Estranged parents and working on Anger

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lavouivre
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Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby lavouivre » 16 May 2012, 16:45

Hello fellow bards, ovates and druids!

I need some shoulders to cry on and some advice for the future and about handling anger.

As I write, I haven't been in touch with my parents for the past two months. We are angry at each other. It all came gradually, and distance and emails did not cool us down. There was in fact an escalation of violent feelings and a misunderstanding of written sentences to account for, but also, at the core of it all, different point of views that we were not aware of.

So now I have estranged parents, and a full load of anger directed towards them. But also the knowledge that this can't go on forever, I love them, they love me, and sooner or later, we will talk again. Especially after I read this article talking about the subject from the parent POV: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/0 ... d-unravel/
My parents are not alcoholic, they were not beating me or abusing me in any way, they do not suffer from any personality disorders and I think they were good parents. So what could have gone wrong?

My parents are overwhelming. Sometimes it can be endearing, and sometimes it can be to the chocking point. They do everything together and want us to be the same way. I don't think they realized that I changed. I married, I have a job, I recently had a daughter, I am building my own family core, with its own dynamics and rules, and my husband being more of the independent type, our way of life is pretty different.
But the tipping point has been money issues - of course, should I say. My husband lost his job during the economic crisis, and being older, has difficulties finding something. The addition of a baby in such times makes him a dad at home who can't afford a nurse or day care and has to look for jobs that pay more than a nurse would, at odd hours when the baby is asleep. He still finds time to cook, do the shopping, do most of the cleaning and be a supportive husband, while I do my best to be a supportive wife, go to work and not nag too often :whistle: and be in good humor and thankful for what he does. It is however pretty hard both on him and on me, and we are not overjoyed everyday, but we make it work so far.
And that is where my parents' patience - and mine - ends. They came to visit 3 weeks after my baby was born. Both my husband and I were tired, our baby waking up every two hours, so I was counting on my parents - especially my mother, who is a great indoors organizer - to help us out. They actually insisted on re-decorating, over-cleaning, and changing furniture's places and being their overwhelming selves. Busy bees, that were not only over-enthusiastic but also judgmental of our ways. Why didn't' we do this, or thought about that? I felt my home wasn't mine anymore, that they were making it their way, because obviously, that's how it worked best. But they were also trying to tell me, a new mother, how to best take care of my baby, and to my husband with his independent ways, they began to question why he wasn't spending more time this and that way instead of doing what he was doing.
I let it go for 3 weeks, and for the first time in my life I felt relieved when they left. But then, having learned I had inherited a small amount from a grandmother, I wrote and asked my parents when they thought I would be able to have this money in hands.
And I received my first cold shower ever, through a lengthy email, where I learned that my husband was a good for nothing, a gigolo living at my expenses and no respect for my parents, that I am a real pigeon, blind to his weaknesses, that I should wake up and let him go, that I live in misery, darkness and a filthy apartment, and at the full force of my life, settling for failure at a job I don't like for that kind of husband. Was I under influence? Was my desire to be loved too strong to make me see straight? Was I weak, with no show of character? I was further told that I would get this money if, and only if, I was going to change my will and open an account under my only name, as it was obvious to them that my husband couldn't wait to get a hold on my inheritance (3,000 Euros). All of this poison mixed with appeals to my intelligence, and how hard it is for them to write such an email, how they love me and want to protect me and help me.

I was scolded, blackmailed, belittled, lectured, insulted (and my husband, father of my child too), not in control of my life, and not recognized the right to build my own family core, but ordered instead back to the stables, to the original family core, under the safety of my parents' wings. I got very, very angry, but tried to tell them so as kindly as I could by email, then I called them on the phone and for the first time ever, was received by my mother like a stranger. Her injured tone, her coldness, making me the bad person upfront and without appeal incensed me so much, and from then on, anger and misunderstandings escalated on both sides.

The last email I wrote I told them that right now we need positive energies in our lives, things are hard enough as they are, that if they can't be positive, then I prefer not to hear it. In my mind, it was a call for ending this escalation, and continue our relationship on other subjects - like how their grand-daughter is growing, the weather, anything, until my husband finds a job. They chose to understand that i don't want to have anything to do with them for now, and as they don't believe that he will ever get a job, that might be forever. I haven't received anything from then since, no email, no news, not even small packages they used to send to my baby, as grand-parents. That makes me even more angry because they put their pride above love, they include my daughter in the fight, they place their ways and judgments above others, and put on blinds while telling me I need to wake up. So there.

I don't think I am wrong by showing my husband support during hard times, by being loyal to him, by respecting the father of my child. I don't think I am blind or under influence, just that I am going through a rough spot with him at my side. I am trying to let go of the anger but so far I can't. Should I even try? Is anger that bad sometimes? Should i see a shrink? What should I do fellow druids? Just wait until my husband does get a job? and when he does, how do I approach my parents again?

Of course you have only my side of the story. My perception of how things are. I have to add that knowing my parents, I know they love me, and probably think they were right to warn me, and did this "in the best of my interest", even if that meant the worst to them (not see me or baby). I know they suffer from the situation as much as I do. I know they are probably hurt not to hear from their grand-daughter (they chose to let her the inheritance money on an account under her name by the way). But I always seem to be the one to try to understand how others think and feel, but that it is not reciprocated. Right now, I need them to feel my position, and I don't think they do.

I am also interested in hearing similar stories about estranged parents/children and why it happened. And i hope it won't happen with my own daughter and me. I think the key is to stay open to criticism, and as a parent it might be hard to do, coming from a child?

Thanks all for reading! :tiphat:

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby samurai » 16 May 2012, 18:44

I've been there,and even though you are in dire straits money wise,I would'nt pursue it.Your loyalty is towards your husband,and in time hopefully your parents will come around ,especially as they have a new grandchild. You yourself seem to be doing a grand job holding your own little family together against the tide.
As they say what does'nt kill you,only makes you stronger".Life throws up lots of twists and turns,and at times emotions run wild,sometimes its just best to keep marching forward and let the dust settle behind you.
Ps,there is alot of positive thoughts being sent over to you from across the ocean.

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby lavouivre » 16 May 2012, 19:18

Thank you Samurai, for the positive thoughts and encouragements. You say you have been there. Does that mean it is behind you now? Did you approach your parents or did you let them approach you?
For now I am trying not to think too much about it and focus on the present. I will let it settle a bit more, at least until my husband is back on his own feet. I have my own pride too, to contend with, and wouldn't want anything to do with my parents until I have the "proof" in hand (for them, not for me) that my husband is not a "gigolo"! :roll:

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby skydove » 17 May 2012, 13:47

Hi lavouivre,
What a hard and distressing time you are all going through, I don't know if what I can say will be of help at all but here goes. I agree that you are doing your best for your husband and child in hard financial times and you must be worn out with all estrangement from your family, and how sad that they could not rise beyond their own thoughts and needs to be a better support to you all.
These are just my impressions from the outside, I'm only an ordinary person having raised our children with my husband mainly with no help from family as they lived too far away, which made us stand on our own feet and work together, so this is looking back to those days and also from the point of seeing our own children leave the nest.
Parents spend their lives protecting their children , trying to do what's best for them, smoothing the way, creating a safe and secure environment for their children - you can probably see this in your attitude to your own child. When that child gets older and no longer needs them it comes as quite a blow to be not exactly unwanted but not at the forefront of their child's lives as they once were, and when they get married you have to take another step much further back as their child's partner becomes the most important person in their grown up son's or daughter's life. However the protective feelings of the parent and the need to care and still be a part of their child's new life does not fade and it can be a very anxious time wondering about how their offsprings life is progressing, are they coping as well as they hope, particularly in your parents case is the husband being a good surrogate mother and father to you. It would be hard to see your situation with your husband unfortunately loosing his job and you supporting the family financially as anything other than a big cause for fear for them, the higher the expectations they have for you the more they would see this as a failure. To understand their attitude maybe look at what their own early marriage was like, were they supported by their own parents or -in laws, have they ever gone through the hardship of the husband loosing a job, if so what held them together, maybe they have no experience of this and if so try and make allowances maybe suggesting some examples of people that you jointly know who have stood together and worked things out. If they have had experience of hardships you could use this as an example of how in a likewise manner you are trying to wok together with your husband to provide jointly the best support for your own marriage and your own child. Try and link your situation to something they know and have experience of that had a positive outcome.
Maybe consider that their visit where they rearranged everything and redecorated was them trying to fit back into their parent role deciding what's best for you showing their love and care in the best way they knew how a role they are comfortable with.The role of offering true support and understanding in adversity to you and your husband is one they do not have experience in so it is much easier to do the first than the second and from their point of view they have done something tangible that can be seen.
People have their limitations and our parents are not us and we are not them though sometimes because they are family we think there should be perfect understanding between us all. In a way you have to take that same step away from your parents and it is equally hard for you too. Concentrate on your husband and child but keep the door wide open for your
parents whom I'm sure love you dearly and don't be afraid to keep making that first move to bring you all back together again. Sometimes ( well I've found that most of the time) if you want horrible situations to end you have to swallow your hurt and pride and go out and make it end.
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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby lavouivre » 17 May 2012, 14:38

Thank you Skydove!
I know my parents meant well and I am certain that everything you said about them is exactly how they feel, you are right. That's why I didn't say too much when they came and re-organized the house. What made me react was their strong and so wrong email, which triggered everything else.
I definitely want to contact them again in the future, even if they don't. I am not going to let the situation stand as is. I just need some time to heal a bit (how do I get rid of the anger? Of the feeling of betrayal, as if I had been stabbed by those I expected the most support from?), and I need my husband to get a job, so that I can give them the proof they need to feel safe about me and my future.
On their side they probably need some time to calm down and heal too.
I wish they never sent me that first email though. Some things have been said - particularly about my husband - that they can't take back. Forgive but not forget is not a rule I ever expected to consider for my close family.

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby lavouivre » 17 May 2012, 14:59

Also, my own parents were not supported by their parents at all. My grandfather on my mother's side never wanted their marriage to happen and so never lifted a finger, and had total control over my grandmother. On my father's side, my grandparents had divorced and were living far away. So my parents were never supported by their own families.
That's why I was surprised at their email and felt betrayed by it: they always told us how important our little family core was, how important it was to be there for each other in bad times and offer unconditional support...

My father lost his job two times in his life, so I tried to link this to my husband's current situation. But my parents do not accept the comparison. My father found a job again quite quickly the first time (he was young and no economic crisis), and the second time he didn't but was close enough to retirement. I tried to explain that they didn't have the same economic crisis and that also my husband is older, and I tried to explain that here in the US, retirement works differently than in Europe, but they don't see my point. My mother doesn't even relate to me about the fact that we both found ourselves the main breadwinner in the household for a while. She doesn't realize that she stayed with my father, as I stay with my husband...

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby skydove » 17 May 2012, 20:36

Hi Lavouvre,
All I can really add from a druid perspective is to vent your anger into the earth, pound your fists on it, cry, scream, the earth will absorb it and transform it as it does all the rotting smelly stuff from nature into a rich compost that can support life again. You have to let go of the anger, it has to undergo a natural process requiring time before this can happen and you like an amputated tree that has lost a limb has to have time for the scar tissue to heal over the wound, but you have to first let go of that anger, almost cut it out so that it doesn't cause rot in the future. You are right to say about learning to forgive, you have to do this when someone has wronged you every time you see them till it no longer hurts, it is a hard process to go through with close family members, but eventually you will be able to put that anger to one side. It may boil down to the old saying that to love someone is to love them 'warts and all' accepting the unpleasant bits about, them not necessarily liking or condoning those bits but appreciating the good bits that you know are beyond the current situation and in the end mean more to you than the horrible bits. You will make the choice of what to do when you are ready for it but go and pound the ground first when it wells up inside you.
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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby lavouivre » 17 May 2012, 20:43

That's a great suggestion Sue! I will pound the earth :x
I think that's what bothers me so much right now: not to know what to do with the anger. Usually anger can be good if you can focus it towards a goal, but since all depends on my husband's success for now, or time, it becomes outbursts of energy focused inside me negatively. Pound the earth I will, until there is nothing left!

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby samurai » 19 May 2012, 12:51

Pound the earth sounds good to me.I came half way with my parents but they had to make the first move.

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby Kima » 19 May 2012, 15:08

It sounds like you are coping well with a difficult situation. Your parents may not fully realize it but they are acting as though you belonged to them, and by extention your husband and child also belong to them. You are right to put some distance between them and your family. Hopefully, they will come to understand their place, which is that of supportive grandparents, and when they do you will be able to let them in again and enjoy their presence in a new light. I wish you all the best!

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby Erithe » 19 May 2012, 21:16

I like the suggestion in the article you linked that suggested not breaking contact entirely ... send holiday cards and baby pictures, etc., but keep your distance till your heart is healed and you feel able to renegotiate your territory. I know, with my Mother especially, this has been a life-long adventure. : ) She's a very strong personality and I'm a very laid-back personality. We've had our fights and disagreements, but we're finally at a place where there are a defined boundaries and that helps a lot. I do battle anger sometimes, but it does become easier with time and conscious effort.

Good luck to you! I hope the earth pounding helps. That would definitely have helped me in the past! : )
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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby lavouivre » 21 May 2012, 15:07

I tried not to severe contacts entirely, before I sent my last email. I sent baby pictures and answered every email that was neutral. But it didn't work. It was as if nothing had ever happened, and after 10 emails like this, they would come back with something offensive. Sending neutral emails and baby pictures sent them the message that I was trying to act normally as if there was no crisis, making them think I kept burying my head in the sand, so they sent me further emails to "wake me up". They needed something strong to put an end to this infernal cycle!
So I wrote my last email, and they chose not to answer.
What makes me angry is that I tried several times to find a solution, I offered them several truce, I constantly worked on my side so as to avoid for us to become completely estranged, I called them for their birthdays, etc, made sure that as grand-parents they could keep an eye on my daughter constantly, see her grow through pics and emails, whatever was happening between us. But they kept pounding and pounding blindly, because for them, as long as I don't follow their advice, it means I don't get the message.

Again, my last email wasn't a break up letter. I was just telling them firmly that I didn't want to hear anything negative for now, until my husband finds a job. And that I didn't want to go see them in October because I don't have the money for the trip, I don't want them to pay for it (indeed, that would put me further under their wings) and I knew what would happen if I traveled in October: ie: the same as in emails, but face to face. But I also said that if in the meantime my husband finds a job, I would try to come. They never answered to this email and kept silent since then, no emails, no phone calls, no letter. As if their pride is more important than their daughter and grand-daughter together.

My daughter's first birthday arrives in July. Should I send them a picture on that day? I think they might see this as a weakness on my side, that I am relenting, while they stay strong in their ivory tower... Is that too much pride to think that way?

The hardest thing is that I don't trust myself entirely anymore:
1- They put the seed of doubt in my mind, about my husband's ability to find a job especially, or the fact that I might be too patient and accepting of some things.
2- I don't know anymore if I am acting wisely, accepting that it is part of growing up and putting firm boundaries around my own family core, or if I am subject to pride and anger.

Another reason why I am angry at them: their "poison" is working in parts on my mind. It puts another uneasy shadow in me.
I am glad I posted this, because it gives me some outside point of views. Thank you so much, all of you, for answering and giving me your insights on this situation.

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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby Erithe » 22 May 2012, 04:07

I think, if you do send pictures, send it via the regular mail. I would not send email or electronic contact ... it's too quick and can be very damaging due to the spur-of-the-moment emotions that sometimes escape into it. Regular mail requires thought and time and it slows down the communication process. That way, you're still sending them contact, but it's a little less immediate, a little more personal in some ways, but it does provide distance, too. Perhaps that could be a way in which you maintain contact, but still protect yourself.

I lived with my mother for a year while I was out of a job. It was very difficult and there came a point where, despite all the attempts I'd made to keep things peaceful between my mother and I ... she decided I wasn't doing enough. It was a really difficult thing to go through. I don't know what to tell you to do to fix things, but I can tell you that you are going through a very real and very rough time. You have every right to focus your energy on keeping your family happy and healthy. It's okay to disagree with your parents, it's okay to feel doubts, and it's beyond okay for you to be angry and want to cry and to want them back all at the same time. It's also okay to protect yourself from negativity and condemnation.

I really hope it all turns out all right in the end. I'm glad you posted because you made me consider things I hadn't thought about in a while.
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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby SonicRed » 22 May 2012, 19:21

Never doubt the strength and rightness of your relationship with your husband due to words spoken (or written) by those outside that bond; if your womanly intuition did not first give you these feelings they are not correct. Remember that, your strength and control comes from this bond, do not doubt it. From everything you have said, both you and he are doing the best you can at this point; continue to do so.
One key thing to always remember in a situation like this is: You cannot control the actions of others nor are you responsible for them. You can however, control and are responsible for, your reactions to them. With that being said, it sounds as if you have done well so far, continue to do so. Love them, forgive them and continue to reach out to them no matter the reaction you receive. Don't throw yourself at them but make it very clear you wish to remain in their lives and you want them in yours. Don’t let them discourage you in this.
It is a natural human response to feel anger, hurt, rejection, betrayal and a desire to inflict the same pain that was inflicted upon you. Essential to coming out of this situation better than before, is to go to the very root of those feelings: Why are they there? Things were said regarding you and your husband that you know are not true, yet because of who said them it did a great deal a damage; you always expected your family to support you, to love you and to never hurt you. Yet they are human and to be human is to err, often grievously; therefore, lay aside those expectations, chose to forgive them, use that forgiveness as a balm for your wounds, and take the energy of your anger and hurt and channel it into an even stronger definition of who you are. A strong, loyal, loving woman, who stands by the side of her husband, offers support and love to him and her child, and choses -despite their errors- to love and forgive her parents.
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Re: Estranged parents and working on Anger

Postby lavouivre » 23 May 2012, 15:22

I think, if you do send pictures, send it via the regular mail. I would not send email or electronic contact ... it's too quick and can be very damaging due to the spur-of-the-moment emotions that sometimes escape into it.
So true! I think it is exactly what happened. When I am ready to contact them again, I will use regular mail first as you suggest, to allow time and distance to act too.
I lived with my mother for a year while I was out of a job. It was very difficult and there came a point where, despite all the attempts I'd made to keep things peaceful between my mother and I ... she decided I wasn't doing enough.
I think only the ones who went through unemployment realize the true weight of it. It does give a new perspective, but we forget so quickly how it is. Living in the margins of society for a while is very damaging to your self-esteem and moral strength. Of course, to outside views, what we do is never enough, because as fully employed individuals, we have the strength, the stamina, the security etc. I am sorry you went through that as well.
I'm glad you posted because you made me consider things I hadn't thought about in a while.
I hope nothing bad or too depressing comes out of this!
Never doubt the strength and rightness of your relationship with your husband due to words spoken (or written) by those outside that bond; if your womanly intuition did not first give you these feelings they are not correct.
That is a good one!Thank you for this SonicRed.
Things were said regarding you and your husband that you know are not true, yet because of who said them it did a great deal a damage; you always expected your family to support you, to love you and to never hurt you.
I read somewhere that anger comes from frustration when an expected behavior is not met. My anger definitely comes from there...
Yet they are human and to be human is to err, often grievously; therefore, lay aside those expectations, chose to forgive them, use that forgiveness as a balm for your wounds, and take the energy of your anger and hurt and channel it into an even stronger definition of who you are. A strong, loyal, loving woman, who stands by the side of her husband, offers support and love to him and her child, and choses -despite their errors- to love and forgive her parents.
This is very powerful. Perhaps I forgot a bit that my parents are humans, not just "my parents". I need a bit more time but I think I might send them a picture of my daughter in 2 months, when she reaches her first year. That will be a nice powerful and positive event to share. And that will remind them too that they are not only human or my parents, they are also grand-parents of an innocent and pure little girl that has nothing to do with the current problem.

Again, thank you all for your advice!!


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