In my case it WAS my family who was the third party and who didn't understand that I was setting boundaries. Most of the people I cut off were boyfriends/friends who were bad for me.
My family believes that being friends with undesirable people makes them supremely "understanding" and "tolerant." This means that they come up with excuses for people who are accused of terrible crimes and condemn the victims for being "vengeful" if they press charges. So no matter what scum ball I got involved with, or who took advantage of me, I got reamed for getting them out of my life because I just couldn't take it. In one case I found out that my charming boyfriend (whose scary side I was starting to see) had two ex-wives who both had current restraining orders against him. There was enough incidents that they had kept them renewed (in one case for five years!) After cutting him out, I got a whole shower of, "Well no one's perfect." and "You've only heard one side of the story. You need to listen to him before being judgmental." (Um, do you think I ever spoke to THEM?
) And the capper was, "You can't expect to meet someone better because you are kind of a loser yourself."
I cried a lot at first. I tried to reason with them every time. And then I learned to say, "Well if I end up a lonely old maid with 50 cats, it's my business."
I have not had the courage to even distance them until recently. The issue is that my sister was in a very abusive relationship
. There were a few times when I bluntly told her that I would not put up with the behavior when she asked me how to mollify them. Wrong answer. I offered her a place to stay if she and her kids would squeeze into my living room. Oh, how dare I insinuate that she was "weak" like me? I refused to participate in any cover-ups. I was told over and over again that I was a bad sister, not supportive, and incapable of love.
For years I heard that I was a crabby, picky old biotch and no wonder I was single when I wouldn't do the proper amount of sucking up. Then it was that my marriage was probably short-lived because I was intolerant. Finally it was that my husband had to be the most patient and most repressed man ever since I wouldn't even let him go into random jealous rages.
In the past few years the sister got divorced. Two other family members (who had less dysfunction but still mild abuse in their marriages) also got divorced. Now they go on and on about how they, and they alone understand abusive relationships
and those of us who have just had charmed lives need to cater to their whims. At this point I have limited contact because it's nearly impossible for me to talk to them without screaming. The one time I mentioned that I had picked a whole bunch of losers early on and that I felt for them, they said that I was very lucky to have "gotten out of it." Ugh. I had my self-esteem tramped on by everyone close to me and I kept going. They call that "lucky"?
Twenty years later there is no way it would be useful for me to hash this out. Until I can listen to them without wanting to shout and throw things, I won't interact more than I have to. It's not just for me, it's for them. My closest friends support me. Other people don't understand this and I deal with it the following ways:
1) I am very close-mouthed about it. I make excuses about my family having busy schedules and don't share.
2) If someone does judge me, I keep in mind that they have not lived the last 20 years knowing what was going on. It would take days for me to explain so I just accept that they can't understand.
3) I remind myself of everyone in the past 20 years who DID support me. I have a written list and go through it sort of like a meditation exercise. There was the receptionist who screened my calls and told me I was strong. There was the boss who by accident caught what my father was saying to me and wrote me a letter of recommendation and told me to read it after talking to my parents. Of course there is my husband (who really is patient.)
4) I list all the happy moments that the estrangement has made possible.
Oh and Reader, don't assume that a date who feels family is important will judge you. My husband always thought family was important and he is still that way. That is why he makes our family (himself, me and whatever kids are with us) more important than catering to any drama my sisters want to drag up.