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Bart19's avatar

Is it my fault that my parents are ignoring me?

Asked by Bart19 (1020points) July 25th, 2011

Well I am sorry for the really long question. There is just so much to it and it has been really bugging me.

I recently emigrated from the Netherlands to England to live with my fiancée and her parents. I stopped my studies in the Netherlands and made preparations to move after my partner found out she was pregnant. Sadly enough we lost the baby at seventeen weeks and I decided to emigrate anyway so we could be together at last and didn’t need to be in a long distance relationship anymore. To make 2011 a better year than 2010 we got engaged.

Anyway since and already before my move my parents and 3 sisters (I am the only boy and the oldest) have been completely ignoring me. There has been no contact from their part and last time me and my fiancée came by for my parents 25th wedding anniversary and our own wedding arrangements it was a complete disaster.

We had to pull out our savings to pay for the trip and rearranged our schedules to be there which took quite a lot of effort. But we were barely greeted after we arrived and we weren’t allowed to rest after our five hour trip. We had to clean up my old room, get the airbed out, vacuum and dust and then celebrate my sister’s birthday because it was her day after all. It also turned out they will give my oldest sister far more money and support than they will ever give me because she is studying far away (three hours from my hometown) despite the costs of studying being far higher in England. My parens call my second sister’s boyfriend their surrogate son and he gets more attention than I do and a better place to sleep. They barely talk to my partner.

When we got ill because of lack of sleep and I couldn’t participate in a traditional celebration (putting up a wedding gallon with family friends) I got blamed by my sister for not doing enough for the family, for abandoning them, not spending enough time with them (Even when I am in the room, they won’t talk to me), for complaining too much and for being a wimp. My parents didn’t speak to me at all afterwards despite me attending every other celebration. I tried to talk to my mother but she walked past me and instead greeted all my sisters separately, knowing full well I was in the same room. My dad started talking to my partner more (Even when both my parents dislike her and he never starts a conversation with her unless there are people around) after giving me the most dirty looks.

I know emigration can bring up a lot of emotions, especially combined with the marriage, miscarriage and the fact that they don’t like my partner and blame her for stealing me (She can’t speak Dutch and can’t learn it due to her dyslexia, so emigrating was no option for her). But they never seem to understand that this was all hard for me too and that I have my own life now.

I also know I don’t fit in their expectations of me and am the first one to break out of the tight family of six unit. But I am doing fine. I got accepted into university, I have a job, I like my future inlaws, my relationship with my partner is great and I am healthier and happier than I ever have been.

So is this my fault? Everybody in the Netherlands compliments my parents for their great parenting and how hard it is to lose their only son. They will tell all their friends that they are proud of me but they never say anything affectionate to me personally and they ignore me when I come to visit.

So am I doing something wrong? Is there something I can do? Do I need to see the side of my parents more? Should I contact them more often? Or is this hopeless?

Thank you so much for reading.

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14 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

Their actions are always their responsibility, just as your actions are always your responsibility. So no, it’s not your fault.

Look, people move. Family members leave to go start their own family. You have no obligation to stay near to them instead of living your own life as you choose to. And you might have physically left for another country, but they’re the ones continuing the lack of communication. What does it say about people who would rather you be close to them and miserable than have you leave and be happy (I’ll tell you – nothing good. That’s some codependent bullshit).

Perhaps you can send them a card or something saying “When you’re ready to talk, I’m here”. But in the mean time, just enjoy your new wonderful life in England, and don’t beat yourself up over something you have no control over.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t think it’s your fault, but obviously they are having problems accepting that you moved away. I know little about Dutch culture, but were there any cultural expectations of the boy of the family taking care of the parents/family when the parents were older? Or any other expectations that you won’t be able to live up to with moving far away? It’s not fair for you to be expected to do things like that, but if there are some cultural expectations, that may explain why they are taking it so hard. They could also be concerned because you quit your studies to move away.

As for what you can do, it’s really up to you. If you want to keep trying, send them cards and letters telling them how you are doing and asking how they are doing. It’s up to them to decide if they want to respond.

Overall, it may take some time to get things to be better. They probably never will be like they were, but things may improve in time. They may still be dealing with their own feelings and figuring out how to deal with what they are feeling.

When I moved over a thousand miles away, my mom was really hurt. Living far away meant not only that she wouldn’t see me as often, but that she wouldn’t see my son (her first grandchild) as often either. She was use to seeing us on almost a daily basis. To make it easier on her (and me because it was an adjustment moving away from my family), we talked on the phone daily at first. We don’t talk daily anymore, but we talk 3–4 times a week and visit when we can.

You are essentially transitioning from a LDR with your girlfriend to a LDR with your family. Yes, it’s very different, but it’s still hard on everyone involved, especially if you were close before the move. I hope it gets better sooner rather than later. Give them some time to adjust, but don’t let them treat you and your girlfriend badly either. You may have to set some boundaries as time goes on. Good luck.

JLeslie's avatar

Not your fault.

The irony is here you are wanting and caring about being a partof the family, and obviously love them, and they are treating you and actually telling you you don’t do enough or are not involved in the family enough.

This is very similar to what my husband endured/endures from his family. When he was younger, in his late teens and twenties they accused him of being too “American” which is code for not close enough to the family and only thinking of himself. He emigrated from Mexico to the US by the way. Then he married me, an American, and I think it felt like a nail in a coffin for his parents. His sister, I realize now, is competitive with me to some extent. Competitive for my husband’s admiration and affection.

You could try to talk to them, tell them how much you miss them and that you feel they are angry with you. Or, whatever you are feeling. Ask your sister exactly what she expects from you with the reality that you live in a different country. Probably they won’t be able to articulate any specifics at all. They are just being bitchy. If you are lucky they will see your sincerity, you will all have a good conversaion and things will be better.

However, in my husband’s family I don’t think the positive scenerio would happen. They expect us to know what they want without them telling us, and no matter what we do they will say we did not do enough or did the wrong thing, because it makes them feel better than us.

My husband basically does whatever he wants to. He does not do less because they can be horrible. Through the years they recognize I think some of the things we have done, and that we do want to spend time with everyone.

The other part to my story is his whole family lives in America now, and every so often we are on the good side again, when they are busy hating some other sibling.

Over all his family is great, don’t get me wrong, but my husband always feels like they think he doesn’t do enough, when in reality we always are thinking of their well being, have done tons to help, and want to be close with them.

Anyway, only you know how your family is likely to react. If you do decide to talk to them I would start with your parents. They love you, they miss you, they may not be aware of how they are coming across.

Coloma's avatar

No. your parents may be adjusting to you leaving the nest, and choosing your own path, but as others have said, you are NOT responsible for their feelings or issues they have with your departure and launching into your new chosen life.

They will adjust and come around, hopefully, eventually.

In the meanwhile don;t cling to any guilty feelings, this is what happens in life, kids grow up and move on and everyone has to adjust.

All you can do is keep letting them know that their support and well wishes for your success and happiness would be mean a lot to you, while, at the same time, learning to set boundaries, meaning, you have every right to tell them that they don’t have to like or agree with what you do, but they do need to show respect!

You are an adult now and equal to your parents as an independent young person, they need to take this fact to heart.

Having the courage to do your own thing is much better than living your life for others and not being true to yourself.

marinelife's avatar

Based on what you are saying, this is not your fault. Your parents behavior is irrational.

What I would do if I was you, is concentrate on your happier and healthier life in England.

Set some boundaries with your parents. Tell them that you are disappointed in the way that they are treating you. That you feel that you have made a good faith effort to show your love for them. Tell them that you expect them to treat you with equal love and respect and to treat your fiancee the same way.

Read the book Toxic Parents by Susan Forward for some more insight into their behavior and tips on communicating with them.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@marinelife I love that book.

Bart19's avatar

Thank you all for the great answers.


“I don’t think it’s your fault, but obviously they are having problems accepting that you moved away. I know little about Dutch culture, but were there any cultural expectations of the boy of the family taking care of the parents/family when the parents were older? Or any other expectations that you won’t be able to live up to with moving far away? It’s not fair for you to be expected to do things like that, but if there are some cultural expectations, that may explain why they are taking it so hard. They could also be concerned because you quit your studies to move away.”

Dutch culture is very Western, there is no emphasis on taking care of your elderly parents at all. My grandparents are in their late seventies and still care for themselves. Living with your parents at an older age is seen as a taboo actually, just as marrying young and having children young.

My parents do really value the family of six unit and so do my sisters. My youngest sister said I couldn’t go because I was her only brother and she already had plenty of sisters. My mother hated the thought of me moving out to live in another city for my study yet they don’t seem to mind my sister studying three hours away.

I stopped my studies before the miscarriage happened. There was no way I could have continued with a child because the duration of the study was four years. My mother hoped I would resume my studies after the miscarriage. When the doctors told my girlfriend the miscarriage was a result of molar pregnancy which could probably develop into cancer, my mother told me that there would surely be many more miscarriages and that I was better off breaking up with her. I couldn’t bear to stay away from her for four years and I put an offer in for a British university and got accepted. So I don’t think the study is the problem.

Seaofclouds: The situation of your husband sounds very similair to mine. Thank you for your answer.

marinelife: “That you feel that you have made a good faith effort to show your love for them. Tell them that you expect them to treat you with equal love and respect and to treat your fiancee the same way.”

I already confronted my mother with this weeks before the move because she continued made mean comments about my girlfriend. I didn’t get a proper response. The conversation dragged on for hours and she blamed me for assuming she was a bad mother, had a massive speech about all the love and support she gave me, how hard it was for her to hear the word miscarriage because it reminded her of her own loss and how she didn’t want to lose her family of six and how much distress I was causing her by just mentioning all these things. Then she blamed my girlfriend for getting pregnant on purpose in an attempt to steal me away from her just to finish it off by blaming us both for the miscarriage. We should have had more tests done apparently.

I will give the book a try but I doubt if I can persuade my mother. :(

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Bart19 Sometimes, the goal is not to persuade your mother, but to be able to emotionally distance yourself from their actions, and better take care of yourself.

marinelife's avatar

@Bart19 Then focus on making yourself OK with not persuading them.

Hibernate's avatar

Maybe they have some issues. It’s good to interact but know when to do it.

Bart19's avatar

It sounds all very nice and philosophical but it does not help much. It’s hard to interact with my family, especially my mother since she relates everything to herself and has a hard time understanding my viewpoint. The distance obviously doesn’t help.

I can take as much emotional distance as I want but my wedding day is in the first week of September and I still need to face them. Hence me wondering if I was at fault. If I did something wrong I could apologize and relieve some of the tension. But with all those unresolved issues going on, the ignoring, the “I am not doing enough for the family” attitude and my family disliking my partner, I am dreading my wedding. If there is any good advice it would be very welcome.

snowberry's avatar

You can always elope.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bart19 After everything you have stated it seems to me that time will be the only thing that helps. Your family is in a state of mourning of sorts. Mourning how it used to be with you in the house, and maybe they are in the angry phase and showing by saying mean things to you. Eventually they will reach the acceptance phase. Maybe instead of feeling offended or angry yourself, you can try to be understanding of whatever pain they are esperiencing missing you. My husband’s parents went through this every time a child moved out of the house, and his sister was 25 when she finally left when she got married, and his brother in his mid 30’s.

dabbler's avatar

You can be the generation that breaks the dysfunctional mold, with your fiance.
@marinelife suggestion of “Toxic Parents” is a good one.
It’s a sad state, but console yourself that as well noted above you are not at fault.

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