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separating from enmeshed relationship
October 15, 2006
9:48 pm
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lolli
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anyone here successfully done this? i am having probs with my mother.

October 15, 2006
11:25 pm
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healintime
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Hi Lolli,

Going through the same stuff with my sister right now. Our relationship seems to be an excuse for her to treat me horribly and then shrug her shoulders when I tell her it's hurtful. There's a cooling period, I "forget" and then it happens again. I finally snapped on the weekend and said some things I should probably regret, but don't. I just want free of her right now - would be happy not to see her again but our family is "close" (read: enmeshment central).

I'd love to hear from anyone who's managed to draw, and keep family boundaries. Especially under pressure from other family members (read, my mother - who's at the root of the problem) not to change their role..

H.

October 16, 2006
12:09 am
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chelonia mydas
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I keep at least 1000 miles between me and my family so it is more difficult to cross lines. I also limit contact to 6-10 phone calls a year and maybe a visit in person every few years. I separated from them when I left for college over a decade ago.

My mom recently tried to resume frequent contact this week with loads of sorrys and tears. I held boundaries- more out of not being able to deal with another thing. Thanks to support from this site affirming it was OK to keep her at a distance in my life- when she called back I held my ground.
See the thread my mother apologized for abuse- feeling overwhelmed

Since is just started this week, not sure how successful I will be- but we will see over time- especially in June when my littlest sis gets married. This time she seems sincere, but my H just moved out so I am too overloaded to deal with her right now too.

Families can be so difficult.

Hugs,
Chelonia

October 16, 2006
12:21 am
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lolli
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Thanks Chelonia and healintime...

So far, I have pretty much used the same techniques as you, Chelonia. I live very far away from my family and limit visits and calls.

But I am interested in finding a way to introduce these personal boundaries so that they don't get crossed during the visits and phone calls.

Maybe this isn't possible with someone (i.e., my mom) who wants to be so enmeshed and is in complete denial about our family dysfunction???

For instance, I recently mentioned some unhappiness I have over family dynamics (which is just the tip of the iceberg - but I'm trying to ease into the confrontation)... and weeks later she has the audacity to ask me if I'm still mad at her, and trying to get me to comfort her. It's difficult for me to paraphrase the MANY years of emotional enmeshment abuse by her as well as other more overt abuse by her spouses... but needless to say as I heal I am getting very ANGRY - and rightfully so! But I have not confronted on everything yet, just a few *smaller* issues... and she is already acting like a frightened child and looking for my support.

How do I deal with this?! I have a feeling hard times are ahead as I struggle with how to confront her on the bigger stuff. I know she will just crumble... and I want to be able to maintain my ground.

out of curiousity, healintime... what were the ways in the past you have established boundaries with your sis? maybe i could try some of those?

thanks for listening...

October 16, 2006
12:48 am
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healintime
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Hi Lolli,

Well.. I moved 14,000 miles away - that helped!! 🙂

Seriously, I think I started thsi process five years ago. We were the "happy family" exceptionally "close" etc. etc. Then I had a major depression in my late 20s and started therapy. My Mom had been clinically depressed since we moved to a new country when I was 14 and started self-medicating with alcohol along the way.

I was the first one in my family to say "if we're so happy, why is everyone so sad/angry/shut down all the time." I was not very popular. I broke about a dozen family golden rules - "don't upset your mother" being number one and "don't talk about feelings" shortly behind. I needed, desperately to vent about how having my Mom go MIA had affected me - how my Father following shortly behind hadn't helped. I was relied on in all sorts of ways that I shouldn't have been and went about being perfect to keep everyone happy.

I crashed, big time, in 2001 - had been living in the U.S. and moving back here, with the family in a mess, brought up too much stuff from the first move.

I took my Mom to therapy with me - but the whole family closed ranks ("look what you're doing to your mother" etc. etc.) I lasted about 18 months and went back to the US to keep over-functioning at a distance. Things with my family were cordial but I had proved my thesis that having needs would see me -totally- shunned and any shards of the happy family myth were officially blown to smithereens.

I came back here again about a year ago, again, emotionally and mentally at a low ebb. I had started a process that I hadn't finished through on. This time, I realised that I needed to find new ways of doing pretty much everything. No more overworking to pretend things weren't happening - and no asking my family for anything.

You know how we're told all the time to let go? I did. And by some freakish miracle, I got what I had been trying so hard to grab onto the last time. Thoughtful support and an acknowledgement that my parents had made some serious mistakes. I took a major risk by moving in with them when I first got back as a stop-gap and I spent a year here. I think We all needed it. My Mom is doing great - she's "back" and we've kind of met in the middle. I think my taking better care of myself and subtly choosing to do that over caretaking for her has given both of us the freedom to really relate. She's not drinking - and I've forgiven her for the years that she did.

Buuuut.... My sister is eight years older than me and as much as I was "the strong one" she has awlays been "the vulnerable one." With the caveat that she is just. awful. to me. She still thinks I'm eight and she's 16 and trying to keep good boundaries around her is a nightmare. She missed out on a whole lot of parenting too - and my father has always favored me. And I have been paying for it for what seems like forever. I used to take it out of guilt over the difference in the way he treats us - but that's his responsibility - not mine. When we're all together, my father will actually lash out at me rather than her because she gets on his nerves and my mother has trained him not to direct it at her. Apparently I can "take it."

But I'm done taking it - and done feeling guilty for a whole host of family baggage that is not my responsibility. She yanks my chain on puspose and then either makes out like I provoked it or pretends I'm making a big deal over nothing. She's 40 and single - and my Mother still does her laundry every weekend.

Gaaahhh.. this is a monster. I'm really lost at the moment. It's not so different than a toxic relationship. Part of me still wants to think that we can work it out and she'll be reasonable - part of me knows that's not the case. And I really, really want no contact, which my Mother won't respect. It's awkward because I'm still ilving with my folks (moving out in Dec/Jan) and when she's really ruffled me she'll drop in and hang out just to mark her territory. Absurd. Now I remember why I moved out of home at 18...

In short, I managed to repair my relationship with my folks. Now my sister, who has always been resentful of me, is doubly resentful. It's like she feels there's a quota of love and she's going to lose out on any that comes my way. Lolli, no idea how to navigate thsi one - really interested to hear whether anyone has pulled off decent boundary making with a sibling or parent that they have no choice but to see.

H.

October 16, 2006
2:38 pm
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lolli
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healintime,

thanks for telling me your story. I guess the thing that I have to keep remembering is that my mom is probably not going to be the way I need/want her to be... and it really will be hard/unpleasant for a while. but i just have to accept that she is the one making it hard/unpleasant, and that I can emotionally and physically walk away from the toxic situation.

About your sis... I read something about your situation in the book "Emotional Incest." It talks about jealousy/resentment issues from siblings who weren't the "chosen" (read: targets of emotional enmeshment and abuse) ones. They have their own different issues...

Anyway, the thing that I remember reading was a case history where a person much like you was always bullied by a "left out" sibling. And the person always took it because they felt bad about their sibling. Finally, they reached the realization (like you did) about not feeling guilty anymore because it wasn't their (or your) fault. And the person in the book confronted the sibling. I think in their case it was a subtle "standing up for themself" thing over a run-of-the-mill offensive offhand remark. But in your case (unless you've already done this?) it could be an actual conversation directly addressing it.

One of the things the book said was to acknowledge the situation (e.g., "I know you were always left out when we were kids and it must have been hard for you to see me get all the attention/responsibility from mom..."), and then set a new precedent (e.e., "... but that is not my fault, and it is not the way I would have wanted it to be if I had any power over the situation which I didn't because we were kids. I am no longer willing to tolerate abusive/angry comments/actions from you because what happened is not my fault.). Then if they violate your new precedent by being abusive/angry you should definitely be consistent and refuse to be in that situation.

I don't know if this helps... maybe you've already done this type of thing? It is funny how it feels easier for me to give you advice than myself!!! lol

But I guess even though there is a textbook example that is all neat and tidy, the reality is that in real life things aren't so neat, and it will be painful no matter what. because we are trying to change things that have been with us and our families for generations. it's kind of like moving mountains really.

sometimes i get so angry that when my parents realized they were pregnant, they didn't once say, "gee... now that we're going to be responsible for another human being, we're going to be the pivotal figures in her entire outlook on life and that is a big responsibility. Hmmm... MAYBE we should suck it up and deal with our own issues in order to not f#$k up our child." I just don't understand how they couldn't have had any clue about how unhealthy they were. Even when I was in COMPLETE (and I mean complete- repressed memories, the whole bit) denial, I still had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right with me.

Aaarrrggghhh.

October 16, 2006
3:16 pm
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free spirit
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Hi healing and lolli and chelona,

I was very interested in this thread because I struggle with similiar issues in my family. My relationship with my mother became so unhealthy about 1 1/2 years ago that I cut off all contact with her. This was with the advice of my therapist at the time, but it still hurts deeply. I feel your pain, it seems like nothing hurts more that these family of origin issues.

I had attempted to draw boundaries with my mother without much success. She just doesn't seem to understand them or even be willing to respect them. Over time, I became very very frustrated. Things deteriorated completely and I finally told her I would not have this unhealthy relationship with her anymore. I would have a different one, and was more than willing to engage in counseling with her, but would not do this anymore. She went to counseling with me for one session and would not go back.

In the meantime, this seems to keep rearing it's ugly head in many small, insidious ways, sigh. So, I am definitely going to check out the book recommendation you made lolli!

I don't know if this helped anyone here, but it sure felt good to talk about it ;-). There are very few people here in my life who understand it.

Good luck lolli an healin, I do think sometimes counseling can help in these situations. The problem seems to be that the family dynmaics are so deeply ingrained that they are very hard to change, in my opinion. However, I do believe if the individual members are receptive to really looking at their own roles, progress can be made. In my case, I don't believe my mom is capable of doing that.

I'll check back to see how you guys are doing.

Hugs,

free spirit

October 16, 2006
5:31 pm
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healintime
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Hi Lolli, Free,

Thank you guys, you both mentioned some things that I hadn't thought about. Lolli, with my Mom in particular, I was devastated that she couldn't/wouldn't change when I asked her to. On the premise that she loves me (and she does) I assumed that when I finally worked up to broaching the topics I needed to - and we went to therapy - that it would be resolved. But really, she's human, and asking someone to change the way they deal with things overnight - and to accept that their parenting hasn't been so great at times (my mother works in early childhood, no less..) is a tall order.

My Mom's own Mother shut down completely when she lost her husband in her 40's. My Mother was "the strong one" and literally dropped out of high school at 15 to get a job and run the household. "Head up, keep moving, it isn't happening" is the family motto - and we, in turn, played along with pretending taht she wasn't a mess when the depression finally set in. There are more patterns happening in my family than an amish quilt.

To really start to recover, my Mom had to face -all- of that. And start to work through those feelings - including grieving for her father - which she had never had a chance to do. I guess a lot of that happened while I was away this last time - and she is, literally, a different person nowadays. I felt so, so guilty for taking her to therapy/letting her know how angry she was.

In hindsight, I think that while it was a lot to deal with she had to take a good look at the fact she had shut down -exactly- like her own Mom when I was -exactly- the same age. I don't think she would be in the shape she were today had I not shaken the family tree.

Knowing what I know now, I would have spent a little longer working on my own process first before taking her to therapy with me. And I would ideally have been at the stage where I could say the things I needed to without being so invested in her making changes that she just wasn't capable of making at the time.

My sister hasn't forgiven me for any of it - as much as I was my father's favorite, she was Mom's emotional gatekeeper. Bouncer, if you will... I over-functioned, she under-functioned, but really, we were in the same boat - just paddling in different directions. I've asked, calmly, for conversations about our relationship this last year. She gets hysterically angry and screams before slamming the door and leaving. Will not budge. Doesn't want to go there. And I can't make her - but I can start to say "not okay" more often.

I think it's about changing the way that -we- handle them/things, which is sooooo hard. I read somewhere that infants are socially attuned to family dynamics by the time they're 17 months. So undoing decades of rules that we started absorbing before we were in kindergarten is hard. My sister is the last frontier, really. It's her unwillingness to try to resolve it that I just don't understand. But maybe she needs to hold on to her anger at me. There's a lot of anger there and I guess she doesn't have anywhere else to put it.

You know the scary thing? I've mirrored these family dynamics in one way or another with every single one of the men in my life over the years. I've either been dating my Mother, or my sister, for a third of my life. In fact I realised last weekend that I hadn't felt as shaken as I was feeling in a room with my sister (just totally flooded with stress and panic) since I was last in a room with my ex. Ugh.

Familes, huh... Lolli, I'll definitely look up that book.

H.

October 16, 2006
6:05 pm
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lolli
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Free and heal,

I'm curious about your experiences with your moms in counseling. Heal- did your mom go more than once? Was it difficult to get her to agree to go? How did you do it?

Free- I am in counseling, but I know without a doubt that my mom's 1/2 of our relationship will NEVER change unless she gets counseling. How did you convince your mom to go? What was her reaction? Did she reject it right away, or was she just too afraid later to go back?

I know I'm supposed to let go of any hope that she will change... but I have younger siblings and they are just kids! I want to protect them and save them some grief- as well as my own need to have a functioning adult mother.

???

October 16, 2006
6:17 pm
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doubleloss
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Sisters. I love them, I have 3. we are all very different. My baby sister is my favourite, she’s always been and we used to be incredibly close. Apparently, she’s always looked up to me and for many years she was very dependant on me, my opinion, my support, etc. She lived with me and fxh for a whole year w/o paying rent or offering to pay (she was a student, my dad had gone nuts and kicked her out and she was much younger) but in short, I’ve always been there for her. When I moved out from home to go to college she hated me, and stopped talking to me for a whole year. Last year when I finally told her that I was through w/ my marriage she stopped talking to me. The day I told her all that was going on w/my husband, she lashed out at me and blamed me. She said that I was stupid for leaving, that sex is not important, etc. In the last few years (we now live in the same city) the relationship has been cooling off, I know it is because she felt I was “controlling” her, even though it was her the one that wouldn’t do anything without first consulting with me. I use to tell her that whatever she did was fine. It took me months to tell her that fxh and I had separated, we didn’t tell anyone. Before that she knew something was going on but never asked but she started being highly critical, called me ridiculous a few times. Then, when I told her all the story, she said that she didn’t want to know ANYTHING of what was going on in my life, because she didn’t want to feel between a sword and a hard place (she’s close with fxh) so she basically cut me off. Once I jokinly said, hey, I’ll have to move with you guys…and her response was: well, you better get a job so you can pay the rent!..... and I said, oh! So you lived for free in MY house for over a year and now that I might need it I must have a job eh?....she responded with the “oh, so now is payback time or something like that.

As with healing sister’s she is very good at having her boundaries, and don’t anyone dare cross them, but with me, she has no problems trampling all over them, and I don’t quite know how to handle her. Now she is pregnant and has been suffering a lot thinking her baby is not healthy (no indication of that, just her mind thanks God!) so I write her letters, and listen to her, etc, etc….but, if it was me going through that she would tell me: oh my God, you are crazy, you are so sensitive, get a grip on yourself, I can’t believe you do that to yourself, and if I dare say anything she would just cut me off.

When I have tried to talk to her about fxh she cuts me off, or if I ask for her opinion, she says: I better don’t say anything, it’s none of my business. If I say anything about xbf, she tells me: listen, if you want little you get little, and he’s crazy, you’re much better off, stop whining. All these is after maybe 1 month where she was really supportive (about 1 month ago). I know she tries, but many times after I finish talking with her I feel really angry and bad about myself.

Her and fxh go to the same therapist. When she went through that month of her being 100% behind me, she told me….mmmh, I think I should go to talk to the therapist, she must think you are a horrible witch! I can only imagine what she told her about me, and compounded with what fxh might tell her about me….I feel some hate waves coming from that part of town.

I MUST learn how to draw the line with her. I love her to pieces but I don’t want to feel like crap many times after I talk to her.

October 16, 2006
6:57 pm
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Hi All,
I was interested in this thread too as my Mother & family was an issue all my life and I realized somewhere in the last few years, they were an issue because I allowed them to be. I wanted the perfect or almost perfect family and mine certainly wasn't, nor did I create a perfect family. During my working the 12 step program I realize that it is simple to let go of expecting perfection. I know now they did the best that they could with the knowledge they had at the time as I did. That is not a cop out but a real thing. What we do in time is all a process of learning and healing. I can now think lovingly of my family even with my issues and theirs. I know not everyone can do that but once I let it go as I did in the 12-step program quit blaming, expecting, or encouraging bad behavior then there was less weight on my own shoulders and my behavior changed.. Hope that makes sense. That is not to say your pain isn't real but letting it go and healing yourself first is the first-step to recovery anyway for me..just sharing.

October 16, 2006
7:02 pm
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healintime
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Yeesh...

And I thought it was harder being the younger sister 😉

I think the bottom line is that the sibling issues are thanks to my folks. My sister complained about my "psychobabble" on Sunday. Uh, yeah, well... The problem is that I can see, clearly, the family dynamics and how they've caused the friction. Not her fault. Not my fault. I didn't want to be designated golden girl - but I was, and I played that role until it nearly killed me. I'm 5'8 and size six, she's 5'4 and size 16. I've had a career - she stayed in her entry-level post college job and then quit it to temp (of the two of us, she's actually the smarter one). People compare us. They do. They've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Throw in my Father's treatment of her and I can -completely- understand why she's resentful of me. I'm just tired of taking an emotional beating for it. And really, all this time all I've wanted, from her, is my big sister's love and approval. I'm not going to get it any more than she's going to get it from my Father.

Lolli, my Mom is of the "I'd do anything for my children" school - or was when I broached therapy. Very much the martyr, always. That got her in the door. But she shut down pretty much immediately - or at least took everything that we talked about in there as a direct attack on her. To be honest, the therapist was kind of rough on her. Or maybe that's just my "don't upset Mom" wiring coming through. We both had a -lot- of walls up. But it really sowed the seeds, I think.

Maybe if you sit your Mom down and tell her that she's important to you - and the relationship's important to you - and that this will help both of you, she'll think about it. Maybe just asking her to think about it is a good start. I think that sometimes you need a conversation about why you need the conversation, if that makes any sense. I do know that when people, especially codependent parents, feel like they're going to be attacked - that we tend to go into shutdown/defensive mode. I hadn't realised, until I was sitting in that room, how many defences -I- had up against my Mother. I didn't much want to tell her how I felt because I didn't trust that she would cope with it.

Double, wow. To have your sister take your fxh's side (they share a therapist?!?) is tough. Sounds to me like she's been used to your being teh strong/reliable/okay one and is resentful that you're vulnerable, because it's rocking -her- emotional boat. Same applied to my sister when all this started. I was a mess, my Mom was a mess, and she was bitter, bitter, bitter at me - for all of it. Had the family not been one big goop of enmeshment (you know, individuals being allowed to have individual feelings..) it wouldn't have been that way. For years, we all shared the same emotional pool. Everything just moxed up in there and no boundaries. One of us was hurting - everyone else panicked and got resentful that the pool had been contaminated.

I think that for me the turning point with my foks came when I realized that I had to be responsible for caring for myself. I was kind of waiting for their permission to do that - but if they were going to give it then I wouldn't have felt like I needed their permission in the first place... I learned a whole new vocabulary. Like "no" "I'm not comfortable with.." "when you say that I feel like.." Scary, scary stuff. But it's easier now. Except with my sister...

October 16, 2006
7:38 pm
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lolli
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Hmmm.... I will think about what you said healintime. maybe i am just really scared that voicing my feelings (FINALLY!) will put her into shutdown.

It's interesting how much we have in common. My mom has always played the martyr "I'd do anything for my children" role too!!! And she studied early childhood education and child psych in college. And all of her jobs have involved child care. AND she's always been so careful to emphasize how she does things the "right" way, doesn't believe in physical abuse/spanking, etc. If you merely listened to her, you'd think she was the IDEAL mother.

so imagine my surprise when I started remembering that I had been sexually abused by her husband, AND I told child protective services in 2nd grade AND she completely denied it and got me to retract my statement!!! she was too afraid of losing me to even listen. she's spent the rest of her life denying that and being dependent on me for reassurance. Wow - not such a *PERFECT* mom anymore, eh???

So understandably, I went into denial because there WAS nobody else out there to listen to me, so I just stopped listening to myself. Now I'm an adult and I finally figured out all of this and I'm MAD. I'm DONE protecting her. I'm SO angry!!!

Sorry for the rant... guess i had to get that out.

my point is about the shutdown/defensive mode you mentioned. I am afraid because my confrontation will involve a disclosure of sexual abuse. Abuse that SHE didn't protect me from. So I'm not sure how to keep her from getting defensive right off the bat (and I know it's not my job to control her... but I do really want to tell her in a way she'll be able to hear if that makes sense).

So maybe... maybe... the answer is to tell her I need to have the conversation (but not say what it's about) and that I want to have it in a therapist's office. The conversation about the conversation, as you put it. That seems like a good idea! that way I'll at least have the support of a therapist when I tell her... and she can react however she's going to. At least I'll know I will have one SANE and COMPETENT person in the room besides myself!

Now if I can just find a way to stave her off until then. She seems to sense my uneasiness about something and keeps asking me which is terribly awkward cause I'm afraid one of these days my rage is just going to fly out of my mouth unplanned. But I have a certain time when I want to do it and it's not over the phone.

I hate feeling like she can read my mind!!!

It's almost like she studied child psych too well and learned (unconsciously) how to use it against me to control me. Anybody else ever feel like that???

October 16, 2006
7:59 pm
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healintime
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Oh Lolli,

That's awful. I'm sorry for your pain - and so sorry that your Mom let you down.

I think that -especially- because children are their profession it is unbearably hard for them to let go of the "doing it right" stuff. So much of their sense of self is wrapped up in being expert child rearers. If they screwed up with us, that makes them double failures. My Mother was actually working on a lecture outline for the subject "letting children express negative emotions" the night I first broached this stuff with her (pre-therapy) and she denied that there was a problem, then shut down and walked away!!!! I looked at the paper and it would have been funny were it not so sad. No matter how much she knew in principle - it rocked her emotional boat too hard when I was upset, ever. I remember crying once as a child over something that had happened at school and she literally screamed at me - purple faced - to stop. She panicked, always when something went wrong for me/upset me, and I'd end up comforting -her-and reassuring her everything was fine.

Have you ever heard of the child psychologist Erik Erickson (sp?) he was literally Mr. child psychology. Like the Einstein of child development theory. After he died, his daughter wrote an article about the fact that he had been an abusive narcissist and totally absorbed in his career - with massive pressure on his kids to be shining examples as part of the package. No room for mistakes, ever. Go figure...

October 16, 2006
8:50 pm
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lolli
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healintime,

thanks for your supportive words. it really helps to hear that!

about the paper your mom was writing- wow. that is too strange. i guess a part of her way deep down inside, a very repressed part of her knew there was much for her to learn in that area. reminds me of how (when i was completely unaware that i had been abused) as a teenager i did a big research project following the career of this child psychologist who helped child victims of sexual abuse through play therapy. i was SO interested in her career and spent lots of time interviewing her.

now of course, i can look back and understand the fascination. back then, i thought... how sad this happens to other people. thank god my family is so great and loves me so much. really!!!

it is still so amazing... denial... because i can see how i did it, but i can't understand how your mom did it or how my mom did it! i guess i'm just in *denial* about that! lol

i think also in terms of the "expert child rearing" thing (at least in my case)... it was a way for my mom to make herself feel better about what I'm sure she knew (and still knows) way deep, deep down inside: that she messed up- bigtime. by employing all the "i'm a great mom" rhetoric on a daily basis, it was a way of reassuring and deluding herself into thinking she wasn't the same person as the one who let her little girl be abused.

almost the same way a really insecure person spends a lot of time bragging...

hmmm.....

i wonder too, if your mom sought out that profession as a way of trying to understand the injustices she faced as a child??? i think in my case, my mom wanted to be the pioneer against child abuse because of what happened to her. but she was so busy pioneering in her own mind that she didn't see that it was ACTUALLY happening in the world. Not the make believe world in TV dramas, but the REAL world right in front of her. and of course, she never got help for her own childhood abuse, which is why she was completely powerless to even recognize when it was happening to me (even though I TOLD her directly- duh!).

well, this is just so complex. it makes me sad that there are so many abused and abusive people in the world. where/when does it end? are there any healthy people? at all? do they exist???

i am getting help to try to stop the cycle... but honestly i don't even know if i want to have kids because there are so many messed up people in the world who are in (you guessed it!) DENIAL.

🙁

October 16, 2006
9:04 pm
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Wow, Lolli

You are a very, very brave woman! It is really disappointing to realize that the people who were responsible for protecting us let us down. I have talked about my brother who terrorized me growing up (not sexually), and how my parents did not protect me. I confronted my mom, and she admitted she knew it. I also put a lot of boundaries up, which took some getting used to, and we have a good relationship, although I have detached from my brother. Regardless, it sounds like the way you plan to handle your situation sounds like a good idea at this point (with the therapist's help). I am very impressed with how strong you are, how much you are able to help others, your courage, your sense of humor, your amazing insights, and your ability to let go and move forward, despite all you have experienced. You seem pretty together for someone who has suffered so much, and I admire you.

Love, P&L

October 16, 2006
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Oh Lolli,

Your Mom was abused too? That's just too awful. Sometimes I think it's like a never-ending hall of mirrors. And yes, I hear you. I don't know how I feel about kids. I feel like it would be really irresponsible to try to parent someone else until I can be absolutely sure that I'm doing an okay job of parenting myself. My Mom's Mom is dying (has been having a series of progressively worse strokes and in haspital/respite care) for the last year. She has a lot to deal with there. But really, she ran away to another country in her late 20s too. We're Global escape artists! No journey too long.. No terrain to rough.. She hasn't lived in the same country as her mother for half her life. Despite the distance, the baggage has gone exactly nowhere. I found the same thing last time I left - I was in a relationship every bit as dysfunctional as my family. I guess we need to deal with things front and center to move on - no amount of distance will do the work for us.

You know I had -never- thought about the fact that my Mom went into early childhood because of her history? It's a round about way of acknowledging your past, I guess. Like trying to think your way around pain without ever being able to sit still and just feel it. I'm going to have to chew on that one for a while.

October 17, 2006
5:46 pm
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Thank you P&L for the kind words. It is really nice to hear that! I think I've spent most of my life minimizing it and being told (and also thinking) that I was being overly-dramatic and that I wasn't dealing with it as well as I should. It is really SO nice to hear those good things from someone who has no reason to be partial or biased.

BTW, it takes a REALLY strong and secure person to be able to say such nice and supportive things to someone else... so KUDOS to you!!! It sounds like you must have done a lot of work surrounding your abuse for you to be in such a secure place. I'm sorry your brother terrorized you. That is really sad. I am glad it worked out for you with your mom though. Any advice you can give on boundary building (how you did it, what worked and didn't work, etc) is appreciated! 🙂

October 17, 2006
5:59 pm
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heal,

I totally agree with you about the kids thing. I wish more people on this planet took it as seriously as you! Maybe one day... sigh.

I'm not 100% positive my mom was sexually abused, but I know for a fact she was physically abused and probably emotionally neglected. Of course, she minimizes it by saying things like, "oh, my parents were busy," and "they spanked me a little bit too hard." But other times she'll say it more truthfully and I can tell she was really hurt by it. But her father pulled a "oops my hand slipped" thing with me once (as far as I can remember) so I definitely wouldn't put it past the A*hole to do it again. I'm sure he did it before me and he did it after. That combined with the fact that this stuff runs in families... just seems almost inevitable that it happened to her.

I'm sorry to hear about your grandma. Don't know if you are close to her or not... but you have some really good insights about the global escape artist stuff. I never thought about it that way, but you are right! I guess the human tendency is to deal with abuse/neglect in the easier ways (avoidance) first. Then when we see that really doesn't work or help us (some of us never see- and for those of us who do it can take years) we finally turn to the more difficult ways of coping - actually working through it. BRAVO to you for finally breaking that cycle! You confronted your mom and are working it out with her. Hopefully if you do ever decide to have kids it will mean that your kids won't have to run away from you:) They'll be able to tell you the things that upset them (and hopefully there won't be many things because you will be a more attentive mom... if you choose to do it).

You are so right about "trying to think your way around the pain." SO RIGHT! There are some things that happened to me in life that I always remembered (not the abuse but other painful stuff) and I'd even tell friends. They would almost be traumatized from hearing it... but I would be all intellectual. I'd tell it like a story. And it is a good story. More like a soap opera. And I never cried about it. I thought I had "dealt" with it because I talked about it so much. But then when I started therapy I thought I'd talk about that 1st cause it was the "easy" stuff. Wouldn't you know I broke down sobbing about it right there on the spot. I was so surprised! But I guess that's just another case of "thinking" vs. "feeling" through the problem.

Thank you for your insights. 🙂

October 18, 2006
12:20 pm
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Hi everyone,

Wow, this thread has mushroomed, lol! It took me a long time to read and digest all the information because it is so dense. It is somewhat reassuring to me to know that others experience difficulties with families too. I know some folks have such difficult memories that it is very hard to talk about it or deal with any of it.

I am sorry you guys had to experience the abuse when you were growing up and I admire your courage for addressing it and wanting to address it in your case lolli. It is a very difficult thing.

I have children and I am determined to do the very best job I can in being there for them. That is a huge step forward from my mother. She is pretty emotionally unavailable. I have dealt with that over the years and while I understand how it came to be, it is very hard for me to accept.

I know her emotional needs were not met in her childhood. Her mother is very cold, detached and critical of my mother. Her dad either left or my grandma ran him off early in my mother's life, so she had no parent to meet her emotional needs. How sad for her, and it truly does make me sad. While I understand that on a rational level, I still feel hurt that she is unable to parent me in a more loving way. So, maybe more work for me in that area is in order.

To answer your questions about the counseling process with her lolli. I was going on my own and when all the difficulties with her came up in May 2005 I invited her to go with me. She went to one session and the counselor worked hard with her on boundaries with my children (she constantly oversteps them) and I don't think she liked it. She later said she would not go back. I think she was very threatened by what happened there. I have asked her several times to go back and she refuses. I do wonder if she would be able to make changes anyway if she went.

Anyway, sorry to write a book about all this. It really has been on my mind lately a lot because there have been some recent difficulties with my ex-h (father of my kids) which I think my mother is contributing to. When I cut off contact with her I stopped her from seeing the children as well hoping to leverage her into counseling. The ex continued a relationship with her in terms of letting her see our kids on his time - it has all become convulted and I think she still crosses boundaries. I would not have stopped all contact with my children, but would have limited it drastically from my end until she acknowledged some of the unhealthy behaviors which I am afraid will affect my kids.

Travelin-lite ~ I thought your post had a great deal of wisdom and it was a good reminder for me. While I don't expect perfection, I am guilty of continuing to expect my mother to make changes that maybe she is simply incapable of making. So, I can only focus on me and my acceptance of this. I still am not there

Thanks for listening, I will be waiting to read updates from everyone.

Hugs to you all

October 18, 2006
3:13 pm
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wow, free. i'm sure you've probably tried this... but it sounds like your ex-h needs some boundaries erected around his behavior!!!

doesn't he recognize your mom's unhealthy behavior? isn't he concerned about how it will affect your kids?!

btw, don't worry that you "wrote a book" about all this! I still have more questions for you, even! I'm wondering... when you first asked your mom to go to counseling... did you let her know it was b/c of probs you had with her? or were you more vague?

i think with my mom I'm going to have to be almost covert about it. I think i'm going to say "i'm having probs with ME" and not lead on about my anger with her. otherwise i think she'll be so defensive there's no way she'll ever go. not even once:(

anyway, getting back to your situation... i'm so sorry you are in such a complicated and tangled mess! maybe at this point it would be easier to get your ex-h in therapy with you? for the sake of the kids- would he goe even once?

i dunno. how serious are these boundaries your mom is crossing? if it makes sense... some might not be so bad (i mean they might not have as lasting or devastating of effects as they had on you b/c you had to live with her and they don't), but some other boundary-crossing could in fact be really abusive. do you know what i mean? it really depends on how serious it is.

but what is also probably damaging to them is to see that mom and dad aren't a "unified front" on this grandma issue. ??? i could be wrong about this... but just my thoughts.

October 18, 2006
8:30 pm
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Hi lolli,

Wow, thank you so much for your thoughtful response!! You are right on the mark about a number of things. Actually, I am in counseling with my ex-h, not sure we're making a whole lot of progress, but I'm still hopeful. He has such a tendency to focus only on "my" behavior that I worry that he can make positive changes.

Can you say more about the boundary crossing with my mom? I am just learning about boundaries and before I say too much more, I would like to know which crossing is very damaging versus just an annoyance. It feels like all of it is troublesome to me, but I am not at all objective about it.

Regarding your mom - that will be a tough pill for her to swallow. Wow, I thought about that in regard to my children and if I thought I had not protected them like I should the guilt about that would overwhelm me, I think. Maybe to the point that I would have enormous trouble dealing with it. So, yes, I agree you should be very careful with how you approach it and even maybe consider healin's approach to it by getting involved yourself first to discuss how to broach the subject with her.

I forget, are you in counseling already? If so, I think that is a good precurser to confronting your mom. It might even be a good thing to "work through" some of that raw anger before engaging with her so you will not overwhelm her with your anger. While I firmly believe that anger is a healthy emotion, I have seen very few adults who can express it in a healthy manner (and what a challenge, whoa!!). The issue of her not protecting you will be huge as a parent.

Hope that perspective helps somewhat.

My situation right now is a tangled mess - but thank you so much for listening and giving me such thoughtful feedback. It really helps me so much!!

Hugs to you!!

October 18, 2006
9:02 pm
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Lolli

I know you asked me for more info and did not want to leave you hanging...have some work deadlines and am really tired.

I basically detached from my brother. That is what is safe. I see him at family events and stuff, but have minimal conversation with him. I have to deal with him because I am close to his children.

As for my mother, I confronted her last winter. She admitted knowing, but said she was afraid of him. We cried and cried. I told her I did not deserve it, and she kept asking me why I was putting her through all this. I said so that I could heal and would not be in another abusive sitation again. I never learned what was normal behavior from a boy. How could she not love me enough to protect me? She kept telling me she did love me and how proud she was of me, but she did not know what to do at the time. She finally asked me what I wanted from her. I said I wanted her to rock me and tell me I did nothing bad to deserve it, and to be a mommy. Here I was in my 40s asking this. She did. It was very sad. I laid down all my boundaries, as defined by what I could not stand (no yelling and high emotions in her case...she needed to be peaceful around me or I would have to leave). I had to remind people around me of my boundaries over and over like a very calm broken record, in a monotone. I had said them so many times that it was very easy to do. For example, "you need to talk to me without swearing, or you will have to come back later" or if they do it twice now (two times and they are out), I just say, "I told you there is no room for swearing at me in my life, because you cannot talk to me with respect, we can no longer be in contact." People are well aware that when they are with me, they get a peaceful, serene, calm, respectful exchange in return. That is how it works with me from now on.

I used to want everything back that I felt people took from me. Now, I want none of it back. I have a much better, happier life since I learned some coping skills, including the fact that I cannot control people or outcomes. My mother and I have never spoken of this again, although she does honor my boundaries. I also am less needy of her. I accept her as she is and know I will NEVER be able to change the past. The confrontation really did not bring much closure for me. What it taught me is I cannot change people or undo things. I am not sorry I did the confrontation. Now we all know the truth, and I was able to move on and deal with ME and how I will live from now on.

As strange as it may sound, I am grateful for bad things that happened to me, because I would not be who I am today, calmer, happier, and more accepting, had it not all happened. It sometimes takes over "40 years and 40 nights" and facing lot of trauma before we can know that we have crossed into the promised land.

Hugs to you my cute, smart, loving, fun, and forgiving friend...for some reason, I am not too worried about you,

P&L

October 18, 2006
9:06 pm
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((((P & L))))

The boundaries you have are wonderful!!! How I wish all my relationships and interactions could be peaceful and serene - it is a goal to strive for!!!

October 18, 2006
10:26 pm
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Wow,

What an amazingly brave, wonderful, strong group of women. I am in awe of all of you. I've never had to deal with the aftermath of physical abuse and I feel for you so much.

Lolli, yes, the "over dramatizing" comment. Don't you love it? It was impossible to have a lucid conversation with my Mother for almost a third of my life and I was told, blankly, that my teens were exceptionally happy, that my parents had done just fine, and that I was "inventing" problems, when I first started to talk about all of this. I also got a lot of "no family is perfect." Nice. My father, and sister, had each spent a year calling me every few days while I was overseas to talk about how worried they were about my Mother's drinking. As soon as I wanted to talk about it, it became a minor detail.

I had a great conversation with my Mother last night. I'm still upset about the exchange with my sister and I also realized that I'm mad at my Mom. I told her that I need to be able to disengage from my sister and she has to figure out how to deal with it. I also told her that after what happened last month that, for once, it would have been nice for her to acknowledge my pain. I'm in my early 30s now - but as a child, with my sister being eight years older, it was my Mom's responsibility to protect me - and to lay down rules about what is and isn't ok. I told her that she talks about "never taking sides" and "loving us equally" but that by not sticking up for me when it was warranted (when I was little) and by quiet disapproval along the way, I'd felt, very much, that she does take sides and it has never been mine.

She cried, hard and did a little "how could you sat that..." (I held firm). Apparently she did tell my sister last month that she had gone way, waaaay too far. I told her that without her voicing that opinion to -me- I had felt, again, that I was being looked down on for making a fuss over nothing. Should she be "refereeing" now? Nope. But the reason my sister and I are in this shape now is that neither of my parents ever reigned in her behavior towards me (often vicious) when it -would- have been appropriate. I felt that she listened, and understood. She also pointed out that if she's going to help me disengage, I need to stop talking about my sister to her - but i think she also understands that when I've been doing that, I've been looking for validation that she's awful to me. I don't need validation. She's brutal. I know this. I need to stop looking to my Mother to stick up for me.

Free, I'm so sorry that your Mom and ex-h have been disrespecting your boundaries. Very, very hard to make good boundaries when it's a triangle situation, especially with childern being used as emotional leverage. It's hard enough to keep good boundaries one on one, but those shapes are really tough. I think that if you're trying to disengage from your Mom, your ex-h has a responsibility to accept that - or to talk, rationally, to you about wht he thinks it's important that they see her. On your Mom's part, it shows a disrespect of your parenting - she's kind of going in the back door and also getting involved in the dynamic with your ex-h. There is nothing worse than two people collaborating to cross your boundaries - what a horrible helpless feeling. I'm going to have to work hard to stop the triangulation with my Mom and sister. I definitely contribute to it. Can't change the past but I can try to do better in future...

H.

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