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DaughterMW September 6th, 2010 12:45 PM

Need help: My relationship with my parents
Hi, all. Here's my situation. I'm 27 years old. I was married for about 4 years but got divorced because it wasn't a good situation for me for many reasons. (The most important reason is that he didn't know how to love or be married and wasn't willing to learn. Many other things were more important to him than our marriage was.) It was legally finished in March, though my ex-husband and I separated over a year ago. A couple months ago, I started dating someone; we met through mutual friends. I told my parents after a month that I had started dating, and they freaked out. They're very worried about what their peers would think about me dating--they say this because they haven't even told that many people about my divorce, people they see on a weekly basis. They're very angry that I haven't broken up with the man I'm seeing and are now issuing threats: they're going to tell everyone that I'm estranged from them; they're going to go on vacation with my brother for Thanksgiving and will not take me with; etc. (They say they expect I'll be spending the holidays with the new person I'm seeing, even though I've only been seeing him for a couple months--way too early in the relationship to be thinking about holidays together!) I have been uninvited to a couple different family events, including a mini family reunion yesterday.

After me pleading with my mom that she and my dad come to a counselor with me (I'm seeing one individually) because we need help working through this so we can improve our relationship--and them adamently refusing because I'm "the only one with problems"--I suggested that we take a couple weeks "apart" so we can cool off. After that conversation, my mom sent me an email saying, among other things, that if I think she's said hurtful things to me, I should hear the things my dad has been saying about me. We shouldn't go to counseling because my dad would say these things, and they would probably put our relationship beyond repair. Despite her saying that she wasn't going to email me anymore, I continue to receive emails and texts from them (actually, pretty much just my mom) about this, and I'm starting to feel harrassed.

I wouldn't have started dating if I didn't feel emotionally healthy and ready for it. Even before I met this person, I had given myself permission to start dating if I met someone who interested me. I finally felt happy and healthy again. I don't think that matters to my parents.

It appears as though my relationship with them is permanently damaged simply because I haven't caved to what they want me to do. I'm an oldest child--I've generally done what my parents want or I've consulted them on many decisions I've had to make in my life, so this is a change in the dynamics of our relationship.

Has anyone reading this experienced something similar? Thanks for your help and perspectives!

LucyVanPelt September 6th, 2010 02:03 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents

It appears as though my relationship with them is permanently damaged simply because I haven't caved to what they want me to do. I'm an oldest child--I've generally done what my parents want or I've consulted them on many decisions I've had to make in my life, so this is a change in the dynamics of our relationship.
If your relationship with your parents is permanently damaged, then they are the ones who are damaging it. At 27 years old, you don't need your parents permission to date, to go on vacation, to associate with the rest of your family, or to celebrate holidays. They are having a difficult time accepting that you an adult woman whose decisions do not reflect on them at all. In short, they are having a hard time letting you go and they are using whatever means at their disposal to keep you bound to them. This is almost the most difficult thing with the first child and/or the last child.

But... even though you don't need their permission, you would like their acceptance and even approval. It's hurtful to experience that rejection and I'm sorry they are doing this to you. Stick to your guns. Continue to be as independent of them as possible, including communicating with your family on your own (but without discussing the relationship with your parents). Let them know that you love them, but you have to keep doing what you do.


snafu September 6th, 2010 02:08 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents
ITA with Lucy -

btw, what is your background &/or culture? Is divorce taboo?

and I think its great that you're going to counciling


DaughterMW September 6th, 2010 02:52 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents
Thanks for your posts, Lucy and Snafu. I'm glad to know that I'm not crazy in feeling like this treatment is a little unfair. At the very least, the punishment doesn't seem to fit the "crime." Can I ask: Are either of you parents? I'm interested to know what perspective you're coming from. (And just to get to know more about you! I'm new here.)

Snafu, I'm white and Protestant, and grew up in the suburbs. It's not like divorce is taboo or a totally foreign concept. I just think they're extremely embarrassed about it and haven't really dealt with it. I feel terrible that I'm such an embarrassment to my parents, but I know in my heart that not being married to my ex-husband is the healthiest thing for me. I think they'd agree, but for some reason, all their feelings about the divorce are coming out now and not a year ago.

I agree that it's good that I'm seeing a therapist. It doesn't solve my problems, obviously, but it helps calm me down about everything. I have to say that my therapist, who is in her early to mid-60's (I'd guess), said that in all of her years of practice, she's never seen anything quite like this. And she's a family therapist! That was simultaneously validating and frightening.

LucyVanPelt September 6th, 2010 03:19 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents
I am a mother. I am also a daughter and a sister. My own DM was raised in a strict immigrant Italian Catholic neighborhood in the North East. She experienced her parent's shame and disappointment. Even when she remarried at 38, she was not really independent of her parent's criticism. She would do things behind their back, but never ever would she stand up to them to her face. They were driven by the "What would the neighbor's think" mentality and came down hard with every mistake (in their opinion) my DM made. In turn, my DM has done much the same to us, though never to the extent her parents did it to her. As they aged, they lost that critical spirit and became more accepting of their adult children's choices. This is often referred to as "mellowing." I think it happens when we realize that our opinions are destructive to relationships and learn to hold our tongues, or even have a true change of heart.

It's extremely difficult to break free from that cycle of shame and resentment. Definitely continue to work with the therapist and be patient for that day when your DPs mellow.

Lizzie September 6th, 2010 03:31 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents
Im sorry this is happening to you
I am a mum of 4 sons...24, 23 20, 16

I cannot imagine acting like your parents and we are
pretty 'proper' in Ireland with the Catholic ethos here.
Divorce was taboo for years.

I would never care about peoples opinions like you say
happens in your family

Try to draw back and live your own lives as people do mellow
as time goes by

KayKay September 6th, 2010 05:48 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents

Originally Posted by DaughterMW (Post 35769)
I just think they're extremely embarrassed about it and haven't really dealt with it.

IMO this is their problem to deal with and not yours. :(

For the record Daughter, I'm a 47yo mom of two teenagers, and the daughter of parents who weren't always proud of their kids. :o But my P's weren't nearly as critical as yours sound.

I'm just curious about why they're behaving that way. I'm not defending them; I'm trying to understand their thought processes. I do not think they are behaving well, but I think (hope?) that they'll eventually come around. Their reactions are over-the-top IMO, but it sounds like they're taking your divorce very personally and going through the stages of grief. So my question for you is... why would they take your divorce so personally? Was your ex-husband someone they had a lot of hopes and dreams invested in? Was he the son of their best friends? Someone they loved dearly? Someone they set you up with? LOL. It just seems so odd to me that they'd be angry at YOU, rather than supportive.

Once upon a time I was engaged to a guy that my parents loved. It didn't work out and I broke off the engagement. My stepmother, especially, was heartbroken and often asked why I was dating a new guy - why wasn't I getting back together with my ex. I ended up having to tell her (hadn't wanted to) that he had been cheating on me. That was the end of that. She never asked again.

snafu September 6th, 2010 06:11 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents
I'm the "wicked step-mom" here :rolleyes: (DSD is now 17) AND the can do nothing right mom:rolleyes::rolleyes: (DS is 11)

BG: DH's first wife passed away when DSD was almost 9- DH & I later met & married (years after my ex & I divorced)

MY DM stayed married to my (not so) DF because she didn't think she could go it alone with kids on her own. I think another factor was that HER DM's parents divorced when divorce "wasn't done". Additionally one of my DM's sibs married someone who was divorced and that upset their parents (my grandparents)

My DM finally divorced my F when she had to make a choice between living or allowing the stress of living with him to kill her (DM had a heart condition - she later had a heart transplant). I totally supported my DM (she later supported me)

My DM & (now ex) ILs were POed when they found out why (ex) H and I were splitting up (another woman).

DaughterMW September 7th, 2010 11:48 AM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents
KayKay, good questions. My ex wasn't someone they had known before or set me up with. They loved him and tried very hard to develop a close relationship with him, but he was resistant--I think because he wasn't close to his (dysfunctional) parents and felt like he'd be betraying them if he got close to my parents. My parents had a hard time with that and, I think, felt a little bitter about it during the divorce.

The funny--well, not "ha ha" funny--thing is that before my ex and I made the decision to divorce, I really struggled with being an embarrassment to my family about this. I knew that I could handle any embarrassment I felt but knew it would hard for them. I expressed this several times to my parents, and they would get upset with me for even considering that. Their response was always that I couldn't worry about that and that I needed to do what was healthiest for me.

My mom dropped off some boxes of my stuff at my house last night, and, of course, it turned into a conversation about this. We can't talk about anything without it turning into this. She said, among other things:

* I need to give her a timeframe for when this will be resolved.
* She doesn't know how we got to this point.
* She feels like she's given and given and given to me for the past 27 years and doesn't have anything else to give.
* The most important thing is that we resolve our problems and have a good relationship and that it doesn't matter as much what happens with the person I'm seeing and me.
* She wants things to be resolved between us, but if there's any possibility of my parents having to meet this person or of me having a long-term relationship with him, they just won't be able to deal with that and, therefore, with my problems with them. (That contradicts the previous point, I know.)
* She knows she's mishandled the situation and is very sorry for that, but that doesn't change that they feel I'm making a terrible decision.

I think there are other issues at play, too, that they're not aware of or that they don't want to admit. I mentioned earlier that I have rarely, if ever, dissented from my parents and not done what they wanted me to do. This is my "rebellious" phase, I guess, at the old age of 27. They think that because I disagree with them that I'm not listening. (I've tried explaining that understanding and listening to them does not necessarily equate agreeing--that it's okay to disagree.) Also, my mom's mom (my only living grandparent) is declining and will likely have to go to a nursing home soon. That's very hard, I know, and I think my mom probably feels like she's losing two important women in her life.

I've come up with a million reasons why my parents are reacting so strongly to this. It helps me empathize a little bit, but I still can't justify them doing things like uninviting me to Thanksgiving and a family reunion.

KayKay September 7th, 2010 12:25 PM

Re: Need help: My relationship with my parents
This might sound crazy, DaughterMW, but after your last response I went back and re-read the entire thread and this thought struck me...

It almost seems like the problem isn't the divorce; it seems to me like the problem is more the new guy you're dating. :confused:

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