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why do I feel so detached from my parents

(30 Posts)
thelbg Tue 24-Nov-20 21:42:46

I have never talked about this with anyone, and never could-I am 62 and my parents are in their late 80's. Over the years I have felt more and more detached from them, to the point that I now feel really uncomfortable and awkward around them, and I have nothing to say to them. I think it has come to the fore with all this talk about saving Christmas, and I realise I am not really bothered if I see them or not. This makes me sound really hard, but I am not, I would do anything for anyone, I have lots of friends and a happy home life with grown up children and a fulfilling career. I have tried to self analyse-I was very badly bullied until the age of 11, they knew but did nothing, some very traumatic things happened in my 20's and 30's, but they didnt believe me, so I think there is this underlying sense of being let down by them when I needed them. And this feeling seems to be getting worse as I get older. My siblings get quite cross with me as they feel I dont pull my weight, but I just cant. I know I need to be a grown up and move on, but I dont know how. I could never tell them as they would be devastated, as they would never knowingly do anything that was detrimental to me in any way. Any thoughts.....

Hithere Tue 24-Nov-20 22:00:32

It is perfectly normal to create your own life, totally different from your parents.

When was the last time you celebrated xmas with them?
If it has been a long time, it is normal that you have built your own traditions and are perfectly content with how your life is setup.

Now, add the fact that you were not protected when bullied and not believed by your parents when you needed them - a case of "they made their bed now they lay down on it"

Why shall you have to move on and be a grow up? You are already a grownup.
Are you been told - "be the bigger person" by your relatives?

crazyH Tue 24-Nov-20 22:08:52

How sad that you feel this way. There's no handbook for parents. Most of us will, at some point, look back and wonder whether we did right by our children. I have grown up children of my own and on one or two occasions, have been pulled up on my parenting skills. Although I laughed it off at the time, it did hurt.
I am not a psychologist, but I am quite sure your parents will be devastated if you mentioned your feelings to them. They are in their late eighties, and surely, you don't want them to be riddled with guilt in their late years.
I can understand your feeling of being 'let down ' by them ...perhaps they felt if they ignored the issue, it would go away....burying their heads in the sand, comes to mind.
Please, please see them at Christmas. Best wishes ..

Grandmafrench Tue 24-Nov-20 22:16:02

It sounds as if you are the grown up, you have family and many friends and a life of your own - well apart from your parents. So you have moved on and maybe with the Christmas season on the horizon and the problems there have been due to lockdown you are now feeling pressured to act in a way which is difficult for you - if not impossible.

Your life is probably fine now, but this wasn't always the case. Maybe you have blamed your parents for past problems and have accepted that they have not supported you as they should. Rather too late now, I would think, and quite cruel to be confronting them about stuff at the end of their lives and especially when you seem to have a good life now, brought about solely by your own endeavours. Possibly you do have some concern about your relationship with them but you don't want to be coerced into behaving in a certain way which is only to make your siblings feel better. It's not your job to make them feel better. These are your thoughts and feelings and you shouldn't feel guilty or bad about how you feel at this time. You should behave in a way which makes you feel comfortable so that you don't feel strained or awkward around your parents.

So now perhaps you should decide...let it go, or do something to change how you feel if you can. Then finally you can stop concerning yourself about your own feelings with regard to your parents and maybe manage the odd visit or time you spend with them during their last years without feeling conflicted.

silverlining48 Tue 24-Nov-20 22:18:45

Yet your final sentence is telling in that you say they would never knowingly hurt you. Can you not forgive them about the school bullying, it wasn’t the issue 50 years ago that it is now. Parents didn’t go rushing off to school to complain then. I was bullied so I know.
If your siblings don’t understand how you feel, why not talk things through with a friend or maybe your adult children. It might help.

LadyBella Tue 24-Nov-20 22:21:37

I can understand how you feel. Unfortunately we tend to remember the things our parents did that upset us. I feel the same as you do about my mother who is 95. But if I am realistic, she actually did an awful lot for me. My problem is that 2 things stick in my mind where she really upset me and I do tend to dwell on those. I am in my 70s and I know my mother won't be here much longer and I try to find a way to love her but to be honest I don't. I think it is quite common. It's the old thing about we remember people by the way they made us feel. It's very difficult. She'd be very upset if she read this. So please don't feel guilty. Just try to be pleasant, which is what I do, though inside I feel as if I'd really like to sit her down and tell her everything but it is too late now as she's too old. I should have done it years ago. As someone else said, we all make mistakes and I know I've made loads with my own children.

Doodledog Tue 24-Nov-20 22:44:48

'The tree remembers what the axe forgets.'

I, too, understand how you feel. I don't think that you can make yourself feel different from the way you do, and it's not really fair of your siblings to expect that. They may well have had a relationship with your mother that was different from the one you had, or they may not have felt as bad about it as you did. That doesn't make you wrong.

I agree with those who point to their own parenting, and realise that nobody gets it right all the time, though. Whilst I have a strained relationship with my own mother, I am also able to acknowledge that I was not a perfect parent myself. I am doing all I can to build as good a relationship with my children as I can before it's too late, but in the end it's up to them whether they decide to dwell on the things that upset them as children, or whether to move on and enjoy the relationship we have now.

Do you think that your parents are aware of your feelings? It may be that they are, but don't know how to approach things with you.

Joyfulnanna Tue 24-Nov-20 22:52:55

People used to have respect for their parents and the older generation. I can think of one person who I like to tell how selfish he is and has been towards his son, but the reason I don't is that nothing will change and so it will only create bad feeling. It's easy to think you should say what's on your mind but it has lasting effects and does you and them no good in the end. If the OP has a good life and is happy, give a little to your parents, they won't be around forever and I can tell you, when they are gone, your bad memories of them will fade and you may be surprised that you think more fondly of them. Sounds strange but unless you have lost your parents, you wouldn't know how real this is. Good luck and concentrate on making them feel good instead of being selfish.

Hithere Tue 24-Nov-20 22:53:29

How often do you see them during the year, not counting xmas?

Lolo81 Wed 25-Nov-20 03:31:55

Given that you recognise your parents actions (or lack thereof) weren’t meant to purposely hurt you doesn’t change the fact that they have in fact hurt you and it’s natural to withdraw affection from people who have caused you harm whether purposefully or not.
If you feel that you won’t regret your current course of action in later years, then you have your solution - carry on and devote your time and energy to those in your life who you value and vice versa.
However if you feel that you may have regrets, maybe looking at them as they are now (older/frail/in need of assistance) or focussing on how it helps your siblings may be a way to frame it mentally which won’t cause you more hurt.

CanadianGran Wed 25-Nov-20 03:55:55

Not everyone has warm fuzzy feelings for members of their family, but hopefully respect for them and your siblings will urge you do to right by them.

I would rather feel I was doing a duty to them rather than have regrets later, and perhaps suffer disdain from your siblings as well.

Baggs Wed 25-Nov-20 05:35:15

You say you would do anything for anyone but then say that you don’t want to share Christmas with your parents.

It’s fine for you not to be bothered about seeing them over Christmas but what about what they want? Do they want to see you? How about doing that “anything for anyone” if they do?

DiscoDancer1975 Wed 25-Nov-20 12:14:29

You’re definitely not alone thelbg. I once told a health visitor, that although very fond of my parents, I never loved them. I knew love, as I was married, and still am, and had just had my first child. We didn’t mould. My dad was distracted and bullish, certainly through my childhood, my mum favoured my sister. All my energy has gone into my family. Both my parents are dead now, and I feel sad at the way things were, but know if I did it again, I’d get the same outcome. Don’t punish yourself over this. I believe the obligation is on the parents to get it right, so working downwards. Your obligation is to your husband and children, your children’s to your grandchildren and so on. Keep well and don’t worry🥰

Missfoodlove Wed 25-Nov-20 12:26:44

My parents were both awful.
As a child I fantasised about my real parents coming to get me, they sadly were my real parents.
Their deaths came as a huge relief and my life is much happier without them.
I’m not cruel or hard, I just drew the short straw when it came to a mum and dad.
Don’t worry about it yours not alone.

cornishpatsy Wed 25-Nov-20 12:51:57

Just because you are related to someone it does not mean that you have to like them.

You would not feel bad about not seeing other people that you dislike, parents are just people.

Ilovecheese Wed 25-Nov-20 12:57:32

Please remember that only 3 households can meet over Christmas. If the op has more than 1 sibling then she does not need to feel guilty about not being with her parents over Christmas, in fact, quite the reverse.

Witzend Wed 25-Nov-20 13:03:03

To be honest, if they failed to support you when you really needed them, and not just the once, I’m not surprised you feel like this.
I don’t think you should feel bad about it.
Are your siblings aware of what’s behind your feelings?

Grandmabatty Wed 25-Nov-20 13:26:00

Perhaps you feel detached as a survival or coping mechanism. I no longer feel fond of my elderly mum for the many times she ruined events I organised or were for me ie special birthdays etc or has made cutting remarks over decades or has tried to belittle achievements or has made my dd cry. I arely hear from her, only when she wants something. There's no point in me phoning as she won't answer. So I have detached emotionally. I expect nothing. If you can relate to this, then you live your life for you. There are posters who seem to think you owe your parents. I would respectfully disagree. You don't need to make a big drama out of feeling the way you do if it will only achieve family upset. If family members make comments, be vague or ignore. Ultimately you do you, as the saying goes. You have no need to feel guilty about a relationship that isn't really there. They haven't really supported you in the past. I wish you well.

lemongrove Wed 25-Nov-20 13:31:42


How sad that you feel this way. There's no handbook for parents. Most of us will, at some point, look back and wonder whether we did right by our children. I have grown up children of my own and on one or two occasions, have been pulled up on my parenting skills. Although I laughed it off at the time, it did hurt.
I am not a psychologist, but I am quite sure your parents will be devastated if you mentioned your feelings to them. They are in their late eighties, and surely, you don't want them to be riddled with guilt in their late years.
I can understand your feeling of being 'let down ' by them ...perhaps they felt if they ignored the issue, it would go away....burying their heads in the sand, comes to mind.
Please, please see them at Christmas. Best wishes ..

What an excellent post😀
Needless to say...I agree with it entirely.

Ramblingrose22 Wed 25-Nov-20 13:38:56

Agree with others on here who have said that the OP shouldn't worry about it.

I adored my father but couldn't stand my mother. She was cold, nasty and critical towards me all through my life but expected respect and devotion in return. She never said sorry even for things she knew she'd got wrong.

I kept contacts with her at a minimum and still feel angry about my treatment sometimes. Glad the OP hasn't shared this with her siblings as they could tell her parents and cause all sorts of mischief.

Lazyriver Wed 25-Nov-20 14:33:42

My father died at 43, when I was 8 years old. Looking back as a grown up, I can see how badly this was handled from a child's point of you. Being sent to school with a note on the day I was told my dad had died is an example.
But I can also see as a grown up that my mother did her best, given the terrible situation she found herself in.
Times had been hard for that generation, going through a war meant they dealt with things in a way we wouldn't now.

Lazyriver Wed 25-Nov-20 14:38:37

Hadn't quite finished!
Was going to say that you need to cut your parents some slack as they will soon be gone.
My mum never really supported me in the way I support my daughters, but she did her best under difficult circumstances.
I miss her terribly now she has gone, but accept that I have been left with a few tough feelings

Hithere Wed 25-Nov-20 14:41:19

Another way to view this is: we only have so many xmas to celebrate in our own lives

How do you want to remember them? That's a question we should ask ourselves.

The sometimes unreasonable expectations for xmas shouldn't overwrite a personal decision

silverlining48 Wed 25-Nov-20 14:49:43

In the normal scheme of things those in their late 80 s have far fewer Christmases than their adult children to look forward to.
If parents have been deliberately cruel that is one thing, but if not, and they are not even aware of any upset, surely that is a very different situation.

sodapop Wed 25-Nov-20 15:08:07

I agree with crazyH as well. I'm sure my parenting left a lot to be desired at times but can't change things now. I'm sorry you feel as you do thelbg is there anyone you can talk to about what happened to you if you don't want to tell your siblings.
Maybe time to put your feelings aside as your parents are now quite old, sometimes charity does begin at home.