Family secrets, present and past, and confusion as to what's real


#1

This is a musing born out of confusion and sadness.:(

Without going into too much detail, there had been some "dysfunction" in my immediate family while I was growing up, and a couple of decades ago, when that was a hot topic in the culture, I went way in depth trying to pounce on every possible "family secret," be it addictions, abuse, financial entanglements, whatever.

I have since realized that I went a little overboard back then and obsessed over some of it too much, though some of what I learned in terms of coping skills at support groups was of value.

The thing I'm trying to grapple with now, older and (perhaps) wiser, yet still confused :confused:, is - sometimes in trying to relate to the extended family, the topic comes up of the mistakes my now-deceased parents made (esp. re finances), and sometimes I end up - HELP! :eek: - in a drama/debate with a relative over interpretations of what happened in the past and how it influences up to today - my parent's version vs. the in-law's version and stuff like that.

It gets really horrible. :slapfight: :bighanky: to the point where who knows what the truth is, how did we get on this topic, it's ancient history now, he said, she said, with no witnesses, so can we just agree to disagree and calm down, etc. :coolinoff: I want to love my relatives and not fight with any of them, ever. I am resolving to work harder on keeping my mouth shut and/or my foot out of it.

Further complicating matters is that I have mental issues as do some of the rest of them, but mine are a cluster of different anxiety disorders instead of really obvious things like bipolar, so the family is on my case about why can't I get the kinds of jobs the mentally healthy ones are doing and I sense they think I'm just trying to get a free ride by applying for disability.

Which is so not true - it was a difficult decision to make and I will be lucky if I'll be able to survive on it. But I can't go on with the stress and anxiety and what the jobs I had worked at were doing to my mental and even physical health. It's actually better if I go on disability because whatever money I do get I'll try to find a frugal way of living on it and hopefully not ever need to ask the relatives for help.

I tried, in the most recent conversation that went south, to be positive and cheerful and avoid potential controversy topics, but as often happens, this particular relative launched into a litany of every job each one of my cousins had and how hard-working they were and so on. I don't know if it was conscious and pointed, or just unconscious habit.

My relatives' work ethic is admirable, but I don't need all these things thrown in my face. I confronted the relative about the recital and pointed out that many of these same cousins had done things like fornication and cohabitation, divorce and remarriage without annulments, left the Church, and so on and that I was trying to do the right thing in those areas of life.

And do you know, my elderly relative, who was always so devout, started trying to tell me that living together before marriage was a good way to see if things were going to work out! OK, so maybe I was being a bit self-righteous but I was just trying to point out that we all have areas where we do good or not so good.:shrug:

They have all gotten cynical about the Church and the Faith in their old age, and I think it's discouragement and maybe even clinical depression that has made them that way. So I don't report the above to condemn them, rather to lament how burnt-out they seem to be. Which depresses me even more. :imsorry: I don't want to see them in that state of mind in the last years of their lives.

As many mistakes as I've made in my life, I'm trying to rebuild it from scratch for however many years I have left on this Earth. I need family to be the "soft place to fall" emotionally and they are limited in their ability to be that for me and I apparently am not what they want me to be. I have no living immediate family, no parents, never had a husband or kids, and I'm an only child. and feel very alone. Need prayers and compassionate advice. Thanks.


#2

My heartfelt sympathies - I don't know how you avoid these conversations, other than to simply not show up to whatever the event is.

My life is also full of awkward, intrusive, judgmental conversations, as well, and I, too, find them extremely nerve-wracking - I don't want to defend my choices of religion, diet, and employment every time I go to a family gathering - I just want to enjoy people's company, and share good food and drink with them.

They also pull the same stunt on my nephew, who is having some problems related to his job - why can't we just be sympathetic and take his side? Why do we have to list in detail every mistake he has ever made in his whole life, as if it were in any way relevant to his current situation? (And who cares if it is or not? He's our own flesh and blood - we should be defending him!) :shrug:

I love it how people who are retired and living on the government's or previous employer's dime know all that there is to know about workplace problems, and who's fault everything is (YOURS, obviously). :rolleyes:


#3

Appreciate your understanding, jmcrae. This drama in my life was actually in a phone call a few days ago. I didn't get together with family for Thanksgiving simply because they were going to other relatives' and I had an invitation to a friend's (which was quite enjoyable:)).

I'm glad, because if it had gotten round the grapevine I might have had a bit of awkwardness. By next year hopefully it will be forgotten. That's one good thing about people in denial, they have short memories...:p

I had just called the relative because I keep hoping I'm going to hear good news about this disability thing, but it drags out, so I decided I ought to just touch base and let them know I didn't die or anything.:eek:

So, I'm just going to let the matter rest in God's hands, where it belongs.


#4

It seems as though you are between a rock and a hard place because one the one hand, you want your family to be the "soft place to fall", and I completely understand that. But on the other hand, those same family members seem to be rather "toxic" to you and therefore they are people to keep your distance from.

I say toxic because based on what you say, their interaction with you is one of tearing you down. This is what I'm hearing from your story: 1) they have negative interpretations of what happened in your family; 2) the topic keeps coming up, even though the events are from years ago; 3) they compare you unfavorably to your cousins; 4) they make your strong points of good moral behavior seem to be a fault of self-righteousness since they can't measure up.

If you really want these people to be a part of your life, then you need to have confidence in yourself and do not allow them to dump on you. It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders. Believe in yourself and don't let them lead you into the mess. The best advice here is what you said in your own post:
"I want to love my relatives and not fight with any of them, ever. I am resolving to work harder on keeping my mouth shut and/or my foot out of it. " That is the key. If the conversation is going down that messy road, change the subject. Or just don't engage in conversation, instead leave the room or busy yourself with something else.

God's blessings.


#5

My dear sister,

I am so sorry to hear of your problems. I have been through similar things with my family and know it is difficult. It is difficult to accept that our families can’t always give us want we want and need and hard to break old patterns of how we act around them.

One suggestion I have is to imagine a bubble around yourself when you are with them. It is a shield for you. You only let in the good things, not the bad things–they bounce off and can’t keep hurting you This may also help you not engage in useless arguments with them.And, as someone else said, it’s OK to just say, I’m sorry I can’t talk about this right now and hang up the phone or leave. I sometimes had to do this with tears running down my face and nearly running out of the room. In some ways it just gave them more reason to say the problem was all mine, but at least I was learning to get out of harm’s way.

Pray for and look for some friends who can walk through this with you. It helps to have a support group of people who can give you the things your family can’t and help you process things. Continue to pray for healing for yourself and for your family.

God understands our hurts, our confusions, our past, our families, and everything about what we are going through. He carried me through incredibly hard times as I tried to break free of the past and learn how to live differently with my family, and He will do the same for you if you keep turning to Him. I know you realize this, as you stated it yourself. Remind yourself that sometimes we grow the most when we are in painful situations. When you don’t know where to turn, turn to Jesus and tell him everything you feel and ask him to help you with your pain and your anger and your confusion and allow him to teach you new ways to behave with your family.

May God be with you in this difficult situation.


#6

You should be able to find a group or two in your parish where you can meet faith-filled Christians who can become your friends, and you theirs, and support one another as Catholic Christians.

Many years ago when I came back into my Catholic faith I got together with several ladies and we formed a Scriptural Rosary group weekly, and met in one another's homes. We prayed for one another and our children and looked very much forward to these weekly gatherings. We inspired one another by sharing answered prayers, and learned compassion for one another when one was suffering with severe trials.


#7

Good and thoughtful suggestions everyone. Thanks.:slight_smile:

I’m in a different town than most of these relatives. The posts on this thread have made me think - in one way, it’d be easier if I were in the same town as they are, because our interactions would be “diluted,” and there would be visual cues if they were beginning to get upset. On the other hand, it could be dangerous to be around them too much, they might get more critical or try to control me.:frowning:

Over the phone, the way our conversations tend to go, it’s more concentrated and intense, and I really wouldn’t want to hang up on them as this would, in our family, be like dropping a bomb. It’s just not standard behavior for us. Some folks can carry it off - in fact, I myself have had times with my mom when she was alive when we’d do that, but later kiss and make up. And with some friends. I try to avoid drama these days, getting too old for it.:smiley:

But I did something that might help. This past week I started a Facebook page and friended some of the cousins’ kids and am hoping that that will put me more “in the loop” of ordinary, everyday, mundane events and then I won’t feel like an outsider so much, plus I will gain some nice, safe conversation starters, like how so-and-so’s football team won a game, or so-and-so looked pretty in her prom dress, etc.

And some of the cousins closer to my age might say to the older relatives who aren’t online that they heard from me and I’m alive, etc., and that would satisfy the older ones enough to relieve my sense of needing to call as often. If things in my life aren’t going in ways they would approve of, and I don’t think it’s an emotionally safe time to make a phone call, I could just not make one.

If all else fails, I could take the sneaky approach - put a pie or cake in the oven and set a timer to go off and call them when there are only about 10 minutes left to go. Before the chit-chat has time to get into any danger zones! :wink: This might not be the ideal way to do as a habit, but once in awhile wouldn’t do much harm…:stuck_out_tongue:


#8

The FaceBook idea is great!


#9

I am so sorry for all the struggles you are facing.

I am also sorry that your family doesn't understand what you are going through.

I wonder, did you ever tell them what you have told us here? I wonder if it would make a difference if you said, right out:

"It's great that my cousins have been so successful in their careers. I wish I didn't have the health issues that I do, and that I could also work like that. But I am faced with the reality that it's just not in the cards for me, so I am doing what I can to support myself and to have a happy and productive life. I really look to you, my family, to support me emotionally. Please try to be sensitive to my difficulties."

If they continue to be judgmental and unsupportive, I agree with the other posters who suggested that you cut the conversation short, and just say "Auntie, I have to go. I am sorry that I am not ready to discuss this with you. Goodbye."

Pointing out other people's faults is never effective in getting them to lay off yours, as I see you have found out. :) It just makes them fight harder against you.

Your situation remind me of that old joke: "Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder...and your hand over my mouth!" :)

I am not saying that you are the person at fault here, but rather that you can be the bigger person in terms of having a "drama-free" relationship.

I agree that it would be great to find some friends through your church who may be able to be the compassionate confidantes that you need. Friends are the family we choose for ourselves, I like to say. Also, friends can sometimes be more objective than family, since they don't have a dog in the fight, if you know what I mean!

I'll keep you in my prayers.


#10

[quote="StJudePray4Me, post:9, topic:220748"]
I am so sorry for all the struggles you are facing.

I am also sorry that your family doesn't understand what you are going through.

I wonder, did you ever tell them what you have told us here? I wonder if it would make a difference if you said, right out:

"It's great that my cousins have been so successful in their careers. I wish I didn't have the health issues that I do, and that I could also work like that. But I am faced with the reality that it's just not in the cards for me, so I am doing what I can to support myself and to have a happy and productive life. I really look to you, my family, to support me emotionally. Please try to be sensitive to my difficulties."

If they continue to be judgmental and unsupportive, I agree with the other posters who suggested that you cut the conversation short, and just say "Auntie, I have to go. I am sorry that I am not ready to discuss this with you. Goodbye."

**Pointing out other people's faults is never effective in getting them to lay off yours, as I see you have found out. :) It just makes them fight harder against you.

Your situation remind me of that old joke: "Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder...and your hand over my mouth!" :)

I am not saying that you are the person at fault here, but rather that you can be the bigger person in terms of having a "drama-free" relationship.**

I agree that it would be great to find some friends through your church who may be able to be the compassionate confidantes that you need. Friends are the family we choose for ourselves, I like to say. Also, friends can sometimes be more objective than family, since they don't have a dog in the fight, if you know what I mean!

I'll keep you in my prayers.

[/quote]

Thanks! :) You're right. The first part of your post, where I quoted in blue, unfortunately is what I've tried that goes whooosh! right over their heads...:rolleyes: which is sad.

And I think I am just going to have to take your advice I quoted in purple. Know when to shut up, and not to do this: :banghead: :D If I make up my mind to call them, I'll have a plan in my mind beforehand for "at what point do I cut my losses and bring the conversation quickly to a close, as tactfully as I can." In the conversation I described in my original post, I had expected a different party to answer the phone; I'd forgotten that they are now both retired and I could get the one that's sometimes more tricky.

I am grateful to the Lord for my many friends; still, I can't help but feel lonely at times when I know that blood is thicker than water, and that my friends' obligations are to help their own family members first, which is as it should be. Unfortunately, sometimes that leaves me out in the cold. :winter:

If I get the disability I have a kind friend who has offered to help me budget (which I stink at) and so I'm hoping to be able to live without having to ask them for help. That's always been what puts me in a disadvantageous position. He who pays the piper gets to call the tune, I realized long ago, but just haven't been able yet to pay the piper myself. Hoping and praying that this will change!:crossrc:


#11

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.