Themes of Estranged Parents' Forums
"They Want Us to Chase Them"
One of the stranger ideas that pops up on estranged parents' forums is the idea that adult children cut their parents off because they want their parents to chase them.
My girlfriend said to me to stop emailing my ES because he and his wife were probably loving my chase and by being silent, they were feeling power over me.
There is some sort of satisfaction received by estrangers when someone crawls, begs and keeps trying. It makes them powerful to ignore or rebuff. They find that they like this.
This idea is rooted in the parents' feeling of helplessness when they try to contact their children. They feel that they're "begging for scraps" when they ask for a relationship, even a distant or occasional relationship. Making apologies feels like groveling. They worry that their apologies validate to their children that the parents were wrong and the children were right,* putting the parents in the children's power. And if they do get to have limited contact with their children, the parents know they'll be met with a list of rules and demands, which the children will use to control them and keep them walking on eggshells. The parents assume their children love this rush of power, that they laugh when they see their parents debase themselves. Many forum members conclude that their children cut them off solely for the pleasure of having power over them.
The result is that when a member is ready to stop trying to contact her estranged adult child, she often frames it as "taking her power back." She plans to stop pleading and groveling, stop trying to show her child love through cards and gifts, and stop giving her child the pleasure of knowing she's still running obediently after him. "Let's see how they like being ignored for a change," some parents say.
Running underneath is the parents' feeling that their estranged children are still in a relationship with them. Their own sense of a bond with their absent children is so powerful, so consuming, that they can't imagine their children don't feel it too. They may also be avoiding the painful idea that their children truly have moved on and no longer think about them. Either way, parents act as though they and their estranged children still have an active relationship, and the children's refusal to see or talk to them is just another move in the game.
The adult children's actual behavior is irrelevant. I've seen forum members assume their children were in it for the pleasure of stringing their parents along when the children responded to their parents' attempts at contact with screamed abuse, when the children hadn't replied to their parents in years, when the children had occasional polite phone calls at holidays, when the children called their parents only when they wanted money, when the children were making overtures toward reconciliation and arranging meetings so the members could get to know their grandchildren. One member said her daughter "laid a trap" by cutting her off and moving without leaving a forwarding address, then waited for her parents to find her so she could humiliate them by calling the police on them. There's nothing an adult child can do to stop her parents from concluding she wants them to chase her. The sole deciding factors are whether the parent feels humiliated by her need to pursue her child, and whether the parent projects that need onto the child.
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