Is it all the parent's fault when talking about an adult child? -

Is it all the parent's fault when talking about an adult child?


Husbands and wives who are emotionally enmeshed with their mom or dad. We discuss a lot what some parents do to their adult children with emotional blackmail and it is very bad and not healthy, but it takes two to dance this dance. So, where to we draw the line of responsibility to partially being borne by the adult child who is married and sometimes has children with their continued emotional enmeshment with mom or with dad? Is it something that they can't or just will not look at? Do they just not get it when their spouse points it out as lovingly as possible to them? Can't they see the damage they are doing to their marriages and any children when choosing to continue in such an enmeshed emotional relationship to the point that the marriage dissolves? I am glad that some do see the light, but it is so sad that others do not and it is sad to see the damage in the wake behind them.

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I am glad you found this thread validating and that you are on the right path. I think it is exponentially harder to work on one's freedom while taking care of an emotionally blackmailing parent.

Yes, it is worth the effort! Hang in there!
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So very true cmagnum! Thank you. One of the things that helps is knowing there are people out there who truly understand. Well meaning people will tell us that we need to value ourselves more and draw boundaries...if only I had a magic wand... Instead I work every day to try to believe I have as much value as anyone else and to understand the difference between selfishness and boundaries. I want to be a good person but my scripting tells me that I can't be unless I sacrifice my own needs for the happiness of others. Intellectually I know that is wrong but that is my default wiring. I can do my best to change it but that takes constant vigilance, the change is not permanent for most of us. Like you said this is a lifetime effort and it can be exhausting at times. It's worth it though,
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I'm glad that you are back in counseling and you probably will be for the rest of your life which is what my wife has found very true for her and I have found true for me.

I agree that we can never underestimate the how strong the scripting can be and how hard it can be to break free.

I think I've described this dynamic in another thread The Power of Emotional Blackmail.

That thread and this thread explains why I find the article about dealing with a narcissistic parent to be weak because for one thing I don't think it goes deep enough into the reality of how narcissists wield their manipulative power and how deep and how hard it is for the adult child to overcome the scripting deep in one's psychi. Thus, I think it is unrealistic for many to be working on their freedom while at the same time being the hands on caretaker of a narcissistic parent.

Thanks for sharing your story and reminding us of how difficult it is to get out of this emotional dance.
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I deal with this problem daily and always have. From childhood my mother depended on me for emotional support. She was abusive both mentally and physically. There was no me. I never learned how to separate myself from her needs which were never ending. She made sure of that.

A few years ago a series of crises and difficult events in my life brought me to the breaking point. I ended up physically ill and in a dark depression. I was having debilitating anxiety attacks. It finally became clear to me that I needed to make some drastic changes. Understand, I was no stranger to the concept of setting boundaries and refusing unacceptable behavior. I had been to counseling and am a long time member of Alanon. I got lots of help in many areas of my life but my sense of "loyalty" and obligation to the people who brought me into this world felt unmovable. I could detach with love from others but not them. I had to become sick and broken before I finally made the choice to put my own well being first.

I fully accept that it is up to me to find a way to keep balance and hold my boundaries. Having said that letting go and detaching from my parents is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. Now that they are elderly and more needy it is even harder but I am determined not to go back to the way things were. I love them and will be there for them but not to the detriment of my own needs.

I know I can't do this alone. I am back in counseling and will always be an active member of alanon, it is my life line. I come here for the wisdom and shared experience. I ask for grace everyday to help me make the right choices. So when you ask if we bear our own share of responsibility for unhealthy relationships I say yes, we play our part, but never underestimate how strong the scripting can be and how hard it is to break free.
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I agree that it is a balancing challenge that requires everyone working together to pull through it.

What I'm trying to get at is if we find ourselves in a dysfunctional situation, then we, as adult children, need to take responsibility for our part in the emotional dance that goes on in that dysfunction.

It does concern me when reading the dysfunctional stories about one spouse being lost emotionally from their spouse because of an enmeshed/codependent relationship with a parent of either gender while the other spouse feels all alone or sometimes actually abandoned or sometimes blamed for things not going right.

I have noticed a few actually are able to get their spouse's attention about what is going on and they get counseling as a married couple to regain balance in their marriage and in their caregiving situation. Then, there are those who never do get their spouses attention and that's where things end.

I heard of adult children being in an enmeshed/co-dependent relationship with their parent and having self-awareness of it, but then turn around an blame the parent's emotional blackmail for destroying their marriage without owning their own part in the dance of emotional blackmail.

Maybe I did not ask my question the right way or I have bitten off too big of a problem for me to chew?
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When it comes to caregiving, we have to balance the needs of the parent and the needs of the adult children. We also have to recognize when there is dysfunction and when there is something else, e.g. fear or pain. A good example of dysfunction is a parent who raised up a child to make him/her feel small by withholding love or material goods. The Cinderella story is a good example of this. Then the parent demands that the child move in with them and sacrifice his/her life. The parent uses words like "I'm dying. Don't you care?" and threats of cutting them out of the will to have their way. It's tapping into two real sore points here -- withholding of love and material goods.

There are other instances, though, where a parent has been a good, supportive parent. Then if they get older and ill, they see death approaching. Their spouse is gone. Their friends are gone. The only thing left is their children, and they don't want to die alone. Often the requirement gets too much for the adult child to handle, so limits need to be set. However, in this situation it is not dysfunction. It is a family in crisis. People need to work together to pull through it.
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