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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)

ItsGraceAgain Tue 12-Jan-10 20:04:09

Going to keep this short as have lost yet another day to mumsnet shock
Well, not lost exactly - my head's doing a lot of work on itself!!

It's 10 years since Dad died. In this time, my contact with bros & sis has reduced but not been radically broken. Started getting support almost instantly, but sis very angry with me for years; her less-than-delightful recollections only started appearing last year. We were all abused but I got it worst & sister got it least. I have told her eldest DC, in front of her, I sympathise with DC's situation (scapegoat) because it's what happened to me. Sister isn't thick; it's slowly sinking in at last. Brother told me he's always felt guilty & ashamed that he didn't protect me. My little brother! Blast those parents angry

roseability Tue 12-Jan-10 21:11:56

Thank goodness I have my computer back now!

I got an email from Mumsnet re the post I reported. They said they can't delete it on the grounds of it being judgemental only but they can see where I am coming from. They are going to discuss the idea of a judgement free zone on Mumsnet, although we have it here already I suppose. That is why we were thrown by the recent posts that seemed to break the unwritten rules of this thread.

WTSA - I think Colorado was obviously a troll (or spiky as well?) but as you said Spiky's posts were more disturbing in that they seemed genuine.

I really admired your attitude that you couldn't be close to anyone who didn't believe what you had been through, including your sisters. Like you said it is part of you and your history and anyone worth a dime to you should honour that and not challenge or deny it. I am beginning to feel this way too. I was always so worried that people would think less of me if I spoke the truth about my adoptive parents. I am beginning to have the confidence and self belief that I really do need to put emotional and physical distance between me and my adoptive parents and that my loved ones should understand that

I actually have been reading over the original thread started by Pages in 2007 that TRS posted the link to. Some things reallt stood out

A few of you have mentioned The Continuum Concept recently. Sakura mentioned it on that original thread. I am obsessed with that book but it is a double edged sword. I really believe in the ideas it represents but I also feel racked with guilt that I couldn't carry those principles through exactly with my own children. I definately took some ideas on board e.g. I carried DD in a sling a lot when she was a newborn and co-slept with her for the first few months of her life but obviously I just couldn't carry them 24 hours a day and I no longer co-sleep with them because my husband and I like our space at night. I didn't leave my babies to cry except on odd ocassions when I was feeling desperate and getting angry and I thought it best to leave them somewhere safe for 5-10 minutes. I found then that I calmed down and when I picked them up again I could soothe them better because I was calmer. BUT I still feel guilty about those moments.

I just can't help but think we have got it a bit wrong in the West, that we don't have the social network to be able to care for our babies this way. That maybe we have a hole in our lives that has missed that 'in arms' phase and that us on this thread are even more bereft because not only did we not have that physical contact with our mothers but we didn't have confidant, loving mothers that cared for us unconditionally and wanted us to flourish as women and human beings. Their own needs were not met so they couldn't give us what we needed and so the cycle continues unless we can break it

I wept when I read the part about the educated mother who 'struck' her infant because she couldn't understand why he was crying all the time and not meeting her need for love. It was a little too close to home because I went through hell when DS was born. All that emptiness and lack of warmth from my family poured forth like poison and I used to get so, so angry at my DS. Unfortunately I hadn't learnt the art of walking away and calming down and I still allowed my adoptive parents to manipulate me. I was still blind to the abuse they had inflicted over the years. My DS was supposed to be the making of me, I would be a wonderful mother and finally prove myself. I didn't realise that deep down I had expected him to give me what I had missed all my life. My own flesh and blood who loved me like I deserved to be loved. So why was he crying and crying and difficult to settle. He was proving that I was inherently worthless and failing at the one thing I thought I could be good at. He was proving that my adoptive parents view of me was right. I am ashamed to admit that I too lashed out sad. I pulled his hair and shoved him into the cot too roughly. I think I once struck him when he was in the pram screaming and wouldn't stop.

I am utterly, utterly ashamed of this but I realise I am not a monster or a child abuser but I was in the depths of PND and at my wits end. I have to forgive myself and try to understand why it happened. I have come a long way since then and my DS is a lovely caring little boy. Whilst there were bad moments, I also knew how to love. There were olots of kisses and cuddles too. I have been so much calmer and happy with DD as a baby. I realise this is how it should be. Not perfection no, as this is impossible but not tthe depths of despair I reached with my DS. The self loathing that knew no bounds. I used to think if the river behind my house swallowed me, everyone would be better without me including my DS

I am ultimately responsible for my actions but I blame my abusive childhood for at least some of my early reactions to motherhood. I am much calmer and happier now that I have realised my adoptive parents were abusive and have pretty much cut them out of my life. I have a great bond with my DS and pray he knows nothing of those dark moments. I can honestly say I never raise my hand to him now and I cherish him with all my heart. He made me face my demons and I thank him for that

ItsGraceAgain Tue 12-Jan-10 21:36:06

I love the way that all of you consciously, deliberately love your children better than you were loved. Imperfection is part of the human condition - but your imperfections as parents will be small. You will have broken the cycle. That's a wonderful achievement, with lasting benefits to generations of people

I couldn't carry full-term. I sometimes wonder whether I was unconsciously rejecting the inevitability that I would pass on the bad parenting? I don't spend much time worrying about it. Those of my siblings, who have kids, have repeated the family pattern - to greater & lesser extents, and without the extremes I was subjected to, but - it's obvious. Their eldest DCs are 'troubled' people like me. What a pity

Which is all meant to say: well done. Don't even think of underestimating your achievement!

ItsGraceAgain Tue 12-Jan-10 21:45:54

I think my family takes an interest in my 'process' because they hope it will help them heal, too. I like that thought. Even though it means I'm still the communal "problem mule" in a way ... this a way I've chosen for myself. I think it does help them, too, a little bit.

I'm spamming this thread! blush Sorry.

therealsmithfield Tue 12-Jan-10 23:33:50

Hi guys- Just so pleased to see so many posts and from new and old posters.
I wanted you all to know I am reading your posts but wanted to spend a bit of time replying.

Keep posting smile

And I think bop should change her name to bopthebrave*

thanks for your kind words xx

roseability Wed 13-Jan-10 08:03:26

Hi to the newbies smile

quietlydrowning Wed 13-Jan-10 10:42:23

Message withdrawn

nolongerdrowning Wed 13-Jan-10 10:46:38

Message withdrawn

wanttostartafresh Wed 13-Jan-10 11:09:44

rose, i want to say thank you again for sticking your neck out and standing up for me wrt colorado. It is a brand new feeling for me to have somebody speak out on my behalf like that. Brand new. This whole process for me has largely been about 'bad' and painful feelings from my child being triggered and processed and released which is a good thing. But because of you and BoptheBrave grin i have experienced a feeling that is completely new to me and for once, a feeling that is totally positive and heart warming. Imagine if we had experienced mostly those sorts of feelings as children, how different we would be now.

I can relate so well to how you feel about the time when you had your DS. I was the same when i had DD my eldest, instead of it being a magical special time, it became my worst nightmare. And like you I am so much more how i think a mother should be with DS who was born nearly 3 years after DD. I don't think i have ever got angry or cross with him, he has had nothing but love, hugs, warmth and cuddles from me and he is such a loving, happy, contented little boy. DD is more highly strung and can be a lot harder to cope with and i know it is because i was so stressed when pregnant with her and like you had severe PND after she was born and simply could not give her the love, warmth and security she needed. I saw to her physical needs but was totally unable to meet her emotional needs. I used to feel so bad and guilty about that but now i just concentrate on making sure i do meet her emotional needs in the present. Hopefully as she gets older and the proportion of time during which her needs have been met as opposed to not met gets bigger and bigger, the first few years of her life will have less and less impact.

I completely agree with you about the way we live in western society. I believe in the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" ie a village full of aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, neighbours, all of whom give the child a little bit of what he needs so that the full burden is not on the mother. The way we live today, often miles away from family and friends means the sole responsibility for meeting all the child's needs rests on the mother's shoulders and the burden is just too big for one set of shoulders.

The only way i can see of lessening that burden on myself is to put some effort into developing my friendships so that my DC's can also benefit from my friendships and hopefully over time get a little of what they need from close friends and neighbours. It is very hard work but I am going to keep plugging away.

I have only recently started to feel i cannot have a relationship with anybody who thinks i am lying or exaggerating about my abusive parents. Until very recently i was willing and was even desperate to have a relationship with my sisters despite knowing that they didn't really believe me about our parents. I was very needy and thought i couldn't bear the pain of the gap that would be left if i cut ties with them. But i have managed to do it and it feels good, instead of feeling pain, i feel liberated. I can now completely be myself, when my sisters were still in the picture i felt a very strong pressure to still perform the role they wanted me to play ie the troublesome bad seed of the family, and they made me feel as if that was who i was. Now they are not in my life i have complete freedom to just be myself, who i want to be, and there is nobody who is trying to push me to be somebody else, everyone in my life wants the real me. It feels good.

Grace, thanks for your post. Perhaps given time my sisters might also start to open their eyes about what our family was really like. I am not holding out any hope though, because it may never happen. But i'm glad for you that you are now closer to your siblings.

You mentioned illness in one of your posts and i thought you might be interested in a book by Alice Miller called The Body Never Lies in which she talks about past buried emotions being stored in your body and eventually causing illness if left unprocessed. Her books can be quite hard to get into but i have found them really helpful.

wanttostartafresh Wed 13-Jan-10 11:37:05

NLD, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. Good for you that you had the courage strength and wisdom to process your feelings and not merely push them away. It is the only way to get past them and move forward positively.

One thing you mentioned is that your posture has improved. Me too. I stand up straighter and taller now and it is only now that i do this that i realise how i had literally been hunched over and bent down by all the baggage and burdens from my past i had been carrying around with me. I am straigtening up my shoulders and have to keep doing it as they were hunched down for so long i think they will need a bit of time to adjust and feel comfortable in their new upright position. I am also eating so much healthier and i am not having to force myself it seems to be a natural thing that I want to do for myself. Like you i seem to be taking more care of myself and looking after myself better without even having to try. I feel more passionate about things, even excitement about the future, things i want to do, to try out, places i want to visit.

Completely cutting contact with my parents and now my sisters was also for me the only way to go. I have absolutely no regrets.

OrdinarySAHM Wed 13-Jan-10 12:20:17

Haven't read everything yet but just typing a quick one between jobs.

WTSA, re Spiky - My impression of her was that she was a genuine poster, not a troll (I think that's what you said actually(?) and it was Colorado who you thought might be a troll).

When she said she felt frustrated by your posts I took it to mean that she felt there were things you could do that would make things better for you, but she felt you weren't doing them. I thought the frustration was frustration for you that she wanted things to improve for you and thought that they could if you would just do some things that you weren't doing. (Sorry I can't remember what those things are at the moment.) I didn't think the frustration was about herself.

If Spiky has had issues triggered by recent posts then it seems sad that she has been 'scared away' from the thread when it could help her. I appreciate that some people have some angry feelings towards her and I can see that your feelings have been hurt WTSA. I can see that feeling disbelieved by someone now might have triggered the feelings of being disbelieved when you were a child, or your family minimizing your feelings because they didn't want to deal with the situation, making you feel dismissed and unimportant.

I can see that you might want to heal these hurts from the past by reversing the situation in the present, by really getting people, now, to believe you and stressing how awful it was. This might make you use extreme descriptions (words which are like a 'measure' of how bad it was) like 'horrific' for example - which it was for you, but it stimulates people's minds to start comparing their situation with yours. It makes them think, would I call my experience abuse, mild abuse, moderate abuse, bad abuse, severe abuse etc. I think comparing is dangerous and won't do any of us any good.

A big part of my feelings about the past, and probably other peoples (?), was the feeling of "It's not fair, why did I have to go through this when other people didn't, what makes them so much more important than me that they could have it easier". That made me feel angry at the 'unjustnes' of it all. People using strong words as 'measures' of their abuse might stir up other people's feelings about unfairness. They might start comparing and think things like, 'don't call it horrific, you were abused but it's still unfair that I feel I had it worse than you'. They might feel that they have more to complain about yet are getting less sympathy, partly because they are afraid to stress how bad it was in case they get a negative reaction like they might have done in the past. This might be how Spiky felt, and in that sense her feelings from the past may have been triggered (the feelings of unfairness and anger about that at the time). (Sorry if I'm talking bollocks Spiky.)

The reason comparing is dangerous is that even if you do think that someone else's experience was worse, this thought often doesn't make you feel any better about what happened to you, and you still deserve help and support. Otherwise we would be saying that only the people who had experienced the most severe abuse deserve any help. Also, we can't measure how bad an experience made someone feel. Two people might have the same experience and one might cope with it and the other might fall apart. They might have different coping abilities. I feel I coped with my (similar) childhood to my brother better than he did for example, because I never ended up in prison and he did.

This issue of comparing is something I think a lot of us have to battle with before we will even allow ourselves to be helped. I held off from going and getting proper therapy for years because I felt that I would be thought of as self indulgent and drippy and self pitying because I felt that lots of other people's experiences had been worse than mine. I think it is better to think that if you are having feelings you are finding difficult to cope with then you deserve help and support regardless of how bad others would perceive your experiences to have been. If you don't get the help because you are worried about looking drippy then you are holding yourself back from feeling happy, wasting your life, and you are likely to be treating the people around you less well than if you were happy.

Spiky, I know it is very hard to stop yourself from comparing (and I do it myself and feel resentful sometimes) but I think it would be better to hold the view that - an experience is as bad as it makes a person feel, and one person may feel worse about the same experience than another, which is fine because we are all different.

WTSA, although people should fight against their urge to compare their experiences with others, you could modify your language so that it is less likely to stimulate people to compare. Instead of saying, for example, 'I suffered horrific abuse', you could say 'I found the abuse I suffered horrific'. You might feel you shouldn't have to re-word your expression of your feelings because you just want to feel free to let them out. This might be quite right, I don't know. I'm just suggesting it as a way to calm things down for both you and Spiky.

I feel that you both have feelings that you find difficult, you both deserve support and could both benefit from being part of this thread. I don't want to see either of you have to leave, I would like it if you could both sort out your feelings towards each other and then carry on as we were before things went wrong. I am not going to say that one of you is more to blame than the other, I have said things that both of you could change.

Getting angry with people is ok. (We learnt as children that it was not.) It doesn't mean that we have to break contact with everyone who makes us angry. You can get angry, express it, then talk about it and 'make up'. We do it with our children don't we! They make us angry frequently but it doesn't mean that we hate them.

I really hope I haven't been offensive as I have tried to see both WTSA's and Spiky's feelings and not minimize any of them. I just want it all to be 'nice' again with no hostile feelings. Can anyone really blame me for being 'scared' of the hostility and wanting to try to 'fix' it?

therealsmithfield Wed 13-Jan-10 14:33:06

Ok- massive post alert grin

NolongerQD I got a lot out of your post. I think you may have realised before now that I really identify with you in relation to your mother. I always seem to re-establish or find a different understanding altogether of my realtionship with my own mother by reading your posts.
I think my mother (like yours) was inanely jealous and I think the jealousy and rage increased the older I got. It becomes so much clearer to me when I read your posts how I have spent most of my life trying to avoid her anger and displeasure. I could only do this by trying to keep a low profile and not to draw attention to myself and try as hard as I could not to incite her jealousy just as you said.
I like you am currently seemingly easily losing weight, when I have previously struggled and it surely cant be a coincidence that it comes at a time when my mother is not around to raise her eyebrow and look my up and down as she swallows her displeasure.
I have a parallel (well not so much a parallel but a similarity) to what you have been experiencing recently. After all this is about the grieving over the regret of what we could have been.
I can not get passed the grief over my own lost opportunity to excel in any kind of study or career.
Recently, I was visiting a university town and I felt very low and sombre. I realised it was because I had been feeling a rage of unjustness burning inside of me. I kept looking at all the young students bustling around the place and felt jealous (probably just as my mother had around me) of all the youth and promise showing in their faces. I feel as though it is too late now and I will never know how far I could have gone to fulfill my potential. My mother 'needed' me to fail and I 'needed' to win her approval.
I am so inspired by your words about finding what you need in the here and now. I know it will not 'look' the same as it would have if I were now in my 20's but it could still be in the here and now. Otherwise my mother 'will' have won.

WTSA- My take on Spikygate is pretty much as others have said, and probably a lot better and more succinct than I could be. I liked Graceagain's description of yours and spiky's issues bumping together.
As I'd said in previous posts it is too difficult to know intentions and tone behind a posting. She may have been genuinely trying to be helpful and then felt frustrated by her intentions being misunderstood. She may as you have said felt triggered by what you wrote because of her own issues. I guess we wont really know the answer unless Spiky came back and told us.
I do feel there was a catalogue of events that all culminated in Spiky possibly feeling rejected, scorned or unimportant and we all know how painful that can be.
I am almost certain that Colorado and Spiky were the same poster but again as you said wtsa we will never know for sure, but I do think Spiky was genuinely experiencing a lot of pain wrt to her own childhood and was hoping to seek some support for that.
I think if there is a positive in this it is that you must have seen how much many of us here feel the need to honour 'you' and your experiences and that even if in the past you felt alone, you aren't any longer.

Graceagain- You strike me as such a caring individual. You have a truly giving nature and heart. I can say this because I have read other posts from you on the NPD thread.
Which is why it seems such a crying shame that your mother couldnt/cant see that. Our parents see us how ever they want or need to. That is what it means for a parent to use a child to meet their own needs. As long as you know in your heart that it was their fault? Do you feel that yet, have you reached that point?

mamaLazarou I had a chuckle when you said you thought we all had wealthy IL's who lived in stately homes. I feel sad as well though that you are yet another person that identifies with this toxic kind of upbringing, but I am glad you came to post. Hope you feel like sharing some more soon.

eldestofthree- When I read your posts I felt my whole body lurch in empathy. I cant explain it fully but what you wrote, especially the part about walking into the room with your mother hugging your siblings...well I guess it brought back some difficult and painful memories for me too.
I am the eldest of four, and there is a large age gap between me and my siblings. I was the mistake that trapped my mother into a marriage which became increasingly difficult. The marriage was emotionally (sometimes physically) abusive. A lot of the abuse happened in front of me and the siblings, and because I was the eldest I often felt like the third cog in the marriage. When I wasnt required to fulfill that purpose my mother used me as her emotional punchbag instead So like yourself I was the scapegoat.
I have said before now what a difficult role this is because it casts you as a victim and destroys all your power as a child and adult. The other problem is you actually believe it was/still is you that is 'wrong' 'bad', 'unloveable'.
It sounds like your mother was using your siblings just as she was using you. Using them to 'prove' you were the problem.
Wrt your dad, I understand your anger because your father was also an adult but never stepped in and now you ask 'why not'? Did he not love me enough.
It is really hurtful but being angry isnt a bad thing. He didnt cause the abuse but he did enable it and so your anger is justified.
It is better to feel this anger and 'know' where it is coming from.
Have you tried talking to your father, confronting him? Would writing a letter help. You could write post on here and not send it maybe. I could never confront my dad because i cant face the pain I would feel hearing his denial of any wrongdoing. It would be like rejection all over again, but I did write a hate filled letter without sending it and it did help a little.
Its about feeling the anger and finding ways to process it.

mamppam - (((((mampam))) I read your post and just went shock shock shock It just kept coming and was horrid. If that is how it felt for 'me' a complete stranger reading about their behaviour, then god knows how it must have felt for you and DH to go through all this.
I have to say they do sound 'incredibly' toxic. I would not be willing to be drawn back into their web, but of course it is easy for me to say this because I am not you or dh and have no emotional investment.
Could you think about making a decision seperately from DH? If he was to re-connect with them (and I think all the boundaries you have talked about are 'vital' to this) would 'you' necessarily have to re-connect with them as well?
After all, if they have changed (which to be honest I doubt, but we all live in hope) then they should understand your POV , that with all that has happened they would need to win back some trust. They could win back that trust if they were willing to accept you were not ready to have a relationship with them yet but that you were willing to support dh in his decision.
YOU yourself do not have to have contact with these people mampam and I feel so strongly about this because you are pg and so need to focus on you and the baby and protect yourself from any emotional turmoil these people will potentially bring with them.
These two are 'emotional vampires' and do not know the meaning of the word boundary but your dh just may be strong enough to pull it off if he remains firm and has your support. You can still support 'his' choices whilst establishing your own seperate boundaries wrt them.
Do you think your DH would be willing to post on here or read any of the replies to your post?

gladitsover - Would really be interested to hear your story. You dont need to read the rest of the previous threads before posting (just in case because that is what I thought I needed to do). Hope you post again soon.

rose I think its important to try and not fall into the 'perfect parent' trap. I think when we grew up with a lot of criticism we can end up setting impossible standards for ourselves. We want to reach the penultimate haven of being 'good enough'. Yet growing up nothing was good enough hence the desire to be 'perfect'.
It might be more helpful to give ourselves permission to be 'good enough' not perfect parents because perfection isnt a reality its a myth by which our parents kept us hooked.
i think things like Continuum Concept are useful but as a reference and a guide and do we really need to follow it to the letter?
As long as we are loving and have the best of intentions for our children surely that is all that matters.
It is hard because I am sure most of us cant 'imagine' having anything BUT good intentions toward our children it is a huge leap in thinking to accept our parents didnt have good intentions and at time they were in fact conscious of that fact.

roseability Wed 13-Jan-10 14:34:11

NLD - Hello! A lot of your post resonated with me. I am sure both my adoptive parents are narcissists to a degree (I suppose like all mental health issues there is a spectrum?). Have you looked at the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers website? It is excellent

My adoptive parents are my grandmother and her second husband i.e. my step grandfather. It is long and complicated but I have stopped calling my grandmother 'mum' partly out of respect for my birth mother (who I believe was manipulated by her and sadly is now dead) but mainly because she doesn't deserve that title

They do suck the very life force out of you these emotional vampires don't they? I am currently no contact with my adoptive father (a narcissist and a bully) and only speak to my grandmother on the phone ocassionally. Why? I suppose the guilt and the doubt still lingers. She still raised me and adopted me and is she that bad?

It is a flawed logic that we get into I think. Firstly that we feel we owe them something because they clothed, fed and watered us. Taught us table manners and made sure we went to school. Secondly that any good things they did for us, any snippets of affection or decent humanity render all the bad things obselete. It is flawed logic they brainwashed us with, precisely so that we would remain under their control.

For example it is ludricous to me that my children should have to turn round one day and thank me for raising them. I chose to bring them into this world and it is my duty to do so. Yes I want them to love and respect me but that has to be earned, it isn't automatic because I carried them in my womb for nine months and birthed them.

I discussed this with DH and he disagreed slightly . Not that I owe my adoptive parents anything (he can't stand them and thinks I am well shot) but that he does feel he owes his parents something because they have been wonderful parents and sacraficed a lot for their children. But there is a difference I feel. His parents don't expect gratitude and will admit their faults. They have earned my DH love and respect and therefore I am sure that he will love and care for them as they grow old. It is not about expectations or gratitude but a strong bond and respect that is mutual and equal.

NLD - my grandmother rarely expressed genuine joy at my achievements. When I told her I was going to study to be a nurse she tried to 'out do' me by stating that she is too sympathetic to be a nurse. There are many, many examples like this

I too am a different person. The sadness and anger at what I have missed and at their nastiness is still there. But I no longer seek their love and approval, I know I won't get it in any genuine way. I feel free from the chains of dashed hope and expectations. I can be me finally. I am a much, much better mother for starter. My adoptive father placed huge expectations on me, I realise now it was all about narcissistic supply. When I had my DS I felt a sense of failure and I couldn't understand why, I had always wanted to be a mother. I think I knew it was the end of my chance to meet my adoptive father's expectations (sporting success, career and money), a typical narcissist it was all about status and appearances to him. Sure he liked the whole grandfather thing but again it was narcissistic supply. He dumped me emotionally as I was no longer any use or only in that I was a mother to his next source of supply my DS. Like me, my DS was a cardboard cut out of what my adoptive father wanted to see. He couldn't see beyond that and get to know my DS as a real human being. He would turn up and say how my DS was 'looking great' and that he was 'going to go far' and then ignore him while he watched sport on the television. He would try and make token gestures of playing or making stupid noises at him like he was a baby, even though he is a bright little boy (he is nearly four) and needs proper interaction. Then he would get bored easily. This was despite having not seen him very often.

My therapist said depression is in part, a result of someone having an internalised view of what they should be and then not being able to be that person. The further they feel they are from what they should be the greater the depression. I really feel my PND sprung from this. I felt I should be a great sports person or live in a big house with a high status career because that is what he wanted. Actually I just want to be a good mum and to enjoy being a mum. This is why I enjoyed having my DD so much more because I had shook of this internalised and distorted view of myself and what I should be. Now I do enjoy being a mum because although women do it every day, I still feel it is a great and beautiful achievement, to birth and raise a child.

There was a section in the Guardian on Saturday about poetry on the subject of parenthood. It talked about how male poets have written about fatherhood using linear imagery, it is a continuation of their genes and about blood line and inheritance. Women have tended to write about motherhood as a form of replacemnt, disappearing and self-sacrifice. Women I feel sacrifice so much more in motherhood than men do in fatherhood. Our bodies, our physical and mental health and our identities. Whilst I feel a sadness about this sometimes, I also think it is what makes women great

Our mothers were too narcissistic (I think we all have narcissistic tendencies but some are distorted by an excessive amount of narcissism) to see it this way. Not only did we replace them but we injured their delicate ego just by our mere existence. When the narcissistic supply naturally afforded to a new mother dwindled to be replaced by a flourishing, new woman on the path to things unattaind by themselves (not least of all happiness) their injured and sickened ego knew only one way. Attack, attack, attack.

Like NLD I can understand this to some extent but I also feel it is not my place to forgive. My grandmother attacked my birth mother as a vulnerable young mother by undermining her ability to be a mother. She was well and truly kept out of the picture. Sick bastards the pair of them

OrdinarySAHM - What you said about comparison is interesting. I always compared myself to everyone, but I do it less now that I am on the road to recovery. I think some of us do still feel our abuse 'wasn't that bad' so we feel we have to justify it. Even my DH made an insensitive comment recently about 'real abuse' i.e. sexual and physical abuse. I had to point out that emotional abuse is real abuse also.

wanttostartafresh Wed 13-Jan-10 14:39:32

Hi OSAHM. Thanks for your post. I did say i thought spiky was a troll but i think i was wrong. I think she has genuinely experienced a difficult childhood. But my take on her saying she was frustrated by my posts was that she thought i was handling things wrongly/badly wrt my sisters because i was handling things in a different way to the way in which she had handled things with her brother. Her way had worked for her and i think she was frustrated because i was not agreeing with her way of doing things and changing my views and adopting hers. She said she thought i should adopt a different approach to my sisters and i am sure she meant i should adopt her approach. ie the approach she had taken with her brother. But she doesn't seem to appreciate that whilst our circumstances have certain similarities, they also have huge differences and therefore her approach may not be suitable for me.

As it says in the OP "'Nobody can judge how sad your childhood made you, even if you wrote a novel on it, only you know that." And that is why nobody else can really tell another poster what they should do. I'm not sure why she should have felt frustrated for me as opposed to at me or why she felt her approach would improve things for me as I feel quite happy with the way things are for me as I feel I have done the right thing for me.

I am happy for spiky to keep posting on here as long as she understands and adheres to the ethos of the thread which is a bit different to a lot of other threads on MN.

nolongerdrowning Wed 13-Jan-10 16:21:02

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ItsGraceAgain Wed 13-Jan-10 16:50:47


What you wrote:
'I want to be seen and admired (yes, I admit it, and I shut up the parent voice in my head that says "you're so vain" Look at our DC, we all want to be admired, to say "look at me!" '
Gave me yet another OMG moment. They're coming thick and fast since I discovered Stately Homes! hmm

I've only recently discovered the joys of not 'looking my best', of truly not giving a stuff what anybody thinks when I go out with dirty hair & no makeup. Or can't be bothered with small talk. But you've reminded me about that Marianne Williamson quote, "we are all meant to shine, as children do" - and added yet another goal to my self-improvement programme!

Thanks for the spiral comment, too. It's good to be reminded that 1 step back isn't failure!

ABetterLife Wed 13-Jan-10 19:24:17

Does needy = toxic? I'm really not sure if my mum is toxic or I'm feeling the strain of looking after an elderly mum. My dad definitely was toxic (deceased now) but I have felt lately that my relationship with my mother really stresses me. I see her once a week and would rather see her about once a month - I have felt guilty about this, I have told myself that I am bad because the reason I don't want to see her is because she's 80 and I would rather be doing something more exciting, rather than the fact that she makes me stressed.

To cut a long story short I am from a family dominated by an alcholic father who was jealous of the attention my mother gave us. This manifested itself as domineering, criticising, insulting behaviour to us 4 kids and my mother. We kids grew up protecting my mum - not ourselves or each other. I can remember frequently telling her not to let my dad talk to her like that, I cannot remember hearing her telling my dad not to talk to us in the way he did.

By some chance of fate, luck, personality or whatever I manage eventually to stand up to him in my teens - he was a bully and this was the saving of me, I believe. Unfortunately one of my siblings committed suicide and the other died of alcoholism; the other left home at a fairly young age and went to live abroad.

My dad died 5 years ago and, where at first I was delighted to have my mum's company without my dad being there to blight it I have lately been finding it stressful.

While he was alive he was her life and it feels like now I am her life. She is nervous and paranoid, has never had friends and totally relies on me and, by extension, DH. This is excacerbated by her age but she has always been like this. If I don't see her she virtually sees nobody and she gets more and more depressed and paranoid. Every now and again she has always erupted into paranoid madness and accused me of something e.g. I am nasty or insensitive - she won't say exactly what I have been nasty or insensitive about but will be cold to me or sulk. The only way to get her out of these moods is to say sorry and be extra attentive. I have done this because it really really hurts when she does this and I am left with the vague feeling that I have been bad without really knowing why or intending any malice.

She isn't always like this (I see her once a week) In between these bouts she is reasonable but takes offence easily and is often 'suffering' from something. I am constantly feeling guilty about her being on her own -she has never had a relationship with anyone but her immediate family, which is me now and, by extension, my DH. (My brother only comes to visit once a year. ), she hardly ever kept in touch with her own family, even after my jealous dad died and she has never had friends, despite invitations she has never reciprocated

Lately I have been rebelling against the way she makes me feel. I hate the feeling of guilt, of always looking out for her mental state, I have been doing it for years. Being around her is like walking on eggshells.

Do we have a toxic relationship or is she just too needy? Or am i just being lazy/selfish in not wanting to look after her? Confused

wanttostartafresh Wed 13-Jan-10 19:59:01

NLD, your post at 16.21 almost reads like a poem. Thank you. It's inspirational. You have put into words so much of what I have been thinking and telling myself, it's amazing to see it written down and to know other people think the feel the same way.

And i also am so glad you have mentioned the 'upward spiral', i have read this description in a couple of books and it comes to mind frequently when i find myself revisiting and revisiting the same issues again and again, but each time with new insight, and a new perspective.

ABetterLife, hello and welcome. Sometimes labels don't quite fit as it seems in your case. Your mother does not sound toxic in the sense it has usually been used on this thread. But she sounds damaged and like you have said, needy. And if she is needy, it is unlikely she would have been able to meet your childhood emotional needs of love, warmth, reassurance and protection to name but a few.

I can relate to what you said here "We kids grew up protecting my mum - not ourselves or each other. I can remember frequently telling her not to let my dad talk to her like that, I cannot remember hearing her telling my dad not to talk to us in the way he did." That's how i grew up, i stood up for my mum and sisters, but my mother never stood up for me.

Given you have said I am sure this thread is the right place for you. Your dad was certainly toxic and it seems your mother failed to protect you from him. Again, exactly my situation growing up except my dad had a mental illness as opposed to being an alcoholic.

Have you read Toxic Parents by Susan Forward? It's a good starting point.

elvislives Wed 13-Jan-10 20:10:30

I've wanted to join these threads from the first one but always held back with the little voice saying "it wasn't that bad". But it was. My brother tells me we had an "idyllic childhood" but won't visit our mother and makes excuses to get away when he does.

So much of what others have said mirrors my childhood. My mother is/was definitely jealous and does nothing but criticise. I ticked off all the answers in the OP.

I still hesitate to go into any detail because it feels like nothing compared to others. Suffice to say that as a baby I was left to cry, and as an adult told what to do/ think by my parents. My dad died 13 years ago with everything left unsaid.

I cried, reading rose's comments about her firstborn because I recognised so much of it. I hadn't actually articulated -even internally- that I wanted my baby DD to make up for everything that had gone before, and found my feelings towards her so hard. It took us 18 months TTC and I wanted her so much but she just cried and cried and she made me so angry

My eldest 4 are grown up themselves and I'm not sure even now that I did a good enough job with them. Certainly I'm not close to my DD DD2 is 2.9 and I'm trying really really hard with this one.

nolongerdrowning Wed 13-Jan-10 20:19:56

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gladitsover Wed 13-Jan-10 21:36:59

Hi All, first of all well done those of you who are doing well on your path to recovery/understanding. I realised quite recently that my mother may be toxic. I have refrained from to talking about it to anyone over the years because I thought "it wasn't that bad" and that by doing so I would belittle the experiences of anyone who has truly suffered.

There is so much I could tell you but I would be here all night so I will keep it brief.
The main reason I an angry with my mother is that she let her husband abuse my sister and I (sexually, emotionally). She knew most of what he was doing. When we finally stood up for ourselves she told the rest of the family that I was lying (but told me I must have enjoyed what he was doing).

I have always been the "butt of the joke" (I don't feel as if I'm being over-sensitive, when she has made fun of me in front of guests they have looked really awkward.) My mum has rarely ever complimented me but quite often laughs in my face about something I have done in the past or the way I look.

She is very unfair to my children. She used to let DS1 stay over and not DS2 even thoough he really wanted to. She has never liked DS2. I asked her once why she didn't like him and she said "why should I like him when he doesn't like me?". He was only 2.

I feel that she may be jealous of me/feel competitive but I don't understand why. I feel she only likes me when I'm unhappy. She hates my DP for no reason. He is so good to me and has always made an effort to get on with her.

I have a lot more to say but don't want to make this post too long. Thanks for listening (or reading!) x

roseability Wed 13-Jan-10 22:24:20

NLD your post is very inspirational. Along those lines I now feel I can enjoy the smaller things in life and find genuine joy in them. A good book, my DH poached eggs on a Saturday morning. Rubbing my nose on the fuzzy, warm bit on the back off my DD head and the way my DS widens his eyes and wrinkles his nose when he is desperate to tell me something.

I always lived in the future because the present wasn't good enough. It didn't meet my adoptive parent's requirements for love. But that is life isn't it and that is living? The here and now with all its imperfections.

roseability Wed 13-Jan-10 22:35:56

elvislives - just remember it is never too late to improve family relationships if you can reach out and work on your issues

I did reach rock bottom in many ways when DS was born but I believe ultimately it was the making of me. It forced me to stand up to my abusers and to drag myself up from the rocks and piece myself back together

I had a funny day today. My DS got praised for his musical ability by his playgroup leader. I felt such a rush of pride and then I got thinking about what someone said on the original thread in 2007 (Sakura?). That to teach our children can be narcissistic as it reflects well on us as parents. I worried if my pride was narcissistic and ingenuine because I thought how playing music to my DS was paying off.

Then I checked myself. I have no musical talent, so my DS has achieved this by himself and this is why I am proud. Sure I love music and that is why I play it a lot but ultimately it is the first signs of my DS independence and finding his own talents and interests. I find that soooo exciting and not threatening in the slightest.

dawntigga Wed 13-Jan-10 23:01:39

Waves to all.

I'm over their toxicity and as a consequence of their toxicity mine. I work every day to be a person who rises above the toxic tape that plays in my head and I do about 99.9% of the time, the rest I no longer beat myself up about. 5 years of therapy helped me to clear my head - that and waking up one morning tired of being somebody I didn't like. I cut my parents out of my life completely. Made the mistake of letting my father back in after my mother died and cut him out again. I have no feelings towards my father one way or another and bear him no ill will.

My son has the right to have a relationship with his grandfather so I've opened channels up to allow this to happen. My father is fully aware that there are no more second chances and if he pulls his usual crap he is making the choice to have no contact with his grandson. I will not allow my father to hurt or be toxic around my son in anyway. Of course it helps he now lives on another continent so contact is limited and reduces the possibility of him doing what I fully expect him to do. Having low expectations will help me to manage my partners hurt when/if it all goes wrong.


nolongerdrowning Wed 13-Jan-10 23:13:30

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