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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Some context:
I'm 22 will graduate next year, I have an internship at the moment. I've always lived with my parents in France (safe for when I went abroad for 1 year in one country then 4 months in another when I was 19 and 21). My two parents are together (aged 61 and 63), French is not their native language (they were born in Asia, came here in their late 20s) but it's mine, so sometimes it's hard communicating because we don't have really deep conversations. They have little to no social life (they don't go to the movies or museums, etc.) and they work together in a small shop they own.

She just asked me a few moments ago if I was angry or upset at her, ever since I came back from a 4 day weekend in another country. She says I never ask her how she is, if she (and my dad) need anything, "like you live alone and this house and we don't exist".

It's true that after dinner, I help clean the table and then head to my room, but as far as I recall it's been this way for a long time, so I'm not sure why she asks this now. She also said things such as "it's always your friends and yourself first, you don't care about your family", "the day you have problems your friends won't be here, you can only count on yourself AND your family".

She's often talked about how she feels ignored, how sometime she wants to "live in the mountains" (when it's not worse).

I can give more context and explanations, but so far I really don't know why she thinks I'm so ungrateful or selfish. I've always been very reserved, and I don't express gratitude the way she'd like me to do. She'd want me to physically spend time or care about "the little things" that happen in the house. I think she believes I take everything for granted because I don't always help her, but I just... I do care, but she doesn't know that I do.

As I said in the context, communicating is difficult because I really cannot see myself explaining to her that I'm not as ungrateful as she thinks I am, that I'm just not very expressive. When I told her that I have absolutely no problem with her, that I'm fine and not upset with her at all (why would I be? at worst I'm just tired because of work and bad sleep), she didn't believe me and kept saying "I don't like secrets being kept, if something's wrong you have to tell me".

Absolutely nothing is wrong, actually I'm in a situation where things are really okay.

Can someone enlighten me on this? I'm really at a loss as to what to do/say, and it's making me quite upset.
Thanks for any insight.
 

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You are graduating soon? They might be projecting their upcoming empty nest syndrome after you move out. Even though you are polite, they might be fearing that once you're out on your own, they won't see much of you. Especially since they don't seem to have much of a social life outside of you and their shop.

As much as it's counter to your nature, I would try and spend some extra time with them. Tell them how much you appreciate them, ask about their business, stuff like that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I will graduate in Septembre 2016, and they will retire probably very soon after that, and they might go back to Asia. I also forgot to tell I'm an only child, so that might explain a little bit as well.
Actually, only my mother feels this way, my dad has not said a word about anything at all. It's really her who is really upset by... whatever makes her upset.

She had a very different life from what I have right now, she had 10 siblings back in Asia, but she's the only one in France (some moved in another country and she couldn't join them). She might be envious or resentful, maybe because she wasn't able to join them. *If* this is the case, then I'd be upset that she would project that frustration on me.

She's quite independent though, and that could stem from that: "I can only count on myself" sort of mindset, so I'm not sure she's afraid I will leave, but rather that I will leave her alone and not take care of her when she grows older.
What's upsetting is also that I don't know exactly what she wants from me, as she says she doesn't mind not having a social life (I think she's quite introverted, she's never interested when I tell her we should go to x and y). I sometimes ask her, though.

I'll add that she's not like that all the time. Most of the time she's completely normal and isn't upset at all. But there are days when she's tired / something else, and she gets very upset all of a sudden. She almost cries or gets angry at me, and then within hours (or the following day), it goes back to normal. This is tiring for me as well, because I hate dealing with that kind of attitude. I can't tell her that, because that'd be disrespect for her, and it'll spiral down again.

I'll try to do what you say, though, seems feasible. I was told to sit down and extensively talk to her, but I know it wouldn't work, because she'll get more upset and because I hate this kind of talks with all my gut.
 
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TBH I can't say I think she's wrong. Not necessarily that you're ungrateful but that it could be interpreted that way, if you really are just coming home from school/work/hanging out, eating, and then going to your room. That definitely could seem to your mom like you're just benefiting from the free food/shelter/etc. without truly caring about her or your dad. That's obviously not how you truly feel, but, actions speak louder than unexpressed feelings.

Your mom is probably lonely. As a lonely person, I can tell you that she probably says she doesn't mind having a social life to avoid upsetting you. There are very few people who are legitimately happy with no friends and few close social connections. But when she's crying and getting upset, that may be the cause.

She's near retirement age and probably afraid that she and your dad are going to die alone. Also, since your parents are older, and you are now an adult and living in their house for free, they probably expect that you should help around the house more, which is why she considers it ungrateful that you don't. Especially considering they come from an Asian culture where it is common for adults to take care of their aging parents and help them out a lot.

This also might come down to different "love languages." Maybe her "love language" is doing helpful things and more outwards modes of expressing affection, whereas yours is something else. It's obviously a miscommunication of feelings.

In any case, maybe you should just try spending more time with her and doing stuff around the house like she wants, at least as long as you're living there for free? Maybe even try taking your parents to a park or museum or something to try to broaden their horizons. I mean it really wouldn't be that much time out of your week, would it?
 

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Sunset Stripper
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She sees you as distant (cold, uncaring) and this is perhaps heightened and brought more to her attention with your leaves to other countries and then coming back and living in your room. Maybe family to her is being very close with one another and caring actively.
 

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Since you're an only child, do you think, culturally, that she may have some expectation of you to "give back" or "take care" of them in their old age? At this point in time, she is probably reflecting on, and projecting some of her insecurities onto you. She maybe lonely and isolated from a community that is familiar to her and wishes that she has the same feelings of devotion from you as she had from her own siblings/family.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everyone for your input, this is very helpful.

TBH I can't say I think she's wrong. Not necessarily that you're ungrateful(...)
Your whole response made a lot of sense; though I do help at home but maybe not as much as she'd want me to. Lately work has been a little draining for me, but it is for them as well, I think we just don't react the same way.

Heh, maybe I'm not Asian enough; I mean I've been surrounded by non-Asian people for most of my life (really, the only Asian people I know are my family. Coworkers, classmates and friends are all from a different race and culture.)

I do agree with love languages, I figured they were different, but I don't know how to bridge the gap.

I'll do more stuff to help around, it's probably the best I can do. Thank you!

She sees you as distant (cold, uncaring) and this is perhaps heightened and brought more to her attention with your leaves to other countries and then coming back and living in your room. Maybe family to her is being very close with one another and caring actively.
I think you're very accurate. Her siblings, cousins, nephews, etc. she grew up with them for I'd say half her life. She was very close to them, and obviously the fact that she's separated from them was hard for her even though she won't admit it. (it's a long story as to why one half is together in Asia, the other half together in the US and she's the only one in France. We have relatives in France but none are direct siblings).

On the other hand, I never really knew them. I know they're family because I've met them a few times, but obviously the bond is not as strong, and no one's to blame. It just is. But I feel that my mother doesn't understand that, and gets (sometimes very) upset when I seem like I care more about my friends. I care about them because I see them regularly and we understand one another and spend time together; my friends are the sisters I never had but for my mom blood family > everyone else. I don't "hate" or "don't care" about my blood family at all, it's just much harder for me to feel the same bond my mom does.


Since you're an only child, do you think, culturally, that she may have some expectation of you to "give back" or "take care" of them in their old age? At this point in time, she is probably reflecting on, and projecting some of her insecurities onto you. She maybe lonely and isolated from a community that is familiar to her and wishes that she has the same feelings of devotion from you as she had from her own siblings/family.
I'm definitely giving back / taking care of them when they get old, there's no questioning that at all. I think you're very right as well, and she's frustrated that I'm not able (for some reason) to give her what she expects from me.

Sometimes when she gets upset, she asks me if she's failed in educating me. "What did I do wrong so you became like that?" is a question she's asked me more than once. I absolutely have no clue; I know I'm not the most communicant person, but I could be... so much worse? Like actually mistreating my parents or stealing from them, or getting in legal trouble for some reason.
I know she has extremely high expectations (she often tells me how I should marry someone filthy rich, intelligent, blablabla... even for laughs, I know she thinks it for real), she always tells me to take example on my cousins (who are very successful, I understand how she'd like me to be successful as well, no blame on that), so every misstep may look like a big danger, I don't know.

I sort of feel that I'll turn out to be alright in the end though? She's older and more experienced, so obviously she knows more than me about how to deal with life, but the fact that she sometimes thinks I'm a coldblooded killing machine is truly upsetting. I avoid conflict as much as I can, and maybe that means that I refuse to see there's a problem. In my case I really think that it's not a huge deal (I really, really don't hate my mother), but it is for her.
 
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Sunset Stripper
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If you want to, maybe make a small effort to start making her happy, keep doing the things you like to do but maybe squeeze her & your dad in and have a little family time if you wish.
 

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Your parents are Asian. It's really common in Asian families, the culture is family first, last and always. They may have lived in France for 40yrs but they're Asian still. I think you're having cultural differences. :laughing:
 

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Your parents are Asian. It's really common in Asian families, the culture is family first, last and always. They may have lived in France for 40yrs but they're Asian still. I think you're having cultural differences. :laughing:
 

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The No More Hero
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It's possible that she sees you as such because you spend more time with your friends than traveling than with her and she feels like you give her no love or attention.
 

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they're probably sad you're going, and don't want you to leave. Just try spent time with them, and stuff.
 
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I am in a similar situation with a relative. High standards, moralistic, critical. Doesn't like how quiet I am and thinks I'm avoiding her or angry at her. Wants more verbal communication even after repeated attempts to tell her I'm not very talkative.

But I've come to realize that she is very values-driven. This is about her and her ethics, how she feels people should treat each other. People insult you on what hurts them; if being called stupid hurts, they will call you stupid, believing it hurts you too. So it's not so much she is saying "You fit the definition on selfish" but "Being called selfish and ungrateful would cause me pain. Therefore, when you don't live up to my standards, I will call you selfish and ungrateful to hurt you and change your behavior."

People say to talk her more, and I would agree, but keep in mind you're trying to please the unpleasable; someone who not only expects you to act a certain way, but won't explain why, or what concrete steps you can take to please them. Not sure your exact situation, but when I ask my relative what I'm doing wrong she gets angry. "Isn't it obvious?" "You should already know." "Everyone is like this, why can't you?" They don't realize their ethics aren't universal. I don't mind being called selfish, I'm just confused as to why they're lobbing value judgements instead of saying plainly what they want.
 

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I've had very similar problems to the one you described and still do, as I'm only 18 and I'll be living with my parents for at least a few more months. My separation from my parents has more been a byproduct of my struggles with mental illness, which have caused me to isolate myself a lot and become quite cold at times, but that's neither here nor there and the general result is the same.

So, I guess I would advise doing what some others have already suggested. Take a little extra time to talk to her, help her out more around the house, even be in the same room as her to show her that you're taking her feelings into account and are trying to be more connected with her. And it doesn't have to be a long time at all. Even ten or fifteen minutes more than usual a day or whatever it ends up being will probably be enough to get her to notice and will be appreciated. If she continues to think of you as ungrateful and the like after you doing that for a week or two, you can try increasing that time but only to a certain point. After a while, it's kind of out of your hands because what it really is then is her taking her own insecurities about you leaving home and her behind and her being more alone as a result out on you, and it's not really your responsibility to spend an hour a day trying to fix that insecurity if doing so will make you more uncomfortable and she still insists on seeing you in that cold light regardless.

However, I would say that whatever time you settle on spending with her or talking to her or doing more things around the house every day should be maintained until you leave if you can, even if she doesn't end up noticing or appreciating it. This opens up the possibility that even if she doesn't notice it or appreciate it it right away, she might in a few months or even a year. And if not and the whole thing just doesn't work, at least you'll leave home knowing that you tried.

I would say the last resort would be to just try to sit down and be honest with her about why you haven't been that expressive with your appreciation of her, as well as a lot of the other things you touched upon here in this thread, and hope for the best. I know you said that would be very uncomfortable for you to do but it would only be one time and the reason I even suggest that is because, so far, it seems like it's been a fairly one-sided conflict with her just talking at you about her frustrations rather than with you. So I think that even if she insists on thinking of you as ungrateful and unloving until the day you move out despite your efforts to combat that, at least you'll have given her your side of the story and I think that's something you kind of owe yourself at least.

I hope this helps in some way! It might not be the best advice since I haven't even "fixed it" for myself yet but I figured I'd give it a shot.....
 

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Can someone enlighten me on this?
So actions are more important than beliefs in your head and heart.

Just because you are unaware something is wrong, does not mean everything is fine with the way you behave and think toward your parents.

Maybe you are not obligated to behave any differently, but generally, the true definition of love includes actions which demonstrate that love.

People who go around with their feelings sorted out, while never demonstrating what they believe they feel, are just living a lie. If a person's love produces nothing tangible, then what good is that love? On an impartial evaluation of that love, it would be found to be worthless, nothing more than a sentimental feeling with no practical value.

I just mention all this because it sounds a lot like I used to be, and this is how I was. So perhaps I am projecting on you unfairly. Yet my warning still stands, just because you believe something on the inside, if you can't see the tangible results of that belief in the way you behave, then the belief is useless, and you might as well be lying to yourself.
 
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