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Support for all who are living with estrangement

(1001 Posts)
Smileless2012 Mon 22-Apr-19 13:46:03

Here we go again, let's hope we continue to give one another the care and support so badly needed when trying to live with the pain of estrangement.

Smileless2012 Tue 23-Apr-19 12:15:09

About 8 months into our estrangement, our DS told us that ES may be prepared to meet with his dad (Mr. S.) but there was no way he'd agree to include me.

Against our better judgement, Mr. S. eventually managed to arrange a meeting with him. I say eventually, because from the outset it was very clear that our ES wanted total control, not only in deciding where they would meet but how the meeting would go. He was going to talk and
Mr. S. was going to listen.

It took some time for him to accept that yes, his dad would listen but he needed to listen too.

I know what you went through hdh when your DH was with your ES as I went through it as well; never again. It took more than a week for my DH to tell me everything our ES had said. He was trying to keep things from me as some of the false accusations made were deeply upsetting and disturbing.

I instinctively knew Mr. S. was holding back and told him over and over again that I needed to know as the only way I could begin to try and deal with what was happening, was to know exactly what I was dealing with.

His 'memories' were in part events that had happened to his wife during her childhood, adolescence and early adult hood. I knew her mother for several years before they met and was aware of the dysfunctional marriage her parents had; physical and emotional abuse toward one another often driven by excessive alcohol consumption.

The toll that his estrangement from us was taking on our marriage was at that point exacerbated. I was hurt and angry that my DH had sat and listened to his lies; I would have given him a piece of my mind and walked away. Of course, once the initial shock of what had been said had passed, knowing my DH as I do, I was able to understand why he'd handled the meeting the way he had. He too understood my hurt and anger, knowing me as he does, he knew I'd never have sat there and had lies about him spouted with such anger and cruelty.

Despite being aware that his wife's behaviour toward us was changing leading up to the birth of their first child, and changing beyond recognition once our first GC was born, we still didn't see it coming because we never thought such a thing would be possible with our boy who was so loving, kind and gentle and with whom I in particular had always had such a close relationship with.

From time to time our DS asks Mr. S. if he'd think about contacting his brother to see if he would agree to meet up with him. He tells his dad 'someone needs to be the hero'. This is not something he would ever consider doing again.

Mr. S. does not want any kind of relationship with our son and GC if I am to be excluded and we both know of course that it could never work.

Sometime later our ES told his brother it had been a missed opportunity. Mr. S.'s abiding memory of that night is when he was leaving. He turned and looked at our ES who seemed he said, suddenly much smaller. He walked over to him and took hold of his hand but no more words were exchanged.

I believed then, and still believe that he knew he'd gone too far. Things said cannot be unsaid and once heard cannot be unheard.

You and your DH hdh, as we have done and all who have partners to share this pain with, have helped one another through this hell of living bereavement.

We find our strength in one another, knowing that we are truly loved, warts and all becomes so much more important when we've been rejected by our own child.

Having read all of your posts hdh IMO and it is only my opinion, your ES is playing games and the games he's playing could affect your relationship with your DH. Every time he agrees to meet with his father and continues to exclude you, he is twisting the knife that his estrangement from you plunged into your heart.

Please be carefulflowers

Cherries Tue 23-Apr-19 12:16:17


I'm sorry to learn about your MIL having been so deeply unpleasant. It sounds as if you and your DH were on the receiving end of abuse into which she has limited or no insight and little capacity to express remorse/work on change.

Starlady Tue 23-Apr-19 12:22:35

"It sounds to me as if es is very conflicted, hdh. He chose to go nc with you but gets mad if you want him to make the first move at reconciliation. He's not making sense."

Quoting myself here, LOL! Just realized maybe es feels those emails are disrespecting his nc edict and trying to force him to break it. I get that you're trying to show you continue to love him despite the nc, bI ut he may not see that. Maybe it would be best not to send even those messages of love and just go silent until he reaches out to you? I know that would be very hard, and Idk if I could do it. Just a thought.

If you do send him another love email, do you think it would mean anything if you included an apology for his perception that DD got more attention as a child? I mean, could you say something like, 'I'm sorry if you felt your sister got more attention due to her special needs. That was never my intention" and leave it at that? Idk but recognizing his hurt that way might soften him. But again, it might be better just not to say anything for a while.

Starlady Tue 23-Apr-19 12:23:38

*but, not bI ut, LOL!

Cherries Tue 23-Apr-19 12:59:22

The concept of "double bind" could be useful too - being damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Cherries Tue 23-Apr-19 13:05:02

The "See What You Made Me Do" game could be worth reading!

Starlady Tue 23-Apr-19 13:14:30

Great links, ladies, but two problems re sharing them with ac/cil. If you read on mn, you'll know that many of the estranged ac/cil there say they did, in fact, try to talk to their parents/pils about what was bothering them, but that their parents/pils wouldn't listen/denied everything/continued to argue. So that, they say, is when they decided to stop communicating. This may or may not be true. But my guess is if you (general) showed the "People Are Not Disposable" article to your ac/cil, they would make the same defense.

Secondly, they would probably have their own "reading list" for their parents/pils to check out before they sat down for a discussion. Remember, they get a lot of their ideas from books and articles on "how to go nc," as well as so-called, "toxic parents" and "toxic ils." I don't think it would simply be a matter of their reading the links you suggest and rethinking.

Cassie and March, I'm so sorry for what you each have gone through! Cassie, your ec and dil sound very self-absorbed and intolerant. How dare they try to tell someone else how tired they are or aren't? Would they like it if you tried to tell them how they feel/don't feel? It sounds as if they are very insensitive to yds' (youngest dear son's) needs, as well, and the demands that puts on you. I am so sorry.

If you can't seem to arrange a way to meet-up that you both are satisfied with, can you communicate via email or fb messages? It will take longer, but it may be the only way.

March, imo, you were very wise to drop the proverbial rope with mil and let her have dh and dd w/o you. It is clear she was against you from the outset (based on what you're telling us). What nerve asking dh if he's sure dd is his! Imo, there would have been no way for the two of you to "work things out." Also, kudos to dh for backing you up when she badmouths you! Sorry it has to be this way though.

hdh74 Tue 23-Apr-19 13:28:03

Sorry have to be brief.
There's no way my ES would read anything I suggested, nor engage with anything that doesn't support his view Cherries and I suspect a lot of the EC who have gone total NC might be similar.
Agree with everything you say Starlady - and no DDs disabilites didn't start till she was in college and ES had flown the nest to uni - from whence he moved away from home without returning in between.
Right, I'm going out bird spotting with DH then buying him supper for his birthday. Have a good day all. x

Starlady Tue 23-Apr-19 13:41:15

Oh, hdh, somehow, I just caught the part about your having been sick at one point and es possibly resenting that. By now, imo, he should be mature enough to understand about that though, and it's immature that he's holding onto it.

Cherries, yes, "double bind" is exactly what hdh is dealing with, I believe. Es gets angry if she contacts him and angry if she doesn't try harder to do just that. Frustrating!

But hdh, looking back at the other thread, I realize that ds suggested you ignore es' nc boundary and just go over to his house and try to talk to him. That would be, at the same time, disrespecting the boundary but also fulfilling es' contradictory wish of "pushing past his (es') barriers." I take it you chose to respect the nc boundary, and I'm glad. If you had gone over there, my guess is that es either would have sent you away or blown up in your face or both. Why subject yourself to that? I imagine dh was envisioning a beautiful reunion where you would fall into each other's arms and talk things out, etc. But I don't think that's what would have happened.

I hope es decides to go for counseling. He needs to sort out a lot in his head and heart before he can have an honest, heartfelt discussion with you, imo. Maybe he can do this sorting out on his own, idk. But either way, so sorry, but I'm afraid it may take a long time.

Cherries Tue 23-Apr-19 18:28:30

If they will somehow let it happen at any time in the future, we could start with some validation or "reflecting back" when sitting with our young or early middle-aged people - our AC and children-in-law. Would it hurt to fantasise how the conversation might go?

What might we say? e.g. [ please adapt to fit your style and who you imagine speaking with ] :

"Thank you for sitting with me now. It can't be easy for you and isn't easy for me but I really appreciate that you are willing to take the risk of doing this. I hope that doesn't sound patronising. It's just that I'm trying to see things through your eyes. Or rather, that I am still trying to see things through your eyes as I have never stopped wondering at any time and cannot imagine there ever being a time in the future (unless I succumb to dementia, unfortunately, or become seriously ill) when I will not be interested in what you are thinking and feeling.

Ok, if I understand correctly, your view is that I should have made a lot more effort to tune into your needs and feelings, respond to you better and show that I really cared about you. You believe that I was using my exhaustion/ill health/stress/your sibling's difficulties etc. as an excuse or smokescreen. You think that I was never prepared to listen and take on board what you were telling me. You think that I was much too argumentative/controlling/demanding etc. Please tell me more as I want to pay close attention and understand more now."

"Now that you have told me this today/during our last 3 meetings, are you ready to listen to a few of my thoughts or do you need longer? Is there more that you want to say?

I can broadly accept x and y, and apologise for z. (Expand on this) Where I must respectfully disagree with you for the time being, though, is ..... (introduce one or two things that are not the most emotionally loaded for self.) I think that some of what you are saying to me is not wholly justified/justified at all or that it needs to be put in this context ... or balanced with this ... I am not saying that my memory is infallible or that I am perfect - no-one has perfect recall and no-one is or can be perfect, as we know - but what I remember is this ... and I believe that I was a broadly "good enough" and well-intentioned loving/caring Mum/MIL who usually tried her best before you decided to go NC with me.

Thanks for giving me your suggested reading/video list. I know, for example, that the phrase "toxic people" has been popular for a while and is an umbrella term that is often used to refer to certain characteristics - attitudes and behaviour patterns - which some people show and which can put great strain on relationships. I will try to read/watch everything as calmly as I can manage and hope that we can get together again soon to talk about this material without either of us becoming too upset with the other person. That's going to be tough and I can't promise that I will be able or willing to respond exactly as you hope - after all, to call your Mum/MIL "toxic" is harsh/attacking - but I will try to look beyond the label and my distress to see more clearly where you may be coming from.

I'm glad that you are also willing to read/watch what's on my reading/video list. There are bound to be elements that you take issue with and question - and I must emphasise that I'm not sure myself that most of it applies to you anyway, tbh - but if we can each approach the other person's material with a * curious * attitude and not let our feelings swamp us then I hope that something good might come of it. It may not happen immediately but start a process of deeper thinking when we are apart from each other, of checking out ideas with each other when we can bear to be together and, in time, of emotional processing and repair work that allows us to reconnect in a more satisfactory way."

agnurse Tue 23-Apr-19 18:59:57

I'm sorry, but to call someone toxic is not, in and of itself, harsh and attacking.

My FIL is toxic. His parents even more so. And yet to hear him speak, he goes on about St. GFIL of Blessed Memory.

Some people are just toxic. The reality is that your AC are adults. If they don't want a relationship with you, you cannot force them to have one. If they are not willing to listen, your best bet is simply to wait. If they have asked for NC you need to respect that.

Madgran77 Tue 23-Apr-19 19:15:57

agnurse who said toxic was harsh and attacking?

agnurse Tue 23-Apr-19 20:19:42

Cherries said it in her post just previous to mine.

Chewbacca Tue 23-Apr-19 20:50:40

But this isn't about you and your demon FIL is it agnurse? I "get" that you really, really don't like him; probably even hate him; but this constant and perpetual conflagration of transposing your difficulties with you FIL have little none bearing on what is being discussed on this thread at the moment.

You really DO need to seek some external help with your problem or, alternatively, start a new thread on the forum, asking for advice and support from people who are similarly affected. But, as has been pointed out to you as nauseam, this thread isn't it.

Cherries Tue 23-Apr-19 22:22:42

Against my better judgement, agnurse, because you have rarely (never?) engaged in constructive discussion but just seem to want to adopt a contrary position, here is my reply:

1. "Botulinum is toxic" - Demonstrable Fact
"My FIL is toxic" - Subjective Opinion
Re the second statement, it is more meaningful to describe what he does, with reference to his characteristic behaviours.

Why so?
"My teenager is horrible."
"My teenager is persistently oppositional and defiant, with frequent angry outbursts over apparently minor things, and I often feel very stressed by all of this. My coping skills are regularly stretched to the limit."
Which is preferable? Why?

Where do you read that anyone here is recommending the use of force? This appears to be something that only you are preoccupied with and possibly projecting onto us. This is a pointless and self-defeating style of argument that is known as "the straw man" because the thing that you object to or caution against doesn't exist in the first place.

An AC may have mixed feelings about maintaining the NC status quo - discuss. Consider, for example, the possibility that there may be yearning and ruefulness or regret in the mix and that pride might make it increasingly difficult for such a person to initiate communication as time goes by. (S)he might come to feel grateful and express that gratitude to a GP for not giving up entirely but reaching out despite the formidable obstacles in place. Another scenario might be that watching something on NetFlix or at the cinema or reading a novel or discussing something in therapy or overhearing someone discuss a volte face in a restaurant led to contemplation and the beginning of a change of heart which, by good fortune, coincided with a particular overture on the part of the GP.

If Thomas Eddison had not persisted over and over and over and over and over again, would the lightbulb have been invented?

hdh74 Wed 24-Apr-19 05:17:20

He's been in therapy for several years starlady. It was only after a couple of years at it that he discovered he was angry with me but didn't know why. Then he decided he did know why but wasn't ready to tell me. At one point he told my DS about some incidents from the past that he's really angry about but she disagreed with his memories. At that point he got really upset and although he has continuted with therapy, apprently he always has other things to talk about and doesn't discuss me with his therapist any more.

Dolcelatte Wed 24-Apr-19 06:01:56

Well said, Cherries, and thank you for the intelligence and insight which you bring to this site.

I particularly identify with the 'double bind' in my ED's behaviour. I suppose all of our situations are different but, in our case, we travelled a long distance to spend a couple of days with her (staying in an hotel nearby as no way would her DP see us or entertain us in the house, which was fine). We spent a lovely time with her and when we left she dropped us at the station, we hugged each other and she said that she loved us. The contact abruptly stopped for 6 months. We were completely ghosted as were all other family members. She didn't even let us know she was safe when one of the terrorist bombs went off in the city where she lived. Oddly enough though she did send birthday cards and has always sent mothers' day cards etc - signed by both of them although he had apparently decided never to see us again. Eventually contact sort of resumed and we have a lunch scheduled in a couple of months, with both of them.

For a while, I was frantic, depressed, even entertained ending it all (briefly as I would never let my DH and other DC down), woke up in the middle of the night every night, crying and in despair. And the endless self doubt, the feeling of failure and shame, but above all the grief. And I have been through the whole grieving process even though she is still alive.

For the first six months I chased her, sending text messages, leaving telephone messages etc, all of which were ignored. I felt so helpless and beaten down, even though I have always been strong. I lost my mother, my brother and my best friend in an 18 month period, so loss is something which I fear most, and it all seemed so cruel. I was angry too, all at the effects on my DH and other children, and for a while I felt like a victim.

I coped by going to counselling (not sure how much that helped but it felt like being proactive, keeping busy, joining a gym, keeping up with friends and most of all, through the love and support of my DH and other two DD. I also stopped chasing ED, but would send e-cards on her birthday etc (couldn't send a card because she wouldn't let us have her address). It is clear from the conversations which she has had - not many - in the last few months (and in two years since that last meeting), that she wants to be chased so that she can reject any overtures, presumably because it makes her feel wanted or powerful or both, or maybe that is what she is told to do by DP (apparently now DH although she has not shared that information directly). By stopping the chasing, we appear to be getting more contact not less, so I am assuming and hoping that she does want to have some relationship.

Anyway, although I love her always and very much want to rebuild the relationship, I have realised that it will take time - how much I don't know, but there is no other way. And I feel strong again, not a victim, but myself, which ultimately I believe is the only thing we can all do - be true to ourselves in the knowledge that we acted from love.

Madgran77 Wed 24-Apr-19 08:02:56

Apologies *agnurse I missed Cherries specific reference previous to your post. However I also agree with Cherries clear and considered reply to you.

I do understand as do many other posters on here, that you have experienced great difficulties with your FIL. I am not sure though why you apparently think that this site might be a source of support for you or alternatively why you apparently feel that your experience with your FIL is going to helpfully inform Grandparents who are coping with estrangement in its many forms and who are looking for advice, support, to talk to others who have been through those experiences or who greatly fear it happening, like myself!
I sincerely advise that you look for a different site that might provide you personally with better support for your own experiences.

Smileless2012 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:00:23

You're right agnurse "some people are just toxic", but you only ever appear to make this statement when talking about parents/GP's whose AC have decided to go non contact with them.

You say your f.i.l. is toxic, our ES's wife is toxic and there have been over the years, numerous posts from EP's who regard their AC and/or their AC's partner as toxic. That said, not every EP says that either their AC and their AC's partner is toxic.

As the wife of an estranging adult son and yourself as as estranging d.i.l., you seem unwilling or unable to expand your tunnel vision and open your eyes to the reality that not all estrangement is justifiable, but is in many circumstances childish, un necessary and unbelievably cruel.

Starlady Wed 24-Apr-19 11:36:11

Hmmm... I think whether or not calling someone "toxic" is "attacking," depends on the context. If you (general) come in here and say, "My dil/mil/whoever is toxic," imo, you're not attacking anyone, you're telling us how you see that person. But if you say to the person's face, "dil/mil/whoever, you are toxic," that's an insult, and to me, that's an attack. It may be true, but it is still a subjective comment, as Cherries pointed out, and very hurtful to the person you're addressing.

In fact, overall, I agree with Cherries that it is often more helpful to describe the other person's offending behavior than to simply label them "toxic." However, on forums like this, I think words like toxic can sometimes be helpful to show the level of offense you think your dil/mil/whoever is on. Some people are merely annoying or a little pushy, imo, whereas I think "toxic" refers to more seriously negative behavior.

Agnurse, there seems to be an issue about your constantly bringing up your fil. But when I read your posts, it seems to me you're doing that to give an example of what the ac's or cil's perspective might be. Is that the case? I'm not sure this thread is the place for that, but I think that's what you're trying to do.

Starlady Wed 24-Apr-19 11:53:53

Hdh, I barely know what to say. It sounds as if your es is even more conflicted than I thought. So sad. I am so very sorry.

Dolcelatte, I'm so sorry about what you went through with dd. I'm glad she has resumed contact though. Idk for sure, of course, but it sounds to me as if the estrangement was the result of some conflict between her and her then- dp/now-dh. The conflict may have been about you and your dh or it may have been about other things that she just needed to focus on. Iv heard of that before. I don't get when ac co their parents altogether just because they are fighting with their spouse or partner, but it does seem to happen. From what you're telling us, it seems this is what happened to you. Again, I am so very sorry.

"By stopping the chasing, we appear to be getting more contact not less."

I'm not surprised. Iv heard/seen this here (and elsewhere) before. It seems to me that stepping back often leads the other person to step forward. Not always but often.

"... so I am assuming and hoping that she does want to have some relationship."

I hope so, too, Dolcelatte. Best of luck moving forward!

Smileless2012 Wed 24-Apr-19 15:36:22

As has been often said on the estrangement threads for getting on for 7 years, which is how long I've been posting here, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

We've never 'chased' our ES and it's made no difference so all any of us can do is what we feel comfortable with, even if it is thee lesser of two evils.

Cherries Wed 24-Apr-19 15:41:24

Thank you, kind and lovely ladies, for your compliments.

I wonder what else we might want to say in these fantasy conversations with our adult children and children-in-law. What can many willing GPs provide that is of considerable value? What are our strengths? Let's try championing or marketing ourselves as an exercise.

Shall we start with an often-quoted research paper (sorry, no link handy just now) in the Journal of Family Psychology which suggested that adolescents who had more GP involvement in their lives had fewer emotional problems than those who had less? I have read about several studies which agree with this interpretation in their conclusions i.e. GPs who can provide secure attachments appear to have a stabilizing influence on older children and teenagers.

What about research studies which suggest that ongoing connections with (non-abusive and interested) GPs can bring multiple benefits to parents? It would be good to see an overview of what these benefits are thought to be, in general. While we are at it, let's finish by considering the benefits to GPs themselves in relation to health and wellbeing.

Why is it important to create plenty of opportunities, where possible, to spend time, talk and take part in activities together - GPs with GC and with all 3 generations present and paying attention to each other? What is the magic that can be woven by chatting together, eating together, going on outings and holidays together, children interviewing GPs and listening to each other's memories and stories? What about the role of GPs as family and social historians and as transmitters of culture and traditions?

Cherries Wed 24-Apr-19 15:44:16

What, then, is being diminished or lost due to the decision to initiate and maintain partial or total estrangement?

Smileless2012 Wed 24-Apr-19 16:27:47

I would have thought that AC who did have a positive, rewarding and beneficial relationship with their own GP's would understand the benefits that their children are being deprived of.

It follows that they must be aware that their children are missing out on a relationship that they themselves benefited from.

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