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Can someone please help me deal with controlling parents (I'm 33)

(50 Posts)
Peanutbutterfly Mon 08-May-17 17:36:12

Some background. Left ex h when dcs were toddlers. He causes lots of stress and has some contact with dcs but only when he feels like it. Break up and following few months were very difficult and my parents were and still are hugely supportive. I don't know how I would have coped without them and I am very grateful to them. They live nearby and we see them most days. They often babysit dcs. I rarely ask but they ring to offer. Insist it is no problem and say happy to do it.

So, I am very lucky to have so much support from them.

The problem is, this help comes with a lot of strings attached.

For example, I want a day out with the dcs. Dm knows this and informs me that I couldn't possibly cope with them and she/df/my dsis will come to help me. I say no thank you we are fine. This goes back and fourth until either she says fine, hangs up phone, gives me cold shoulder treatment for several days before there is a massive confrontation about me pushing them away/being ungrateful/rude/selfish. OR I give in and dm comes to help. When this help arrives it is sometimes made clear that it is hugely inconvenient and she is so busy and tired but she knows I need the help. Or else it is brought up at a later date as an example of her kindness and generosity.

They have an opinion on everything when it comes to me and the dcs. When I went for councelling after breakup Dm sat me down to tell me what I needed to talk about. She quizzes me about finances, tells me what I should and should not spend money on. Makes plans for me.

Whenever there is an issue with the dcs she or they will tell me what they think I should do. Sometimes I disagree and do something different. If it's a small thing of little importance they let me away with it. If it's something they feel strongly about all hell breaks loose. Starts with cold shoulder which I try to ignore, but she will always confront me. She says horrible, hurtful things and won't stop until I cry or get mad. If I avoid her she will either keep ringing, or act nice until I think it's safe. Then she will do confrontation.

Currently trying to get sn assessment for one of dcs. I've had them telling me what to do. Nodded and agreed. She keeps sticking her nose in, wanting to know exactly what I am going to say to GP, to speech therapist, wanting to check application forms etc. It's not just showing an interest, it's checking to make sure I'm doing everything properly (her way). I have now done something as I thought best and it's all kicked off because she found out and it is not what she said to do.

I don't want to go NC. My dcs adore them. But I want to parent my own children and not have people ringing me up to tell me off and running me down. How do I deal with this.

Peanutbutterfly Mon 08-May-17 17:36:39

Oh it's so long, sorry

OlennasWimple Mon 08-May-17 17:40:26

Put up firm boundaries. Your DC's assessment, for example, is none of their business. Your counselling is none of their business.

If they give you the cold shoulder treatment, shrug it off - it's their problem, not yours. They do it because it gets the desired response out of you - if you stop responding they won't have any incentiveto do it any longer.

Walk away from confrontation, especially if they say horrible things about you (I mean - WTF????)

Or, much easier, go NC

I know this is all easier said than done... Have you read the Stately Homes thread?


Justmadeperfectflapjacks Mon 08-May-17 17:41:45

Firstly well done for not throttling her before now.
Take control of your life back. .
Less is best - less info you tell her about your goings on is for the best - for you.
Your plans - tel her AFTER the day out that you have been xy/z - best for you and dc (you need time with them alone!)
Keep a day /evening free a week for her and ignore requests for visits at other times.
Ignore calls but text her you will ring at x time and ring at that time only.
If she calls round ignore the door. Hide if necessary!!
Low contact is the way to go.
Before you do throttle her.

Peanutbutterfly Mon 08-May-17 17:50:37

Thank you. No I haven't. The thing is most of the time it's fine. But I know this is because I tiptoe around to keep everyone happy.

I will try shrugging off and not responding. The thing is it they keep going until I get upset. They also drag other family members into it and tell them how awful I am and how upset they are.

Maybe if I am persistent with boundaries they will get used to it. They are not this bad with the rest of my siblings.

Peanutbutterfly Mon 08-May-17 17:56:07

Thank you flapjacks. That's good advice. I'm naturally open and laid back I think that's the problem. They seem to have taken control of my little family gradually and I didn't even bloody notice.

I'm going to make a bullet point list of the advice here and read it every morning incase I slip back into my old pushover ways.

ScabbyHorse Mon 08-May-17 19:01:45

They sound super controlling. I wonder what is in it for them? Do they have some guilt about something. Anyway it is wrong to put you in this position of having to appease them.

gluteustothemaximus Tue 09-May-17 00:59:01

Hi OP, I used to be the pushover in the family too. Siblings never got the treatment I did.

I know you don't want to go NC, but you've just started on your journey of working out just how wrong this all is. Your options to keep your sanity are low contact and firm boundaries, same contact and firmer boundaries or no contact peaceful life

I would tell my parents everything. And everything I said would be used against me and twisted. Silent treatment is abuse. A way to control.

I used to feel that my parents helped me and supported me at my hour of need, but really, they were just knocking up the 'things they've done for me' list even more.

I really didn't want to go NC, even though I desperately wanted too.

I read a lot about narcisstic mothers. Lots made sense.

I started standing up for myself. Guess what? Life got even more shit. Because when you don't rock the boat, you're just about ok. But stand up for yourself, and the real nasty behaviour comes out, so eventually that often leads to NC.

You are an adult. A mother. Don't let your kids see you being undermined. I was so worried about the DC's missing them. I needn't have worried. DS told me so many things after we went NC, so many spiteful things she said to him, to poison him against me.

Wishing you lots of strength, this time is truly bloody awful xxx

hellokittymania Tue 09-May-17 01:30:11

flowers good luck with everything and be strong.

NoncommittalToSparkleMotion Tue 09-May-17 01:39:04

Ohhh, that kind of behaviour is all too relatable.

My best advice would be the same as above, to not tell them about the ins and outs of the more personal issues. Counseling, money, DC's assessment...Be very general and vague. Stock answers like "Yep, something we're working on" or "yes, it's all sorted," and change the subject immediately.

That's the best way to not make waves, ime. Keeping things on a need-to-know basis.

Good luck. It's shit.

ScarlettFreestone Tue 09-May-17 01:45:56

Stop telling them things.

If you need a sounding board, find a nice helpful friend. Stop telling your Mother.

Your finances are none of her business. You are 33yo!

Make sure any paperwork is locked away if they have free access to your house. Don't tell them if you are saving for something, don't tell them if you buy anything, don't tell them how much stuff costs.

If you want a day out with your children don't tell them until afterwards if at all.

If they ask how it went with the GP, just say "fine". Don't tell them the next steps or when appointments are or what paperwork is required.

They can't interfere if you don't give them ammunition.

You don't have to go NC with them. Just keep your conversational topics to funny stories about the children or non controversial subjects.

As far as the cold shoulder goes, don't apologise for making your own decisions.

DoloresTheRunawayTrain Tue 09-May-17 11:48:43

The involvement of others is classic flying monkey tactics. They aren't getting the response they want, so they tell an edited version of the truth to someone sympathetic and wind them up and set them off. Just repeat the stock answers to them as well. Look in on the stately homes thread on relationships there are many there dealing with similar issues. You may pick up some tips and other strategies on how to deal with them without getting yourself so stressed.

HeyHoThereYouGo657 Tue 09-May-17 15:38:53

Tell me about it OP

Mine (mainly DM) drive me mad too . I got a new cat (I used to have four but two are no longer here, they died . .leaving 2 so a new one makes 3) and all I got on the phone was "Another cat ? Why do you want another cat?" Um because I DO DM ?!!

She will also pry into my finances which drives me nuts .. I don't go prying into her business afterall . Then she starts with my DCs and how stressed they make her and DD and its all too much , leaving me feeling like shit too .

Its hard work indeed. flowers

TroysMammy Tue 09-May-17 15:46:58

She "sat you down". Without being unkind you need to stand up for yourself. You are a mother, you are no longer a child and your mother should treat you as an adult. Although she is your mother you are accountable for your own decisions and she should respect that. Don't tell her the bare bones of your life.

TroysMammy Tue 09-May-17 15:49:02

If you want to tell anyone something, use MN but not AIBU smile

NellieFiveBellies Tue 09-May-17 15:51:15

you say they arent this bad with your siblings.
you need to look at the difference between you and your siblings. how do they handle your parents? what can you see that is different?
can you talk to your siblings? ask them how they handle your parents?

you need to change how you deal with them.
in the short term this will be harder than continuing to be passive but in the long term you will be much happier.

good luck. it will be hard but worth it.

Birdsbeesandtrees Tue 09-May-17 15:53:50

Is there such a thing as an assertiveness course ?

My mum is like this but - I seem to have gone the other way to you for whatever reason and am very good at either not engaging or pointing out how ridiculous she's being.

She still sulks ofcourse but I ignore it.

I remember she was very cross when I wouldn't tell her what I earned. Nor who I was sleeping with hmm.

Lottapianos Tue 09-May-17 15:54:01

'The thing is it they keep going until I get upset. They also drag other family members into it and tell them how awful I am and how upset they are.'

This is bullying OP, as is the cold shoulder and silent treatment. Or you could call it emotional abuse if you prefer. I certainly would.

My parents are similar - very 'helpful' and can't do enough for you but it all has to be on their terms in the end. Its totally inappropriate to be prying into your finances, hassling you about what to say to the professionals your DC will see, telling you what to see to your counsellor. They seem to still treat you as a child, a bullied and harassed child at that!

This dynamic is likely to have been going on all your life, so well done for seeing it as controlling and inappropriate and something you want to stop. I agree with others - start telling them nothing. Be as vague as possible at all times, especially about sensitive stuff that is important, like your DC's assessment. Start reducing how often you see them. You know what their techniques are so you can be prepared for cold shoulder, hysterics, flying monkeys etc. Remember that you are an adult and you absolutely do not have to do what they are telling you to do. If they are disappointed / furious / hurt, they will get over it. The sky will not come tumbling down.

You mentioned that you saw a counsellor after you left your ex. I very much recommend professional support with managing your parents as well. I saw a therapist for a long time while I was learning to change my relationship with my parents and it was absolutely invaluable.

ENFJ Tue 09-May-17 16:01:01


ENFJ Tue 09-May-17 16:21:42

Everything you say is a complete parallel with my own experience. Right down to the fact that I did not/do not want to go NC as they are basically good people. My parents genuinely confuse obedience with gratitude. My x was also controlling and I left and of course I ended up with him because that dynamic of trying to please was familiar! My mum rolled her eyes when I went to psychotherapy!

anyway things have been a lot better in the last 18 months. I only got there by having a few rows and riding out the excruciating feeling I had afterwards. I was made to feel so guilty. But they flipped it around and said that they were made to feel bad. But I didn't apologise. Even when they came back to me (eventually) with a kind of non-apology but an acknowledgement that perhaps they were interfering a BIT, I still didn't capitulate instantly and say sorry sorry I'm sorry too. I said this won't be the last thing I do that you disapprove of but I'm no longer looking for your approval so GET USED TO IT.

Things died down a bit. They still roll their eyes and they don't see me as a people pleaser, they see me bolshy and feisty which is so not the case. My so called bolshyness was me fighting for the right to make my OWN decision.

My parents also did this thing that I called them out on a couple of years ago. If I argued with one they'd unite and tell me that if I upset one I upset the other. I told them that that would be an acceptable point if I were criticising them but if they'd given me advice I did not ask for then it was abusive to join forces to give me unwanted advice and then sulk as a unit because I didn't take it. Again, there was a deeply deeply uncomfortable period after that argument as well but all I can advise you to do is to not apologise and to ride out the deep deep discomfort. Distract yourself during the period of time it takes for the heightened emotions to dissipate. And people can't imagine how excruciatingly uncomfortable it is for a people pleaser to displease her parents.

My relationship with my parents is better now. I've changed more than they have.

ENFJ Tue 09-May-17 16:23:02

ps I name change a lot but lottapianos has made very helpful posts on this subject!

ENFJ Tue 09-May-17 16:28:12


The number one helpful thing is to resist the parent-pleasing software to run every plan past them hoping for their approval. Get in to the habit of telling them what you have done after you have done it.

My parents completely pissed on my plan to get a car a while ago. They are convinced i can't afford it. And like you say, other siblings didn't get this treatment. My dad thinks my brother should do a phd and that I should be a typist. My brother is no huge genius confused and I can do a lot more than type. But we are perceived very differently within the family that's for sure.

Soon I will just arrive outside their house in my car. If they ask any questions about finance I'll shut them right down immediately. My dad was worried that I wouldn't realise confused that a car needs to be insured and taxed and so on.

GreenHairDontCare Tue 09-May-17 16:36:24

I could have written this a few years ago.

I've changed the conversation these days, but it was hard and has taken years of therapy and a supportive dh. Start small, by taking the kids out and not mentioning it until weeks later. Or saying no, we're busy when they ask to have the kids.

I remember years ago when dh and I bought our first house, we went out and got a new dining table without any input from her. She went cold on us for weeks. She never once admitted that was why but it was totally obvious. Things are nowhere near that bad anymore.

Lottapianos Tue 09-May-17 16:40:32

'And people can't imagine how excruciatingly uncomfortable it is for a people pleaser to displease her parents.'

This is so true. People say 'just say no, just don't tell them stuff, get boundaries in place', which is all good advice, but my word is it easier said than done! Parents like this get you well trained from the beginning to see them as the absolute centre of the universe, and to crave their approval at all times. Those lessons are not learned in a conscious way and they run deep. It's not as simple as just choosing that you will interact with them in a completely different way from now on. I always recommend professional support to people in situations like this. It's dark, murky, frightening stuff that goes right down to the core of who you believe you are. Coming through it is so hard and so painful, but the best thing I have ever done for myself

HeyHoThereYouGo657 Tue 09-May-17 17:00:23

I feel quite bad now as she does also help a lot , ,is thoughtful and will bring me little gifts at times (nothing major, perhaps some little ornament she knows I'd like) and food when I am low .

Its just the controlling overrides the niceness but I was most interested reading your post ENFJ

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