Author Topic: Toxic relatives and the holidays  (Read 2588 times)

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Marleigh

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Toxic relatives and the holidays
« on: November 08, 2010, 09:57:57 AM »
I have a toxic aunt.  I do not exaggerate when I say that she is whiny, negative, indecisive, dishonest, and gossippy.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, insanely jealous of anyone who has (or who she perceives to have) more than her in any way.  Somehow, over the years, she has managed to convince a few people in my social circle that she's as sweet as pie.  In addition to that, she goes to my church, where it is very important to maintain harmony and not have bickering between members.  On top of that, I have no desire to fight with her.  I just need to learn how to tolerate her which is becoming harder and harder.

To further complicate the problem, I also have a toxic mother-in-law.  Her toxicity is more PA and directed at my husband, but it's there nonetheless.  My MIL is employed to provide day care for my ailing grandmother and spends a lot of time with my toxic aunt.  As a result, my MIL often repeats completely untrue stories to me about various members of my family, and she cannot be convinced that Toxic Aunt is not above lying to sway people to "her side".  Also, MIL is very easily offended and if I were to insist that the stories she's telling me are lies, she would be outraged which would cause untold damage to her already frail relationship with my husband.  So usually, I mildly protest and then try to change the subject once I see there won't be any convincing her of the truth.

But here's the bottom line: the holidays are coming, and I'm really sick of all of this.  I don't even want to be in the same room as my toxic aunt, and I'm getting to the point where I don't even feel guilty for limiting my conversation with her and avoiding her.  Thanksgiving this year will be held at the home of a family member who is dear to me and has been very financially blessed lately, so I'm sure I will be dodging all kinds of little PA comments about how "such a huge home would be hard to heat in the winter" and "this kitchen makes mine look like a closet", and so on.  The thing is, I don't want to dodge anymore.  Everyone in the family has been accomodating this grating behavior for years for fear of causing a family rift.  But I think she needs to be called out, as she is honestly the main reason I don't even care to gather with that side of my family anymore.

So...help me not to blow up at her!!  I don't really feel it's my place to correct her lifetime of wretched behavior, but I really need some approved clever comebacks to shut her down and enjoy my holidays.

Sabbyfrog2

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2010, 10:24:19 AM »
I did something that worked like a charm on my toxic Aunt (before I ended up having to cut her off all together) when I was a teenager. I let her go on and on, ignoring her until the we were about to sit down to dinner. Then I said "Did it feel good to get that out of your system? *confused look on TA's face* Are you finished making judgemental and rude comments about me and my family because I know that I am finished listening to them. *stared at her until she reluctantly nodded* Good, and I hope that will be the last of it. Now let's all continue on with our Holiday." I don't know if it's exactly ehell approved but it certainly put her on notice that I wasn't gonna sit around and listen to her crap anymore.

OP, honestly, why are you even bothering going over for the Holidays? I know you want to see your dear family member but is putting yourself through that really worth it? Can't you invite over dear family member after or before the Holiday? I recommend that you talk to your DH and see what he thinks. If he isn't bothered by his mom "cutting him off" so to speak then I think you can be honest about why you aren't going to dear family member. If he is worried about it, you can just say "I am sorry but we just aren't available. We would love to see you on such and such a date though."
« Last Edit: November 08, 2010, 12:43:02 PM by Sabbyfrog2 »

Isisnin

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2010, 11:00:26 AM »
Many of us must be thinking of how to deal with difficult relatives in the upcoming weeks - I know I am!

What about thinking up ways to respond as if you heard, but slightly incorrectly? And then wave over someone else to start a nice conversation:

Relative:  "This house must be expensive to heat."

You:  "the cool weather is refreshing isn't it?  Hey Cousin-over-there, any plans this winter to enjoy the snow?"

-----
Relative:  "This kitchen is so big..."

You:  "that reminds me, I need to get a recipe from so-and-so.  Oh there, he is!  Let me grab him while I remember. Excuse me."  and off you run.

I'm not good with responses on the spot, so I'm thinking of writing down examples of PA comments my sister makes and what I could respond. 

Kind like training for the marathon:)

heartmug

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2010, 01:04:36 PM »
If it were me, and I had tried for many years, and it was clear she was not going to change, I would cut her out.  Don't show up where she does and if you have to tell people/relatives the truth, so be it.  She does it because she gets away with it.

Count your blessings.  She isn't one of them.
The trouble is not that the world is full of fools, it's just that lightening isn't distributed right.  - Mark Twain

Lisbeth

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2010, 01:06:09 PM »
Stay home for the holidays.

Also, why is your toxic MIL employed to look after your relatives?  I'd get someone else to do that-especially if she's badmouthing you.
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supernova

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2010, 01:09:40 PM »
A very dear, very wise friend of mine once said, "Mixing holidays and relatives is a lot like mixing alcohol and handguns.  It seems like a good idea at first, but inevitably someone gets hurt."

No advice, only {{hugs}} and the knowledge that a lot of us have BT, DT.

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crashn2me

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2010, 01:22:45 PM »
If I am reading your post correctly, and please correct me if I have misunderstood, you would like to spend the holidays with your other family -- it's just the toxic aunt with which you're having trouble.  If so, then I am dealing with a similar situation and will happily pass along some tips that I employ this time of year.

First of all, whenever possible stay away from the toxic aunt.  Leave the room if you have to.  When I happen to see my complaining aunt-in-law coming into the same room I am in, I leave and go find another place to be.  The kitchen to help.  Outside with the smokers to chat.  Into the dining room or living room, etc.  I just leave before she locks on & can even open her mouth.

If I happen to get cornered and she says something unproductive to me, I usually frown at her and say "I'm sorry to hear you feel that way."  And then I excuse myself to (go to the bathroom, get another drink, chat with so & so.) There's usually someplace I can run off to instead of listening to her.

Now, if I found someone repeating a lie about anyone I know I call them out on it.  If I wish to maintain a relationship I'll say something like "That doesn't sound like Person to me.  Where did you hear this?"  I once pulled someone aside and told them that I know what they are saying is untrue and if they continue to spread the gossip I'll call them a liar in front of the whole family.  It worked.  They stopped spreading the gossip AND that person doesn't gossip with me any longer.  Win win! 

Good luck to you and I hope this helps!


Marleigh

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2010, 01:35:40 PM »
Stay home for the holidays.

Also, why is your toxic MIL employed to look after your relatives?  I'd get someone else to do that-especially if she's badmouthing you.


Employing my MIL wasn't my idea and unfortunately isn't my call.  My two aunts decided to offer her the position based on her friendship with the toxic aunt.  :(

Marleigh

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2010, 01:48:59 PM »
If I am reading your post correctly, and please correct me if I have misunderstood, you would like to spend the holidays with your other family -- it's just the toxic aunt with which you're having trouble. 


You are absolutely correct.  I don't want to miss Thanksgiving with this side of the family.  I get along well with everyone and enjoy their company, and it's been a tradition for my whole life.  But it's this one person who just poisons the whole thing for me.  And I am by far not the only one in the family who does not want to be around her.  It's a shame, but I really would like to start standing up to her.  I love the first poster's suggestion above and I hope I can be that bold!!  You never know, if TA keeps pushing buttons... ;)

Sabbyfrog2

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2010, 02:08:33 PM »
If I am reading your post correctly, and please correct me if I have misunderstood, you would like to spend the holidays with your other family -- it's just the toxic aunt with which you're having trouble. 


You are absolutely correct.  I don't want to miss Thanksgiving with this side of the family.  I get along well with everyone and enjoy their company, and it's been a tradition for my whole life.  But it's this one person who just poisons the whole thing for me.  And I am by far not the only one in the family who does not want to be around her.  It's a shame, but I really would like to start standing up to her.  I love the first poster's suggestion above and I hope I can be that bold!!  You never know, if TA keeps pushing buttons... ;)

The bolded is key. Can you and these other relatives unite against TA? Not in a mean girl "you're outta the club" kinda way but in a "TA, you will NOT say these things at Holiday dinner" kinda way. If enough of you start standing up to her, it might not make her change, but it will at least make it more tolerable for yourself. And, you won't be so alone in defending yourself if you have them as support.

I was quite the doormat prior to my standing up to my TA. Something changed that year for me and I became this really outspoken person and TA was just lucky enough to be around for my transformation....lol... And I was also at my wits end with her too so that might have had something to do with my sudden backbone. I will say though that after that, other family members finally started telling her to hush up too so it worked to my advantage. I imagine it could have gone the other way too as my family on that side is pretty unpredictable and very one sided.

JeanFromBNA

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2010, 02:41:04 PM »
Thanksgiving this year will be held at the home of a family member who is dear to me and has been very financially blessed lately, so I'm sure I will be dodging all kinds of little PA comments about how "such a huge home would be hard to heat in the winter" and "this kitchen makes mine look like a closet", and so on.  The thing is, I don't want to dodge anymore.  Everyone in the family has been accomodating this grating behavior for years for fear of causing a family rift.  But I think she needs to be called out, as she is honestly the main reason I don't even care to gather with that side of my family anymore.

So...help me not to blow up at her!!  I don't really feel it's my place to correct her lifetime of wretched behavior, but I really need some approved clever comebacks to shut her down and enjoy my holidays.

TA:  "Such a huge home would be hard to heat in the winter!"

MM: "Good thing that dear FM just bought a new energy efficient heating unit!  I bet that big thing was expensive!  It feels so nice in here.  

TA:  This kitchen makes mine look like a closet."

MM:  "I know!  Your kitchen is so small that you can't cook very well in it.  Good thing that we're in the new house where we can be comfortable."

She has a "tell."  I'd consider it a gift and run with it until she runs every time she sees you.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2010, 02:50:29 PM by JeanFromBNA »

bopper

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Re: Toxic relatives and the holidays
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2010, 05:12:31 AM »
Gossipy person:"story about somebody else that may or may not be true"

You: "Wait, that didn't have anything to do with me OR you...hey! That is Gossip! Why are you telling me gossip?  I don't want to hear gossip.  Wait...do you tell stories about me when I am not around? What do you say? I am going to ask other people what you say about me.  Excuse me."