Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier, you feel uncertain about remaining estranged from Asshole™ parents, it’s important to keep guilt from pushing you to attempt an otherwise unwise reconciliation. So, before trying to reach out, take these five steps to figure out whether it’s worth the attempt to make peace with your wretched parents.
1) Determine The Danger to Your Kids
Don’t assume that you can always protect kids from your parents’ potentially hurtful words or actions, or stem their cruelty with your own kind, reasonable behavior. If they are sufficiently bitter or crazy they may attack on sight, leaving your kids shaken by their destructive and out of control behavior. Be realistic in evaluating your parents’ detonation times and never let your wish for reconciliation cause you to underestimate danger, especially when your kids are at risk.
2) Determine the Danger Overall
Imagine other potential kinds of of hurt and harm that reaching out to your parents may trigger; with some malicious, explosive people, any kind of contact is dangerous. Even if your efforts are kind and well meant, nothing will reduce their sense of grievance or eagerness to even the score. Rely on your prior experience, not wishful thinking, to predict whether a well-intentioned call or visit will expose you to spiteful behavior including shaming, verbal assaults, and legal struggles over gifts and inheritances.
3) Process the Potential Benefits
Ask yourself whether your willingness to engage in polite conversation and reconnect will have any potential longterm benefits for you and yours, beyond possibly feeling less guilty and isolated. Be realistic about whether your efforts will facilitate real gains, like larger family get-togethers and friendships between cousins. Include whatever pleasure such contact may give others and the satisfaction you may feel for being kind when you have good reason to feel hurt or mistreated.
4) Test Your Ability to Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe
Drawing on your experience from prior family conflicts, guilt trips, or shame shake-downs, prepare for the worst with exit strategies that will end unacceptable conversations and protect you and yours from hurtful fallout before you can get sucked in. Rehearse polite statements that express regret for quick exits while not attacking, defending, or prolonging the discomfort, and make sure to choose locations that are easy to leave. Don’t reach out until you are confident you can protect yourself from unacceptable behavior.
5) Tally Up Total Outreach Pros and Cons
If, after examining all the potential risks and gains, it becomes clear that reaching out to your parents isn’t likely to benefit anyone or build a stronger family, don’t do it, and certainly don’t hold yourself responsible. Your only obligation is to your family, and all you can do is try to give peace a chance if peace is even a possibility. As long as your decision is based on realistic risk assessment and good values, it will never be wrong, no matter how bad the guilt gets.
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2016
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We may all hope to be the kind of lucky people bound to our parents by a shared sense of humor, values, and love, but for some of us the only parent/child bond we share is in our genes. For those extra-unlucky group whose parents carry the genes for rage, alcoholism, and selfishness—the building blocks of Asshole™ DNA—reconciliation is all but impossible, and all attempts will leave you needlessly miserable. That’s why you should never satisfy your yearning for a better relationship with your parent until you administer an unofficial Asshole™ DNA test; learn how to size them up realistically and decide whether you can attempt to strengthen your bond or should leave it at the genetic level.
After decades of trying to have a positive relationship with my parents, I finally stopped all contact two years ago after they transferred their toxicity to my children. Therapy has helped me realize that they are narcissists and that it is simply impossible to have a loving relationship with them. That knowledge deepens as my relationship with my own children grows as they grow, and I cherish them. Although we are all much happier without contact, and even though I know that actually things will never change, a part of me still wishes that things could be different. My father’s own brother refuses to see him for similar reasons and he and other relatives are very supportive of me. Recently, my partner lost both of her parents and she was able to be with each of them in their final hours. Now she is worried that I may regret not trying one last time to improve relations. I appreciate her concern but fear that there really is no point and that, if I did make contact, I’d just be laying myself open to another attack. But, what if I do regret not trying..and so it goes round and round in my head. My goal is to determine whether I’ll feel worse about not talking to my parents or, by trying to talk to them again, possibly allowing their toxic presence back into my life.
Given how hard it is for most people to part with their favorite/disgusting jeans from college or prized collection of VHS tapes, it’s not surprising that cutting yourself off entirely from your parents, no matter how necessary, is bound to leave you with lingering senses of sadness and doubt.
You’re right, of course, to give top priority to the protection of your kids, particularly if your parents are likely to become violent or openly express rage or make accusations in their presence. Even so, there’s no way to feel entirely at peace about cutting off all communication, knowing that time and death will someday make the silence permanent. And admitting to yourself how that silence may also provide some relief will just flood you with the kind of guilt that most Catholics, Jews, and people with neck tattoos feel exclusively entitled to.
Before giving into this first wave of guilt and assuming that resuming contact would be a worthwhile step towards improving your relationship and elevating your soul, take stock of past attempts and their results. Don’t expect to be able to mend fences with insight so powerful that it dissolves their mistrust and hostility; your only standard for a good intervention should be to be pleasant, polite, and reasonably conciliatory, regardless of results. If you achieved this standard through a few good attempts with no real return on your efforts—or worse, your efforts were greeted with a blast of hostility and drama—it’s unlikely that trying again will produce a better result.
Once you’ve decided that seeking improvement is probably unrealistic and possibly harmful, ask yourself whether it’s worthwhile or even possible to have a limited non-relationship rather than nothing at all. A limited non-relationship means restricting contact to short, superficial, polite conversations, free of emotional satisfaction, intimacy, and, as such, opportunity for conflict. You may never get that desired (and fictional) catharsis, but you will be able to participate in large family gatherings without threat of conflict and express benign good wishes, however shallow, regardless of past wrongs or recent provocation.
If you’re hoping to reconnect in order to achieve some level of emotional satisfaction, then you’re bound for disappointment; the best result, aside from the confidence that comes from doing your best to do what’s right, is the possibility that it may nurture other good family relationships for you and the kids while showing the kids how to avoid conflict when it’s pointless and destructive.
Don’t hold yourself responsible for or feel guilty about letting go of anything that’s unfixable, be it your beloved first car or your relationship with toxic parents. Don’t assume, however, that total excommunication is your only other option; you can always salvage broken things for parts.
So, if you wish, you can usually maintain civility with uncivil relatives if you first decide that the strategic rewards are worth the unpleasant effort of management they invariably require. But if you decide that it’s unlikely that your efforts will be rewarded with anything but regret, don’t let guilt blind you to all the benefits of letting go.
“Now that I’m a parent, I wish I could improve my relationship with my parents and give them and my children an opportunity to bond and get to know one another. Given that my parents are unimproveable Assholes™, however, I do what’s necessary to protect the kids while keeping things civil and peaceful.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 21, 2016
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If you’ve survived a marriage that’s gone horribly awry, as our reader from earlier this month has, it’s hard to make a new commitment without wanting assurance that everything will go exactly according to plan. Before you pressure yourself to find and create a perfect life with your next partner and his kids, it’s important to take a little time and get a realistic idea of what your perfect life would be. Here are five steps to figuring out what your ideal life together would be so you can best decide whether it’s worth taking a second shot at family and, hopefully, happiness.
1) Calculate Kid Time
Depending on how much you loved childrearing the first time around and how much parenting fuel you have left in the tank, figure out your ideal parenting job description with family 2.0. Let your imagination roam from the minimum (frequent babysitting and microwaved meals but no disciplinary responsibilities or butt-wiping) to the ultra-max (you’re the boss, baby-maker, and mommy supreme). Take into account how much time you’d like to yourself or for work, as well as the kind of chemistry you have with your step-kids, because, if you don’t feel that close to them, you won’t feel up to a big investment.
2) Investigate your own interests
When considering how much time you’d ideally like to put aside for yourself, include the treasured hobbies of your single life (e.g., the Sunday crossword, afternoon jogs, the occasional boozy weekend brunch with friends), as well as the powerful ambitions postponed by your first marriage that you may never get to complete unless you do them soon. Then total up the hours required, whether regular or one-shot, and see whether you can balance that number with your new family obligations.
3) Wonder about work
Unless you really love your current job and don’t want to give it up for any reason (and already budgeted for the time it requires above), you should calculate your ideal job and hours in a two-income household. Review your existing income and expenses, as well as your potential partner’s, and see if a partnership shifts you in a desirable direction by giving you more disposable income and/or time.
4) Consider Your Spouse Vs. Being Single
In order to see whether your partner does more to contribute to your “perfect life” than detract from it, add up your new husband’s potential contributions as companion, parent, hunter-gatherer, etc. Then subtract his potential burdens as irritant, expense, and partially disabled albatross/additional adult child. Add a few points for a pleasing personality and good sex, but don’t forget the basics.
5) Wonder About The Worst Case Scenarios
Use all of the above information, along with your social time with him, vacations, and time with his kids to weigh and test out the pros and cons of abandoning the single life you’ve got. Remember, you may no longer have to try to be attractive or win anyone over once you get married, but you will have a new job description, a new round of child-rearing, and a new personality to contend with, so imagine them all at their most exhausting extremes in order to figure out your worst case scenarios. Then you can not only get the best idea of whether you can handle your possible new life, but reduce the possibility of unpleasant surprises and regrets for leaving single life behind.
Once you know what your “perfect” life entails, you’ll be ready to either take a well-thought-out chance or avoid another mistake.
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 25, 2016
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After experiencing unimaginable injustice, it’s understandable if, like our reader from earlier this week, you also can’t imagine how you can go on with life. If you can accept the reality of your loss, however, you can learn to refocus on what’s important and imagine new possibilities going forward. Here are five ways to build a new life after a general disaster and avoid ruminating about reclaiming what you can’t get back.
1) Restart and Reset
Working hard to ignore the effect your loss has had on your life, remember what your priorities were when you were starting out for the first time, before everything went south. Include financial independence, meaningful work, worthwhile relationships, and everything a normal, moral, not-screwed person would aim for.
2) Edit Your Environment
Since your circumstances have probably forced you to move (or made moving a good idea, to give you a fresh start), fix up your new place the way you like it. It may not be as nice or big as where you used to live, but it’s yours, and making the effort won’t just make it homier, it will create a refuge where you can also feel comfortable hanging out with new friends.
3) Don’t Resist Relying on Relatives
Instead of isolating yourself and sharing pain when you socialize, choose your favorite relatives and re-invest in those relationships; your new friends might not be comfortable hearing you vent, but when it comes to finding an ear for your bitching and moaning, that’s what family is for. Invite yourself to family dinners where you’re welcome, and don’t focus on the family that might not invite you or want you around.
4) Harken Back to Healthy Habits
In the wake of a tragedy, it’s hard to find the time, money, or just the will to keep up your old exercise routine. You don’t need a gym, trainer, or intense training schedule to get in shape, just the determination to set aside some time everyday to stay healthy. And the benefits of working out aren’t just physical; exercise helps fight depression, and setting and sticking to a routine does wonders for one’s peace of mind.
5) Deter Depression
Don’t be surprised if depression creeps into your head, saps your strength, and convinces you that you’re a loser and to blame for everything’s that gone wrong. Do whatever’s necessary (internet research, shrink consultation, friend survey) to decide whether depression is what’s blocking your recovery. If so, there are many treatments that may help, some require no cost or professional intervention, and medication poses little risk, even if finding one that’s effective requires long periods of patient evaluation and some luck.
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 23, 2016
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Once you’ve been struck by a natural disaster—a snow storm caves in your roof, a tornado takes off your roof, and flood sweeps away your roof and the house it’s attached to—you have no choice but to grit your teeth and start over. Legal disasters, on the other hand, often seem resolvable, thus luring you into putting the rest of your life on hold while fighting for a victory that may never come. So never assume that a legal problem will end, even if right is on your side. If a lawsuit has blown the roof clean off your life, start learning how to begin again instead of waiting for it to eventually blow back into place.
My ex-wife has falsely accused me of physically and sexually abusing her and our children over the course of our entire marriage (over 20 years). The accusations have resulted in a complete cutoff of any contact with my elementary school-aged children. I’m hoping it will be ultimately resolved in the family court system but after two years, I’m losing hope. The loss has been overwhelmingly devastating for me and isn’t getting any better over time. I go to bed, crying and having dreams about my children when I fall asleep. Only to wake up again, crying. I’m not sure how to cope with this anymore. It’s really taken a toll on me. My goal is to figure out how to move forward.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 14, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re having a tough time getting along with your teenaged kid, there are ways to keep things more civil, even if you can’t keep your kid from acting out. Here are five typical things a teenaged kid says to provoke a parent, and five responses that won’t feel as satisfying but will minimize conflict and make a tough situation easier to deal with.
1) “I’ll do [this chore] later. I’m not your slave.”
“I don’t want you to feel like a slave, though we both have to do lots of shit that everybody hates doing. I’ll put together your share of the shit list and make sure it’s fair and necessary, and we’ll discuss it. Meanwhile, I really appreciate what you do and think it’s making you independent.”
2) “You never listen to me and I always listen to you.”
“You’re right, [my illness/schedule/obligation to your siblings] doesn’t let me listen to you as well as I’d like, and I hate it, too, because you’re one of the most important people for me to listen to. But if we are both patient and persistent, I’m sure I’ll get the message.”
3) “You’re lucky I don’t tell anyone how abusive you are.”
“Anger can get both of us to do things we really regret, and I’m sorry I lost it. I’m the parent, and I’m supposed to have the experience and maturity to keep it together. I’m determined to learn from what went wrong and try to do better.”
4) “You’re lucky I didn’t hurt you because I’m stronger than you.”
“You’re right, which is why I’m glad you restrained yourself. For that matter, though you may not believe me, so did I. And that’s what we both need to get better at doing: keeping it together when we really want to kill one another.”
5) “You’re really psycho.”
“So, who’s perfect? But seriously, it’s not nice to be nasty about mental illness, especially because, if I do have a crazy, terrible temper, then you inherited it. So yes, it’s my fault, but here we are, so we both have to learn how to manage our inner genetic psycho.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 12, 2016
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Many parents know what it’s like to hate their kids at some point in the long, close process of living together as a family, be it during the early years when they eat, break or crap on something you really care about, or during the teen years, when they metaphorically do the same. Unfortunately, some parents don’t know it does no good to hate yourself for the way you feel, so instead of trying to feeling loving all the time or running away when you’re angry, remember what you want to accomplish as a parent, whether you like your kid at that moment or not. Then learn how to keep hate to yourself while pushing the relationship in the direction you think it should go, namely towards mutual respect and away from destruction.
I’m a single mom in my 40s, and I am in complete awe of kids today and their sense of entitlement. My teenaged daughter down-talks to me constantly and is always arguing about every little thing. Tonight I told her to do the dishes, and when she gave an attitude about it, the fight escalated until we started hitting each other. She talked down to me and called me crazy, and I ended up putting her in a headlock and saying, “You think this is crazy, you haven’t seen crazy!” Eventually, I even said the words I will go to hell for saying–“I hate you”—and I hate myself right now. All I have ever wanted was the best for my daughter. Her father was in and out of her life and that devastated me because I know how important a father is since I didn’t have one myself. I have done everything to show her love and build her up so she would have the self-esteem to make better choices for herself, yet here I am acting like my mother, which makes me want to go play in traffic. She has been stubborn and strong willed since day one and everything I thought about having a little girl has been shattered. A factor to consider is I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago. I can’t work (but I take care of the household), am in pain a good percentage of the time, and my cognitive skills are most effected, so I can’t multi-task at all (and I have explained to her that if I am doing something and she comes in and starts talking, my brain can’t shift that fast, but she still gets annoyed when I ask her to repeat herself). I feel like my life is fucked and over and I’m depressed about a shitload of things, but mainly our relationship. What the hell do I do to change our relationship before I have a stroke? My goal is to get my daughter to see that I love her so much instead of just seeing my resentment.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 10, 2015
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Having an Asshole™ parent is never easy—just as our reader from earlier this week, along with countless other readers/comedians/former Presidents over the years—but you can make it easier if you refuse to accept all the blame foisted upon you by their loving Asshole™ arms. Here are five ways to define your responsibility for the happiness of an Asshole™ parent, and, in doing so, quietly declare your independence.
1. Exact Expectations
Ask yourself what kind and how much support, contact and company you would expect from your own adult daughter, assuming you will remain blessedly free of Asshole™ genes by that stage. Give particular thought to what you would expect if you were sick, in trouble, or just trying to keep in touch.
2. Put Her In Perspective
During the above process, ask yourself whether, assuming you’re well, not in crisis, and not an Asshole™, you’d feel entitled to impose all your needs on your adult kids. In all likelihood, you would consider it your job to prioritize their needs ahead of your own and to hope they would do the same with their children.
3. Push Perspective Further
Ask yourself whether, like your mother, you’d consider yourself entitled to tell your kids anything you felt like saying, or to unload your disappointment with your friends or other relatives, or whether whining is ever good for anyone. If you’re answers are all “no”s, then tell yourself “no” when you want to feel guilty for not giving her an ear when she wants to do any of the above.
4. Assess to What End
If you still think you owe it to your mother to be her ever-patient audience, then ask yourself how much happiness it actually gives her, and for how long, for you to be her punching bag/emotional support, and whether that happiness is worth the cost to you in terms of loss of energy, privacy, sanity, etc.
5. Put it in Writing
If your values tell you that your mother’s expectations of you are unreasonable and her approach is harmful, and/or making her happy is not worth the cost, prepare a brief statement that you can stick to, no matter how powerful her combined Asshole™/parenting powers. In it, assert that, though you really like to make her happy, you have different views about the amount of sharing that is good for a relationship, and that prevents you from complying with her requests. Now you’ve defined your responsibility to her, but more importantly, you’ve defined it for yourself, so no matter what she thinks, you know what’s right.
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 8, 2015
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We may not have written the book on Assholes™, but, as authors of a thoroughly informative chapter on the subject, we know a lot about the uncanny ability Asshole™s have to make others, their children especially, feel responsible for their unhappiness. So if you’re the unfortunate spawn of an Asshole™ (who’s also unfortunate enough to not own a copy of our book) who wants to have a life of your own, define for yourself what it means to be a good son or daughter and live up to your own expectations, not your parent’s. As long as you can bear the pain of Asshole™ guilt-slinging, you can ultimately be proud of your own decisions, and, hopefully, another family member can give you our book as a stocking stuffer.
My mother is a real piece of work. My previous therapist is of the opinion that she most likely has borderline personality disorder and is a covert narcissist, but of course that cannot be verified because she won’t enter a therapist’s office long enough to be diagnosed. In the past year, I have finally opened my eyes to the emotional abuse of my childhood and the unhealthy enmeshment of my adulthood. I am determined to break free of her controlling and needy behavior. I’ve accepted the fact that she will not change, so I have been setting boundaries such as no longer allowing her to gossip to me about other family members, not visiting as often, and reducing phone calls to once a week. But in her eyes, this is Bad Daughter behavior and it cannot be tolerated; when she questions these boundaries, any reply from me other than total submission and groveling is met with rages for my “snippy” tone and how I think I’m better than everyone. She sends me 10 page letters about how she can’t believe a daughter would treat her this way and then lists all of the ways the numerous people in her life continue to disappoint her. When I don’t respond to those, she enlists my sister and brother to do her bidding and guilt me back into submission. She has said to me numerous times that she is entitled to say anything she wants to me and I’m obligated to take it because she is my mother. I want to live my life free to make my own choices about how I choose to spend my time, without being called to account for my comings and goings. I want freedom and peace! My goal is to effectively learn to say to myself “f*ck Mom’s feelings” and just go on with my life. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 27, 2015
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Even for sane people, brains aren’t always totally cooperative, reliable things; most of us deal with unwanted thoughts and urges on a daily basis, like doubts about our looks or abilities or nagging impulses to do, say, or touch things that should remain left alone, at least in public. When those yearnings are extra persistent and painful, however, like our reader from earlier this week who couldn’t shake the urge to get pregnant, there are still ways to keep your brain in control. Here are five ways to keep unwanted thoughts from overstaying their welcome.
1. Snap Out of It (Literally)
As silly as it sounds, it does help to put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time you have the unwanted thought. It turns out that the distraction helps to stop a thought from turning into a rumination. If it helps to follow up this proverbial smack on the nose with a newspaper with a treat, all the better.
2. Acknowledge and Answer
Instead of taking the thought at face value and letting it get you down, respond to it by reminding yourself that you’ve made the best compromise possible, tough decisions are often painful, and you’re proud of your ability to put up with pain. If the voice isn’t going to shut up, it’s going to be told that it’s wrong.
3. Utilize Unassuming Obsessions
Since it’s fairly difficult to pull up distracting positive thoughts when you’re in the throws of heavy, nagging obsessions, try instead to distract yourself with unimportant, public ruminations, like how it’s unclear whether people watch Empire because they think it’s really good or delightfully idiotic, or why the Red Sox fired the one announcer who could make a horrible season watchable.
4. Stand up to Shame
Negative thoughts flourish with shame and secrecy—if you’re too ashamed of them to get talk about them or get help, they’ll get the run of your head—so tell those close to you that you suffer from ruminations and appreciate distraction. If you don’t want to wear the rubberband, you can ask them to step on your toe or pinch your tush if you ever, ever start to share the subject of your ruminations.
5. Seek Support
Spend time with other people who suffer from ruminations (an OCD clinic should know where you can find a support group). You’ll find many nice, otherwise sane people who experience painful, intrusive thoughts and still find ways to go on with their lives. They may also have more good hints about how to ignore the thoughts and prevent their painfulness from driving you to feel like a failure. Either way, they can help you to feel less alone, more in control, and thinking more positively about the problem in general, even if you can’t stop thinking about other things.