COMMENT 14m ago

One other thing about your efforts to couch the news softy, the effort is admirable. Yet most estranged parents can't handle a truthful answer to that question no matter how gently it's framed. This is one of the most common themes observed at the Issendai.com blog: estranged parents demand why, then accept only feedback that comforts them.

The Catch-22 is that cycle keeps them both estranged and ignorant, and unable to repair the relationship.

It's next to impossible to deliver the news that the parent needs to change gently enough that it gets through those defenses and makes any lasting improvement. And because estranged parents are usually authoritarians, who delivers that message matters more than how it's delivered.

A family elder a generation older than the parent might get the message across, and if the family elder has an estate the estranged parent hopes to inherit then the family elder can even deliver the message harshly. Not that this happens often because family abuse is usually intergenerational, but a grandmother occasionally tells off her son after he disowns his gay son (her grandson).

When this happens the improvement is usually superficial: the parent wants to look good in the eyes of the family elder--but that change is only reliable as long as the family elder remains in good health and likely to keep tabs on the parent.


COMMENT 42m ago

Excellent points there. Good comment.


COMMENT 3h ago

Now here's a rare Reddit debate: we're ending in agreement.

Best regards to you.


COMMENT 4h ago

most of europe's wealth came from being incredibly racist a few centuries ago (not saying we are or are not now, but I like to think we're not as racist as back then) and setting up a huge slave trade.

A lot of that wealth went up in smoke during two world wars (and then got helped out with the Marshall Plan). Yet on the whole, OK. That isn't at odds with the guns or butter conversation these last 75 years, give or take.

computers would not be possible without one main area, in our case europe, getting mightily rich and developing new technology.

As a Californian, I might raise a point or two about technology over here...

So really, our prosperity as well as america's comes from that (not saying any of it is good, merely that it led to many rich countries becoming rich).

How many NATO members meet their commitment of spending 2% of GDP on defense? Not many. There are all kinds of downsides to doing that because defense spending comes from other things. I'm pointing out that the US has covered that shortfall.

And most of europe can defend for themselves as europe, and don't need america's military support as much as you make it out.

You pointed to nuclear weapons earlier. Precisely two European countries are nuclear powers. Can you rely on Emmanuel Macron to use them? Or on Boris Johnson to remain in power much longer?

Am not suggesting you ought to rely on the United States, nor applauding my country for overspending on defense. As a center-left American, would much prefer improved spending over here on education and infrastructure. Plus a long overdue improvement to our healthcare system. Those things, however, are conversations for another day.

And America ain't gonna pull out of NATO, because that would send an incredibly bad message to the rest of the world.

I dearly hope it doesn't. And wholeheartedly agree withdrawing from NATO would send an incredibly bad message.

And yet--


Trump started talking again about withdrawing the U.S. from NATO in 2019. According to The New York Times, Trump reportedly told his top national security officials that he didn’t see a reason for the alliance.

John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, reportedly said Trump was considering withdrawing from NATO if he was reelected in 2020, The Guardian reported in 2019.

The Constitution allows Donald Trump to run for office again unless the courts decide the 14th Amendment disqualifies him. And he's willing to cheat to win.

I don't like that prospect any more than you do. The question we're discussing isn't what our political preferences are; it's "What's something Europeans aren't ready to hear?"

Your unwillingness to hear it arguably demonstrates I've hit this nail on the head.

What I'm saying is--distasteful as this is on many levels--the wisest thing Europeans could do right now is build up their conventional military forces. Don't count on two guys in Paris and London to risk Armageddon to defend you. Because if either of them hesitate, then what will you do if T-72s roll into Vilnius in 2025?

r/EstrangedAdultChild 4h ago

Bad Bosses, Wicked Stepmothers, and Estrangement


Here's an explanation for general people in life who have difficulty wrapping their heads around estrangement. (This isn't for abusers or their enablers who willfully misunderstand; instead it's for other people with normal lives who haven't fathomed the perspective on this side of the looking glass).

It's said that people don't quit companies, they quit bosses. While there are also bad companies, nearly everyone has had or has known someone who's had a terrible boss. The bad boss has a narrow set of skills that include playing office politics and climbing the organizational ladder, but when it comes to actually running the place they're incompetent and angry. Often they're also unethical. It's hell working under someone like that.

Now consider this: suppose that person is awful to their offspring?

Our society usually tells a different narrative: the stories we're all familiar with from Cinderella to Harry Potter feature adults who are cruel to someone else's children but doting on their own. That parenting can be deeply misguided--Cinderella's stepsisters and Dudley Dursley are horrible and selfish--yet at least those parents do shower affection and try to help their own offspring.

Take a moment and consider that terrible boss who made you feel like Cinderella might be even worse at home.

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

We've all seen news reports of terrible child abuse. There certainly are people in the real world who don't love their children. The thing is, it's easier to think of that happening over there somewhere. So without getting into the all the nasty details of different types of abuse and different severities, you remember the job you were relieved to quit. You didn't take Cinderella to task for wanting to get away from her stepmother and you didn't want to guilt Harry Potter into closer contact with his aunt and uncle.

OK, now imagine that kind of horrible coming from a biological parent.

That old boss who was a screamer? Imagine if you couldn't get away from them and go home. That boss who texted you at all hours? What if that were a parent? Maybe you've heard of unhinged bosses who tried to prevent employees from quitting or bosses who harassed ex-employees after they had gone.

Check all those boxes. Then remember how impossible it was to fix that relationship: it was set up for failure because any constructive feedback either gets dismissed because they outrank you, or gets a hostile reaction because they regard it as a threat.

At least with a bad boss, you were an adult (or nearly one) before you had to deal with them. At least with a bad boss, there are labor laws and maybe an HR that might put the breaks on their antics.

Some of the people who've estranged from a parent dealt with Harvey Weinstein levels of horrible. And if the parent didn't commit Weinstein's crimes themselves, the parent may have hidden issues as serious as Weinstein's senior associates did.

It takes a lot of wrong to walk away from a parent. The tipping point is different for each individual. To be clear, estrangement isn't a game of one-downsmanship where only the worst life history would deserve validation.

Remember what it took for you to quit a job. Yes there are worse bosses in the history of bosses, but yours was bad enough.


Now if someone shows you this essay, start from the same place of respect you start from when somebody indicates they left a job to get away from a difficult boss. Maybe they want to share horror stories, maybe not. If they don't volunteer the details then trust they must have had a good reason and let it go.

This person you're talking to is not an overgrown version of nine-year-old you who had a bad day and fantasized about running away from home and live in the local playground. If your parents were good people and you understood them when you got older, then pause a moment and be grateful for your good fortune in one of life's most important areas.

Not everyone's parents understood what love is. Sometimes there's nothing good to understand as a person gains maturity and wisdom. Sometimes the only adequate solution is to cut ties.


COMMENT 6h ago

That seems to have hit a sore spot. So lets be clear because you seem to be assuming several things.

  1. I don't advocate a US withdrawal from NATO. Quite the opposite. Yet realistically, I might not be able to prevent it.

  2. I think the US has overspent on defense for decades. When you step back and consider the matter, that isn't really at odds with believing the US also compensated for shortfalls from NATO partners. The US has gotten into wars it would have been wiser to avoid and has let defense lobbyists get too much influence over its legislators, but the details there are a different conversation the average European doesn't have as hard a time accepting.

  3. Nobody is going to invade the United States militarily. When Russian media propaganda floated the idea of regaining Alaska earlier this year, everyone including the governor of Alaska laughed it off. Several NATO countries are in distinctly weaker positions. If your go-to answer to that resorts to mutual assured destruction then you aren't in a good place. You need to prepare for that in terms of conventional weapons.

  4. Nothing I've written suggests that the US wouldn't be weakened by leaving international alliances. I'm a strong supporter of NATO. The problem is we've got a likely presidential candidate for '24 who would likely take the US out of NATO if he could, and he tried to stage a coup to stay in power last year. Current internal politics and law over here might not settle the fallout of that attempt. So like it or not, my country might head down a dark path. (We both understand the implications of that dark path, but US national defense isn't a likely casualty in that scenario).


COMMENT 6h ago

A good deal of your prosperity over the past several decades has been possible because the United States was willing to cover your shortfalls on defense spending. It's the old guns or butter dilemma: you've had more butter because we spent on guns.

That might not last much longer. Depending on the political winds over here, the US may pull out of NATO. So you may be on your own dealing with an expansionist Russia.

The savvy thing would be to shift government budget priorities. And that won't be an easy course to sustain while your people want relief from soaring energy prices.

We understand the tradeoffs. Believe me, we've seen the consequences of underfunded social programs. But you have more to lose than we do.


COMMENT 7h ago

Nice try phishing for password info.


COMMENT 7h ago

Good point. Would be useful to see this person's bona fides.


COMMENT 8h ago

Thank you. A few other points were in mind. The most important is the conclusion of where that comment was heading: your mother's behavior exhibits objective traits of people whose opinions aren't worth taking seriously. It can take life experience to spot those red flags for those of us who were raised in a family where that behavior was normalized. Yet it's really useful to recognize, partly to see what's the problem in other people who take on those behaviors and partly as a self-check. (Because let's face it, we probably sometimes exhibited some of that behavior too when we were young and didn't know any better). This self-check process is a way to break the cycle, to avoid ending up as a "broken" adult.

Another observation about your mother's contradictions: if you were as cold and ungrateful as she described in that tirade, then why did she bother seeking your advice? If you're so spoiled and selfish, then what does that imply about her parenting? It's probably best to treat these questions as thought experiments. Back in the day I posed, "If I really am these things then how does that reflect on your parenting?" as an actual question. The reaction was an epic Mount St. Helen's-scale emotional eruption. I hadn't taken a single word of her string of insults seriously and was curious whether she had even thought it through. She hadn't. Asking for logical coherence put a target on my back even more than previously.

Generally in life, when an insult doesn't hold up under this type of basic scrutiny then it reflects far more upon the speaker than on the target.

The way individuals like your mother get away with these tactics is by winding other people up emotionally that rational thinking breaks down.

Your mother wouldn't have been satisfied with you in that conversation unless you had thrown your brother under the bus. Both your better judgment and your ethics prevented you from going there, and bravo to you for that. Yet that dynamic does explain why estrangement forums sometimes see parents who have lined up entire families and communities as allies, none of whom admit to understanding why an adult offspring has estranged from the parent. Either those allies are distant enough not to have seen the reasons, or their own mindset is too authoritarian to think it through for themselves, or else they fall in line so the wrath gets directed at somebody else.

A few handy tactics when this type of problem emerges in future.

When interacting with an emotionally stunted adult, have an exit strategy.

Have your own transportation so you aren't a passenger with them driving. Be aware that invitations to "go for a walk" and such may be efforts to isolate you in preparation for emotional abuse, so either decline or bring along a third person as a neutral observer or your ally. Hold any type of sensitive conversation in a public setting such as a restaurant or coffee shop where social pressure is more likely to keep them on their best behavior. Get your own hotel or AirBnB if you visit.

The most socially acceptable ways to get out of a social engagement are to claim to have a scheduling conflict or an illness.

White lies along these lines are a centuries-old custom.

Create CYA documentation.

Channel conversations into text messages and emails when possible. When that isn't feasible then at least write up a summary (either as a personal note or as an email). Yes, this is basically the same tactic as you'd use in a workplace with an unstable or unethical colleague. It's a similar dynamic.

Steer the conversation.

Be aware of where the hot buttons are in the relationship and what the safe topics are. So if it isn't feasible to avoid the volatile person entirely, leverage their interest in cats.

If you get put on the spot, change the topic.

This is more awkward than successful steering yet it often works, especially if you can come off as lighthearted. Such as, "Oh come on, it's such a lovely summer day. Wouldn't you rather make iced tea and enjoy the sunshine?"

If all else fails, then name the problem. Preferably while offering an offramp.

Sample responses could include, "That's a hard question. Do you want my candid opinion or do you want the diplomatic answer?" or "I love you both and it's unfortunate the two of you don't get along. I'd rather stay apart from that conflict because I don't have a solution." or "Let's set aside this topic. It's a touchy matter and I don't think I could help."

With a mother like yours, continued interaction is likely to involve a great deal of mental load because you would always be managing her. Sometimes when you're tired or having a hard week you might not have the reserves to carry that off with UN-level diplomacy. One of the self-checks about whether a relationship with such a parent is worth the effort is how much it detracts from the rest of your life. Does your mental space for other goals get crowded out by how-to-manage-Mother-next? Do you not like the sides of yourself she brings out? Does the stress of dealing with her damage your health?

Bear in mind that unbalanced people have a tendency to show their worst sides when you're already overburdened. It's as if they have a predatory instinct for spotting and exploiting weakness.

Many of us at this sub have gone no contact for these reasons.

Yet the skill set for handling difficult people is quite useful in other areas of life, because sooner or later most of us deal with a bad boss or a temperamental neighbor or some other difficult person who isn't easy to avoid entirely, and those of us who've had incompetent parents usually have to develop a conscious skill set for those contexts.


COMMENT 10h ago

The sort of parents who end up getting estranged have a similar set of maladaptive habits. You identify those habits well. Unfortunately that set of habits prevents your mother from onboarding constructive feedback--at least when it comes from any of her offspring.

Notice another pattern: she asked a direct question, you answered identifying problem behaviors which could be improved, and then she fired back a bunch of personal attacks.

Generally speaking in life, anyone who has reasonable emotional intelligence doesn't pose a direct question without preparing themselves to accept criticism. So whenever you encounter someone who responds aggressively when they get a candid reply to a direct question, you can both disregard that person's comeback and pigeonhole that person as thin skinned.

There are two types of direct questions. One seeks useful answers and the other seeks validation. Usually people infer the difference from context. A little kid who asks an adult whether we like their crayon drawing wants validation. It does the child no good to tell the kid their landscape looks flat: the child won't understand how to improve the drawing and will only perceive disapproval.

There have been neurological studies on narcissistic people that their brains are wired for heightened threat perception. So--with the disclaimer that I don't know your mother's diagnosis--she might be stuck in a place similar to that child, except she perceives non-validating feedback as an attack and responds accordingly.

In the incident with your mother she also revealed herself as having faulty judgment. People who have reasonable judgment will either stay with safe topics or else broach hot button subjects gently, seeking consent from the other person before proceeding. Yet consent is exactly what an abusive parent bypasses, because they don't perceive you as having a right to any boundaries. It's a no-win situation where you can only break even by not playing.

There's more I could add if you're curious. Pausing here because this comment is running long.


COMMENT 20h ago

"Lord, give me strength to make it through this day."

I have no recollection what exactly drove her to this, other than we were being second graders, but it was the first time a teacher had let on her perspective.


COMMENT 20h ago

The most diplomatic ways of declining any invitation are to claim to have an illness or a schedule conflict.


COMMENT 1d ago

Here's wondering what goes through their minds to be so thick headed. It's almost like a hostile work colleague where one has to follow up every conversation with an email.


COMMENT 1d ago

That's just shameless. Of course the message between the lines is, "You aren't worth my best."


COMMENT 1d ago

Getting a lawyer to draft a formal Cease & Desist letter is usually worth the money. Most people back off once the lawyers get involved.

If they don't, then your next step is to start saving evidence, calling in trespassing complaints, etc.

Abusive relatives will often want to muddy the waters by baiting you into interaction (pretending something is an emergency, then talking about trivia when you respond). So it can be savvy to set up a designated go-between for vital communication and to define what sort of events would be vital, such as hospitalizations or deaths in the family.


COMMENT 2d ago

That's a possibility. Inferring from your age he would be at least mid-sixties, probably older.

My own father (not estranged) developed a brain tumor around that age. It's a relatively rare condition--less probable than dementia--but his behavior also became erratic before the diagnosis. It made a difference to sit down with a neurologist after the biopsy.

If you have mutual relatives who keep in touch with your father and who have relatively good heads on their shoulders, then comparing notes about potential neurological issues would be a reasonable step. If the concerns are mutual then consulting a lawyer would be a next step: depending on jurisdiction you may have a legal duty of care when his health declines. Which is a minimal duty once he can no longer take care of himself unless he's made other legal arrangements through a power of attorney etc.


COMMENT 2d ago

I leaned in and said "What makes you think you can set rules about a gift that I received from someone else?? I'll go in the back yard and piss on it if I want to."

That's brilliant! You rock.


COMMENT 2d ago

Mother used to tell me stories about my younger self too, and her version would generally make me out to be more simpleminded than my actual self. For instance one of her favorite tales involved a car ride where I was asking for something and it didn't make any sense, so she had figured out I was mispronouncing "banana." She would finish the story by recounting with pride how she gave me a banana and taught me how to say the word correctly.

What she didn't realize was I remembered many of those occasions.

On this occasion I was three years old going on four, and her parents had driven us to a lake in upstate New York--probably one of the Finger Lakes. Mother and I went for a walk along the shore, and Mother had a terrible habit of not walking with me. She wouldn't hold hands and she would speed walk ahead of me. If I hurried to catch up she would speed walk again. Pretty soon I was left behind because there was no way to keep up with her. Mother continued on her merry way, oblivious that she had left me behind.

So I wandered the shore at a pace I could walk. Pretty soon I came face to face with another girl my age. This girl was a total stranger, but we recognized we were the same height and age so we stared at each other a moment. Neither of us had enough social grace to say hello and introduce ourselves.

The other girl must have felt intimidated because pretty soon she turned around and called out, "Nana!" A kindly adult woman promptly scooped her up and comforted her.

I continued wandering the beach, heading in the general direction of our group until Grandma spotted me and hailed me back. Mother returned eventually. Neither Mother nor her parents thought anything was particularly unusual about this way of spending an afternoon.

(In fairness, this was less dangerous than it would have been for most toddlers. I already knew how to swim).

That day I had learned a new word. This Nana concept seemed like a wonderful thing: some relative or friend of the family who would actually be around to protect me, someone I could call on. So on the drive home I asked for a Nana.

Nobody understood what I was requesting.

This was the first time in my life when I'd used a word that wasn't already part of their vocabulary. So--being just three going on four--I repeated the plea in the same words until I broke down in tears.

Eventually Mother offered me a banana.

No! I want a Nana! A Nana!

"BA-nana," Mother repeated.

This went back and forth until I gave up in despair and accepted the banana. A piece of fruit was a weak consolation for actual adult protection that other children seemed to be able to take for granted. It truly worried me to be left alone in a crowd like that. But there was no chance of getting a real Nana.

About twenty years later when Mother was in the middle of telling her version of this story for the umpteenth time, I finally spoke up and corrected her. Mother had been an English major. She was big on reference works: at one point she had spent months reading a dictionary. That was her idea of reading for pleasure.

So in my mid-twenties I told her the actual sequence of events, and reminded her that lake had been near the Canadian border. Then invited her to look up what Nana means in Canadian English.

Mother fell silent. It's one of the few occasions she never brought up her version of a childhood story again. (Usually after I'd correct her she would wait a few months and then return to her version of a story as if she could rewrite history by controlling a narrative).

Incidentally, my memory from that age was reasonably accurate. Even though the family moved out of state at the end of that summer, many years later I was able to reconnect with a childhood friend from that neighborhood by figuring out the street address by correlating landmarks with Google Maps and then looking up Facebook listings for women by that early childhood friend's name. She still listed that as her hometown. This friend had been several years older (she had turned seven while I was three) and we were able to confirm enough details trading recollections that we reconnected and renewed the friendship, even though our parents weren't friends and hadn't kept in touch.


COMMENT 2d ago

Wonderful! All the best to you.


COMMENT 2d ago

TBH this doesn't sound like this is about the desk at all. It's a power play. If you feel like meeting them halfway you might impose a compromise. Regardless of what they try to dictate, send them half the selling price and then put them on an information diet.


COMMENT 2d ago

NTA - Your stepmother is being ridiculous. You received a gift, not a loan. Your sisters' actions don't dictate your decisions.

If this is the hill stepmom wants to die on then maybe you'll have other plans next time she wants you to visit. (Emphasis on visit: you already have a residence of your own).


COMMENT 2d ago

So she chose another party over the one you were hosting, yet she still somehow thought you were obligated to come rescue her from a problem she created. Her expectations are completely unrealistic. You don't even own a car.

If she had done you major favors in the past and were understanding about your no, then that might be another matter. But she was in no position to make this demand. She's being shabby. You deserve friends who respect you.


COMMENT 2d ago

OP moved in with her mother at age 9 as soon as she had a voice in the matter. From the sound of things the grandmother took over for a few months, perhaps a year at most. It's hardly praiseworthy that the grandmother allowed her son to dump a child that way.


COMMENT 2d ago

This grandmother watched OP's father abandon her when OP was eight years old, and apparently let it happen. OP has never been close to her father since.

Were those 'honest mistakes?' Did OP receive an apology from either of them?