Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Post estrangement: Whose rules?

When you are the parent of an adult offspring who shows signs of having a disturbed character, you can probably look back and realize that you were “groomed” for the role of “doormat” by them from when they were quite little.  You realize that your commitment to unconditionally love has been used against your own best interests.

What I believed while I was parenting. 

If you are like me, you overlooked the little mean things they did and the cruel things they said, you excused the behaviour, explaining to yourself; “she (or he) is only a child and will learn to become a kinder and a more compassionate person because that is what I am showing them every day by role model and as I treat them kindly even when they hurt me they will most surly learn kindness”.

However they never did learn that!  What they learned instead is that “Mom (or Dad) backs down when I treat her bad” and they then continued to repeat the behaviour over and over again.  

And the process is repeated over and over as the parent backs down again and yet again in the name of unconditional love and compassion and kindness and a desire to keep the peace and to be mindful of the child’s self-esteem!

And then suddenly one day you wake up and realize that you have become a compete and total door Mat! 

Everything you do or say is with the singular thought of appeasing said child (walking on eggshells), to make them feel good about themselves in hopes of them learning to be kinder and more compassionate. 

Then finally you realize that being a door mat only made one thing possible, the aggrandizement of said child to the point where they think they are superior and better than you.  They feel that they have the right to bully you and put you down.  They feel that because you have backed down so many times before that you will always back down to their controlling demands.

Time passes, you back down so often that it becomes your expected response to all their bullying behaviour.  The trouble is that they keep upping the ante.  The demands and the desire for control, the put downs, the abuses keep becoming greater and greater, causing you more and more hurt and pain.  Your own self esteem is slowly whittled away and whittled away some more.

Until one day everything charges.  It is the day when they cross a boundary and say or do such hurtful mean things to you that you are backed up against a wall of resistance.  That wall of resistance is your self-esteem hollering at you that “No we can’t back up anymore and see ourselves as a self-respecting individual with rights and deserving of equal respect.”

That is the day the door mat gets up off of the floor and says “NO MORE”.

That is the day the controlling abusive child now grown to controlling manipulative adulthood screams “you have changed” and now they call you crazy for deciding that it was time to stop playing their game. 

They now turn to a new game!  They start to play the victim, blaming you for everything wrong in their lives.  You have refused the designated duty as their door mat and so they rechristen you their “scapegoat.” 

When you stopped playing the door mat game by their rules of conduct, when you no longer supported the abusive and unkind behaviours, you then became their “scapegoat” to explain why they do not need to change their oh so perfect ways to conform to the normal social rules of decent behaviours and conduct, because it was all your fault all along anyways.

Using you as a scapegoat becomes their way of excusing their bad behaviour.  Their treatment of you now is because “you deserved it” their reasoning being, because you did not conform to their rules. You stopped allowing them to be the one in control of the relationship!  You stood up for your right to be treated with respect! 

Now they go to outlandish extremes pointing out your many, many faults and flaws as to why you deserve to treated this way, why you deserve to be shunned and ostracized and estranged.  Why you deserve to be punished and bullied with emotional abuse.  

They will create stories about you and spread those stories as truth without even a second’s worth of remorse, because of course they deserve to make sure the world sees them as perfect and you as the awful person you are for not supporting their wonderfulness at the expense of your own self-worth.

They continue to act like the controlling bully they have been all along only now you are rejected for having the temerity to stand up for your own rights to be treated with respect.  And the rules they have written for the future is that you won’t be allowed back into their lives until you apologize for changing the rules and revert back to your door mat role.  For only by going back to the previous status quo, where you enabled your own abuse can they feel all powerful and in control.

And that is why I believe that many, if not most, estrangements by adult offspring will never have a happy ending. 

They feel they have no need to change their character or their behaviours, while we are expected to revert to previous doormat status.   

They do not need to grow or learn or change to become better people (because they already perceive themselves as perfect), we need to revert to subservient mode to allow them the illusion that they are, always have been and always will be superior. 

They have no trouble justifying their behaviour because they truly and deeply feel entitled to everything we are withholding (adoring praise of their perfectness even when that perfectness includes hurting us).  And they deeply hold on to the conviction that we are at fault for all their perceived unhappiness, issues, difficulties in life and whatever else is less than perfect in their estimation. They deeply feel they have the right to punish us for not seeing their perfectness. How dare we refuse to continue to play slave to their omnipotence!  How dare we disrupt their dream bubble, their facade of pretenses that entitles them to manipulate us for their personal gain!

They do not see their character disturbances as a weakness; they see their lack of conscience and empathy as a strength, one they do not wish to relinquish.

They do not wish a relationship between two equals they wish a relationship where they are the power and the controlling force.  Nothing less is for them a satisfactory outcome. 

And that is why they do not relent in their continued estrangement; we are denying them their expected outcome. As we continue to grow and learn and confidently say “I deserve more, I deserve better, I too am worthy" we set the bar for a much higher return of respect than they have ever had to give us in the past.

In many ways the longer the estrangement lasts the less likely there is to be a resolution.  For the longer we are forced to deal with all the emotional fall out of being ostracized, abandoned, bullied, shamed, etc. that comes with being estranged the stronger we grow in our desire to never again revert to being subjugated. The stronger and more confident we become the less likely we are to cave to their demands. And the less likely we are to cave the less likely they are to give us entry into their world.

Renate Dundys Marrello

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  1. This. This is my story with my oldest daughter. My self esteem is still hurting as I try to recover from the hate she inflicted on me by her words, then taking away my granddaughters from me. The part of your story that amazes me still is the part where I woke up and finally started to see what was happening and I refused to be her doormat anymore. That is when she took the girls away from me.

  2. Interesting. My estranged daughter admitted to being mean to me when she was younger, and excused her own self by saying, "but I was just a child". No apologies, just that observation.

  3. I thought I was the only one. Thank you for your observations.

  4. Wow! My husband and I relate so much to this due to our current relationship with our youngest daughter (36). I still struggle with what we could have done or not done in her early years in order for this pattern of behavior to have developed. We have another daughter 2.5 years older that could be more opposite in her character and behavior. Thank you for putting an explanation for our pain into words and for doing it so with such professional, yet personal adeptness.

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  6. Thank you for posting this article. I have just disowned my only child, a son of 45. We had already had a round of estrangement about a year ago, wherein he had abandoned me, because of the man I had just become engaged too, as well as his children. Way to many details to state here, but after 6-7 months, we were able to reconcile. I have been walking on eggshells ever since. It came to a head a few days ago, when he blew up at me again. This time was the last time & he has been told that I am gone, & he is being removed as my proxy, & from my will etc., because I see no happy outcome, just as you have noted. I will always love him, but I just can't, & won't, take it anymore.

  7. This is step by step EXACTLY the description of my lifelong relationship with my daughter and in the same order of progression If I had the skills to write , word for word , this could have been my words on our experiences and transitions. I thought it was just me, i thought our situation was unique that no other mother or daughter could possibly have experienced what we are going thru, but it is as if our lives were being observed and documented and the proof is this article, tMy own words and efforts and actions so perfectly described right there, right down to the repetitive cyle until i finally said no more and demanded respect, stood up for myself and earned the title of bitch for doing do , to the retreat and reorganization of my daughters attack as she , unable to get me to return to my doormat existence has taken the described step of enforcing the estrangement from her family, including my grand daughter.. and as I have finally reached the point where i am not willing to return to doormat status the continued estrangement is "my fault" and she is gearing up and really going full force to destroy any credibility I had she is reaching out, having deleted me from her contacts and crafting the most creative stories of her life of how sick and twisted my thinking is how hurtful and abusive unsupportive when all i have sdone was feed into her praising her reminding her how great and blessed she is how much she is loved etc all the while I have been feeding the monster ..... so yes I do bear responsibility here cause I enabled her to abuse me and I did not stick up for myself and demand respect sooner cause I actually began to think I was the pos she has groomed me to believe i am and I have been kissing her ass for the sake of my granddaughter and to keep the piece, constantly walking on eggsheels so as not to rock the boat... Yep sad as i am I feel that holding my ground is right and let her say whatever I am better and stronger than shewill ever believe me to be, i have earned the right to hold my head up and i refuse to revert back into my hole and role as doormat.. I love her with all my heart but I really do not like her at all, and THAT IS OK, I do not have to, she NEEDS a Mom who will stand up for herself and demand respect even if she will never acknowledge it, cause as her daughter grows she many very well be walking the same fire coals that she has had me walking all these years.(that I was so unwittingly agreeable to do)

  8. No one knows or have gone though 20 years if hell due to a daughter in law that is keeping my son to whom he was....I stay quiet and moved on.... at time I do not hear from him for months, or seen him for years, its devastating and Im too old to worry, he has changed....she won, I lost....But, I got the cream of the crop, my daughters children and herself and her hubby with my husbands daughter that just had a baby,,,,and my other son that makes me feel like a queen and my youngest daughter that makes me walk on egg shell as she s daddy girls been divorced from a control freak after 24 years..... tired... very tired... don't tell em to be patience he'll come around ... hell ! its been 20 years......I 68 how much do I have to take this absence ? we have visited and she was cold ....they live very close to us... she hates his family, no one ever hurt her, we have given so much to them, more then his own father aver had.....I could go on but im tired..... I gave up