My father was really obviously nasty to me on a regular basis, so by the time I started therapy in college I knew that my relationship with him had been a problem. What was much harder to come to terms with was the ways in which my mother — someone I really love and admire – didn’t try to help me through this. I could readily see that my father’s rejection of me was often unwarranted, but my mother’s rejection was harder to dismiss because I believed that somehow I must not have been worthy of her care.
So here are my mother’s top three:
1. “You have to stop crying, because you’re making your father upset”.
Each time my father went on screaming at me and calling me a whole string of awful names over some very minor thing I did that disappointed him, I went to my room and cried. I usually had a lot of trouble stopping, and sometimes cried so hard that I got sick. My mother would often come to my room and her only concern was with keeping the peace, in other words, trying to make my father happy.
2. “Ohh….I’ll have to talk to your father about that and he is not going to like it.”
My father often called my crazy and threatened to take me to a psychiatrist. But during a depressive episode at age 14, I cautiously approached my mother and asked her if I could please really see someone for help, and those words were her only response. We never spoke about it again: maybe because my father reacted very negatively to my request when she brought it up with him; or more likely because she never even mentioned it to him at all.
The blank space above reflects what she mainly said or did which was NOTHING. My father went on tirades against me at least once a week starting when I was around 7, and I only remember one or two instances when she ever stepped in or said anything at all on my behalf. I didn’t think she necessarily agreed with him (e.g., that I was stupid and ugly and all those other things he said), but over and over again she didn’t challenge him, didn’t support my efforts to defend myself, and didn’t try to comfort me.
I know she regrets a lot of this now and her understanding means a lot to me (even if it is a few decades late). But still…
Here is where you can read part 1 of “Shit clueless parents say”: https://sayingwhatgoesunsaid.com/2015/08/05/shit-clueless-parents-say-to-their-children-with-mental-illness/