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Bad relationship with my father - have you experienced similar - any advice please? - Page 2 - Carers UK Forum

Bad relationship with my father - have you experienced similar - any advice please?

Tell us a bit about yourself here.
Give up trying to please him. There is no need any more. If he asked you for the moon and you gave it to him, he'd probably change his mind and ask for more!
Whilst you do the running around, your sister remains on a pedestal. Maybe make excuses, even go away on holiday for a couple of weeks, and leave the running around to her. The children can run errands, she can take him to the doctor's appointments, and hospital appointments, ring grandpa every day to check he's OK?!! Somehow, I suspect this will not be the case. Others here have found that a holiday has made their caree more grateful when they get back. If he's managed without you, then clearly you are not needed any more. If he hasn't managed, and he's called in carers, then again, he doesn't need you any more.
Maybe there is a compromise between these. Talk to your husband, he's clearly been very tolerant and deserves a bit of attention now. Ask him how he thinks you should both handle things in future. Perhaps just take a weekend away from it all to have some quality time together, and mull over where you want to go from here?
J, hi - well, I did rather suspect that might be the case! Time and time again a 'rejected child' tries desperately to 'win' the love of the rejecting parent, blaming themselves for being 'unlovable'! The logic goes 'My M/F doesn't love me, and the only possible reason that can be so is that I am not lovable'....they see the fault in THEMSELVES, not in their parent! In fact, the TRUE logic is 'My M/F does not love me, and the reason is that my M/F is unloving....' ie, the fault is IN THE PARENT NOT THE CHILD!

You don't mention beyond that your elder sister is estranged from her father (was she estranged from her mother as well?)(more on your mum below...). What was the nature of the estrangement? (obviously don't say if you dont' want to!). The reason I ask is that I'm wondering whether just as your father 'rejected' you - which may well have entailed 'ignoring' you, 'belittling' you, putting you down and complaining that you haven't achieved what your oh-so-wonderful sister has achieved! (etc etc) - so he might actually have 'smothered' your older sister with his 'neediness' for her (because that kind of 'excessive approval' bestowed by a parent can actually represent a huge 'neediness' for it to be returned....). Your sister might have found her dad's 'obsession' (???) with her just as difficult to cope with as you found his 'blanking' of you.....

Whenever in a family there is a 'favoured child' vs 'despised child' situation, BOTH the children have 'toxic' relationships with the parent (or rather, the parent has toxic relationships with both the children, in opposite ways). I would say that the favoured child can react in two ways - either they 'escape' the smothering (is this what your sister has done - possibly, say, by marrying ....deliberately perhaps!??? ....a man your dad didn't approve of, or making a life decision he didn't approve of, example, moving 'out of reach' of him, or taking up a career he didn't approve of, or simply not allowing him into her life any longer, as she seems to have done), and this 'escape' may be their salvation (at a price..) OR they effectively become for want of a more professional term 'spoilt brats' themselves. 'Favoured children' are often actually 'cursed' children, because the 'bad' love the parent has for them has poisoned them - they've grown up thinking wonderfully of themselves (because that is what the fawning parent thinks of them), and they grow up realising they can, in fact, get away with murder! They can be selfish, obnoxious, utterly uncaring of the parent who is constantly pandering to them and praising them etc etc etc.

So where does that leave 'the despised child'? Again, two possible reactions overall (there are probably lots more possibles for both the favoured and the despised child!) come to mind. The first is what seems, perhaps, to have happened to you - that you desperately seek (if you do!) your father's love and regard (and are, of course, forever doomed to failure- which reduces you to that desperately sad thing you said, that you call yourself pathetic - NO NO NO NO!) - and the second is that you, too, manage to 'escape' the malign influence. You maybe marry a man who makes you realise you ARE worthy of love, and that he loves you, and exposes your toxic relationship with your father, and that you come to see your father as he 'truly' is, not someone whose regard you crave, but whom you both condemn for his behaviour and, finally, simply pity as a deeply, deeply flawed and damaging human being....

I mentioned your mum above - how were you with her, and she with you, and your sister with her and she with your sister, and how was your father with her etc? Was she the 'buffer' always, and how has she taken her older daughter's estrangement, and is she party to it or did she communicate with her other daughter, etc? She does seem to have been aware of his relationship with you, by what she said about you never being able to please him etc.

Finally, what did your father mean by 'payback'? Payback by you, ie, that you 'owe' him because he's your father? Or that HE was getting 'payback' in the sense of saying 'Well, it's come to this, then - the damn daughter I despise so much is going to have to be the one I have to put up with looking after me'....as though YOUR caring for him is HIS 'punishment', making a bad situation worse....??? Or have I missed something here completely!

All of this is just my utterly amateur 'ramblings' so please don't take it as any more than this. But it's sad to hear your accuse yourself of being pathetic, given the 'malign' atmosphere and legacy you have been dumped with, when you don't sound in the SLIGHTEST pathetic - you sound very generous, to my mind, trying to ensure that a father who never seems to have cared tuppance for you or about you, has a comfortable final phase of his life.....that isn't the attitude of a pathetic person, believe me! Not in the slightest!

Kind regards, as a stressful time for you, Jenny
Thank you for your kind words - sorry I have not replied - feeling very run down at the moment and awaiting a medical investigative procedure that is making me feel worse. My mind is blocked and I find it hard to type and explain things clearly.

Jenny, the situation with my elder estranged sister and her large family is complicated, multi-layered and occurred 13 years ago. My mother seemed to cope with the estrangement better than my father. The Payback he refers to is what I owe him because he's my father.

Things remain difficult - I think there is the possibility of vascular dementia.

I've now looked into the possibility of a paid Personal Assistant to visit him (on alternate weeks, if I attempt to cut down staying him to alternate week visits) for conversation, walks, motivation, moral support, falls prevention advice etc etc - and made a gentle suggestion of this - but it was met with ridicule and rejection - and of course he doesn't want to pay for anything! When does one just GIVE UP making suggestions and trying to improve a situation (before it gets worse) - this is the catch though: without becoming engulfed in GUILT. All suggestions I make are met with a block.

I have been given some great advice on this thread that I will follow - many thanks. I fear there is a Long Road ahead.
Sorry you've been bowed down. I'll cut to the chase - when does one give up? I'd say, right now! As for guilt, please do get some counselling - others here have reported how it's helped them manage the Guilt Monster, and taught them how to say 'no' to excessive demands.

You truly truly do not have to ask permission of your dad - or anyone else! - to walk away from him. To let him solve his own problems (or call his other daughter!).

To be met with ridicule and rejection by him for your very sensible suggestions to make his life easier is yet further testimony that you are entitled to walk away.

As for 'payback' - sorry, just being your father does not qualify him for free slave-care by you, so you can be his whipping girl still! Rubbish. Fatherhood is earned, and he didn't earn it (remember what I said about a father who says a child can never be good enough for them!).

Please exit from his life, pick up your own life again, and leave him be. He chose the way he is, and that's that. Dementia doesn't change anything in that morality.

Wishing you all the best - but YOU have to take that! AND YOU ARE ALLOWED TO!

KR, Jenny
PS - the only Long Road is the one leading to your own happiness in your own life!

Just wanted to add - martyrdom is a very easy trap to fall into. A very dangerous one. In a way, a martyr (who sacrifices themselves to an unworthy cause) commits, to my mind, a 'wrong deed'. It 'panders' to the 'wrongness' of the 'unworthy' person that they are sacrificing themselves for.

If I said to you - Your father is WRONG (he's been a bad father to you), therefore any sacrifice to him is also WRONG - would that help you? And by the same token, Guilt is also a 'WRONG' emotion to feel. (I mean, morally wrong in this use of the word in the post- 'sinful' if you want to use a religious term to emphasise the 'not-rightness' of guilt and sacrifice-to-an-unworthy-recipient)
J_1607 wrote:By way of background... I am the "disappointment" daughter as I never had a fantastic career or children. Another story.

My father... can be a very negative, critical, angry man - although to the outside world, he can be charm personified. I guess we all have good and bad character traits. My relationship with him has never been good, we have always clashed terribly as I challenge him...

He sees my involvement as "we only have each other" and "payback" for being my father....

I am not what my father needs. I can't cheer him up in a way that his (estranged) grandchildren and great-children would.
Hello J,

I'm joining this discussion late, but went through something similar with my late father. He was quite a selfish person, not affectionate or very paternal, but he was fond of my elder sister and she was clearly the favourite. He was known for his charm and humour by his drinking pals, but kept his less charming side for his family. However, when his health deteriorated (alcoholism, mobility issues then dementia) I was the only daughter who lived near enough to help care for him, and when he went into a care home I was the one who visited the most, as my siblings were too far away to visit often.

It was difficult, knowing that he'd rather have the favourite daughter there, but being trapped by circumstances into being there for him. Due to the dementia he mellowed a little over the last few years, and I think he was grateful for what I did for him, but it wasn't easy.

Your father is very wrong to say that you owe him. He is not worthy of any self sacrifice on your part after the treatment he has meted out to you. However, you seem to have a strong moral compass and would probably never forgive yourself if you walked away, so I would suggest that you do what you feel able to do to support him, but only to the extent that your health allows. Set your boundaries and feel no guilt, while giving limited support as far as you feel able. That is what I did, and when Dad died, I felt no regret, because I knew I'd done more for him in difficult circumstances than he would have done for me, if the roles were reversed.

Despite his faults I find myself grieving his loss, but not in the same way that I grieve for Mum, who died earlier this year. Her death was a real shock to my system, whereas I didn't have the same closeness to Dad.

So, my advice is - take care of yourself and do enough so that you won't torment yourself later, because you're probably fond of him, deep down, that's the way us humans are.
What I find revealing in both J's and SW's families is that in neither case is/was it the 'favoured' daughter who lifted a finger to help the father who fawned on them.

What I think can happen when there is a 'favoured child' is that, as I said earlier, although the relationships with ALL the children, both favoured and unflavoured, is toxic, the real risk is that the favoured child actually turns into the favouring parent by way of behaviour and character etc! ie, they become as selfish and uncaring of anyone else (including, so ironically for the favouring/fawning parent, not caring about their doting parent either!).

Alternatively, if character is 'given' (and I would hate to think it is, but you never know), then maybe the reason the favoured child IS the favoured child is precisely BECAUSE they are 'most like' the favouring parent! In other words, the (deeply flawed) parent sees themselves reflected in the favoured child, and that's why they favour them. 'They're so like me!.....So he/she's my favourite!'. Not seeing, of course, that it is precisely because having a favourite at all marks the parent as deeply flawed, and that 'flaw' is exactly what they see in the child that is 'most like them'....which is why they favour them!

However, the real victim is the non-favoured child, who then gets all the cr*p dumped on them - including the oh-joy of having to look after the very parent that spurned them, while the favoured child gets off scot free - BUT continues to be 'yearned after' by the toxic, selfish and oblivious parent who readily accepts the sacrifice of the unflavoured child, who desperately yearns for a tiny bit of the 'doting' that is lavished on the selfish favoured child....

Anyway, that's my amateur psychology take on it all!!!!!
In other words, the (deeply flawed) parent sees themselves reflected in the favoured child, and that's why they favour them.
Yes, that was definitely the case with Dad and eldest sibling - they were so alike, she was like a female version of him at times! They kind of spoke the same language and had a mutual admiration society going on, which excluded everyone else.

Anyway, for me all that's history now, and though it bothered me years ago, I long ago accepted the way things were. If she follows suit it may be the case that she'll end up with dementia too, in fact I can see some signs already that she's losing the plot a bit (though as she's so strange it's hard to know what's really happening in her mind).

I don't have children so cannot know what sort of parent I'd have made, but part of me thinks it's only human to have a favourite child. However, it's better if the parent can conceal those feelings of favouritism, though I'm sure that's easier said than done, and I'm in no position to judge.
Yes, I suspect that 'mirror-image' explanation of the favoured child syndrome may well be the right one!

I'm not sure about a parent always tending to favour one child over another? I can't say, as I've only the one anyway, so I just dote on him totally :) :) :)

I only have one brother myself, older than me, and we are very close, but that is also because of the difficulties we both faced in our childhoods/youth by having a mum with MH and a dad who just couldn't cope with it. That said, I always felt as a child that my bro was Mum's favourite, and that I was my dad's! (Well, dad always had time for me, was NEVER cross with me, and paid me lots of attention, and was 'studious' like me - mum was terribly volatile, like living on a volcano, she could erupt with anger at any time and I could anger her without realising by doing something I shouldn't, but was never aware of what that was until I did it)(my bro recalls the same, but worse!). BUT, as we grew up, that swapped over, and I was more 'Mum's girl' and my bro more 'Dad's boy'....maybe that's just because of the same sex factor? The MOST important thing for my bro and me, though, was that although we knew our parents were unhappy together, and there were acute difficulties, that they love us DEVOTEDLY both of us - that overwhelming and unconditional love for us was our 'salvation', and both were warm and demonostrative towards us. I think that is absolutely critical for any parent-child relationship!

As for a parent favouring one child over another, I guess it depends on the parent's character! If the parent has deep character flaws, and favours the child with similarly deep character flaws (whether from nurture or nature), then that is where the harm and damage comes from.

From the way J describes her own father - as cold and crtical to her, but 'charm personified' to the rest of the world, I'd say that was pretty clear evidence he has such deep character flaws....and that's why she basically owes him zilch (except perhaps a mouthy tirade about why he was such a cr*p father and now utterly undeserving of any consideration by her!)(And tell him to go and get some help from the daughter he fawned on!)
Dear J
I have just joined this forum and yours was the first post I read. You are not alone - I understand almost exactly how you are feeling. I felt like crying when I read your post, your situation is in some ways similar to mine and I send you love.

Please forgive me for not having any answers - my troubles are so similar to yours - I found the answers to your post by the others enlightening to say the least, especially the bit about elderly people becoming self-focussed - this is so true. I am mired in the thick of looking after my mother who is 85 and was widowed five years ago. I thought I would easily be able to cope with this, blithely arranging everything so she could come and live with us and so my brother who lives 300 miles away wouldn't have to worry - (he didn't, and doesn't, anyway!). I and my husband sold our much-loved house, my mum sold hers and my husband damn near killed himself building us all a new one to live in.

It has been hell on earth and the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life. My mum is no happier here with us than she was at home on her own, even though she has me, my husband, her two grandchildren and my son's girlfriend all living here with her and she has her own flat with all her own things in it. She sees us on a daily basis and we all eat together whenever we can, which is most days. I have come to the conclusion that what is within her can only be improved by herself and no amount of cajoling, encouragement, admonishment or hard work on my part is making any difference to her misery. Neither will it make any difference to your father's, J, so you must start to think of yourself first and he can go along with that, or lump it.

I understand completely that she is miserable - she has lost her husband of 60 years and the home she lived in with him - even though she was so unhappy there on her own that she would count the hours until I got there and then beg me not to go. But she has her health - she is on no tablets and is fully mobile and able to get the bus from the end of our road to wherever she likes.

I have to go now, because it is lunchtime and I will go and make her lunch for her, even though I have been ill all this week with a water infection and have only just started to recover.

I just wanted to reach out to you because I truly understand how you feel and don't want you to think you are alone - your post helped me to realise that I am not alone either.

Bless you. xx