"After All I've Done For You..."- Trotting Out The "You Owe Me" Excuse
AFTER ALL I’VE DONE FOR YOU…
Trotting Out the “You Owe Me” Excuse
by Rev. Renee
We’ve all heard it in one way or another. “After all I’ve Done For You…….,” it begins. And then, “This is the thanks I get”, “How could you do this to me?’, “How can you say that to me?”, “How dare you speak to me like that?”, “Have you no gratitude?”, “You should be ashamed of yourself”, “How could you even think such a thing?”, etc.,etc.
Another version of this is the one they won’t say to our faces, but will use to badmouth us behind our backs. It goes like this: “After all I’ve done for her….” , followed by, “How could she think that about me?”, “How could she be so ungrateful?”, “Doesn’t she know I only have her best interests at heart?”, yada, yada, yada.
Many times the topper will be one of the two ultimate cry-me-a-river lines, “What have I ever done to deserve this?” and “Where did I go wrong?”, which occasionally, to add to the aura of sincerity, will be accompanied by, “No, really tell me! Was I wrong to do so much for her? Did I spoil her? Was I really such a bad parent?”
Aaah, the guilt. So thick you could cut it with a knife. Along with denial, and blaming someone or something else for their own bad behavior, trying to lay on a guilt trip is probably one of the most common responses an abuser will have when he is rebuked. Guilt tactics are many and varied. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of possibilities, and abusive or controlling relatives usually have quite a repertoire.
In this article, we will talk about one of the most popular- the “After All I’ve Done For You Excuse” for why an abuser thinks he should be allowed to continue unchallenged in his efforts to control, manipulate, interfere, or abuse. The idea is to make you seem like an ingrate for even suggesting that something he’s doing is unrighteous and hurtful, because, of course, he has nothing but the best of intentions, which he’s proven to you already because of All He’s Done For You. You are supposed to feel ashamed of yourself and never bring up the subject again. This defense , in itself, is a common type of manipulation.
DOING YOU A FAVOR ENTITLES ME TO PRY, MAKE DEMANDS, AND RUN YOUR LIFE
Although any relative could be guilty of manipulating you and keeping score for the sole purpose of obligating you to them, the relative who uses this tactic the most is commonly a parent. No surprise there. Parents are just so good at it. I remember when I was a kid hearing one woman tell her child that the child owed her because of all she had done for him. The child innocently asked his mother what she had done, and she replied that if it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have even been born. I’m not sure if she was joking or serious. It seems a strange response now, but since I was a child myself at the time, I couldn’t get a read on it. But the boy had the perfect comeback. He shrugged and replied, “I didn’t ask to be born!”
As family members we ALL do favors for each other. You don’t even have to be related to someone- even in friendships, we do favors for each other. That’s what families are for, and that’s what friends are for. Many kind folks do favors for strangers, as well. BUT THAT DOES NOT ENTITLE ANY OF US TO HAVE A SAY IN THE OTHER PERSON’S LIFE.
Many times, favors are unasked for by the adult child. A parent offers, and the child accepts, not knowing that there are strings attached. The price to pay may be allowing the parent control over the child’s choices, decisions, life, etc., giving the parent personal information, having to answer questions that the child may prefer to keep private or would rather not discuss, etc.
Some parents feel that if they help their child out, that obligates the child to them. Such favors are not done out of love, but done for an ulterior motive- to allow the parent to remain in a controlling position.
And parents can often be very pushy about insisting their child accept their help, whether she asked for it or not.
THE BUSINESS DEAL WITH THE HIDDEN CLAUSES
Such a situation is really not a loving or caring thing, it is a business deal. But it is a business deal in which one party has not been informed of the price she will have to pay, which is giving up her independence. If this was laid out on the table openly and the parent was honest about the payback he expected, then the child would have the opportunity to turn down the deal. She would be able to choose not to accept the favor from her parent and not to owe something in return. But the parent wants to deprive the child of this opportunity to refuse the favor, so he does not let her know that there are strings attached. He misrepresents his intentions. What the parent leaves unsaid is the most important part of the bargain. He sets a trap, so to speak, which she will fall into without understanding what the consequences will be. By his deception, he takes away his adult child’s freedom of choice.
In some parents’ minds, if you accept their help, it just goes to prove what they have known about you all along- that you can’t really make it without them. In their minds, if you need help from them, you are still a dependent child. They will lose respect for you, assuming they ever had any to lose in the first place. They will not see you as an equal. Some families will help out and then feel they have the “right to protect their investment” in you by prying, making demands, or being controlling.
Sometimes we innocently accept an offer of help, never thinking of it as something that will obligate us. It never enters our heads that our relative expects something from us in return, because many of us are used to our families helping us out. Still others of us are always helping out our families, or doing plenty of favors for our families in return. We figure, well, we always do for them, how nice, now they’re doing something for us as well- one hand washes the other. What we don’t realize is that somehow all of the nice things we’ve done for them will either be conveniently forgotten or just not count once they’ve done something for us. The only way they will see it is that now WE OWE THEM.
This is not to say that all relatives consciously keep score, although some do. But our willingness to accept help from a relative often subconsciously puts us in a one-down position of inferiority, in their minds and sometimes even in our own, keeps us dependent on them, and makes it imperative that we stay in their good graces, even if that means accepting abuse, control, or interference.
FINANCIAL HELP- THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING (AGGRAVATION, THAT IS)
Monetary help in making large purchases is often misrepresented by the giver as a “gift”, and the recipient foolishly believes that and fails to realize that there are strings attached. Parents who help foot the bill for their adult child’s wedding often expect to run the show, and the bride and groom suddenly find their wishes taking a back seat to those of a parent who now considers it to be “MY wedding”.
Many young adults have accepted parental financial help for the down payment on their first home, only to find that their parents then thought they had the right to tell them where to live or how to decorate, to supervise a remodeling, etc. etc.
I was a realtor for many years. Many times, “helpful” parents came along to look at houses with their adult children, often dictating what town, school district, type of house, or even which exact house to buy. They believed that contributing money gave them the right to choose the house FOR their child, or to nix the one their child liked but which they didn’t. They believed they had bought the right to make this decision for their child, in the name of “protecting their investment”, and because, if the child wasn’t grown up enough to pay for it, then she obviously was too immature and incompetent to make a good choice for herself. Contributing to such a purchase gives some parents a sense of ownership or entitlement. They view their child’s house as really being THEIRS, or at least partly theirs, because they helped buy it.
I found that parents who accompanied their adult children on real estate excursions often did all the talking, interrupted their children, spoke for their children, and wouldn’t even give the younger adult(s) a chance to have all of their questions answered. Sometimes, the younger person caught on before the process went any further, and left mom and dad at home the next time she (or he, or they) went househunting. But if she didn’t, the situation often deteriorated from there.
Other parents who have given their children a “gift” to help buy a house want even more control. They insist on attending meetings with realtors, mortgage companies, attorneys, etc. and prying into their child’s and his or her spouses’ private financial situation until they have found out every personal detail. Some have even gone so far as to attend the closing. Their presence is awkward and intrusive and makes everyone else feel uncomfortable.
The personal information they manage to find out about their child and his or her spouse by intruding on these meetings is incredibly detailed, and includes exactly how much money their adult child and his or her spouse makes, how much they owe, how much they have saved (and- do the math- how much they must be spending, foolishly, of course), what the younger couple’s credit rating is, and other personal information that is none of their business. One set of parents caused a scene at the closing after finding out about their son-in-law’s previous marriage, which their daughter had chosen not to reveal to them previously, precisely because she knew how they would react.
Another couple I know who accepted a financial “gift” for their down payment were devastated when the parents “withdrew” their gift because they would not use it to buy a house two doors down from the parents. Apparently the gift only applied to that particular house, so that the parents could keep the kids under their thumbs and only two doors away, but this was not a requirement that had been mentioned up front. The younger couple had to back out of a deal on the house they really wanted because they suddenly found themselves without the anticipated funds.
“HELPING WITH THE GRANDKIDS”
Another “favor” that often comes with an expected payback is “helping” with the grandkids. Many grandparents think that babysitting their grandchildren automatically gives them the right to interfere in the grandchildren’s upbringing. They think they have the right to feed the grandkids what they want them to eat, instead of what the parent says. Or that they have the right to discipline, or spoil, their grandkids contrary to the parents’ wishes. Some grandparents think that “helping out with the grandkids” entitles them to a say in who their child (the grandkids’ parent) dates, or where their child lives.
I know one set of grandparents who, without being asked to by their adult child, sold their house and moved to the same town where their child and her family lived, much to the horror of the child, who had moved away to escape her controlling parents. To hear them tell it, these parents had “previously discussed” their move with their daughter, so they “couldn’t understand” why she now wasn’t happy about it. But in reality, there was no “discussion”. They had simply informed her of a decision they had already made. This unasked for and totally unwelcome gesture was done under the guise of “being able to help out more with the grandchildren”. But their REAL motive was being able to continue to interfere in their DAUGHTER”S life and exert inappropriate control, which the previous long distance had made difficult.
These grandparents continued to force themselves on their adult child, criticizing her decisions, disapproving of the men she dated, etc., and when the inevitable conflict occurred, the first thing they said was, “After all we’ve done for her…..helping her out, watching her kids…..why, we even moved so we could be closer to her in case she needed us….”
But the thing is, she didn’t need them. She, and her children, were doing just fine and were perfectly happy without them. Knowing their adult child was independent and competent was a blow to the egos of these controlling parents. They went to the extreme of selling their house and MOVING to their daughter’s new town because they had to get themselves back in the picture. Then they needed to make up an excuse to cover their true motives, so they USED their grandchildren for their own selfish purposes.
Grandparents like these are not interested in, or grateful for, the opportunity to develop a nice relationship with their grandchildren, which in itself is a great pay-off for truly loving and considerate grandparents. They do not genuinely care about what is best for the grandkids they pretend to love so much. Instead, they are USING THEIR GRANDCHILDREN FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT and for their own selfish motivations- to maintain a toxic connection to their DAUGHTER, so they will be able to continue to control her and to interfere in her life. The grandkids are just pawns in their game.
MALEVOLENT CONTROL IN A BENEVOLENT DISGUISE
Normal families rarely have these situations, but those of us from abusive families deal with them all the time. Abusive people keep score and manipulate situations to their advantage. They don’t do favors out of love. They do favors because there is a benefit to THEM, and they expect a payback. They don’t do things out of the goodness of their hearts- there is always an ulterior motive. The challenge to us is figuring out what it is and what is really going on.
Many times this dynamic is able to occur because our eyes are veiled and we are blinded to the true nature of our relative. In our lifelong quest for a family who really loves us, we are often in denial about these traits when they are present in someone we love. We don’t want to think that our parent or sibling really isn’t trying to help us, but is actually setting us up. It seems completely contradictory that a kindness, in actuality, has its roots in dishonesty and selfishness instead of love.
Unfortunately, our wishful thinking doesn’t change what is, and we need to take off the rose-colored glasses and see our relative as he is before we put ourselves in the position of being obligated to him. If we think back, we will often recognize many past instances in our relative’s dealings with us, or with others, where this behavior was present. The key is to learn from the past and not keep repeating history.
We may not care much about money, but we make a grave error in underestimating its importance to an abuser. Money is ALWAYS a very significant commodity to a control-freak. It is a very important issue to him, because he believes he can use it to “buy” you or others. Especially if he has spent years mistreating you, he knows he has precious little else to offer that might get you to do what he wants. Once you are grown, you are free from his direct control, so manipulation is now the order of the day. As an adult, you are not likely to feel kindly and cooperative toward someone who has always behaved hatefully towards you. He will need to “sweeten the pot” to buy your cooperation. Money will often be all he can think of. He will either use it directly, as a bribe, or indirectly, as in threatening to cut you out of the will.
My birth-father occasionally offered me token amounts of money in return for “doing something his way”. Sometimes, he offered a small sum for no apparent reason, or tried to insist that I accept some other “favor” which I didn’t want and had never asked for. But I knew his nature and I knew he never did anything for anyone without expecting something in return. I didn’t want to be obligated to him. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of being able to say I “owed him” something. I didn’t want to give him any control or rights over my life. So, no matter how much I might have needed it, I never took a dime.
When I was a young adult, first out on my own, money was very tight, to say the least. I could not afford health insurance, dentist or doctor’s visits, a reliable car, clothes, or even food, sometimes. But I would have slept in the streets before I would have taken anything from him. It wouldn’t have been worth it- the price would have been just too high.
The interesting thing was, when I was really poverty-stricken, he never offered anything, and I was bound and determined not to ask. Sadistic and self-righteous as he was, he liked seeing me suffer. To him, I deserved it for trying to be independent. He was just itching to see me “come crawling” to him, to prove to all that I couldn’t make it without him. But there was no way that was going to happen. I knew I would have never heard the end of it. I refused to ask, and he didn’t offer.
But he did start offering his “bribes” after I had gotten on my feet, was doing well financially, and didn’t need them anymore. His previous manipulations and attempts to control hadn’t worked, so he now figured he might as well bring out what he considered to be “the big guns”, and give money a try. I have heard him say that “every man has his price”. But the only thing he learned from his scheming is that I couldn’t be bought. Every man might have his price, but I didn’t. He wound up right back where he had started- with nothing to hold over my head. I wound up with independence, self-respect, and dignity. I was able to spend my adult life always being able to look him in the eye as an equal. He knew he couldn’t get the better of me. He resented it, but he also respected it.
CLARIFY THE TERMS OF THE DEAL BEFORE YOU SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE
When you accept a favor from a controller, you are “signing” an UNWRITTEN CONTRACT. To an abuser, his “generosity” is his half of The Deal. Now the question is, what is YOUR half of The Deal? The best way to handle an offer of help is to ask right up front what will be expected of you in return. Most manipulative relatives will deny that they expect any payback, and insist there are no strings attached and that they are doing it “because they love you” and “are only trying to help.” They will act insulted and offended that you could even think such a thing. At which point, you can apologize and accept their “kind” offer, “knowing” that it is free and clear.
Of course, in reality it probably isn’t, but then at least in the future, when they throw it in your face to make you feel guilty, you can remind them that you clarified what the deal was before accepting it, and they told you there were no strings attached. If those are the circumstances under which you agreed to accept their offer, then you are free to choose whether to agree to or deny their future demands for “payback”, and your conscience can be perfectly clear.
You wouldn’t enter into any other business agreement without knowing what you were agreeing to, so don’t be shy about this one. Be direct and clarify the terms. Ask what conditions are on this offer. Know what you’re getting into. If the controller still chooses to be dishonest about his true motives and mislead you by telling you that he wants nothing in return, then you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty in the future. One party doesn’t have the unilateral right to change the terms weeks, months, or years after it’s a done deal.
EXPLODING THE MYTH OF THE LOVING ABUSER
Abusers and control-freaks NEVER do anything out of love. There is simply no such thing. This is because they do not love anyone but themselves. They do not have love in their hearts to begin with, so they cannot act out of love.
Sometimes we confuse other traits, such as possessiveness, ownership, dominance, entitlement, enmeshment, etc., with love. We may take such traits as a sign that an abuser really cares about us, but she does not. We are misinterpreting what is really going on. Abusers, controllers, and manipulators are accomplished liars. They are not persons of honor or integrity, so it would be very foolish to take whatever they might say at face value. They can be very convincing when they try to steamroll us into accepting their “offer of help”. But no matter what she says, we are deluding ourselves if we think that an abusive, controlling relative really wants to help us because she loves us.
Abusers do not serve the Lord, and they do not live to help others. The only person they are interested in helping is themselves. They never do anything for anybody else without first calculating what is in it for them. Those are the sorry facts, plain and simple. Forewarned is forearmed.
Although it is sad that we need to think first before accepting a favor from a loved one, unfortunately that is the case for many of us. With some people, we do need to think first. We need to avoid asking for favors. We need to buy time if an offer is made and not give a quick answer. We need to consider our relative’s personality and true nature. We need to recall if this person has a history of trying to obligate others to him or putting them in the position of “owing him one”. We need to think carefully about what strings are attached and whether accepting a favor from certain people is worth the price we are going to have to pay.
THE SECRET TO GETTING ALONG JUST FINE, MINUS THE GUILT TRIP
Above all, we need to learn to turn all our problems over to our real Father. We need to trust completely in him, and know beyond a doubt that he will always provide for all our needs. We do not need to put ourselves in the position of “owing” any man. The Lord will always take care of his children. God’s grace is “unmerited favor”- we do not “earn it” or “owe” the Lord for it- His grace is a FREE GIFT to us! Thank you, Father God! Your grace is sufficient for us! We give you all the honor and glory!
***For more on this subject, including how my own birth-parents tried to use doing me favors, such as babysitting my child while I was giving birth to my second baby, as an excuse to abuse and control me, please see the article The Price Of Independence in the section on Why They Abuse, Betray, or Abandon You.
THEREFORE I TELL YOU, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR LIFE, WHAT YOU WILL EAT OR DRINK; OR ABOUT YOUR BODY, WHAT YOU WILL WEAR. IS NOT LIFE MORE IMPORTANT THAN FOOD, AND THE BODY MORE IMPORTANT THAN CLOTHES? LOOK AT THE BIRDS OF THE AIR; THEY DO NOT SOW OR REAP OR STORE AWAY IN BARNS, AND YET YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER FEEDS THEM. ARE YOU NOT MUCH MORE VALUABLE THAN THEY? WHO OF YOU BY WORRYING CAN ADD A SINGLE HOUR TO HIS LIFE? AND WHY DO YOU WORRY ABOUT CLOTHES? SEE HOW THE LILIES OF THE FIELD GROW. THEY DO NOT LABOR OR SPIN. YET I TELL YOU THAT NOT EVEN SOLOMON IN ALL HIS SPLENDOR WAS DRESSED LIKE ONE OF THESE. IF THAT IS HOW GOD CLOTHES THE GRASS OF THE FIELD, WHICH IS HERE TODAY AND TOMORROW IS THROWN INTO THE FIRE, WILL HE NOT MUCH MORE CLOTHE YOU, O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH? SO DO NOT WORRY, SAYING, “WHAT SHALL WE EAT?” OR “WHAT SHALL WE DRINK?” OR “WHAT SHALL WE WEAR?” FOR THE PAGANS RUN AFTER ALL THESE THINGS, AND YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER KNOWS THAT YOU NEED THEM. BUT SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU AS WELL. THEREFORE DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW, FOR TOMORROW WILL WORRY ABOUT ITSELF. EACH DAY HAS ENOUGH TROUBLE OF ITS OWN….Matthew 6:25-24NIV
DO NOT EAT THE FOOD OF A STINGY MAN, DO NOT CRAVE HIS DELICACIES; FOR HE IS THE KIND OF MAN WHO IS ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT THE COST. “EAT AND DRINK.” HE SAYS TO YOU, BUT HIS HEART IS NOT WITH YOU. YOU WILL VOMIT UP THE LITTLE YOU HAVE EATEN AND WILL HAVE WASTED YOUR COMPLIMENTS….Proverbs 23: 6-8NIV
IT IS BETTER TO TAKE REFUGE IN THE LORD THAN TO TRUST IN MAN…Psalms 118:8NIV
GIVE US AID AGAINST THE ENEMY, FOR THE HELP OF MAN IS WORTHLESS…Psalms 108:12NIV
IT IS FOR FREEDOM THAT CHRIST HAS SET US FREE. STAND FIRM, THEN, AND DO NOT LET YOURSELVES BE BURDENED AGAIN BY A YOKE OF SLAVERY…Galatians 5:1NIV
COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BURDENED, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU AND LEARN FROM ME, FOR I AM GENTLE AND HUMBLE IN HEART, AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. FOR MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT….Matthew 11:28-30NIV
MAY THE LORD ANSWER YOU WHEN YOU ARE IN DISTRESS; MAY THE NAME OF THE GOD OF JACOB PROTECT YOU. MAY HE SEND YOU HELP FROM THE SANCTUARY AND GRANT YOU SUPPORT FROM
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The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues.
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Our articles are strictly our personal opinions and testimonies and are not intended to give or offer any advice. All who access this site do so with the understanding that we are NOT professional counselors and we strongly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your pastor or therapist and pray for the Lord's guidance before acting on anything we write on this site. Unfortunately, the abuse we discuss is all too common, inflicted on countless victims by countless perpetrators. All names and identifying details in our articles have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Any resemblance to a real person or persons whom you might know is strictly coincidental.