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Meadowlark

When you don't get along well with your parents-and hurt feelings

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Garga, your post is well said. I have a similar person in my extended family..I have often wondered how that person's children's lives would be different if they had been able to go to counseling while they were children, or the home was monitored before they were school age.

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1 hour ago, Garga said:

 

I hope you get a shift. I wrote earlier about having 25 years of an undercurrent of grief about my relationship with my parents.  When I visited them this past June, though, a shift happened.

My parents cannot be real with anyone.  They have many walls.  The biggest wall is to be cheerful All The Time and to constantly entertain everyone with humor and jokes.  There is no room for real connection.  Connection is constantly deflected with various types of jokes.  And so when there were inevitable problems, we could never talk about it.  And when I thought I’d hurt them, I could never talk to them and find out.  And when they hurt me, I could never bring it up.  They’d flat out say, “We don’t want to talk about that,” and then make a joke.  

Finally, this summer, I was visiting my parents (we live far apart), and my mother’s sister was there in the room (as were a bunch of us).  We were all playing a funny game where you make up stories and tell them to each other.  In the middle of the game, my mom and sister received a phone call that their eldest sister had died.  

My aunt looked sad and got teary-eyed.  Obviously.  Now, the death was expected, as the eldest sister (who lives far away so they couldn’t be with her) was known to have only a few days left of life.  

But my mother—yikes.  She saw that my aunt was sad and she cannot handle people’s sad emotions, so she launched into a bizarre monologue about how they were expecting June to die, and how actually it was great she was gone because she’d been in such decline, and really why should they be upset because June had always irritated them anyway and they’d never much liked her, and really, my mom was happy that it was all over.  She even said the words, “I’m happy she’s dead.”  

We all sat there in a bit of shock.  My mom picked up her papers (where she’d written her funny story) and said, “Well, let’s keep playing.”  The others slowly reached for their papers and I said, “Um...I don’t think it’s appropriate to play a funny game within 5 minutes of hearing your sister has died.”  My mother looked very surprised and said, “But my story was so funny!  I wanted to share it!”  I told her she could share it tomorrow, but that now it was time to end the evening.  I felt like I was talking to a 5 year old.  We were at my aunt’s house, so I stood up so that my mom and dad would leave with me.

As we were gathering our stuff, my mom kept telling her sister to be happy that the eldest sister was dead.  Right before we left, when my mother was half out the door, so she couldn’t start monologuing again, I hugged my aunt and said, “It’s ok to be sad,” and she burst into tears.  Which was the normal response.  I don’t care if you never liked your oldest sister, it’s still sad when you get the news she died.  

Later, my mother asked me why I had wanted to leave and why her sister was upset, and I had to explain to her that most people feel sad at death and need to cry about it.  She said, “But I don’t understand.  June was dying and we all knew it and she was sick and we didn’t really like her anyway...” Again, it was like telling a small child about death.  My mother then told me she’s never felt sad at any human’s death.  She’s only been sad about death  when one of her pets dies. But she feels nothing when humans die.

And that was the shift. My relationship with my parents is, obviously, weird.  They’re happy and funny...but there have been problems that are impossible to address and those problems have caused me unresolved pain.  

But I realized that day that my mother is incapable of expressing true deep human emotion.  She has told me a bit about her turbulent childhood, and I realize that she’s hiding behind a gigantic wall, protecting the little person she was growing up.  I’m never going to be able to scale that wall, so our relationship will always be shallow and we’ll never really be close.  

But the grief ended that day.  25 years of mourning the disconnect, and I finally realized what @Indigo Blue said is true;  It’s never been about me.  It’s always been about my parents’ own issues—their own deep seated issues that I cannot overcome.  (My dad is clearly autistic or something along those lines, but it wasn’t dx’d when he was young, so he has a host of his own issues.)

 

I hope you get to that shift.  It changes everything.  This time last year, I’d have been like you and crying if I heard a conversation end that way.  This time, after my visit in June, I would be able to release it.  I really hope you can release it.  

Thanks for sharing your story. Wow. I'm so glad you got your shift because that's tough. My parents are somewhat like your mom-not ever wanting to open the can of worms. They'd much rather just shove everything under the carpet and pretend that we are the Cleaver family from the outside.

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4 minutes ago, Meadowlark said:

So you're saying I shouldn't have bothered to ask if he knew where to go, what time to be there, which entrance to go into so he didn't get caught in chaos? Well, I actually just thought I'd try to be helpful and make the pickup experience as easy as possible. When he said he knew, I didn't push it. 

I also find it odd that you think me talking to my father on the phone for 10 minutes max, was disrespectful. We can respectfully agree to disagree on that because no matter what the angles are, I will not be scapegoated into believing that his inappropriate reaction was in response to me  1) making sure he understood the details of pickup, and 3) talking for about 3 minutes about his granddaughter. I suppose I could get on board with not jumping to the conclusion that he doesn't like me. But, I do believe that years of "stuff" has contributed to a less than stellar view. 

 

exactly on para 1.  If you'd asked him to make dinner, would you give instructions?

I didn't say talking for ten minutes was disrespectful.  I said talking for ten minutes without getting his okay that he wanted to take the time is disrespectful. When you call someone just to chit chat, it is respectful to ask 'do you have a minute, or should I call back at a better time'.  Its disrespectful to assume that they are doing nothing.  It isn't you he dislikes, but your hen party behavior.  He likes short and to the point.  Probably gets enough hen party at home. 

Edited by HeighHo
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Just now, HeighHo said:

 

exactly.  

I didn't say talking for ten minutes was disrespectful.  I said talking for ten minutes without getting his okay that he wanted to take the time is disrespectful. When you call someone just to chit chat, it is respectful to ask 'do you have a minute, or should I call back at a better time'.  Its disrespectful to assume that they are doing nothing.

Well I did ask my mom if he was available to talk, so I assume if he wasn't he would've said he'd call me back or something. I mean, isn't that what we all do? We call people knowing that they will answer if they can, and not if they can't. I don't think it's disrespectful. I didn't assume he was doing nothing just by asking to chat with him.

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6 minutes ago, Meadowlark said:

Well I did ask my mom if he was available to talk, so I assume if he wasn't he would've said he'd call me back or something. I mean, isn't that what we all do? We call people knowing that they will answer if they can, and not if they can't. I don't think it's disrespectful. I didn't assume he was doing nothing just by asking to chat with him.

 

 

No, its not what we all do.  If one interrupts another person, live or over the phone, one does not assume they were not in the midst of something they wanted to do,  and if not an emergency, one asks if they have some time available.  The interrupted person then has the option to decline or defer.  You asked about pick-up, an almost emergency, and  any chit chat following should have been prefaced by asking if he has a few minutes to talk about la la la.  

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If dad can't talk on the phone, he can use his words and say "Sorry to cut you off, but I have to get going", rather than sit there and seethe with resentment.  

Edited by MissLemon
edited for clarity
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1 hour ago, HeighHo said:

 

 

No, its not what we all do.  If one interrupts another person, live or over the phone, one does not assume they were not in the midst of something they wanted to do,  and if not an emergency, one asks if they have some time available.  The interrupted person then has the option to decline or defer.  You asked about pick-up, an almost emergency, and  any chit chat following should have been prefaced by asking if he has a few minutes to talk about la la la.  

 

Count me as another one who doesn't see it that way, especially with parent-child or sibling relationships. Sure, I guess it's nice if people want to inquire, but it's not disrespectful to fail to do so. We're all supposedly adults. People who are too busy to talk are free to let the phone go to voice mail and call back when they are free. They can tell the caller "Hey, I'm in the middle of XYZ, is there something you need?" They can make any one of a dozen different kinds of statements to signal that they have no more time to spend on the phone. What WOULD be disrespectful is for the caller to ignore those statements/cues and continue monopolizing the person's time. (I have a relative like that.) But the OP didn't do that.

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1 hour ago, HeighHo said:

 

exactly on para 1.  If you'd asked him to make dinner, would you give instructions?

I didn't say talking for ten minutes was disrespectful.  I said talking for ten minutes without getting his okay that he wanted to take the time is disrespectful. When you call someone just to chit chat, it is respectful to ask 'do you have a minute, or should I call back at a better time'.  Its disrespectful to assume that they are doing nothing.  It isn't you he dislikes, but your hen party behavior.  He likes short and to the point.  Probably gets enough hen party at home. 

I agree with this point.

for the 2n paragraph

1 hour ago, Meadowlark said:

Well I did ask my mom if he was available to talk, so I assume if he wasn't he would've said he'd call me back or something. I mean, isn't that what we all do? We call people knowing that they will answer if they can, and not if they can't. I don't think it's disrespectful. I didn't assume he was doing nothing just by asking to chat with him.

and your comments:

he's an adult and *should be* perfectly capable of saying "I need to go.  talk to you later".

someone commented that if the toddler was close to the phone, those with hearing issues (re: hearing changes with age) could find it very distracting and harder to understand what was being said. even today, background noise can come through much louder on a phone than in person.  that also could have been what prompted him to ask what the toddler was doing.

OP - the time you are spending on this is indicative it would have been less upsetting to just wake the baby to pick up your son.  (I had to wake the baby a lot.  I didn't have the option not to.).

I'm also one who thinks it would be better to discuss this with your dad, and clear the air. not stew about it.

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1 minute ago, gardenmom5 said:

I agree with this point.

for the 2n paragraph

and your comments:

he's an adult and *should be* perfectly capable of saying "I need to go.  talk to you later".

someone commented that if the toddler was close to the phone, those with hearing issues (re: hearing changes with age) could find it very distracting and harder to understand what was being said. even today, background noise can come through much louder on a phone than in person.  that also could have been what prompted him to ask what the toddler was doing.

OP - the time you are spending on this is indicative it would have been less upsetting to just wake the baby to pick up your son.  (I had to wake the baby a lot.  I didn't have the option not to.).

I'm also one who thinks it would be better to discuss this with your dad, and clear the air. not stew about it.

I don't know how to explain it-but it wasn't like that. He has no hearing issues and my toddler wasn't even being loud. But, I understand that it's impossible to know the exact details as I do. And yep-definitely not going to ask in the future.

I also know that you're right-I've "stewed" about this long enough. Letting it go. I wish to thank all of those who offered a virtual hug or word of encouragement. It helped a difficult situation be a little more bearable. 

Edited by Meadowlark
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Meadowlark, you didn't do anything wrong. You just called your dad to ask a favor and overheard him blasting out his annoyance as he ended the call. (For whatever reason. It doesn't matter.) Taking into account the past history with him and the fact that you've been unsure of things for quite some time, it hurt your feelings. It's simple. Then you opened up about it here. Nothing wrong with that. That's what we all do here. I hope you feel better soon.

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5 minutes ago, Indigo Blue said:

Meadowlark, you didn't do anything wrong. You just called your dad to ask a favor and overheard him blasting out his annoyance as he ended the call. (For whatever reason. It doesn't matter.) Taking into account the past history with him and the fact that you've been unsure of things for quite some time, it hurt your feelings. It's simple. Then you opened up about it here. Nothing wrong with that. That's what we all do here. I hope you feel better soon.

Exactly.

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Meadow Lark… Of course we can’t know exactly what he meant in the situation.  I’m going to go ahead and absolutely take you at your word that this is been a very difficult and strained relationshp  and that he doesn’t deal well with points of conflict. You don’t need to prove it to me nor explain it- I believe you.

I’ve been where you’ve been in some regards… Understanding the nuances and subtleties of a difficult relationship, and overhearing unintended remarks…and trying to reconcile things- realizing that the relationship isn’t as calm as I had hoped.

And then when to talk to others who don’t know the history or relationship, I’m made to feel  as though of the problem and responsibility is somehow mine, or that I misunderstanding or miss reading the situation. 

So I’m pretty huge on validating and taking people at their words. It seems like this is hurtful to you and that you were genuinely struggled with this relationship. And I honor that.

 Bluntly, sometimes what it comes down to is exactly what it looks like… The difificult person is being an ass.

 

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8 minutes ago, LarlaB said:

Meadow Lark… Of course we can’t know exactly what he meant in the situation.  I’m going to go ahead and absolutely take you at your word that this is been a very difficult and strained relationshp  and that he doesn’t deal well with points of conflict. You don’t need to prove it to me nor explain it- I believe you.

I’ve been where you’ve been in some regards… Understanding the nuances and subtleties of a difficult relationship, and overhearing unintended remarks…and trying to reconcile things- realizing that the relationship isn’t as calm as I had hoped.

And then when to talk to others who don’t know the history or relationship, I’m made to feel  as though of the problem and responsibility is somehow mine, or that I misunderstanding or miss reading the situation. 

So I’m pretty huge on validating and taking people at their words. It seems like this is hurtful to you and that you were genuinely struggled with this relationship. And I honor that.

 Bluntly, sometimes what it comes down to is exactly what it looks like… The difificult person is being an ass.

 

Amen.

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I believe you that it was how you said. I am sorry that your dad was annoyed to have such a short conversation with you. I know that must be hurtful. I think you know things have been strained but you wanted to preserve what little relationship you did have because they were your parents. Since you guys have helped them and they helped you it is not unreasonable to ask a favor. I am sorry that you found out what your dad thinks of you. You did nothing wrong. He is the one who has emotional and attachment issues and now you can try to keep that in mind and keep your distance more. 

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2 hours ago, Meadowlark said:

I don't know how to explain it-but it wasn't like that. He has no hearing issues and my toddler wasn't even being loud. But, I understand that it's impossible to know the exact details as I do. And yep-definitely not going to ask in the future.

I also know that you're right-I've "stewed" about this long enough. Letting it go. I wish to thank all of those who offered a virtual hug or word of encouragement. It helped a difficult situation be a little more bearable. 

background noise is louder on the phone than the person in the room with it.  I could hear the (normal day) wind when my daughter was walking outside.  It was very distracting.  If I had been standing next to her, I wouldn't have noticed it at all.

it's disappointing when we can't have the relationship with a parent we would wish - but sometimes that just isn't possible.  if you can't talk to him about this, it sounds like you are trying too hard to have a relationship that really isn't' based on mutual respect, and you end up being hurt.  do you want your kids to emulate that?  (the subsuming yourself to have a relationship with another person)  they are watching you.   cultivate the relationship with them you wish you had with your parents, but don't.  one day they will be adults.  while it doesn't make -up for the disappointment of what you didn't have, there is still a great deal of satisfaction that you are/were the parent you wish you had.

read boundaries by townsend and cloud.  be realistic about what a relationship with your parents is capable of being (not what you wish it was), then let the rest go.  (cue 1ds singing "let it go")

 

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54 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

read boundaries by townsend and cloud.  be realistic about what a relationship with your parents is capable of being (not what you wish it was), then let the rest go.  (cue 1ds singing "let it go")

 

1

I downloaded a sample of this book on your recommendation.  I'm only about two dozen pages into it, and I can relate to SO much of what's happening in the book.   Like, chin-on-the-floor-oh-my-god-that's-my-life type of moment as I read the pages. 

The timing of the recommendation is excellent, too, because things have been rough between me and my dad lately.  (Dad = zero boundaries, Me = struggling to put boundaries in place and seething with anger when he doesn't respect my boundaries). 

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1 hour ago, MissLemon said:

I downloaded a sample of this book on your recommendation.  I'm only about two dozen pages into it, and I can relate to SO much of what's happening in the book.   Like, chin-on-the-floor-oh-my-god-that's-my-life type of moment as I read the pages. 

The timing of the recommendation is excellent, too, because things have been rough between me and my dad lately.  (Dad = zero boundaries, Me = struggling to put boundaries in place and seething with anger when he doesn't respect my boundaries). 

hugs.

I grew up in a family with no boundaries.  fences make good neighbors and boundaries make good family relationships.

the trick is being willing to walk away.  don't negotiate.  don't make an ultimatum, you just "do".   I started with one 15 minute phone call once a week with my grandmother, as long as she behaved.   many never made it past five minutes. no ultimatum, just  "bye", and hang up.

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2 hours ago, MissLemon said:

The issue I am having with my dad is that he always finds a new way to pole-vault over a boundary.  Just when I think I've got everything pretty locked down so he can't surprise me, bam!  He finds some new, weird thing to do that I never anticipated.  This year, it was collaborating with my mother-in-law on a super personal, embarrassing Christmas gift.  Dad and MIL don't really know each other, (they met once? Maybe twice? in 12 years and live 1000+ miles apart).  I never expected they would work together for a gift.  Now he's got a lot of hurt feelings because I didn't love this weird gift, and also doesn't want to talk about why I had to say "Please do not collaborate with my in-laws on surprises for me.  If they approach you, please tell me before going forward with their plans".  He says "Fine.  I figured *weird gift* would be harmless, but fine". 

Just...ugh!  I dunno, Dad, I can't possibly anticipate and articulate every single permutation of a boundary.  I thought "Don't deliberately embarrass your children or help other people embarrass your children" was understood, but apparently not?  I guess I have to specify each, individual way I could potentially be embarrassed, lest he say "Well, I didn't know that XYZ would upset you!  You never told me not to XYZ, so it's not my fault".  And then everyone else sighs and mumbles about I'm just so difficult and have so  many rules and I make it so hard to understand and love me.   

That's just a vent.  I know there's no great solution.    

sounds like he's got a hostility problem.  loving parents don't give their children super embarrassing presents in front of other people unless they have some animus, and they certainly don't engage that child's in-laws to conspire with them against their child. (don't take it personally - it's about him.)  I would expect him to NOT honor your request to refrain from collaborating with your inlaws over gifts.  (given this behavior - I would expect him to do so again just to annoy you.)   I also wouldn't join (or invite) him for gift giving occasions.  if he pulls one out in front of the crowd as a surprise, I'd pack up and leave with said gifts unopened. he will make the scene in front of everyone.  you really don't need to say anything.  just turn around and walk out the door.   those who will take his side are likely under his thumb in other ways.  those that aren't - will have their eyes opened to his behavior if they're unaware of it still.  you may even give some the courage to stand up to him.

his hurt feelings are on him, and he's trying to guilt you for daring to not submit to his tactic of humiliating you in front of other people.  don't take the guilt -  it's his, and he can keep it. (this is also known as gaslighting.)

this was a favorite tactic of my grandmother.  my sister - her favorite/victim - started going away at Christmas.  at first, it was to avoid family (grandmother didn't get a say in it, though she whined.), then it was because they enjoyed it.

never explain your boundary to a boundary crossing person.  they consider it akin to throwing down the gauntlet and issuing an engraved invitation to cross it.  it gives them pleasure to remind you they have the power of control (and you don't).  you just say bye, and  walk out. you just say goodbye and hang up the phone.  you just don't invite them to your children's birthday parties. (let alone tell them about it beforehand.)   by not telling them your "boundaries", they can't stop you when you enforce them.  (though they will whine about it.)

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Please try not to overthink this, wondering what you may have said wrong or anything like that.

When someone does or says something that seems hurtful to me, I ask myself, is this one event out of character for them?  If it is, then I either just let it go, realizing it was a weird fluke event and not really who they are, or I ask them what it was about so that I have a better understanding of what happened.  (And in case it was me who caused it!)

If it is NOT out of character for this person, then it wouldn't really be a surprise at all.  You've already stated that he has a history of having a very limited perspective on things, and has lived life unable/unwilling to see anyone's point of view but his.  Whether it's just how his personality evolved over the years -- probably due to his own upbringing, or some mild mental condition, who knows.  They are his issues, not yours.

So, know that it's not about you, at all.  In fact, I'm sure that in his own way, he loves you, it's just buried until irrational behaviors, emotions, and thinking.

I guess I'd try and just accept that he is who he is and never have any more expectations than that.  The one positive is that he likes your dh, even though he initially thought he wouldn't!  The other really big positive is that you have turned out to be a thoughtful, mature woman despite your father.

 

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Here’s the deal: 

it seems like a personal thing not because it was a one time thing. It seems like a personal thing because of the relationship as a whole.

i have this prickly kind of relationship in my life and to a normal person without these prickly relationships, the solution “just call them and talk it out.” Seems to make sense. If only it were so easy..

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1 hour ago, fairfarmhand said:

Here’s the deal: 

it seems like a personal thing not because it was a one time thing. It seems like a personal thing because of the relationship as a whole.

i have this prickly kind of relationship in my life and to a normal person without these prickly relationships, the solution “just call them and talk it out.” Seems to make sense. If only it were so easy..

yes.  a normal person, you should talk.  

some people . . . . don't try and teach the pig to sing.  it wastes your time and annoys the pig. . . . .

but when that is the case, you need to stop having expectations of having a "real" two-way relationship.  they're not capable of having one, and you will always end up either walking on eggshells or disappointed.   when you have unrealistic expectations of where the relationship is/want-it-to-be, you will get hurt because you're disappointed.   

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8 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

yes.  a normal person, you should talk.  

some people . . . . don't try and teach the pig to sing.  it wastes your time and annoys the pig. . . . .

but when that is the case, you need to stop having expectations of having a "real" two-way relationship.  they're not capable of having one, and you will always end up either walking on eggshells or disappointed.   when you have unrealistic expectations of where the relationship is/want-it-to-be, you will get hurt because you're disappointed.   

Absolutely. Sometimes it takes a long time to really sink in that this person's way of relating to you is *for real* broken. So many of us keep hoping and hoping for that someday magical Hallmark moment. We can know in our brains that there's a 99.999% certainty that things will never be what we wish for it to be...and yet, the ache for that to be there just. won't. die. And we hope and hope and hope and time and time again, we're disappointed and hurt. We can say it out loud to others. "Something is wrong with them, its them, it's not me." and still...the sting happens.

Like @Mergath said above. Sometimes something happens to completely break the cycle of hoping...But it can be a long time coming, 

So yeah, those of us who have the prickly relationships...we KNOW. We do KNOW it. And yet...it still hurts. It still can be confusing. It still is frustrating. And it's especially so when those prickly people have what seem to be decent relationships with other people. But just not us. 

 

OP, I get it. I really do. And it's so sad. 

I'm sorry. 

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