Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Weekend Open Thread: Family Relations

This week, we had a letter from a woman who was at odds with her soon-to-be mother-in-law. The way she described it, emotions were so high, there was even potential for a possible estrangement in the near future. This got me wondering: have you ever had similar issues with someone in your family? Have things ever gotten so tense, you’ve ceased talking to a family member? What was the disagreement about and did you ever work things out? Do you have any regret about the situation? And, if you’ve never had issues with a family member, what’s your secret? How do you keep your emotions in check when family dynamics can make doing so difficult?

* If you’ve got a suggestion for a future open thread topic, email me at wendy@dearwendy.com.

41 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Teresa June 17, 2011, 6:20 pm

    At one point, I ceased contact with my Grandfather. He had been very minimally involved in mine and my sister’s life. I kept up general contact, and went to visit him once (1500 miles away), though we were not close. A little over 2 years ago, my sister got divorced and moved back to our home town with her daughter, at the same time my LTR was ending. We decided to move in together. I mentioned this in an e-mail to my Grandpa. He responded with a very condescending letter “advising” us on how to live our lives, pretty much implying that we were sluts/drug addicts and needed to change our ways. We’re good girls – we were a lot of trouble when we were teens, but have grown up considerably since then. Far from the lifestyle he suggested we were living. I was so taken aback and hurt by his e-mail that I did not respond (I didn’t know WHAT to say without being direspectful to him), nor did I hear from him again – until 2 months ago. I was talking to my dad on the phone and he said my Grandpa wanted to send me some ammo for my gun but that I was mad at him so he wasn’t sure if he should send it or not. I sent an e-mail to Gramps the next day – just a general hey how’ve you been e-mail, and we seem to be on good terms again, like nothing ever happened.

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      SpaceySteph June 18, 2011, 5:55 pm

      As I posted on another letter, I have a similar issue with my paternal grandparents. They have opinions about everything- how to dress, how to eat, where to live…. When I was in high school, it was about my group of friends- they were all good kids but were mostly for poor families and were mostly minorities. My grandparents criticized them as being “beneath me” and criticized my parents for sending me to “that school” where I would be surrounded by nonwealthy minorities. When I was applying to college it was “How can you go to a state school? Couldn’t you get a better education at an Ivy?” On and on. Nothing I want is good enough, nothing I choose is the right choice. Not just me though, they do this to my dad and mom, my aunt, my cousins, my siblings. None of us are ever doing good enough for them to shut the hell up.
      I really hate it and have referred to them (not to their faces) as “the evils” for several years now. Recently they visited me at the house I purchased. I cleaned the place top to bottom, I weeded the garden. I was so proud of all the work I did that I told my grandmother about it in the car on the way home from the airport. Her response “Did you plant flowers?” Me :”No it just has some shrubs.” Her: “A young lady should have flowers in her garden. You should plant flowers.” Sigh. And everytime I talk to them I have to hear about my newest life choice (a non Jewish boyfriend) and how wrong I am if I think our relationship can work.

      I would really like to cut them out of my life, but I am afraid to do so. My parents wouldn’t approve (although I think they’d secretly like to follow suit), and it would cause a rift in the whole family… probably a large portion of my extended family would bow to the pressure (mostly monetary) exerted by my grandparents and choose their side.

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    missmolly June 17, 2011, 6:32 pm

    I’ve never had that kind of a situation with my family. I know some other family members have, though, temporarily. I think my “secret” is that I have a unique position in my family–I’m the oldest of the youngest generation, the next cousin is only 12 years old. So I’m kind of in an odd, but good, position between the adults and the kids. I show respect to the older generation, so no arguments there, and obviously I’m not going to get into some kind of heated argument with a kid, so no issues there, either. But I also don’t draw much drama to myself anyway, I tend to separate myself from someone if they are angry at me rather than arguing back at them.

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    Britannia June 17, 2011, 5:34 pm

    I have ceased all contact with my mother. I don’t want to get into it too deeply, so to explain things in a nutshell, she is a genuine sociopath. She has been diagnosed as bipolar with a histrionic personality disorder. She has manipulated and abused me since I was born and has manipulated and tortured my grandparents (her parents) for decades. During my freshman and sophomore years of high school, it started to look like she actually might get better because she was on medication and going to therapy, but for the last 8 years or so it has just gotten worse and she refuses to seek treatment or help. My family and I have done everything we can to help her, and she just keeps being extremely horrible to us, so at the recommendation of our family therapist, we have ceased communication with her. It saddens me, and it must sound horrible to be said, but I am actually much happier now that she is out of my life.

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    • avatar

      Rei June 17, 2011, 6:20 pm

      I’ve done something similar with my father. After he ended up in prison my sister and I just stopped talking to him. I don’t wish him harm or anything, but I certainly don’t want him in my life.
      I’ve got another problem with my step-dad’s daughter who’s also a bit completely insane. She’s sexually in love with her own father and does not want anyone else near him. She will scream at you and throw things at you until you get away and then will start licking her dad or molesting him. He’s starting to finally get a handle on it now but it’s really…difficult. She tried to use her own mother’s death to force her father around her at all times by playing on his guilt, and if it weren’t for the fact that her mother was in a different state I would have said she killed the woman. Unfortunately she lives in the same town as me and the only way to cut off contact from her is to completely cut off contact with my entire family so not really sure what to do about that.

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      • avatar

        Britannia June 18, 2011, 8:48 pm

        Wow, I really wouldn’t know how to begin dealing with a girl like that. It’s really difficult to get help for someone who is mentally ill when they’re so far gone that they don’t see anything wrong with their behavior. I really hope that *something* breaks through to her so that she can stop being so mentally unhealthy. Do none of your other family members see how crazy she’s being? Why would breaking contact with her make your entire family turn against you?

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      Bekah June 17, 2011, 8:35 pm

      Oh my god! Your story sounds exactly like mine… It is a little freaky, honestly. My mother has not been diagnosed yet with a psychological illness, but she has treated her parents and my family terribly. By terribly I mean abusive, verbally and physically. I have been on my knees begging her to see a professional to get the help she needs, but she refused. Than I realized if she wasn’t going to get help I would. After a lot of counseling, I knew I needed to create boundaries in my relationship with her. I am more than happy to maintain contact with her as long as it is on my terms. We haven’t talked in 7 years so I told her we could email before talking on the phone. But she doesn’t seem interested, so I won’t stand around holding my breath for her. My life is better without her in it.

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      • avatar

        Britannia June 18, 2011, 8:45 pm

        Our stories ARE very similar! Growing up with a mother like that really messes with your head; I have found that almost all kids who grow up being parented by someone who is bipolar end up with self esteem problems, trouble managing stress, and perfectionism. Growing up in such an emotionally unstable home is really rough. I, too, finally stood up and set some firm emotional boundaries with my mother, and that’s when she threw her most epic tantrum yet and hasn’t spoken to me since. My family therapist told us that it was honestly for the best that she understand that we were going to either be spoken to and treated with respect, or not at all. And both my grandparents and I have been having a much easier time since she cut us off… we are less stressed and things don’t go wrong or become ruined because her drama doesn’t interfere with what we’re trying to do, anymore.

        We tried for a very long time to be supportive of her – at first, we didn’t even want to admit that she had a problem. From what my grandparents have told me, she was always a very difficult person to deal with, but once she became a mother, all of her problems and flaws were exacerbated and she kept getting worse and worse. When I started developing depression and emotional problems at a really young age, my grandparents woke up and saw that things were really getting bad and that my mother needed help – and by then, so did I. Once I tried to kill myself, they realized that it was time to take action. They tried for more than a decade to get my mother into therapy, but nothing worked for her because frankly she refused to let anything work for her. Luckily, though, they eventually found something that worked for me.

        Of course we’re willing to still be her loving family as long she no longer abuses us; at this point in time, she’s unwilling to conform to a framework for emotionally respectful communication when dealing with us. We’re still hoping that she’ll come around, but at this point it’s not realistic to pin any real hope upon it.

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        Bekah June 19, 2011, 12:12 am

        Wow… It really is amazing how similar your story is to mine. I know I said that before, but wow. Yes, I struggle daily managing stress and my self esteem was nothing for the longest time. I think the hardest part for me was when I turned 12 and started thinking for myself. My mother couldn’t handle the lack of control over me and my emotions. If I felt any other emotion than she did I was punished severely. I tried to commit suicide as well, but thankfully I was to young and naive to know how to accomplish it. I am still learning how to handle my emotions and it is quite distressing to be estranged from my family for making healthy life decisions, but I think the hardest choice is usually the right one at least when it comes to my family.

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    lk June 17, 2011, 6:36 pm

    That picture just made my weekend <3 Margot Tenenbaum

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    caffeinatrix June 17, 2011, 7:36 pm

    Oh good lord. What a topic…
    I had a huge, embarrassingly public argument with my father on my 21st birthday. I have hardly spoken to him since then- we can’t get past it. The few times I have tried to talk to him on the phone or meet him in person, he would refuse to apologize, blame our rift on me, and it would end with me in tears again. I could barely tolerate talking to him when I was growing up, even after I went to college, so it’s actually kind of a relief that I no longer have to deal with him. Put in the simplest terms, he has some sociopathic tendencies and some backwards ideas about who I should be and what it means to be a father. It wasn’t a rift based on him giving away my shot glass collection, put it that way. It’s sad, and I wish it was not the case, but there’s just no way I can be happy with him in my life. I had to make a similar decision about my brother a few years ago, who inherited a lot of the same problems and cruel behaviors. I feel guilty sometimes, but I have to remind myself that I would never tolerate this kind of behavior from a friend- being related to me doesn’t give them the right to treat me like crap.

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  • avatar

    Callifax June 17, 2011, 8:02 pm

    My family, and my man’s family, are all super close. My secret? Apart from sheer luck: don’t sweat the small stuff, and let things go. Don’t nit-pick at each other. Because everyone has flaws and is going to make mistake. That’s life – and humanity – in a nutshell. But love for each other should beat out all that. So focus on the good, and let go of the bad.

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    cmarie June 17, 2011, 8:37 pm

    I have no contact with my father or my father’s side of my family. He abandoned my mother and us when I was 4, right after my younger sister was born. He had been cheating with our babysitter and had gotten her pregnant. He never paid child support, never sent a birthday or Christmas card. Never acknowledged when I graduated college, no concern when my sister had to have emergency surgery when she was just a state away. Nothing. Then, the day my mother died he decided he wanted to be a part of our life. Worst. Timing. In the world. I refuse to talk to him and when I finally agreed to let him text me, he spelled my name wrong. My half-sister has tried to contact me but I can’t even think of talking with her without getting upset and wondering why he could father her but not us. I can’t talk to his family after finding out that the whole time my mom was trying to find him so he could pay support he was living next door. I can’t forgive him for abandoning us and a part of me blames him for my mom’s death. If she hadn’t had to work so hard, to push herself everyday to take care of us, she might have had the energy to take care of herself and have realized something was wrong before she had a heart attack. Even if I didn’t blame him I can’t forgive him without feeling like I’m betraying her. She was the one who was always there for me, kissing boo-boos, crying at my graduation, supporting me as I came out. She’s the only parent I ever had and now she’s the only one I want. That feels amazing to be able to say.
    I’ve also cut off contact with one aunt and uncle. My mom’s brother’s wife is the biggest b**ch you will ever meet. They’re first cousins by the way. She was always stuck-up. After my grandma died she left her house to my youngest uncle and when he went to jail, we moved in. Only afterwards did we find out that he hadn’t been paying taxes and the bank was foreclosing. We couldn’t come up with the money to pay off the taxes so we lost the home. I guess my aunt blamed my mom. She wrote a letter saying as much, calling my mom irresponsible and a bad mother, that we were horrible kids and it’s her fault. She also said she was a better daughter to my grandma (ironic considering she was her niece). We found that letter the day after her funeral. That she attended. I wanted to take the letter and smack her across the face. My mom became depressed a couple months before she died and we never knew why, until we found that letter. I know it contributed to my mom being sick.
    It might seem petty and unreasonable but I’ll never forgive them. No amount of love in the world could make me move past what they did to my mother.

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  • avatar

    MissDre June 17, 2011, 9:08 pm

    I did not speak to my father for over 5 years and it took another 3 years after that before I stopped hating him. When I was 11 years old, I came forward to my mother about being sexually abused by my oldest step-brother since I was only 7 years old. I begged her not to make me go back to my dad’s house (it was my dad’s wife’s son). She promised that I didn’t have to and she immediately called the police and then my dad.

    Well, my dad didn’t protect me like a father should. He and my step mother had to give a police statement (which I saw in my father’s own handwriting) and the two of them wrote all of these horrible things about what a deranged/disturbed child I was and my poor step brother was just sucked into my trap. They got a lawyer to try and force me to go back to their house (since in their eyes my mother was breaking the custody agreement by keeping me). He and his wife blamed me and did everything they could to protect her son (even though he confessed to everything I said he did).

    I’m 25 now. He and his wife divorced a few years ago so thankfully she’s not around (she was extremely verbally and physically abusive as well). I talk to my dad now and have an ok relationship with him. I think he has tried to make amends in his own way and I decided I’d rather have him in my life a little bit, on my own terms, than be estranged and bitter.

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  • avatar

    TrixyMinx June 17, 2011, 10:31 pm

    My sister and I have a very turblant relationship that I always am wary of. When she was getting married she was bossy and controling and of course only to me she was really nice to the other bridesmaid but i couldn’t do anything right. Even when I was putting on her necklace for the wedding photographer she told me to make sure I had it on the right side. Really? Then when she was having a baby she wanted me to be in the delevery room but decided at the last minute she didn’t think i was capable of pressing the record button on her camera. Now we are not talking because I hung up on her after she demanded that I move to a certain location. I have another month and a half before I move but she needed to know where I was looking at, what the price was, then didn’t think I should move there instead further south near the universite (I go to school further north) so I could be closer to her. My last straw was when she told me I should think about giving up my dog cause it’ll be easier to find a place. I told her I would never suggest to give up her baby when shit gets a bit difficult. She told me to go fuck myself and we haven’t talked since. Oh, and she sent me like 10 messages telling me how immature and selfish i was.

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  • avatar

    Chiara June 17, 2011, 9:49 pm

    Literally JUST wrote an article about this!

    I’ve got some experiences with partner’s families.. but none with my own. Being related by blood brings about a sort of unspoken obligation to one another. And it’s hard when that obligation conflicts with how we feel…

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    Yammy June 18, 2011, 12:39 am

    Wow. It’s great to read about others who are also struggling with having to deal with a mentally ill family member. My older brother’s diagnosis is schizoeffective bipolar disorder. He’s an asshole and a pervert. I can’t even describe how much I hate him, but I also feel guilty for hating him because he’s sick. I wish I could cut him out of my life, but he lives with my parents, whom I love dearly, because he is unable/unwilling to care for himself. I wouldn’t say I’m glad other people deal with this type of thing, but it is good to know I’m not the only one.

    I limit contact as much as possible, but when interactions are unavoidable, I would say that we “get along.” I try not to upset him because it upsets my parents. I pretty much just agree with whatever he says and excuse myself from the conversation as quickly as possible. It’s probably not the “right” thing to do, but it keeps the peace, and when it comes down to it, I don’t give a rat’s ass about him, so I don’t care if he knows me or my opinions.

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    • avatar

      DebMoore June 20, 2011, 7:42 pm

      You do what you have to do to get by……….

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    MsBorgia June 18, 2011, 9:51 am

    I do not have a good relationship with my mother (I honestly can’t think of anyone she has a good relationship with), so I try to avoid her as much as possible. Luckily grad school makes a really good excuse for, “I’m sorry! I can’t come home, I have too much work to do!”

    Unfortunately, my younger sister is still in college and sees our mother every other week, and now that it’s summer, stays with her for prolonged periods. Not to get into too much detail, but my mother has frequent tantrums and is emotionally manipulative, so once my summer classes have ended I have resolved to spend more time at home just to relieve my sister from the abuse.

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    • fast eddie

      fast eddie June 19, 2011, 9:04 am

      Have you considered offering your sister an extended visit with you for the summer?

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        MsBorgia June 19, 2011, 1:01 pm

        I have offered, actually. She has declined, mostly because she doesn’t want to leave her boyfriend and because I live in a teeny tiny studio apartment. Offer stands though.

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      • fast eddie

        fast eddie June 19, 2011, 11:31 pm

        At least your being supportive to her as much as the circumstances allow and that’s a very good thing.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie June 18, 2011, 9:00 am

    I’m somewhat confused about my feelings for my now dead parents. When I was very young they took out there anger toward each other by beating me and I do mean beating. This went on until I was old enough to recognize what was going on and potentially report it to authorities. Their abuse continued in an emotional mode even after I left home.

    At the same time I remember the effort and sacrifices they put into raising me. Perhaps it was the fact that they were very uneducated low income earners with dysfunctional family history of their own that structured their behavior.

    I had to isolate myself from them to survive as a human being without their idea of what acceptable behavior should be. Supposedly I’m now well enough adjusted to continue my life and a healthy manner. Suffice it to say that life ain’t at all bad and the demons are locked in the basement but I still feel a lot resentment for the wasted decades when I didn’t have the means of escaping.

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    • avatar

      MsBorgia June 18, 2011, 9:55 am

      This really moved me. I’m also trying to lock my demons in the basement, and it’s hard to reconcile the sacrifices they made with the abuse (emotional or physical)— resentment about lost time is something I’m quite familiar with.

      I’m glad you have come to a place where you can have a healthy life and not let their actions tie you down forever, you must be a very strong person.

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      • fast eddie

        fast eddie June 19, 2011, 8:59 am

        Thank you MB but I don’t feel all that strong, just stubborn and determined to succeed even if it takes me a bit longer complete.

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    • fast eddie

      fast eddie June 19, 2011, 11:43 pm

      I’ve felt relieved to have exposed my the feeling about my family on this thread. Were it not for others coming forward before me, I did most likely I’ve left them locked away.

      At the same time the few that wrote about having healthy family relations is a beacon of hope that we can put ourselves into the promising future and leave the past where it belongs. Thank you one and all

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    Anna June 18, 2011, 1:16 pm

    I still talk to my family but we haven’t been close in many years because they are so closed-minded and also really bad at communicating. I was raised Baptist, but decided in my late teens that I wasn’t into the whole religion thing. I had played along for many years to appease my parents, thinking when I’m older I might “get it.” I never did, so eventually I had to start being true to myself. When I still lived there, I purposely got a job where I had to work Sundays so they wouldn’t pester me too much about not going to church. Then, when I was 20, I moved out of their house and into my first apartment with my boyfriend. Of course, Baptist couples aren’t even allowed to be in the same room alone together before their wedding much less live together and have premarital sex. That was when my college funding was cut off with no explanation other than “we don’t have the money anymore.” That might have been acceptable if it weren’t for *how* I chose my college. I wanted to move far away for college but they begged me to go to the local university, said they would pay for it. I took all the classes I could at the branch that was 20 min from their house, then I had to go to the main campus to finish my degree, which was about 1 1/2 hours drive each way from their house, so it made more sense to move. I didn’t want to live with a stranger in a dorm so I chose an apartment with my boyfriend of 1 year. To this day, we have never had a conversation about their disapproval, they just give me the stinkeye and constantly ask when I’m getting married. (in a tone that means “When are you going to stop living in sin?”

    So I still go visit them on holidays but that’s about it. Between holidays, they never call me. I’ve lived with my bf for 7 years now and they’ve never once come to visit me. Oh, but I did finish college on my own. It took 7 years total to get my bachelor’s because I was paying for it myself and could only afford part-time classes while working full-time. Giving up was not an option for me.

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    • fast eddie

      fast eddie June 19, 2011, 9:30 am

      I can really identify with you on this Baptist and living in sin stuff. My folks were so hypocritical pushing me to go to church but very seldom went themselves. When I was 40 and moved in with my girl friend they almost excommunicated me as their son. I never talked to my father after that and didn’t even go to his funeral nor do I regret that separation. To some extent my mother and I reconnected with the wedding to that GF. It was the first time I was even cautiously confident enough that she wouldn’t do something to disrupt our happy home.

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    Mari June 18, 2011, 5:22 pm

    I have two ‘ex-brothers’. They were complete non-player (expletive deleted) during our mother’s long, final illness. Then when she died they suddenly had a change in heart when it came to her possessions, and assets. It was too involved to go into here, but in the end I had to ask myself a question: When I desperately needed a brother, neither were there. Now that I know what there character is when hard times come, do I really want them in my life. The short answer is “NO”. I have many good, loving, supportive people in my life. Don’t need either of them.

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    Bethany June 18, 2011, 6:35 pm

    Wow, after reading all of the comments so far, it’s making me really appreciate my relationship with my family. I love my parents more than I can describe in words. They’ve been remarkable parents in every sense of the word. I am very close with my brother (my only sibling) and I can really only remember one time when we had a falling out, but it was only because of my own immaturity and selfishness. We didn’t talk for a few months, but I grew up, realized I was wrong and we put it behind us.

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      Nadine June 19, 2011, 4:45 am

      I feel very lucky too! sometimes I think about what I was missing growing up, like money, and the older I get the more I realise that money situations change but my family is still the same as it ever was. as we’ve grown up, my older brothers and I have just gotten closer. I cant really call them best friends, because what we have runs deeper than that. we’ve all moved away but recently when we all had dinner together I was sick, and they gave me a complete run down of all the times I’d been sick as a baby and a child, and also all the remedies our mother would have given me if she had been there. No one will ever know and love our combined history as much as the three of us! Ok, I’m getting emotional because I miss them, so I’ll just go now…….

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    Joanna June 18, 2011, 8:19 pm

    I have cut off contact with my father. My parents divorced around the time I was 11. After that my father moved away to somewhere in California (we didn’t know where) and never saw me for 8 years. During that time he stopped paying child support and my mother hired a private detective to track him down. When I was 18, I was seriously injured in a car accident and in a coma for a while, then in a brain injury rehab unit for the following few months. When I got out, my mother told me the detective had found my father and she now had his address. Long story short, I wrote to him and eventually went to see him. My dad bought me a lot of material goods, but I didn’t really feel like I had my dad back. Since then he has occasionally emailed me, but always non-personal stuff. I haven’t seen him anymore. Then his father died. He skipped out on the funeral or even sending anything like flowers. That made me decide to email my step-mother and tell them I was no longer going to communicate with them.

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    caffeinatrix June 18, 2011, 9:54 pm

    Not to say that I like seeing other people suffer, but it is comforting to know that there’s many other people out there with family members like this. It is seriously awkward whenever anyone asks me about my father or brother in the course of making small talk. It’s even worse if they then try to help: I’ll say we don’t speak anymore, they’ll say, “Well, have you told him this is how you feel?”
    Um, yes.
    “I think you just need to make him understand where you’re coming from.”
    Yeah, that’s the point, he refuses.
    “Have you REALLY tried to talk to him? I’ve had arguments with people in my family before…”
    This is getting old, can we just leave things at it’s more complicated than it appears and you’re not going to solve my family’s problems in five minutes of chitchat?
    How do other people deal with this? I think I must face this more often than others because I still live in the city where I grew up, so I run into people who know my family and ask about them all the time.

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    matbo June 19, 2011, 10:47 am

    My aunt and grandmother have not spoken to each other for 10 years. No one knows why…I’m not even sure they remember anymore. We used to have major family gatherings, now we have to alternate between inviting either my grandmother of my aunts side of the family. We’ve totally lost touch with my aunt.
    Luckily my boyfriends family are drama free, crazy, but dramafree.

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    MsMisery June 20, 2011, 9:56 am

    I had a really hard time with my mother growing up. Basically, I was the adult and she was the child. She’s very manuipulative, controlling, and emotionally immature. She also has ridiculously high standards for everyone (like, she met both my father and my step-father in bars, but then she gets pissed when they drink and says they’re not allowed. So don’t marry people who drink!!). She’s also racist, homophobic, and a nightmare with money. When I found out how much she made out in the divorce with my father (I could have gone to college three times over) and she didn’t save ONE penny for me, and STILL had to file bankruptcy, I was pissed. In high school, she made my life hell every time I had a boyfriend, even though I was a good kid (straight A’s, no drinking or drugs, etc), but she just didn’t like anyone else in my life. She used to threaten to raise my rent all the time if I didn’t give her money or do stuff for her. I get along better with her now that she moved out of state and I only talk to her on the phone every few weeks, but it still isn’t an awesome relationship. The rest of her family admits she’s a user and pretty crazy.

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    Slamy June 20, 2011, 10:58 am

    I haven’t spoken to my dad since I was 12 years old. I also haven’t spoken to his parents, which makes me very sad, but it’s been so long now that I don’t know how to reopen the lines of communication with my grandmother. My grandfather died a couple of months ago. I felt like I *had* to cut off contact with them, or they would make me see my dad.

    My dad was a really bad alcoholic when I was a kid. My mom divorced my dad when I was 10 and it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. He had made things very difficult financially for my family, and I found out when I was older that he sexually abused my sister (his step-daughter) before I was born. That part actually makes me really angry because I feel like my mom should have left him sooner or at least tried to protect my sister better.

    My mom is a whole nother story. I still talk to her on the phone every couple of weeks, but our relationship is hard and my two older sisters barely talk to her at all. My mom can be really nasty and we are all (and have been for a long time) convinced that she is mentally ill. She was emotionally and sometimes physically abusive to all of us but she denies that it ever happened now. It’s like she can’t admit it to herself. I know that my grandma was the same way to my mom, so I guess it kind of set a precedent. I won’t be having children. I don’t sit around and blame my parents for what is wrong in my life now – I’m 23 and my happiness is my responsibility – but I do sometimes envy those who are close to their parents.

    That being said, I have the two most wonderful and amazing sisters I could ever have asked for. I would have turned out in much worse shape if I hadn’t had them there for me when I was a teenager. They are 8 and 13 years older than me. I have weird issues with self-esteem and I feel generally unloved at the moment (just got out of a year long relationship with an abusive narcissist and I miss my ex so much but he is horrible for/to me and this is day 13 of No Contact – blocked him on FB, haven’t looked at his twitter, haven’t looked at his secret dating profile that I found out he had, haven’t spoken to him, had a friend drop all his shit off to him) and they have been really supportive of me.

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      Christina June 20, 2011, 12:19 pm

      I would say contact your dad’s mother if you miss her. They may or may not want to get you and your dad together. I have had a great time getting to know my cousins and aunt again after being estranged for years. I cut off contact with my mom for my mental hygiene and then lost contact with my cousins after a bunch of moves. I found a cousin on fb a few years ago and flew back home to see everybody. It was wonderful to relive childhood memories with them and get to know them now. All along I had never had a problem with them, I just couldn’t find them earlier without help from my mom. Although my aunt had wanted to get my mom and I together on that trip she respected that it wasn’t what I wanted. All of them supported my decision and I found out that some of them had had times when they weren’t close to each other too. They understood that life is just like that sometimes. Now it’s like a whole new and happy part of my life opened up and we get to share our lives again.
      At 23 you are only a few years from having had decisions made for you but now you are an adult and the rest of your life is of your own choosing. Follow your heart, talk to your grandmother and let her know you’d rather not talk to your dad if it comes up.
      It sounds like you have a great support system and good instincts about only having good people around you.

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    Maracuya June 20, 2011, 1:10 pm

    DW readers, what do you think about this?

    I was discussing taking vacation with my boyfriend, and he said that I could come visit him for Christmas (we’re in an LDR.) Usually we both go home to our hometown. I said something like, “My parents would kill me if I didn’t go home.” And he said, “But it’s not like they have ever visited you.”

    And I thought about it and he was right. I’ve lived away from home for 5 years, and in that time they’ve visited my uncle several times(in the same city) and to the city for a family surgery. The only time they visited me was my graduation (Actually, my stepfather stayed home because he “had work to do” which really disappointed me.) But even though I suggested it (and I have an extra bed,) none of my immediate family has visited me. They’re going to visit another uncle and to go to an amusement park (a 3 hour drive past me) but they want me to meet them up there.

    Ultimately, my boyfriend and I decided to spend our vacation with our parents/back at my house but, do you think they’re being unfair in not visiting me? Do most people just visit their parents and not vice-versa?

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      Christina June 20, 2011, 2:18 pm

      I think most people do but it does seem odd

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      SpaceySteph June 20, 2011, 2:37 pm

      My parents visit me alot more than I visit them. I have trouble getting time off work so its easier for them to visit me than for me to get to them. To go home for a weekend, as I am this weekend, I am leaving here at 7pm, my plane lands at 10:30. Then I’m out at 11:30am on Sunday so I can get home and shift to the night shift which I’m working next week (11pm to 8am shift). If they were to visit me, they’d leave home around noon on Friday, get here around the same time I got out of work Friday. Then they wouldn’t leave til later Sunday. More time to spend together if they visit.

      As for the boyfriend thing, if you and your bf were married, you would take turns at each other’s houses for holidays, right? I don’t see anything wrong with starting that now if you wanted to do so, regardless of whether you are sticking it to your family for never visiting you. I went to my bf’s house for Thanksgiving last year and he and I met my parents on their vacation for New Years. Neither of our parents gave us crap for it.

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    lk June 20, 2011, 2:57 pm

    This thread is really helpful…

    My very good friend has told me previously that he hasn’t spoken to his father in ~10 years & that he wasn’t invited to his father’s upcoming wedding (?!).

    We spent most of Father’s Day together on Sunday (much of it with my father, with whom I have a very close relationship). I asked him if he was going to call his father & when he said he wasn’t, I pressed him to consider reaching out because I can tell that he still feels strong emotions around his childhood memories of his father.

    In hindsight, I was pretty insensitive to the complexities of his situation so thanks to everyone who shared their stories on this thread. It’s good to be reminded that everyone has had their own specific challenges in life. In the future, I’ll try to be supportive while remembering that I don’t have a full understanding of his experiences or his feelings.

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