Dealing charitably with a family member...help?

I’m worn out and I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I’ll call her Vesna for anonymity.

First off, she’s grossly immature, or seems it to me. Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with a 14 year old rather than someone almost twice my age. If she can’t get her own way, she throws a wobbler and sulks. Any attempt to try and correct her or point out an alternate point is met with resistance and hostility.

She also has an attitude of ‘well I believe/think it so it’s gospel’. I feel like I’m having the same conversations time after time because she just can’t get it into her head that alternate opinions exist. There’s even been times when she’s outright tried to force said opinions on me.

With this, she seems to think she has to be the star of the show. Anything which doesn’t have her centre stage is turned so it is about her. This is particularly apparent when I first became interested in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, as all she seemed to be concerned about was her own opinions and what any decisions I make would mean for her. At no point did she even show the remotest interest in my feelings, ask me about it or even remotely engage with me.

So what do I do now? I feel like a broken record…:frowning:

I am 30 with a 53 year old uncle who acts like a teenager. He is impossible to deal with sometimes in that even though he is the one who never made anything with his life and chose to spend 30 years partying and using drugs until his brain is practically mush, he is always the one right about anything. He is never wrong in his mind and never does anything wrong. He can get drunk as a skunk and make scenes and cause problems with me or other relatives and when he sobers up he never says that he is sorry. You cannot convince him to do something productive, ever. He cannot even clean up after himself. Thanks to him, my Grandmothers house looks like a pig sty half the time. Oh yeah, he still lives with his mom rent free while I live here too and pay rent.

Dont even try to reason with this relative. I do not with my uncle. I do not do it to be mean, but more for my own sanity… I treat him like I would any little kid just talking nonsense. I ignore it and I do not try to reason with him. When he asks dumb questions, I simply do not answer. I do not tell him about what is going on in my life because he has no understanding about adult problems because he has never had to pay bills or fix things that break around the house or worry about supporting himself. I say just treat this relative in the same way. Always show a person the dignity that another person (a creature of God) deserves. Be nice. But you do not have to get into full on dialogue with them about what is going on with your life. And you do not have to listen when they start talking nonsense. You are not going to get them to change their minds. They will call everyone else in the world crazy and wrong before they ask themselves “Maybe I am the problem.”

Sounds a lot like this person I’m dealing with, although in her case, it’s more the case she would be perfectly capable of doing something, but she’s ridiculously lazy and so its too easy for her to either not do it or get someone else to do it.

Dont even try to reason with this relative. I do not with my uncle. I do not do it to be mean, but more for my own sanity… I treat him like I would any little kid just talking nonsense. I ignore it and I do not try to reason with him. When he asks dumb questions, I simply do not answer. I do not tell him about what is going on in my life because he has no understanding about adult problems because he has never had to pay bills or fix things that break around the house or worry about supporting himself. I say just treat this relative in the same way. Always show a person the dignity that another person (a creature of God) deserves. Be nice. But you do not have to get into full on dialogue with them about what is going on with your life. And you do not have to listen when they start talking nonsense. You are not going to get them to change their minds. They will call everyone else in the world crazy and wrong before they ask themselves “Maybe I am the problem.”

Sounds like great advice :thumbsup:

The relative I deal with is so annoying, he just asked me to “Do him a favor and please watch out for my Grandmother” while he goes to see a band or something with a friend. As if I need a 53 year old unemployed guy who sleeps in until 11:00am every morning, has not worked in years and cannot even clean up after himself to tell me to watch out for my grandmother. I simply told him “Hey, you do not need to ask me to watch my own grandmother as if it is a favor to you. It is my responsibility” to which he replied “Oh, I am so glad that you see it that way” :shrug: Hes out in the back yard smoking marijuana with his friend as I type this. See… I should have just ignored him lol

Oh goodness,

You could be describing my family. May I ask how you respond to her at the moment? I know from a lifetime of watching my mother and her sister that it is important to engage with the person, no matte how futile you think your efforts may be.

My mother is a great one to nod along with everything and then go her own way. While we must not seek conflict, we must be willing to engage if we encounter it.

You mentioned looking at Catholicism \ Orthodoxy and her unwillingness to engage with you. Was it something like (for example) “If you are going to church every Sunday, who is going to drive me to A or B?”. If so, how would you respond.

…and this would be my MIL exactly.

My husband just ignores the crazy…which has ramped up over the past year (and even more so over the past month).

Unfortunately…since she isn’t getting what she wants from my husband (attention/validation) they don’t have much of a relationship and she has very, very little relationship with her grandchildren.

It’s sad…but, oh well, neither of us have the energy to get ourselves tangled in her drama.

It makes it easier for my husband to detach because he is married and not dependent on her in any shape or form and hasn’t been for years.

So, I’m not sure how close of a relationship you have with this person. Are you dependent on them or not?

The best course of action is to ignore, detach and not feed into the crazy.
Set boundaries and stick to them.
I had to do that with my MIL within the first year of our marriage…and she hasn’t crossed that line since.

At first I tried to actively engage in trying to debunk or otherwise disprove her when she said something silly. But it felt really as though I was trying to shovel snow when it was still snowing (I think that’s the phrase in English?) and I’ve moved on to just nodding my head. I know she won’t listen to a word I say so I’m saving my efforts for someone who’ll listen.

You mentioned looking at Catholicism \ Orthodoxy and her unwillingness to engage with you. Was it something like (for example) “If you are going to church every Sunday, who is going to drive me to A or B?”. If so, how would you respond.

Pretty much!

:blush: :slight_smile:

I do not know much, but usually people easily to see others clear but not self that even because you love a person then you want tell her or him what is the wrong you found, but still if not they ask you first want your opinion just not say anything, even this is for their good, but still just not say.

My first question is 'what are these arguments about?". In other words, do you really have to talk to her at all? Or can you just avoid the situations?

The sort of arguments I describe can be about anything- the music I’m listening to, dinner that night, shopping, something in a magazine…you name it. Short of me just having nothing to do with her, I’m going to have to have some level of interaction with her…:frowning:

Good advice

That’s sort of where the problem lies in that I am sure she won’t admit fault, or admit she’s in the wrong. I know this given the reactions and dealings she has with older family members, and some of the things they have told me about things she’s done and said ages ago. It seems she’s always been like this, and nothing that people do or say is going to change that.

Narcissism. It’s a frustrating and common problem, and the person who has it never realizes he/she has any sort of a problem. She can only see things through her experience. She feels best when she can have others at her beck and call, have others praise her, get attention for her role in life and opinions.
My mother to a T. It’s very hard to charitably handle this year after year, when, as in your case, my mother doesn’t have too much on her plate, but will call and ask dramatically for help on something small. But will not help with my children or activities- it’s too much for her. Anything that I bring up, such as when I converted to Catholicism, she said “I could never do that.” Just like your relative. It’s all and only about their feelings and point of view!
I could go on and on. I’m sorry, the only suggestion I have is to acknowledge she will not change, calling her out on it could bring out some ugly scenes. It can end up being abusive if you let it. Try to just go about your business and rise above.

It’s reaching that point where I think I might have to call her out on the behaviour, because pussyfooting around has done nothing.

–When you have made a good faith effort and realize you are going nowhere, then stop.–

If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Matt. 18:15-17

And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them. **Luke 9:5
**

–If experience tells you that you are sure to get nowhere, then stop before you start–

Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matt. 7:6

–Before you correct, ask yourself whether or not a) the correction is really needed instead of simply you bearing the offense quietly and b) whether or not you are the person who ought to worry himself about making the correction.

*One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business. Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men.

A serious obstacle to recollection is the mania for directing those you have not been appointed to direct, reforming those you have not been asked to reform, correcting those over whom you have no jurisdiction. How can you do these things and keep your mind at rest? Renounce this futile concern with other men’s affairs!

Pay as little attention as you can to the faults of other people and none at all to their natural defects and eccentricities."*

–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Well, maybe you don’t. You can just mind your own boundaries, but otherwise leave her to her devices and let her take her own natural consequences. Sulking, in particular, gets its reward when it is firmly ignored. If she won’t be happy, then let her choose to be unhappy. You can’t stop her. You do not, however, have to wade in to her cesspool of discontent and manufactured drama and be unhappy *with *her. When she gives an opinion, you can either ignore her or you can say, “well, that is one way of looking at it, I suppose,” and then ignore her after that. The poster who likened this to dealing with a child who pesters you was not far off the mark. You interact enough to show respect to the person, sure, but the opinions and arbitrary demands are not due the time of the day, let alone recognition. Why are golden retrievers so happy? It isn’t because they are stupid. It is because they just take what comes and don’t try to run things.

After all (to steal a line)–when she wants your opinion, can’t you trust that she will give it to you? Do not get angry when she does exactly as you could have predicted that she’d do. Just drop the expectations and leave her be. (Mercy like that does not go unrewarded. The measure we measure with will be measured back to us.)

Just by the way–you do realize that you are probably never going to see her change? As the Al-Anon saying goes, “You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it.” All you can do is to draw boundaries concerning how much you’re going to agree to be affected by it. She’ll change when she decides to do it.

My question for you is why?

If you think that some good will come out of “calling her out” and you seek to have a productive conversation and perhaps some reconciliation between the two of you, then I suppose that would be a good motive. However, from how you have described her it seems unlikely for that to happen.

If your motive is primarily to vent and let her have it then I would reexamine taking this on. If nothing good is going to come of it, the situation is just going to escalate. If you think she is annoying now, wait until you get into a huge argument with her. The charitable thing to do, may be to realize she is very limited. She has not been open to the beautiful gift of God’s bountiful grace that you have, therefore she has not been as blessed. Her soul is not at peace and she is argumentative. Try and feel compassion for her rather than irritation, she probably would benefit from your prayers.

This is what I’m hoping. I think part of the problem is that whilst there’s been confrontation and arguing, there has been no attempt on a deeper level to address whatever deep issues are affecting her and how they’re affecting others, and what she or I or anyone else needs to do to move forward.

If your motive is primarily to vent and let her have it then I would reexamine taking this on. If nothing good is going to come of it, the situation is just going to escalate. If you think she is annoying now, wait until you get into a huge argument with her. The charitable thing to do, may be to realize she is very limited. She has not been open to the beautiful gift of God’s bountiful grace that you have, therefore she has not been as blessed. Her soul is not at peace and she is argumentative. Try and feel compassion for her rather than irritation, she probably would benefit from your prayers.

My problem is that whilst I can understand her limitations, I cannot understand why she cannot let anyone else be more than that. The moment I or anyone else aspires to be or actually is something she is not, she tried to pull them back down. It’s like crabs in a bucket- the moment that one tries to get out of he bucket, it’s pulled back down.

To cite an example, take the religious issue. She’s ‘spiritual’ of sorts and has some belief in some sort of higher power. Yet she is openly hostile to anything of traditional religion and not especially where said religion actually involves engagement, sacrifice, actual action as opposed to mere belief. She’s happy as long as my engagement with religion is just about saying some funny words and believing some stuff, but when it comes to actual action as opposed to passive belief, she lashes out. Should I enter Orthodoxy, as I am currently contemplating doing, I can only see confrontation because I don’t want to just be a spectator to my faith.

You aren’t proposing to ask her these questions directly, right?

Please understand that there are certain questions that you don’t ask because they are not going to be answered:
Why do you have to be like…that?
Have you considered that if you understood yourself better, you’d want to be different?
Why do you think there is no difference between your opinion and the facts?
Do you know how much the way you are upsets other people?
Don’t you love me?

Take care of your business. Let her take care of hers. When she decides that she actually wants to hear your opinion instead of giving you the opinion you ought to have, that will be a seismic shift for her. She will let you know. Until then, do not imagine you are going to talk her into changing.

Do not cast your pearls before swine.…Really. Don’t do it.

Instead, accept that you are not going to change her and do not have to change her in order to move your own life in the direction it needs to go.

I was thinking more along the lines of 'it seems you struggle with X that I do/say/think, is there anything you would like to ask me." I could be being very optimistic but I am hoping that it is merely a case that all the issues are caused by ignorance, and that by education, I can perhaps change things.

All I want to do is get it through to her that she cannot just bulldoze her way through my life without there being some sort of boundaries I want her to respect. She cannot seriously expect that I, as an individual with my own life, can keep constantly conceding to her and letting her do as she pleases whilst I pick up the pieces and arrange everything around her.

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