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AIBU?

I'm not part of their family am I?

107 replies

DiscoDragon · 13/01/2024 12:28

My mum cheated on my dad back when I was around 2 years old and eventually left him for the man she is now married to. I have 2 step brothers, although I've always thought of them and called them my brothers not ste-brothers.

I was always treated very differently to my brothers growing up. I was expected to pay half my wages in rent to my mum as soon as I started working full time at 18. I was told long before I was even thinking about moving out of home that once I was gone that was it, there would be no coming back home again, this was "tough love" to encourage me to stand on my own two feet. I was not invited on their family holidays

My brothers have both left home and come back again multiple times over the years, both have had girlfriends moving into their parents house with them - rent free so that they could save for their futures. Both are still currently living there in their mid/late thirties after one brother split from his long term partner and mother of his 2 children.

I only learned in December that my brother and his girlfriend seem to have split and that he has been off work with MH issues for several months. Also that his ex-partner is pregnant with their 3rd child - due in a few weeks. I had absolutely no idea, none of my "famliy" have shared any of this with me! I had gone to brothers ex's house to take a birthday present for my nephew. When I arrived our youngest brother was also there with his girlfriend with presents for nephew, all making a big fuss.

A few days after Christmas it was my son's birthday. My mum got him a tiny lego set and £10 (to be fair she is disabled and can't get out to the shops and relies on her husband so this is his doing). My brothers couldn't even be fucked to get off their asses and come wish him a happy birthday when we were at my mums house let alone get him a card or a present. My older daughter had her birthday in October and was spoiled rotten by everyone, cards and presents from everyone.

It has all left me feeling so upset, like I'm just not considered a part of their family at all. I am so fucking angry that my daughter gets spoiled on her birthday and my son is barely acknowledged. I don't understand why.

I'm thinking of not bothering with any of them from now on apart from my mum. I wont bother acknowledging the birth of my brothers 3rd child or with his other childrens birthdays and next Christmas I'll stick to my mum, dad and my own children when it comes to gift giving. AIBU?

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BoohooWoohoo · 13/01/2024 18:37

DiscoDragon · 13/01/2024 13:22

I can't go NC with my mum, I just can't. I can't blame her for being the way she is, she fought for custody of me. I saw how frightened and upset she was in hospital with me after I took an overdose aged 20. She must care in her own fucked up way.

My brothers and I were never close but I had always thought we got on well enough, I am upset to realise just how little they seem to think of me and my children this year.

Your mum probably went for full custody because her husband told her to. A judge saying that stepdad (and to a lesser extent stepmum) are better parents than your father would be something worth bragging about if you are an abusive person. He can also use that legal decision to say that he (stepdad) is a better man than your father so your mum cheating was inevitable and a good thing (cheaters love “evidence” that their affair was the best thing for everyone and inevitable because the ex (your dad in this case) was crap)

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DiscoDragon · 13/01/2024 18:43

Coconutter24 · 13/01/2024 18:23

Of course you love your mum she is your mum. Why do you feel so horrendous not seeing her? Is it because you want to see her? If so can you both not concentrate on just yours and hers relationship, forget the others. I’m sure even after he came along she still loved you but she obviously wasn’t strong enough to stand up to him which is awful. You don’t need to feel guilt you were a child and I’m sure good enough of a human being so don’t let anyone make you feel so worthless.

Honestly, I don't know. If I'm honest it's because I feel like I should be spending time with my mum. Because even though my mum's relationship with her own mum was terrible she still committed herself to visiting and phoning all the time and looked after her. She was really upset when my nan and granddad moved away when they retired as she wouldn't be able to look after them in their old age - because that's what people are supposed to do for their parents. So I suppose I feel like I must be a bad person for not wanting to care for my mum or even spend much time with her. I feel bad for the way she's suffering with her illness and all that its taken from her.

I do have a problem with guilt, have done since I was very young. I'd feel sick with guilt every sunday when my dad would drop me back to my mums - a house full of people knowing that he was going home to an empty house. I don't know why I always feel so guilty for everything.

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Newestname002 · 14/01/2024 06:32

@DiscoDragon

we have my wonderful dad and his side of the family who are all lovely to us.

How sad that, although your mother had the strength to fight for custody of you she wasn't able to fight for your protection while you were living with her and her second family or at least leave you with your father for your own mental and physical safety.

I do have a problem with guilt, have done since I was very young. I'd feel sick with guilt every sunday when my dad would drop me back to my mums - a house full of people knowing that he was going home to an empty house. I don't know why I always feel so guilty for everything.

By their behaviour, your mother and the second family she created have groomed you to feel 'less than'. Your mother perhaps from fear and your stepfather and half brothers from hate. They made you a whipping boy for whatever was wrong with themselves and, very sadly, your mother was complicit. You say:

My mum I think buried her head in the sand in an effort to "keep the peace", tried to validate some of what was happening by telling me that I shouldn't be so difficult and shouldn't "wind him up" etc.

I think you should reread your own posts in this thread when you are uncertain what to do, and remember that you were unhappy enough to try and commit suicide at a young age to escape from their treatment - and certainly keep your own children away from people who treated you, or allowed you to be treated this way. 🌹

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rwalker · 14/01/2024 06:50

harsh reply I’m afraid

Your loyalties are misplaced your mums a disgrace
she had an affair broke up your family and failed to protect you

your stepbrothers behaviour was learnt and accepted from your mum and stepdad


she could leave a marriage to shag someone but not to protect a child says it all really

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hattie43 · 14/01/2024 07:11

I would been out of there at 18 and never looked back . Why in the world would you be part of a families life who held you down and spat on you .
You didn't leave them behind then but given their treatment of you son you should now before history repeats itself . Your step family all sound very dysfunctional.

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mynamechangemyrules · 14/01/2024 07:16

Just a small thing, your brothers may not be ignoring/ being unpleasant to your son, I know it sounds shit but when you are embroiled in your own MH issues plus surviving Christmas, they may have just forgotten to do something decent for your son- shit I know but that's why post Xmas birthdays are crap. My poor son always gets forgotten and we have to have a mid July celebration to make up for it 😂

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mynamechangemyrules · 14/01/2024 07:18

mynamechangemyrules · 14/01/2024 07:16

Just a small thing, your brothers may not be ignoring/ being unpleasant to your son, I know it sounds shit but when you are embroiled in your own MH issues plus surviving Christmas, they may have just forgotten to do something decent for your son- shit I know but that's why post Xmas birthdays are crap. My poor son always gets forgotten and we have to have a mid July celebration to make up for it 😂

Sorry I've read the full thread now- ignore me! I can't seem to delete it.

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shortfatfatty · 14/01/2024 07:46

I'm so sorry you've been through all this OP. You should have no doubt that your decision to cut step dad and brothers out of your lives. They are toxic and nothing can be gained from contact with them.

I wonder if people who have mentioned reporting to police etc have direct experience of this sort of thing (that's not an attack to previous posters just wondering!). I completely understand why you wouldn't and whilst I can see why some people would find some sort of justice in it, it could be retraumatising.

You've no doubt taken lots of steps in your life to break this cycle of family abuse,this is just another necessary one. You don't need to explain or engage with them at all.

Re your mum, my heart breaks for you. Its so fucking hard to untangle it all. If you can't go no contact then low contact is the only way. Can you arrange for the others to be out or pick her up to visit you/go to cafe etc?

What's your housing situation? If you rent or are able to sell I would get the wheels in motion.

It's completely shit that therapy is so out of reach for those who really need it. Read as much as you can in the mean time on healing and throw yourself into your own life and family. If you do manage to get yourself fit enough to work I think it could really help you plus there's the benefits of employee assistance programme with therapy available etc.

You are entitled to draw a line in the sand and to not tolerate them anymore. The stately homes thread in relatioships has been a great source of support for lots of posters with abusive families. Keep talking x

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WhatNoRaisins · 14/01/2024 07:47

Just my two cents. Personally I don't have a lot of faith in grown adults being able to change their personalities, trying to change ingrained behaviours and habits is hard enough for most people. Your personality is something you and others have to learn to live with.

I think that whatever you do when it comes to contact here you have to base any expectations of them on the fact that they have shown themselves again and again to not be nice characters. You won't change them, you have to work out what will best protect you from their behaviour but leave you feeling ok about yourself. This is where maybe a third party can help.

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elfintinsel · 14/01/2024 09:37

You owe your mum nothing. She doesn't deserve your kindness. As your mum, her main job was to protect you. She didn't. She allowed this all to happen to you.
You owe her nothing.

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HollyKnight · 14/01/2024 10:03

Could any man make you treat one of your children the way your mother treated you? You are being too kind about her. It doesn't matter how hard her life was, she had a responsibility towards you. She failed to protect you. She chose to stay in this relationship, which allowed you to be neglected and abused. She chose herself over you. You do not need to understand or forgive her. Her actions make her just as responsible for what you went for. The anger you feel towards your stepfather and brothers should be equally directed towards her. Maybe even more so because she is actually the person who was responsible for the life you had. Your brothers are who they are because of her too. She did nothing to raise them to be decent. Your mother is a nasty, selfish, weak, disgrace of a mother.

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Inertia · 14/01/2024 10:56

I’m sorry you suffered such an abusive childhood. No child should suffer the physical and emotional abuse you suffered.

Your loyalty to your mother is misplaced, and a product of the scapegoating and blame she forced on you.

They are now continuing their abusive golden child/ scapegoat dynamic with your children, and if you allow it to continue your children will realise before long.

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Dringle · 14/01/2024 12:15

The guilt is something to look at and explore more, its great that you're noticing it and how it affects you. When you feel able to delve into it a bit more have a think about when you first noticed it, what was happening? Can you think of a time where you didn't feel guilty? What happened there and what was different then? It is common in those who grew up in a dysfunctional home where they were scapegoated and made to take responsibility for others' feelings / behaviour which seems to fit with what you have told us here.

As children we are primed to learn about the world and how we navigate it and we do that by absorbing all the messages we are given both overtly and indirectly, over time that becomes hard wired into us as the script we live by and it is no longer even a conscious thought. From your posts it is clear that you were taught that it was your fault when things went wrong (your mum's claims about her illness being your fault plus no doubt countless other less overt things), you were taught that you deserved to be hit and that it was not acceptable to disclose the abuse you were suffering, the only way for you to survive was to live by those rules which meant that you had failed when others were unhappy and that your needs didn't matter. I might be way off the mark but that seems most likely to me, does any of that resonate?

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DiscoDragon · 14/01/2024 12:38

Dringle · 14/01/2024 12:15

The guilt is something to look at and explore more, its great that you're noticing it and how it affects you. When you feel able to delve into it a bit more have a think about when you first noticed it, what was happening? Can you think of a time where you didn't feel guilty? What happened there and what was different then? It is common in those who grew up in a dysfunctional home where they were scapegoated and made to take responsibility for others' feelings / behaviour which seems to fit with what you have told us here.

As children we are primed to learn about the world and how we navigate it and we do that by absorbing all the messages we are given both overtly and indirectly, over time that becomes hard wired into us as the script we live by and it is no longer even a conscious thought. From your posts it is clear that you were taught that it was your fault when things went wrong (your mum's claims about her illness being your fault plus no doubt countless other less overt things), you were taught that you deserved to be hit and that it was not acceptable to disclose the abuse you were suffering, the only way for you to survive was to live by those rules which meant that you had failed when others were unhappy and that your needs didn't matter. I might be way off the mark but that seems most likely to me, does any of that resonate?

I was very young when I first started to feel a lot of guilt, around 3 or 4 possibly. I think the first time I can remember was at an afternoon at my grandparents house with my dad. We were playing a board game and he let me win, I said to him "you're my favourite daddy" and I remember seeing the briefest flash of pain on my dad's face at me saying that before he thanked me very much for saying so and told me I was his favourite daughter (I'm his only child!). It was the point where I really started to think about and question my home situation - having two "dad's" and realising that actually my dad was my only dad and the other guy was not.

My mum remembers things differently than I do when I've raised this with her a couple of years ago, but I remember her changing my surname and double barrelling it with her new husbands surname and encouraging me to call him dad. In her memory it was me who wanted to do those things. In my memory I had no say in the matter and was far too young to even understand what those things meant.

Athough they remained civil, I remember often feeling torn between my mum and dad as a child. My mum would often refer to my dad as a "Disney Dad" because he only saw me once a week and we would often do fun things and have nice days out and she said he never had to deal with the tougher aspects of parenting like discipline. I never thought that was a very fair thing for her to see, he only got to see me once a week because that was what the courts decided, it wasn't what my dad wanted. Naturally he wanted the limited amount of time he had with me to be quality time. She seems to forgot though that he was always the one who helped me with homework and school assignments when I was struggling etc. I always felt guilty at Christmas if I was spending it with one family or the other, but more so when I was with mum and her family as I have always been my dad's only child.

I have been conscious of this guilt for a while now and have been trying hard to push it away from myself as I do know that I shouldn't feel so much of it and that I haven't actually done anything wrong. For the past 10 years I've been having my dad around to our house for Christmas. I feel its fair that after so many years not getting to spend Christmas day with his daughter, now its his turn to get to spend Christmas with me and his grandchildren. My mum has her husband and sons and other grandchildren now so I feel that has taken some of the pressure off me in a way.

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Dringle · 14/01/2024 12:47

Reading that back as an adult now can you see how messed up it is that a 3 year old felt guilty for what the adults around her were feeling? If you knew that little girl and could speak to her now as an adult with all the knowledge you have gained of life and the world what would you say to her?

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Dringle · 14/01/2024 13:34

BTW just for context - I'm divorced from my children's dad and there have definitely been times I have felt resentful towards him for the "disney dad" thing - our arrangement is the standard day to day with me and he gets every other weekend and part of the holidays so naturally his time with them is mainly about quality time and having fun while the less fun things tend to fall to me - ie making sure they get to bed at a sensible time, getting them up and ready for school, taking them to the dentist etc. I'm human and I feel what I feel but I know and understand logically that he is a good man and a good father who loves his children and that this arrangement is best for them. I do get to do fun stuff with them too obviously, things are good but life is what it is and sometimes things catch us off guard. I have always been very careful about not complaining about our set up or badmouthing their father to or in front of them because this would hurt them, our focus as parents is on protecting and nurturing these little people, prioritising their needs and taking responsibility for managing our own feelings ourselves.

Your example just now looks like your dad had this mindset, he might have been momentarily caught off guard but he understood that that was his stuff to deal with and I bet that he would have been heartbroken if he'd known that you felt guilty about it. Your dad sounds lovely, I'm so glad you managed to maintain a close relationship with him

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DiscoDragon · 14/01/2024 13:45

My dad never bad-mouthed my mum. My mum would quite often make disparaging remarks about my dad, and when she was annoyed with me would tell me that I was just like him in a nasty, sneering tone of voice.

I've seen the effect of having 2 parents who can't stand each other has had on my partners niece. Her mum also cheated when she was young and her dad was very manipulative - making sure to point out to her at every opportunity that her mum had destroyed their family and was an awful person, trying to turn her against her mother who she lived with. She has nothing to do with her dad any more as he's pushed her away with his with his constant negativity, bitterness and anger even though he moved on from his marriage many years ago.

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2chocolateoranges · 14/01/2024 13:59

Unfortunately your mum is to blame here, she didn’t protect you from her husbands abuse. Whether she went along with it or, turned a blind eye to keep the peace is neither here nor there. She was a big part of the abuse by not protecting you.

i hate when people say oh but they were abused and didn’t know what was normal. I’m sorry if you have a shit upbringing then you want the best for your child and would move heaven and earth to achieve that.

i know I’ve had some shit thrown at me in life and I’ve done everything to ensure my children never have to see or hear some things that I did as a child.

id be cutting contact they don’t respect you.

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Dringle · 14/01/2024 14:29

There are a lot of similarities with our families! I remember that old "you're just like your dad" nutshell with whatever negative behaviour trait she'd decided I was exhibiting and shouting at me that he didn't love me or he would pay child maintenance, nasty toxic behaviour! Thank God, chance or the universe so many of us were able to gain the wisdom to know that that was wrong and learned to do better.

Sorry I came across wrong with what I said about your dad, what I was referring to was your example about momentarily seeing pain in his face when you called him your favourite daddy, he was obviously not expecting that and his face briefly gave away what he felt! Bless him, I bet he was also choked up that you said he was your favourite. I doubt most 3 year olds would pick up on that, let alone understand that a particular expression meant the person was feeling pain. This is making me wonder about hypervigilance as a trauma response and it seems to fit from what I've read here - you were taught that you were responsible for others' happiness, mum being ill or sad was your fault and meant that you had failed which equated to worthlessness, stepdad being unhappy meant you were going to get beaten and humiliated so you were on constant high alert monitoring what others were feeling to make sure you were safe and "being good". Dad feeling pain was your fault and maybe he won't love you anymore because you failed and now he sees how worthless you are. Does any of that feel like it makes sense to you?

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OriginalUsername2 · 14/01/2024 14:34

Fuck em.

A lot of people reach this point. It’s like a fog lifts, you see everything clearly and think why am I bothering with these horrible people.

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DiscoDragon · 14/01/2024 16:44

Dringle · 14/01/2024 14:29

There are a lot of similarities with our families! I remember that old "you're just like your dad" nutshell with whatever negative behaviour trait she'd decided I was exhibiting and shouting at me that he didn't love me or he would pay child maintenance, nasty toxic behaviour! Thank God, chance or the universe so many of us were able to gain the wisdom to know that that was wrong and learned to do better.

Sorry I came across wrong with what I said about your dad, what I was referring to was your example about momentarily seeing pain in his face when you called him your favourite daddy, he was obviously not expecting that and his face briefly gave away what he felt! Bless him, I bet he was also choked up that you said he was your favourite. I doubt most 3 year olds would pick up on that, let alone understand that a particular expression meant the person was feeling pain. This is making me wonder about hypervigilance as a trauma response and it seems to fit from what I've read here - you were taught that you were responsible for others' happiness, mum being ill or sad was your fault and meant that you had failed which equated to worthlessness, stepdad being unhappy meant you were going to get beaten and humiliated so you were on constant high alert monitoring what others were feeling to make sure you were safe and "being good". Dad feeling pain was your fault and maybe he won't love you anymore because you failed and now he sees how worthless you are. Does any of that feel like it makes sense to you?

I'm sorry to hear you've had similar difficulties with your own family.

Yes, what you've said there about hypervigilance sounds exactly right, looking back I have always been very alert to people's moods and feelings. I was always terrified of doing anything to stir up mum's husbands rage or mums moods. I've been the same in all relationships since, always the people pleaser, afraid to rock the boat and make people angry or disappointed in me. Since I turned 40 I've been getting better at not giving a crap if people don't like me, probably too much so actually as I don't really bother with anyone outside of my family, never see my old friends any more and no interest in making new ones.

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Dringle · 14/01/2024 20:59

Thank you, it is shit and I'm still on the path of processing and challenging all that I internalised from growing up with that and we're very low contact now but I'm getting there. I don't think there are many people who emerge from their childhood completely unscathed although these things are on a spectrum.

Have a read up on childhood trauma and hypervigilance when you get chance - I can send you some information if you'd like? This feels like major progress to me, some people spend months or even years in therapy before they work that out. You might feel unsettled and drained over the next few days from digging into these painful experiences but it is a normal part of the healing process. Now that you recognise the guilt as the byproduct of the trauma you were made to endure which you could not have had any control over you'll start to notice it more in your day to day life and draw more links to where it has played out and you can start to take back your power by challenging those feelings.

I'm interested to know a bit more about the last part of your post "Since I turned 40 I've been getting better at not giving a crap if people don't like me, probably too much so actually as I don't really bother with anyone outside of my family, never see my old friends any more and no interest in making new ones" I can't scroll back without losing what I've typed so far but I think I recall you mentioning in a previous post that your mental health has been an ongoing issue for you? Is this maybe linked to anxiety and / or depression? Withdrawing, isolating yourself, lacking interest in things you might otherwise enjoy, assuming people won't like you or want to be around you? I may be way off track but I'm seeing a lot of links here

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DiscoDragon · 14/01/2024 22:04

Yes I've suffered with depression and anxiety over the years, I probably still am but trying to get any help with it has been impossible, the NHS just pushes me from pillar to post and I never end up getting anything sorted out.

I've never had a lot of friends, not being the friendly and outgoing type I find it hard to make friends, I'm quiet and awkward I suppose! I had the same group of friends throughout primary school, secondary and on into my twenties but after everyone started getting into relationships or married and starting families we kind of drifted apart. I moved away for a few years in my late twenties too which I think created even more distance between us. I assume everyone has moved on with their lives and don't really need me around!

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caringcarer · 14/01/2024 22:06

@DiscoDragon that's so sad that you were treated so differently. You paid the price for your Mum cheating. I'd focus on the people that value you and love you in the future. You deserve so much better.

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Dringle · 15/01/2024 02:25

Tbh it would seem strange if someone with your background had never struggled with their mental health! I can see the hallmarks of depression in your posts with some of the things you say and the anxiety is very clear. Nhs mental health services are woefully inadequate, I hope the waiting list for therapy isn't too long as I think that will really help you.

There's nothing wrong with being quiet and awkward but is it really that or is it about feeling the need to shrink yourself and blend into the background? Standing out and being noticed is not a safe place to be according to the rules you were made to live by so it would have been unthinkable to be anything other than the quiet one on the outside of the group. Were things different when you were living in a different area?

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