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How to deal with the guilt of not wanting a lot to do with my parents

  • 01-07-2021 10:17pm
    Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭

    I’m a 29 year old woman who has had a strained and difficult relationship with my parents for as long as I can remember. My mother is very hard to handle- over critical, verbally abusive and I grew up spending most of my time thinking she hated me and what I could do to change that. She is constantly bickering and being nasty to my Dad, so much so that he won’t drive with her in the car anymore as she is so critical of his driving. He doesn’t want to go places with her as they just always end up having a row and the day is a disaster. When I lived at home I’d be woken up by the sound of them arguing over something very minor but to hear the anger and nastiness in my mothers voice, you’d be mistaken for thinking it was something very serious. Some of the things she has done to me range from not speaking to me for a month because she disagreed with a decision I made regarding my career and giving me the silent treatment over numerous things, asking if I was pregnant when I put on some weight, and accusing me of lying about very minor things which weren’t even worth lying about if that makes sense.
    She was critical towards my appearance, always saying I look awful and such a person in town doesn’t dress as badly as me. She has said horrible things to me and blamed me for her having a stroke 10 years ago. It takes very little for her to fly off the handle and I genuinely spent most of my teenage years in fear.
    Last year I bought a house and since I have moved, I have had so many realisations on the whole situation. I am with my boyfriend a year and it has been the happiest year of my life between achieving something she thought I’d never do and meeting someone amazing. I have begun to realise what a quiet life is like. Myself and my boyfriend have never had a cross word, we have fun and we support each other. For the first time in my life I have someone who has my back. I also know now that I suffered from a binge eating disorder while being at home. To cope with listening to yet another argument with my parents or to deal with her losing the plot with me or giving me the silent treatment, I used food as a coping mechanism. Without much effort I have lost over a stone in weight because I am happier and haven’t had a reason to binge on food. I feel myself becoming more confident and comfortable in my skin as I had major self esteem issues growing up. With this comes the stark realisation that my parents, moreso my mother, are not good for my mental health. Since then I have moved to just telling them information on a need to know basis and keeping chat general. The problem is that I feel a sort of guilt and sadness about this.
    My sister in law often drops hints that my mother would like to go to such a place or do such a thing and I just feel like all my energy in doing things with her is gone. I have memories of car journeys years ago where she would just scream at me over very small things and when I’d get upset she’d get even more insulting. I was sent into a shop once to get something on one of these journeys and I had been crying so the shopkeeper actually came out to check if everything was ok.
    It feels like the life I have now and the happiness I feel has made me realise just how crap my childhood and upbringing was and I have this coldness towards my mother. Then the other part of me is sad and guilty that I don’t want it to be this way and would give anything to have a normal relationship but the more I’m living a normal happy life away from home, the more angry I am at how things were. My sister in law probably doesn’t have a clue of the extent of the abuse I was subject to but she does recognise that my mother is extremely difficult. I now feel this pressure and anxiety to do things with her or spend more time together but I also know it’s not good for my mental health. I guess I’m just posting here in the hopes that anyone has been through something similar and has advice on how to work through these feelings. Hopefully what I put into words makes sense.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,953 ✭✭✭Jequ0n

    You don’t owe your parents anything. I don’t know which mastermind came up with the phrase “blood is thicker then water”, but this is actually just damaging nonsense.

    So your parents are bad for you. What do you do with other influences that have a negative effect? No difference, apart from expectations that have been planted in your head from an early start.
    Your parents are probably not even realising that they are using you. Your role in the family is the buffer, frustration and anger can be offloaded into you. You can bet that they keep this sort of drama from others where it could cause a backlash

    You don’t owe your parents anything, and nor do you owe your sil an explanation why you don’t want to engage with them. They are old enough to figure out their own problems without needing you to take the blows.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,000 ✭✭✭HalloweenJack

    Don't feel guilty. You are an adult and you are free to decide how you spend your time. If spending time with someone is just going to upset you, don't spend time with that person. Its what people do in that situation. The fact that its your mother shouldn't have any bearing on your decision. Any pressure you feel is just societal but you need to focus on your own well-being.

    You are doing so much better now that you have some distance between yourself and them so keep it up. It sounds like you have found something that works for you so stick at it, don't row back.

    Out of curiosity, your post refers to your parents but you only give examples of your mother's behaviour. How is your relationship with your father away from your mother?

  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,210 Mod ✭✭✭✭HildaOgdenx

    If she wasn't your mother, you wouldn't dream of spending time with someone who has basically treated you extremely badly. I'm going to quote your own words to you 'I now feel this pressure and anxiety to do things with her or spend more time together but I also know it’s not good for my mental health.'

    In an ideal world we would all have great relationships with our parents, but this is far from always being the case. You have to put yourself first and work on not feeling guilty. Again, I repeat, if this wasn't your mother, you wouldn't go near someone whom you know is actually bad for your health.

    It's a very difficult situation, but you won't be the first or last person that has had to create distance with the very person who should have always been there for you, and always wanted the best for you.

    I think you would find it helpful to discuss this with a professional. It won't be easy to break away, you are conditioned by the situation, hence the guilt. You have nothing to feel guilty about, but no doubt there will be many attempts to lay guilt trips on you.

    All the best, and remember YOU are the important person here. You deserve happiness and a good life.

  • Administrators, Politics Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 25,947 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Neyite

    Your mother is abusive, and your dad enables her.

    Feel no guilt whatsoever. We have every right not to engage with critical, abusive people. We have every right to walk away. Your dad taught you, wrongly, that you had to stay and take all that abuse, because he does - but that's a choice he chose to make, and a choice he could change at any time he wants.

    You may or may not be thinking of having children - even if you intend to stay childfree the advice mostly still applies - you've built a new family now - you and your OH (and maybe children down the line) how do you want your family home values to be like? Fun? Easygoing? Supportive? Encouraging? Loving? You choose what you want in your family home now. And build those with your OH. If you will have kids, what kind of mother do you want to be? (I'm guessing any trait your mother doesn't possess is a good starting point.)

    So the detachment from your family of origin is a normal progression of that. You figuring out all the ways your childhood in an abusive home has shaped you and untangling those thoughts will take time. Even though you've not fought yet with your OH, it will happen and you've probably not been shown how to communicate reasonably in an argument given your parents dysfunctional argument style. So I think that counselling could be a really good springboard for you to learn ways to deal with your parents as minimally as you can, strategies for the guilt trips, abuse, and flying monkeys such as your SIL and all the sneaky ways your mother will hoover you back in to being her whipping boy.

    I remember someone saying to me once "your life is your own adventure, make it unfold the way you want it to" when I was feeling particularly trapped by a situation and It's something that's stayed with me all these years.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,098 ✭✭✭wildwillow

    Your life is better without her. You owe her nothing. Make new memories with your happiness to the fore.

    Your father probably needs to face up to her or actually leave.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,774 ✭✭✭mohawk

    For some people a relationship with parents is just not the right thing. If the relationship is abusive then cutting ties is very important.
    Your mother is responsible for her own actions and behaviour. Your father enables her. When you were a child you were powerless in this situation. Now you are an adult. You cannot change your mother. She is who she is. You have the power to decide if a relationship is worth having or not. Now most likely your mother will see herself as the victim if you cut ties. However, she is responsible for the way she treats others not you. You honestly have no reason to feel guilty.
    Enjoy your new life in your new house. It takes time to adjust going from a toxic environment to a healthy environment.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,295 ✭✭✭santana75

    I can understand this completely. My family dynamic is very similar to yours Op and I struggle with the same things in relation to guilt. One of the ten commandments is to honor thy mother and father which is an easy thing to do if you grew up being honoured and loved by your parents but if you grew up being abused by them then things become very murky and confusing. Days like mothers day and fathers day are days that I find the most confusing, all around me people are declaring their admiration and love for their parents and I feel a sense of loss but also a sense of guilt and shame that if someone should know how I felt about my parents the world would condemn me and call me all sorts of names.
    I think you have to protect yourself Op, your mother won't change, unless it's a case of divine intervention. But I think forgiveness is the only way you'll ever be free of this. That doesn't mean tolerating disgraceful behaviour, you don't have to accept any of that nonsense. But to not hold the past in your heart any longer is to do yourself a great service.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,091 ✭✭✭Claw Hammer

    You have survivors guilt. You will always feel some guilt but you have to accept that there is nothing wrong with putting yourself first. You self esteem was attacked and is now recovering. You will always feel some guilt until your self esteem recovers and all you can do is accept it as normal and keep away from people who would undermine you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 461 ✭✭Pistachio19

    You poor thing. Your mother is a narcissistic, abusive bitch. You have had a lovely time with your partner in your new home and have finally realised what life should be like in a home. Focus on that. You will never have the relationship that you crave with your mother. She is incapable of it. Your Sister in law probably wants you to do stuff so that she's not roped into it. But you know what - you don't have to spend another minute in your mother's company if you don't want to. You are not obliged to even speak to her ever again. I'd advise you to stay away from her for some time and get some counselling for yourself to enable you to live a guilt free, harmonious life where she plays a very minor part or better still, no part at all.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,305 ✭✭✭nibtrix

    Jequ0n wrote: »
    I don’t know which mastermind came up with the phrase “blood is thicker then water”, but this is actually just damaging nonsense.

    The phrase was originally “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” i.e. the relationships you choose are stronger/more important that family relationships. The fact that it has been shortened and twisted to mean the opposite is a travesty.

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  • Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 13,898 Mod ✭✭✭✭pc7

    So sorry to read you have gone through this, but it’s amazing you have found someone and are having a loving relationship.
    Protect that at all costs, as hard as it is keep the wolf at bay, she will try ruin any happiness you have.
    CBT can be good for some people in reprogramming how we react or deal with things. Had a family member go through something similar and the tools CBT and counseling gave them have been life changing. The other party still tries to pull them back and control them and their is a sense of loss but also freedom.
    I wish you well, I really hope you can find peace.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭donkeykong5

    How many other children is there in your family. Is your mother like that to them as well.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Thanks so much for all the replies. There’s definitely food for thought there. I think what I find the hardest is that when I was living at home I was able to accept a certain amount of the treatment but now that I have my own house and I see what a quiet life looks like I realise how bad things really were.
    I find myself dreading being on my own with my mother incase she’ll kick off. I suppose when I lived at home I had no other choice but now I do and I go between never wanting to go home and just going home because I feel I have to.
    I have one older sibling who would have caused a bit of hassle to my parents growing up. He now lives just down the road from them and just calls for a couple of minutes and leaves again. They would have helped him out financially in the past and given him a car. I wouldn’t want anything from them but it does hurt a small bit that when I bought my house I got a bottle of wine which I don’t even drink.
    Because he calls so little, and doesn’t help at home I get landed with small jobs like doing things online and such.
    He is quite a bit older than me and I do remember him getting similar treatment but with me everything seemed so personal- me appearance or my personality was brought into everything. I don’t think it got to that level with him.

  • Registered Users Posts: 333 ✭✭Cyclepath

    The thing that helped me most with this (similar situation with mother) was doing a course on mindfulness.

    I don't mean sitting in a lotus position doing meditation, although that's good too. I mean doing a course and learning about self-compassion, allowing yourself to feel compassion for those that have hurt you and learning how to respond to people rather than react to them.

    It really was an eye opening experience and helped me deal with guilt and also to forgive to an extent.

    Give it a chance - I never thought it would work when I first was introduced to the concepts but stick at it and it slowly seeps in!

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,695 ✭✭✭December2012

    I am thinking about the Sister in Law here and her role in all of this? Giving her the benefit of the doubt, if she has a nice relationship with her parent (as difficult as any relationship can be), she may not comprehend how toxic some parents can be to their children. I notice that the suggestions are coming from her, and not her spouse (presumably your sibling). Probably because they know exactly why you dont hang out with your folks.

    Consider how you are taking these suggestions - are you taking them too much to heart because you know its bad for you?

    Take some care of yourself - it sounds like a lot to deal with!

  • Registered Users Posts: 416 ✭✭greengirl31

    OP, it sounds like you had a very tough time growing up and I'm so glad that you have found some happieness now. As other posters have said, you should protect your new found tranquility at all costs. If you weren't related to your mother, you would, most likely have nothing to do with her!!

    It's not clear how much contact you have with your mum and dad. Do you live near by or would you have to go out of your way to pop in. I suppose if there's a bit of physical distance between you, it makes it easire not to spend as much time with them. Also, try to limit the little jobs you have to do for them. If they call on you, maybe see if you can not answer the call and leave it a day or two before you get back to them. If you're brother is living nearby, they might call on him for these bits in time. Or say you're busy and can't or your internet is down - make ome excuse. I'd also agree that your sister in law is getting on to you about your Mum so she doesn't have to deal with her so I'd take everyting she says with a huge pinch of salt. In fact, if you can, change the subject when she brings up your Mum. I know that all of this is easier said than done but maybe over time, you will get to cut contact to the absolute minimum.

    You should definitely look at getting some councelling .... I had a fraught relationship with my mum over the years and it helped me to deal with alot of the issues that we had and to move on from it. I remember one thing that has stuck with me from those sessions is that all parents do their best and in some cases, their best isn't up to much. This bit of insight helped me to let go of alot of the bad feeling that I had towards my mum (and my dad for allowing her to treat me the way she did).

    But I wish you all the very best .. you deserve all the happieness in the world