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Anything I've missed to prevent estrangement

(147 Posts)
Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 13:28:31

I've been heading towards estrangement from my parents for years and desperately trying to prevent it. I just want to check if there's any magic thing I could say/do that would help them feel safe enough to accept they need help to change

Both parents have trauma in their childhood (although they'd deny it) and are very emotionally immature. Their inability to manage their own emotional world in a healthy way led them to be abusive and neglectful of their children. I forgive them that - they literally didn't have the skills to step outside their own heads and own anxiety/low self esteem. But they had so many opportunities to accept help and they have the ability/privilege to face their weaknesses and learn and grow. And they have consistently run away and ignored it. They have consistently put their fear of judgement/Discomfort above the needs of their children.

Leaving home obviously helped a lot but when I call/visit all I get is emotional abuse and emotional neglect. My friends and family cannot understand why I put up with it. And now that I have self esteem I can't either.

I have tried to speak with them about their childhoods and got shut down. I've suggested therapy for them (it saved my life) but they refused. I set up family therapy for us but they refused. I offered for them to sit in on one of my sessions but no. I've offered books, discussions, shared how I feel and asked how they feel.... All I get back is that I'm being hurtful, dramatic and demanding. My sister tried writing a very detailed letter but that didn't work either.

I've spent my whole life grieving the family I wanted - do I have to now grieve the family I can't even speak to anymore? Or is there something I've missed?

How did your children help you see the parts of your parenting you need to change? What made you feel safe enough to apologise and make changes? They can't seem to tolerate any discomfort at all.

All suggestions gratefully received

Caramme Mon 10-Jul-23 13:41:19

You may unintentionally be giving the wrong impression here, but to me you are coming across as judgemental, intolerant, unsympathetic, controlling and patronising. Perhaps it is not just your parents who need a change of attitude.

Hithere Mon 10-Jul-23 13:45:49


It takes two to tango.

You have done all you could

Mourn the family you wish you had and move on.

You are not alone.
You cannot pick your family but you can pick your friends

You can choose your own family

I promise it gets better

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 13:53:41

Thank you for sharing that. Please could you suggest some wording so that I don't sound judgemental, intolerant, unsympathetic, controlling and patronising.

I'm not asking them to undo the past abuse, that's impossible. But I need them to stop continuing it. How can I word that to show that I really want this and I'm willing to forgive the past injuries they have caused if they evidence that they want a healthy relationship. Genuinely asking for help here.

pascal30 Mon 10-Jul-23 13:53:57

You could have a look at the Thich Nhat Hahn Plum Village 'Beginning Anew' ...You tube and see if anything on that helps..

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 13:55:29

It's so hard. Especially seeing them so unhappy. It's not logical but I feel like I'm abandoning them and hurting them. And I know how awful that feels.

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 13:57:58

Thanks I will look that up on you tube.

Hithere Mon 10-Jul-23 14:04:08

Nothing you can say or do can modify their behaviour unless they want to

You need to decide when giving up hope is due and out yourself first00

Check Dr ramani in YouTube, she is gold

welbeck Mon 10-Jul-23 14:08:11

i think your expectations are unrealistic, and you will continue to feel frustrated if you pursue this line.
i don't know what happened, obviously, but you say you have forgiven them for whatever you suffered in your childhood.
i don't think you should be trying to change them or get them to reflect on their own childhood etc.
you cannot change other people.
if they wanted to reflect on that, or discuss it with you, they would.
you sound like you are trying to correct them.
to parent them maybe.
it's pointless.
what do they do when you visit them.
can you not just go and be civil and then leave as soon as they are not civil or you feel uncomfortable.
don't make a big deal, just say, time for me to go, bye.
and leave. immediately.
same on the phone.
so limit your interactions. and keep yourself well.
good luck.

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 14:23:21

Thank you I will look them up

Lathyrus Mon 10-Jul-23 14:36:11

I think you are still grieving the family you wanted and did not have. You still want that family and somehow think you can bring about a change that will make that happen.

Can I respectfully suggest that although your therapy saved your life, it is not yet complete.

In my own life I have had to learn to let go of a vision of the life that I thought I could have had and accept that we cannot control other people’s characters or decisions.

It is hard to let go of our vision and accept that it never had any reality except in our own minds. That is why I say you may need further support.

Then you can accept that there is nothing you can do to make your parents into the parents you wish you could have. And then decide whether you can accept who they are and will always be, or whether you need to walk away.

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 14:42:05

Thanks for that insight.

That's kind of where I'm at right now - short calls, short visits - just asking about their lives, helping out with problems and leaving when the abuse starts. It's not fulfilling and I usually come away in tears.

I stopped trying to have conversations about my life or trying to be closer a few years ago because it wasnt working and it did feel like parenting (a long term issue I'm working on, I had custody of my siblings as a teen/ya and was also really parenting my parents from birth so it's an easy role to slide back into).

I'm lucky I have a very supportive family and friends who always make sure I'm spending enough time away from them and recovering between visits.

I guess maybe I need to accept that if they did want a healthy relationship they would have said that by now. Whoooo that hurts. But I'm thinking about my own kids now and I guess it's sad but maybe even though it makes me feel like a horrible person, maybe I have to let them go.

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 14:51:44

Thank you Yes, I'm in ongoing therapy - it's going to be a long-term thing for sure. Actually it was my therapist that suggested I reach out in a forum such as this because I was kind of beating myself up over you know, what if I've missed something that could change this for the better?!

welbeck Mon 10-Jul-23 14:54:09

what do you mean let them go.
can't you just limit interactions.
i still think you are expecting too much of them, and from them.
just be helpful if you have time.
like you might be to vulnerable but draining neighbours down the road.
you wouldn't expect to share your inner thoughts with neighbours, but you'd try to be helpful if you could, in a limited sort of way, not too involved in their lives, nor expecting them to be in yours.
try to avoid extremes.

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 14:59:27

I guess my next question is how do I do this? Like do I just start calling/ visiting less and less (which is kind of what's happening anyway) or is it kinder just to stop. I don't think I'd feel safe telling them face to face (I've just started chemotherapy and my reflexes are definitely slow right now and I'm finding it harder to control my emotions and stuff). Should I write a letter? I want them to know I love them but maybe that's a confusing message.

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 15:02:47

The difficulty is that they want more - so it always turns nasty. I think that's how they get their emotional release. And I just can't take that any more.

Hithere Mon 10-Jul-23 15:03:39

Sorry to hear about your chemo treatment

What is best for you?

Right now, your health comes first

welbeck Mon 10-Jul-23 15:05:55

don't tell them anything.
don't write anything to them.
you seem a tad over dramatic to me.
perhaps as you say, your treatment is making you to be more emotional, which is understandable.
you will be less available as you are having chemo.
of course. you need to preserve your energy.
just step back from anything to do with them.
how involved are you at the moment.
i can't quite picture the situation.
do they rely on you for physical help ?

Hithere Mon 10-Jul-23 15:07:07

Please go to therapy, it is very hard to manage this at the phase you are right now

Writing a letter will add full to the fire and will be used against you

Talking to them - it hasnt worked for decades, why would they listen to you now?

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 15:08:13

Treatments definitely made it harder - seeing other people's loving parents. Plus I cry so much easier, and if I cry when they're calling me names it eggs them on. I think part of me hoped that they'd step up. And putting myself first is hard, because they call me selfish.

Redhead56 Mon 10-Jul-23 15:08:40

You go and see them and help them with problems then they abuse you again that’s not right. You owe them nothing you have suffered because of things that went on in their childhood. Things that are not your fault and things you couldn’t have helped them with it’s in their past not yours.

It’s time for you to walk away you owe them nothing not even an explanation. We get one shot at this life spend the rest of yours with out them to cause you more upset. You have done all you can for them obviously to no avail. Don’t feel guilty about not seeing them just get on with your own life with a clear conscience.

Theexwife Mon 10-Jul-23 15:09:06

You could accept people for who they are and not try to change them. They are people that you do not like, just because you are related does not mean that you have to have a relationship with them.

Nanatoone Mon 10-Jul-23 15:17:17

My sister does what Wellbeck suggests in relation to one of our clan who is difficult to deal with. She just stops the conversation or gets up and says ok bye then and goes. The perosn then reflects over a couple of days and often apologises

Fenchurch Mon 10-Jul-23 15:21:59

They're lonely, anxious, sad - they like lots of practical support (setting up tech, arranging appointments, bills etc) but also for me to listen and provide reassurance to their worries. All my siblings are estranged. And their families and friends left them decades ago so there's just me.

But I guess they also like to feel in control or something - it used to be through physical violence, or witholding food/leave. Now they just have their words. It's not even stuff that makes sense - it's just to get a reaction.

Madgran77 Mon 10-Jul-23 15:22:45


You may unintentionally be giving the wrong impression here, but to me you are coming across as judgemental, intolerant, unsympathetic, controlling and patronising. Perhaps it is not just your parents who need a change of attitude.

I dont agree! 🤔