My 94 year old father's health and faculties are largely intact, but he is experiencing a bit of a decline as of late, and I am trying to ramp up the support I give him. The thing that is getting in the way is that we have never really had much of a relationship, and he has always been distant, controlling and manipulative, and it's now getting to the point where is it beyond funny. My father is always saying I am under my husband's domination, that he took me away from my religion (I did that myself at 13) and has told me today that he could see my husband was not of good character as he once was a cap inside his house.

I don't want to be more resent-filled than I am, so I have tried to say what is not acceptable to say to me, but he had outright said he has every right to say whatever he likes, made a veiled threat and said he was making a formal complaint about gaining access to his granddaughter, who he sees fortnightly. Any tips?

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Your father has every right to say whatever he likes to you, and to make veiled threats about what formal complaints he intends to lodge as well. And you have every right to withdraw your time & effort on behalf of the support you give him, by the same token.

We get what we give in this life.

He gives you nothing but a headache, back off and give him way less of your time and attention. If he'd like more of it, well then, it will behoove him to act more civilized toward you in the future, along the lines of 'you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.' Even demented elders catch wind of that after awhile.

Remember: your father is not the only one here who's feelings and care matter. YOU matter too. Don't lose sight of that on your quest to save dad.
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TouchMatters Mar 2021
No, many do not 'get what they give.' This is untrue and telling this woman seeking support that she is somehow responsible for how her father speaks to her. Her father doesn't have 'every right to say whatever . . . " - he obviously is doing that however displaced anger, lack of respect to a family member/daughter is not a right, it is a behavior. It might be clearer to phrase it 'he believes he has a right . . . which he obviously does believe.
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At 94, he is not going to change.
Do not allow your energy to be drained because of who he is and how he apparently has believed / felt for years, if not over MANY decades.
All you can really do is change how you react.
If it were me, I would ignore his comments by:
(1) say it sounds like you do not want me to visit; I'll leave soon (and see what he says). If you start to leave early, he may stop talking like this, or he may not.
(2) for your mental and emotional health, leave when he starts in. Don't be his doormat for abuse.
(3) You need to develop the part of you that is wounded by him. I would imagine this may be a life-long way of relating. You develop this part by giving yourself the support, love, unconditional love that he is unable to give you.
(4) Ask yourself why you continue to 'do' for him when his way of talking to you hurts you. I know these relatioships are not clear as black and white. They are shades of greys, with love, guilt, regrets, pain, wounding, FEARS, all rolled into the 'now' - The more you learn to respect and love yourself, the less how he speaks to you will adversely affect you. You will learn that his feelings - his anger and resentments are his and about him. At his age, he likely has nothing left. It sounds like he was 'always' unable to give of himself, to express affection. This shows how blocked / wounded HE is and was. I would feel compassion for him - as you are able. This means understanding him and setting BOUNDARIES for yourself. Here's a hug. Gena.
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shuffle Mar 2021
thank you for writing this, It helps me too. :)
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"...he has always been distant, controlling and manipulative, and it's now getting to the point where is it beyond funny."

It probably never was funny, but perhaps you could laugh it off. IF you really feel the need to continue helping and supporting him, there are some choices:

1) Cut him off mid-sentence when he starts. Say you will leave if he continues. Then follow through if you have to, even if your "tasks" aren't completed.
2) Continue to laugh at him. Although words are cruel, you can try to let it fall to the ground between you and just laugh out loud at him.
3) If he doesn't take the hint at #1, cut back on visits.

For #2, sometimes their "power" is in the reactions they get. If you do react, he gets his reward.

My mother was sometimes "difficult" before dementia and if she ticked me off enough, I would leave. She often criticized all of our spouses - no one was ever "good enough." She even continued to blast a former SIL years after they split and it continued even after she passed away. The last time she said it I decided the next time I would set her straight. Dementia took care of the issue for me.

I used to tell people my MAX was 4 hours, with others around. One time it was 10 MINUTES! After dementia she wasn't as bad, but typically the greetings I got when I visited her in MC was "Oh, what're you doing here?" and "Where'd you come from?" I would say Pluto, Venus, Jupiter for where I came from and would ask her if she wanted me to leave. That was the end of it every time, we'd move on to something else.

Even if you set the boundaries to what is acceptable, he may never change. If nothing else works and he continues and you choose to remain as care-giver, I'd recommend ear plugs or a headset playing tunes, loud enough to drown him out. Then just smile and go about your business. You know the truth and don't have to accept anything he says, or listen to it. Your choice is to stay and work around it or let him find someone else to provide for his needs.
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didactica71 Mar 2021
such fantastic pragmatic advice, I shall be adopting all these strategies. Thanks so much!
I'm not speaking to my MIL, after 45 years of trying, really trying to have a decent relationship with her.

If I had dollar for every time I tried a 'new ' tactic' to get her to 'come around'--well, I could buy a car. It was ALWAYS on me to be the bigger, better person. Accept the mean little 'asides' and the nasty comments and literal hate. (When someone tells you they hate you, at some point, you BELIEVE them).

MIL is 90. She's frail, angry and terrified of everything. I'm not a monster, and I do feel very sorry for the life she's carved out for herself.

At this point, in a book, the two 'combatants' would have some 'epiphany' and suddenly all the nastiness and anger of the past is dissolved and going forth, all is peaches and cream.

In reality, our relationship got worse and worse and worse. Dh refused to stand up for me, now he is all alone in 'doing' for her, and boy, do I hear about it.


My guess is that you are feeling some level of guilt about not having a good relationship with dad and you want that before he dies. Absolutely normal and admirable if there's a chance you can make that happen.

BUT--I bet you can't. And I bet he doesn't care. Take a deep breath, do for him what you want, or what he'll allow if you still want to be in his life--and if you don't....walk away. It's been a year since I saw or spoke to my MIL. And I have felt very relieved. Dh is struggling mightily with having no buffer to accompany him to her house. He was happy to throw me under the bus and let me take all the abuse while he puttered around and fixed stuff for her--but w/o me there, it's just him and now he gets it all.

His threat of forcing visits with the grands is laughable, as they are probably old enough to decide on their own if they want a relationship with him. That's a pretty hollow threat.
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didactica71 Mar 2021
You are so true about the guilt about having a normal , and I appreciate your strong message about the unlikeliness of that. I take my hat off to your inspiring strong stand!
What your father says at 94 really doesn’t need to make the teeny tiniest bit of difference to you OR to your life OR to your relationships.

So that being the case, you are the boss, and you do not need to interact in any way with his “stuff”.

Make him “the old man on the bus” in your thinking. When he raves or rages, some passengers will laugh at him, a few may “shush” him, and most will ignore him. You can be whichever passenger you decide to be, including the one who hears what he says but isn’t impacted upon.

Your choice, in every way. You stopped being his vulnerable adolescent offspring decades ago. Don’t replay those tapes.
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didactica71 Mar 2021
the "old man on the bus" is an analogy I've not heard before, but I can see that being SO helpful. Thanks for that pearl of wisdom!
I'm sorry as I read this I had to giggle. Because:
This sounds like my father. Horrible how they can make us feel like a confused and helpless child, all over again. They still use the same old techniques they used on us when we were at their mercy as children.

I am taking care of both my parents.
My father yesterday, (while I thought we were finally, for once, having a normal adult conversation during breakfast, about: doing our taxes), said to me in a mocking tone, "you do taxes? laugh, laugh, you don't work!
For the record, I work.
But the best part was, how my mother had my back, she replied: "Yes she works, she works for her husband". Just lovely :(

If it's true we choose our parents, then wtf was I thinking????
I grew up in a home with a sexist and absent father and a mother who went along with it, and they made a great team.

I have never had a good relationship with my father, mostly because he is sexist, manipulative, dominating, uneducated etc. He was never involved in our lives, but was always used by my mother as a threat: Wait until your father gets home!

I have the hardest time making him understand anything, when I have to approach him with anything, even something as simple as: did you enjoy your meal? I cringe.

Your father sounds like a bully, just like my father, making threats.
My father has threatened to call the police on me, while under my care, in my home, because I would not put up with his bs, trying to control and dominate me. When he threatened me I laughed and told him that I would have him cuffed and taken out of MY HOME. He no longer uses that card.

He has made it clear what he thinks of women and has always tried to get my husband on his team against me. Nonsense.

I'm sorry you had him as your first male role model. I am sad for myself that this is what I grew up with. He made a negative impression on me that has affected many choices I have made in my life.

For me what has worked, is basically not putting up with the bullying.
In my case they are stuck, they have nowhere else to go, and they know it.
They could go into a care facility, but they know that they would not like being there and that no one will take better care of them, than me.

As for him saying any nasty thing he wants to say to you, NO HE CAN'T, no one should think they can say whatever they want without thought or concern for how the receiver feels. Tell him to stop being so nasty. Tell him he is not in control, you are. Tell him he is in your home due to your kindness. Tell him you are not his child anymore but a grown up woman and that he needs to treat you with respect from now on. And that his threats will only get him out of your house and into a strangers care.

If he is in a care facility, I suggest less visits. Distance yourself, he is toxic.
What I always hold on to, is:
They lived their lives the way they wanted, this now is your life, you choose how
you want to live it.

How do you respond constructively: sorry I have not had any success with that, whether it's dementia, or it's because he does not like it coming from his daughter (a sub servant female)… I have tried the "let's be reasonable adults and talk calmly", never worked. He does not come from a place of reason :)
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didactica71 Mar 2021
Wow, I could relate to every word! It saddens me that others are in the same boat, but feel more sane and less of a pariah knowing that there are. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.
Why would you "ramp up your support" of someone who is attempting to destroy your relationships?

When he speaks abusively to you, get up and walk out. Leave the tasks unfinished.

Either he will get the message or he won't. In any event, he is an adult and can arrange his own care if he drives the care he has away.
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I wouldn’t provide care for anyone with the personality of your father, as an adult I’m free to not subject myself to rude behavior. I hope you’ll only do caregiving from a distance and not let his toxic behavior invade your life and soul. If you do choose to remain involved, leave everytime without exception each time he’s rude. He may have the right to say what he wants, but you have the right not to listen to it
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notgoodenough Mar 2021
I so totally agree! I feel so terrible for people who are in this situation, and them being hardwired to accept the abuse and not be able to break free.

What did The Eagles say in "Already Gone"? "So often times it happens/that we live our lives in chains/and we never even know we have the key"...I think of those lyrics every time I see posts like this...
I am curious why you continue in the care of your father, who doesn't sound like a person worthy of this disruption in your life ongoing. I would leave his care to others, or to caregivers. It does sound as though this is a very broken brain, but there wasn't a relationship that was there before the breakage to get your through. Report your Dad as a senior at risk to APS and let them know you cannot provide him support due to his actions. Someone who says your husband was a cap in his house doesn't really have an intact brain. But if it IS intact, then that is good. Let him take care of himself, and place himself when he can no longer care for himself. Work on yourself, get yourself help in dealing with this, seek counseling, be certain that the legacy of his "love" isn't passed to another generation.
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He is right. You can't control what he says or his opinions about anything or anybody. You can control how you deal with his problem behavior.

1 - I suggest reading any of the "boundary" books by Townsend and Cloud. The have successfully dealt with identifying problem behaviors and creating options for dealing with those behaviors.

2 - You might also find it helpful to have a friend, family member or therapist to be able to vent your frustration to.

3 - Make sure that you have others who can help in his care. You need "time off" to take care of yourself, your spouse, and refresh your "batteries" doing things you enjoy with people you value.
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didactica71 Mar 2021
Thanks so much for your advice. I shall check out Townsend and Cloud's books and have been thinking of seeing a therapist - you've sealed the deal!
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