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Letting go/difficult family relationships

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by North Star, Mar 20, 2015.

  1. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    I knew when we moved to a city where some of my siblings live that there would be some sparks eventually and alas…it has come to pass. ;)

    Today, my sister started down one of her usual judgmental diatribes about something and I called her on it inside of holding my peace. Told her I felt judged. She denied it. "I don't judge you," she said. And then in the next breath said I was closed minded. (Isn't that a judgement?)

    I realized a couple of things. If a person doesn't understand French, shouting it to them isn't going to help them understand it any better.

    I see in myself that tendency only I'm not speaking a foreign language. I'm trying to get someone to understand…when they aren't looking to understand. The judgement seat is just too comfortable.

    I can still feel the tension in my body, 30 minutes after her departure. (Yay for increasing awareness of stress and physical symptoms!)

    It's unlikely my sister is going to change. This is the same sort of sh*t that went on when we were kids. And while I hope to continue to grow and become a better person, I think that is best done with firm boundaries around that relationship.

    I'm going to listen to an encouraging audiobooks on a walk. The physical exercise will help me shake this off. I also think I need to adopt a "polite stranger" stance on this relationship. There's not a thing I do that she doesn't disapprove and life is too short to stand in that line of fire.

    What do you do with difficult family relations?
    flowerbells and (deleted member) like this.
  2. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Hi North Star,

    This is a subject dear to my heart. Actually, I wish it was not. I had a very complex and difficult relationship with my sister. I left home at 21 and my sister never forgave me for it. There are a lot of reasons why, but suffice it to say that she thought my mother needed me and I let her down. My mother imposed impossible rules on me when I lived at home, like a 11 pm curfew. She (my sister) became an alcoholic and talked about me behind my back all of our lives. I suspect that she blamed me for her alcoholism (alcoholics must have someone to blame). She may have even blamed me for my mother's death. She turned her husband's family against me. Fortunately, we did not live near each other, except for a short period of time. When she died in 2010, I did not even go to her funeral. I did not hate her, in fact we had a cordial relationship the whole time. But I always knew it was phony. As far as I was concerned, she had the right to her opinion and I had the right to mine. When she died, the reason I did not go is because my husband would not go. He did not like my sister or anyone in her family and thought they were "toxic" for me. For reasons of self-preservation, I did not want to go alone.

    I actually regret that I did not tell her what I really thought of her before she died. I would have told her in a nice way. I think that is the reason for my anger today. I have to admit that I felt guilty about he for awhile. Sometimes family relationships are very difficult. I think this is a good example of how someone's refusal to let go of judgment of others destroys them in the end. Her judgment destroyed her in the end because she died of her alcoholism.
  3. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Chickenbone, I've read through your post more than once because it helped me to understand a couple of things more clearly. First, these childhood patterns never really go away unless both parties are committed to change. It's clear that ain't gonna happen with this sister. It can boil my blood just thinking of how she has treated me through the years. And second….this was an eyeopener…how my people pleasing tendencies have have not allowed me the freedom to confront her on this.

    Thankfully, things aren't vitriolic like they were for you. (You poor dear! That's a helluva lot you've been through!) But my hubby has told me more than once that if he never saw any of my family again, that would be fine with him. (Again, my people pleasing tendencies are at play here.) However, right now, I find myself saying I agree with him.

    We are all basically cordial with one another but I should know better by now to never expect anything more from those relationships. Anything deeper than surface and especially not approval, encouragement, blah, blah, blah…

    I need to realize I am a grown woman and it's long overdue to cut these emotion cords that have not served me well. This experience and your wise words have given me an "AHA!" moment.

    And for this…I thank you! :kiss:
    flowerbells likes this.
  4. mdh157

    mdh157 Well known member

    I keep my distance when this stuff happens north Star. Fortunately most of my family lives abt 2 hours away from me so I don't have to deal with the hassle too often, but one gets really fed up with people who manufacture their own problems and then expect someone else to hear of them griping when you've just spent a whole day just to come over to visit. They all wish I'd come up more often but the bickering is what has kept me away, and they know it. Funny part is, for all the annoyances it causes me, not one of them seems to have TMS, although only one of my sisters is really a problem.
    I'm the one dealing with TMS hell and the only feedback I get is "relax, it is nothing but stress."

    I could go on all day with examples but i think you have the point - adopting a polite stranger stance may be just what the TMS doctor ordered!
    North Star likes this.
  5. Peggy

    Peggy Well known member

    Ha, ha! But that is the way it is, sadly.
    North Star likes this.
  6. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Mdh, yeah…this sister is "Well, you just get over your childhood stuff and move on…" She moved out of our very dysfunctional home when she was 13 and pretty much had nothing to with us again. Well, except when she felt like assuaging her guilt by making a brief appearance.

    Man, this whole conversation has helped me to realize I have a LOT of anger toward this girl. I'm recalling many of the hurtful things she has said to me over the years. Her tongue clucking over how I was raising my kids. (She has no kids, btw.) And so on.

    I've always rationalized my anger away by making excuses for her…well, she's melancholy…she's to be pitied…she's probably depressed…etc.

    This is the first time we've lived in the same town since we were young kids. Our lives are quite full though so I don't see them often.

    I also see THIS girl has some anger to release so I can truly forgive and love. (And that last part from a distance.)
  7. flowerbells

    flowerbells New Member

    North Star, This sounds like me, and my sister. My sister blames me for everything I supposedly misunderstand or react to when she pushes my buttons. The main difference between you relationship with your sister, and mine with her is that you2 have had troubles since you were kids. Pretty much we didn't have that many disagreements. I was the mean one then. I used to stand up to my abusive father and he and I would argue and he'd hit me. So my (6 years younger) sister was sweet and nice all the time. She told me, and I believe her, that it was for self protection because she saw what I went through when I stood up for myself.

    After having been harassed by her teenage sons, she finally got counseling in order to be a stronger person. But she turned mean instead.

    Today, again, she rescheduled something we'd already agree to the time on three days ago. This is so, so like her. Nothing is okay as is -- lots of changing plans, last minute. Not only with me, either -- that's just her pattern.

    Today, for the second time (the other time was maybe 20 years ago) I said Goodbye, and cut her out of my life. I just cannot take all the arguing anymore! And you know what? Nobody else but her pushes my buttons. Not anymore. I've had counseling, too, and I've learned to set boundaries. Reasonable ones, I believe because my therapist -- who does not always take my side -- says I've been very reasonable with her, and she sends emails that do not make a whole lot of sense.

    I emailed a message to her today saying that I believe family unity is much more important to her, than it is to me. And that's the absolute truth. Has been for at least 30 years. I've tried. In fact, since she was so sweet when she was a child, and listened to and comforted me, I decided that as an adult, it was my turn to comfort and listen to her. Which I did, for 20 years. My twenty year contract with myself is over for at least 10 years. I'm in my 70s, and just don't have enough time left to mess with people who push my buttons.

    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
  8. flowerbells

    flowerbells New Member

    Dear Chickenbone, Just want you to know how I have been dealing with my dysfunctional family for years. Maybe this would work for you, but a lot of people don't want to take this position. I'm very sorry that your relationship with your sister is so hard. As I said just now to North Star I have just disconnected with my sister, and she's out of my life. At least I hope so. My dad was the worst, but now that he's gone, still have problems with the family. So, about 30 years ago I told them all I would not be having family dinners or holidays with them. I got flak for three years from - of all people -- my controlling sister-in-law! But she finally accepted my decision, or anyway stopped bugging about it, and I have stuck to it.

    I reasoned with the family then, something that is not entirely true anymore. At that time, though, I explained that big groups of family were stressful to me, and that I got along fine with one or two of them at a time. I never see my sister's sons, who have distanced themselves from me, and also from my sister, who plagues them to see her a lot more than they are willing to do so.

    One more thing though -- I like going to restaurants with extended family when out town relatives come to visit. Restaurants work for us/us, when home visits do not.

  9. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    I have two sisters and the unfortunate truth is I would pick neither as a friend. We don't live anywhere near each other and a once a year visit brings me tension and pain. But I keep going back for more as I keep thinking this time it will be different but it never is. This last trip was in Oct and I am still working on recovery from it. TMS flared and I started therapy. Perhaps all for the best as I am on a journey to heal a lifetime of pain.

    My lessons like many of you is learning to set boundaries, stand up for myself and a very important lesson for me is just because they say so doesn't make it true.

    I would like to offer a technique that might be helpful in letting go of some of your anger, hurt or pain. It's in the power of forgiveness... Don't get me wrong it doesn't mean that you haven't been wronged. The method I was taught is as follows.
    Write a letter to the person and don't hold back tell them everything and anything in any language you want.( a form of journaling) wait at least 24 no longer than 48 hours and write another letter forgiving them again not denying what they've done but seeing it from the perspective that it's about who they are and not about you. It's as though they can't help doing what they do as its who they are. Now the third letter again wait at least 24 hours no longer than 48 hours is a bit more spiritual as its the belief that it's no accident that these people are in our life even as family members and they like everyone else we encounter on our life journey is here to teach us lessons.
    Of course these letters never get sent they are for you and your healing.

    Letter writing has helped but I still have work to do as these hurts I carry have been my lifetime. Three sisters happily getting along is just my fantasy.
  10. flowerbells

    flowerbells New Member

    Susan1111 This is so sweet! Such a good idea! I will certainly do this process. My problem MAY be, though, that once I do the letters (which of course I won't send to my sister), I will forgive her so much I would let her back into my life, and it would all start again. Two days ago, disconnected from her, for the 2nd time. My brother tells me I was talking with him 3 months ago, about disconnecting from her then! I told her I wasn't blaming either of us, that it was just a matter of two people who could not get along. But my history with two marriages is that I would forgive, then come back for more emotional abuse. After they were over, though, I happened to see an article by a minister on the religion page in the newspaper. I think that's the only time I have ever read the religion page! This minister wrote: You can forgive a person, but you don't have to have that person in your life. What a revelation! Hope I can make this work with my sister (not having her in my life)
  11. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    I so understand letting things go! No longer!!! I need to take care of me. They say they want me in their lives yet neither one of them thinks that they have wronged me. So what will change? Nothing unless i do! I'm no longer going to defend myself.
    This will take a lot of strength but a much needed lesson. As you it shows its head in all my relationships! And TMS is the price I pay.
  12. flowerbells

    flowerbells New Member

    Hi Susan1111 again! Oh, gosh! You wrote, "They say they want me in their lives yet neither one of them thinks that they have wronged me." Wow! That's my sister all over again! I disconnected from her for months, maybe a year, about 10 years ago. Then our brother told me she was so distraught -- she wanted me back in her life. So, on our phone calls, we stopped screaming at each other. So my disconnect worked, so far as that went. We got along on the phone for quite a while, and I thanked her for her better attitude towards me. Her reply, "No -- it's YOU that have changed!!!" What???!!! So, then things began to deteriorate. To the point it is now, where it's like Dear Abby's daughter said about Abby's estranged sister, Ann Landers, "It's like being nibbled to death by a duck!" So even though our brother still hopes we can patch things up, I need to as you say, "take care of me." and "I'm no longer going to defend myself." Fortunately for me, now, this is not how I relate to everyone else. That is, IF the person treats me with respect. Here's what has happened: (1) I told my boyfriend if he EVER yells at me, I will walk away and never look back. He said, "I will never have any reason to yell at you. You never push my buttons." He and his former g/f fought frequently, he told me. We have gotten along very, very well for 3 years now. He's the only man -- including my brother -- who has ever treated me well. As for my girlfriends, I have had several very good friends -- so I thought. Now, I only have one left, altough there are more women who may become good friends. We go to various shows together -- music concerts, movies, and theatre plays. But as for the other 5 friends I disconnected with, two were paranoid, and even had that diagnosis. One imagined that I was slighting her. He husband likely turned her against me. He, too, had a dx of paranoia. He told her, as she said, that he does not like me. She told me over and over that the two of us were so much alike -- received 5 loving greeting cards A WEEK for while, which I thought was strange, and very unwelcome. Then she started saying I'd slighted her. When I told her I didn't appreciate this and that she needed to see a therapist for her paranoia, she hung up on me. Another one constantly complained that people -- everyone she talked about -- was bullying her. "Bullying" was her favorite word, and that's ALL she talked about. I told her my therapist had bully-proofed me, and maybe she’d like to go to him. But she never would do that. The third one, who was my friend for 3 years, suddenly started screaming at me. She even followed me around the cafeteria room at the senior center we go to, screaming and screaming at me. She actually said: "I will never, EVER, call you or email you again!" I simply got up out of the chair, said, "'Bye [her name]. That was because I had asked her if we could email/call each other back and forth, rather than doing so, so often. She had overwhelming me with emails and phone calls. So I finally set boundaries and that set her off. So she's out of my life, too. And guess what, believe it or not! Two days later, I got a letter from her. I knew there were only three possibilities in the card: She would continue on as though nothing had happened, which I would not accept. Or, she would apologize, which I would not accept. Or, she would write some sore of screaming diatribe, which I would not accept. So I shredded the letter without reading it. End of story with her, too. That's the short story about these people. I'm tempted to think to myself, "I'd rather be lonely than be screamed at, disrespected." But I know I won't be lonely anyway. I'm involved in a lot artists' groups, and music groups and other wonderful activities. In future posts here, is it possible to double space to get paragraphing?
  13. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    Flowerbells I believe we attract in people the lesson we need to learn and that includes family. Once learned we don't attract it any longer hence you're new boyfriend and letting friends go. The sister situation is difficult.....keep at it! I speak to myself when I say that to you. It hurts I know only too well.

    And yes you can create new paragraphs... I don't know what devise you're using to help you technically how to do so.
  14. flowerbells

    flowerbells New Member

    Hey Susan! Thanks for this support. I think at least one of my mistakes in finding friends is that I have been looking for people in the wrong places.

    [new paragraph!] Now I will find my friends in social groups I am in: A hand work group (I'd doing embroidery), where the people are ALWAYS wonderrful. Every hand work person I've ever known was a gem. Also I am in 2 yoga classes, and a Writers group. I'm hoping to connect with some of them.

    Thanks again. I certainly hope you can find a way to "escape" from the hassles with your sisters. Is your situation a bit like my sister, in that you feel you're being nibbled to death by a duck? And I also hear ya that neither sister is able to admit they wronged you. In my case in my family of origin, it was me that was always the scapegoat. I think I may have avoided some of this, when I declared, and kept my word, over 20 years ago that I would no longer be attending family holiday dinners. I explained then that I got along fine with individual family members, or two at a time, but that the whole family together stresses me out, big time. The only person who objected to that is my ultra-controlling sister-in-law (of all people)! She complained every Thanksgiving and Christmas for 3 years, before she gave up trying to change my mind. Now, I am certain that the family still fights on these occasions, or at least does not have a very good time, but I'm not there anymore, to blame. Ha ha ha! Yuk, yuk, yuk, as the 3 Stooges said (if you remember them!) One thing I will do with the family, is have dinner out at a restaurant WHEN my wonderful cousins visit. Then the rest of the family is on their good behavior. Whether I speak to my sister on those occasions, remains to be seen. I certainly will not sit anywhere near her.
  15. Maribel

    Maribel New Member

    My 5 years older sister released her tensions and anxieties onto me through verbal abuse. Now I realize that I was always in a non win situation with her because any discussion we head she would attack me personally, cry baby, dumb, you are so stupid, egoist....

    Its there that I lost my self esteem and because my parents where emotionally absent I clung to her approval. Because of the work of my father we continuously moved to different countries so my family was all I had. I accepted an abusive relationship because it was better than nothing at all.
  16. flowerbells

    flowerbells New Member

    Thanks for posting, Maribel. Sad upbringing for you, as well as probably others in your family, moving around like your dad's work required.

    I see that I posted in January of 2016, this year, and that was the list time I visited. I have not read the entire thread because it's to long. But glancing over several of your posts, friends, I see so much that it like my situation with my sister. Some quotes from North Star and Chickenbone below, with my comments in bold underlined.

    North Star wrote: Told her I felt judged. She denied it. "I don't judge you," she said. And then in the next breath said I was closed minded. (Isn't that a judgement?) I finally caught my sister in the act of this sort of thing. It used to happen on the phone, and it was crazymaking. Then we started emailing, and I would have hard proof of the reality of the conversation.

    I realized a couple of things. If a person doesn't understand French, shouting it to them isn't going to help them understand it any better.

    I see in myself that tendency only I'm not speaking a foreign language. I'm trying to get someone to understand…when they aren't looking to understand. Exactly right about my sister. She is not trying to understand.

    Chickenbone wrote I did not hate her, in fact we had a cordial relationship the whole time. But I always knew it was phony. Yes, my sister was phony with me, too …. Chickenbone also did not go to her sister’s funeral I'm older, but if my sister dies before me I find it highly unlikely that I'd go. She alienated, or better term "distanced" her two sons from me when they were teenagers. Then are in their 40s now, and never contact me. If I contact them, they do not respond.

    Then North Star wrote: these childhood patterns never really go away unless both parties are committed to change. Over 15 years ago, when both my sister and myself had a therapist, and when we both acknowledged we were having communication problems with each other, I suggested that we go together to her therapist, and then together to my therapist, to work on our communication problems. I said it didn't matter to me which therp we would go go first. But you know what she said then: "I don't want to spend my time that way." It took me all this time to say "Do not contact me again, for any reason, at any time." It's been over 2 months now,and I am not "up and down, up and down" all week because of our emails.
  17. Maribel

    Maribel New Member

    North Star wrote: Told her I felt judged. She denied it. "I don't judge you," she said. And then in the next breath said I was closed minded. (Isn't that a judgement?) I finally caught my sister in the act of this sort of thing. It used to happen on the phone, and it was crazymaking. Then we started emailing, and I would have hard proof of the reality of the conversation. YES YES!!!

    When I became an adult I started realizing that the discussions always eded up in personal attacks that had nothing to do with the object of the discussion. I couldn't understand why she had friends if she was so nasty!

    But internet/email was another gift - it allowed you to relook at what she was saying without the emotions of the moment - she is a messed up puppy!!! There is a hole dark world inside her brain - that spills over in anger to the allowed/ preferred / accustomed object her sister! For other people she plays the nice lady / repressed anger syndrome but I get her true self!!! And note I was always the accused in my family for being the 'angry' one!!! I was the black sheep of the family.

    I kept engaging because I need to be seen by somebody in the family - and she could be temporarily very nice - a kind of Jackle and Hide. Through the years I internalized all these poisonous messages and started to believe them and live them. I married a man that is like my sister!!!! ( oh Lord!!) He is so nice on the outside, but there is a deep river of anger that has no mercy for anybody.
  18. flowerbells

    flowerbells New Member

    Dear Maribel, your story and life sound a lot like mine. Except are you a lot younger than I am? I am 74, and have overcome much of this family pain. I hope you realize that there are other ways to live, and take whatever steps you need to, to have a better life. I divorced 3 abusive husbands, and even got involved with another abusive man when I was in my 60s. Now I have a man companion who is caring, wise, gentle, and loves me the way everyone deserves to be loved and treated. I think for me the #1 reason our relationship lasts is that we do not live together. Probably the first time I stood up to the family structure was when I decided to skip large family celebrations, specifically Christmas and Thanksgiving. The only person who made a big stink about my decision, believe it or not, was my witchy sister-in-law!!! She's not even related to me! I explained to my own family members (not in-law, as it was not any of her business) that I got along well with family one or two at a time, and would LOVE to see people in this way, but all of them at once was very uncomfortable for me. The witchy sister-in-law bugged me for three years trying to get me to these events, but finally gave up. My sister always invited me, saying "I know you probably won't come, but know that you are invited." As for getting together with family members in small bunches, the only one I did that with was my sister when we'd go out for lunch on our birthdays, or to a concert. I really appreciated her always inviting me to the events. Lately, though, when something would come up and I say I'd like to be there, she has said,"I don't know if you are invited." She just gets worse and worse. The long term upshot of me not attending Christmas and Thanksgiving is that now nobody invites me. I think they've all drifted out of my life. But meanwhile, I have a good life. Better than any of theirs, it seems to me. I don't put up with abuse of any sort from any person. I let people know, in no uncertain terms, "NOBODY yells at me. NOBODY. If they do, I turn my back, walk away, and never look back."
    Maribel likes this.
  19. Maribel

    Maribel New Member

    "My problem MAY be, though, that once I do the letters (which of course I won't send to my sister), I will forgive her so much I would let her back into my life, and it would all start again. "

    You might have forgiven her on paper but you haven't cleaned up the abuse pattern in your brain!!

    I though I was able to handle my sister - convenient distance and wisdom but I now realized that I had internalized an abuse pattern and chosen a partner just like her. A man with huge rage at his mum and is kind, helpful on the outside but given an opportunity will unload his tortured goal on you or his son.

    So the three letters might be the thing to do, went your rage, realized why she build up her rage and forgive her, and finally most important accept and release the rage/abuse pattern in your brain!

    This is an interesting side to read http://blog.melanietoniaevans.com (Narcissism Recovery and Relationships Blog | Melanie Tonia Evans)
    Welcome to the Narcissism and Relationships Blog

  20. Maribel

    Maribel New Member

    Thanks for the young compliment!!! I wished I had learned all this in my twenties...

    I know that I need to sort out myself before I consider what to do with my marriage.

    A compliment to all the ladies in this discussion - we are the 20 % that accepts that we have rage and are working at it. The other 80% of the population - which includes my sister - are under denial and keeping up their false selves!!!

    (Dr Sarno worked out this statistics - and he doesn't work with anybody that does not want to consider the possibility that they have repressed anger - he calls this kindness to the patient and to himself!

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