas.
Your DH has now hopefully blocked your Dad from further contacting him. They weren't going to get anywhere with you easily and that is why they contacted him in the first place. He was far easier to manipulate as well. I take it as a given that your DH has come from an emotionally healthy family as well. It may serve him well to read "Toxic Inlaws" by Susan Forward, you could read "Toxic Parents" by this author as a starting point.
Let these people say what they want; such people like your parents really do have no friends and there is good reason why. What they utter is just hot air.
Do not let them into your home at any time of the years let alone Christmas. Work out your boundaries here and stick to them like glue.
re your comment:-
"I’m NC to protect them from the at times toxic environment, she has poor boundaries . Also protecting them my protecting myself, seeing her has such a bad impact on my mental health and they need me to be well to be be my best self to look after them. Is that selfish?"
Not a bit of it.
Dysfunctional family stuff can and does go down the generations but it looks like its all going to stop with you because you have not treated your children in the ways you were treated as a child. Unfortunately for you, and that is a gross understatement, your mother simply repeated the same old dysfunctional pattern with you rather than seek the necessary help.
That could so easily be my mother you are describing. As for making friends, well I can chat to anyone quite easily but as soon as they show interest in developing a friendship - a real friendship, requiring trust and emotional investment on each side - I close off and run a mile. When you've spent your childhood being invisible and your adult years actively trying to make yourself invisible, it's hard to make that leap, isn't it? So I understand what you are saying.
But hold on to the fact that you try so hard to be different with your own daughter, never ignoring or yelling at her. You are doing everything you can to make her feel loved and she will know that.
lily yes, exactly the same as me, sooo hard for me to keep friends, I realised I have very surface level friendships recently and it's hard. But opening up...UGH.
My father just does/says nothing. We have no relationship (people always ask me if my parents live apart when I say this - nope! He very much lives in the same house as my mother - he just isn't part of family life on any level. I read recently that Japanese fathers spend 40 minutes a day with their kids on average. This was relayed as a sad and telling fact about how much they have to work. For me, 40 minutes with my dad per day would have been a huge improvement. Every time my husband spends time with my daughter, I'm amazed.)
I have a situation that has caused so much pain and still tears it’s ugly head from time to time. I’ve never written it out before so I hope it makes sense. I have two beautiful daughters, both in their early 20’s now but when they were 6 and 8 my husband and I separated and he took our daughters for a weekend in another town to stay with my older sister and her family. While they were there , her older daughter of 12 took them down stairs and tampered with them. We had no idea until they broke down several months later and confided in me. They were both extremely upset but scared of the older cousin so went along with it. I rang my ex husband and told him what my girls had told me and he was very upset as well . We got in touch with my sister and she became furious and claimed I was mentally un well and had made it all up. I took my girls to our Dr and then to a councilor and there was no way they or I had made anything up. Since then we haven’t been welcome at any family gathering, my parents would have Christmas with my other siblings and grandchildren then come to me on Boxing Day. My girls lost out on aunts, uncles and cousins , and my niece responsible having denied it all just carried on happily. I have had years sitting in the bath room crying on Christmas Day knowing they were all together. My father found it all very distasteful so opted to brush it all under the rug and my mother who I am close to went along with my father as it was the easiest option. I have since re married but feel very sad that even now our little family is very isolated.
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