How did I not see detachment right in front of me?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by mcdonna, Nov 18, 2016.

  1. Snow White

    Snow White Temporarily in the Magic Kingdom

    Clearly, I can't see the forest for the trees. The past week has been a bit of a blur following daughter's last rant. Husband and I are working on detachment. I have a doctor's appointment in early December and am asking for a referral for counselling for us.

    As I reviewed the detachment post over and over again, all of a sudden it came to me. I DO KNOW HOW to detach and I have done it in the past (so has my husband) - it just didn't come to me. My father was an alcoholic and had undiagnosed mental illness (he would have infrequent psychotic episodes). My parents first separated when I was 8 years old and my dad's drinking became problematic. He started AA almost immediately. After a year of sobriety, they reconciled and all was pretty stable until I turned 17, he started drinking again and my parents split and divorced. He lost his job and the home I grew up in. I had limited contact over the next few years as the alcoholism started taking over the father I once knew and loved. He became mean and abusive. I detached then and had very limited contact with him - only when he was sober. He chose to ignore my wedding and never saw his grandchildren. When he died of intestinal cancer in 1996, I was contacted by the coroner's office (he had listed no next of kin when in palliative care).

    My husband detached 20 years ago from his sister, who has Bipolar disorder. She knew every button to push with my husband and after years of growing up with this, he was ready to sever the ties. She lives only a few miles from us yet we never see her.

    So, now that we have confirmed that we know how to detach, why is it so different to master this technique with our children? We are struggling to work this out but I know we will. One day at a time. One step at a time.

    Daughter called today. Accusing me of telling people what country she is in now and that people she doesn't know are trying to email her. Told her I have said nothing. She then started revisiting her email rant, telling me, "I'm going to talk right now.....and you're going to listen." I told her I already received that email, that I was busy at work and hanging up. And I did. She called back again; told me she didn't want a relationship and before the abuse could start, I told her once again that I was very busy at work and needed to say goodbye. She did not call back a third time. Then I left my office and got a caramel latte. Not going to have my Friday/weekend ruined.
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  2. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I think it's because as parents we are supposed to protect our children and make everything in their world safe and ok. This works fine when they are little. They are scared of the dark so we go in and comfort them. The fall off their bike and scrape their knee, we wipe their tears and tend to their wound. When they are sick we are there holding the bucket for them to puke in. As parents we are always there to catch them when they fall. They go from being our sweet little children to being people we don't know but we are hard wired to try and make everything ok for them.
    Detaching starts with realizing that they are no longer our sweet little children.
    I know for me, in my minds eye, I would see my son as a little boy. Once I changed my thinking and started to see him as a grown man it became easier for me to detach.

    How many times has she told you she doesn't want a relationship and yet she keeps reaching out to you.
    Well done on telling her you were busy.

    Good for you!! (that sounds really yummy)
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  3. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    When I first started posting here...and really until late last year I think ... I had baby pictures of my son all over my office. I have had the same job for more than 22 years and literally had the same office for 10 or 15. So I had baby and toddler and photos all the way up to senior year high school. I had drawings he did when he was like 7 years old, in little frames on my walls. One day I realized, when I was at my lowest, that boy was who I saw. I would picture his caramel colored hair and big brown eyes and even how he felt when I'd nurse him at night when he was new and I felt like that child had DIED. I would be so torn up inside I would weep in my office...almost daily. One day I realized I HAD to quit thinking about him as a child and I took every picture and every drawing and I put them all away in a drawer I never used for anything. I have one photo left, of a trip we took to Chicago when he was about 12, which I don't sit facing my desk (I look awesome in that photo - it stays!)

    It's been much better since that day. It's been much easier to think of him as an adult.

    Not that I'm 100%. (In fact, I spent $50 on a sleeping bag for him today as he lost his - long story. I told him Merry Christmas.) But I'm better.
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    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
  4. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    I agree. I can relate to what you say Lil about the son that you had died. I feel the same exact way. It's fleeting when I think of happy times when he was little and we did everything together. I'd even remember taking him bathing suit shopping with me a few times when he was little and we were going on a family vacation. I'd pick out a few that I liked best and then ask him because I KNEW he'd be honest. I think he actually liked doing that with me.

    I also remember driving his older brother to college and singing along with the radio and stopping for candy on the way home. Just us two. It breaks my heart to have that person no longer in my life.

    I remember when both stood up to a wedding. Him in his little tuxedo with his big smile.

    All I can hope is that someday he will be the man that I know he can be. He's had years of therapy and been in many treatments so I guess this is just something he has to figure out on his own.

    Detaching from other family members is one thing and I have done it too. McDonna I had not thought of that until your post. But detaching from your child is an all together different beast.
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  5. so ready to live

    so ready to live Active Member

    Hi McDonna. Great job on the phone today. You simply just didn't put yourself in the way of her abuse.
    this alone angered me for you. No- you were going to hangup and then get a caramel latte....your finest hour. Have a good weekend, you've made me smile today. Prayers.
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  6. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Grieving is not just for when someone physically dies. It's a very important part of surviving an adult difficult child and we need to allow ourselves to feel all the emotions that go along with grieving. We mourn for what was, for the relationship that we no longer have. We come to a place of acceptance and that helps us to move on with our lives.
  7. Cheerwyn

    Cheerwyn New Member

    I mostly just read this forum and absorb its wonderful advice, but your struggle hits very close to home, OP. In my case it's my mother in law and helping my husband deal with her.

    One technique in detachment is called Grey Rock. Become the Grey Rock. Rather than flame out with a huge argument with the difficult person, just be the most boring, unengaging, meh person you can be. People with borderline, narcissisic, anti-social, and histrionic traits feed off of the drama and look to constantly engage and provoke to fill their own bottomless pit of need.

    So if you're the most boring, non-dramatic grey rock around, they will move on to more shinier objects.

    This blog post explains it pretty well, and if you google there are some other posts out there.

    The post addresses sociopathic behavior, but it really can be helpful in dealing with other personality disorders.

    All the best to you, OP.
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  8. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    Cheerwyn... I read up on gray rock...I will definitely try that! It would probably be the best way to deal with my oldest Difficult Child. She has a knack of getting riled up, getting those around her riled up, and then she seems happy with all the attention she got, and doesn't understand why we are still frustrated.

    Gray new personna... KSM
  9. Cheerwyn

    Cheerwyn New Member

    I'm glad I could share something that's helpful. :)
  10. mof

    mof Momdidntsignupforthis

    I wish at 20 I had any of the wisdom I have now. I was abused by my alcoholic mother in law. She made Holidays and events miserable, her entire family had enabled her for more than 30yrs. After 15 yrs...I said no more...luckily my spouse had started seeing the light...our marriage stayed strong.

    A rock is what I. needed to be...but was always taught to be graceful ,loving...that was just a door for her...

    And yes....her addiction is not the only one that exists...seems sometimes things stay in the family.
  11. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Mcdonna, just catching up here, and reading your thoughts about detaching from your own children and how that is different from every other person. I believe it is, profoundly. Like Tanya said, it's not "supposed" to be that way, and it feels just pure awful. We can detach from others more easily, even parents and siblings, even though that is hard, but our own kids is usually unthinkable.

    At first.

    I remember being in Al-Anon and hearing about detachment from someone in a meeting, and thinking, there is no way. No way.

    And then reading about it and what it isn't and isn't. Still no way, for a long long long time. Until I was out of my mind over Difficult Child and there it was: The last thing to try. Detachment.

    It didn't mean so many things I thought it meant, like ignoring them, and writing them off, and breaking off all relationship and never seeing them again.

    In Al-Anon it's termed like this: Detachment with love. tool: mean what you say, but don't say it mean.

    I learned how to say things clearly, firmly and directly...but quietly and without anger. That shocked the heck out of Difficult Child the first times I was able to pull that off.

    I think today that detachment is necessary, to an extent, from every other human being in my life. I have a tendency to let feelings rule me. I can be impulsive when I feel deeply. I can get too involved and get into other people's business too easily. I don't like drama so I run from that now, but I can still pay too much attention to people when they have problems. Start to fix and "help."

    Today, I have to realize and remind myself that I am separate from every other person. I am only truly responsible for me, and that's a full time job (plus some). I need to focus on keeping my side of the street clean. Again, a full time job.

    One good way to start practicing with boundaries. If you haven't read it, the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend is excellent.

    It's wonderful that you recognize that you have detached already from other people. You know what it feels like, and that is a major step forward already.

    It's a process, and change takes time. And a lot of missteps. That is all okay. We are a work in progress, all of us.
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  12. Snow White

    Snow White Temporarily in the Magic Kingdom

    Thanks so much for your responses! I know it'll take a while before I get this all right but I'm on the right path.

    Exactly! I know that every angry email/phone call that says she is "done" will follow with communication the following week or so. She's waiting for the standard response she has been used to getting and now it isn't coming.

    Likewise, Lil. I have the photo of the 2 of us from last year when I traveled to Asia to see her (I look great and the background of the beach is gorgeous). It also keeps me in check that she can be charming one moment and malicious the next.

    That's all we can hope for now. I can't control her life but I'm taking mine back.

    Glad I could make someone smile! It was a good moment for me, as when this stuff happens, I'm usually upset or trying to fix her "drama". I want to get in the habit of having a "happy response" to a negative phone call/email.

    Thanks, Cheerwyn. I have tried in the past to be boring - in fact, one time my daughter said, "Wow, I'm never getting married. I could never stay married for 30+ years being as boring as you guys." I laughed to myself over that one! But I am going to follow up on the link you sent!

    Great post and so true. Daughter has always maintained that I have no feelings and am cold-hearted. For the most part, I don't raise my voice or get angry. I think that bothers her because she doesn't get the emotion out of me....well, maybe a couple of times she has!!!

    Had a wonderful weekend! No phone calls and I've set my email to send her emails to the trash folder!
  13. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hehe. The grey rock is also called medium chill.

    "I swear. My new roommate hates me. I'm going to beat her a**."

    "I see." That's all.


    You. "Hmmmmm." Thats it. Maybe add a noisy yawn. Don't react with emotion. Be boring and nothing to fuel the fire.


    You: "knock on door. Later. Love you." Hang up.

    My son gets frustrated when I do this. At times he ramps up anyways and gets abusive so lately I've just been saying "I have to go."

    When he calls back, often he is calmer because he doesnt want me to get off.
  14. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    I love the grey rock image.

    I have to say, your daughter expends SO MUCH ENERGY re-establishing contact so she can tell you she doesn't want any contact with you.

    I wanted to say I think you are a true Warrior Mom for the way you handled the phone calls and emails. Nice work! I am hoping she just goes her own way and leaves you out of it for quite a while.