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Theoretical rather than a support thread

(58 Posts)
GagaJo Sun 16-Jan-22 12:29:21

I nearly put this into 'Chat' but then decided it would still be better here. Hope you agree.

What do some of you think to the theory that estrangement can become a family pattern?

In my family, my father became estranged from his father for inheritance/favouritism reasons. My father and my uncle (who was trying and succeeded in inheriting the entirety of my GP's estate) have been estranged for over 30 years now.

My father and I have been estranged for over 20 years. I'm happy with that decision. He was a s**t dad. Mostly absent after my parents divorce.

The rest of my family and I have a very rocky relationship. I remain in contact with my mother, but only have contact with my sibiling now due to my mother's failing health.

My DD is estranged from all of my side of the family, other than me.

So I guess really what I'm asking is, is this a self-fulfilling prophecy? OR is it a trait of insecurely bonded families?

Sara1954 Sun 16-Jan-22 12:51:06

I’m estranged from my mother, but she was almost unnaturally close to her mother, and I have a good relationship with all of my children.
So I don’t think it’s a family pattern, just a case of my mother and I not liking one another.
The only sad part for me, is that I’ve never really known my brothers children, he hasn’t exactly taken sides, but I think he would find it too difficult to keep seeing me.

VioletSky Sun 16-Jan-22 13:11:02

There are so many factors

My personal situation, my mother estranged herself from family for long periods of time. She also tried to alienate me from my father, going as far as to threaten making me homeless.

I didn't learn estrangement from her though, I held on for half a lifetime before she drove me to a nervous breakdown and with the help of my own family and professionals I estranged.

I think there are two main ways to estrange someone, to hurt or punish or to protect yourself. So my estrangement is ultimately different to my mother's as she used it to punish people and I used it to protect.

I don't think the question is really whether estrangement runs in families but whether dysfunction, differences of opinion or abuse runs in families. Many I have seen discuss estrangement involve an abusive "other" whether parent or child.

However, I do not take anything for granted, I continue to try to heal myself and take responsibility for any mistakes or periods of being unwell. I continue to love my children unconditionally which they all make very easy to do.

That is the major difference between my mother and I, I am able to be accountable and she is not and justifies her behaviour or plays victim.

Everything I can do to prevent the cycle continuing will be done and at this point my personal relationships outside of my immediate family have always remained positive.

Namsnanny Sun 16-Jan-22 13:26:34

I think once its introduced to a family as an accepted way of handling family troubles, it profligates.
My mother semi estranged her Mother. I've been forced by my mothers behaviour to do the same - but I hate doing it. My AC has gone full on and estranged me, after meeting their partner who hated their own parents and estranged them!
I see it in a similar way as suicide. When members of a family realise its a possible way of dealing with emotional difficulties, statistics show the extent of it rises.
I'm sorry if that hurts others feelings I dont intend to make their situation harder..
It just seems as if once a family boundary is broken, the family dynamic is too.

Onstrike Sun 16-Jan-22 13:30:26

I have never noticed a family pattern of estrangement in those I know, but I suppose it could be there and others just don't talk about it. I have noticed that many estrangements are a result of narcistic behavior by one or more in the relationship. It only takes one s**t family member to tear others apart.

As VS points out though, there are so many factors.

Namsnanny Sun 16-Jan-22 13:31:26

I like to think this is a learned habit and can be broken.

The only way I can see that happening is to continue to love the person who estranged me. And that is almost impossible.

Welcome to the wonderful twisted world of Estrangement.

VioletSky Sun 16-Jan-22 13:39:20


I have never noticed a family pattern of estrangement in those I know, but I suppose it could be there and others just don't talk about it. I have noticed that many estrangements are a result of narcistic behavior by one or more in the relationship. It only takes one s**t family member to tear others apart.

As VS points out though, ^there are so many factors.^

Yes I agree and those individuals are sometimes one who join a family and then cause devastation.

I truly believe that most estrangements hinge on abusive individuals.

From my experience and from people I talk to who share it, those who grew up in abusive households often find it the most difficult to leave those relationships permanently.

No matter how much we learn about our own childhoods and no matter how much we come to recognise and understand what constitutes abuse, that need for a loving parent and the desire to fix them or ourselves or whatever we have internalised, is difficult to move past.

Sara1954 Sun 16-Jan-22 13:48:42

Thinking about it, my paternal grandparents lived less than five minutes away from us, but they never set foot in our house, and I only ever visited them with my dad.
Obviously something was going on, but it was never spoken about, and we never questioned it.
So maybe we have a pattern after all, and once again, my mother seems in the middle of it.

Riverwalk Sun 16-Jan-22 13:58:39

What do some of you think to the theory that estrangement can become a family pattern?

Probably by default it becomes a pattern - if not declared estrangement then certainly a fracture of usual family ties and relationships.

Some 40 years a family member and his wife became Jehovah's Witnesses and they estranged themselves from the family, hence the rest of us had little or no contact with them or their children. Then about 10 years ago it seems they gave that up and we started to hear from them again. Unfortunately too many decades had passed for any meaningful relationship to develop, so we are all basically strangers to each other, only sending Xmas cards, the odd WhatsApp, etc. They all now live abroad.

Coincidentally, yesterday I heard of the death of my late mother's younger half-brother who I never knowingly met. My mother didn't have close relationships with her siblings, apart from her sister who died young, because their father was a tyrant and the boys left home early and seem to have disappeared, hardly to be seen again.

Grandpanow Sun 16-Jan-22 19:38:11

I think, like anything, poor communication skills and the like can be passed on from generation to generation, which can in turn be associated with estrangement.

My extended family is riddled with estrangement. My grandmother was estranged with almost all her children at some point or another. One of my aunts was estranged from all her children until death. But my own mother was never estranged from anyone other than her mother, which she resolved while living. And no one in her line ever experienced it. As an outsider, it was easy to see the bad communication skills playing a role. And those who got help, resolved their issues.

So I don’t think it has to be a pattern, if people are willing to self reflect and get help from professionals.

Nannarose Sun 16-Jan-22 21:58:58

Thankfully, this has never happened in our family; but a family we were close to had such a pattern over 4 generations that we knew of. My parents, who were inveterate 'helpers' tried to talk to the ones they were close to, and 'fix things' but the pattern was deep, and it felt like the people involved were so stuck in the 'pattern' that they didn't want to fix it.
Once I became an adult, I rather felt that this family needed professional help, but of course, before that, they needed the willingness to try.
The lovely little boys that I babysat for as a teenager have not responded to me for some years. I understand that they lead quite solitary and rather sad lives, but they have not had children of their own, so in that respect, the cycle has broken.

CafeAuLait Mon 17-Jan-22 02:36:49

I think it can be. My MIL estranged us. I know she was estranged from another family member and, according to my husband, always had different people she wasn't talking to at one time or other.

Hithere Mon 17-Jan-22 03:45:42

It might be - if the dysfunction is not addressed and it passes to next generation

So many factors in this complex situation

Zoejory Mon 17-Jan-22 04:06:25

All my family seem to have got estranged relatives.

My grandfather never spoke to his sister after learning that his mother had left all her worldly goods to her. The sister had cared for the mother for years. My grandfather had financed them. He just felt it desperately unfair to have been left out of the will and he never spoke to his sister again.

When I was about 15 we all went to USA on holiday. Grandparents, parents and siblings. My grandfather suddenly realised that if the plane went down everything would go to his sister so he changed his will the day before we flew off. Thankfully we survived

My husband very rarely is in contact with any of his family . No idea how it happened, no ill feeling or argument they just drifted apart and that was that

I don't communicate much with my sister. We were enemies when growing up. Now we will be civil if we meet at funerals or weddings but that's about it. I don't think she ever forgave me for having children when she couldn't, either. Chalk and cheese.

I didn't talk to my father much. Loathed him when I was a child and we never got a relationship going. Chalk and cheese again.

So that was a great question Gagajo. I've often wondered it myself.

And reading this post back I sound like a proper madam!

Namsnanny Mon 17-Jan-22 12:59:28

Yes Zoejory your right, it is a great question.
I'm doing an on line course in human behavioral biology at the moment. It would seem there is little evidence for a family genetic response to this, or any other human situation.
Whilst a gene may have the ability to perform any such function, there are a myriad of hormones and chemical switches that have to be in place to encourage that particular out come. All of which are influenced arbitrarily, by environmental factors.
I started this course as a distraction, and precisely to try to understand a little bit more why this happens.
But I dont think I shall ever come to terms with it.

eazybee Mon 17-Jan-22 13:40:14

I only know one family where estrangement has occurred and it would seem to be learned behaviour. The matriarch of the family is very controlling and she and her daughter have a love-hate relationship; can't seem to leave each other alone to the extent of the daughter trying to persuade her to live with her, despite resenting her interference. Now the same has happened with the granddaughter, a model girl who followed her mother's instructions. advice for school, university and successful career until she broke the mould and made a lesbian marriage. The wife was accepted, but identified the amount of control being exerted, particularly when children arrived, so they deviated from the planned path, moved away and are currently estranged from mother.

The estranged mother cannot see how much she tries to control her daughter's life and finds it impossible to accept that she is able to conduct her career, marriage and child-rearing successfully without interference.
I don't think the mother is narcissistic; it is more a case of wanting her daughter to seize all the opportunities she missed and follow the career she wanted, without allowing her to make her own decisions.
The granddaughter, wife and grandmother, incidentally, get on extremely well together.
Hopefully it will resolve itself; the granddaughter is extremely sensible and balanced.

Allsorts Tue 18-Jan-22 05:14:52

To estrange for some people is a way not to engage in difficult conversations. Easier to do your own thing without any questions or responsibility to that person you can well do without. As a child you pick up on that behaviour, that it is acceptable to treat close family as if they don’t matter. What goes round comes round. If you are the unfortunate victim of it, having no previous experience it is shattering, it does untold damage. As a victim I now realise I handled it all wrong, I should have just walked away, but you think you have done something wrong and keep reaching out.,it is very cruel.

VioletSky Tue 18-Jan-22 15:38:24

There has been a recurring theme in what my mother sends and what my brother has said:

If I were to apologise for my awful behaviour in estranging, it might not be enough. They may not forgive meamd there may not be a relationship.

Which seems to mean, as punishment for doing the awful estranging I would be estranged if I were to go back.

Obviously I estranged due to behaviours they will not be accountable for so it's illogical to say what I did was worse.

It's also illogical to say I am not justified but they would be for the exact same action.

It also highlights what I said previously in that, I estranged to protect and she does it to punish.

CafeAuLait Tue 18-Jan-22 22:04:58

VioletSky, I also think people can, over time, move to a point where they have moved on from the estranged and just don't want to open that door again.

If my MIL were to make contact I would hear her out with caution. I'm not sure her son would be quite as open and obviously I'd be guided by his wishes there. If we decided to leave it alone it wouldn't be a revenge estrangement right back. It would just be because she made her choice and the consequence might be that she can't just re-engage when she feels like it. We have a lot to cope with right now and I'm not sure the emotional energy required to cope with that situation is there. That might hinge on what she has to say.

VioletSky Tue 18-Jan-22 22:10:29

I agree Cafeaulait

But with how my mum thinks, me coming back to the relationship would be a declaration of her innocence then lots of sympathy from people that she was too hurt to carry on the relationship....

I hope she does move on really and searches for whatever it is that makes her happy in life that doesn't involve trying to hurt me

Gwyneth Tue 18-Jan-22 22:24:51

Gagajo I found the subject of your post really interesting and thought provoking. I have to admit there have been no estrangements in my own family so I can’t offer any personal experience. However, my first thought was that there may well be ‘a pattern’ within families as the more often it happens the less effort family members may make to ensure the situation isn’t repeated. But having read what posters have said it seems that there are many variable factors which contribute to this happening. I shall continue to read with interest.

Kate1949 Tue 18-Jan-22 22:43:45

Gagajo. I found your post interesting. You say your father was a
s**t dad. My father was horrible. He was a drunk, beat my mother, beat me up once, beat my sister so badly her hair was falling out. He was a serial womaniser. He sometimes worked, sometimes didn't. Sometimes went straight from work on Friday pay day to the pub, didn't come home until Monday having spent all his wages leaving my mother having no money to feed 7 children
He did many other things which I won't mention here.
He drove my mother to an early

Yet for some bizarre reason we always kept in touch with him and looked after him when he was 'on his uppers' or unwell. I've never understood it really.

Allsorts Wed 19-Jan-22 13:58:16

You felt morally responsible as he was your father, to your credit Kate. I don’t know how I would react, possibly walk away and not see him, I couldn’t forgive anyone for hurting my mother, I know that. My parents were fantastic and I know I have so much to be thankful for. They gave me confidence and love. It is wicked how your father treated you, he was probably treated the same when young and was learned behaviour but everyone knows right from wrong so there no excuse in my book. I just hope all those with such a dreadful start in life somehow get to know their true worth, it says a lot you cared for him though when he was old.

Kate1949 Thu 20-Jan-22 10:04:21

Allsorts I'm glad your parents gave you love and confidence. It's all you need really and gives you the tools for life. I don't wish to take over the thread but if you don't get it, life can be very difficult.
Just to add, my father came from a lovely family. They were farmers in rural Ireland. He came over here at 16, ever contacted his family again. In later life, I knew his sisters. They were lovely and 'homely' and said that his home life was nice, although poor. They said he broke his mother's heart.
I am sceptical about the abusers go on to abuse. Why would you put another child through that? Still, I am no expert. I just lived it.

GagaJo Thu 20-Jan-22 11:11:19

My dad was just absent really. From the age of 11 on, I had no contact with him. He tried to reestablish contact when I was a young mum, and I went along with it for a while, but there was no emotion there. And it ended up being me that had to make the effort to stay in touch, so I stopped bothering, and never heard from him again. 25 years later now and I'm indifferent to him.

Other estrangements in my life have hurt, but the one with my dad is too old. I'm indifferent to it and to him now. Well, he isn't my dad really and never has been. His father, my GF, was a better dad to me than my bio dad.