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Relationships: When Family (or Any Relationship) Hurts

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Relationships: When Family Hurts

Family. Love them or love them not, there’s often a limit to what you can do with the difficult ones. You can’t live with them and you can’t make them join the circus. When there’s a lifetime of emotional investment involved, it’s likely that any response will hurt and will require a huge push, whether it’s walking away or fighting for the relationship.

Even if you decide that the price of being in the relationship is too high, it’s not always easy to leave. Sometimes it’s just not an option. Whether you’re on your way out or bracing for more, here are some ways to protect yourself from the ones who scrape you:

  1. Don’t let anyone else’s behaviour change who you are.

    Be dignified. Be brilliant. Be kind. Don’t let anyone reduce the best of you. 

  2. Make it clear this isn’t personal.

    Insecurity is at the heart of a lot of broken relationships. Insecure people will feel attacked even when no attack is made. If this is a relationship you care about, do whatever you can to help the other person feel safe and secure. Insecurity is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who are insecure will often respond to the world as though it’s going to hurt them. They’ll be cold, they’ll judge, they’ll take the first strike – all to protect themselves. In response, the world walks away, confirming the insecure person’s view that the world just isn’t safe.  

    Show them you’re different. Let them know that you don’t mean anything personally, that you appreciate their point of view and that you want to understand how they feel. (You might need to say it a few times!) Whatever you do, don’t blame. If you need to point out something they’re doing wrong, end it by letting them know that the relationship is important to you and you want to work on it. The more positive you can be the better:  ‘Every time I see you, you’re pointing out something else you don’t like about me. I really want to have a good relationship with you but it’s really hard when I feel like everything I do is judged harshly by you. Can we try and do things a little differently?’

  3. Now remind yourself not to take it personally.

    People will judge you, hurt you, put you down and try to break you – and most often, this will have nothing at all to do with you. 

    You don’t have to stay around and you don’t have to invest, but if leaving the relationship isn’t an option, seeing someone’s behaviour for what it is – a defence against a world that has hurt them once too many times – will help to protect you from the pain that comes from taking things personally.

  4. Find compassion

     Difficult people weren’t born that way. Generally the way they are responding to you is the way they have learned to respond to the world to keep themselves safe. It might be an ‘adversarial’ ‘I’ll get you before you get me,’ response. It might stem from having to control everything in their environment because they’ve learnt (somehow) that unpredictability  isn’t safe. Perhaps they have no idea of their impact on people and all they know is that relationships seem to fall like broken toy soldiers around them. Just because it’s painfully clear to you what they do, doesn’t mean it is to them.  

    There may be little you can do to change the relationship, but you might just be able to change the way it affects you. Feeling compassion is important because of the way it changes things for you. Compassion is an empowering choice you can make when you feel like you don’t have any choice at all.

  5. Hold the space. For them and for you.

    Sometimes the best thing you can do for a relationship you care about is to hold steady and give the other person time and space to work out whatever it is they’re going through – while you stand still beside them. This is different to the space people give when they stay away for a while. 

    Let the person know that you’re not going anywhere, if that’s what they want, and that there doesn’t need to be any resolution for the moment. Do this without judging or criticising. It’s so difficult to be in an uncertain relationship but sometimes that’s exactly what the relationship needs – time to work through the uncertainty without fear of losing the relationship. There’s no need to hurry a relationship worth fighting for.

  6. Accept what is.

    One of the greatest sources of unhappiness is the chasm between what we want and what we have. The gap left behind by a family member who hurts you can be immense. What makes it worse is that the pain is often recurring, hitting you every time you’re with them. Who knows why some people have amazing families and some have families that drain them, but not everything makes sense. You don’t deserve a difficult relationship, but don’t allow yourself to be ruined by that. Acknowledge what it is, let go of what it isn’t, and flourish despite it.

  7. You don’t need to convince anyone. 

    You are not here to win anyone’s approval. None of us are. Run the race you want to run. You don’t need to convince anyone of your reasons, your direction, or why you’re telling some people get out of your way. Just go around them – it’s much easier.  That you are silent, still and choose not to engage does not mean they’re right. It means you just don’t have to prove anything anymore. Because you don’t. 

  8. It’s okay not to be with them. 

    They may be your family, but you don’t have to have a relationship with anyone you don’t want to. If it feels too painful, explore what you’re getting out of the relationship by staying. If you choose to have a relationship anyway, let that be a testament to the capacity you have to make your own decisions and act accordingly. Change the way you look at it. If you have to maintain contact, let this be your decision made in strength, not in defeat. Own the decision because it was the best thing to do for you, not because someone else decided it was the decision that needed to be made.

  9. Acknowledge their feelings, but don’t buy into them.

    Acknowledging how somebody feels doesn’t mean you agree with them. Saying something as simple as, ‘I understand you’re really angry but I  see things differently to you,’ or, ‘I know that’s how you see it and I have no interest in changing that. I have a different view,’ is a way to show that you’ve heard. Letting people know you’ve seen them and heard them is so powerful. Doing it and standing your ground without getting upset is even more so.

  10. Set your boundaries. And protect them fiercely.

    We teach people how to treat us. Imagine a visual boundary around yourself. You’ll feel when it’s being stepped over. Your skin might bristle, your chest might ache – it’s different for everyone but get to know what it feels like for you. When it happens, let the other person know. They might not care at all, or they might have no idea they’ve had that impact. If your boundary isn’t respected, walk away until it feels as though it’s been reset. Explain what you’ll tolerate and what you’ll do when that doesn’t happen. ‘I really want us to talk about this but if you’re going to scream at me, I’m going to walk away until you’re ready o stop,’ or, ‘I really want us to work through this but if you just keep telling me that I’m not good enough, I’m going to hang up the phone.’

  11. Is there anything you can do differently?

    You might be dealing with the most difficult person in the world, but that doesn’t have to stop you from being open to the things you might be able to change about yourself. Is there any truth at all in what that person is saying? Is there anything you’re doing that’s contributing to the problem? This isn’t about winning or losing but about honesty, learning and growth. Nobody is perfect – thankfully – and the best people to be around are the ones who are constantly open to their impact and their contribution to relationships, good or bad. That doesn’t mean you have to take the blame for the mess, but this might be an opportunity for your own wisdom to flourish. What can you learn from the situation? What can you learn from them? Nobody is all bad or all good. Take advantage of the opportunity. Focus on what you can learn. Ditch the rest.

  12. Leave with love

    This is important. If you walk away from family don’t let the final words be angry ones. You never know what the future holds. However angry or hurt you are, death has a way of bringing up guilt and regret in the cleanest of relationships and forever is a long time not to have resolution. Anger is the one emotion that’s never pure. It’s always protecting another, more vulnerable one. Some common ones are fear, grief, insecurity, confusion. Tap into that and speak from there. That way, when you walk away, you’re much more likely to feel as though nothing has been left unsaid. Just because a relationship is ending, doesn’t mean it has to end angry. You don’t want to leave room for regret. Leave it with strength, dignity and love because that’s who you are. Trust me on this.

There will always be those whose love and approval comes abundantly and easily. They’re the keepers. As for the others, if the fight leaves you bruised, you’d have to question whether the relationship is worth it.

There will always be people who try to dim you. Sometimes this will be intentional and sometimes they will have no idea. You can’t change what people do but you can keep yourself safe and strong, just as you deserve to be.

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98 Comments

sharon

I am sure I am not the only one that has a family that loves drama and loves to lie. I cut off ties with my whole family a long time ago because I couldnt take the drama they love in their lives that they were trying to drag into mine. I could write a book believe me but people would think it was fiction. Sometimes you just have to cut off all ties with family members to keep yourself sane. They will think its you not them but you will know better. Only one cousin do I bother with and she is the same as me, she cut off ties also for her peace of mind. Its sad when you have a family like this but there comes a time you have to think about what it does to you to have them in your life. They don’t care so you have to care about yourself

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Sue

Very encouraging for me today except for me it is my husband and only sibling my sister and my kids practically all my family all I have got and I can’t leave but I just have to somehow live seperated in my mind and physically .

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Michael

Sounds like what i need to do ASAP! My family won’t talk to me or respond to any emails. I am sick and tired of reaching out to them with no response. I’m done!
ThNk you!

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No name

Exactly. I’ve been cut off by mine and it’s actually a blessing in disguise. Like you and your family, no one would believe you if you told them. My now ex family is so toxic to my soul Im much better off without them. Yes it hurts but it hurts more being around them.

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Armenta

I want to be honest!!! It’s really silly to cut off your own flesh &blood. People will be people, but you have your boundaries. You can still move forward in life with every dream and goal you desire. If they lie, you know deep inside their lying, so keep it moving. Dont let silly small stuff make you bitter inside, just shrug it off. People toil with their emotional pain inside, so they’re aware: just dont let it effect you.

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Julie Clarity

Some families are merely packs of narcissists, bi-polars and child molesters. These families have been doing this to themselves for generations. Their children, grand-children and (sadly) great grand-children are their main target.

I come from two such families who, for all intents and purposes killed themselves off. Sadly, modern medicine stepped in, and I was born to people who, long ago, would have died in childbirth.

In 1969, I was born to be made a victim. I was born to be made ‘less than,’ and since I was on the receiving end of the abuse from my mother, father, godfather, grandmother and grandfather, I can tell you, they enjoyed doing what they did. The abuse let up when I hit kindergarten, of course, but it never did stop.

Those are not families one needs to hang out with. They never stop the abuse no matter how good the example is one sets, and I, sadly, was scapegoat. Very early on, I tried to stick up for myself, but the abuse only got worse when I did. Now I really am the escaped goat, and it is wonderful out here in the wilderness, no family allowed but the little one I created with my spouse who, to my constant and delighted surprise, really loves me. I was worried the rejection from my mother and grandmother I experienced as early as eighteen months old, was genetic and I would reject my own babies love in the same way, but nope. Didn’t happen. They chose to reject me.

Modern medicine saved me too. I was done with what I was subjected to by eleven months old. I almost died of dehydration at one point, but the doctors brought me back, and I took the abuse my families thought I was born to take and that I thought normal up until very recently. I am almost fifty years old, and they are still trying to make me ‘less than.’

I am so very sad they only see themselves when they look at me. I love them, but I have let them go.

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Maya

thank you! this article helps me to calm down, it is a reminder that sometimes even family could be a stabbing knife in your life. some people change, some do not. for me it is a hard (but not imposible) lesson to learn to let go of things that don’t serve me right anymore. family is family but member of a family doing bad things is still an individual doing bad things. To walk away is not easy but I want to choose my happiness and peace of mind first.

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kathy

i have tried to forgive my family, an do what the bible says, but it never ends, every time any thing bad happens in side the family unit they attack me.i can;t fix the family,its hard to separate from your own mother.

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Debra

forgiveness is for you, not the other person. It means to move to a place of being neutral and not continuing to flog them for what they have or will do.

Sometimes people are just plain toxic and for your own sanity you have to walk away. You can not change them, you can only change the way you respond.

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Leann

I am in the same situation. I tried to get along, I am not like them. Everything is mine and my husbands fault because we are happy! The really hurtful thing is they also take it out on my daughter ! They only feel their own pain and hold onto the past with a vengence.

I love them all and they don’t know what love is. After years and years of it all everyone started on brothers and sisters families. Every holiday was either a painful time or nobody would show up! When parents accused me and my family of being the reason my family was not together any Moore and the reason one child was left out of functions we were done!!!! They don’t think their bad behavior is the reason for it but blame us because we try to get along with everyone. We will not take the blame for their choices in life ! That was the last straw! They always find a way to make us cry !

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ravindra

it is hurting when u r doing your best with available resources for thd family they do not underdtand abx feel we r nog doinv enough.
very huryinv when they dong understand ouf love

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Matty

And if the hurtful relationship is with your only child, you have little other family, and is ongoing and seemingly unfixable? An adult child, so it’s also negatively affected relationships with grandkids who I adore and who I was surrogate care-giver to for many years. I realize I’ve contributed to the challenges, we’ve vacillated between periods of friendship/closeness and “knocking heads” most of our lives, and in recent years the latter negative pattern increased on both our parts like a vicious circle. I’ve tried your suggestion many times, expressed I feel badly that we’ve lost our closeness and would like to make things better. She knows I’ve been depressed about this and other events, but becomes confrontational (another typical pattern) & treats it as “criticism”, responding with “I’m not doing anything to you” and “don’t blame me for the way you feel”. Then things get worse. I see less and less of her and my grandkids, and when I do there is always something said or done that exemplifies how degraded the relationship has become, so I end up feeling worse. But I can’t walk just walk away from the only family I have and love. It is a conundrum without solution, and I keep feeling worse over time. I fear it will soon end with complete alienation from all of them which would be unbearable for me.

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sunshine

Have you apologized? A straight up, ‘I’m sorry. I overstepped boundaries, and I’m sorry. I want to do better.’

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Matty

It’s not that straightforward. I have no idea what her boundaries are anymore, complicated by the fact that they apparently keep changing and becoming broader over time. When things were changing I spent a couple of years apologizing frequently for any of my actions or words that were tactless or insensitive. But apologies are based on her negative reaction, I don’t understand most of the time why what I’ve said or done was bad enough to warrant such an intense reaction, and she just becomes defensive, even a bit belligerent, and shuts down. I tried discussing my awareness that my depressed mood might be contributing to inadvertent moments of thoughtlessness on my part and that I was working hard on that (e.g. Therapy). She didn’t respond with much understanding, encouragement or forgiveness. She clearly didn’t want to be pulled into deep discussion of “my” issues, and, per my first post, she exhibited aversion to what she perceived as me trying to guilt-trip her. Simply voicing an opinion while casually conversing on some minor inane topic that turns out to be different than her opinion (usually unknowingly on my part) can elicit a hostile reaction. And again, her “boundaries” have changed over time. For many years I was an integral member of her family, I was always there when needed – at their requests (which were frequent) and often on a moment’s notice (I’d cancel plans to help out if some unexpected conflict occurred in their schedules). We socialized together frequently. I provided half-time care for my grandkids, I adored them and they me. She regularly discussed and asked advice regarding her kids, her job, her friends. Then, suddenly, these topics seemed to become some of the “boundaries” I was overstepping. The Grandkids are older now, everyone is busier – career, school, outside activities. They certainly don’t “need” me the way they once did. But I had not thought of it as simply “need” and the change from years of what was mostly a very close relationship (despite the historical occasional “head-banging”) to essentially no sense of closeness anymore goes beyond simply life changes like work and growing family commitments. These posts are a poor and very incomplete summary of a complex situation, and I know advice is impossible under those circumstances.

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Marianne

Hi Matty

I am having a few issues with my mother. I don’t know in what extent our situation is similar but I can see that you are seeking help and that is good. You are on the right path even if there’s work to be done. Keep seeking… I hope it all get better. The key is to find the way to communicate and hold all the responsibility to yourself at first. I will tell you my situation in the hope that you find it helpful in some way. I am now on my early 30s.

About my mother. We always had issues, good and bad stuff. The bad stuff really bothered me but I was able to partially let go. I forgave her for many years and wanted to put the woulds on our past. I moved far away but kept close contact.
Despite making excuses for her lack of motherhood skills and interest, I kept trying to forgive and kept building resentment at the same time… an internal argument on loving her but hating her selfishness. Knowing that she acted like that for a lack of good example herself. But it’s NOT my fault she didn’t learn what is to be a good supportive mother for a lack of exemple. It was bothering me even if I was trying to let it go. We used to talk often, I shared my moments. But she was not being able to relate and offer her understanding/ advice/ time… It felt she didn’t put enough effort to relate to my difficulties and successes.
Well… my therapist recommended this book “Toxic Parents”, and I finally understood why I resented it so much. For many years I was my mother’s mom, responsible for her feelings and always failing in trying to make her feel better about her life. That always brought lots of trouble in my life.
When I made my own life I realized how my needs were not being met (ever, as a kid or an adult). And how I had to meet her needs or she would give me a silence treatment or a guilt trip. I got tired and sad. I gave her space. My boundaries grew large. I want a mother that fulfil my needs of attention and that is there for me, interested in my life, trying to make me fell good and I will give the same back. But I won’t do the other way around anymore… never getting enough to myself.
Anyways… I don’t know how to fix it and if it can be fixed. Now I just feel I am not responsible to fix it at all. I lost interest but it sure hurts. I just wish she would look for professional help to understand and change it. Because at the end, we both suffer.

One thing: pride should not have a place between mother and daughter. A mother is suppose to be the one teaching that.

Learn what triggers your daughter to distance herself from you and turn it around. Find out why and have a honest talk. Let it clear you want to be there. Don’t let her feel like she is guilty of it in anyway. If you do your best for a while and she can’t let it go, give her space to think and figure her feelings out. She won’t forget… it may take time but she will come around once she realizes you put her needs first.

Love to us all.

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Middle child

Marianne, your story resonates with my life….I don’t hold fond memories of my childhood, instead as a child I was often reminded of what a hindrance me and my siblings were. As a child, I remember feeling unloved, and I wished (still do) for a different family – one that would love me unconditionally and take a genuine interest in me. As a middle child I felt the odd one out – I looked different to them and felt my parents
treated me differently to my sisters. My oldest sister got along great with my mother and my youngest sister was the golden child to both parents. I don’t recall having a positive relationship with either of my parents. My father left my mother when I was young and from then they hated each other. From a young age to very recently I always made time to listen to my mothers perceived sad world, comfort her in times of loneliness, counsel her when she had social issues. It wasn’t until I was desperate for her support / comfort in return, that I realised she wasn’t going to offer these. Whether she didn’t realise she was a taker and not a giver, or whether she truely didnt know how to behave maternally – I don’t know. She has rarely made time for any of my four children, and I figured that was just her. It wasn’t until my sister started having kids, my mother began taking time off work to look after them, and she spent endless weekends staying at my sisters. I thought perhaps my mother wasn’t aware her actions and in an attempt to improve the situation I brought it to her attention. My highlighting these concerns had little effect on her and she continued her usual weekend visits to my sister and her kids whom lived two hours away, yet rarely interacted with us who live 5 minutes away from her. In fact after having highlighted these concerns to her, my mothers response was that her weekends were precious. As the receiver of her response, I was extremely insulted and interpreted her response to be a person who was too busy in the weekends to spend time with me or my kids, but not too busy for my sister and hers. I decided to distance myself from her because I would feel too much pain, I felt unimportant, defeated and not validated. After a year of no contact with her, she messaged me to ask if I will snap out of it. I outlined my boundaries and the terms in which I would like the relationship to be based around – support, honesty etc, just standard things really. I also explained my feelings (again) and asked her to acknowledge how her behaviour / actions could potentially have affected me negatively. She couldn’t acknowledge anything – this was several months ago, and to this day, things remain as they were. It is a terrible feeling that I live with every day, I am saddened because I don’t understand why I couldn’t have had that ‘amazing loving family’ as a kid and I am heartbroken that she doesn’t have an interest in my children, but I have to remind myself that this is her loss. I am fortunate to have four wonderful kids and work colleagues, great friends that keep me smiling and help me to see that I am lovable, I am worth it, and I am important.

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kathy key

i truly understand how you feel it is so hard to understand how parents can love one child more then others even as adults the pain still continues, it feels like you are in a corner an cant get out. but know you are not alone.

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Monika

I feel so alone. My family wants nothing to do with me. They treat me like I never existed etc. Cant get a job and I cant go back to my home neighbors are harassing and bullying me and wont stop calling police on me. I did nothing wrong.

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Marilyn

I am sure your advice comes from a genuine caring place. However it is a tad patronizing. Marty is clearly trying to understand her role and the situation. For me being in a sibling relationship where her view of the world has been coloured by hurts she experienced and mine the same often makes understanding and being with each other very painful. It is clear that we can love family members but that easy solutions to creating harmonious and loving relationships do NOT exist. I hope Matty finds compassion for herself and her daughter does as well. Some relationships will not resolve in this lifetime. Making peace with that is often the quest we each have. Sending love out from our hearts is something we do have control over.

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HealingHeart

These past few years since my Mother died has nearly killed me too. I not only lost her, I lost my siblings, their spouses, nieces, nephews and now their children. I was just pushed out like something not needed anymore. I’ve struggled so much trying to understand what I did to make them not want me anymore. My entire life growing up, I wanted to be part of my siblings lives. My parents are gone and now so is the rest of my family. This is a wonderful article. It’s just so hard to let go of your life and not understand why they don’t want you. I spent my summers growing up taking care of my nieces and nephews. They were truly my first children and I loved them as such. I still do. I love them all so deeply.

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Heather

In my family, I’m the oldest sister and the only one who texts everyone to say hi, see what they’re doing, see how they’re doing. My parents and siblings never ever text me to see how I am or how my daughter is. I constantly reach out because I feel like that’s how caring humans should behave, but it’s never reciprocated. They all have the time for a quick text, but nobody does it. I spent a month in the hospital years ago. My parents took care of my young daughter, but in 30 days, nobody from my family visited or called. I called my daughter, but nobody thought to visit. We all get along … there’s nothing wrong with me. I came along when my mom was young and have never lived down being a burden. When my sister came into town a few weeks ago and never asked to see me or my daughter, that really killed me. I’ve been thinking that I’m not going to let it happen anymore. I can’t change them, but I sure don’t have to keep caring or texting. Its just too painful to get rejected by your whole family.

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Kathy key

The feeling of rejection is so hard to deal with.I have aso felt rejected by family all my life I’m bone weary of it all an have turned it over to God we are not responsible for other peoples actions only our own God loves us even if no one else does.

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suzanne

Kathy key.
That is so true for my life to, reading these articles with so many hurting because of families made me realise I am not alone, been going through this myself for such long time,so many of you have written my life.Yours Kathy has spoken volumes to me so Thank You for that.

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Marlaine

It’s been almost 9 months since my 38 year old son stopped speaking to me. Thank you for this article; it reaffirms my faith in my own judgement.
Somehow I quickly came to the conclusion that this will in fact be his gift to me; I will no longer have to endure his self centered phone calls about his constantly changing up and down life.
Instead of going into a deep depression or sending everything inward to blame myself, I decided that this was a long time coming event that was not necessarily a bad thing for either of us.
I am enjoying the peace and quiet, knowing full well that should something happen that he can’t handle he will do what he has always done; he will call me. What he does not know is that I will not answer.
Not out of anger but out of love. I have tried so hard to have him be polite, to have respect, to show some sense of honor and integrity but he has none. The best thing I can do for myself and him is to keep ourselves
the way we are. I wish him well but can not ever be in contact again.
I go to sleep at night and say a silent prayer to keep him safe, to have God in his heart so he can make better choices and I also pray that should anything happen to either of us that we will be able to deal with it.
I just cannot be looked at by him with a face of disgust because I won’t give him money or help him with his latest mistake, or listen to his constant negativity about everything.
I will love him always, but I have to love myself too; and at this age, having a sense of peace without conflict is more than I could have imagined it would be. I will not let go of it. Ever.

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Angie

Marlaine. My heart goes out to you. But yes you have so done the right thing. Even though it is so painful. I am estranged from my stepmum who has hurt me beyond words. My own mum and sister died when they were only 62 and 48. Tragic young age. Three years ago I lost my dad. I have been what I thought close to my stepmum since dad died. But recently she announced she is getting married again and moving to Canada to start a new life with this man. She hardly knows him and has only visited him for holiday periods​ of time. She is currently selling the family home that hold such memories for me and my daughter. So what happened is that I said i was happy for her and that everyone deserves happiness but I also reminded her that if anything was to happen to her out there that this man would inherit all that my dad and her had worked for. She is 78 and he is 61 and he has never been married or had children which seems unusual to me. But maybe I shouldn’t think like that. I didn’t say it nastily but I just wanted her to be careful. I suggested why didn’t she go out there for a year and rent the house out so that she kept her security here if it doesn’t work out. To cut a further long story short she has now virtually cut me out of her life. I have sent letters and texts asking to meet me but she makes excuses. She fell out with my daughter at the same time as my daughteralso felt the same and was also hurt for me knowing what my dad and her granddad means to us both. We have no other family and that was also why it means so much to not lose my stepmum who is the link to all my memories to my dad. My dad would be utterly heartbroken if he knew this had happened. My daughter has kind of reconciled with her now although she will never forgive her for the hurtful things that have been said about me and the way she has rejected me. How long do I keep trying to get her to just talk together when each time I get little or no response. She is going to Canada in three weeks and I know then that will probably be it. Marianne I need the peace you have as the toxic cruel nature of my stepmum which I haven’t even begun to go into here other than to say she has fallen out with other members of her own family and never wants to make peace or show love to them. I want to get rid of this anger and hurt that is just consuming me at the moment and ruining my life.

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Mercy

I need help also.. my family is against me marrying my fiancé because they feel he is not up to my family standards, my mum hates his mum.. my brother also feels he’s too young to take care of me. There’s a lot of pressure at home now. My family keeps complaining. I don’t know what to do

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Adrian

I’ve cut my entire family out. I have to say it was the best decision I ever made. I wish I had done it properly 20 years ago when I had cut out half of them. Just because someone is blood it means very little, if they weren’t there for you emotionally, physically or financially and if their behaviours are consistently toxic to you and those around them… just get rid of them. Seriously your not actually loosing anything, only gaining freedom from toxic exposure.

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Mamohao

Dear Comforter
Your article on family relationships has really healed my soul. I have been hurting for many years about a broken relationship between my Sister and I. After reading your article I had the courage to call her and meet her only to discover that she has been going through the same feelings like me. Today our relationship is blossoming, thanks to your article.

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Karen Young

I’m so pleased the article has been helpful, and that you and your sister have been able to nurture the healing between you.

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Robbie

When i evaluate myself I see myself becoming so numb to any feelings that have resulted from the treatment of family members. I used to cry quite a bit and over analyze myself to come up with the reason for why my family members are so dysfunctional. I have come to realize there isn’t a reason. Some times people, including family members are mean, self centered and self absorbed. What they do is what they do. I can’t change it. I am 62 soon to be 63. I have suffered so much heartbreak with my family and even my daughter who will not allow me to see my grandsons. I never abused my daughter; always made sure she was loved and cared for; provided for her even though I was as single mother struggling with 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to make her live pleasant and provide the kind of life that other children had. I am not a drinker. My father was an alcoholic so I don’t drink because I saw the results I’ve never been a drug addict or a wild woman with men. In fact, I didn’t even date men much; maybe twice in the entire time my daughter was a child up until she was 15. When I did meet a man I was interested in, my daughter told me I was not allowed to marry and was required to make sure her college was paid for by me and only after she was out of college would I be able to marry. I know this sounds absurd; but it’s the truth. One of my sister’s encouraged my daughter in this thinking. I was told I was abusing her by having her clean her room or expecting her to help around the house. Eventually, I discovered that my sister had such a foothold on my daughter’s thinking that she had created in my daughter an image of me as an incompetent mom. That is how my daughter thinks of me today. She even told me that she had created a family for herself from friends who were more in her social level. That means I am not up to par socially or financially, you know. She doesn’t want my influence on her boys and has banned them from talking to me even on the phone. This is the reality of my family. I used to think my family was the perfect reality show. I know now that many families are similar. It is heartbreaking to know that your blood relatives are willing to throw you under the bus at any opportunity; to downgrade you whenever possible and to go out of their way to harm you if they can. This has been my life. At this time in my life I find more peace alone in my own home and around friends and simply live my life day to day. I used to pray for God to help me; for God to change the hearts and minds of my family, my daughter. I don’t pray any longer for that. God can’t change people. only people can change themselves. So I am exploring what life means on a higher level. Life is broader then heartbreak although it is a challenge to reach past that.

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Teresa

My brother is very selfish and he loves to lie about everything
He loves being in control, if it’s not his way then all hell breaks loose. He just lied the other day, but he had a dream the other night and our Dad told him to give it to me. And the dream scared him and he gave it to me
But we just had a Hugh argument today and he said some hurtful things to me
So I’m ready to let go of our relationship as a family and just move on.

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Mojomo

It’s sad when all you have ever done is help a family member and then they turn on you without explanation. I don’t really think it’s my sister but her daughter with whom she lives, very controlling. She has started communicating with my older sister only recently and it will be her birthday soon, so I will send her a card (lives out of state). We have only wanted to know that she is safe, as her health is not good, in addition she is “special needs”.

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R

I have a sister ,, she’s very aggressive ,, she thinks that everything she say is right and doesn’t accept anyone’s opinion to the extent that she makes u feel that ur opinion is stupid. I went through hell trying to figure out if it’s me, she always makes me feel like I’m the negative, and psychotic one and the issue is ME, she always make me feel like I’m the victim and convince herself and people around us that. While I don’t consider myself one, I’m just not that aggressive to keep up with her so I break down. After a while I realized that the issue is in her , she build her confidence with breaking others, that’s just her and this article made me realize that I have to be strong to fight her

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mohan

what if they frequently keep disturbing you torchuring you and acts like they havent done anything and you are the one who is wrong……….
i am asking this for my mother she is suffering from migrane and other family member know this please help i have to find some solution

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M

Sometimes us difficult extremely caring, loyal, loving, and sensitive not always difficult because the walking away lovingly in their eyes is because they do not see those people as valid people with honest reasons for their feelings and they dismiss anything they think is obsurd because they’re not that way so it’s not legitimate and get ignore or left out. If you care you fight for it. Not lovingly walk away like oh well there’s nothing else I can do and I’ll let you think I get where you’re coming from but silently not buying into it. That’s dishonest and that’s where feeling slighted because you believe they get it and then they start dismissing you from then on. What can I do to fix this? What can I do to help you know I mean it and am not just trying to get you to go away? Looking at others the way you would want them to see you helps. Not seeing their behavior any different than yours because of the substance even though it carries the same behavior doing what you’re doing so you can judge. Give people credit instead of lumping them in a catagory and that’s it. We are all different. Every one of us that is difficult doesn’t belong in this form of dealing with them. I need to know if it’s ok to dismiss myself from the person you advise us to be in this. These are the people that I want to let go of. Fake judgemental people who think I’m judging as this article states. I think this is wrong but not totally. This goes along with people who think they’re being loving but are not. I’m sure this comment might make no sense or prove the above to be correct but I have been misunderstood and dismissed my whole life by people who seem calm and wise and are but see themselves better then most and don’t put themselves in others shoes. I took offense to this and I’m obviously difficult but am the most honest, caring, loyal and will do anything to help if I’m asked or let if I’m even wanted around for the opportunity.

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Val

Not an easy relationship with my adult daughter for many years now she is my only daughter and I value that however I don’t like the ugly personality she has. She is not nice or pleasant to anyone full of gossip and drama. Also she expects me to go visit her 6 hour drive each way st my expense plus lady 2 times I bring goodies and when I get there I take them all
Out shopping and dinners here’s the problem I don’t want to visit her again because as soon as she gets what she wants from me she just right out of the blue abruptly tell me. Ya you can go home now so I have quietly left and my 2 grandkids. As I hug them leaving they day yeah it’s ok. Huh we know. They have at 10 and 12 have also identified her manipulative behaviour. So when I said last week no I won’t be visiting because I don’t like the way you treat me and I don’t enjoy being used and not valued she decides to not answer my call. Again….. it’s like it’s a game to her or something …. she confuses me and I’ve lost trust in her sadly Also I don’t want this relationship with my daughter I want a loving supportive close mother daughter with respect and loyalty. That’s how I thought I was raising her where have I gone wrong??

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George

Thanks for the fine advice. It is difficult to be a care taker and watch all the ins and outs of family. All you can do is the best you can.
No regrets.
One of five.

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Rainie

I might sound an ungrateful child.
I am now 24 years-old. But I feel like I’m stucked in my teen years.
Since childhood, my mom was always sick, she had athritis. Born in a 5 siblings family including me, my elder brother has autism, father was always working. So it wasn’t easy for us to care for each other. Things get worst when my mom’s condition got worsen, I had to take care of the chores during my childhood days, U remember my big sister would help too. Things changed. My big sister got into college and I, that time, was in charge of the households. I was too busy taking care of things inside the house when I was still a child and struggling for my studies. That time, I felt like the whole world is against me. Why do I have to these when other kids go play and have fun? I guess that leave me a scar until now.
After I completed my matriculation study in 2012, my mental health got worst. I got depressed and taking it out onto my mom. She passed away the next yeat because of my wrongdoing. I left her all alone in the room. I remembered crying my eyes out that night. After her passing, I told myself ” there’s no one now I need to take care of but things isn’t going to be okay” I felt that nothing is holding me back anymore.
Now, I feel the same thing is repeating. I just graduated and now taking care of my brother who has autism. What saddened me is, siblings and even my father doesn’t understand my feelings of getting my own life and has to be with them 24 hours. They never seem to appreciate what I have done for them over my childhood and teen years, even when I try to communicate with them, I’ll always be the ungrateful child. They can only see my mistakes and not the good in me. What to do with families that are holding you back?

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Jenny

I needed to hear this and I need to see other people feel the same because I was hurting so much I wanted to kill myself. I’ve been sick for the past two years but they refuse to believe this because they say I look too good to be sick. A spinal tap and UCLA doctors don’t lie. I had severe brain inflammation from vaccinations. My parents paid for my will because years ago I said that whoever does can have my money. My brother called to warn me that my father thinks he’s going to get every cent I have. I’ve done well for myself and my father stole every cent I made as a child actor. My brother said that wasn’t enough for him and that my father is used to getting his hands on my money. My mom also told me, condescendingly, that years ago I signed a piece of paper as a child saying that whoever pays for my will can have my money. I was going to be dead so I didn’t care. I feel like they’re just waiting for me to die. I became furious when I found out that my father only paid for my will thinking he was going to get everything. They just told me the family has canceled Christmas. They know that I’m sick and alone and how much this hurts me. I put up with them mostly because I’m sick and alone and want the relationship we used to have when they seemed nice. I forgot about the times when I was hit with a wooden spoon so hard that it broke. That was the norm in my house. They were writing checks for my checkbook and forging my name. Breaking free and not having them hurt me shouldn’t be this hard but when they ignore me knowing that I’m at at hospital and my doctor has to call them, it just hurts so much. They say that they’re not doctors and there’s nothing they can do. My doctor became furious with my mom and said that she needs to give me some emotional support. My mom said it’s my own problem because I’m not married. My doctor told my mom off. That made her more angry at me. I became a people pleaser due to the abuse because when I did as they said, I wouldn’t get hit as much. They used to hit me when I cried and said they were going to keep hitting me until I stoped crying. I stayed with a guy that I was not in love with for nine years. I don’t feel like anyone’s going to want me like this. I thought it would make them happy knowing that my life was horrible now because when I did well, I got resentment. Now I’m just a burden to them. I have amazing friends but it still hurts so much having your family do this to you after they stole from you. I know this should be easy but for some reason, they still have a hold on me and I don’t know why. I think I want to prove to them that I’m good enough to love. I want them to understand how what they did to me hurt me so much and have them actually care. I know they never will but I keep hoping. I’m walking away but my heart is so broken.

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Karen Young

Jenny walking away from family is never easy. I’m sure you would do anything to have them a family who is worth your love and your open heart, and I wish they could be that family for you. Keep walking and keep fighting for you. You’re worth it.

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Unhappy

I have always had a difficult relationship with both my parents (they divorced when I was one) but I have managed to overcome the difficulties with honesty and love. It remains tough at the best of times but having set my boundaries very early one, it remains an honest relationship.

My problem is actually with my in-laws for whom I really have a lot of respect and love (like for my own parents). I am fast reaching my thirty next year and have known them for around 12 years. I got married at the age of 22 and we actually live in the same building, they on the ground floor and myself on the first floor. We come from Asian background and culture so that also complicates a lot of the problems in our relationship – as many things are cultural while still being individual.

From the beginning of our relationship, it has been a roller coaster ride; children coming from divorced parents are not well seen in the society and I have always had this shadow over me. To complicate matters my parents had an inter religion marriage and while I follow the same religion as that of my in-laws, acceptance is not that easy. This is to say that none of these have been pointed out to me directly as they are well educated and genuinely nice people in their own way. In the complete beginning when I was barely 19, my mother in law was very harsh to me and when we got married, it was worse. It was just a few well pointed remarks about my background, my parents and so on. Then my father in law himself is a very controlling person who has always ruled his family with an iron’s fist and when we got married, he tried the same with me which I did not allow. So we have at best a distant but cordial relationship. My husband also has one elder sister and one younger sister who is the same age as me.

The problem is that from my perspective they are a very strange family. They believe that they are a terrific family but although they love all the children a lot, it is not in the same ways. I can understand that but especially for my husband, while they love him to death, they do not respect him at all and never give him any credit as such. Plus since we got married they are terribly insecure that I will steal him and so on. Both parents are very possessive in different ways and they continue to ‘own’ him to ensure that they are loved. For the daughters, it is fine – they are allowed to do everything they want and so on. But for us, even if one day we would like to have dinner outside, it would be frowned upon cause we aren’t eating healthy and am not cooking for my husband. Then his mum would feel insecure cause we are going out alone. So in these 7 years of marriage, I have hardly done it a few times but in stealth. I make sure we reach home early so they do not know we went out but will think we came straight from work and so on. It is the same way on million of tiny issues.

But the worst part is that they are a very critical family. They are always very critical about everyone else and nothing can ever be good no matter what you do. This has hurt me considerably over the years cause I myself have my own confidence issues. Not only is the family this way but they have a huge extended family and they all are critical, especially of people who do not originate from their family. It is too difficult to give more details cause it would fill pages and it is very complicated.

I am sure you must be wondering about my husband in all this…BUT he is the only saving grace of this whole mess I have made my life into. He is not really like them and he is aware of all these issues and a huge support. He himself has always surrendered to that ‘love’ they have for him cause his parents have also worked very hard for him to have a good education. I have tried to help him flourish during our marriage while keeping good relationships on all side.

My problem is that I can no longer live with them – am at my wits end. But the problem is not they are outright bad people (Its hard for me to see it that way). They just lack sensitivity and consideration and are a terribly self centered family. I don’t know if that is toxic. I cannot see them as bad people cause I do love them despite their faults but I am simply not compatible with them, their world and values. We exist on two different planets. Talking to them is not an option cause they will not change and in Asian societies that is a terrible disrespect and they will start thinking that I have stolen their son again and so on. The woman is always to be blamed on our side. So I have always stopped my husband from talking to them cause this will create a huge rift that will not be repaired.

The option would be to live separately from them but while my husband is aware of their faults, he is deeply attached to them. I am sure some part of him would stop existing if a rift occurred between his parents and him. The only way to live separately will be through a huge rift. IN Asian societies if you are a good son then you live with your parents and take care of them. And I agree with that too especially they worked hard for their children and more importantly my husband has the right to love them as much and live his life through them if he wants.

I love my husband very much and despite all that we are happy cause I have worked very hard on my marriage. In all these years I have never had a real fight with my inlaws. Hardly twice I was slightly harsh and apologised too. I have always kept a very good relationship so that my in laws do not even know there is an issue as such. Yes they find me strange cause I have built my own family, I do my own cooking and chores, I do not depend on them for anything and let them get control over my private space. But all this is implied. I have also opted not to have children so far because I do not want to bring my child in this. I want to bring my child differently which will not be possible in the same setting.

If I decide to leave, my husband will stand by me and follow me. But I know he will be terribly miserable. Being a child of divorce, I would never force something like that on him. I do not want to leave my husband either but while happy in my marriage, am desperately unhappy in my environment. I just know I can no longer live with them – I have gone beyond good or bad. What should I do? Please help

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Momo7

I read your blog and most of the replies too.
We are old aged sick unresourceful and unneligible depending Parents of a married son with his wife and Grand kids lovingly, happily and comfortably since last fifteen years without any problems. Four years ago I trapped in mental sickness and became treatment resistant patient after all kinds of Psycho treatments.
Due side effects, I had both eyes catracted and then have Gulucoma with dryness issues, plus digestive and body pain other physical issues too. My son and all were caring, supportive and helping all the time.
Meantime, my condition not improving and I had fear, isolation, difficult in getting out of bed, isolation, unable to drive and sleepless and lonly too.
Now two months back all of a sudden without giving any reason, my son stopped talking to me and my old aged wife, similarly his wife and kids also stopped all communications unless very necessary. All our efforts to talk to our son failed. We avoid involving any out siderv to avoid more complications, confusions and misunderstandings. We both parents shocked feel humiliated and clueless too. My wife also got stressed and dipressed and got T-Neuralgia a face nurve pain but now no one care about our condition, health or feelings. Fortunately, we are not yet thrown out of house n getting Food too and have to eat eat it alone and whatever is there. No comments no conversation from them. We live like strangers under same roof in agony, pain grief and sevre stress. I’m not able to sleep for nights even increasing dosage etc. I’m almost bed ridden now and my wife is in sevre nurve pain right now taking some medicines prescribed by Neurologist last month. Besides we both gripped in sevre fear. We love our son and his family and so Much attached with them besides We have no energy, no ability and no resources to live separetly.
We don’t know what to do? We have no one closed to be involved and I already been isolated and disconnected from my few closed friends. Secondly, my son behaved so stubern that he may insult anyone who talk about us with him, this we noticed recently. Anyway,, this may be different the most of your stories and the suggestion in blog implementation seems not possible but I must be wrong, there has to be some way out I’m sure. May God help. Your comments, suggestions and help will highly be appreciated.

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Anonymous

Well, here’s my story, I recently innocently uncovered a deep dark family secret thru an innocent DNA test uncovering a relative that was given up at Birth. With unbelief I went ahead to meet this person. I told this person that if our relationship is to continue that I would like for them to contact the birth parent, which happens to be my sibling, and they agreed. To make a long story short, my heart lead me to love this long lost family, but only to loose most of my siblings who wanted to continue trying to keep the story private. No one will talk about it. There was incest in the family, so with that being said it may be a possibility that this secret is a product of incest. No one will TALK. The Birth parent wants privacy & not ever to be confronted, with no desire to ever have this child, now adult person in their life, nor to ever tell who the other parent is. So I being the one who innocently found this out is shunned judging me w they say I chose one over the other. I chose family, acceptance & love for this lost family, we have connected in many ways. I have struggled w this for the past year & a half w no other choice to let go of the once family I had, to now move on. I won’t own the guilt of something that happened years ago to one of the family when absolutely no one will talk about it…let alone to me. I don’t regret my decision, only that my heart is humble & kind. I’m ok family, I’m going to be fine, I’m spending time w people that have time in their hearts for me.. I have to do what’s right for me. Thanks for letting me vent..

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Worried

I’ve been in a mess. My boyfriend is the best thing that has happened to me. We were getting along great and he met my family. He has some self-esteem problems and it didn’t help my family memebes are extremely critical. They thought he was lazy and didn’t try to get to know my family. They would hurl insults at him and on my birthday weekend my boyfriend was insulted multiple times by one of my oldest sister. She wouldn’t let off and even I was upset the entire night. We all drank that night and my boyfriend out of frustration at my sister’s insults, smacked my sister on the butt with a towel. I never witnessed it but my sister was livid and tried to beat up my boyfriend. The whole thing was a shouting mess. The next day my boyfriend apologized to my sister and said he had been out of line. My sister and her boyfriend told him the accepted his apology.

Two months later my sister still hates him and demanded that he never gave a sincere apology to her. My boyfriend set up another meeting to apologize to her and to see what he could do. She had blown it out of the water and told him she was going to file assault charges against him. My sister now believes that I never supported her after my boyfriend smacked her with a towel. She has spread the story through out my entire family and now everyone is against me and my boyfriends relationship. They want nothing to do with him and have threatened to cut all ties with me. What should I do?

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Kay

Get your boyfriend away from your family, including sister!
Stop all contact with them and move on with your life. Gossip and drama is not what u need! Family would not do that on your birthday if they didnt want to hurt you.
Just make sure you are true to yourself and that boyfriend loves u! Keep all boyfriends away from hateful people!

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