letting go of negative family ties - Mothering Forums
Personal Growth > letting go of negative family ties
Danielsmom's Avatar Danielsmom 07:11 PM 08-31-2005
I'm wondering for those who have anger, bitterness, sadness towards their families--how you got past it to lead a peace-filled life. I have so much in my life--good husband, great little boy, and a chance to stay at home with him and watch him grow and develop.

But I get terribly anxious when I interact with my family. I think part of it is suppressed rage. I have communicated my feelings of disappointment/frustration to certain family members and part of the problem is that those feelings are fluffed or or dismissed. So I honestly feel like a wackjob some of the time, that even though I am doing the grown up thing and expressing my concerns they are dismissed. The other problem is that I am the youngest of a large family (6 kids) and everyone else seems to get along great, visits each other, calls each other, goes on vacation together. I am often excluded.

I don't know if I should cut my ties alltogether with my family. The hurts and slights continue. Even though I have expressed a wish that I be included in family outings, a couple of weeks ago, my parents, two sisters and one of my brothers went on vacation to a local tourist area and didn't invite me and my son up, not even to spend the day. My two sisters do things together all the time and don't bother to include me. They call each other a lot and maybe call me once every couple of months. They watch each other's kids. So I am literally excluded.

A few times I have pulled back because I was so frustrated and then I get accused of shutting them out LOL.

I've been talking about my family in therapy off and on for the past couple of years. I don't see this therapist every week (often it averages more like every 3 weeks depending on both our schedules). It's hard to get a sitter during the day, which is the only time the therapist can see me. I'm thinking of stopping this therapy because I feel it is not helping.

I just want to feel better about this. I really feel like crap. I have tried communicating to various people what bothers me and I just am not heard; I don't think I will ever be heard. Last February I wrote a brief email to my parents and sisters just asking for some space, and asking them not to contact me for awhile. I just said that I needed some time to think about things. Well, one sister wrote this email saying how she felt I was shutting them out (when they have been doing this for years) and then left this hysterical phone message with all these guilt-laden messages. So even though I made a request to be left alone in an unemotional way, she still didn't heed my message.

I tried to start going to family parties again this summer but I just don't feel comfortable in the family dynamic.
My father is a very self-centered man and my mother just enables him.

Part of the problem is that everyone acts like everything is nice. And it isn't. It wasn't in the past and everyone pretends it was. It's like, things in the past never happened.

I honestly feel like there is a very specific dynamic in my family that I need a support group in dealing with but I don't know what the name would be.

LauraN's Avatar LauraN 05:42 PM 09-01-2005
Could it be "emotional abuse"?

This link is for people who are emotionally abused by their partners, but look at it and see if it applies in your parents' relationship or in their relationship with you:


I would not throw this out there lightly, I'm only mentioning it because your sisters sound like me.

I have come to realize lately that my dad's "selfishness and temper" was actually emotional abuse. And I was so controlled by it that I internalized his opinions about others and believed them myself. So I came to see my mom as stupid, my sister as out of control and my brother as irresponsible.

Because I internalized it so well, I was "daddy's girl" meaning that I could do no wrong. To my siblings, the result was that they felt the way you are feeling--I was always right, they were always wrong. I was always defending dad and they couldn't confide in me.

I've been in therapy for a month now (it has taken me this long to get the nerve up to do it, b/c my dad would think it was pathetic). And I've come to realize to what extent my dad's behavior has leached into my relationship with my husband, my children, etc. So I'm hopefully on the path to correcting that. In the meantime, my relationship with my sister has grown stronger every day, and we actually came to the "abuse" conclusion together.

Anyway, I could be totally wrong about your situation, so please disregard this if it doesn't ring true. Abuse is a big word, so don't go there lightly.

Danielsmom's Avatar Danielsmom 11:00 PM 09-01-2005
I think you are dead on accurate! I was thinking how my oldest sister is always "right." I always used to look up to her and now I realize how negative and opinionated she is. And controlling.

My mother is the same way, in some ways. The one time I tried to talk to my mother about how my sisters exclude me, my mother got very angry and defensive and basically said I had no right to complain because I didn't have as many kids as they did LOL. It was as though I wasn't allowed to have an opinion. I just think they all freak when anyone tries to say something is wrong.

I dread when one of my parents dies because I don't know how the family is going to handle the fallout.

It is gutsy of you to go into therapy. And I think sometimes it is just as tough to be the "favorite" as it is to be the "scapegoat" or the "troublemaker."
Thanks for your post, it really helped.
LauraN's Avatar LauraN 11:06 AM 09-02-2005
I'm glad it helped.

One of the things my sister and I talk about a lot is that since I was the one who "got" my dad (was most controlled by him, basically), I was always trying to "help" my mom and siblings "do the right thing" so they wouldn't set him off.

My sister says that since my mom never intervened to protect us from the abuse, in a twisted way I (as the oldest) took over that protective role by trying to "teach" my sister and brother the right way to say things to my dad, or the right way to do things. In reality the only effect was that I was like another arm in my dad's control over everyone.

But part of what I'm having to deal with in therapy is overcoming this idea that I'm responsible for my siblings and their behavior and that it's my role to protect them.

I read somewhere that in victims of Post-traumatic stress disorder, often the most traumatic events are not ones where they were hurt, but rather ones where they witnessed someone else being hurt and were helpless to help them.

I think there's a lot of that in me--I was rarely the one who got yelled at and put-down. But try as I might I couldn't help my sister and brother stay out of the line of fire.

So I'm wondering if there could be some of that in your older sister. Not that knowing that helps any, as she's going to have to help herself-- you can only help you.

Anyway, it's been a hell of a month, as you might imagine.

Sorry for the , I guess your post just spoke to me.

I hope you're able to find some therapy that better suits your needs. I read somewhere it sometimes takes visits to 3 or 4 therapists before you find one you click with...

freestyler's Avatar freestyler 12:20 AM 09-05-2005
Wow, it's like someone read my mind when they started this thread! I got onto MDC today hoping to start the same thing....I love this community so much! Generally I hang out with my Due Date Club (fourth baby due soon), but right now my mind is on family-of-origin stuff.

My situation is not all that different. Basically I have a mom who lives an hour away, who is a messed up head case and I can't stand. My life with DH and kids and friends is wonderful, and I do NOT want any of her negative crap in our life. She is an unhappy person and downright dislikes me (and ALL females---especially herself---she is misogynistic in the extreme and has no friends of either gender). She will not even respond when I try to talk with her about even just the weather, simply does not respond and then says either she "didn't hear" me, or didn't want to answer because she didn't want to "start an argument." What ??? Start an argument?? I am not a belligerant person, and never ever get into arguments. She just does not like to communicate with me, has a huge mental block! But my older brother, of course, can do no wrong, walks on water and that sort of thing.

Anyway, two months ago, after she mistreated me and the kids and had a big tantrum and stormed out of our house, she was NOT welcome back. I have not seen her since, and the last time we talked (a month ago) I made it clear that I will not put any more energy into this relationship with her, and want no more contact for the foreseeable future. I did not say it in a belligerant way, but in a matter-of-fact way, honestly and not emotionally. I think very poorly of people who stomp out of the room as a method of communication! She called it "clearing the air." HA! it was more like farting and leaving the room!

She keeps calling though!!! I see it's her on caller ID and just don't answer. But how the hell can I get her to leave me alone? I'm eight months pregnant, and need to have positive energy for my body and mind. It is time to permanently leave behind all of the baggage from growing up with her, and I have already felt a new chapter in my life starting as I let go of those old ties. Life has been so fresh and new these past two months! I refuse to let her back in to destroy all that, with her anger, negativity, hatred of the human race (especially females), constant criticism of my house/parenting/way of life/personality, etc., and basic crap social skills. She is a mess and needs deep therapy.

How long do you think she'll keep calling before she gets the message? I already said everything very clearly! Do I have to say it again? I do not even want to talk to her anymore, she's such an unhealthy person. And I do NOT want my kids having any contact with her, of any kind, even phone contact. She would totally use them as an "in" to get herself invited back over here, if she could. She is lonely as hell, and has apparently nothing better to do than try bugging us every week. She needs to get therapy and get a life. And leave us alone so we can live ours! I feel that I cannot live to my full potential with someone like her in the wings, someone who is not affirming, life-giving, supportive, or nurturing in any sense.

How do you get someone to leave you the heck alone already??
siddie's Avatar siddie 04:07 AM 09-05-2005
First off, if you have been seeing this therapist for a couple of years and don't feel like it is helping you, by all means find another therapist. A really good therapist will work with you to resolve this issue in a reasonable amount of time (1 year or less) and will not keep you hanging around for a couple of years. Ask for references and interview therapists before selecting a new one.

YOu sound conflicted about your family, like you want to be closer to them and included in events but then feel uncomfortable around them and need space. Decide what is comfortable for you in terms of contact and then do it. If you want to be included more, then you will have to be the one to call and set things up for a while at least. If you want to maintain some distance, work on choosing close friends who you can trust and enjoy spending time with in place of your family. Create your own family the way you want it to be!
L.J.'s Avatar L.J. 04:01 PM 09-05-2005
My sis and I have been going through stuff too.

A few years ago, I was in a really bad place. I felt judged, I was really judgemental, negative, down, etc. I then projected that onto my sister because I have the most "history" with her. I used to think no one understood me, I didn't fit in, I didn't want to be with the family etc. It was horrible.

I worked on my own issues and self esteem and suddenly everything seemed so much better. I jokingly wondered why they all suddenly changed, but THEY didn't change I did. The little drama and stuff still exists at times, but it isn't the same magnitude and I don't react to it the way I used to.

So now, we've had a role reversal. My sis was just home and she was all upset about things. She said she doesn't like being around us, she feels like she's trying to please everyone etc. We don't ask her to please us, we don't want her to please us, she's doing what she does for whatever reasons, but I can see that she's hurting about a lot of things inside. She just doesn't open up to us. She says she feels like she has, but neither my mom nor I have any idea of what's going on for her.

She left saying she doesn't feel like we listen to her and that we don't support her at all. But when asked, she won't tell us what would support her and she just shuts down. She must feel like she's opening up to us, but somehow, none of us are really getting it.

I know my situation sounds different in some ways than yours. Her & I still have some unresolved issues from childhood and felt like we didn't get enough time or attention, like she was hard done by because she was the oldest and I was hard done by because I was the youngest. But really, it's not each other's fault or problem, it's something we both need to work on for ourselves.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when I work on my own stuff and feel confident and strong.....it doesn't matter what anyone else in my family says or does, because I become immune to it all. But when I feel insecure or upset about something, the issues are magnified and then problems surface.

I feel like I'm rambling and not sure if I'm making any sense. Figure out who you are and be who you are and others will get that. I know when I am acting "needy" for my sister's attention, it pushes her farther away from me and when I'm just chillin' and being myself, she's drawn to me. But ultimately, it's my stuff to work through.
Mama22girls's Avatar Mama22girls 08:47 PM 09-07-2005
First of all, I'm sorry you are going through this.

Maybe you matured emotionally and they haven't. Just a thought b/c that's what is happening in my family. (I'm 4th of five) We are having to cut ties for awhile b/c it's so much stress on me and DH every time we get together. They are also doing the same thing with going places together w/out us. My brothers and my parents got a call when one of my brothers adopted two little boys. My sister and I did not find out until a couple of days later. The list goes on and on.

Dh and I started reading "Toxic Parents" by Dr. Susan Forward (?). We are going to heal ourselves from the hurt (from when we were children). Then we will start getting back together. Right now there is so much resentment, hurt, and disappointment that visits aren't enjoyable at all. My family is like yours b/c they act like everything is fine. The only difference is they talk behind our backs and then I find out from another sibling what someone else's true feelings are. Confrontation in a nice manner is out of the question. We've tried many different ways and once we start talking emotions---it's out!

I hope you can find healing first. I feel that's your key to peace. The only reason I say this is b/c we have been a much happier family not answering the phone at their beck and call, not seeing them as much, and composing ourselves before we make the call back. When I say compose, I mean remembering who we are talking to and always being respectful, no matter what they say.

That's all I can think of right now. Good luck and (((((Hugs)))))
Mallori's Avatar Mallori 11:33 PM 09-07-2005
Thank you for this thread! And Mama22girls, for the book recommendation. I'm requesting it from my library as I sit here!

unfortunately, I can relate to some of this here. Danielsmom, could a lot of it be attributed to denial? Maybe your family knows that it has dysfunction, but chooses to ignore it. When you don't ignore it, they leave you out so they are not reminded of how imperfect things are. At least that's what's happening to me in my family right now.

My family has a TON of problems, mainly stemming from my parents, and i'm struggling with how to come to terms with all of it, and then i'll move on to what to do about it. Right now I just have so many mixed up feelings about it, that I need to clarify them for myself before I can address the issues.
Mother2Amaya's Avatar Mother2Amaya 02:58 AM 09-08-2005
I suffered for many years with a really dysfunctional relationship with my alcoholic mother. She didn't raise me and basically abandoned me. I tried to have her in my life but it caused me so much grief, stress, anxiety, depression, that I finally had to "let go and let God." I told her how I felt. I told her I couldn't speak with her anymore. That I loved her because she was my mother but I didn't approve of her lifestyle and if she ever wanted to straighten herself out, I'd be here, but otherwise I wanted nothing to do with her. I didn't see her or talk to her for a very long time. When we did finally start to talk again, it was very calm and cordial and basically "how are you, how's the baby, how's the weather, ok, it was nice to hear from you." There was no arguing. It was GREAT! Now we speak on the phone (I live far away now) once every few weeks to catch up, even though most of the time she is intoxicated, my soul is set free knowing that she knows how I feel and that I don't have that constant arguing and bitter relationship with her anymore. I think me moving away also helped because she feels guilt and grief and knows she did mroe harm than good.

My prayers and thoughts are with you.
Tapioca's Avatar Tapioca 03:06 AM 09-08-2005
Danielsmom...I have been where you are and still are there in some ways.
I was the family 'nutcase', because I used to try and talk about things that weren't right in the family. Like yours, my family members were very concerned with appearances and everything seeming to be nice. It is and was a sick situation.

I know for me, that having a partner who actually believed me helped a lot. A big part of the rock I carried everywhere with me - that rock of rage - was caused by the fact I really wondered if I was crazy. How come I remembered things that my parents and one sib claimed never happened? Maybe I WAS nuts.

I have since realised that one sib in particular is as sick as they (my parents) are. My mum is the enabler, my dad is very self-centred and angry, and my brother is too weak to deal with it, so he has joined in the make-believe. Fortunately, my sister, who is much younger than me, finally saw through the "she's crazy!" propaganda and came and sought me out.

My partner used to say to me, over and over again, that I needed to just accept things as they were. I couldn't change my family. He saw that part of my issue was that I wanted them to be different than they were; I was waiting for them to say "oh my god. You're RIGHT! I'm an a22hole! You're NOT a whackjob". In fact, I was still looking for their approval, even though I was furious at them.

I've learned to not expect much from them. I don't expect support, or honesty, or to trust them. It's a huge weight off my back. But it's been a long journey to get here. It's really hard to accept that your family might never be the family that you need.

Anyway, I'm a bit drunk (just been at a party) so I hope that helps in some incoherent way
Danielsmom's Avatar Danielsmom 01:58 AM 09-13-2005
I just wanted to thank you for your posts. I hadn't checked this thread for awhile and have found all of the posts tremendously helpful. I will probably print them out and save them.
I already responded to LauraN's posts but wanted to briefly respond to the others:
Freestyler--could you send your mom a registered letter? Maybe that would get the message across and she will stop calling. She sounds a bit controlling. I tried to cut off communication for awhile, just for my sanity, then felt guilty. It's hard breaking out of the people pleasing pattern--my role in the family. I sympathize with you. Also, it sounds like your mom doesn't know how to communicate about conflicts. A lot of people don't.

Siddie, creating a family of friends is exactly what I have been working on. I'm a bit shy (I post in the social outcasts thread LOL) but I do have a few close friends. And yes, I am conflicted about my family. In a strange way, I feel that my family is sicker than they used to be--I remember more good times from the past and I see more dysfunction now. Almost like they should know better because now they are mature adults with kids but keep falling into the same family dynamics. The other part of this is I think the sibs are being nice to my parents and not rocking the boat because they are afraid of getting written out of the will.
And yes, I do miss the nieces and nephews but it isn't worth having an anxiety attack when I go to family parties. There's a lot I am leaving out about my family dynamic.

L.J. I found your post helpful. And yes, it is important to be confident and strong in yourself. But how do you feel that way when 1. your mother has told you that you were an accident (my mother has told me this--I wasn't wanted) and 2. it's obvious my parents don't even like me any more because I stand up to them? and 3. I'm not sure if my parents, especially my mother ever liked me.

Mama22girls, you too come from a family where everything is "fine"? Ugh. And yes, I hear you on the being talked about behind your back. Also, not answering the phone is a godsend

Mallori, thank you for your post. I agree with you I think every family is imperfect but some are more seriously flawed than others. You're in my thoughts.

Mother2Amaya, thank you for your prayers. I do need to let go and let God.

Tapioca, I need to get to where you are. I could have written your post. I want...I guess I want my family to admit that they are wrong in some ways and to say I'm not a wackjob. It will never happen. Also, I do feel grief that they aren't the family I wish I had. I too wonder if I am crazy. After all, they are all content and I've always been labeled the "emotional, sensitive" one.

Thank you again to everyone. I wish you peace in your healing journeys. I hope you all post again on this thread; it is very helpful to hear your thoughts.
Tapioca's Avatar Tapioca 02:27 PM 09-13-2005
Mama22girls's Avatar Mama22girls 09:53 PM 09-21-2005
Danielsmom My thoughts are with you. We are, again, going through a rift in the family. Who knows, maybe someone besides me will get a clue :LOL

Mallori--good luck with the book. It's getting very hard to get through. (I'm well over halfway) It's amazing how many different emotions come to the surface from reading the book. I had a good cry last night and I feel so much better.
never's Avatar never 10:18 PM 09-21-2005
Danielsmom: I hear you on the family troubles.

I haven't spoken to either of my sister's in 4 years. It just got too hard. They are both older and pretty similar in demeanor(confrontational). It really felt like they were a team and I was the outcast. They are both pretty "mainstream" and didn't take well to things about me, my not shaving, being bisexual etc.

I just couldn't take it anymore when they refused to respect my decision to move in with my now husband.

Our family has a long and terrible history of abuse of all forms. So I know exactly why we are all the way we are. I just couldn't deal with the dysfunction anymore.

I have no idea if I'll speak to them again. I'm guessing at the very least I'll see them when our mom passes on.

I just want you to know that you are most definitely not alone.
RedWine's Avatar RedWine 10:38 PM 09-21-2005

Thanks for starting this thread. I too have major issues with my family.

I have limited contact with my parents, and practically none with my sister. My mother is very good with my children, so I do see her at times for my kids' sake. I barely speak to my father.

I've managed to keep them at a distance by living very far away, so travel and visitation is difficult. They have no idea that I do not want to see them, or that I see myself as having little to do with them. They think of it as simply physical distance and my being busy with two small kids. This is fine with me. I know they will not change, so it makes no sense to bring up my chidhood issues and start a fight. I just silently keep them at arm's length.
mcmrymoon's Avatar mcmrymoon 04:52 PM 09-22-2005
Originally Posted by L.J.
My sis and I have been going through stuff too.

I worked on my own issues and self esteem and suddenly everything seemed so much better. I jokingly wondered why they all suddenly changed, but THEY didn't change I did. The little drama and stuff still exists at times, but it isn't the same magnitude and I don't react to it the way I used to.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when I work on my own stuff and feel confident and strong.....it doesn't matter what anyone else in my family says or does, because I become immune to it all. But when I feel insecure or upset about something, the issues are magnified and then problems surface.
this is 100% correct. how you feel about yourself - determines how others react to you...and how to react to others. you may not think that you are the problem at all (and you most likely aren't) but if you are feeling isolated - you are sending out isolation energy...thereby causing others to alienate you. make sense? i agree you might need some distance so you can do some soul searching for yourself. see what YOU are all about. once you have discovered yourself - only then can you feel comfortable around all that negativity.

in my family - i am the oddball. i get flack for alot of my beliefs, actions, passions etc. but - instead of keeping me away - it makes me proud of myself. i get mad at times - but for the most part we can all laugh WITH me and my beliefs - not AT me. i was just telling my mom today as a matter of fact as she was sarcastically saying "see - your son had an ORGANIC apple" (one she had picked off her tree). i just laughed and said "you know - you make fun of me alot but then you'll watch on the news something i've been telling you and suddenly its true!"

what has always helped me deal with my mom is realizing a couple of things:

1 - she is parenting how she was taught to parent from people who learned from their parents etc....regardless of how bad it is...that is how it is.

2 - she was put into my life as my mom for a reason and i have a lesson to learn from her. for me - all the lessons are how NOT to treat my children and that i don't want to be the woman she is. horrible yes - but very valuable nonetheless.

3 - picturing her as a WOMAN during each stage of her life. i try to imagine what it was like to live as she did from infancy into the woman she is today...in each stage of life. she had it rough (my dad was a major prick) and instead of changing things, she chose to wallow in it until it festered and she has become the woman she is today. i tend to feel sad for her alot and at times i am actually able to be sympathetic to her!

good luck!