My parents’ relationship has broken down and it’s hard for me to know what to do.  I’m seventeen so still at home while my brother is away at uni.  My father  has always been a controlling bully and over the years I have learnt to cope by keeping my head down and trying to please him. Our father has now made it clear he will leave us  and divorce Mum, but gets furious if any of us ask dare him why. I can understand that he and Mum  are unhappy together, that’s been going on for ages.   But instead of just leaving, he’s stayed put,  sleeps in the spare room and is full of rage all the time.  He is also incredibly hostile towards my mother and keeps on telling me what an awful person she is.  It’s obvious he wants me to turn against her.   I think she is a caring mother and I find it so painful to listen to his his vile comments.  They barely talk to each other now, except to have loud slanging matches.  I try to stay out of the house as much as possible but still feel caught in the middle.  I worry where we will live and what will happen to me.  I have tried to raise the subject with Mum but she seems  too brow-beaten to help me. I feel completely overwhelmed by the situation and don’t know what to do.



Being in the middle of divorcing parents is extremely hard and significantly worse is you have a horrid parent. Especially when one parent says cruel and unkind things about the other and you have no support and understanding.  So it’s not surprising that your feelings are raw and overwhelming.  It might help to find a sympathetic adult to help.   Perhaps you could talk to one of your teachers and ask them or your GP to recommend a counselor. If you feel desperate you could contact Childline as they will listen and support you.

Do remember that you have had the courage to recognise and manage your father’s difficult behaviou.  At the moment that you are in the middle of turmoil but it won’t go on for ever.  Your parents will sort out their marriage and you will have a future.  You will soon be eighteen and able to make life decisions that suit you.


My friend is like my horrid parent

Recently an old school friend has come back into my life. She has heard that there is a room coming vacant in the house I share and has asked if she can move in. The problem is that since we’ve met up again, she reminds me of my mother.  She is a difficult mother and taken advantage of every opportunity to undermine me. If I challenge her she will always make the situation my fault.  She claims suggestions are helpful but I know from experience they are criticisms and put-downs. I have learnt  over the years to distance myself, keep her at arms length and try to make our conversations uncontroversial. 

toxic friend pexels-photo-313690.jpeg

So when this friend first came round to my home, and started moving the cushions around in the sitting room and told me to change the ‘dreadful’ curtains that I chose and like, it suddenly struck me she had very similar characteristics to my mother.  Unfortunately she has assumed that my house mate, who she hasn’t even met yet, and I will automatically agree to her moving in, but I am very anxious about it.  I fear that if she moves in she will take control and decide how the place is run. But if I turn down her request, that will be the end of our friendship.  I am someone who finds it hard to say ‘no’ but having left home some years ago I treasure my freedom and don’t want to take a backwards step and let someone make me feel uncomfortable or even control me. 

It often happens that the experience of a horrid parent makes you recognise the signs when other difficult people appear in your life. This includes friends and colleagues. Well done for finding a  way to manage your mother by keeping her at arms length and we would recommend you do the same with your friend.  You may lose her friendship but if she is as toxic as you describe you are better off without her.  Instead try to make new, true friends who make you feel at ease and good about yourself.  


Choosing Your Life's Partner


I’ve been with my girlfriend for the last nine months.  She now wants to move in with me but I keep making excuses.   She’s fine, in fact she’s better than fine, but I am secretly terrified that she will turn into my mother.

My mother was definitely a horrid parent.  Forever putting me down, losing her temper over the least thing, constantly critical and lots more that I read on the my horrid parent website. 

I’ve worked really hard to build up my confidence, be positive and enjoy my life.  I’ve got a great career, lots of friends and when I go to their homes I see how family life can work very well.

BUT  it’s a big step for me to live with someone and risk it all going wrong.


While we don’t know your girlfriend or you we gently recommend asking yourself the following questions. 

Does she know and understand what a difficult childhood you had?

Is she sympathetic?

Does she respond to your mother, we assume they have met, in a way that makes you feel supported?

Is she happy to talk through your issues with your mother?

Does she compliment you on the things you do and say?

Does she criticise you?

Has she seen the real you, anxiety and all?

If you want children do you think she would make a loving mother?

We believe that any child who has had a difficult parent needs a caring partner who will make them feel good about themselves.  It can make a world of difference to your life going forwards. 

If on the other hand if her behaviour reminds you of your mother steer clear and don’t get too involved. 

Breaking Free From Your Horrid Parent

Help!  I can’t stand it any more.  I just want to break all contact with my mother. The trouble is I’ve said it so many times, and on each occasion, when I cool down I start to feel so guilty that I back off and just can’t do it.

But I can’t be her doormat any more, be blamed for everything and let her now abuse my children or rather one of them whom she seems to have something against.


If I talk to friends some say ‘just end it,’ but that is much easier said than done.   Others say  ‘surely it can’t be that bad.  She’s getting on a bit now.  Can’t you be a bit more patient?’  I want to shout ‘NO’ I can’t be more patient.  I’ve had more than enough abuse for several life times.  Instead I just nod my head.  They mean well but  they just don’t understand. 

This is a very common problem for offspring of a horrid parent.  

There are three ways to  withdraw yourself from your mother's life   You can cut her off in one firm action .  You can slowly and quietly reduce contact.  Or you can try to manage her from a distance.   This means not living close, not being available at all times and,  if, for example, she starts yelling down the phone, tell her politely that you have to go now and turn off your mobile. 

 It’s a matter of personal choice as to which path you follow. 

Whatever you decide to do be strong about it.  Don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.  Don'e  even listen to yourself on a bad day when you feel wracked with guilt. 

If you do feel guilty think about your own family and especially the child your mother doesn’t like and ask yourself where your allegiance should be.  Tell yourself that it is vitally important to protect your own children from experiencing what you endured.  Then think how guilty you will feel if you keep putting your child in a position where your mother can hurt her. 

Remind yourself that you are still a good enough daughter despite not being in close contact with your mother.   

If you do choose to make a firm break, wait for several months before reassessing your situation.   Hopefully by then you will have a more objective view.  If you still feel you can’t abandon her altogether try to be less emotional.  Perhaps tell yourself she is an elderly neighbour  you need to care for now and then.  You can then set the agenda rather than dance to her tune.

What Does A Horrid Parent Not Teach You?

How to control your temper.  


"I was brought up in an environment where my father had regular outbursts of rage. They could be triggered over the smallest thing, like me accidentally dropping some food on the floor, or someone overtaking him in a smarter car. 

Instead of discussions there were screaming matches.  I felt attacked and could never get a word in edgeways.  The trouble is since my twenties I also tend to yell when something or someone upsets me.  One minute I am calm and the next full of rage.  I find it very difficult to cope with and afterwards I often feel wretched.  One trigger is when I  jump to a negative conclusion about someone's behaviour and accuse them in my head of deliberately doing something against me.  Often I  find out later they haven't done any such thing.     

I also find it very hard to tell people they've upset me.  Instead my impulse is to walk away and never see then again, which, once I’ve calmed down, seems ridiculous even to me.    Can you help?

Most horrid parents can’t handle their emotions and instead have irrational, sudden bursts of temper.  Unfortunately their offspring often follow this bad example, because they haven’t learnt by example how to manage their feelings.  


It is  normal to feel angry sometimes, but it shouldn’t overwhelm you.  It’s important to feel in control of yourself when you talk to friends, partners, children, other drivers, and in the work place. Even toddlers need to learn that a temper tantrum is not going to let them have their own way.

A horrid parent can also find it so difficult to talk about any  strong emotion they are feeling, that they’d rather cut the person they are cross with out of their life rather than try to sort out rationally what is wrong.   Any attempt to explain themselves is likely to result in them blaming someone else - they themselves are never wrong.  Nor is their rage likely to be stopped by a logical or reasoned discussion.  If an offspring tries to express their view, the parent will probably sneer at them, lie or twist their words.  We wouldn’t advise discussing emotions with your horrid parent, but do ask advise from someone who is close to you.


Counting slowly to ten or twenty before you show your anger might help put off your rage and when the intensity lessens remind yourself that your assumptions could be wrong.  Then, once you are calmer ask the person you are cross with straightforward questions to find out what they really meant or did, which might give a different perspective on what has infuriated you. Then, if you need to, make sure you have calmed down then put your view across in a controlled way.   

It's also worth trying to understand  the real source of your anger.  Ask yourself if it is all to do with your horrid parent and if there are particular situations or people who make you furious because they remind you of your horrid parent.  Work out too if losing your temper is more likely if you are tired, hungry or in a bad mood.  Think about keeping a diary to see if there are any patterns.  It might help you be aware when you can be particularly thin skinned and prepare yourself in advance. 

See the Coping page on the website for some useful suggestions. 




I know from experience that jealousy is a green-eyed monster and the number one monster is my mother.


Throughout my life she has urged me to do my best and make her proud.  She wanted me to look smart, marry well and be generous towards my three children.  Then WHAM! A short while later she tries to demean me, ridicule how I spend my hard earned salary,  criticise what I have bought my children and how I’ve lavished care on my husband and home.

It’s taken me years to work it out but the pattern is she wants me to have things, then gets jealous and resentful and wants me somehow to put them all back.

I have been plagued by stories that when she was a young girl she didn’t have the toys I had as a child.  That her opportunities for a career were limited because ‘in my day women stayed at home to look after the children.’  She says she could have made more of her life if only she had married a man who, like my husband, helped out at home.  ‘Your father never washed up or changed a nappy and wanted his meal on the table the minute he arrived from work so I was tied to the kitchen for life.’

I feel for her at one level because she has a good brain and it must have been frustrating and hard but it’s certainly not my fault.  In fact it’s got nothing to do with me at all.

Sadly the jealousy is all pervading.   She’s become so bitter and mean and I now believe she doesn’t want me to be happy.  It’s very upsetting and her spiteful comments have also upset my children. 

Jealousy is a corrosive emotion that eats away at an individual’s sense of self.  In theory your mother should be delighted that you have done so well, but in practice her own lack of confidence and opportunities brings out the worst in her.

Perhaps she also feels threatened that her relationship with you comes very low in your priorities. But if she goes on and on about the lack of toys in her childhood decades ago and is spiteful about what you have achieved, change the subject or, if it is getting you down, reduce the number of times you see or speak to her.   No one sails through Life and you have obviously worked hard both personally and professionally and deserve your happiness.   Don’t let her take it away. 

Mother-in-Law from hell

It took me a while to find the right man.  Tom is younger than me but doesn’t seem to mind.  He’s also seems to have totally accepted that at 38 my body clock is ticking fast. 

We are living together and he wants us to marry before we try for a baby.  My parents and brother like him and we both earn well, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t.  But there is one looming dark cloud, and that is his mother.


She is a nightmare.   She obviously wants to stay as the most important woman in his life and gives the impression I am a thief who wants to take him away from her.   I’ve met her three times so far, but, apart from telling me how wonderful Tom is, which I agree, on each occasion she's said  "only a very special woman" would be good enough to be his wife.   I’ve got the message that she doesn't believe I am that person.  Otherwise she largely ignores me and just talks to Tom.    

She won’t engage with anything to do with the wedding, or even meet my parents.  Tom has worked hard to persuade her to be part of a get together.  She’s twice said she will come and see them, then cancels at the last minute with really feeble excuses. 

When I’ve asked him about their relationship he says he feels sorry for her because she is a widow and believesshe is lonely.  He rings her twice a day and visits her two or three times a week, on his own.  That is obviously not enough for her as she keeps ringing to tell him  all sorts of things are not working in her flat and that only he can fix them.    

I’m rather fed up that he won’t take a stand or make me his priority.  He says it will all change after we marry, but will it?  I don’t know how I will take a mother-in-law from hell.

A selfish, self-obsessed mother-in-law can make married life very difficult.   Tom needs to take a step back and see his mother’s behaviour for what it is.  A way to keep him under control and fight off anyone who seems a threat.  The manipulation is so powerful that many sons in this position don’t commit themselves to a permanent relationship until after their mother’s death.

Tom sounds like a responsible supportive son and feels that since widowhood his mother is more isolated and dependent on him. This is kind but misguided.  His mother needs to develop a life for herself.  Don’t nag him or criticise his mother.  He may jump to her defence as he has probably been under her thumb for a long time. Instead speak to him honestly about how you feeland ask what changes he feels he can make.  These should start before your marriage.  You don’t need to go through a ceremony for them to happen. 

Meanwhile try in a sympathetic way to help him sort through how he can support both you and his mother. Perhaps help her build up a list of reliable workmen who can fix things for her.  And find a new hobby.  It is probably going to be a slow process so give him time to develop his ideas.

On the other hand he may accept his responsibility to you and loosen his ties to his mother, especially once he becomes a father. Talk things through with your own parents, if you get on well with them,  for their advice and support. 


I have had enough.  I can’t take it any more.  I am well over  21 and will not be told what to do by my father.

He’s a lawyer and wanted me to follow in his footsteps.  Legal detail bores me rigid and I refused.  I wanted to go to art school and be a graphic designer instead.  He was furious.  His father and brother are also lawyers and he told me I was letting down the whole family.

In the end we sort of compromised by me choosing to do a degree neither of us was enthusiastic about. 

He asked his friends to give me work experience  too but I didn’t want to be in a situation where they could report back on how I was getting on.  So I found my own part-time job in a wine bar.  He didn’t like that.

After my degree I carried on working in the bar and went to art school in the evening.  By then my father barely spoke to me.  But when he heard I’d actually got a lowly job in an advertising agency, he went ballistic.  I  stood up to him  and still do, but it's not been easy.  

As a child I was intimidated by him but never dared argue.  When I was a teenager,  I listened to his orders and  then if I disagreed quietly did what  I wanted.  Now I am defying him out loud and getting the full wrath of his temper.  I feel it is the right thing to do, not least because I have since been promoted several times by the agency.  I’m also painting in my spare time,  which helps relieve my stress and gives me enormous pleasure.  Whenever we speak he always tells me that I am a huge disappointment.  So I barely see or speak to him now because I won’t listen to him  telling me how to live my life. 



Well done for sticking up for yourself and also for moving forward gradually with how you want to live your life. In principle we encourage compromise between offspring and parents, even when they are difficult, but no one should choose their life and career purely because it is what their parent has told them to do.  It  must be up to you.  Nor should parents try to get a second chance of living their lives through their children.    It is though worth thinking everything through carefully because  you should be certain f that your path isn't based on spiting  your bullying parent.  Once you feel confident in your choices go full steam ahead.  Also  make sure you believe in yourself.   

Well done for sticking up for yourself and also for moving forward gradually with how you want to live your life. In principle we encourage compromise between offspring and parents, even when they are difficult, but no one should choose their life and career purely because it is what their parent has told them to do.  It  must be up to you. 

Nor should parents try to get a second chance of living their lives through their children.   

It is though worth thinking everything through carefully because  you should be certain f that your path isn't based on spiting  your bullying parent. 

Once you feel confident in your choices go full steam ahead.  Also  make sure you believe in yourself. 


Will I Be Okay at College?

Since I got my A Level results and my college place secured, my mother has been more disparaging and critical of me than ever.  You’d think she’d be thrilled and really proud of my success.  But no.  Instead she’s telling me I won’t make friends or  manage to look after myself and will end up spending my time drinking alone.  I keep telling myself not to believe her and suspect she will miss not having me around to nag and bully.   


I feel lucky to have got into my first choice of university to do the subject I chose.   I was keen to get as far away from home as possible and I’m relieved I won’t be able to come back for a day trip.  It means I can start a new episode in my life where I don’t feel I am forever walking on eggshells. It’s something I’ve dreamed of and has made all my hard work worthwhile. 

I’m off soon but to be honest I do have concerns.   Money will be tight.  My mother has been blackmailing me that if I don’t do what I’m told, I can forget about any financial help coming from her.   I tell myself I have my grant and will try to get a part-time job.  

I'm also unsure how to deal with my mother while I am away.   I need to maintain some contact as I will be home during the holidays and want to avoid a endless criticism on how neglectful I was during term time.   Should I ring once a week, or once a month?  Also how should I react if she’s rude to me?  Should I try texting instead?   Or even invite her to come and see me, which, to be honest I would dread.

Although I have longed for my freedom for years and relish the chance to be responsible for myself and to hang out with new friends, I’d be grateful for any helpful hints.

Congratulations on doing so well and feeling positive about coping with your new life.  Here are a few suggestions. 

As your controlling mother has always bossed you around, it could  initially be difficult for you to make your own decisions.   You might unwittingly wonder what you mother wants you to do.  Push the thoughts away, be patient and perhaps talk things through with a new friend.   The more you make decisions the easier it will get.

It’s exciting to study a subject you choose, but if after a few weeks you realise that in fact you have signed up to something your mother pushed you into, you can of course switch courses.  Undergraduates make changes for a host of reasons.  Be prepared though for your mother’s criticism.  She sounds she could find fault  with anything.   

It’s good too that you want to stay in touch with her. You may even, to your surprise feel homesick and miss her a little, especially during your first few weeks away when everything is so new and different.   Keep yourself busy, join a few clubs and it shouldn’t last long.   Your mother is likely to miss you too, even if she doesn’t admit it.  This could make her even more difficult.  

We advise you to experiment with your phone calls.  Try taking the initiative and ring when it suits you so she doesn’t catch you off guard.  That way you can think about what to say in advance. Remember you don’t have to tell her everything you are doing. Instead try to confine yourself to neutral, unemotional subjects.  Don't talk for too long and if she is really unpleasant make excuses to end the call.

Do look on our website Coping page for some more practical help on this. 




Trust and Intimacy


I am in my mid thirties and very wary of trusting and getting close to anyone.  I am so used to bottling up my emotions that I find it hard to open up. 

I’ve always kept quiet about my troubled home life with my difficult parent.  Partly because I am ashamed of it, and partly because if friends get on with their parents, they will find it hard to understand and think it must be my fault.    

Until about ten years ago I was sort of comfortable about it.  I could be the life and soul of a party, but intimate confessions were out.  The most I ever said was “I am not that close to my parents” or “I couldn’t wait to leave home” but that was about it.

I was particularly wary about boyfriends.  There were plenty around, but most didn’t last for more than a few weeks, especially when they were obviously keen.  It made me feel under pressure to give more of myself in all sorts of ways and I couldn’t face being vulnerable. 

But now I have met someone who I believe understands me.  I feel relaxed in his company.  He makes me laugh, has a strong sense of self but is also very caring.   He’s broken one barrier in that we have been together for six months.  We have had sex too.   We are very compatible but I am still quite shy and find myself trying to stay in control, because I don’t dare let go.   Part of me wants to tell him more about my rotten childhood but I don’t want to give him something he could use against me – I am that untrusting – or that would put him off. 

But nor do I want to be trapped or haunted by my past and blocked from having a fulfilled life. 

It’s not easy to trust someone when your parents have let you down.  Staying in control is a form of self-protection that can help prevent you from getting hurt.  But it can also be a barrier to intimacy. 

If you genuinely want to get close to your boyfriend, you have to let go and surrender yourself to your emotions and feelings.  It doesn’t, though, have to happen all at once.  Try talking more intimately first.  You can test your boyfriend’s reaction by telling him selected stories of some of your experiences at home.    Choose your time carefully.  Avoid the subject even if you have geared yourself up if he has had a bad day, or not feeling well. 

If you feel relief rather than regret about what you have told him, this should help you let your guard down sexually.  Of course it’s scary and you are bound to feel anxious, but it sounds as if you at the gateway of having a contented happy life with someone who really cares about you and whom you can trust.  

Do take it one small step at a time so it doesn’t feel overwhelming.


Do come onto our forum via the website and share your experiences.






Empty Nest Syndrome

I don’t know how much my reaction to my 18-year-old daughter leaving home for a gap year is to do with my own upbringing, but I am dreading it.  Next will come university and I expect I will hardly see her outside of the holidays.  My 17-year-old son will no doubt want to do the same and I dread to think how I’ll cope once they have both flown the nest. 

I am an only child and my mother made me very unhappy with her endless criticisms and put downs.  As a result my childhood was both sad and lonely and I spend a lot of time longing for a loving family of my own. 


Fortunately I wasn’t entirely crushed by my mother and used her behaviour as a template on how to do things differently.  My husband, children and I are all very close and both kids at different times have asked me for advice even as teenagers.  It is something I feel very proud of. 

But I worry about letting them go.  I still feel attached to them by an invisible umbilical cord that tugs at my heart and I can’t help feel responsible for them.  I am so used to discussing everything together too, that it’s hard to think of them out in the world, making their own decisions without any input from me.

I also worry that they will not want to have much contact with me once they leave home.  They have been so vital to my happiness and I already feel abandoned as if my life as a mother is over.

My husband has been kind and tells me it’s lucky I have a job I enjoy and that now is the time to perhaps find a new hobby and think about my need more.

Of course I wouldn’t dream of telling my children any of this and certainly not that I have been crying my eyes out for weeks.  I want them to feel free, at least in theory but it’s so hard in practice.  


It's a landmark for any parent when a child leaves home and many find it traumatic and upsetting.  Mothers, in particular, can feel they have been cast on a rubbish heap.  Or that that their life is over.   It isn’t of course, but their relationship with their child will and should change, but it can be just as fulfilling and loving.  Just more adult.  When a child has time apart from their parents it gives them space to view their upbringing more objectively.  Many then realise what support they have had and often become more appreciative.  Especially if while they are away they find that the mess they leave in their bedroom is still there when they come back and its up to them to sort out what they eat and when.     

It is important for a parent to accept that one phase in their relationship with their children is over so another can begin.  This is the time when it is important not to be too possessive or involved in everything they do.  Take a step back, and give them privacy and freedom.  They shouldn't feel  guilty or responsible for you.  Good parenting means the young person you reared so lovingly, is  ready to go out into the world and make their own mistakes.  It can be painful for a parent when a child of any age is in trouble, but no one has a perfect life and all you have given them as children should  help them cope. 

Fortunately the pain and longing usually eases after a while. Your husband has given you good advice.  Think positively what you can do with your extra time.  Do more things together and  perhaps even plan a second honeymoon.   

Do come onto our forum via the website and offer any thoughts or experiences  you think might help.  








Being Ignored


My mother used to regularly ignore me.   It took all sorts of forms.  For example if we were travelling somewhere by train, I would be the only one not asked if I wanted anything when the trolley came through the carriage. 

Sometimes I could miss out on a meal altogether.  My younger brother and sister would get their full plate but not me.  I’d have to ask for something to eat several times as my mother seemed to go deaf when I spoke.   I felt acutely embarrassed, especially when my younger sister spoke up for me.  It was kind of her but sort of humiliating too.

Nor did my view ever count.  I was never consulted about anything, whether it was about what film we should watch or a choice of birthday present for our grandmother.    When I tried to offer an opinion, my mother would sneer, or tell  me mine was a ridiculous idea, and I hadn’t got a clue.  Sometimes when I felt strong  and wanted to check Iwas right about her behaviour I’d  support both sides of a discussion,  but she would mock me either way.

When I felt less confident, I would feel undermined. not least because she never let me justify myself. 

Now she is behaving the same way towards my second child.  He’s a gentle eight-year-old boy who wants to be liked.  But most of the time she pretends he is not there.  My supportive husband has noticed this too and a couple of times has tried to talk tactfully to my mother about it.  She’s vigorously denied saying what we both heard her say and instead told him he is imaging it.  We are now discussing whether we should cut our visits right down. 


Your mother is using a form of manipulation to wear you down.   Trying to reason with her won’t work as she seems to be the type of person who will then become illogical and irrational as she doesn't want a resolution.  It’s common too for this type to lie and deny what they have said in such a firm way that you could even doubt yourself.    

We suggest that when your mother behaves badly you stay calm, but leave as soon as you can.  Don’t offer an excuse as this is likely escalate the argument. Leave with dignity and follow our cooling off suggestions on our Coping Page.

Likes and Dislikes

It’s good to have a strong dad.  It makes him a role model and someone to look up to when you are small. 

It’s very different once you become a teenager.  My father loves rugby and American football.  He is always suggesting we go to the park ‘for a kick around,’ and talks to me endlessly about players whose names I barely recognise.  I have tried to look keen but it’s hard as I am not interested in sport.   It was no surprise to me that I wasn’t chosen for any school team but he has seen it as both a rejection of him and proof of my inadequacy as his only son. 

He also insisted that I play the guitar.  I had lessons from 8 – 13 but rarely practiced as it didn’t interest me.  I much prefer classical music and art,  but dad’s focus is purely on what reminds him of his youth and he told me countless times that .playing the guitar helped him pick up girlfriends at parties.

He also sent me off to boarding school when I was eleven.  This is strange as he complained regularly that his parents sent him away to board at eight to get rid of him.  He’s never forgiven them because he hated it so much.  Despite this I had to board, which never suited me and made me feel trapped.  Even though boarding schools are not as draconian as they were and Harry Potter has made them acceptable, for an academic non sporty kid like me it just didn’t work.    

I’ve tried to tell him politely that I have every right to choose what I like and dislike, but it always ends up with him shouting at him and saying how disappointed he is with me as his son. 


It is very difficult for children whose parents don’t see them as individuals in their own right and  instead want a second chance to live their lives through them.

 Now you have gone to university you will be able to have interests and hobbies that suit you. 

From Horrid Mum to Horrid Grandmother

I have a difficult dilemma and am not sure how to handle it.

I have a great marriage and two daughters I love to bits.  My problem is with my horrid mother, who has grown into an equally horrid grandmother.  When I had my first child my husband and I talked through how much, if any contact my child and I  would have with her.   I felt there should be some, not least because I didn’t want to deprive our child of a grandmother.  My husband agreed and also felt the change in status might encourage her to be a better person.  I felt quite skeptical about this. 

Sadly the relationship between my mother and I has become increasingly strained.  We live a three hour drive away from my parents’ home so tend to stay longer than we’d like to.  I start feeling tense as soon as we are on the way and remain so throughout the visit wondering what she is going to say next in front of my girls, either about me or how I bring them up.   It belittles me and is awful for them to hear.  

Instead of seeing our visit in a positive light, she tries to prove she is still in charge and is often spiteful and mean.  Last time she offered the children chocolate biscuits but walked past me saying in conspiratorial tones to them:  ‘We think mummy’s much too fat to eat biscuits, don’t we?’ which they didn’t know how to answer.    My husband moved to sit next to me, held my hand and said:  ‘We think mummy’s lovely,’ a comment my mother ignored.  Each visit is as bad or worse than the last.

Now our daughters are seven and five they’ve asked me on the way home why she is‘always’ so unkind to me and criticises everything I do.  It’s touching how they stand up for me, and I try not to show I’m upset.    

My problem is I don’t know how much to tell them about my mother’s behaviour  when I was their age.  I also don’t know whether to leave them at home except during the summer holidays and around Christmas and just go myself.  Or cut my mother out of our lives completely.  


It is a good idea to have a debriefing session in the car on your way home. 

But we don’t think you should tell them the details of how she treated you when you were young.  Let them form their own view of their grandmother and protect them when necessary. 

If your children get upset by the visits, cut them right down.  Try short phone calls or Skype instead.  But the number of times you go is up to you. We don’t recommend trying to explain the situation to your mother as she will only blame you.   


Please share your views on this difficult subject on our forum.  





Subtle Domination

I had always thought of myself as being relatively capable and confident once I had left home and moved away from my manipulative mother. I pushed ahead with my career, made my own friends and lived independently without her constant criticism and carping. And relished the chance of finding my feet, and life opening up for me. 

Then I met Charlie. He was handsome, clever and funny and I felt proud that he had chosen me as his girlfriend. He also took such an interest in me which l lovedas it was so different to my parents.  He even paid for me to go to a fancy hair salon, took me to buy dresses from smart shops, even though I usually preferred to wear jeans. 

When we first went out together he’d grin with pleasure at how I looked and seemed to like showing me off to his friends. As the relationship progressedit became harder to please him but I could never understand exactly what I was doing wrong. I tried to behave as I thought he wanted me to.  He started to criticise me over trivia and I felt the novelty of being with me had worn off.  Warning bells sounded.

Meanwhile at work I had come up with an idea for a great project that would draw on new skills. I knew the idea was a good one, and I could involve other people if I needed help. When I first mentioned my idea to Charlie he seemed happy to discuss it. It took a while for me to realise that although his comments were initially encouraging they were always followed by reasons why the idea wouldn’t work. I carried on developing the project.  When a colleague came up with a serious obstacle, I hoped Charlie would listen and help me find a solution. Instead he said dismissively ‘I knew this would never work as you don’t have the skills. I just humoured you as it seemed so important to you.”  It was then that I realised that my boyfriend was my mother reincarnated.

Be careful not to repeat the experience of being with another horrid person so watch out for controlling behaviour, including put-downs and criticism from a boyfriend or partner. Instead look for friends and relationships that are unconditional and where there is give as well as take. Hold on to your self-worth. If you are worried, try talking to a trusted friend or colleague.


Please share your relationship stories on our forum.  We'd love to hear from you.  

About Love

My Mum would fit nicely into many of the characteristics of being a horrid parent.  She continually told me I was useless that no one would want to be my friend and certainly not marry me.

Not surprisingly my confidence was rock bottom, except thata little voice regularly told me that Mum was wrong.   For much of my teenage years I kept myself to myself.  I had several acquaintances but no really close friends.

When I was sixteen most of my school mates were dating and they’d giggle in the playground about what they’d got up to.  At least that’s what I assumed. 

When boys started getting interested in me at about the same time I said to myself I couldn’t be that awful looking, But I was tongue tied when they spoke to me and didn’t know what to say.  I both did and didn’t want them to kiss me because I was scared how I would respond.  When they did it took a while before I felt anything at all as most of the time I was worried about what they might do next. 


I lost my virginity when I was 22 because you had to at some point but I was so tense and worried that it didn’t really work for me.  Instead I scrubbed myself all over when I got home. 

Most of my relationships ended within three months.  Looking back I think I chose guys who didn’t demand anything emotional from me.  That made me feel safe.  I couldn’t open up.  Nor did I want to.

Then it happened.  I fell for someone eight years older than me.  He was clever and funny and I fancied him like mad.  My head told me to be careful and not let myself go but my heart took no notice.  I was overwhelmed by my feelings which I couldn’t control.  I had had no experience of managing emotions and I became a bit possessive.

He broke off with me and for a while I was devastated.  But I gradually realised that opening myself up to love was something I really wanted and needed.  I just needed to take it more in my stride. It took a bit of practice because I was so fearful of getting hurt but I gradually realised that love fills you with hope, energy, drive and confidence so it was worth being vulnerable and shedding the occasional tears.    I lost a few nice guys on the way but I learnt a lot about how to manage a good relationship.  Something I hadn’t seen at home.

Luckily I found someone who loved me for me and to whom I could tell my story of how my mother put me down.  It was risky confiding in him but it brought us even closer together.  Ten years on I feel a different person.   My marriage is everything I wanted.  I feel relaxed, don’t have to worry about what I say and see that I have lots of good qualities that my mother chose to ignore.  It was certainly worth the risk.  


Please email us your own personal love story or share it on our forum.  We'd love to hear from you. 

Soothing Images

Unpleasant memories can be hard to handle.  They can creep into your mind as nasty images, often in the middle of the night, and won’t go away.  You may find yourself replaying over and over again an upsetting row with your horrid parent, or an argument or unpleasant encounter you experienced outside the family.

The positive news is that there is a way to try and reduce the power of these images.

It is called visualization and is a technique that uses imagery to soothe and manage painful memories.  It can work by itself or be combined with relaxation, mindfulness or meditation.

To try it out find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably, close your eyes and breathe slowly and regularly, easing your stress and tension each time you breathe out.  Do this a few times and then think of an image you find relaxing. It can be a place you have visited, or just somewhere that makes you feel safe. Maybe it’s a particular beach or a countryside view you love and relax in. 

Alternatively you can choose to visualize a painting or photograph that gives you pleasure.   Look at the details carefully or imagine yourself as part of the image.  Take you pick and see what  works for you.

If you try visualisation regularly it can help you in all sorts of ways.

Here are a couple of examples. 

Coping with a low mood.

If you feel particularly sad, choose images that help you relax and picture yourself feeling happy, perhaps with a particular friend. Alternatively think of a recent time when you felt cheerful and remind yourself that you can feel the same way again. 

Dealing with angry feelings

Think about the most relaxing and soothing image you can picture.  Perhaps travelling to a remote and peaceful beauty spot where you can unwind.

If the unpleasant images and thoughts continue, try thinking that they don’t belong to you but you are watching them on television and turn the volume down or change the channel.