How can I deal with a parent who constantly uses guilt to get their way?

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I am 63...have always lived life making my parents happy at the expense of my own needs and goals which if it called for real effort on my part and less attention to them I became the bad daughter. No matter how caring I was it was never enough. This has been this way since I was around 12. Now, my parents are 83 years old, they have their health problems but they are still quite independent. My children all live away from me now and I am trying to finally start living some kind of life. I am always there for them if they need me. But....the constant fault finding, being made to feel guilty, so you love your goals more than us, constant comparisons to their friends who really love them like true family should...is driving me to not want to be around them unless there is a REAL need. When the effort to make me feel guilty to motivate me to do what they want happens, I litterally shut down mentally and I feel dead inside and cannot make myself care. I feel like an awful person but feel unable to care. By the way...there is never any talking about it with them, I am just cut off with....I don't want to argue with you....by the way, my husband and I also care for his 89 year old mom with no assistance from his siblings. I guess I am so burned out with the guilttrips during my life that I have given up. I just want to squeeze some semblance of a life for myself before I die.

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Just seconding what Barb says here. A parent's JOB is to nurture and encourage their children to become independent adults with their own dreams and ambitions.

Guilt trips are just a form of manipulation. Playing the victim (which they're also doing) is manipulation.  Your parents are manipulating you. It's never too late to get some counseling that will help you build your boundaries against manipulation.

If their friends are so awesome, then let their friends help them out for awhile.
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You described my upbringing too......the "you owe me" mentality. Theirs was an era were the daughters were expected to serve them.

My advice to you is to lose the guilt....It is their chosen way to manipulate you. How much assistance do they need? Are there siblings that can help or give you some time away?

Next time they guilt you, just walk away, no contact for a week and see what happens. I'm with you,,,,when you get punished and put down too many times.....it deminishes your desire to help and SUCKS THE JOY OUT OF YOUR LIFE.!!

I tell my family that I just want 10-15 years now, out of my own life, to simply be respected and to live my own life. Find your joy. I am trying to. Best wishes!
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Google Fear, Obligation and Guilt (FOG). There's lots of good stuff on this site and elsewhere.

What is wrong with caring more about your goals in life than your parents? Your parents are grownups, yes?

Many years ago, when my abusive spouse was reported for verbal, emotional and physical abuse of one of our kids, the nice ladies from Child Protective Services paid a visit. They pointed out to me that having abuse going on in my home might mean my license getting pulled, as I'm a mandated reporter.

I told my spouse he'd have to leave for this reason. He said to me " you care more about your license than you do about me!". And yes, the answer to that was yes. He was an adult with an adults ability to control angry impulses and he claimed he didn't need any help of any sort.

Your parents are telling you pretty much the same thing. I'd call them on it.
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Tiredandsad (and Mincemeat and meallen), this is one topic I cannot empathize with -- can't say "I know how you feel." But I certainly believe you and feel bad for you.

My parents did not use guilt as a primary educational technique. And I don't remember either of them ever saying, "If you loved me you would do this for me," or anything close to it, either when I was a child or an adult. They never belittled me or acted like I should be better/do more.

So I want to say this, from my perspective: There have been periods and situations in our culture where different contributions were expected from boys than from girls. Different standards applied to the genders. Things were different than how most of us treat/treated our children. But there has never been an era where it was considered acceptable to demean and bully your children. Parents who do this today cannot blame the era they grew up in. (Their own parents, maybe -- the culture in general, no.)

The fact is, the behavior you describe is and has always been considered dysfunctional by mainstream American culture.

When you are adult it is acceptable -- in fact, expected -- to remove yourself from the dysfunction. Not necessarily from all aspects of the family, but definitely from the unhealthy parts. Depending on how ingrained it became and how severe it is/was, it may be very difficult to do this, even as an adult. It may go much smoother with the help of a therapist.

I have type 2 diabetes. What if my 5 children went around moaning about my metabolic disorder, and had the conviction that if only they tried hard enough they could cure me? Wouldn't you consider that ridiculous? My illness is not under their control. It is not their fault. They can't cure it. It is not possible to "try hard enough" to be successful.

The dysfunction described in this post is not something the children can fix in their parents, anymore than the children could cure diabetes. (If the parents choose to, they can get help to change things through therapy).

Manipulating other people by instilling guilt feelings, demeaning them, and bullying them (FOG -- fear obligation, guilt) is not acceptable behavior in this era or any other. It is not part of mainstream US parenting philosophy. It never has been. It is dysfunctional and morally wrong.

Setting (and ENFORCING) boundaries and detaching (a little or completely) can help you get the joy back in your own life.
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Do you live with your parents? If not, you are totally justified in putting on your big girl pants and getting on with your life. These two have ganged up on you simply to browbeat you into submission. And unfortunately, you have allowed it by standing there and taking it, or running around to do their bidding to try the impossible—pleasing them. My mom would have been like that also, but instead of putting me on a guilt trip, she turned herself into a martyr. She had a habit of asking people to do things for her “because my daughter is too busy.” When I visited her at her apartment, I always felt I should hide behind floor plants and furniture while I made my way to the elevators in case anyone saw me, The Evil Daughter.

No one is going to hand you a pretty little gift-wrapped box with a big bow that says, “Time for You!!” You have to do this yourself. Assess your parents needs such as grocery shopping, medication pick up, etc. Do the minimum to make sure their needs are met and take a nice getaway. When you get back, if they start up on you, go again. If they persist in acting like preschoolers, treat them as such. My mom (with dementia) had a habit of discussing sex ad nauseam. One day I’d had enough and said, “Mom, be a lady. Ladies don’t talk like that.” It cut down greatly on the porno talk. Good luck.
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The minute they start in on you with criticism, just end the conversation. "Sorry mom, I've got to go. Talk to you later." Do that a few times and they'll get the message. Do NOT let them go on and on criticizing you. Cut them off mid-sentence if you need to.

I second the FOG reference. Your folks have trained you to be their servant. Get some counseling or do lots of reading so you can build some healthy boundaries. You don't owe them your life or your happiness. You are your first priority. Your husband is your second priority. Your children are your third priority. Your parents and your MIL come after that. So YOU are first and your needs take first priority. Your parents will survive. They won't be happy, but OH WELL.
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You have been given all the right answers. There seem to be too many ways parents try and control their children grown or otherwise.
My mother used the "poor me" method to get her way. "Oh dear what am I going to do for Christmas if you all go to your Dads" "Sorry Mum I don't think you would be very welcome" My dad would not even come to our wedding because mum would be there.

I guess the thing to do it figure out what amy work for you and go from there one brick at a time.
Tanking it over with a therapist or good friend may help but you are the only one who can change things.
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Thank you everyone 💗
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I am so sorry to hear this. You may have the same problem that I do. I can't stop thinking that if I keep trying hard enough, it will be enough.
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I'm fifty four. My children are grown and gone. My mother is dead. I too am hoping there will now be a phase where I finally learn to look after myself; so I do sympathise with the feeling that you've spent your life taking care of other people.

On the other hand. I hate to break it to you, but what you've been busy with for the last fifty years or so... that *was* life. Building a marriage, raising children, making a home, mattering to the people around you. I know there are more glamorous and exciting things in the obituary columns, but those high flying careers and prize winning discoveries, they don't make a life more valid, you know.

Still. Late middle age nowadays often is a time to flower again; and this constant wave of discontent and dissatisfaction your parents send your way must make that much harder, I can see that.

There are blessings to be counted such as

They still have each other
They are in reasonably good shape
They have friends and a full calendar
They seem to include pressing your buttons among their hobbies.

The benefit of these blessings to *you*, besides them, is that you can be free to take a cool view of what your responsibility really is to them; and it sounds as if they don't as a matter of practical fact need much from you. Next step, then, would be working on how you feel about them and getting good, healthy emotional boundaries set up.

Won't happen overnight. A problem that's been fifty years in the making is going to take time to heal. Have you considered or tried working with a therapist?

Also - did something happen when you were twelve that sowed the seeds of all this, do you think?
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