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'But We Took You to Stately Homes'...a thread for adult children of abusive families

(1002 Posts)
therealsmithfield Mon 11-Jan-10 14:10:27

Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.

This is a long running thread which was originally started up by 'pages' see original thread here

So this thread originates from that thread and has become a safe haven for Adult children of abusive families.

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 parent?s 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 emotional abused and/or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesnt have to be any) they fall into.

NONE of that matters. What matters is how 'YOU' felt growing 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 wether 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 you 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 defenses 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 us 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 behavior. 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 offenses 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 behavior. 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 realize 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."

Helpful Websites

Alice Miller

Personality Disorders definition

follow up to pages first thread

Im sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out grin. I personally dont claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will recieve a lot of wisdom but above all else the insights and advice given will 'always' be delivered with warmth and support.

Happy Posting (smithfield posting as therealsmithfield)

wanttostartafresh Mon 11-Jan-10 14:24:23

Perfect TRS, thank you.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 11-Jan-10 14:30:56


Great job, you should be very proud of you really cos you've come a long way. Well I am proud of you. I remember when you first posted and you then posted on another Stately Homes thread.

yours with long memory

roseability Mon 11-Jan-10 15:45:00

Great post trs!I feel quite emotional reading it.lets stick together guys

PurpleOne Mon 11-Jan-10 16:22:44

I really wish I hadn't bothered getting back in touch with my father.
He has used me all over again. sad

OrdinarySAHM Mon 11-Jan-10 16:47:15

Excellent TRSmithfield, thank you smile.

PurpleOne, what made you get back in touch with your father?

What has he done that has made you feel used?

How does this remind you of what he did in the past?

ItsGraceAgain Mon 11-Jan-10 18:28:29

Smithfield, thanks for this. I hadn't realised what the "6th visit to the Stately Home" was about! Now reading it. Your posts are incredibly powerful. By the time I've read all 989 posts in the other thread, I'm sure I'll have learned some more about me. And maybe have something new to say

BopTheAlien Mon 11-Jan-10 22:19:01


Way too tired to post more now after my late night posting last night but am very happy to see things moving on like this, and TRS and WTSA - grin - thanks for your posts on the old thread, guys! Means a lot to have that validation.

Well done and thanks for setting this up, TRS.

Will be back when I have some energy again!

MamaLazarou Tue 12-Jan-10 08:44:38

Couldn't believe my eyes reading the OP: you have described my family perfectly! They like to act like nothing ever happened, they did the best they could, I was a difficult child, nothing's ever good enough for me, etc. What an eye-opener!

I'd seen the 'Stately Home' threads before, but had assumed it was about someone whose PILs were frightfully rich! grin

mampam Tue 12-Jan-10 12:52:20

Hi, I've been wondering whether or not if I should post here for quite some time. You see I'm not posting about my own Toxic Parents (I do have a toxic mother and have posted on here about it a long time ago) but about my DH's VERY Toxic Parents.

I have recently had threads about my IL's, mainly to do with what DH should do next and wondering if I have given him the correct advice/support.

Here's a low down on my Toxic IL's:

IL's don't like me and MIL especially has made it perfectly clear.

I feel that MIL is an attention seeker who was used to having the full attention of FIL and DH. When I came along and some of DH's attention was focused on me, MIL hated it/me and would take steps to ensure she got DH's full attention again, for example:

Changing her voice to almost babyish so DH would pity her and say yes to what ever she was asking of him, when she got her yes from him her voice would immediately change back to normal; getting in strops for no apparent reason for days on end until DH would go to her house and spend hours with her trying to find out what was wrong; Getting in mini-strops about nothing which would end with DH saying 'sorry' and feeling bad even though he had done nothing wrong, making DH feel really guilty by phoning him when they were on holiday to make sure he was feeding the cat properly because 'she's all I've got'; our first romantic weekend away together was ruined by MIL continuously phoning. DH couldn't switch his phone off as his dad was in hospital (for a minor op) at the time. On the day we were due to come home DH had a series of phonecalls asking him when he would be home as MIL wanted him to go to the hospital with her. She wouldn't take NO for an answer. We were over a 3 hour drive away.

(These examples are to name but a few).

DH was always expected to drop what he was doing the instant he was asked by FIL to help him with something. If he dared to refuse = major guilt trips = 'all the things I've done for you etc'. We once had a holiday planned and had booked time off work and the hotel etc. IL's decided they wanted to go away the same week (they don't work so can go any time) and we were expected to cancel our plans at the last minute to stay behind and feed their cat! When DH said no because we've got it all booked and time off work booked, FIL replied "thanks a lot, what are we supposed to do?". We were hounded on that holiday too by phonecalls. DH switched his phone off but when we were seeing relatives they would just 'happen' to call and want to speak to DH.

We used to live next door to IL's. I was made to feel like an outsider, it was just the 3 of them, me and my DC's weren't part of that family.

MIL used to say sly things to me when on our own. DH confronted her and she made out I must have got the wrong end of the stick. TBH DH didn't believe me at that time, he didn't think his mother would ever 'say things like that'.

When we announced to them that we were engaged, we got a half hearted 'congratulations' and they carried on watching TV even though we'd taken around a bottle of champagne for a celebration, this was followed by a 3 day strop from MIL who was quite nasty with it.

FIL has been on the door step slagging me off to DH infront of my DC's.

Because of this DH finally realised that we could no longer continue living next door to them (there were other events too but to long to list). When he told his parents we were moving out all hell broke loose.
FIL stormed into our house started shouting at me and calling me names. To cut a long story short refused to apologise to me.

He did however apologise in a round about way to DH but DH said he needed to apologise to me. FIL refused. This was followed by everytime I left the house they would be straight around to hound DH. Basically trying to buy him off. When that didn't work they then had possible heart conditions and possible legs that needed amputating!!

At our wedding they didn't speak one word to me all day. They caused an awful atmosphere. FIL wouldn't stand near me for the photos and they look ridiculous with him stood at least 3 foot away from me. Everytime I went near MIL she turned on her heels and walked off in the opposite direction.

2 weeks after the wedding MIL's father died. After the wedding we couldn't really afford to travel over 300 miles and pay for a hotel but we did anyway. MIL wouldn't speak to DH or even look at him because I was there with him.

After this DH wrote IL's a letter saying that they'd really upset him and the reason he hadn't had anything to do with them was because of X,Y,Z and he wanted an apology and a promise never to behave like that again. Low and behold a reply was received but no apology.

Meanwhile DH was being hounded by his paternal grandparents by phone, text, email and letter. The first letter on the subject having a part addressed to me asking me to spare some of DH's love for the rest of his family. This hounding continued, Christmas 08 DH received an email from his grandparents with a photo of DH and FIL swimming in the sea, the caption was "this is the grandson I want to remember" followed by a full scale cartoon drawing of FIL comforting MIL when she's crying and FIL being kicked in the privates by DH and at the bottom it said "I cannot believe you are involving mampams children like this or was it mampams idea to take the presents back?", basically because MIL turned up at DH's work and left a Christmas present for my DC's and some money for us. Rightly or wrongly DH felt he didn't want anything from his parents so he took the presents back to their house, no-one was about so he left them on the doorstep.

DH has recently got in touch with some of his cousins, who are also in touch with IL's. They are obviously being fed bits of information by IL's that they know will get back to DH like MIL is supposed to have been in and out of hospital after having a nervous breakdown, FIL doesn't do anything but sit and stare into space and won't talk to anyone!! The cousins live 250 miles away so know no different, we on the otherhand live 5 miles away in a small rural community where everyone knows everyone elses business. It's funny how people we know had seen them and they had been on holiday and ridden FIL's motorbike down through France.

We were also told by DH's grandparents who live 300 miles away that FIL had had a serious operation on the tendons in his arm, funnily enough we saw him about a week after said operation and he was riding his motorbike!

I could go on for ever and ever. More recently though things have taken a strange/different turn. DH and I are expecting a baby in May, this was written in exactly the same way in a Christmas card to the IL's, grandparents and aunty/uncle. We received a card from IL's saying how pleased they were and are looking forward to being 'proud grandparents'.

2 weekends before Christmas DH had a breakdown and is now on AD's and is awaiting counselling.

Last week we had a letter from IL's saying that they want to get in contact (had the usual guilt trips in it).

DH does want to establish some form of contact. At the end of the day it's his decision and I have to support him the best way I can. I have suggested he write a letter back saying that contact will be gradual but only through email at first with a few conditions. If they don't like these then tough, like it or lump it kind of thing. I have suggested that he opens a new email account for which the only correspondance is with his parents and if it all gets too much he doesn't have to check the emails on this account or he can just delete it. I think the main thing is for him to feel like he is in control of the whole situation.

Thank you for reading if you made it this far. It feels so much better to pour it all out like this. Sorry I have taken up so much space on your new thread.

If you have any thoughts on this then I would be grateful. I know a couple of you have posted and given great advice on the threads I started. I also know that the main consensus was to stay away from these toxic people but it is not what DH wants to do. I'd be greatful for any thoughts/advice on writing the initial contact letter to IL's. I want to support/help DH in the best way I can.

Thank you.

gladitsover Tue 12-Jan-10 12:56:47

Hi everyone, I'm really pleased I found this thread. I am currently reading through your previous one. A lot of your experiences sound very familiar to my situation (sorry can't remember individuals, have just read through 12 pages of previous thread!). Some time I would like to post some of my experiences and ask for your opinions, if that is ok.

ItsGraceAgain Tue 12-Jan-10 13:28:24

mampam, your ILs sound beyond awful! It's so sad for your DH. He's probably going through what so many of us have/are - that feeling of filial duty, bound up with a desire to improve the relationship (=fix the crappy childhood), and the conflict with our adult reality. Logic, unfortunately, doesn't get much of a look-in here because of the conflicting emotional/psychological imperatives.

I can't offer specific advice but I truly hope he gets a great counsellor, who will help him separate the strands of this issue & free him to make adult choices in confidence.

Sending him my best wishes! And to you: you sound like a wise & supportive DW. You need good care, too

OrdinarySAHM Tue 12-Jan-10 13:33:13

It looks like the new description at the top of the thread is making it much clearer what the thread is about and more people who could benefit from it are finding it, so that is excellent grin

Mampam, the situation with your ILs sounds incredibly stressful! And it must be horrible to watch your DH go through it, with them being his parents who are supposed to be loving, supportive etc. They really seem to have it in for you and have had from the very beginning! - but this is proof that it actually is not your fault because they couldn't have known you well enough right at the beginning to have made such an extreme judgement of you based on anything true about you. They have that opinion just because they want to have it, it seems. They can't cope with anything which looks like a threat to the amount of attention they will get from their son.

They need him to do loads of things for them and give them loads of attention in order to feel important. This isn't proper love for who your DH is, this is 'love' for how he can make them feel. It is selfish. And whatever he does, I'm sure it will never be enough.

It must be hard for you to 'watch' your DH have contact, knowing it is no good for him, but that you have to respect his wish to keep 'trying' to have a reasonable relationship with them. It is probably easy for you to see that he should just cut off but it is a natural inbuilt thing to try to bond and keep the bond with your parents. They have to be REALLY bad before people cut off, or you have to try and try and get hurt and disappointed so many times that EVENTUALLY when you feel sure you have tried everything (because you feel it is worth it because this bond is so important to humans) you decide not to keep banging your head against a brick wall. This is something your DH will have to decide for himself when he feels ready.

You may feel helpless but your support in whatever he wants to do and talking with him about the outcomes and helping him work through it all will help him so much.

You are important too and I hope there are people supporting you just as much.

wanttostartafresh Tue 12-Jan-10 13:46:33

Mampam, I would highly recommend you get hold of Toxic in Laws by Susan Forward. It helped me and DH enormously in working out how to cope with his parents. If your DH is willing to read the book I am sure your situation will improve beyond recognition.

mampam Tue 12-Jan-10 14:48:52

wtsaf I have a copy of Toxic Parents on order for DH. Is Toxic Inlaws any different? Is it worth ordering a copy for myself?

OSAHM yes you have hit the nail on the head. It is hard for me to watch DH go through this and I know that no good will come of this contact with his parents. They will never change but like you have said until he gets fed up with banging his head against a brick wall......
I just don't know how much I can take. I sincerely hope I can take it until DH has his lightbulb moment.

Grace You are right there is no logic. DH wants to patch his relationship up with his parents because I think he feels it has only gone belly up in the last 4 years. He didn't think there was anything wrong with his childhood at the time, only now that he has spread his own wings away from his parents is he looking back and realising that his childhood was far from 'normal'. He still hasn't come to terms with this.

From the snippits DH has told me about his childhood it seems very odd. For example he was made to cycle miles on his bike to fetch a heavy bag of potatoes and struggled home with them barely able to manage - why couldn't his parents have fetched them in the car?

DH was left of his own accord to do things like attend Doctors appointments on his own from an early age, walk miles home from school on his own at an early age, he would roam around the countryside on his own getting up to all sorts.

DH admits that it was only when he got older that they suddenly wanted to try and control what he did after the freedom (too much for his age imo)he had as a child.

Something else I find strange about his childhood is that 2 men tried to kidnap him and he managed to get/run away. He ran straight to his dad's workshop but he wasn't believed. DH has told me in detail about this and it sounds very frightening and horrific.

DH had a babysitter. The babysitter didn't go to their house to babysit he would have to go there and sleep over. Quite often the baby sitter would go out herself leaving DH in the care of her two teenage children. They sexually abused him. He used to have to sleep in the same bed as the teenage son too. Whilst IL's did not know that this was happening to DH and still don't know to this day as DH never told them for fear of not being believed. I'm so angry that they would palm a young child off to a strangers house overnight and not find it odd that their son was sleeping in the same bed as a teenage boy.

wanttostartafresh Tue 12-Jan-10 15:15:19

I'm a bit reluctant to post what I'm thinking given the problems in the previous thread. But I have not been able to sleep for thinking about all the things that were said about me by spiky and i need to get it out of my head otherwise it will be churning around for days. Sorry if you would rather all just forget about it and move on, i can't seem to do that probably because a lot of spiky's comments were directed at me.

I have re-read through my posts and spiky's posts and i feel as if i simply cannot make sense of what she is saying, both wrt her own situation and mine. Her main problem with me seems to have been wrt my sisters. She definately seems to have been interested in this issue as she said she read the thread that i started about my relationship with them a few months ago. My other thread is here in case anybody wants to read it here

I think she must have been drawn to my thread because she seems to have similar issues with her brother who was not abused whilst she was, just like my sisters and myself. But I have re-read that thread as well and what she said about it is simply not true. Nobody on my other thread was being judgmental whether in a good or bad way. People who were in a similar situation were simply relating their own experiences and how they dealt with things. There was one poster who posted about a friend of hers and that friend's situation and mine seemed nearly identical and i related completely to what she said and how her friend dealt with his situation.

I don't know why she kept saying that she felt 'frustrated' by my posts about my sisters and she clearly thought i was wrong because i was not doing what she thought i should do. But i don't even think she really read my posts properly or in full; i think she skimmed through,saw there was a similarity with her situation, and then couldn't understand why i was not dealing with it in the same way she had dealt with her situation with her brother. If she had bothered to read my posts properly i am sure she would have understood how and why i have reached the point where i am now ie no contact with my sisters. She said i was 'game playing' and by not contacting them i am trying to force them to see things from my pov. But that is totally incorrect. If she bothered to read my posts i have said quite clearly many times that i realise i will never get my sisters to accept my pov and i have decided to cut off contact to protect myself from being continually hurt. I'm not game playing and i have no idea where spiky got that idea from, most likely it might be the sort of thing she has tried.

It seems to me like she has had lots of therapy and has perhaps read some books about all of this but doesn't have any real in depth understanding about the dyamics that are often at play without us knowing about it and the different roles within the family etc. I found it strange that she said that she and her brother had always had a good relationship despite the obvious dysfunctional nature of their family. From my experience it seems to be very rare if not impossible for sibling relationships within dysfunctional families to be 'normal' or genuinely caring and loving, particularly if only one sibling was abused. I did not realise how dysfunctional my own relationship with my sisters was until i worked through more and more issues and feelings. It had always been obvious to me that my relationship with my parents was not right but i had no idea that my relationship with my sisters had also been fundamentally damaged too and i also thought that my sisters and i had a good relationship. Until i started realising i had actually been completely blind to the many many signs and signals that my sisters had been giving over the years which all pointed to just how unhealthy and damaging my relationship was with them. I think this could where spiky is 'at'. She may not have looked closely at her relationship with her brother which is why she thinks they have a good relationship despite the fact he does not believe her when she says she was abused by their mother. Surely in a genuinely good, caring sibling relationship your sibling would believe you over such a thing and would not think you were lying or exaggerating? But i honestly believe that sibling relationships within dsyfunctional families simply cannot flourish in the way normal sibling relationships would within a functional family.

A huge sign for me that showed just how bad my relationship with my sisters really was, despite what i had thought all my life, was that they did not believe our parents had abused me. And from what spiky had said her brother does not believe that she was abused. And i think spiky's 'frustration' with me is caused by the fact that i have decided i do deserve to be believed about what my parents did to me and am not willing to have a relationship with my sisters unless they accept I am telling the truth, without exaggeration or lies or mistakes. I could not have a relationship with anyone who thought i was lying about something so fundamental to my personal history and that has caused me so much devastation and pain and loss. Spiky however seems willing to have a relationship with her brother despite the fact that he does not believe their mother abused her and i think my stance makes her feel very very uncomfortable or 'frustrated' as she puts it. She seems to be 'comforting' herself with the thought that her brother thinks she is good at various things as if that somehow makes up for the fact that he doesn't accept she was abused. Just to make it clear, i am not criticisng spiky's choice to maintain a relationship with her brother, i am just trying to work out why she seems to have such a problem with the way i am dealing with the situation with my sisters.

It has taken me a long long time to reach this point of feeling i do not need a relationship with my sisters. It has taken me a long time to gather the strength needed to emotionally detach from them but i knew i needed to do that as our relationship was causing me far more harm than good. But i have finally reached the place i wanted to be and i have such a strong gut feeling that i have done absolutely the right thing to preserve my own health and well being. And i deeply resent spiky's hurtful and insensetive and frankly ignorant comments about me. Afaic i have done the hard thing, i have detached myself from my sisters, and there is now a painful gap there which i have to live with.

Also by singling me out as the only person on this thread that she had a problem with and making out that I was the problem, (instead of realising that she is the one who has unresolved issues which were probably being triggered by my posts) she has unintentionally triggered a whole host of emotions from my past. She made me feel once again how my dad used to make me feel when he used to openly tell me that i was the problem child in the family, that i was the bad, difficult one, whilst my sisters were the 'good', 'well behaved' children. Being singled out from amongst a group and told you are the problem is horrible, i went through that as a child and i certainly don't want to go through it again, especially not on this thread and especially when it's not even the truth. I deeply resent and am extremely angry at spiky for having the arrogance to tell me that my posts are causing problems for her, when it seems obvious to me that my posts are merely triggering problems that she has already got. She is not even aware that she is scapegoating me and blaming me for her own problems. I may have put up with being scapegoated by my family for years but i am certainly not going to put up with it from somebody such as spiky who i think should spend more time reading and reflecting upon herself than posting on this thread.

I appreciate some of you may not share my views but as i was the person specifically targeted by spiky i feel i have the right to respond.

Colorado's post did not bother me as much if at all because it was obviously such rubbish.

Ok, i've said what i needed to say so will sign off now.

wanttostartafresh Tue 12-Jan-10 15:17:22

mampam, yes Toxic In Lsws is different and definately worth buying as well as Toxic Parents. I have both and Toxic Parents would not have been much use in the situation i had with my highly toxic MIL.

ItsGraceAgain Tue 12-Jan-10 15:41:01

WTSA, I've only read your post above & don't know your history with spiky. I just want to let you know that, while reading, I really felt a lot of "Ouch!"es for you - and that spiky probably did react inappropriately to your story. From what you say, she seems to have given you a role in her own drama. It's quite possible that she will learn from it as her story unfolds.

What's sad is that it has upset you so much. You both seem very closely identified with each other: can you see this? Can you set her free to 'do' her own issues? If yours & hers bump up against one another, so be it. But she has no power to alter your reactions - only you can do that.

eldestofthree Tue 12-Jan-10 15:51:44

TRS what a great post.

I saw some of the previous thread and hadn't really appreciated what it was about but now having it spelt out...well that is exactly the sort of thing I can imagine my mother saying to me!

So me. I have had a 'difficult' relationship with my mother throughout my life. As my name suggests I am the eldest of three and the only one to really have suffered as a result of my relationship.

It is very difficult to sum up. I think she just didn't like me much. I cannot pinpoint specific examples but I recall that I spent much of my childhood crying in my bedroom having been sent there for "arguing".

From the age of 7 we would argue terribly. I was always told that it was my fault: I was difficult; I wasn't affectionate - I never allowed her to cuddle me as a baby; It was obviously me that had the problem as she got on with my other sisters (this was usually said whilst she hugged my younger sisters and they were asked whether they thought it was my mums fault)

It sounds so insignificant written down. She did hit me once and following an emergency admission to hospital left me there alone awaiting surgery as she "needed to sleep as she was going on holiday the next day" although I was 18 at that point.

We didn't talk for a number of years in my late teens and she never made the effort to reconcile. I eventually did after a heartfelt plea from my maternal grandmother who had clearly been fed a number of lies about how awful I was but I didn't want to hurt her or the wider family. Obviously I had to apologise for my perceived bad behaviour.

Today I can hardly bear her. We maintain a facade of cordial coolness but underneath I am desperate to shout at her. I know it wouyld be useless she has no comnprehension that she is anyway unreasonable. Her lack of self awareness is astounding.

I get much comfort from the fact that my younger sisters now see that I wasn't the big bad nightmare child that my mum led them to believe I was but it is still very painful.

I now have a DC, including a DD and I cannot ever imagine treating her the way I was treated. How can they do it.

Sadly the older I get the angrier I get towards my dad. I had believed we were close growing up and in some ways we still are (in a very middle class reserved sort of manner IYKWIM!) but I am increasingly angered by his inability to have not once stood up for me. He stood by and watched my mum treat me terribly. How could he and how do I get over that?

Anyway I am sure this is very long - but has been useful. thanks

ItsGraceAgain Tue 12-Jan-10 16:18:30

I am an abuser. At least, I was - as I'm only just beginning to get my head around this ugly fact, I can't confidently say (yet) I wouldn't be again

Sure, I chose emotionally closed, selfish partners. Yes, I understand how I came to choose that kind of man (and friends). It's true that, in those relationships, anyone would have lost it somewhat. But not everyone would have been as nasty, as terrified, as suspicious or as angry as I was. They were horrible to me. And I was horrible to them.

You know, I thought I was making good progress. I'm being hit by a sudden storm of new insights - I realise this is real progress, but the glimpses of how far I've still to go are a bit worrying!

Well. Thanks for reading blush For everyone I've wounded with my words, my game-playing and my fear ... I'm sorry. Very sorry

wanttostartafresh Tue 12-Jan-10 17:31:03

Grace hi and thanks for reading my post. I just needed to offload after being attacked completely unexpectedly and unprovoked by spiky who seems to have almost been 'following' me around on MN. She only joined the previous thread recently and only posted a few times, but in that time has managed to cause a lot of upset and turmoil for me. And she is the only poster in the long history of this thread who has behaved in such a way. (I remember once, ages ago, a poster similar to colorado, but she was so obviously a troll it was easy to spot and shoo her away). It has never seemed necessary until now to even put a description of what the ethos of the thread is about at the beginning, each new poster has usually been reading for some time and has picked up and adhered to the unwritten rules of the thread which are not that hard to follow really.

Like you have said spiky did seem to almost be giving me a role in her drama. And i am sure my posts about my sisters were triggering her but she had absolutely no idea that this was happening and blamed me for causing her to feel 'frustrated' when in fact i am sure the real cause of her problems lie deep rooted within her family. She even said she had been wanting to post on this thread but didn't because she felt frustrated by my posts. My posts were only ever about me and my feelings and insights and my relationship with my sisters which is of course unique to me, and why they should cause her frustration is bizarre. She kept telling me I should view the situation wrt my sisters differently and i am sure she meant i should look at it in the same way that she was viewing her situation with her brother. She was essentially uncomfortable about my view and decision and because it made her uncomfortable she was trying to tell me i was wrong and should change my view so that she would feel comfortable. She totally ignored the fact I had thought long and hard about my view and my decisions and I was completely comfortable with them and felt they were the right thing for me to do. Her posts were all about her and her own feelings under the guise of trying to offer advice and help to me, when she was really trying to help herself to feel better.

And again her comments about my eczema. She completely ignored my posts about how badly it was affecting me and how distressing it is and just because she didn't think it could be that bad as compared to injuries caused by physical abuse, she felt she had the right to tell me my posts about this made her feel uncomfortable. My eczema is an injury i have sustained as a result of the horrific emotional abuse, psychological violence and emotional neglect and abandonment i suffered and to trivialise it and minimise it as spiky tried to do by saying it couldn't be as bad as a physical injury suffered as a result of physical abuse is deeply hurtful and disrespectful and it was just so unexpected to be reading that sort of thing on this thread.

Anyway, i don't want to dwell on spiky any more, she does not warrant any more time or energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

wanttostartafresh Tue 12-Jan-10 17:37:31

Grace, i was an abuser too. I think the way i have treated DH at times, not so much recently, but in the past before i was aware of my issues, could be termed abuse. I can see now i was scapegoating him and blaming him when he was unwittingly the trigger for buried emotions from my past and i did the same thing with DD which is even worse.

I feel sorry for what i did, but i have realised feeling guilty is pointless. It wasn't my fault and nor was it yours. We were behaving that way purely due to the damage done to us by our parents and rather than wasting energy on feeling guilty it is far better spent on taking steps to heal and repair the damage so we don't continue to scapegoat those around us.

Yes, it's overwhelming to think about the amount of work we need to do on ourselves, but you only need to take it one small step at a time.

wanttostartafresh Tue 12-Jan-10 17:58:39

eldestof3, hi, and i am also the eldest of 3 and i can relate to so much of what you have said. I am interested in how your "younger sisters now see that I wasn't the big bad nightmare child that my mum led them to believe I was". Can you tell me how your sisters were finally able to see the real you? My sisters seem to still be seeing me as the "big bad nightmare child".

I completely understand how you feel about your dad. In my case the positions were reversed. It was my mother who stood by and watched whilst my dad beat me up emotionally and psychologically. And i also thought for ages she was the 'lesser evil' of the two until i started realising just how badly she had let me down, what a coward she had been and i began to hate her even more than my dad. I am sure severe mental illness caused my dad to abuse me but my mother was just a pathetic coward who saw what was being done to me and chose to do nothing. Like you, as a mother myself now, i simply cannot imagine how a mother can act like she did. I find it utterly incomprehensible.

Part of your dad's job was to protect you. It was a fundamental duty he had towards you from the minute you were born. You were a young child, how could you possibly defend yourself against your mother? But your dad could have protected you. He was an adult. And he failed completely in his duty so no wonder you hate him, it's a normal reaction.

ItsGraceAgain Tue 12-Jan-10 19:02:34

WTSA, what fantastic posts! Thank you for your affirmation I don't think I'm feeling guilty ... but, just today, have begun to wonder whether my illness (and extremely slow recovery) is a roundabout form of self-punishment. Arrghh! Thank god I've got a therapist again - and, definitely, thank goodness for this forum grin

What you said about your ex having unwittingly triggered you: I'd guess that's what happened to spiky when she read your posts. It's a bummer and I think you understand how it happened. In the spirit of this thread, let's hope she also comes to see it before too long wink

I've been going through the same process as you described, wrt my mother. I blindly bought into the "mean old Daddy, poor old Mum" for some considerable time. We have now had several discussions & rows about it; while I honestly don't want to add to her problems, I feel better for having aired my perspective - along similar lines to Smithfield's introduction above. I'm still readjusting my feelings about her - I hate that she didn't love me enough to protect me; I don't want to live with hatred, so am muddling my way through this in trust that I'll have resolved my own feelings before she dies (she's 80).

My whole family's attitudes started to change the minute I started therapy! Perhaps something subtle had altered in the way I spoke/related/acted. My bros & sis elected me to speak at Dad's funeral, bless them. I didn't completely rubbish him, but made it clear that his memorable contribution to family life had been fear angry

Over time, the others have told me they understand what my therapy's about, that Mum "wasn't a very good mother" and have even given me back memories of some awful things our parents did to me I imagine this is what you'd like from your sisters? I can't tell you how it happened - it's the "therapy miracle" - but I do recommend telling family members about your process. Not in great detail, as that might burden them, but with a decent amount of clarity. Even my pattern-repeating sister has started sharing childhood memories that contrast with her "lovely" fantasy. I was so happy to hear that!

Good luck with yours, and thanks for helping with mine.

wanttostartafresh Tue 12-Jan-10 19:43:04

Hi Grace, sorry, i didn't mean to assume you felt guilty, but it is common i think to feel guilt when you realise you have treated people badly who really didn't deserve it.

I suppose the problem i have got is that i have cut ties with my parents. Perhaps if i was still in contact with them and they started noticing that although they were behaving in the same old patterns with me, that i was responding differently, they might start to change like your family did. I think you are very lucky that your family's attitudes did change, i somehow cannot see my family changing at all.

When you say "over time" your siblings attitudes began to change, can i ask how long that took? And were in contact during all that time? Were all the siblings abused or was it just you? Sorry lots of questions, no need to answer if you don't want to.

I suppose I am doing what feels right for me at the moment. I definately feel wrt my sisters that right now i need a complete break from them, space to recover and heal from the hurt they have caused me. Perhaps after this break i might feel ready to talk to them and our relationship may improve. Perhaps after this break they may want nothing to do with me which i have not ruled out at all. But if they do want nothing to do with me afterwards, then i feel i will have lost nothing. I had a 2 year break from a friend after we fell out having been friends for 20 years before that. We both seperately chose to get back in touch with each other and are now close again, having made amends for the mistakes we made before. So i think that if i can 'seperate' from a 'mere' friend, but get back together, because we both valued each other and valued our friendshpi enough to eventually talk and sort out our differences then surely i should be able to do that with my sisters? I know it's a different situation with siblings than friends, but ultimately if my sisters value me and i realise there is something to be valued in them, which i simply am not feeling at the moment probably because i am hurting too much over the way they have treated me, then i imagine we will get in touch with each other and make an effort to sort out our relationship. At the moment i am not inclined to make that effort and nor do they seem that way inclined. Perhaps this may change in the future. I want to wait and see how i feel, if i miss them like i started to miss my friend.

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