Family Therapy - Advice and Commentary Wanted

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by idiomie, Aug 2, 2018.

  1. Vierran

    Vierran small and sharp

    For dealing with the rest of your family, two options I can think of.
    • Say it's complicated and you'd prefer not to talk about it, but you would like to keep in touch with the relative you're talking to. Every time they bring it up, gentle but firm redirect: "I'm not ready to make up with them. Can we discuss something else?" If they keep pushing, be firm and clear. "I am not interested in discussing my relationship with my parents with you." The one exception to this is to mention that you care about your parents, and that you do want a better relationship with them, but there are barriers in the way.
    • Option two is the very direct approach. Write out a letter explaining exactly where you are with your parents, what they have done, what you have asked for, how they have responded. Send this to any relatives you want to stay close with, along with an explanation that you are doing what you can to talk to your parents, but you are not willing to put up with them hurting you. Let the relative know you appreciate their support, and hope they will understand that this is not a simple problem to handle, but you are trying your best.
    • Like x 2
    • Informative x 1
  2. turtleDove

    turtleDove Well-Known Member

    Since I don't think you're willing to completely cut off all the rest of your family, it's probably worth at least some effort to explain things, yes. That doesn't mean you need to provide a detailed list of what's happened or why you're making the decisions you are. I think a couple of simple scripts, and gentle-but-firm redirects, would be sufficient:

    Relative tells you that your parents want a better relationship with you but they ~just don't know why you're mad at them or how to fix it~? Your response: "Huh, I don't know why they would say they don't know what's wrong or what needs to be done to fix things. I've been very clear in telling them what they need to do if they want to improve our relationship." And then redirect. If the relative keeps trying to pry into what could possibly be wrong and why do you hate your parents, why won't you just Be A Good Child, then maybe go with "I know it's upsetting that we're having problems. But I've been very clear in explaining to them what's wrong and what they need to do, and I can't fix these problems alone - if they really want to have a better relationship with me, they need to do their share of the work too." And follow that with "I really don't have anything else to tell you about what's going on between me and my parents, I'm sorry. If they want to fix things, I can't be the only one doing the work." Be a broken record with that last line.

    The second option that Vierran's listed is...definitely an option, but considering the other things you and Lebesgue have mentioned, I'm not sure I'd consider that option unless you're willing to burn bridges and completely cut off contact with your parents afterwards. Because if your parents would become violently angry if you tried to openly record family therapy sessions, then I'm not confident they'd respond well or in a manner that's safe for you to be around, if you wrote those kinds of letters.

    Also, I think it might be good for you to sit and consider what a life without having contact with your parents would look like if that's not something you've done much of before. And consider that it's perfectly okay and not your fault if the family therapy sessions end without you being able to have a relationship with your parents at all, much less the kind of relationship where they can have contact with your children.
    • Agree x 3
    • Informative x 1
  3. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    "I am not interested in discussing my relationship with my parents with you" is a good script and I will try to use it. I'm not sure how the rest of my family will handle it, tbh, but it seems worth trying.

    The letter thing, idk. I agree with turtleDove that it would probably mean burning bridges with my parents, and also. I don't feel like I have legitimate complaints? I feel like I'd write this letter and my family would look at the details and still come out on my parents' side.

    I like the second script a lot, especially "I can't fix these problems alone." I'm very tired of my family (parents, siblings, extended relatives) acting like this is just a thing I'm doing to my parents and that I'm the only one who has to change.

    The thing is ... I have considered what a life without contact with my parents would look like. 11/12 to 17, it was the central theme of any journal scraps I can find. And I mean, I was a kid, it wasn't always the most mature opinions, but. By the time I was 16/17, it was about stuff like "I recognize that my parents have a toxic view on ADHD, and I have internalized that view, and it's hurting me. I want a life where I don't have that toxicity."

    Girl's state was the summer between junior and senior year. And things took a marked downturn in our relationship after my mother said what she said about it. I realize my parents don't understand why it was so hurtful, but. I'd tried to kill myself about three months earlier. Girl's state was the first time in a very long time that I'd felt like there was hope for a future where I was happy - and it didn't slip my notice then that a large part of it was due to being away from my parents. And my mother's "you're too happy" ...

    I don't know, I think my parents realized they'd crossed a line somewhere, because after that, they really backed off on just about everything.

    I know the future where I cut contact with my parents is a happy one - because I can't fix them myself, no matter how hard I try, and as long as they're like this, they're always going to hurt me. And I'll be sad to lose the rest of my family, but. I will be happy. I have my own family.

    I don't know. I love them. I miss them. They suggested family therapy themselves. I want to try. I want things to be better. I want to believe that they're trying too.

    Although, yeah, I definitely do think that if family therapy doesn't work, it's my fault. :/
    • Witnessed x 5
  4. Lebesgue Integreat

    Lebesgue Integreat Lesbian Intrigue

    I would like to add something. Your mother kept saying in family therapy "I don't want to be here" and "I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop and we can get to why [xe] actually brought me here". These do not sound like the words of someone keen on participating. And like turtledove said. You can't fix these problems alone.
    • Agree x 2
  5. turtleDove

    turtleDove Well-Known Member

    That's...definitely something to work on, then, because it isn't your fault if family therapy doesn't work. This is bridge-building, and you can't build a bridge all on your own; you can build it half-way, and if they don't do their part and build the rest of the bridge? You've unstable structure that goes nowhere and is likely to collapse as soon as anyone tries to use it. They have to put in the effort and actively participate too; this isn't something you can do all on your own.

    Also what the jegus fuck with "we shouldn't have let you go, you're too happy now" - that's. I don't want to say it's something no good parent would say, but. It's definitely not a normal or healthy thing to say, because why the hell would they have a problem with you being happy?
    • Agree x 4
  6. rje

    rje here comes the sun

    You're not beholden to your parent's image of you. I.e. the kind of "you" they want you to be for their sake, or the "you" they wish you were. You're not beholden to be that in exchange for their support or their love or anything else. It's not "owed" to them in exchange for raising you and it's not "owed" to them in exchange for their support. You are who you are, and if who you are is uncomfortable or inconvenient for them, then too bad. Because, supporting you despite that is what they should be doing, as your parents. That's what proper parenting is all about, it's up to then to grow and learn and listen how to support you as best you need.

    I don't know if any of that is helpful but it sounds a lot like a part of you feels (or that you keep getting gaslighted to think this) like you owe them to behave the way they want you to behave simply because they're your parents and -- that's not true. Not when it comes to this stuff you're talking about.

    And also turtle is right, if family therapy fails, it wouldn't be your fault. Not with how much you're pushing and stretching yourself to make it work.
    • Agree x 4
    • Useful x 1
  7. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    okay, so

    my parents don't believe in things like depression or adhd, right? so when i was suffering from these things, and struggling because of them, my parents diagnosed it as "lazy" and "doesn't care" and "gross."

    so anyway my junior year is the year i remember being the absolute worst because i was taking 8 classes, 6 of which were APs, and i was. dying. like i liked my classes, i loved my teachers, but. school. was bad.

    i somehow did okay on my APs, but. i'm really really not exaggerating when i say i pretty much only passed my classes because my teachers recognized i was struggling and were willing to fudge my grades. I got Cs in all my APs, and Bs in my language classes (which weren't AP) (and i only got Bs there because i am ridiculously good at languages). i did not earn those Cs. my quarter grades, all the way up to third quarter, were 5 Fs and one D. the only reason i passed was because i'd been on the advanced track since elementary school, and so all of these teachers knew me from at least freshman year, if not when i was in middle school, and i guess i somehow convinced them that i'm hardworking and smart and whatever, even though i totally bombed their classes that year.

    so anyway, yeah, i did really horribly.

    and like. my parents had this Wall of Shame (which interestingly is not a thing Emily and William are particularly familiar with! hmm!) where, if you got a really bad grade, we hung it up like a good one as a reminder of your failure, and it didn't get to come down until you brought back something to replace it. needless to say, the Wall of Shame was my home that year. also relevant is the fact that my parents think any grade below an A- is akin to failing. i mean, to be fair, Bs didn't merit the Wall of Shame, but a B wasn't good enough to get something off of the Wall of Shame, so.

    so anyway, that was the year that i brought home basically nothing but Ds and Fs, and my parents kinda fucking lost it.

    and then i barely scraped by with passing grades that my parents also knew i didn't really earn.

    my parents were livid. my mother especially. they were so angry and. they wanted to hurt me. i'd failed and embarrassed them and hadn't lived up to expectations and nothing they were doing (punishing me so far) was making a difference, and i think they just wanted me to really, actually suffer and "prove" that i was taking this seriously.

    the only reason i went to girl's state was because my dad convinced my mom that it would look good on college applications and that, after this year, i kinda needed that.

    so i went. and i was happy. and my mother was furious about it.
    • Witnessed x 4
  8. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    it's also worth noting here that my parents have since accepted* that i was depressed in high school, and that i wasn't actually lazy or didn't care or whatever, but despite me pointing this out and that what my mother said was really hurtful, my father has defended it as, "well, it was justified knowing what we thought we knew then." (that is the actual quote) (for fuck's sake, can i just get an apology)

    *i have no idea if this is actually true. they say it is. they have changed 0%** of their behavior from high school.
    **maybe 5%. they get mad at me when i say that i'm lazy now?
    • Witnessed x 4
  9. dobedobedo

    dobedobedo Member

    that. is horrifying
    i will not qualify it because there are no qualifiers. it's horrifying. i'm horrified.
    • Agree x 4
  10. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    ..... i am really anxious that people are going to interpret this as like, me being. i don't know. rude? mocking?

    but are you sure? because like, on the one hand, i am never doing this to any kid of mine! ever!

    otoh, this. isn't just was but is normal for me interacting with my parents.

    (i'm sorry i'm really trying not to be rude, it's just really baffling that normal, if upsetting, events from my childhood keep getting horrified reactions.)
  11. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    also like. i feel like it must not have been clear, from dobedobedo's response, but.... the story about girl's state was me defending my parents. like. idk, i would like an apology, but. i'm still pretty sure my parents were justified?
  12. Birdy

    Birdy so long

    okay so I was crushingly depressed in high school, my grades were slipping, and my parents weren’t happy with it, or with me, particularly.

    you know what they did? they did everything in their power to help me. even though they were upset and thought I might not be trying hard enough, they helped me study and keep organized, and when it became obvious that depression was the reason I was struggling, they got me help.

    my parents wanted me to do well! but they also care about me as a person! they would never do something like a wall of shame for my bad grades and I know for certain that they would never ever want me to suffer or be in pain for doing badly. parents should not want their children to suffer.

    plus, my parents encouraged me to do things that made me happy when i was in high school because they love me and didn’t want me to be unhappy. no bullshit about not deserving happiness, which is apparently what your garbage mother believes.
  13. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

  14. Birdy

    Birdy so long

    dude it’s not your fault and I’m not upset with you

    I’m angry at your parents because they treated you so badly.
    • Agree x 2
  15. Lebesgue Integreat

    Lebesgue Integreat Lesbian Intrigue

    Bolding, isolating, and enlarging for emphasis.
    • Agree x 4
  16. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    i was defending my parents and you got "garbage mother" out of that

    and i can't even, like, complain about that, because. i don't know. you are obviously very upset by what my parents did and do
  17. Birdy

    Birdy so long

    their actions are indefensible, in my opinion

    I admire you for trying, you obviously really care about your relationship with them and don’t want people to think badly of them, but given what you’ve said, I...seriously just cannot think of your parents as having done right by you. by every moral standard I personally have, the way they treated you was wrong.
    • Agree x 3
  18. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    I mean. The way my parents treated me definitely impacted the formation of my own moral system. I categorically reject the idea that causing someone to suffer is a good thing, ever. It can be a byproduct of the best possible decision, but the follow up is always how to minimize that.

    But when it comes to me. My sister thought that what my mother said was so out of character, she still believes that my mother was joking. (She wasn't.)

    Which. I think means there's just something about me that means normal morals don't apply.
  19. Birdy

    Birdy so long

    you’re welcome to believe what you please, but I’m pretty firmly against the idea that someone can be so uniquely bad that their suffering is a good thing

    that’s just not a thing that’s true
    • Agree x 4
  20. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    It's not so much that I exist as a person who's suffering is a good thing as it is that I'm not a bona fide person. Therefore, I don't have any rights but the ones my parents deign to give me. And how I'm treated doesn't matter.
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