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Unread 07-24-2006, 02:11 PM   #1
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Default How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

Hi. Thank you for the opportunity to ask you fine folks for your opinion.

I am a member of a dysfunctional family. I'm 39 and single and live alone, thank God! However, I'm the adult version of that kid that points out that the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes, and my family seems to despise me for my honesty about our situation. And I've had it with them.

My sister's family is falling apart because of their illusions of their lives. I can't stand my nephews and nieces because they are screaming, angry, attention-desperate kids. My sister is pregnant with their fifth child and no one in the household is working. My brother-in-law is a programmer who doesn't feel like working anymore. They are broke, about to lose everything, and they just don't seem to care.

My mother lives with them and is there for the purpose of being a live-in nanny. Yet she pits them all against each other. Her favorite phrases are, "I don't care," "I don't know," and "I can't." That's basically now how the whole lot of them reply to any kind of obstacle.

These people have nearly driven me to a breakdown once, and I feel like because their lives are out of control and spiraling downward that they are trying to take me along for the ride. But I'm not going with them nor will I be there for them when they're all homeless. I have limited financial means and I am unable to support them in any way. Yet they have brushed off any help I've tried to provide with job seeking, trying to get their family communicating properly, and just generally trying to be upbeat to help them through this situation of theirs.

So, what I would like help with is how can I tactfully say good riddance to these people? They call me and we live in the same town, so I can't just avoid them. I need to tell them that I just can't stand to be around them any longer, but I don't want to be mean about it. Is there any way to do this in a nice manner? Thank you.
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Unread 07-24-2006, 02:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

Hi Oziad:
Well, I am in a similar situation, although mine isn't as extreme as yours. I can relate to the need to distance yourself, though. I haven't completely managed to make a clean break, and to be honest, my need to COMPLETELY break from them has diminished quite a bit since I initially decided that I should do so.

In my case, and maybe yours, there is a lot of guilt that goes along with deciding to disengage with family. I, like you, have no problem confronting them, but the resulting drama that ensues just doesn't seem to be worth it anymore. I have a really great therapist who "gave me permission" to develop stronger boundaries, and as weird as that seems to need "permission" from another adult to do something, it actually helped quite a bit. I didn't invite my parents to my wedding, and I stopped bending over backwards to accommodate their dysfunction. They don't like it and it has caused some resentment in my family, but we all survived, and as I mentioned before, my need to completely remove myself from them has diminished to some extent, which I consider to be a good thing. There was a point when I was ready to write them off altogether, but now I'm finding that I can tolerate them a little more now that I truly understand that my participation in my family is optional instead of mandatory.

Do you have a therapist? The "permission" thing is weird, but somehow very helpful. My other suggestion is to practice saying "wow, that's too bad" when they complain about how messed up their lives are, instead of trying to find solutions. I'm still not very good at it, but practicing is helping me become desensitized to their drama.

Stick around - hopefully we can help each other in this!

Hang in there,
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Unread 07-24-2006, 03:19 PM   #3
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

Family relationships are a funny thing because you are born to it, and at one time beleived it to be the way life was. Now that you are conscoiusly aware of the disfunction, the situations grate on you. Also, you learned (and have been taught) to play a role of something like a peacekeeper as you try to make things better.

My solution was to move 800 km away, but, lo-and-behold, my family now lives within a 2km radious of me, so, what I ran away from has followed to vex me.

I have a mantra now that I repeat in my head when I'm with them. 'this is not my issue, nothing I do will help anyways, and say nothing". Now I sit back as an observer and although this new role confuses them, I just shrug and relax. Annoying things don't bother me much (or for long) anymore because I have disassociated myself from the scenerios.

You can't change them, but you can change how you react and what you decide will matter to you,,,,,or not. My sister has responded by adopting her friend and calling her 'sister' and inviting her to everything and excluding me. At first it hurt and bugged me but now I chuckle because it's such a stupid petty thing to do and I know I'm a great sister. Her loss, my chuckle.

Try reversing one annoying situation at a time and see if you can let some of this drop.

Good luck
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Unread 07-24-2006, 05:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

Oh boy do I know that feeling LOL I AM the girl who pointed out the emperor had no clothes. LOL and had to cut off contact with family and friends many times. The last time lasted for I think 7-10 years. and even now those that don't agree with the fact that I exposed my abusers publically have no contact with me and I say their loss.

I have been over the past few years been reconciling with those that do accept that I did what I had to do because I was protecting myself and other potential victims and that I will always continue with my advocacy work with survivors in one way or another, Laura Davis's book - I thought we'd never speak again came in real handy, great advice and info that helped me to know when to choose my battles and so on in trying to get back in touch and form new healthier relationships with these people.

But those that still don't see that I could not keep quiet any longer and possibly allow others to get hurt by my abusers or even accept that their loved one was my abuser I leave it up to them now. and go on with my life with my friends who have become a new non abusive family for me along with those true family that are now back in my life.

How did I cut of contact welll I basically didn't have to once I opened my mouth about who my abusers were and let it be known that I was doing public speaking engagements in schools, community agencies, and in the mass media by way of local newspapers they themselves cut off contact with me after much threatening and abusive behavior against me and then my friends to try and force me to recant the newspaper article and stop doing my guest speaking engagements. when I held my ground they backed off and disapeared from my life. Their loss.

Tactfully? the only thing I can think of is just start pulling yourself away from family gatherings and so on, get an unlisted number and don't give it out to anyone other than your personal friends that you know would not give it to your family. Many people just walk away without saying goodbye. they just go or remove themselves from family situations until the family no longer assumes the person has the time for the picnic reunion, graduations, weddings and so on.
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Unread 07-24-2006, 06:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

I just wanted to ask is having a family that is dysfunctional something to give up on. I hate not having a family. I feel awful my kids don't feel close to my family. It has become a battleground trying to be with one another. However, I want us all to seek help from couseling. I don't believe it is hopeless. I hate not having family. So many of the people I know and love have families. It is so embarrassing to be the only one without. I also wouldn't want to barge in on theirs to feel like I have family. It doesn't seem right.
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Unread 07-24-2006, 06:48 PM   #6
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

Well, I know that you mean, in a way. I crave having a family to be close to. I tend to latch on to other people's families. My stepmom has inordinate power to hurt me because I am starved for mothering (my mom died when I was a teenager).

But, honestly - sometimes I think that no family at all would be better than a family filled with drama and criticism. If I could just deal with my family in short doses, it would be a lot easier to appreciate the good parts. I do my best to limit my exposure to them (last year I flew 3000 miles to spend Christmas day with them -- for the day. I arrived at 8am and was back on a plane to return home at 6pm). They just have a way of sucking the life force out of me.
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Unread 07-25-2006, 11:16 AM   #7
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

I know but I am alone as a single parent now. My husband left me 4 years ago and now I feel so afraid to remarry until I have this resolved. I believe that my lack of family is to blame for my inability to function as a wife. My family was never close, we never listened to each other, we couldn't hug each other without feeling strange. My husband always said it drove him nuts and I was as cold as ice. He hasn't found much better but I still feel I am without faith in my ability to change my chances of having a loving family until I do. So I go on being lonely. It hurts like hell and I worry it will be my kids destiny. I don't want them to resent me for never having the family they could have had. I guess this is just like living in a fairy tale and most families don't have these close relationships, but I ache like you say in the presence of my family at holidays. Like you said it is worse to go than not, but I also ache being alone. I just can't wait till the holiday is over.
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Unread 07-25-2006, 11:19 AM   #8
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

Determined, I'm going to start another thread to continue this part of the discussion, ok?

Oziad - is any of this helpful? What are your thoughts?
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Unread 07-25-2006, 01:49 PM   #9
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

Hi Oziad,

I had to "divorse" most of the members of my mom side including her, to keep my family safe espeically my kids. If you want to PM , I can tell you more. But it was the BEST thing for me to do, 5 years later, I don't miss them and I feel like I stopped the cycle of disfunction at least for my family. Don't let them bring you down to their level. Good luck!
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Unread 07-25-2006, 04:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: How can I say goodbye to dysfunctional family members?

No giving up on a dysfunctional family is not required for healing. Many survivors don't shut out their families. partly because they have reached a point already in their healing to understand that things are not always "if you don't give up the abuser you are siding with the abuser and in order for me to heal you must give up this that and the other to be in MY life not theirs" kind of thing. Many survivors that I met couldnt understand why I was not asking and forcing my mother to give up on my step father, and at times having contact with her while she was still with him. But I was at a point where I knew my mother choosing him over me does not prevent me from getting the therapy and so on that I needed and it didn't prevent me from keeping myself safe from him. I also knew that there may be a possibility that yea he abused me but he may be non abusive with her. and also I respect the fact that it was her life if she choose to be with him with or without abuse happening thats her choice for she was an adult. I certainly wouldn't want someone telling me to choose them or my loved one for who I date and fall in love with is my business and no one elses. They don't have a right to tell me who to be freinds with or love and the same for me I don't have the right to tell my non abusive family members who they can have contact with and so on. When my family and I split it was based on what was happening to me and what I needed to do to keep me safe. The only ultimatum I gave was to my abuser that he stay away from me. The others choose to follow suit. and I was in therapy and healing for years before this happened. so I know from personal experience that cutting off family is not always going to prevent a person from doing what they need to do for thier self.
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