Advanced search

"But we took you to Stately Homes" - survivors of dysfunctional and toxic families

(977 Posts)
toomuchtooold Sun 28-May-17 10:28:15

It's May 2017, and the Stately Home is still open to visitors.

Forerunning threads:
December 2007
March 2008
August 2008
February 2009
May 2009
January 2010
April 2010
August 2010
March 2011
November 2011
January 2012
November 2012
January 2013
March 2013
August 2013
December 2013
February 2014
April 2014
July 2014
Oct 14 – Dec 14
Dec 14 – March 15
March 2015 - Nov 2015
Nov 2015 - Feb 2016
Feb 2016 - Oct 2016
Oct 2016 - Feb 2017
Feb 2017 - May 2017

Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.

This is a long running thread which was originally started up by 'pages' see original thread here (December 2007)

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

The title refers to an original poster's family who claimed they could not have been abusive as they had taken her to plenty of Stately Homes during her childhood!

One thing you will never hear on this thread is that your abuse or experience was not that bad. You will never have your feelings minimised the way they were when you were a child, or now that you are an adult. To coin the phrase of a much respected past poster Ally90;

'Nobody can judge how sad your childhood made you, even if you wrote a novel on it, only you know that. I can well imagine any of us saying some of the seemingly trivial things our parents/ siblings did to us to many of our real life acquaintances and them not understanding why we were upset/ angry/ hurt etc. And that is why this thread is here. It's a safe place to vent our true feelings, validate our childhood/ lifetime experiences of being hurt/ angry etc by our parents behaviour and to get support for dealing with family in the here and now.'

Most new posters generally start off their posts by saying; but it wasn't that bad for me or my experience wasn't as awful as x,y or z's.

Some on here have been emotionally abused and/ or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesn't have to be any) they fall into.

NONE of that matters. What matters is how 'YOU' felt growing up, how 'YOU' feel now and a chance to talk about how and why those childhood experiences and/ or current parental contact, has left you feeling damaged, falling apart from the inside out and stumbling around trying to find your sense of self-worth.

You might also find the following links and information useful, if you have come this far and are still not sure whether you belong here or not.

'Toxic Parents' by Susan Forward.

I started with this book and found it really useful.

Here are some excerpts:

"Once you get going, most toxic parents will counterattack. After all, if they had the capacity to listen, to hear, to be reasonable, to respect your feelings, and to promote your independence, they wouldn't be toxic parents. They will probably perceive your words as treacherous personal assaults. They will tend to fall back on the same tactics and defences that they have always used, only more so.

Remember, the important thing is not their reaction but your response. If you can stand fast in the face of your parents' fury, accusations, threats and guilt-peddling, you will experience your finest hour.

Here are some typical parental reactions to confrontation:

"It never happened". Parents who have used denial to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy or anxiety, will undoubtedly use it during confrontation, to promote their version of reality. They'll insist that your allegations never happened, or that you're exaggerating. They won't remember, or they will accuse you of lying.

YOUR RESPONSE: Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean it didn't happen".

"It was your fault." Toxic parents are almost never willing to accept responsibility for their destructive behaviour. Instead, they will blame you. They will say that you were bad, or that you were difficult. They will claim that they did the best that they could but that you always created problems for them. They will say that you drove them crazy. They will offer as proof, the fact that everybody in the family knew what a problem you were. They will offer up a laundry list of your alleged offences against them.

YOUR RESPONSE: "You can keep trying to make this my fault, but I'm not going to accept the responsibility for what you did to me, when I was a child".

"I said I was sorry what more do you want?" Some parents may acknowledge a few of the things that you say but be unwilling to do anything about it.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate your apology, but that is just a beginning. If you're truly sorry, you'll work through this with me, to make a better relationship."

"We did the best we could." Some parents will remind you of how tough they had it while you were growing up and how hard they struggled. They will say such things as "You'll never understand what I was going through," or "I did the best I could". This particular style of response will often stir up a lot of sympathy and compassion for your parents. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult for you to remain focused on what you need to say in your confrontation. The temptation is for you once again to put their needs ahead of your own. It is important that you be able to acknowledge their difficulties, without invalidating your own.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I understand that you had a hard time, and I'm sure that you didn't hurt me on purpose, but I need you to understand that the way you dealt with your problems really did hurt me"

"Look what we did for you." Many parents will attempt to counter your assertions by recalling the wonderful times you had as a child and the loving moments you and they shared. By focusing on the good things, they can avoid looking at the darker side of their behaviour. Parents will typically remind you of gifts they gave you, places they took you, sacrifices they made for you, and thoughtful things they did. They will say things like, "this is the thanks we get" or "nothing was ever enough for you."

YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate those things very much, but they didn't make up for ...."

"How can you do this to me?" Some parents act like martyrs. They'll collapse into tears, wring their hands, and express shock and disbelief at your "cruelty". They will act as if your confrontation has victimized them. They will accuse you of hurting them, or disappointing them. They will complain that they don't need this, they have enough problems. They will tell you that they are not strong enough or healthy enough to take this, that the heartache will kill them. Some of their sadness will, of course, be genuine. It is sad for parents to face their own shortcomings, to realise that they have caused their children significant pain. But their sadness can also be manipulative and controlling. It is their way of using guilt to try to make you back down from the confrontation.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I'm sorry you're upset. I'm sorry you're hurt. But I'm not willing to give up on this. I've been hurting for a long time, too."

Helpful Websites

Alice Miller
Personality Disorders definition
Daughters of narcissistic mothers
Out of the FOG
You carry the cure in your own heart
Help for adult children of child abuse
Pete Walker

Some books:

Toxic Parents by Susan Forward
Homecoming by John Bradshaw
Will I ever be good enough? by Karyl McBride
If you had controlling parents by Dan Neuharth
When you and your mother can't be friends by Victoria Segunda
Children of the self-absorbed by Nina Brown - check reviews on this, I didn't find it useful myself.
Recovery of your inner child by Lucia Capacchione
Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nazakawa

This final quote is from smithfield posting as therealsmithfield:

"I'm sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out. I personally don't claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will receive a lot of wisdom but above all else the insights and advice given will 'always' be delivered with warmth and support."

Golondrina Wed 31-May-17 10:48:35

isolated if you are reading this next thread. You are the SC now. The roles switch and change. I was always the GC in my family and my broher the SC. Now I have gone NC with my mother I am now the SC and ostracised from some other family (my uncle, my mother's brother, and some cousins to an extent), although my brother and I are very close and he is LC with our mother.
There are dynamics and these change, but there are different roles that get played out. You are the SC now because you have tried to break out of a role as the "one who copes". Your sister subconsciously realises that all is not rosy and you not playing your role threatens to bring down the whole house of cards and maybe she won't be the favourite any more. So, she pressures you to play along like you always have.
Fwiw, my mother was "good" mother when I was young and I thought we were close. But the closeness got suffocating as I got older and the behaviour got more dysfunctional (it's a really long story). we weren't close, we were enmeshed and she had to be the centre of my life in every way. She wasn't physically or sexually abusive, but it was a very toxic, dysfunctional and emotionally unhealthy childhood indeed. They don't have to be beating you or neglecting you to really fuck you up.

BadTasteFlump Wed 31-May-17 10:59:22

Isolated I just wanted to say something that jumps out from your thread is that you are struggling to recognise your parents as toxic - because they 'weren't that bad' - or at least didn't seem so. But that is the case for lots of us (me included).

What Golondrina says about her mother is the same for me - she was a 'good' mother and we used to be really close, so close actually that she has never allowed me to have a separate life of my own. And people on the outside of our family would still think she is a 'good' person and wouldn't understand what my problem is with her.

Definitely do a bit of reading on the subject smile

Golondrina Wed 31-May-17 11:13:58

we used to be really close, so close actually that she has never allowed me to have a separate life of my own. And people on the outside of our family would still think she is a 'good' person and wouldn't understand what my problem is with her.

In fact, when we had our massive bust up, she put her house on the market and emigrated and told the people who bought it a whole load of shit about me, her grandchild stealing, abusive daughter, and they believed it and to this day blank me when I see them around (she lived a 5 min walk away).

Slowtrain2dawn Wed 31-May-17 11:40:41

Just dropping in to say that it is really helping me to read of other people recovering from toxic families, although that's tempered by sadness that others are suffering too. I've just tried to explain to my parents why I can't cope with being quizzed about my sister ( they requested I answer a set list of questions) and have heard nothing for a week. They say she is a narcissist, that she is cold and aggressive and manipulative. They tell me that my relationship with them is superficial and damaging their mental health and that my answers will influence an important decision they've decided to make. She is the scapegoat usually and I am the mediator/ GC/ rescuer. My mother is always the victim, my father enables and manipulates.
I am tearful and sad, although logically I know there is nothing I can do. I have tried not to play the game and have been cut off. The "decision" is probably about their will as there is history of this type of threat.
My family go round and round this cycle. My mother rants, raves and screams, my father sends manipulative emails. My sister is NC with them again, one phone call between them sparked all this off. She doesn't know they are attacking me because her DH is v unwell and I can't burden her. I am now being punished because I continue to see her. It's just so fucked up.
I have a week off work before starting a great new job and I just want to forget about them, but the FOG keeps creeping in, then anger, then anxiety, and on and on. I'm going to take my lovely daughter shopping this afternoon to try to stop dwelling on it all.
Thank you for this thread, I read it often and it helps me know I am not mad!

Slowtrain2dawn Wed 31-May-17 12:17:18

What actually prompted me to post was the fact that growing up my mother and sister were VERY close. The problems started when she turned 18, and same with me. So the pp's about that resonated.

isolated Wed 31-May-17 12:28:05

I'm feeling very overwhelmed at the moment. This friction with the golden child sister is new. I've never posted on here before. My family is so messed up sad.

I'm thinking of everyone who is going through anything vaguely similar. I want to think of something really powerful to say about just being yourself but I can't think of the words. Don't let the fuckers drag you down - that's all I can think of! Everyone who has replied to me has been more sympatheic and understanding than anyone in my familhy ever has. That means so much. Thank you xx

isolated Wed 31-May-17 12:37:15


Sorry, I have no advice. Your situation sounds awful. I don't know what to say. If you can take a bit of time away and just think about what is right thing to do (whatever they might think) would that help at all? It's such a hard situation. Please try and find the time to relax and look after yourself Just do what you feel is right. You've thought about it more than enough! They shouldn't be putting you in this position.

Please try and enjoy the afternoon with your daughter x

Slowtrain2dawn Wed 31-May-17 12:40:33

Thank you so much isolated, I am trying to just concentrate on me and my own family for now, you're right!

Slowtrain2dawn Wed 31-May-17 12:42:39

And "don't let the fuckers drag you down" is v powerful. DLTFDYD catchy grin

isolated Wed 31-May-17 12:49:06

Goldandrina and BadTasteFlump

Sorry to hear about your mothers... My mother was negligent and unemotional and completely unsympathetic to anything I was going through. I'm not sure she was toxic though? She's said many things through the years that have hurt me but I don't think they were said to hurt me. She's just thoughtless. That's a horrible quality to have in your mum but I don't think it's as bad as being deliberately hurtful is it? Oh I don't know. She never told me she loved me, or even liked me. I tell my kids I love them every day sad I don't know why she's like that.
It's all so depressing isn't it?
HUGE thank you to everyone who is replying to my self-pitying drivel.
Bloody massive high five to everyone who's surviving this kind of thing! smile

isolated Wed 31-May-17 12:54:59

Slowtrain2dawn 'Don't let the fuckers drag you down" says absolutely everything we all need to hear!!

Sending strength to everyone else struggling with dysfucnstional families


ChestOfDrawers Wed 31-May-17 13:09:34

Hi all. Isolated, I found it helpful to realise that it's about their actions and effects, not their intention. Think about something else bad - ummm I'm trying not to use something triggering - if I steal some money from someone, but I didn't mean to hurt them and its just because I was going through a bad time - the fact is that I still stole it and that person still had to cope with the effects of that. I am still responsible for my own actions. It certainly wouldn't be the persons fault who i stole from. Not as eloquent as I'd like but the best examples would be too triggering to post! Have a look on the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers website. That was my lightbulb moment.

I can't remember the username now of the other person who posted, was it something dawn? I'd agree that if it's possible to take a bit of time out and maybe see a counsellor or do some thinking, that might help. It sounds pretty intense and suffocating for you.

I hope all of you are doing OK?

I haven't posted for a little while. I really wanted to but the latest drama just felt like it would be too identifying and I get really anxious about that.

One of my siblings has a lot of issues. As do we all but that is sibling's role right now (none of them gives a shit about mine mutter mutter) It is very likely that this sibling will move back in with parents soon. This would be a catastrophe for sibling mentally. I had a conversation with sibling a couple of months ago about it all but sibling just doesn't seem to be fully awakened or maybe just not feeling strong enough to go against it? I don't know what to do. I feel so complicit doing nothing. Should I confront M about it? Should I talk to sibling? Should I leave it alone?

It feels terrifying to confront but I don't feel like I have much to lose as I'm not in favour at the moment. Haven't been for some time. I'm allowed to have an opinion aren't I? (No, I'm definitely not!!!) Isolated by the way, our roles have shifted over the years too. I have noticed that whenever I am assertive or stand my ground or give a boundary, I am then punished/ brought in line by being scapegoated in some form or another. It seems you can't have both - you can't change and be more assertive (and safer and happier) as well as keeping the same family dynamics.

BadTasteFlump Wed 31-May-17 13:14:10

She's said many things through the years that have hurt me but I don't think they were said to hurt me. She's just thoughtless. That's a horrible quality to have in your mum but I don't think it's as bad as being deliberately hurtful is it? Oh I don't know. She never told me she loved me, or even liked me

Isolated read that back to yourself, but imagine that it's your DC saying that about you. I bet you're saying to yourself 'but I'll make sure they never need to say that about me'. And do you know why? Because you love and care for your DC enough to make sure you don't make those 'mistakes'. That's what makes you a good parent, rather than a toxic one.

I know how hard it is coming to the realisation that our parents/mothers were shit parents - it's all very recent for me too flowers

BadTasteFlump Wed 31-May-17 13:20:32

Golondrina the biggest mind-fuck for me right now is that since I decided, six weeks ago, to stand up to my toxic M, she has not made any attempt to contact or see her 'precious' GChildren. Not in six weeks.

That from the woman who previously couldn't go more than a couple of days without seeing them because she missed them so much because they're the 'centre of her world'....

As much as I kind of expected this to happen (and friends/DH said she would drop me if I stood up to her shit as well), since she follows the Narc script to the letter, it's still weird that it's actually happening.

The funny bit is, the DC haven't mentioned her once - it's like they've not even noticed. Oh my god it would kill her if she knew that grin

Makealist1 Wed 31-May-17 13:43:50

Hi all flowers
Just had a quick look through the latest threads. I would like to add that another dynamic for isolated might be that GC is looking for support to deal with sick DB and [elderly?] parents.
This all sounds so familiar to me ! Including the 'family messenger' group, that I bowed out of in the end [ wasn't easy, thought there'd be a backlash - nothing]. Together with quite a few others, who realised that it wasn't giving them , emotionally, what they need - or in my case because it all seemed to mirror the dysfunctionality, but writ down. Including no one answering my posts however chirpy and unthreatening. So just the same old/same old really.

My DB is also long term disabled - and extremely codependent and needy [ or else there will be acting out ]. He can be really lovely in order to get what he wants.My M is controlling demanding and elderly. Caring Dsis gets little praise and is instead the scapegoat. How the hell does that work ? GC Dsis now is expected to run around M. It will all go bang sometime. Especially if caring DSis decides to back off. And then GC may become scapegoated as M treats 'weak' people like that. I foresee [ more of] GC wanting all family to get together and help out [ sounds familiar ?]. It's only a matter of time. Has her own young family .She has already lashed out at people who won't do everything that M demands. I don't envy Dsis her role as GC any more. In time these become the target as pseudo parent. Payback time !

I am VLC with most, and debating NC with some. I imagine that if I start to say why, there will be explosions from a couple of siblings. The patterns of codependence are really strong. As in your family.

you have already done the hardest bit - removed yourself. The people near the centre of the storm just haven't the headspace to stand back and see what's going on - they won't be allowed to.

PS they say that narcissists have little or no self awareness. Parents can be toxic without meaning to be - they just are. But would probably never recognise that as such. Sad for them, sad for the people they hurt.

Makealist1 Wed 31-May-17 13:44:43

I do so love that definition of insanity !!!

Golondrina Wed 31-May-17 14:03:00

Flump yes, my mother is only interested in the children in terms of how much she can use them to play the martyr.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 31-May-17 14:14:48


I am glad to read that your children have not mentioned their toxic narcissist of a grandmother. I would keep well away from your mother permanently; hopefully her current no contact stance will be a permanent one. She will harm your children in not too dissimilar ways as to how you have yourself been harmed. Narcissist grandparents tend to over value or under value the relationship with their grandchildren whom they also see as narcissistic supply.

Do not ever accept any gifts, communications or such like from her; no contact is precisely this. Anything she sends to you should be disposed of and not at all acknowledged; to such disordered people the response is the reward.

SpareBedroom Wed 31-May-17 18:33:17

Isolated I think we've all been there where we start off thinking our Ms weren't that bad. For me it was that there were lots of little incidents that I remembered, but I was putting each one in a separate little box in my head and excusing it in one way or another. My head was full of boxes! It was only when I put all the incidents in one big box all together that I really saw the true picture, if that makes sense.

And also what another poster said, that even if you think they 'didn't mean it', that doesn't alter the absolute reality of its effect on you. Very often they are repeating patterns from their own childhoods and you might think that that's an excuse - but the fact is, you are trying to break the cycle of abuse. They could have done that too, but they didn't.

TreacleChin Wed 31-May-17 20:18:11

Hi everyone xx

Welcome Isolated I'm another one that thought my parents weren't that bad. Materialistically I was provided for, emotionally I was not. I can definitely relate to 'thoughtless' and never being told I'm loved. To add an extra dimension I was placed slap bang in the middle of a war between my M and F that 40 odd years later is still going on. Xx

Thing is, I was so used to it that I didn't know any different. I knew/felt, as far as kids can know that there was something strange about my childhood but any of my questioning was shot down or dismissed, a tactic often used on me was to call me ungrateful or spoilt. As far as recent events go, they don't have to call me those names, just a look will do and I'm put in my place, the 'conditioning' goes that deep. I'd have done anything to avoid that look, that is until the lovely people here gave me strength.

I'll post an update separately because I need to gather my thoughts a little.

TreacleChin Wed 31-May-17 21:35:52

I had some sort of breakdown on Monday in the middle of the night. Sobbed like I've never sobbed before, said things I never thought I'd say out loud (think pure indulgent self pity), laid it all out bare. I can't describe how out of control I felt, I just could not contain myself.

I don't know where it came from but I do know now that it was to do with my childhood. Some of the things I was feeling I recognise, the loneliness, the feeling of abandonment and being unloved. More than that, feeling it was all my fault and that I wouldn't blame people for leaving me yet hurting that they chose to.

I'd like to say my OH was a rock but he wasn't, he did and said ALL the wrong things, including asking if I was hormonal. But in hindsight it was his clumsy arsed way that saved me. It just seemed so stupid, me proper sobbing like a child, pouring out my hurt, like I was that child, and him trying his best to understand but failing so badly (and he was half asleep). I think I just managed to clutch on to him actually trying, however bad he was at it, his intentions where good and he didn't walk away, no matter what I said.

It was quite possibly the lowest I have ever felt in certainly the past 12 years, possibly more. I know I've never cried like that when Ive been with my OH. Yet now, a few days later and I feel as strong as an ox. Stronger and more confident about who I am.

In other news. I have decided that I like cut flowers. My M used to say that cut flowers were a waste of money blah blah blah so of course I had the same opinion and asked my OH not to waste his cash on them. Well, she might think they're a waste but I like them. In fact I LOVE them and I used to be tickled pink when my OH used to get me some.

nobullshitallowed Wed 31-May-17 21:47:21

I've just been reading the last thread and started on this one, after you've all shared your stories I feel like it might help me to share mine. Hope you don't mind.

I grew up in a care home, went into one at 3.5 years. My parents had been abusive to me since I was 6 months old according to the paperwork. At 6 months old I sustained a severe head injury, it caused deafness in my right ear. This all ended with my bio dad trying to kill me at 3, he set fire to our house and locked me in a bedroom and left. Was arrested outside the house. In court in all came out my bio mum knew his plans.

I was never able to be adopted or put into foster care, everyone was worried I'd be a 'handful' due to what had happened. Thankfully this was years and years ago so a lot has changed in that respect now, and hopefully no other child has to go through this, or if they do they don't just get dumped in a home.

I've struggled for years to have relationships with people, I don't really trust anyone. I'm still in therapy and I'm coming to terms with all that happened.

But that doesn't stop we wishing everyday that I had a mum, I wish I'd had someone like my friends did, to come to school events, to do my hair, to tuck me up at night and just be there for me. I spent the morning of my wedding in pieces, I just wanted someone to get dressed with me, to tell me they're proud of me.

I hate feeling like that, and really kick myself when I get into that way, I'm so lucky in other respects, I've got 3 amazing children, they will always know what a mothers love is, I will do my best to never let them down.

flowers for everyone else who have dealt with difficult parents.

Sorry for the essay, it actually feels really good to get it all out x

isolated Wed 31-May-17 23:21:14

I'm so sorry to hear what happened to you nobullshitallowed. That is so awful, I really can't think of anything helpful to say sad. I don't think I've ever wanted to be able to give a complete stranger a hug so badly...

You sound like a lovely person and a fantastic mum. I'm a bit scared of saying the wrong thing and I need to go to bed but I just wanted to say something. I'm glad that writing it all down felt good. I hope you'll find this place helpful. I'm new here too but already I feel a little more free just by opening up.

Take care. Here are some flowers for you x

isolated Wed 31-May-17 23:24:36

And thank you to everyone who has replied to my self-pitying posts, I really appreciate it. I have a lot to think about and need to go to sleep now, but I will be back!

Join the discussion

Registering is free, quick, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Get started »