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Old 01-06-2010, 11:57 AM   #1
Neesah
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Unhappy Partner roles

Hi All,

I was raised by a single mother, we had no other family while I was growing up, so she depended on me a lot for everything- emotional support, taking care of sisters etc. After a few bad relationships she and my sisters really I feel, became anti-men. I mean, I feel like they think all men are jerks. And I think that the kind of men my mom was with were not good for her or our family, and looking back I feel it was wrong of her to get involved with men like that. I am now having trouble because I am married to a wonderful man who is nothing like my dad or steps, and my family treat him poorly… and I don’t think they are happy for me that I found someone and am married now. Because they were so use to us being a team… Which is understandable, but I should get to move on- with support, right?

Also, my other difficulty is that it is hard for my Husband to understand that when you have a single parent and no other family you are needed more than in a two parent family. He is always like- well why do they always have to turn to you- and I’m like- because they have no one else… Or why can’t your Mom just take care of it herself. Only I point out to him- that his Mom does stuff, but with the help or support of his Dad.
I feel like yelling that the relationship is- “not wrong-it’s just different” at him sometimes… I really wish they had support groups for Adult Children of Single Parents, because the bond that is created between a single parent and their child (I’m the oldest) is unlike other parent child relationships and other people have a hard time understanding that. It effects the rest of your life to have that bond and partnership (for me it was a partner role when there was no Dad around) that other people don’t understand. I’m having so much trouble giving up that support role to be that support role in my new family and that is causing probelms for me and husband. I just want to be able to turn to people who understand my situation- not even my Mom does as she was raised in a two parent family home. :-/

Any ideas for what I can do to make these issues any better?

Thanks,
Neesah
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Old 01-06-2010, 12:10 PM   #2
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Default Re: Partner roles

I would just like to take this opportunity to welcome you!!

I'm bombarded at work right now and don't have alot of time to respond to all of your questions, but there are people here who have been through similar situations and will offer great advice.

And if I have time later when I can actually see the top of my desk again, I'll be back to post more! In the meantime, browse through the forums - you might find some of the answers you're looking for among older threads
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Old 01-06-2010, 12:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: Partner roles

Welcome Neesah!

I am sure you must feel torn with your loyalties. Without knowing particulars it is difficult to make practical suggestions. However, I think your role must change to an extent when you get married. It is a balancing act. You should be able to be there for and help your mom, but she should also not be overly dependent on you. You might have to examine and rethink boundaries with her. She may need to gain more independence.

The flip side is that should be your decision and not your husbands, unless it is unhealthy and causing you and therefore the marriage problems. Your marriage should not alienate you from other relationships in your life.

I am an adult whose mom relied on me inappropriately as a teen and a young adult. It took a long time and counseling to make me see the relationship was unhealthy for us BOTH. Just adding that as it taints my opinions of this so take them for what they are worth!

Again, welcome!!
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Old 01-06-2010, 12:43 PM   #4
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Default Re: Partner roles

Thanks for the replies alexmichele07 and idig

alexmichele07- Isn't that always the way after the holidays! I hope you can see the top of your desk soon...

Idig- It sounds like you probably know exactly what I'm dealing with. I don't feel comfortable discussing the particulars on this board though - is there any way for me to send you a private email/message on here? It would mean a lot to me to be able to talk to someone who gets it and who gets how hard it is to overcome the issues- for a change.
I'm working on the boundary thing- even though I guess it seems like I'm not working hard enough on it. It's difficult to explain sometimes that this took a lifetime to build up- it's not just going to get better overnight... But due to personal circumstances- they kind of need to get better as fast as possible-without pushing myself too hard :-/ (it's a fine line to walk)

I feel really stuck and it's driving me nuts... As you said, I feel so torn in my loyalties, and it's really having a bad effect on my marriage. I would do anything to make things work better for me and my Husband... But I don't want to lose the relationships with my family because of their sensitivities either... :-/ I feel like I'm losing the quality of both of the relationships that mean the most to me- at the time when I need them the most.... :-/
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:18 PM   #5
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Default Re: Partner roles

Welcome, Neesah! The impression I get from your post is much the same as Idig's.
It can happen in any family, but single parents are at particular risk of inadvertedly "parentifying" their children, especially the oldest. The child finds themselves filing the role of the missing parent.
It's understandable how this can happen, but it is also very unfair to the child. YOU are not responsible for the well being of your Mom and siblings...but after many years of you filling that role I'm sure that the thought of you not being there as much is very scary for them. Scared people, people who feel threatened, act out in ways that seem/are inappropriate.
I think you are absolutely right that it is time for you to move on from that role and be a wife, a daughter, a sister...but you cannot be the full time axel in your family wheel anymore. I don't know specific instances in your life, but maybe you could offer solutions to whatever crisis your Mom or siblings call you for...things they can do themselves or professionals they can call for help (like plumbers, etc.) rather than doing things FOR them.
Look up parentified children on the web and you and your husband could gain more understanding together about how it happens and what it does to the child and how to correct it so everybody can live their proper role in their family dynamic.
Also, I commend you! You have obviously been a very dedicated and reliable source of support for your family...that's a good thing, but it's time for you to come into your own.
Best wishes!
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:31 PM   #6
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Default Re: Partner roles

Bluemoon- Oh thank you so so much!! I had no idea I was just missing what to look up! I mean-I've been trying so hard to find support, books, ideas- anything that might help me not feel so alone... and finding nothing. This board is the first thing I've found.... And then I looked up the Parentified Children and to see the stuff that comes up and self help books- it feels like such a relief!

Thanks for your last line there... I really appreciate it. It's been a lot of dedicated hard work just to be told like- you have to stop it now, like it's wrong. It's hard to remember that what I've been doing was a good thing, I mean out of the goodness of my heart, and that it's just time to move on.

Thanks again!
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: Partner roles

Neesah, I would be happy to PM or email you, but I can't PM you yet unless you are a paid member or until you have been here a while (a month I think?) and have x number of posts (50 I think it is?). I will have to think on it a while to figure out a way around that.

Blue has some great ideas, too.

It takes time to work work on unlearning behaviors that have built up over a lifetime. Not just for you, but for others in your life too. I completely get that.

Hang in there! It can and will get better!
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:53 PM   #8
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Default Re: Partner roles

Neesah, it thrills me to no end that you found my thoughts helpful...Just so you know there is a forum here that deals directly with children of single parents titled "Your parents as single parents". It doesn't get alot of action, but I am sure that your experience and the wisdom you have gained from it would be a wonderful asset to many.
Hope to hear more from you. Huggies!
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Old 01-06-2010, 02:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: Partner roles

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluemoon View Post
Neesah, it thrills me to no end that you found my thoughts helpful...Just so you know there is a forum here that deals directly with children of single parents titled "Your parents as single parents". It doesn't get alot of action, but I am sure that your experience and the wisdom you have gained from it would be a wonderful asset to many.
Hope to hear more from you. Huggies!
Hey Blue... we're in that forum.

And Huggies? Really? I prefer Pampers...
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Old 01-06-2010, 02:14 PM   #10
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Default Re: Partner roles

Neesah thank you for post and welcome to SFV. You've already helped me by raising my awareness about this. Blue, thanks for "term" parentification, I didn't know it was called that. From a link I read was a very apt description of it, "Parents need to be the caregivers to their children, not the other way around. A parent who uses a child for support is robbing the child of his childhood". Descriptions of the consequences to the children were heartbreaking.

I've known this as emotional incest. My close friend, a woman and single parent has talked with me about this often. Although her children are raised now, we confide in eachother about parenting. I have had to check myself with this issue many times. At times I'm so jammed up I just want to dump and don't have any adult sounding boards. I've been guilty and felt guilty about seeking solace from my oldest daughter. Sometimes I find myself just stuffing and hoping I'm able to deal. One more role this forum at SFV is able to help fill. What a gut check, I needed it.
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Old 01-06-2010, 02:15 PM   #11
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Default Re: Partner roles

Yeah, yeah...thus my being thrilled I helped...I often end up trying to pull my foot out of my mouth, which I'm kinda doing now, anyway, .

Oh, I was responding to AM....who, btw, uses cloth diapers, .

Borealis, I had a very hard time with this with my daughter who is now 28. Like you say, there were times that I was burdened with emotional stuff and our children, especially girls, WANT to "help".
It takes a very objective mind to keep things in perspective...not something we have in full force when we are hurting emotionally, especially when we are in short supply of proper venting venues!
Your awareness and good friend to talk to are a blessing.
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Last edited by Bluemoon; 01-06-2010 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:55 PM   #12
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Default Re: Partner roles

Idig: Thanks I guess I’ll just have to wait a while… Who knows, I may be up to 50 posts faster than I know! I thought this board didn’t get a lot of action- to be honest I wasn’t expecting a response for like a month!

Blue: I’m glad that you’re thrilled I do really appreciate it, because now I know what to look for.

Borealis: Thanks for your post. It is hard to remember sometimes that the parentification might not have always been on purpose, you know? The answer I get from my Mom when I talk to her about it is “well what else did you want me to do” and I guess sometimes turning to your eldest daughter seems like turning to a sister or a friend, but the connection from the daughter’s side is so much more different. It is a lot easier as a daughter to take on that burden as your own and try to protect your Mom, instead of letting her figure out her own stuff for herself-which will help her more in the long run. Just like with a Mom to a child, you want to run and pick them up with they fall and kiss their boo-boos, but then they might not ever learn how to pick themselves up and coping mechanisms (hopefully healthy ones! ) I am big about needing people to talk to also though… that it part of why I am here. So, I know if I had a daughter it would be something I would have to watch with myself too….
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Old 01-06-2010, 08:24 PM   #13
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Default Re: Partner roles

I think the parentification is probably almost never on purpose. I could get in the chicken and egg discussion of am I hardwired that way or did my experiences make me that way, but I am a caretaker. I always have been. I am the youngest child, but I would get in between my sister and my parents defending her. I do it at work, defending other people. It is something I will struggle with to an extent forever. I am a perfectionist (with myself), I am overly responsible. What I didn't understand for years is being overly responsible by nature makes others under(ly?) responsible.

As a child, it makes you feel important and grown up to have that role with a parent. It also makes you insecure and overwhelmed. I think some of us have more of a tendency to be that way though. My sister is 5 years older than me, yet I am the one who took that role, as far back as I can remember.

There are commendable parts to being a caretaker, but if it gets out of balance it can be really bad.

I have to keep myself in check a little with talking to my son about too much, mostly because he is so mature. It would be easy for me to talk to him about bad days at work, too much. On the flip side, I have been guilty of hiding too much too. I am so determined not to put that on my kids, that sometimes I don't let them see my hurts and frustrations enough (as evidenced when M at 4 asked in a counseling session why it was ok for him to cry because dad and the sisters moved out, but I never did.)

It is all about balance, and that is the tough part!

My mom tried to be my friend instead of my mom. I knew things about her life I should never have known as a child. I was her confidante and my sister and I both were conspirators in her secrets from my father before they divorced. It is a terrible place to put your child, even if it isn't a malicious thing on the parent's part (and I doubt that it ever is). It is hard when you grow up hearing that you are their rock, that thye don't know what they would do without you. You define yourself being that person, get your value from being the rock, the strong one. It is very difficult to break out of that mentality.

I am rambling (I'm good at that!), sorry.

Keep reading! Maybe your husband will read some too and can be a little more tolerant as you go through these processes....

---------- Post added at 06:24 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:20 PM ----------

Oh, yeah, thanks Blue! And Neesah! I had never heard that term. What a wonderful thing to bring to this board. I think it happens a lot! Great food for thought for parents who may not have any idea what it can do to a child!
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Old 01-06-2010, 10:00 PM   #14
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Default Re: Partner roles

Wow this was a good post and WELCOME NEESAH! This isnt something I have really thought about it but it is a great thing to be aware of!
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Old 01-06-2010, 10:21 PM   #15
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Default Re: Partner roles

Yeah, I cringe when I think how many times my son has heard "you need to to take care of your mom." To which I always respond to him and to the person saying it "I am the parent he is the child, he isn't supposed to take care of me."
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Old 01-06-2010, 10:30 PM   #16
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Default Re: Partner roles

Quote:
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What I didn't understand for years is being overly responsible by nature makes others under(ly?) responsible.
This really jumped out at me. I have never thought of certain things in my life where this applies like this before. And yes, I am a caretaker too.....Interesting.

This is a very interesting thread too. Welcome Neesah! You have found an awesome site!
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Old 01-07-2010, 06:40 PM   #17
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Default Re: Partner roles

Idig: Well, I think for me, some of the non-emotional parentification feels purposeful sometimes I guess. But maybe just because I was up to the challenge, I was given a lot of responsibility for my siblings and stuff around the house… But I’m not the kind of person who says no if someone needs something either. I too am a caretaker- not as much anymore simply because I’ve really hit my breaking point. Taking on as much as I have has caused me health problems and emotional problems, so I try to avoid taking on anymore, because I simply can’t. But I take on other people’s problems a lot…

Yes, I’m starting to learn that just now that being overly responsible allows others not to take responsibility if they are that kind of person…

I see as an adult now that when I was a kid I liked it when my Dad wasn’t around because I was treated as more of an equal in my relationship with my Mom. She spent more time with me, and talked with me more, and we had a common enemy. And I lost that when there was a man in her life. So I think I got hooked on being her partner when there was no Dad figure around.

That is really interesting that you are the younger sister and you took on that role in your family…But my best friend is like that- her sister is a few years older and just wasn’t going to have anything to do with taking the responsibility….

Wow luckily what your son said in counseling brought that to your attention. I think so often single parents feel pressure too to be super-moms or dads, and be brave, and not let the struggles they go through show… But, being humble and knowing when we need help and being able to ask for it and to show our emotions it is a really important lesson for kids (I think especially boys) to learn as well…

Yeah, I always had guilt at leaving my Mom’s side because I felt I was leaving her without a friend or partner… even on sleepovers as a kid… I’d feel bad, like I was letting her down. I definitely agree with what you said about defining myself as being that person… and where I get my value and purpose in life… That is exactly what I’m trying to break free from now… and it is proving really really difficult.

I think it is hard for my husband to be tolerant (and not many are really as tolerant as I’ve been :-/) with this issue because our lives are intertwined with theirs and there is a lot on the line for us with my need to just let go now and make some changes. I’m trying to be gentle about it- but to him it needs to just be done now for us to move on.
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Old 01-07-2010, 07:15 PM   #18
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Default Re: Partner roles

You are right, the physical caring for siblings and stuff, now that would be on purpose I suppose. That part I didn't have, being the younger sibling. It was more emotional and nurturing for me. Clearly, by your mom's response of "what was I supposed to do?" she doesn't see it.

Sorry, got caught up in my own history there!

Thanks for the encouragement with my son. As a parent you come to realize no matter how good your intentions and how hard you try, you will fall short somewhere sometimes. Being able to admit when I am wrong or don;t see something really makes my son open up more.

Anyway, I am doing it again!

I agree there should be a support group for adult children who are/were parentified! Heck, looking back at my post yesterday I am being overly responsible for being overly responsible

I can't imagine how much pressure this must put on you, tearing your loyalties and almost being a choice between with neither side being tolerant or accepting of the other.
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Old 01-07-2010, 08:17 PM   #19
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Default Re: Partner roles

Yeah… I think it was in some way… Well, at least she didn’t see any other way of handling the situation at the time (even if I think it would have been obvious).

It’s okay about your history I’m trying to watch myself with that too… I don’t want to be overly open or me focused here… It just feels so good not to be alone in it and to have some unbiased support…

You're welcome about the part about your son. Yeah, I think that my Mom feels that way too- no matter how hard you try – someone is going to be unhappy… So I feel really bad ever talking to her about any of this stuff. She is a great Mom in a lot of ways and some things were just down to situation…. But it would be great (I think) if she could be open to learning about herself through our conversations and not take it as insult. But I don’t think she is the introspective type… and I am- to a fault almost!

I really agree with what you said about admitting when you are wrong or don’t see something- that is a great thing to do for your son, because it teaches him that it is okay to speak his mind and to know that his take on life can be acceptable to you… and that is a wonderful gift to give a child It’s good because he’ll take those gifts into adulthood and not be afraid to speak his mind and to know that if something doesn’t seem right to him, he has the right to question it and feel confident the way he sees life. And in turn that when he is wrong or doesn’t see something that he knows it’s okay to admit it too and hopefully learn from it… I'd be really grateful thinking that Moms out there were teaching that lesson to their sons!

Yeah, it is putting a lot of pressure on the both of us… And my Husband said a long time ago he’d never make me choose, but life is kind of naturally making me choose… I can’t be my Mom’s partner and my Husband’s partner at the same time… It’s a bit of a mess and really really stressful.
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Old 01-07-2010, 08:51 PM   #20
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Default Re: Partner roles

Hang in there! I suspect that though there will be drama with mom as you pull back, she will accept and respect it. I hope so anyway! The biggest challenge might be in changing your own mindset and habits. Well that and maybe your mom getting a new mindset and habits too!
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