End the Blame Game

Dealing with Parents and In-laws

By on November 20, 2012 in Marriage Advice, Relationship Advice with 22 Comments

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In This Show Steve and I Discuss;

1. Parent who compete for your kids’ affection and try and get them to side against you.
2. Grandparents who ignore their grandkid’s special dietary needs.
3. In-laws who take over.
4. Parents or in-laws who knock you off balance by tempting you with the wrong food or drink.
5. Parents and in-laws who set a bad example for their kids and grandkids.

Our recommendations;

1. Join in family activities and don’t hide off on your own.
2. Plan ahead, practice and prepare.
3. Control the environment.
4. Try and have supportive friends and family on hand.
5. Don’t get involved in talking about people behind their back.
6. Don’t get involved in arguments.
7. Be ready to walk away and self soothe if they get mad or
are upset.

Please see our Thanksgiving special here;

Be Emotionally Prepared this Holiday Season

Preparation and practice makes perfect; so please start today working on the exercises we have put together and don’t let the festive season get you down!

Be Emotionally Prepared this Holiday Season

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There Are 22 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Kali says:

    In the case of grandparents with addictions and serious dysfunctions I have made a rule that we set aside at least one holiday that is for our immediate family to enjoy without them. I do not feel obligated to deal with all that comes with a visit from them on a special day and so…I no longer do. We just tell them we have other plans (easy since they don’t live by us). We can visit with them at other times and I love the suggestions you gave to prepare for those visits.

  2. anon says:

    Great advice. Holidays have always been rough, and I think its because the narcissist has to focus on other people, acknowledge their needs and existence.

    I never understood the building tension and anxiety before mothers day, christmas, etc. but I think that narcissism, & the shift of attention onto other people, causes a lot of anxiety. so the narcissist picks a fight, and everything’s back the way it should be, all eyes on him!

  3. Kim says:

    Your words spoke directly to me, and your candor was SOOO helpful in terms of dealing with specific difficult situations brought about with the holidays. I’ve only begun setting boundaries with my own family in the last few years (in my late forties), with tremendous pushback from relatives and step-family. Your words validated some of the things I’ve been doing and wasn’t sure about. THANK YOU.

    • Kim Cooper says:

      Hey Kim – no problem and welcome!

      It is a symptom of codependence to find other people being upset with us nearly unbearable. The truth is however to be a good wife mother and daughter I have found it vital that I am able to keep my internal balance even when my family don’t like a decision I have made. That is what authority and leadership are sometimes all about. If they hated all my decisions all the time that would be different. So I guess you have to ask yourself why are they upset? If they are just trying to blame their own bad behavior on you, well then getting upset and knocked off balance is only going to make it even easier for them to continue to do that. In a similar way if my kids hate me for awhile because I won’t let them do something that would endanger them morally or physically – well really sometimes as a parent that is just my role. At the same time practicing the emotional intelligence exercises we offer will start making it easier to ‘read’ other people’s emotions and so easier to respond appropriately – which does build trust and rapport.

  4. Kim Cooper says:

    BTW – you can now real time chat to anyone who is visiting this site at the same time as you a bit higher up the page on the sidebar to your right.

  5. Paula says:

    Thanks Kim and Steve – that was so helpful! What I found particularly relevant for me was your description of how some relatives hate it when you begin stating your boundaries. I now understand why I’m having conflict with my mother and brother who are so accustomed to me being passive and I suppose co-dependant. They just can’t seem to take it when I assert myself and tell them that I am capable of making my own decisions and that I no longer will take being criticised for my failure to get my life under control, house in order etc.. They understand I’m still grieving but get so frustrated with me at times, but this is the best I can do at the moment. Both will unwittingly try and cut me down when I stand up for myself. Once I used to laugh at this, as it was mainly a teasing thing with my family who all possess a dry to the point of sarcastic wit. I guess my new-found strength learnt from your books and videos has really changed me, and I’ll no longer be controlled. It’s all so draining and exhausting though because they are so loving, generous and supportive.

  6. Georgia says:

    My mother thinks I’m practicing standing up for myself on her which she sais upsets her as in her view I wouldn’t dare donwith anyone else. The fact is I am just trying to not let anyone insist I do it their way and that’s all she does. She just won’t allow me to make a single decision because “if I see my child jumping off a cliff am I just going to sit and watch?” I’ve just had enough of not being left to make own choices. Everything is wrong and I left narcissist ex 2 years ago I refuse to let anyone direct my life any longer. I am turning 40 and I need to lead my own life. Thanks you guys for teaching me about codependency. I don’t have to just go with what others want to avoid draining arguments. I can actually say ‘no I don’t want to do that!’ and let them get upset. That’s their business, my life is my business.

    • Kim Cooper says:

      Hey precisely Georgina! Sometimes there is no avoiding leaving people
      in a twist when we start refusing to let them push us around! This has
      been one of the hardest lessons for me in overcoming my codependence.
      But as hard as it is to get on with things when someone is not happy
      with me now I think – “Well here is a good time to strengthen my new
      relationship skills.” Because the truth is that if you keep working
      on the attachment rituals we teach and keep yourself from being knocked
      off balance they will eventually come around (even if it takes a year :-)
      – and after that just watch how they respect you more!!!

  7. RA says:

    Kim, I find myself fantasizing about knowing and using these principles with my parents when I was younger. Holidays were always such a powder keg – especially Christmas. My mom’s dad died right before Christmas when she was 16, and the holiday soured for her and never got sweeter. She was a perfectionist, so to counter her hatred of the time she overdid everything: a massive housecleaning, then decorating, then baking and gift-giving. It sounds like a normal progression, but with her it was like a battle plan. And we were drafted to help. Again, under normal circumstances that would be expected, but the tone of the house and her anxiety, grief and rage would overshadow the activities. If something went wrong, or if one of us wanted to make other plans, she was livid. At times, it was frightening because she would throw things (and she was once a softball pitcher who was asked to go pro – she had a very good arm).

    Thank you so much for providing the information you have and for being so darned brave. I have learned to be brave, too, but I still grieve over the past. So much grief.

    • Kim Cooper says:

      Hi RA – it is interesting that being overzealous with cleaning is a clear sign of grieving.
      It’s like we think that by controlling our environment we think we can stop anything
      bad happening again.

      And now you are carrying all that grief from your mother too.

      Facing the reality of your loss can be very painful but can also help the silver lining
      finally to arrive.

  8. Lori says:

    Kim,

    My issues are my inlaws, Mainly my mother inlaw, she has this haterd for me i dont understand, i read an e-mail where my husband and my mother inlaw where bashing me and he didnt stand up for me but instead incuraged her mislike even more, why? I dont understand i have always bent over backwards to be overly nice to his family, I also found out that his family tryed to get my step son to brake us up, sick, and my husband doesnt beleave him, I do, I was heart broken to read such negitive words my husband said about me, I feel betrayed, every gathing as been hell for me with there bullying me and remarks,my husband as gone long with this behavior as along as they pay attention to him he over looks the bullying of me and defends them over me,he say I am blowing things up, witch I am not, how can I stand up for myself and stand my ground with this? they get other family members to join in on the bullying of me, its nothing but cruel behavior toward me, I feel my husband is building a group of supports agesnt me,and is setting the stage to make me look bad to others right along. I have followed some steps but it hasnt worked so good yet.

    • Kim Cooper says:

      Hi Lori,

      This is going to be a long hard battle for you and you need
      to start planning now. I suggest you read over all the points
      and exercises in Back From The Looking Glass and The Love Safety
      Net Workbook as well as 10 Steps to Overcome Codependence before
      you start making a plan. It is important you have the big picture
      first.

      You cannot change these people’s behavior but you can plan how you
      are going to keep your self respect and keep yourself nice
      despite their mean games.

      You need to have new scripts ready and learn how to end non
      productive conversations with your husband fast.

      There is always a little bit of nature close by where ever
      you are. Escaping into a rose garden or city park or just finding
      a nice corner of the garden to sit for awhile can sometimes
      help you regain your composure and keep your thoughts high
      minded even if the people around you want let their thoughts
      be dragged down low.

  9. Ellen says:

    Hi Everybody,
    It’s been 3 days of “togetherness” with my 89 year old co-dependent mom and we are surviving! Thanks Kim and Steve for your very helpful advice:
    1. Join in family activities and don’t hide off on your own.
    2. Plan ahead, practice and prepare.
    3. Control the environment.
    4. Try and have supportive friends and family on hand.
    5. Don’t get involved in talking about people behind their back.
    6. Don’t get involved in arguments.
    7. Be ready to walk away and self soothe if they get mad or
    are upset.
    I think for us to plan ahead was the most helpful. I anticipated all the behaviors that would be used against me (manipulation, guilt, twisting the facts and history, playing the victim card, lies, trying to line up my children against me, etc.). It has ALL happened! I am still ok! :). Walking away and self soothing is huge. Letting mom be mom but going on with our plans and life is exhillarating. She is definitely confused by me not trying to help and rescue her. When she starts going off about her life and how she is so sad and lonely, I just listen and say nothing. Keep in mind that both my parents have been happy to let me play ambulance chaser and caretaker to them my whole life. Being immigrants they leaned too heavily on us kids and now they are the children and we are the parents…

    I caught my husband the first day getting into it with my mom trying to reason with her and explain things. What a mess that was. Everything he told her was used against me and twisted… Now my husband is on board with me and we are both playing it very cool and not engaging in the dance.

    We are still living with the wreckage of my two siblings and the broken relationships. My kids just can’t get why we just can’t all get along. Of course from their perspective they weren’t raised by their grandparent who is now “trying to get into heaven”!!!! My mom is throwing money at our son like crazy at an attempt to gain his love. My husband and I just smile…

    Three more days to go Kim and Steve so plenty of more opportunities to practice new skills. :)

    Thanks everybody and hope you all can hang in there as Kim always encourages us to do!!!

  10. Ellen says:

    Oh one more thing…
    Yesterday I planned the whole day which was a first for me. In the past I would let my husband do all that and then be irritated at how badly everything turned out. This time after the training from Kim and Steve I took the lead. I rented a wheelchair for my mom, picked out a restaurant for all of us to eat Thanksgiving dinner, arranged a ride on a gondola, planned a hike in the mountains. It was glorious! As expected, my husband tried to sabbotage it all but I did not get upset this time. When he tried to derail the gondola idea (get the pun?) I asked him to drop me off so I could just ask about the prices. Our son was grumbling about how dad always makes promises and then doesnt keep them. NOT THIS YEAR! I bought the tickets and got them for half off. Everyone had a great time. My husband is learning that he can trust my decisions. I am not miserable over how things turn out. What fun! I used to think I was being a good submissive wife by staying in the back and letting my husband run the show. This is actually kind of fun. Spending time with my mom is a big eye opener in that I don’t want to turn out like that…

  11. Nellie says:

    Okay, I have to tell you all a really funny story about dietary restrictions and family sabotage tactics. Kim and Steve wisely warned us all about these pitfalls of gathering with our dysfunctional family of origin. Sure enough, this Thanksgiving I was tested in two areas that are very difficult for me and have caused much emotional pain in the past. This time I was prepared and expecting the inevitable and sure enough it came!
    My digestive system is very sensitive to sugar. My mom knows this yet she continues to put sugar in my coffee and sugar in the oatmeal. Sure enough this morning I took one bite of the oatmeal and the distinctive taste of the crunchy grains of freshly poured sugar slathered all over the blueberries in the oatmeal was unmistakable. I asked my mom point-blank if she added sugar on the blueberries and she looked at me with this incredibly dumb look on her face and proceeded to lie through her teeth. Straight faced she said she did not. I asked her several more times and she finally admitted that there may have been sugar on the blueberries when they were first frozen by her this summer. This also was a boldface lie. They never froze blueberries in sugar before and I could taste the fresh crunchy grains of sugar very clearly. So, I just got up with the bowl in my hand and put it back on the kitchen counter. This is really not a big deal but for a Dutch immigrant to do such a thing is a dreadful sin. One never throws away food (you can lie through your teeth but NEVER throw away food!) I left the bowl of uneaten oatmeal on the counter for her to deal with and proceeded to make myself some oatmeal with no sugar in it. No fights, no guilt trip, no getting angry, I just stood up and decided this was not good for me and I’m not going to eat it. I can’t believe how badly I used to deal with this stuff. I would have tried to reason and argue with her or try to find out why she did it. Of course, she will never admit any of this and I would have gotten really upset at the denial, lies, inconsideration, etc. This year I decided ahead of time that I would not venture into the domain of what is going on in my mother’s head. I would only figure out a plan for me ahead of time and execute it to the best of my ability with no added drama.
    Another opportunity to practice new skills came during Thanksgiving dinner. Alcohol has long been a difficult thing for me. It was an easy escape for me in the past and I’m ashamed to say that it controlled me far too much and I was addicted. When you’re living with the family of codependents and narcissists and then marry one and start a new family with the same skills, alcohol is a quick fix. For many, many years I tried to quit and failed. My husband would sabotage me in these efforts to quit and my family would as well. They would offer me drinks and then they would make jokes about how much I was drinking. Finally, about a year ago I finally managed to quit the drinking and not allow my family and husband to have this kind of power over me. This was even before I learned of Kim and Steve. Somehow instinctively I realized that these people were dominating me by allowing me to continue in this behavior by helping me get alcohol and serving it to me when I told them I was trying to quit. Sure enough, at Thanksgiving dinner, my mom had a glass of wine and my husband had a huge glass of beer. My mom asked me if I wanted a glass of wine too, all the while batting her eyes and looking really pitiful like, “don’t you want a glass of wine”.? I just looked at her with a straight face, expecting that this was going to happen, and said “no thanks I’ll take some water, it’s better for me.” I know from past experience she would be the first to make jokes about how much I drank. What a relief not to have these people have so much power over me. It took 32 years for me to extricate myself from the hold alcohol had on me.
    Just as expected, my mom tried to trip me up with alcohol and sugar but this time to no avail. I am trying very hard not to let these people screw up my head and my life. But maybe the real question is why I gave them so much power to begin with? Why did I spend so much time being bothered about how they hurt me and had so little concern for me? Why didn’t I give more attention to why was I not taking care of myself and protecting myself? Leave their motives and thoughts to God to assess, that’s his job not mine. My job is to figure out what I am supposed to do. I feel like I’ve lived my life in a fog and I’m finally coming out of it. Every day presents new challenges but now I have a road map. Thank you Kim and Steve and everybody on the site as we work our way out of our big messes!! I’m not excusing my husband or my mom for trying to trip me up all these years but it was my job to look after myself and not try so hard to control their behavior.

  12. Rooda says:

    I’m probably going to write about a few issues up for me, all equally important so I don’t know which takes priority. I’t’s the holidays, -again! This will make a number of years of being alone for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the News Years, whih I abhore. When I was healthy I would travel often. I’d go go AZ. for Xmas and see my cousins and one of my best friends who lives in the Grand canyon. That was `10 years ago. Now, I can’t walk and can’t travel due to limited income and also due to other health issues which keep me homebound and which I work incessasantly on imnproving and I do make some prgress with all I’ve been doing, but only some. these health issues affect my ability to mingle and meet new people. All the old frinds in my life have left Texas and the few here wont visit me and althugh I invite them they wont come. I made a concerted effort the other week to visit a friend for her birthday but was up all night in chronic pain and could’t go. If I don’t travel to see them, they wont ever cme here. I realize now that I did all the work of contacting them over these years and when I was walking and driving and getting around I’d be seeing people. Now no ne sees me. It’s been 4 or 5 years of isolation from seeing the people I know. My relatives wont visit and they do live in New York but they fly all over the country to do their interests. They certainly have enough money to visit me, but wont. One of my former therapists and friends tells me that her take is they can’t deal with people in chronic pain and I have a lot of it. They can’t deal with sickness since they’re all so healthy and I’m not anymore. I’ll be 70 on my next birthday and I find it so depressing. My former life is gone I’m homebound and I see no one. I nevr dreamed my life would turn out this way after I did so much work on my childhood abuse issues and 9 years ago was in a wonderful place and self fulfilled, in school, developing talents and had high hopes for further growths and a careers. and it all came tumbling down with the onset of my health issues, which deteriorated. So, what do I do? late at night I call my ex and talk to his answering machine, one call a night he tells me and sometimes it’s two and he hasn’t said one single word to me in two years. End of Nov. it will be two years. I listen to on-line workshops and just commpleted a 7 week course Conversations wtih God where I felt uplifted and got involved in good conversations with interesting people and still contact one or two of them. This did help me a lot, but to easy to sink again into the muck and mire.

    I met a new guy wher I live, senior retiremnent and he is a jerk. I mean he enjoys fighting with me and provoking me and arguing. It’s getting to where i don’t enjoy a thing about him; it’s just attention. Since he sends me endearing texts and tells me he loves me but he does’t act it. It’s more control crap. i don’t need this. If I sound down, I am. I’t the weather, the lonliness, the isolaton and my health issues. I think I’ve said enough here and wont go into now, the other main issue which is my brother who controls my money and will stop my income in June, 2013. and then my demise will occur. I wont put myself though this and want to dis- connnect frm him and not say a word to him and actaully if I move not even tell him my whereabouts. I’m not getting into the beg him for money and him saying no. But this is a long and involved history of abuse from him which will be for anther ahring. Thanks for listening . Ronda Dee

  13. Stefanie says:

    Hi Kim, I’ve bought your ebooks, read loads of your articles and working through stuff with my partner and things are finally moving in the right direction. I recently found my biological father, i’m 38 he is 55 to find that his wife is a full blown narcissist, I let all my guards down with my biological father (as he is my father) and somehow got caught up in him having a fantasy affair with me (via texts which I put a stop to and tried to explain to him how awful it was for his wife). The wife feels that I am a threat, they live an isolated life no friends, just those 2 and my half brother. We had a row she stormed out, I apologised for my part. My father then ignored me for a month, she’d threatened to leave him twice because she couldn’t handle the attention he was giving me. The latest is she’s written me a spiteful email basically saying to stay away, saying all sorts of things that are untrue about me. My biological father is miserable with her, he told me he married her as he knew she’d never leave him (he’s afraid of being alone, and never been alone). She is one of 5 children and was the left out one I believe. My father has shut down with me, so I have lost my route in there. Any ideas? It highlighted to me that even your biological father can violate your boundaries, I just wanted my father to love me as he should have done all those years ago – he is more immature than me.

    • Kim Cooper says:

      Hey Stefanie – How about you give him a copy of 10 Steps to Overcome Codependence – Back From the Looking Glass and The Love Safety Net Workbook? He can say to his wife that he is reading them because he wants a better relationship with her (all true!) :-)

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