Interesting article for both sides

sarahsmomDecember 2, 2008

You might have seen this before .. but in doing research for this documentary, I came across this article that was from the NY Times in 1990!!!

Very interesting perspective from both sides...

also at the end I have posted a link to another interesting very relevant article that talks about family and its importance especially with current economic situation..

March 1, 1990

Parent & Child


LEAD: ''I HAVEN'T spoken to my parents in eight years,'' said Nancy S., who is 31 years old and lives with her husband and daughter in a suburb of Minneapolis.

''I HAVEN'T spoken to my parents in eight years,'' said Nancy S., who is 31 years old and lives with her husband and daughter in a suburb of Minneapolis.

''I was very close to them when I was growing up, but they just can't accept me as an adult,'' said Nancy, who asked that her full name not be used.

Nancy's unwillingness to be identified reflects the expectations that people have for parent-child relationships in adulthood. People who might speak freely and without embarrassment about their divorces, for example, worry what others will think of them if they say they are estranged from their parents or from their adult children.

It seems unnatural for a relationship that is expected to be lifelong to turn sour. It is often viewed as a failure by the people it happens to, and they wonder if they are the ones who have failed. Nancy frequently says that she is ''a good person,'' as if her relationship with her parents called that into question.

Mary W., also of suburban Minneapolis, and her husband have been estranged from his 20-year-old son for three and a half years. ''Other parents don't understand it at all,'' said Mary, who also asked that she not be fully identified. Although her stepson reluctantly agreed to accompany Mary and his father to a family therapy session, he refused to speak and sometimes threw tantrums, she said.

''Outsiders blame us,'' Mary said. ''Even other people in our family blame us. The psychologist we've seen for the past five years says that our son needs time to grow out of this. I honestly don't think that will happen.''

Dr. Bonnie J. Kin, a clinical psychologist, said that ''estrangements are much more common than most people realize.''

''I've seen a lot of people who've been estranged from their parents for more than five years,'' said Dr. Kin, who is also an associate professor of psychology at California State College in Dominguez Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles. ''They wonder if there's something wrong with them because they don't have that close attachment. A lot of people just don't talk about it.''

There are many reasons for severing the relationship, including physical or emotional abuse, an upsetting divorce or marriage, or a difference over fundamental values or religion. Nancy's family reflects the reason that researchers say is most common.

''This comes up when families try to shift their relationship from adult-child to adult-adult,'' said Dr. Jill S. Grigsby, an associate professor of sociology at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., who studies relations between young adults and their parents in several cultures.

For some families, the clashes that parents and their children have when they share a house as adults disappear when they live independently. For others, the old roles and perceptions are more firmly fixed and do not change.

Nancy said she felt the first tremors of a family breakup about a decade ago when she announced her wedding plans. Her parents had trouble accepting her adult roles as wife and mother.

''They don't like my husband, and they still spend time with my old boyfriend,'' she said. ''It's difficult for them not to think of me as a kid. When I got married, it was as if they'd lost their baby.''

Both she and her husband get along well with his parents, as does their 8-year-old daughter. ''She's never really known my parents,'' Nancy said. ''She doesn't ask about them.'' The barrier between grandchildren and grandparents that comes with such estrangements worries some psychologists. They say parents should pay close attention to the messages they are sending their own children.

''Grandchildren learn how to treat their parents by the ways in which they see their parents treat the grandparents,'' said Dr. Matti Gershenfeld, an adjunct professor of psychoeducational processes at Temple University in Philadelphia. She also teaches workshops on being an adult child and being the parent of an adult.

''If you're estranged from your parents, the odds are your children will become estranged from you once they become adults,'' Dr. Gershenfeld said. ''That's the model they're learning.''

Nancy has resigned herself to limiting her communication with her parents to little more than an annual Christmas card.

''It's become easier as time has passed,'' she said. ''Life's too short to be sad or angry all the time.''

The Ties That Keep On Binding

PSYCHOTHERAPISTS readily admit that not all estrangements between adult children and their parents can or should be patched up. But many effects of severing the relationship are not always obvious.

The relationship will continue in some form, even after the rift.

''You can only be physically estranged from your parents; you can't feel psychologically free from them,'' said Dr. Eleanor Mallach Bromberg, an associate professor in the school of social work at Hunter College in Manhattan.

''We battle with them in our minds even after they're dead,'' Dr. Bromberg said. ''That's the paradox for these people. They spend so much of their time avoiding things that remind them of their parents that they become even more involved psychologically with their parents.''

The split may have an effect on grandchildren.

Children who have no relationship with either set of grandparents not only may have more difficulties in later relationships with their parents, but may also lack self-esteem.

Dr. M. Duncan Stanton, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester, cited a study of adolescents and drug abuse. ''Those most at risk often had little sense of their family history,'' he said. ''Even who their grandparents were.''

If you do decide to rebuild the relationship, recognize that it will probably take a few tries.

''Issues of pride are often involved,'' Dr. Stanton said. ''Relatively minor or petty issues may have gotten out of control.'' He recommended asking other family members for support in making the changes. ''The more people who are involved, the better it's going to be,'' he said.

Respect each other as adults.

This is especially important if adult children feel they are being treated like teen-agers. One man felt that the last straw was when his mother came to his home and rearranged the things in his refrigerator, said Dr. Matti Gershenfeld, a psychologist at Temple University and the president of the Couples Learning Center in Jenkintown, Pa., outside Philadelphia.

''I told the mother to treat her son as if he were her next-door neighbor's son,'' Dr. Gershenfeld said. ''After all, you wouldn't go into that person's house and rearrange the refrigerator.''

Link to other article:

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This was interesting, thank you for posting it. I am wondering how many people out there find themselves estranged from their mothers and their daughters or sons? I have been estranged from my mother for 7 years and from my adult daughter for 8 months. I do hate to talk about it to just anyone because it sounds like I am the one that has problems getting along with others. I really do have problems getting along with the women in my family but have had and do have great relationships with the men. My father and I were close, my husband, uncles, brother and son love me very much. My aunts and female cousins and I get along but when it comes to my mother, sister and daughter it seems like it has always been them against me, I have never been able to figure it out. It does cause me to be very cautious in friendships with other women because I don't want to be betrayed anymore. I really don't understand the things they do and say that are so ugly and mean and sometimes downright lies. The three of them look very much alike and act very much alike, I have always felt so left out of everything. It feels good to be able to put these things into words even if it is on a public forum. At least I know there are people out here with similar circumstances that will understand where I am coming from.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 3:54PM
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Thanks for posting the article. I've read a lot of self-help books, which I've found very useful in dealing with difficult behaviors. These books don't have estrangment in the titles, but they do deal with destructive and toxic behaviors, which I believe are at the root of these painful relationships. The bottomline though is that if you have parents, in-laws or siblings that refuse to take responsibility for their behaviors, then there is little you can do, aside from distancing and protecting yourself from their destructive, self-absorbed behaviors.

1. Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage by Susan Forward
2. Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck
3. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 1:14PM
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Hi missd,

I'm newer to this forum too...just posting within the past week or so. I've been estranged from my mother for about 8 years, although during this time I did talk to her on the phone and lately it is easier, less emotionally painful and less stressful for me to write her, because it is a means to still keep her in my life, but it provides me with more peace-of-mind. I'm estranged from both of my sisters (I have two older sisters) for a much longer time and my in-laws (they basically reacted with a lot of jealousy and hostility towards me and never bothered to get to know me. It was clear from the start that I wasn't wanted around and wouldn't be tolerated). Everything was and is all about them.

It's been arduous and painful constantly dealing with the perpetual disappointments of having narcissistic, thoroughly self-engrossed in-laws and key relatives. In my adult life dealing with the in-laws has had a greater impact because of their pathology and all the chaos they created--my mother-in-law was an alcoholic, father-in-law a manipulator, embezzler, liar and manipulator and my sister-in-law the same.

I can empathize with your situation as I didn't like to talk about it either, because like you they try to frame me as the problem, as if I have a problem getting along with others and they don't understand the issues. I got into counseling, so that I could have a safe place to talk about it without judgment. I also heard constantly to "forgive and forget" from people (not counselors) and that was terrible advice, not to mention overly simplistic and judgmental as well. I develop better relationships with men too (women seem to insecure and jealous), my sister's always framed me as the problem and never looked at their own behavior which was very alienating, hurtful and destructive. My in-laws are the same, it is all about them. My sister-in-law is especially manipulative and some of the relatives said the same, but not to her face. They are not a close family, although at times, on the surface it looks like they are. The don't take responsibility for anything and frame other people as the problem. My therapist's saw the situation much differently. Truly loving behaviors would not cause people so much grief and unhappiness.

I, too, am very cautious in friendships with other women, because like you I don't want to be betrayed anymore either. I can really feel your pain, because I, like you, couldn't understand the things they did and said, which were very, very cruel, ugly and mean, and yes downright lies. I do know that it is all about them, but that doesn't make it less painful. One still has to deal with the behaviors.

Yes, it feels good for me to write about it too, and I do understand 100 percent where you are coming from...I'm certain that we both wish that were not the case to be in this circumstance though.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 1:51PM
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In your bottomline list, you listed Parents, InLaws, and Siblings, but you left off ADULT CHILDREN. Let's be fair..
I posted this as an article being fair to BOTH sides of this terrible problem. You need to remember that parents often feel that their adult children have difficult behaviors. Again.. I personally would be ready willing and able to see and hear about how my behavior might have been hurtful to my sons, but unfortunately for all of us.. my daughter (who is 11), my mother, my husband, our family, etc.. no one has even been given that chance. This is a common complaint.. if my children had EVER discussed a beef with me and I had said.. you are wrong.. I am right.. then I would totally understand how I might be toxic.. that has NEVER happened, so frankly, at this point they are toxic to me, certainly to my daughter and my husband. What an outright disaster. If they had the maturity or the desire to have a relationship then we would work this out I am certain. The travesty in many of these situations is that often only one side is willing to sit down and talk. That is usually the bottomline. By sitting at the table and talking, you have to own your responsibility in the relationship.. but if one side.. whichever side that is.. won't do that.. there will never be a resolve.. just postings on message boards and an anger and ugliness that we carry around inside.

IMHO.. adult children .. eager to be "adults" treat their parents, inlaws, etc as equals.. while I love my chidlren and used to have a mother/daughter relationship with my DIL, we are not equal. They have not spent the majority of their lives devoted to someone else's well being. We have spent every moment from the time they were born attending to their needs, catering to their wishes.. we have jeopardized our financial futures to pay for college, wedding expenses, etc.. and we can't even seem to get enough respect from our children to have them tell us what is bothering them? I think you have left a very important book off your list..
sorry for the rant, but something is wrong here...please go back and read the article again.. if not for yourself.. for your children.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 7:24PM
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Hello flowergardenmuse,

I am going to look for that last book that you recommended, it sounds like something I should read. You are correct, I would give anything if things were not the way they are.

How much of the problems with your mother and sisters do you think is contributed to jealousy? At the risk of sounding conceited, I know my mother and sister have always been jealous of me but tried so hard to make it look like I was the jealous one.

I thank God that my mother's two sisters and one sister in law took me aside one by one when I became a teen and told me just how they viewed the situation in my family. If not for them, I probably would have run away or even killed myself before I turned 20. I really needed the validation that they gave me. One aunt started letting me spend the summers with her all throughout high school. Those were some of the most stress free times of my entire life and I will always be grateful for that.

I think we will all be ok and will come thru these times stronger. Thanks for lending the ear or eyes in this case! lol

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 7:31PM
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I have been reading for a couple of days on several different threads and I want to say that I admire you for doing everything you can to protect your younger daughter from all the drama. If you let her spend too much time with people that do not love you, you take a chance on them poisoning her relationship with you and your husband.

I would love to go back and keep my daughter away from my mother as much as I possibly could have. My daughter has taken on so many of my mother's horrible attitudes, ethics and morals or lack of I should say.

Hindsight is worth a lot but I wish my children and I had moved to another state far away from my mother, even if it meant living on welfare.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 7:47PM
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Your situation is different from mine and so that is why I probably left off adult children, because I was thinking of my own situation. My intent would not have been to have hurt you either. I've been hurt enough in my life and would not intentionally want to be the cause of hurt to someone else. The book list that I offered could have been a lot longer of a list given all the research and reading that I've done and I have only so much time to write.

I've been reading different threads for the past week about estrangement and it is sometimes hard to keep up with everyone's situation as they are each different and unique. My in-laws never showed any desire to accept responsibility for any problems. They refused to talk about it period. My husband sees them rarely and they enforced the don't talk rule. With them it is all about control and manipulation, "my way or the highway..." They never mention my name and I am not invited to family function as I am unwanted. I mean if they don't say my name or even mention it, then they can pretend I don't exist and there is no problem. My husband just goes along so as not to "rock the boat," and he was terrified of his mother's rage and also his father's abandonment, so he enables him....he does anything for a scrap of love just to feel that he has a family. My family just frames me as the problem and never takes responsbility either. My mother tries to FIX AND CORRECT my emotions. I always felt unloved...It is something that I've carried in my heart for far too long.

I know the title of those books may be offputting and I don't believe from what you wrote that you are a toxic parent...I believe there is much about the books that offers a lot of good information, regardless of the titles.

My in-laws and relatives don't allow for sitting at the table talking, unless it is all about them. They don't own anything and my father-in-law jeporadized our financial future with his financial dealings (long story), so my situation is very unlike yours, except that unfortunately I know very intimately the heartbreak of estrangement. I guess writing on here is one way to cope.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 11:36PM
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Hey Flower..

I realize that our situations are completely opposite.
No worries.. I have been trying to understand all points of view as I would never have imagined I could be in this situation. I know that I have some responsibility of course, no one is perfect, it's just that whatever crimes I have committed.. this punishment doesnt fit.

I think boundaries are a common problem which sounds like you have those issues in spades. I realize that sometimes the easiest (and only) way to deal with that is to cut it off. I have tried that myself.. as I have had issues like that with my own mother. I think the thing I keep saying is that no matter what my mother has done, has made me feel.. she probably cost me my first marriage.. now that this has happened to me.. I realize how horrible I made her feel. I will never "fix" her.. I just have learned as I have gotten older how to better deal with her and I have to say after 30+ yrs of trying.. it is working better. She is not an evil person, she just has problems of her own. She tries to fix me and correct my parenting.. rearranges my furniture, etc. BUT she is my mother and I NOW understand that she isn't doing this out of meanness but out of not knowing better and not understanding how to let me go. Believe me when I tell you.. i NEVER did that to my children, but what I did do was show them how I treated my mother when I couldnt' make her understand.. not calling.. cold wars, etc.. and now look how they learned to treat me.
I guess I can say with experience that what goes around comes around.. thankfully my mother has had the grace not to say that. We have a much better relationship now, but it has come from me.. she isn't any different.

I would hope that for those of you in this heartbreaking situation.. learn from things people write, learn from those who have been there.. that's why I posted the article.

BTW.. it sounds like your husband has the boundary issues and i would imagine that my husband has felt in the past like you do with his family. My husband is Italian and as my grandmother put it.. "we have never had an ITALIAN" in our family before.. she refused to pronounce his name properly.. sad.. so believe me.. I understand more than you think!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 8:29AM
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Hello missd,

It's the same author for all those books and I would highly recommend them. I know that the use of the word toxic might put some people off too, but there is so much good information in them to let that put anyone off. I usually go to Amazon to read or skim through the comments and editorials and if you don't want to purchase there is always the library.

She touches on jealousy, especially with narcissists and "it's all about me" behaviors. She makes a point about growing up in a household where favoritism is demonstrated and also where love is a bone, and therefore not enough to go around. It doesn't excuse behaviors though and as another author writes, "reasons are not excuses."

In my family I do feel that jealousy contributed. Both of my older sisters have made it clear that they have a lot of resentment towards me, because they felt that my mother favored me. I don't think she did and never felt that way. They also labeled me "the pretty one," as well as the stupid one, the troublemaker, the idiot, the loser, the angry one, "too sensitive," and the mentally ill one (I've suffered clinical depression and did try to commit suicide as a teenager). I never thought I was pretty. (My father sexually molested both my older sister and me). One doesn't grow up feeling pretty when a father does that. And then the comments that they would make....My mother doesn't feel good about herself unless she puts me down and my sisters are the same. They just don't feel good about themselves unless it is at my expense, and they need to feel superior. I always felt like I was target practice, not just with my family, but my husband's family as well. They are cruel, mean people.

I believe jealousy is the root of the problem with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law (really all of the inlaws). The father's last wife noticed how competitive she was and eventually would tell my husband how manipulative she was too. After we were married a chance meeting with my husband's aunt revealed that she had problems with them too. She talked about how cunning, deceitful, tricky and clever my sil was/is (she lived with them when the mother and fathered divorced and this was while she was in high school). The men went on about her looks and how sweet her smile was. Her cousin also wrote me a letter stating that she thought the sil (my husband's sister) was very jealous, cold and mean. Sadly, though that is all the support they offered. I never heard from them again. The aunt said once, "I know we see them occasionally, but we are not close." So yes, I believe jealousy is a contributing factor. And yes, I think they try very hard to make it look like everyone is jealous of them and not the other way around. When they are getting their way then all is calm...the calm before the storm. My husband knows all about the issues and problems, but he never says anything to them. He doesn't stand up for himself, or me and he will not set the record straight. His pat answer is always that they will not change and so it is no use to try.

You do not sound conceited to me. I recognize exactly where you are coming from. I think it very sad to feel that way and I know the reasons. When I used to try to reach out to other people, just to have someone to talk too, they routinely judged harshly right away. People just didn't get the problem. It's good that you had someone to turn too--aunt's. I didn't. We lived in another state. I know there were problems there too. I've written enough for now, but I will be back later on...

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 10:17AM
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Hugs flowergarden. You have been through so, so much and some really, really nasty things. Incest is horrible, dreadful, destructive and unspeakably evil beyond words. An invasion of physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries that noone who hasn't experienced it can really understand.

All of you were victims, and all of you are trying to hide from it by attacking each other. GADS, who wouldn't do that?

You had noone to help you. Who will love me now you ask yourself? At this time, you are your own worst enemy. You didn't deserve what happened to you. Still what to do with all that rage? That rage that anyone would feel? You are very loveable, and you deserve love and to be loved.

Learn Judo or some other self defense martial art. Learn how not to be the victim. Learn to defend yourself. You deserve it!

Validation comes from within yourself.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 10:55AM
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@ sarahsmom:

"If they had the maturity or the desire to have a relationship then we would work this out I am certain. The travesty in many of these situations is that often only one side is willing to sit down and talk. That is usually the bottomline. By sitting at the table and talking, you have to own your responsibility in the relationship.. but if one side.. whichever side that is.. won't do that.. there will never be a resolve."

It's interesting that you write this, sarahsmom. My daughter, when she would speak to me, would scream that I needed to take responsibility for what I did to cause the estrangement. At no time did I ever say that I did nothing wrong.

However, when I asked her and her husband to come to the table and talk, my request was met with absolute silence. My therapist believes that if we could sit down and talk we could resolve this. However, he agrees with my assessment that my SIL is the one who refuses to participate and that he won't allow my daughter to come on her own. His claim is that others "made" him do certain things and that they are the ones who need to take responsibility for the estrangement.

No one "makes" you do something you don't want to do.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 2:07PM
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dear sarahsmom, i also failed to motivate my siblings to meet somewhere and talk with a family mediator. the therapist told me a couple things:

the other party doesn't truely want closure. for some reason the existence of the rift has some value for them. the idea or possiblity of closure and healing means you are taking away a meaningful and highly effective mode of being that disburdens them from being responsible. so by not participating is a way for them to prolong the situation.

also the other party is "control" oriented, in that they are going to avoid any situation that they can't predict what the outcome is going to be. they are not interested in a process that will not substantiate their own preconcieve notions. also there not willing to reliquish their manipulation through guilt or have transparency or be personally accountable.

thirdly, in their minds you are just not worth the effort and why should they; what's in it for them? they perfer estrangement because it is easier.

they are estranged from you because that is what they always wanted. it's really all about having someone else to blame.

i understand the nature of their resistence and unwillingness to be personally accountable. it's not an easy thing to do. no one is going to give up their illusions without a fight. i should know because i estranged my parents for years before i realized that the only thing that kept me down was my own capacity to believe my own lies. when i finally saw through it the walls came tumbling down.

i look at it this way for what ever reason my siblings don't feel secure enough to meet us half way. they are not like most people who for the sake of the whole aren't threatened by constructive criticism and look forward to an oppurtunity to right a wrong.

it may not always be this way, but there's nothing you can do outwardly to motivate them to change. it must come from within them. even appealing to their intelligence won't even work because their intelligence only serves to mask their own complicity. the only thing that works for me is prayer and though it hasn't seem to help my siblings it has helped my mother overcome much of the pain associated with the estrangement. my older brother and sister are almost 60 years old; if they don't like my mother now i suppose they never will. i can't control that, but i can let my mother know how much i appreciate her efforts and sacrifices and help her feel secure and loved as she enters her senior years (80 yo).

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 3:25PM
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Wow.. I have read your post twice.. the things you said the therapist said are so right but also hard hitting.

So, were you estranged from your mother and then you figured it out?

i do understand the notion of personal accountability and I guess as a parent.. how did i miss that and why was I not able to teach/instill that in my children? I really thought I was doing that, but very true that they ALWAYS blamed someone else for everything.. but I would also say that I don't think any of this would have happened without my DIL acting as an enabler to both boys. As I have posted before.. both boys have been "taken in" by her family.. meanwhile her parents know us and have eaten dinner here, I have helped both of them in their business's etc.. but both boys are caught up in their world. They both work for my DIL's father, and he has a charity that he runs and both boys basically do his bidding for everything. I know i won't ever see them again unless something dramatic happens..
but like you.. i keep praying...

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 3:46PM
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//IMHO.. adult children .. eager to be "adults" treat their parents, inlaws, etc as equals.. while I love my chidlren and used to have a mother/daughter relationship with my DIL, we are not equal.//

I disagree. All self-supporting adults are equal, whether they are 18 or 80. To say you are 'more' because you have more experience or more years is the same as saying someone is superior because s/he has more money than you.

And there are plenty of people who have raised children and have the emotional maturity of a 12 year old. And there is the additional problem some parents have of being too involved and having a lot of trouble letting go. They've avoided finishing their own self actualization, and have become over identified with a role. When the role changes, they can't or won't.

I have to admit, I'm surprised whenever someone says that they've spent 20 years or whatever devoting every minute to their child. I have 4 children and I do not devote every minute to them. It seems weird to me to do so. I have a marriage and husband, friends, a good career, hobbies, etc...

There is no obligation to pay for colleges and weddings. In fact, financial experts stress that if you are risking your future, you should not. If you choose to do so, that's a gift, you are owed nothing in return. If they aren't grateful and it chaps your hide, stop doing it.

Missd, if your father favored you over your mother and was closer to you than to her, he did you and her a huge disservice. It was very inappropriate behavior on his part and a passive aggressive way of handling his anger with her. He used you, and it was not ultimately in your best interest. It might have been pleasant at the time, but you may be paying for it for the rest of your life.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 5:24PM
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obviously we will have to agree to disagree...
I am sorry, but self supporting adults whether they are 18 or 80 are equal is a ridiculous statement. Life experience counts for something.. hence the discussions on this site.
Life experience is in no way equal to money..
Of course there are people who raised children with the emotional maturity of a 12 yr old, but none the less they had the responsibility of making decisions for another human being.. right or wrong, that is worth something.

Letting go, too involved.. I totally agree these are issues.. boundaries seem to be really hard for some people.

Stating that people have devoted every minute for 20 yrs is a figure of speech.. at least the way I wrote it.. of course people have many obligations beyond their children, but the bottom line is that children are very demanding as you are aware.. having 4 must keep you pretty busy.

College and weddings.. of course it's always a stretch and no you are owed nothing in return, but I can assure you that if I had any idea what the return on my "investment" had been.. I would have invested differently.. and believe me.. I stopped.
If as a society, we are saying that children should be thought of as a litter.. we give birth, raise them and then they grow up and go away and if we are lucky they come back.. then as a society we need to rethink the whole notion of parenting, family values and our support structure. You might be right.. that is the way the world is going, and we need to reevaluate our expectations, but I think it is a sad statement on humanity.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 7:04PM
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bucyn, you said above:
Missd, if your father favored you over your mother and was closer to you than to her, he did you and her a huge disservice. It was very inappropriate behavior on his part and a passive aggressive way of handling his anger with her. He used you, and it was not ultimately in your best interest. It might have been pleasant at the time, but you may be paying for it for the rest of your life.

What I said on another thread was this:
And as for my mother, I was my father's favorite CHILD and she was extremely jealous of that relationship. She treated me like another woman in his life rather than his daughter, and I can promise you that he was the sweetest, kindest, man anyone could ever know.

It really seems to me that you want to antagonize everyone on this board but I guess your life is perfect and full which is why you feel the need to come on here and explain all our problems to us. Thank You so much. Now if you would learn to read exactly what was written we may be able to converse. I NEVER said my father preferred me over my mother. ok?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 10:12PM
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I don't think bucyn is intentionally trying to antagonize everyone. There's several different threads going and different stories of estrangement...I've been reading many of them and it isn't easy to keep them all straight.

I have 2 older sisters and they accused my mother of favoring me. They also said the same things to my face. That was a huge burden to me, and I believe to my mother as well. I never felt favored. My sisters were very dismissive of my feelings and constantly would lump me and my mother together (like it was them against us (me and my mom or them). My mother told me that of her 3 daughters they did less for me, but my sisters hold deep resentment and try to make me out as if I'm irresponsible. They also constantly tried to force me into choosing sides and consistently inserted themselves into my relationship with my mother. If I didn't, then I was disloyal, or defensive, etc. They wanted to dictate to me how I should feel. When I tried to tell my middle sister about my eldest sister's abusive tirades, her slapping me across the face (not an isolated incident), (when I was 12 and she was 19), her response was to say..."that you were a spoiled, brat who deserved it." And this sister would always tell me that I was angry towards my older sisters and that she couldn't understand why....Talk about no responsibility. She would then try to build some kind of connection about my mother and her issues with her older sisters. (My mother told me that they indicated their jealousy towards her--being the pretty one.)

My reaction to my sisters stating that I was favored was in some ways to prove to them that I wasn't, to EARN THEIR LOVE. It never worked and in the process I distanced myself from my mother. There were many issues that created the distance. At one point my mother told me that she felt that the both of them would be happier if she acted like I didn't exist and that I wasn't her daughter. Imagine how hurtful that was. Then I was exposed to more hostility and abuse from my inlaws who act like I just don't exist.

I've been in therapy off and on...and I tried several times to ask both sisters to get involved. They both responded no. They do not want to let go of their position that everything is my issue and that they have no responsibility. I think in many ways they can justify their abusive behaviors towards me. It's funny, they spent so much time undermining my feelings...judging my emotions as "too sensitive," yet one of my therapists responded telling me that he thought I didn't give myself enough credit for being so strong.

I get what you are saying about being your father's favorite child as opposed to preferring you over your mother, and I know your father loved you, but I do think demonstrating favoritism was not in your best interest either. Some parents say that can't help it, but I do believe it is a huge disservice to their children down the road.

And Colleen...I may still have issues, and still feel emotional pain, but I am a survivor.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 12:29AM
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To Beginnerseye,

What a wonderful and insightful post with info from your therapist. Thank you so much. I'm going to print it out for my therapist to get his take.

What your therapist says falls in line with what I believe about my SIL and his refusal to try to resolve our issues.

Again, thank you.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 9:25AM
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The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self
by Alice Miller

Emotional Unavailability,
Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap
Bryn C. Collins, M.A., L.P.

In Sheeps Clothing
Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People
George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D.

The Disease to Please
Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome
Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D

Bradshaw on the Family: A Revolutionary Way of Self Discovery
John Bradshaw (The newer edition of this book may have been retitled)

(Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem
by John Bradshaw)

Emotional Blackmail, When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You, by Susan Forward, Ph.D.

All these books do not have estrangement as themes in the title of the book. They do deal with behaviors and family/relationship dynamics which I believe are at the core of estrangement issues. (It is also not meant to be an exhaustive list on the issue.)

I've included a link to an excerpt from the book Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People:

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 11:15AM
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I found this article on the AARP website:

Life Lessons

The Estrangement
By Jamaica Kinkaid, May & June 2008

Weary of her formidable mothers bitter disapproval, an acclaimed writer makes a decision that drives them apart forever

    Bookmark   December 6, 2008 at 12:38AM
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//I am sorry, but self supporting adults whether they are 18 or 80 are equal is a ridiculous statement.//

In the Judeo-Christian ethic and in democratic philosophy, we ARE all equal in the eyes of God and the law. You don't get extra credit or extra for having lived longer. Many people have used those additional years for no good purpose. There are many, many people who do not learn from experience.

And 18 year olds have experience you don't have. And quite often their experience is more pertinent to modern life than that of an 80 year olds. All the eternal wisdom of life was distilled 5,000 years ago, and an 18 year old might understand that wisdom even as a 45 year old might not. Not to mention that experience and meaning is taylor-made for each individual: experience pertinent to one 60 year old may be meaningless in another 60 year old. And experience is very limiting, it dies with us; perhaps the reason we are exhorted to remain humble and meek. No amount of experience, power, wealth, intelligence has yet made any man able to command the seas to stop rolling onto the shore. A 60 year old may have the experience to know that investing college savings into penny stocks is dumb; but a 18 year old is more likely to know that responding to Nigerian email money schemes is stupid (most victims of this scam are over 50). EVERYONE has experience.

I think it is essential to respect the equality of adults, young or old. I believe that many of the estrangements on this board (not all, not even most) are caused by this attitude, the lack of respect for young adults by supposedly superior parents. (Yes, yes, yes, I know they don't respect you, blah, blah, blah... but why don't the children you raised respect you? You raised them, they've been watching you for 20 years, why haven't you earned their respect?)

Remember, no matter how much experience you have in life, when it comes to your first child reaching young adulthood, you are a beginner. You have no experience in launching, supporting, letting go, pulling back. You are brand new to this phase of parenthood, a novice, without experience, feeling your way and very likely to make mistakes. Experience in running board meetings or PTA fundraising or handling difficult failed aged parents isn't necessarily going to help.

You and your kid are both new to this and are both going to make mistakes--if you are smart you have enough experience in life to realize that when you make a mistake, any mistake with anyone, you apologize and make amends. Even if it's to a 20 year old who isn't handling his life the way you think best.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2008 at 10:47AM
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dear butcn,
your assuming the person apologizes and accepts your apology. what if they don't. is that the fault of the parent as well? your reasoning is based on everybody wants the same thing...resolution/reconciliation/closure/healing that's not always the case. oh wouldn't it be nice if it was so simple. believe it or not some people are not motivated to meet and work things out and are more invested in prolonging the conflict. some don't want to meet because the process of mediation requires some element of transparency and personal accountability. some individuals, though they can biologically produce children, still lack the emotional maturity to examine their own motives. when do adult children stop blaming and start accepting responsibility for their own failures, and not just their successes. if they are so secure with themselves and so insightful why do they resist every attempt at mediation?

you know for a beginner you sure know do you know you don't get extra credit for living longer? do you know something the rest of us don't?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Thank you beginnerseye..

I am not sure how anyone can make the observations on experience and what it's worth if they haven't had that much.
And while we are talking about being equal in the eyes of God, why then does it say in the Bible.. pretty clearly I believe.. Thou shalt honor thy Father and thy Mother.. sounds like someone thought experience was worth honor and appreciation. I think all anyone wants is some appreciation.

beginnerseye.. your comments are so right on... when do adult children stop blaming everyone else and accept responsibility for what they have contributed to the situation? What is so heartbreaking about this whole situation is that our society is changing.. we know that, but the direction that we are taking leaves huge question marks for me in terms of what kind of people/society we will have in the future?
* people who blame everyone else
* people who have no personal accountablity
* people who just throw away those that have done the most to help them
* people who have no loyalty to others, no conviction

It is pretty evident that this is beginning to be what our society is becoming.. just turn on the news...
maybe it's time for a wakeup call in terms of the way we are parenting our children..
Maybe we have done too much for them.. I am pretty sure I did.. and in doing so, we have taken away their ability to have that ever elusive "accountability"!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 9:35AM
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There was a time that I felt that I "did too much" for others. I felt that they did not reciprocate or appreciate me. I ended up expecting to be rejected, because it happened so often--my only defense was to try to get people to like me (they would like me for what I did for them, not for who I am). I believe this is a strong cultural message that girls/women receive anyway...nurture others and do for others. It's how we earn their approval. It turned me into a people-pleaser, and a very unhappy person at that. I stopped and MY HUSBAND DIDN'T(conditioning from his rageful, alcoholic, self-absorbed mother). It feels pretty horrible to know that your worth as a human being is calculated by other people's approval of you, how much you do for them, rather than who you are. It doesn't feel good to be "used". When I started standing up for myself and I spoke out about other people's behaviors--their thoughtless comments, destructive behaviors and self-absorbed husband labeled me a "negative" person, rather than consider my viewpoint in a non-judgmental way. He never gave it one consideration as to the consequences of allowing such destructive, instrusive people into our lives and what it was doing to me or to us. At one point in marriage couseling (which I pushed for) the male therapist turned to him and asked why he allowed me to take all the heat for him (why he didn't stand up for me).

And of course, the nature of the self-absorbed is to NOT consider their behaviors towards others (no accountability). Why should they. Enablers are there to make excuses for them. One has to learn the skills to speak up appropriately when your right to kind and respectful treatment is violated. However, first, you must change your mistaken belief that niceness will protect you or that it will overcome abusive or unkind treatment.

You see no matter how much I sought my MIL's approval, no matter how nice I was (and the same goes for his family), they flat out didn't care. It was all about them. They were too self-absorbed and didn't want me around. There was nothing on the face of the earth that I could have done to change that, unless I was willing to be their doormat. My husband was crucial in at least standing up for himself and risking her rage, lest he set some boundaries. He didn't. Her children were surprised that a few people showed up to her memorial service (aside from just family). I think that was a strong testament to her cruelty that they thought she wouldn't have friends.

If you truly feel that you did too much for your children I would urge you to read one of the books I listed above, The Disease to Please. I found some eye-opening truths. I read the book, however I was hopeful that my husband may read it too.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 11:29AM
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sarahsmom, that is a scary society we may have in the future. You hit the nail on the head with no accountability, no loyalty and throwing away relationships. While everything has become disposable in our current society, it appears that relationships & family have also become disposable and it's really rather sad. I know in my daughter's case, once someone is not of some usefulness to her, she disposes of the relationship as though it was yesterdays trash and she has done the same with me, her mom. It certainly isnt an attitude she got from me or her dad (who is deceased) or my husband of the last 16 yrs for that matter. Some folks are quick to blame the parents, ie we spoiled them too much, we set poor examples, we were too controlling or we were too lenient or we just HAD to do something wrong to be treated with such callous disrespect by our own grown children. While no parent is perfect, I am hard pressed to believe that most of us deserved to be shut out of kids lives as we have.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 11:37AM
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thankyou sarahsmom

i believe that many issues that exist today regarding elder parent and adult child were as troubling back in time as they are today. as far back as biblical times and since this issue has been with us. the commandment you mentioned "honor thy mother and father" is the only commandment that offers a reward if one choose to follow it. why would g-d feel the neccessity to induce a certain behavior by offering an incentive? it's not written like that in any other commandment. the answer might be that g-d knew that parents were not going to be perfect and there would be problems/issues for children to overcome and also how difficult it would be for children to be tempted to disburden themselves of personal responsibility that comes with freewill by falling into the mindset that blames parents for their mistakes. i spent the majority of my life up untill a few years ago choosing to prosecute and persecute my parents for what i had percieved had been done to me. i thought i knew it all, but in reality i knew nothing. it took a few hard hits because i was stubborn, but one day i broke through and everything changed. oddly it was the day after an arguement i had with them that it happened. i didn't reconcile with them because of the reward but it did make me think that if someone was not motivated for of their parents sake perhaps getting something in return for themselves would in the end induce them to try.

as far as any kind of sociological analysis i'm afraid i am not qualified to comment. in any case i believe it takes the conversation away from my personal immediate reality of what i can change, (in terms of myself ie. my attitudes and behavior) rather than putting it in the context of some abstraction or generalization about things i can't alter.i actually think things are better today because of how so much information is being imported into the mass consciousness via the internet. i'm hopeful that more people will be inspired to take chances and explore different strategies at breaking down barriers. i think this forum helps alot of people even when it gets arguementative because because it brings things that are buried within and allows people to express themselves and bring it out into the open for us to see and examine. so regardless of ones motive each entry is relevant and significant and brings us closer to the truth.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 12:05PM
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beginner's eye,

"...your assuming the person apologizes and accepts your apology. what if they don't. is that the fault of the parent as well..."

I'm going to take....fault of the parent out of this equation and provide another example here.

Perhaps a non-apology was given. I have an older sister, who I'm estranged from. She was given to periodic calls out of the blue. Usually, she would rage at me, criticize, judge, etc. Sadly, she just could never connect to my feelings. The point is that it was all about her and her feelings. I got used to her negative judgments and criticisms. She was very aggressive, although I'm convinced that she never saw herself as an aggressive person. She always framed me as the problem. Once, at the urging of some therapy group she decided to make another call. By this time I equated all phone calls and every interaction with her as emotionally painful. As charastic of her, she demanded to know why I avoided her. My sister could never, never see how hurtful her behavior was. EVER! Then she said to me, "...If I apologize, will it make things better?" This took me by surprise and there was a long history of her emotional outbursts, anger and denial. I responded saying I guess so. Then she got mad. Then immediately after she made another very telling comment, she said,"I DON'T GET ANY OF THIS."

I was in therapy at the time and discussed her non-apology with my therapist and why I felt it was insincere--it was a very telling comment to me. She was apologizing for behavior that she didn't UNDERSTAND, because as she said, "She didn't get any of this." Neither could the rest of my family and the rage, anger and blame continued from them. My response was to distance myself even further.

The concept here is that if someone truly doesn't understand how hurtful and destructive their behavior is (and will not own it and don't understand it), then I'm certain that the behavior will continue and there will be repetition.

This may not be the best example, but think of a wife-beater who abuses his wife, then profusely apologizes with flowers, gifts and she reconciles. Then he beats her again, even more cruely than the first time. Then her well-meaning friends or relatives say, "she allowed herself to be manipulated, abused," or they may encourage her to "forgive and forget". Plenty of people MINIMIZE emotional abuse and the damage it creates, because unlike physical abuse you can't see it, therefore if you can't see it, it must not exist.

I can assure you my estrangement from my sister is NOT TO PUNISH her. It is 100% about PROTECTING MYSELF and PROTECTING my emotions. It is not because I do not want
"...resolution/reconciliation/closure/healing". Of course, I want that. I also want change and I want her destructive behaviors to STOP. I want her to demonstrate AWARENESS and I want to be convinced that she UNDERSTANDS why she is apologizing. I'm not interested in prolonging the conflict. I'M NOT INTERESTED IN PROLONGING EMOTIONAL ABUSE with someone who DOESN'T UNDERSTAND my feelings. I am also not looking for perfection of character. Responsibility and awareness, YES. That is what I am looking for. My intest is in preserving some sense of myself and protecting myself. I posted on another thread about the Art of Apologizing.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 12:29PM
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dear flowergardenmuse,

the content and context you are refering to was in response to a different post. your situation is different. you seem to have researched the subject very deeply and are very knowlegable. you are right in everything you said.
i am personally less preoccupied these days with what my older siblings do or don't do. i've learned over time that their agenda is more concerned about protecting their self image rather than engaging in authentic dialogue that would disclose the distortions in their rationalizations. i would simularly have looked forward to the oppurtunity of exposing how my own perceptions were wrong and biased. i'm quite motivated to let go of any false assumptions on my part that obstruct the possibility of resolution. it's always been my experience that two people who disagree can come out stronger from an arguement than before. it's a compliment to the other person that your even willing to participate in a process that will call into question ones perspective; it tells the other person that they are important. i believe you've done that, and it appears you sister was merely going thru the motions.

these days i've gotten to a point where apologies aren't as important as they use to be for all the reasons you highlighted. i never apologized to my parents overtly, nor did i require them to apologize to me. we could tell by our actions towards each other that we were both now aware of our past and were willing and eager to begin anew. you are right apologies aren't always sincere; in many cases it's just given to appease with no real insight.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 2:33PM
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Thank you. I have spent a lot of time researching because I needed deeper knowledge. It helped to alleviate a burden--the one where I felt I was always responsible. Of course that goes back to how a child learns to cope in response to their parents. People offering superficial cliches or responding with "don't take it personally," was not enough to help ease the emotional pain that I felt. For me it made the situation worse. I still had to deal with behaviors where there was a lot of dissonance between words and actions. I would agree that in some cases an overt apology is not needed, especially so if actions demonstrate sincerity. Every situation is unique and depending on what the issues are I tend to feel that an overt apology backed up by consistent actions demonstrating sincerity is the best course to choose, if making amends and healing is the deisred outcome.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 10:23AM
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