A people pleaser

On the whole I think I have done rather well getting over my manipulative and permanently critical mother.

I have a good marriage, two special teenagers and friends who care about me.  I’ve made a career in marketing and am currently working for a small company where I enjoy being one of the team. 

But, and it’s quite a big but there are still things left over from my childhood that I can’t quite master.   For example I sometimes wake up at night really anxious that  problems my close friends have might somehow be my fault and feel guilty that I can’t make whatever it is better for them.  It’s even worse if my husband has a bad day or week at work.  He’s quite a high powered lawyer and of course some cases are particularly difficult.  Nor can he win them all.  When he’s down I actually feel a pain in my chest that this too might be my fault.   

Overall I try my best to please everyone, which at times is exhausting.  For example one of my teenagers is vegan, the other loves fish, while my husband is a solid meat and two veg man.  Sometimes I make three different dinners to keep them all happy.  My husband often tells me I am too easy on  our son and daughter,  but I am just the same with him because I go along with plans I am not very keen on.  

One reason is because I hate arguments.  There were so many when I lived with my parents.  I remember trembling with both fear and anger not least because I wasn’t allowed to express myself. 

I am able to say what I think at work, because I am confident in my skills and also keep part of me back.  It’s different with my family.  They mean so much to me that I try never to reveal that I have been hurt or annoyed them.  I  dare not risk rejection.   

I’d be grateful for any tips. 

Our view:

You have coped very well to have both a career and a family and  interesting that you have freed yourself to speak out at work. Perhaps you can think about how and why you have been able to do this. If you fear rejection at home that’s where you should start.

 

 

   You have created a close and loving family so it is unlikely that they will turn on you just because you stand up for yourself.  It is important to be genuine in a family and this means revealing your thoughts and feelings. Unlike your past experiences at home with your parents you may well find that your own family will not be angry or feel threatened if you stand your ground. Your anxiety about doing so stems from your parents,  It is understandable but also irrational.  It may be a good time to challenge some of  your fears and feelings of responsibility.  Take it slowly and try to tackle one thing at a time.

  You have created a close and loving family so it is unlikely that they will turn on you just because you stand up for yourself.  It is important to be genuine in a family and this means revealing your thoughts and feelings. Unlike your past experiences at home with your parents you may well find that your own family will not be angry or feel threatened if you stand your ground. Your anxiety about doing so stems from your parents,  It is understandable but also irrational.  It may be a good time to challenge some of  your fears and feelings of responsibility.  Take it slowly and try to tackle one thing at a time.

An Arrogant Mother

My mother is an incredible snob and the most arrogant person I know.  Despite not being  particularly well off  she thinks of herself as the ‘lady of the manor,’  and better than anyone we  know.  She has also been hugely critical of every friend of mine she’s met.

 

I remember a boyfriend I had when I was nineteen who was clever and funny but not particularly good looking.   My mother totally rubbished him telling me he had horrible thin lips which meant he was both ugly and nasty.   She falls out with her friends too for the most superficial reasons: like shopping at the ‘wrong’ supermarket, buying the occasional outfit from a charity shop and liking baked beans on toast.  

 

As for me, I am constantly bombarded with nonsense about what the right way to behave and that the reason I am still single in my thirties is because I don’t wear nail varnish on my fingernails.  ‘Men don’t like women who are unkempt’ she told me. 

I have no idea what makes her like this. Sometimes when I see her strut about like a male peacock, I have to stop myself from laughing.  It’s all so terribly phony.  Do you think it’s a front because she is so insecure inside?

 

 Our comment  It sounds like you understand your mother and recognise that her pretentiousness conceals deep feelings of insecurity. It is possible that she is so ashamed of who she really is that she goes to great lengths to hide it.  Considering herself to be above others may be one way she gains some confidence. Finding her behaviour amusing is one way to help yourself cope with her as there is nothing you can do to change her.  Nonetheless be aware of her attempts to belittle and criticise you and stay true to your own desire to be authentic.    

Our comment

It sounds like you understand your mother and recognise that her pretentiousness conceals deep feelings of insecurity. It is possible that she is so ashamed of who she really is that she goes to great lengths to hide it.  Considering herself to be above others may be one way she gains some confidence. Finding her behaviour amusing is one way to help yourself cope with her as there is nothing you can do to change her.  Nonetheless be aware of her attempts to belittle and criticise you and stay true to your own desire to be authentic. 

 

Fathers' Day June 17

My father never accepted that any of his three children were ever in pain or that they’d been genuinely hurt. If any of us fell over he’d  ignore any bleeding and call us names like ‘silly softy’.  I remember once occasion when he told me my grazed, bleeding knee didn’t hurt and that I needed to grow up.  I was seven at the time.    

Once my ten-year old brother Tom fell off a climbing frame in the local park and landed awkwardly on his arm.   Dad shouted at him for always spoiling our outings.  When we got home Dad refused to let our mother ‘fuss’ over him and she didn’t dare disobey.  But once he  had left to work, Mum took Tom  to hospital and an x-ray showed he’d broken his arm.

Now we are all grown up we keep our distance .  He however tells us firmly we have to spoil him on Father’s Day. What should we do? 

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We suggest that as you are already keeping your distance you can do the same for Father’s Day. You are adults now and are entitled to decide how each of you wants to mark this day. If you feel that he does not deserve to be spoiled then don’t spoil him. You can acknowledge the day with a card that has a simple message of Happy Father’s Day. If you choose to send a gift again it can be a small token that he would like. You do not have to visit unless you choose to. If you visit and he is rude or unpleasant then you could make an excuse and leave sooner.

 

 

Can You Help Us?

 OUR POST this week is to ask you to help us help you better.   We would like to know when you realised that your mother or father was ‘horrid.’  Was it, for  example,  a light bulb moment and if so how old were you at the time?   Or did it dawn on you slowly?   Was it seeing a warm, loving relationship between a friend and their parent that made you realise yours was very different?   Or was it through therapy?  We would also like to know what was the unkindest thing your horrid parent said or did.  Might it have been, for example, their endless criticism, that gradually wore you down and left a painful legacy.  Did they put their own needs before yours which  left you feeling unwanted and unloved?

OUR POST this week is to ask you to help us help you better.   We would like to know when you realised that your mother or father was ‘horrid.’  Was it, for  example,  a light bulb moment and if so how old were you at the time?   Or did it dawn on you slowly?   Was it seeing a warm, loving relationship between a friend and their parent that made you realise yours was very different?   Or was it through therapy?

We would also like to know what was the unkindest thing your horrid parent said or did.  Might it have been, for example, their endless criticism, that gradually wore you down and left a painful legacy.  Did they put their own needs before yours which  left you feeling unwanted and unloved?

 

 

 Our website  www.myhorridparent.com  makes it clear that we do not include in our Horrid Parent list, parents who are strict as this type of parent can be well meaning and want their child to grow up with strong values.  We also don’t include parents who physically or sexually abuse their child.  This is a situation for the police.   Children understandably accept their mother and father because that is all they know.  They also need to rely on them for the necessities of life.    Teenagers and adults, however,  see their parents for who they are, even if they feel unable to share their thoughts with friends because if you don’t have a horrid parent yourself it’s not easy to understand what your friend is going through.   Please use the website on our forum, email us directly  al@myhorridparent.com  or use Facebook for your comments.   Feel free to be anonymous but we would like an idea of your age.  We are focusing on the wide-range of  behaviour and actions of a  horrid  mother or father.  Thank you. 

Our website www.myhorridparent.com makes it clear that we do not include in our Horrid Parent list, parents who are strict as this type of parent can be well meaning and want their child to grow up with strong values.  We also don’t include parents who physically or sexually abuse their child.  This is a situation for the police. 

Children understandably accept their mother and father because that is all they know.  They also need to rely on them for the necessities of life.    Teenagers and adults, however,  see their parents for who they are, even if they feel unable to share their thoughts with friends because if you don’t have a horrid parent yourself it’s not easy to understand what your friend is going through. 

Please use the website on our forum, email us directly al@myhorridparent.com or use Facebook for your comments.   Feel free to be anonymous but we would like an idea of your age.  We are focusing on the wide-range of  behaviour and actions of a  horrid  mother or father.  Thank you. 

Calling You Names

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For the first three decade of my life it really bothered me that my mother obviously enjoyed calling me spiteful names.  It used to get me down and make me feel really bad about myself.  I still hate it but the pain no longer lasts so long.

I was quite a bright kid and loved reading.  You’d think she’d be pleased but instead she called me ‘a geek’ and ‘weirdo’ and ‘swot.’  It took away all the pride of being top of the class.

It didn’t stop there.  If my room was untidy she’d call me ‘a pig.’  Often in front of visitors and my friends.  When I told her it was a horrible thing to do and really upset me, she’d give a phony laugh and accuse me of not having a sense of humour.   Telling her I didn’t laugh because it wasn’t funny had no effect.

By the time I left home to go to university I had a really low opinion of myself and the things that I was good at counted for nothing. 

Over the years I’ve come to realise that the name calling had very little to do with me and lots to do with her.  She is a bully and it has been her way of feeling good about herself.  It is shocking that she uses me like a punch bag to make herself feel better rather than try to deal with it herself.   

Eight years ago I told her that the name calling had to stop or I wouldn’t come and see her.  They haven’t so I just pop by around Christmas for a very short while. 

I feel guilty but it’s worked for me because I am happier, much more confident and won’t take any rudeness from anyone. 

 

Our comments:

Using derogatory words to put your child down is cruel and demeaning.  The person doing the name calling often pretends if is a joke or teasing, but you are right to describe is as bullying.   It is also very difficult to dismiss them and they can define us.

Well done for learning how to feel happy, take pride in yourself and refuse to tolerate her rudeness and name-calling.    We would, however recommend that you try not to feel guilty as it is certainly not your fault. 

 

 

 

When Your Kind Parent Dies First

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I am devastated.  My kind sweet mother died two months ago and I miss her hugely.  Although she could't stand up to my father or even protect me properly from his tempestuous tempers and manipulative behaviour, she did her best.  She also made being at home bearable. 

In a way her passing was a relief.  She had been ill for some time and eventually gave up on life.  I visited her as much as I could despite living some 30 miles away and having three children and a busy job to manage.  The problem is, since her passing, my father has become even more of a nightmare.  I understand that he cared about her in his rather strange way, and that he doesn’t want to appear vulnerable.  But I can’t cope with his domineering behaviour.   He tells me I have to do his shopping and cooking now my mother has gone and will not accept any excuses. When I explain about my own demands he criticises me for being ungrateful for all he’s done for me, like sending me to a decent school.

A small part of me feels sorry for him because I know he hates being alone, but I feel I am crumbling under the pressure he is putting on me and my own grief.  My husband has suggested that I cut contact with him because we have never got on and it was only my mother that held things together, but my conscience won’t let me.  Please help.  

How sad that you have lost the mother you loved and however much a parent’s passing has been anticipated their death still comes as a shock.  Do allow yourself time to grieve and begin to come to terms with her no longer being in your life.   

Your sympathy for your father shows you have a good heart.  As your loss is so recent, it might be too early to decide to cut him out of your life.  It is a decision for the future. Meanwhile we recommend that you   put your family at the top of your priority list.  Discuss with your husband how much time and support t's reasonable for you to give your father now, and try to explain this to your father.   If he responds badly you could write to him instead. He needs to start to think about how he will manage his own life without your mother, but it is his responsibility not yours. If he makes you feels guilty this is even more reason for you to establish boundaries from the beginning.

A Submissive Mother

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My mother’s role in life is to defend my father under any circumstances.

He is never wrong and she always puts his needs first.  In return he is self-centered, unkind and even cruel.  It would be different if they didn’t have any children but they do.  My older sister and I have put together a list of things our mother has repeatedly told us for over thirty years.

You should do what you father tells you.  He is your father after all.

Your father is far too kind to say something like that.

Your father loves you really, he doesn’t mean it.

We have this meal every weekend because your father likes it.

I cannot come and look after your children while you have flu because your father likes me to be home when he gets back from work.

You cannot come and visit because your father doesn’t like noisy children.

If one of us visit them we can’t wait to leave.  Our father is a stickler for timing and meals must be served on the dot.  He even goes ahead  if I’ve rung to say the traffic has been terrible and I’ll be a few minutes late.  As well as being unpleasant to us he always gloats at the power he wields over our mother.  We cringe with how compliant she is in return.  We can’t believe she loves him, but she won’t hear a word of criticism and is totally submissive.  It makes us feel that we just don’t count.  The good thing is that we have the same views about their relationship and how they behave with us and each other much needed support.

Can you explain what it is all about?

It’s very hard to understand the relationship between your parents when  your mother is so submissive and your father so controlling and harder to believe she can love him.  Your mother may be staying because he is such a bully, through a sense of duty,  or she feels she has no alternative.  It’s also no surprise you have a mass of strong feelings and it’s sad that your mother’s lack of emotional honesty towards you and your sister has left you feeling bereft. 

You may also be right that your parents would have been better without children, particularly as they haven’t seized he opportunity to change once they became grandparents.  It is their loss.

You are unlikely to alter the attitude of either parent but if you take a step back you could perhaps see that your mother is trapped and unable/unwilling to change because she doesn’t have the emotional or financial capacity to act differently.

Your parents don’t seem to want you to be close so we suggest you focus on your positive loving relationship with your sister and new families.  It will help you feel stronger and build your confidence. 

A story of neglect

'It took me decades to finally realise that I had been neglected by my mother and just as long to try to overcome the affect it has had.

As a child I never climbed into her bed for a morning  hug nor do I remember walking down the street holding her hand.  New clothes were extremely rare and then I had to wear them until the T-shirts and jumpers didn’t reach my waist and I couldn’t do my skirts or trousers up before I’d get a replacement.

She’d even take away my plate if I didn’t eat quickly enough saying she had no time to wait for me to finish and in any case she didn’t want me to get fat.  Nor was she around much.  She was keen to keep up with new films and plays and her friends and barely stayed in.  My father was around a little more but he too was busy.  I mostly felt invisible at home. 

Luckily I was quite bright and did well enough at school to go to a good university and build a stable career.  Initially I felt guilty about buying myself new clothes, then I went on a binge and bought far too much but finally  reached a balance by buying something new each season without going crazy. 

The emotional effect on me has been more difficult to handle.   

I find it difficult to trust people and when I do I become quite needy and worry that if I give of myself I might get hurt.   I’m hopeless at parties as I think no one would really want to talk to me and when the person I am talking to looks beyond me to find someone more interesting I want the floor to open up underneath me.  It’s also embarrassing when friends show me photo albums of their childhood as there are hardly any photos of me as a child and they are just kept loose in a box.    

Things changed in my late thirties when one of my divorced colleagues  took me out to dinner.  He has custody of his two children who had by chance also suffered from a mother who had neglected them.   The children and I clicked when we met.  Perhaps we instinctively felt each other’s need and over time have  formed a strong bond.   By focusing on their needs rather than mine I became stronger and more confident.   Their father and I married two years ago and  I don’t remember ever being happier.  I even believe that he loves me as much as he appreciates my relationship with the children.   Yet in spite of all this I sometimes feel empty inside and that I don’t deserve their love.  How can I stop these feelings?'

 

       You have managed to overcome a neglectful childhood which is a terrific achievement. You have also found a man who loves you for yourself and this has helped you understand your past and be close to his children.  Bu it's understandable that your past can still haunt you. .   We suggest that you write down some of the sad moments you remember from your childhood together with positive statements like: ‘I didn’t deserve to be ignored over this’ or ‘I was loveable and shouldn’t have been pushed aside’.  This should help you believe in yourself and deserve to be loved.    

 

 

You have managed to overcome a neglectful childhood which is a terrific achievement. You have also found a man who loves you for yourself and this has helped you understand your past and be close to his children.  Bu it's understandable that your past can still haunt you. . 

We suggest that you write down some of the sad moments you remember from your childhood together with positive statements like: ‘I didn’t deserve to be ignored over this’ or ‘I was loveable and shouldn’t have been pushed aside’.  This should help you believe in yourself and deserve to be loved. 

 

Mother's Day

Help! It’s nearly Mother’s Day and I don’t know what to do. 

My mother makes it obvious that she doesn’t like me and that whatever I do is wrong.  I don’t want to buy her flowers, chocolates or send a loving card.  If I do past experience tells me she will say something like:  ‘surely you didn’t waste your money on this? You know full well that I think cut flowers need too much looking after,’ or ‘chocolates make me fat, especially this brand.’   

But if I don’t mark it in some way she’s likely to say: ‘Everyone else’s daughter is buying their mother something nice.  I’ve always known you were a disappointment.’  Or compare me unfavourably with my brother who in her eyes does everything right.  Last year she said rather menacingly: ‘ I had a beautiful card from your brother…now I know who really loves me’.  The fact is that it is true.   I don’t love her and he does.  The problem is I’d feel so guilty if I didn’t get her something. 

Be prepared that whatever you do is likely to be wrong and your mother can seize it as an opportunity to criticise you.  Choosing to ignore the day, which after all, is over commercialised, can trigger a row and may be used by your mother for years to come as an example of how thoughtless and ungrateful you are. 

 

 Even choosing the right card is fraught with problems.  For some difficult mothers a card decorated with hearts and flowers and addressed to ‘the best mother in the word’ is the least you can do.  If they have shown you little love or support during and beyond your childhood buying a card like that may stick in your throat.  In which case it’s best to buy a card with simple words that are not too effusive.  However you decide to handle the day do remember that you don’t have to do what you have always done.  You can change both your mind and your behaviour and you don’t need to justify it.   Don’t visit and make a fuss of her if you don’t want to and don't feel guilty about your decision.  But do remember to steel yourself for her to react unpleasantly.  Check out the Coping page on our website for some tips on how to protect yourself.

Even choosing the right card is fraught with problems.  For some difficult mothers a card decorated with hearts and flowers and addressed to ‘the best mother in the word’ is the least you can do.

If they have shown you little love or support during and beyond your childhood buying a card like that may stick in your throat.  In which case it’s best to buy a card with simple words that are not too effusive.

However you decide to handle the day do remember that you don’t have to do what you have always done.  You can change both your mind and your behaviour and you don’t need to justify it.   Don’t visit and make a fuss of her if you don’t want to and don't feel guilty about your decision.  But do remember to steel yourself for her to react unpleasantly.  Check out the Coping page on our website for some tips on how to protect yourself.