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Author Topic: How to deal with family after cutting off a toxic family member?  (Read 13630 times)

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Re: How to deal with family after cutting off a toxic family member?
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2012, 12:24:04 PM »
Welcome to the forum!  On the first one, I think you need to find a gentle way to get the extended family to stop feeling responsible for making sure you see out of town relatives.  It's not their job to keep you in contact with them - it's yours (if you even want it).  Maybe your DH could find a way to thank them for being so accommodating about this, but you're more than ready to take on the responsibility for maintaining your own extended and/or long distance family relationships.   

And on holidays, the way I see it, each generation gets to start their own traditions.  For now, you and DH could go to a resort or B&B for that weekend (dog friendly, of course!).  Have an "orphan" holiday and invite friends stuck in town.  Many of my Thanksgvings have been like this!

The second one is really tricky, but since she's 16, your DH needs to find a way to explain to her that as siblings grow up, they're not going to have the exact same relationship with parents.  He needs to resist the temptation to belittle his parents, or give sordid details.  In fact he needs to put all of this in general terms.  His mom or dad are very probably pulling strings here and this 16 year old doesn't need to be a pawn.  It's almost like what you tell kids in a divorce - just because he is estranged from his parents doesn't mean he doesn't love her.

And then let her figure out the rest on her own.

Thanks for the suggestions!  DH is fairly shy and non-confrontational to a fault, especially with his family; I have been trying to encourage him to work on this, but it has been slow going.  He does like to keep in touch with the out-of-town relatives, but isn't too interested in keeping in touch with them himself (drives me crazy, but that's probably a different thread!).  I like the idea of phrasing it as a thank-you for having been so accommodating... sounds like less of a "problem" :)  I also LOVE the idea of a Thanksgiving B&B trip with our dog, or an "orphan" holiday! 

The situation with his sister is tricky, but I guess most situations are with teenagers  ::)  I will pass all of this along to DH.  It is easier for him to deal with situations like this if he has a lot of time to sort of mentally prepare and have responses to likely questions/comments ready; not rehearsed, exactly, but more so that he isn't thrown for a loop, if that makes sense.   

I realized while writing this that DH sounds like a bit of a pain in the rump.  I'm not trying to make him sound that way; he is a great guy, and I love him to pieces!  His issues with his family are pretty much (thankfully) contained to family.  It really breaks my heart to see how much his parents' abuse has impacted him.

Re: the bolded--I didn't get that impression!  You both sound very level-headed and committed; its good that you're on board together.

I don't have too much advice, but you've gotten some good advice already anyway.  I've had to cut off an aunt, but since my parents and siblings did the same, its not the same situation.  Our extended family doesn't understand, or choose not to, and since they're closer to her, they only hear one side--hers.  I've accepted that, and don't try to fix perceptions because it would mainly be a waste of time.

For his sister, FoxPaws email sounds great.


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Re: How to deal with family after cutting off a toxic family member?
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2012, 08:10:35 AM »
Totally get the wanting to cut off toxic parents (wish I had done it). I think it's great that the family is accommodating you regarding holidays, and think your DH is making the right decision for himself so he can heal.

Just a quick word from the other side of the coin. Right now in our family my sister-in-law (wife of brother 1) considers us toxic and has cut off all contact with my other brother (brother 2), stepsister, and I, though they keep in touch with the rest of the family. I've come to accept it and figure if brother 1 is happy with his family, then I can live with it. Unfortunately they have refused every family wedding and other invitations to things because they don't want to see brother 2, SS and myself. The rest of the family has gotten disgusted with them because it has gone on so long, and they are no longer getting invited to things as a result. It sounds like you and your husband have a very healthy approach to this, and are good with going to bigger events where your DH's parents are present, which is great. Just would hate to see you and your DH make the same errors, because the rift will make family events more complicated down the line.


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Re: How to deal with family after cutting off a toxic family member?
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2012, 08:50:15 AM »
OP, your post could have been written by/about my brother. He cut off our mother after years of verbal abuse and toxicity. I was around 8-10 when it happened so never really understood. For a few years, I did pester my brother to make nice with Mom. When I got a little older, I tapered down the pestering but still invited him to gatherings with Mom.

When I was about 16, my brother sent me an email and laid it all on the line. He basically said "You were too young to remember, but X, Y, and Z happened. I am not angry at Mom anymore, but she has hurt me very deeply. I cannot be around her, because I do not trust her to not hurt me again. Please respect my feelings on this."

It worked. I never did it again. :)

As for family members, I don't have much advice. I know that my family members constantly pressured my brother to reunite with Mom. Perhaps you could start a tradition of inviting select family members to your home around the holidays? That way they don't have to worry about throwing two separate celebrations.

And if your family members nag you about your DH's parents, I would come up with a stock phrase to give them. Something like "I appreciate your concern, but this is a personal matter. Please don't bring it up again."

For the record, my brother and my mother reunited about two years ago, after 10+ years of not speaking. Brother initiated it of his own free will, and was (still is) exceedingly cautious. My brother keeps enough distance that if Mom goes off the deep end again, he can leave the situation and pull back from the relationship. As for Mom...maybe she's changed. The dynamics are a long story. But at least she behaves herself these days.
"From a procrastination standpoint, today has been wildly successful."