Themes of Estranged Parents' Forums
"Our Children Don't Really Believe They Were Abused"
One day, a forum member posted an open letter to estranged adult children and invited other members to add to it. The letter began:
Letter to An Estranger
To The Estranger::
If your parent/s did not abuse you in any way and loved you dearly, how do you justify estranging them for a lifetime? If they have made amends for their "transgressions", and you do not accept those amends, are you not being judgmental and holding on to your anger? How does this help you? Them? Grandchildren? I do not understand this and never will. We are all fallible human beings who make mistakes. To do this to a parent who loves you and has repeatedly tried to make things "right", how can you choose this? I, personally could never do this to either of my parents and neither of them are perfect. Perfect does not exist. Have you any idea the amount of pain they are going through? I think you can't possibly know this.
If your parent/s did not abuse you in any way and loved you dearly, how do you justify estranging them for a lifetime?
This is the core of estrangement, the coldly shining reason many members of the forums remain estranged. “If your parents didn’t abuse you—” members begin, and estranged adult children stop them there and say, “They did.”
"You misunderstood them," the members reply. "You misinterpret normal childrearing practices of the day as abuse. You’re spoiled; you expect perfection from your all-too-human parents. You’re making up tales of abuse because it’s fashionable, because you need to justify your bad behavior, because your husband or wife put ideas in your head. You don’t believe you were abused."
Members rarely state it that plainly, but it comes out around the edges. For example, when parents say their children are lying about the cause of the estrangement:
Our EC's have to pretend we are bad people so they don't feel guilty about the things they do to us. God forbid they be accountable for their bullshit!
Many of our EC have lied about being victims of physical or emotional abuse to justify their unGodly behavior (our ED included) How else could they justify dishonoring their parents?
The "abuse excuse" is used by ECs who have no REAL reason to estrange us. They know it sounds petty and just plain dumb, and will get them no sympathy from peers, if they tell truths like: " I only got $5 a week allowance from the abusers!!" Or "The abusers insisted on me providing slave labor, making me take out the trash! Wahhhhhhhhh." And yes, too many of them love playing the victim.
It's behind "soft reasons" for estrangement like:
- Our children cut us off because it's trendy.
- They like playing the victim.
- They're ashamed of themselves.
- We know them too well, and they don't want us revealing the truth about them to anyone.
And my personal favorite:
- We're so good that they know they can never measure up.
Maybe...just maybe...we make 'em feel bad 'cause they know they can never come up to our level of decency, so they spin it around on us rather than face their faults and work on becoming decent themselves.
There are a couple of things going on here. The first is the obvious thumb-sucking—"My kids couldn't possibly have cut me off because of anything I did. They must be lying." It's a shallow defense, and one that most members aren't married to. Even the whopper of a quote above was a one-off from a member who usually attributes her estrangement to parental alienation.
But the second thing is deeper: a failure of empathy so profound that the person not only thinks they were good parents, they can't conceive that anyone else thinks differently. Intellectually they may understand, in their less stressed moments they may be able to put themselves in the shoes of someone who doesn't like them, but when they feel hurt and threatened, they unconsciously revert to their self-centered viewpoint. At the milder end, members say things like, “I don’t understand why they want to give up all the love and kindness we have to offer them,” when it should be plain that their children don’t think much of their love and kindness. Or "It's unspeakable that they would deprive our grandchildren of our love just to hurt us," when their children have told them why they don't trust them with the grandchildren. It's behind members' perpetual astonishment that their children don't see their cards and gifts and surprise visits as tokens of love, and their bafflement and anger when their children mistake their natural, motherly concern for stalking. At the far end of the spectrum, the parent erases everything the child thinks and feels and replaces it with the parent's thoughts: It doesn't matter what you say, you and I both know the truth, and that's that I was a great parent.
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